Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Maps of Meaning: The Why and Who of Jordan B. Peterson

I finally got my copy of Jordan B. Peterson's Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief and I've finished the Preface. So now I am completely qualified to start writing about it!

Actually, the Preface is disarmingly frank and appealing. Simply, Peterson tells us why he has written the book.

First, after being brought up by a church-going mom, he broke with Christianity during his confirmation process. Then he became a lefty and an activist and became a student representative on the board of his local community college.

Then he has a crisis of faith, because while he disagreed with all the local notables on the board, he "could not but help admire them, even though [he] did not share their political stance." However, he could not say the same of the low-level lefty activists he interacted with in leftist politics.
They seemed to live to complain. They had no career, frequently, no family, no completed education -- nothing but ideology. They were peevish, irritable, and little, in every sense of the word.
How to deal with the contradiction: disagreeing with the worthy notables on the college board while agreeing with the moral midgets in lefty politics?

Then something curious happened. He discovered a critical voice in his head that would say "you don't believe that" when he was spouting off on something. This was confusing and embarrassing and would cause him to stop in the middle of a sentence. He realized that he could not go on repeating other peoples' ideas from books, not unless he could actually believe them to be true.

Peterson found that Jung's idea of the persona explained this, that we each put on a mask to present to society as a compromise between the real "me" and what society expects.

Then Peterson started having terrible dreams, two or three times a week. He read Freud's Interpretation of Dreams and then remembered that Jung had done a lot of work at the intersection of dreams and myth, and he read this from Jung:
It must be admitted that the archetypal contents of the collective unconscious can often assume grotesque and horrible forms in dreams and fantasies, so that even the most hard-boiled rationalist is not immune from shattering nightmares and haunting fears.
It is telling that Jung himself went through a long period of terrible dreams after his break with Freud.

Peterson's study of "comparative mythological material" made his terrible dreams disappear. But it also transformed what he believed about the world. He used to believe in the modern disenchanted world, but now believed that "beliefs make the world," that "beliefs are the world."

So let us set forth his manifesto at the end of the Preface, which, I think, brilliantly captures our current human dilemma -- and opportunity.
The world can be validly construed as a forum for action, as well as a place of things. We describe the world as a place of things, using the formal methods of science. The techniques of narrative, however -- myth, literature and drama -- portray the world as a forum for action. The two forms of representation have been unnecessarily set at odds, because we have not yet formed  a picture of their respective domains. The domain of the former [i.e., science] is the objective world -- what is, from the perspective of intersubjective perception. The domain of the latter [i.e., myth] is the world of value -- what is and what should be, from the perspective of emotion and action.
Now the point is that, until the rise of science in the last millennium we humans had only the perspective of the world as a "forum for action" and the myths and narratives and dramas that try to make sense of it all. Many modern people now think that the world as a place of things, of reason and science, completely negates the old world of myth and meaning. But the flagrant failure of communism and fascism in the last century, not  to mention the unsatisfactory experience of the market system as a mechanical process, put the lie to this.

We cannot do without narrative and meaning. Science and the knowledge of objects may be very useful, but they do not tell us what life means and what we ought to do about it. The meaning of life, the universe and everything is what we should do about ourselves and the rest of the world, and what it all means, not what we know about things.

Peterson argues that we need to balance our old knowledge of narrative and meaning with our new knowledge of places and things, and that is the way to understand and to live in the world. He dramatizes this balance with the notion of a baby girl reaching up to touch "a fragile and expensive glass sculpture... Suddenly her mother interferes... tells to not to ever touch that object."

But why? What is so special about that object to mother? What does it mean? That is exactly the point, according to Peterson. "Everything is something, and means something --  and the distinction between essence and significance is not necessarily drawn."

Indeed even today the distinction between thingness and meaning is very often not drawn; it is just stated and woe betide the fool that dares to challenge the generally accepted narrative about meaning. And this is not necessarily a fault. Life must go on, using what knowledge we have, and we cannot often afford the luxury of working out all angles of a particular issue before acting, any more than a mother can spend half an hour explaining what makes a sculpture is so special and meaningful that little Suzy may not touch it, ever.

One point. I don't think I agree that communism and fascism are merely applications of thingness to the human condition. I think they are attempts, after the demolition of meaning, to rebuild the cathedral of meaning in too much of a hurry. The world that Peterson proposes, working out the boundaries of thingness and meaning, is a gigantic project, a reformulation of everything we humans have been and hope to be.

Figuring it all out ain't gonna be easy. It is going to take a while to figure out. But, what a wonderful moment to be alive!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Yeah, Why Not Arm Teachers?

Apparently our liberal friends are shocked, shocked that we NRA gun nuts think that one way of protecting "our children" is by arming teachers. "I can't believe they said that."

But there is a very good reason why arming teachers wouldn't work. The reason is that teachers and school administrators are mostly women and women don't do violence. OK, Dana Loesch excepted.

And we have a perfect illustration of that: Donald Trump. In remarks after the Parkland shooting he said that had he been there he might well have charged into the school. Today, of course, all our liberal friends are sneering at the president.

But in fact there is history on this, from Mother Jones (disputed by Snopes.com). It's 1991 and Trump is riding in the Trump limo to a concert in New York City with Marla Maples, his main squeeze at the time. Trump saw a man being beaten with a baseball bat, and stopped the car. Despite the pleading of Marla Maples (according to Rush Limbaugh) Trump got out and confronted the bat-wielder.

Get it? Marla Maples said: Don't! Alpha male Trump:
The guy with the bat looked at me, and I said, ‘Look, you’ve gotta stop this. Put down the bat,'” Trump told the New York Daily News. “I guess he recognized me because he said, ‘Mr. Trump, I didn’t do anything wrong.’ I said, ‘How could you not do anything wrong when you’re whacking a guy with a bat?’ Then he ran away.”
Others at the scene have a different story.

But I had a similar experience, although nothing like as brave and noble as Trump. Lady Marjorie and I were at a jazz club and getting ready to leave. But the musicians were having an argument with the management, right in our way. Lady Marjorie wanted to avoid the crush, but I was damned if I was going to cringe before these hoodlums, so I led her right through the scrum. And we survived.

This is the way of all flesh.

Hunter-gatherers? Once there weren't enough men to maintain a tribal territory the tribe disbanded and the women were taken up by neighboring tribes.

Greeks in 1000BC? They sacked cities on their way to Troy, killed the men, but took the princess Briseis to become a concubine. That's what the row between Achilles and Agamemnon was all about: who got the babe.

Cleopatra in 0000? Well, she killed herself with an asp, but previously, as the tail end of the Ptolemaic dynasty, had been shacking up first with Gaius Julius Caesar and then with Mark Anthony, realizing that Ptolemaic Egypt and she were doomed to Roman suzerainty.

Vikings in 1000AD? They sailed up the rivers of Britland in the fall, killed the men, stole the grain, and took the women to sell them in the slave market in Dublin, Ireland.

Berlin in May 1945? The German women were left defenseless in Berlin, and made the best deal they could with the invading Red Army. The best thing was to become the mistress of a Captain or a Major, and steer clear of the enlisted men. But the women hid the teenage virgins in the attic.

Liberal colleges in 2017? Post sexual revolution, nice girls submit to the hookup culture, and then complain about it afterwards.

See, here's the thing. Men are expected to march toward the sound of the guns, and indeed a lot of men instinctively do it. Because millennia of hunter-gatherer tribal warfare. But women don't. Men are fighters; women are carers.

But the thing is that education from K thru graduate school is becoming more and more completely dominated by women, and this means that education is bound to become dominated by a "feminine sensibility." Women complain, but they don't march to the sound of the guns, looking for trouble. If it comes to a fight, then women submit. And frankly, judging from the German women in Berlin in 1945, I gotta say it works for them.

Yes, but what do we do about school shooters, now that school shooting has become a "thing" that even the dullest, laziest teenager knows about? Well, according to David Cole we could ramp up security just like they did in LA during the gang warfare of the crack epidemic, with the head of security packing heat.

But I think that the answer is to take down the whole government school system. Maybe it had a point, back in the 19th century when the working class wanted free education so their kids didn't have to go down the mine. But today I think that all the neighborhood women should get together and educate their kids with each other. That way kids would not be assembled in strategic concentration where they are sitting targets, both for liberal indoctrination and for drugged, crazed male school shooters.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Don't Forget the Big Picture on Russia/FISA

If you are interested in a big picture look at the whole collusion-opposition-spying thing, a good place to get it is from Sharyl Attkisson's time line -- that starts in 2011.

Because the point of the whole thing is not really whether or not the application to the FISA court to access the electronic communications of Carter Page dotted all the 'i's and crossed all the 't's as is implied in the Battle of the Memos.

The bigger point is: what in the world did the Obama administration think it was doing sniffing around the Trump campaign? I would have thought, naive fool that I am, that the Obamis would want to take a Caesar's Wife approach to surveillance on the opposition party. They would naturally, as American patriots, want not just to have clean hands, but demonstrably so.

As in: we here at the FBI think there might be some tricky stuff going on, but we at the FBI have to make the assumption that the campaign of a duly nominated major-party presidential candidate has the best interests of America at heart. Best thing is just to send someone around to Trump Tower and say, hey fellahs, word to the wise: you should know this chap over here has some rather unsavory associations, and you wouldn't want to get tangled up with him.

But in the event it seemed that the higher ups at the FBI got themselves invested in the Democrat narrative about Trump being totally unqualified and unsuited to be president. Of course, once you start down that road you can get yourself tangled up in utter folly, as it seems that the FBI and the DOJ did and are still doing.

This is why I maintain that they are all idiots.

Presumably, the Clinton e-mail fiasco intersects with this. The foolish and corrupt Hillary Clinton was in a tricky situation with her illegal private e-mail server. Who knew about it? And what about President Obama, who e-mailed with her through her private server? What kind of trouble could he get into from having done nothing about an illegal email arrangement? You can see that everyone at the DOJ and the FBI would have been up to their necks in this utter mess, wondering how much they could help cover up their bosses' mess without exposing themselves to administrative or criminal process.

The e-mail scandal shows the utter foolishness of Hillary Clinton, and it shows why she should not be elected or appointed to any office of responsibility for anything. The whole point about being some big honcho is that you can't know the details of your job. You are the big honcho calling the big shots. So, the absolute crux of your job is getting good advice from trusted advisers. Now, any advisor with half a brain about tech would tell Hillary Clinton: Don't go there with your own private email server. Don't do it. You are a high-value target; everyone in the world would love to hack into your email. If you have your own private email server then you will just never be able to keep up with the latest security issues and keep your email server safe. Heck, even the big boys, the Googles and the Amazons, are racing to keep up.

Now, in my view, any big honcho with the kind of judgement you need in a big honcho would respond to her tech adviser by saying: wow, better not go anywhere near that; it sounds like an accident waiting to happen.  But Hillary Clinton didn't do that. What does that say about Hillary Clinton and her judgement?

And now let us return to the big picture. What is the real story behind all this shenanigans? Was it just that the Obamis wanted to help Hillary Clinton's campaign? Or was it that they had something to hide so they needed to know what the Trump people knew? Or what?

I think that when the whole episode is over we will find out that the whole thing is a Keystone Kops mess that started over some minor issue that some big honcho wanted to hide.

But good help is hard to find, and so the little honchos that were trying to clean up for the big honchos probably got in deeper than they realized and so were torn between continuing to try to clean up the big honcho's mess and cleaning up the mess for themselves that they had created by trying to clean up the big honcho's mess.

I think that a basic understanding of American politics starts with the fact that, if you are a Republican, you are always afraid that you will find the most innocent political deal blown up into a huge scandal on the nightly news. But if you are a Democrat you assume that your shenanigans will never see the light of day. And if your shenanigans do see the light of day, why then your willing accomplices in the media will kick sand all over it so that nobody remembers what it was all about.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned in my American Thinker piece this week, suppose this:

Suppose all the Russia Collusion stuff and all the "I can't believe he tweeted that" noise actually plays to President Trump's advantage? Here's why.

The thing about the media is that it only has a limited bandwidth. It is like a political campaign, which I say can only handle about one and a half issues at once. If the mainstream media is doing wall-to-wall coverage on the Russia Collusion scandal that means they are not doing wall-to-wall coverage on the Trump deregulation executive orders and the Trump Obamacare demolition process. And that is why the Trump executive orders are going through without much pushback. The Trump Collusion effort has sucked all the oxygen out of the room, and so that means that the awful things Trump is doing to education and the environment and welfare and food stamps and Obamacare, in which minorities and women are hardest hit, just don't get the Two Minute Hate treatment they deserve. We are already doing Two Minute Hate non-stop on Russia.

Look, I don't know what will happen on all this, whether the Deep State catches Trump after all, or whether Trump goes from strength to strength, whether the Dems recapture Congress this fall or whether all their confident predictions turn out to be hot air.

I just think that the basic fact is this. Our present educated-class dynasty is now something over 100 years old. That means we are several generations down from the original hard-assed operators that, e.g., created the Federal Reserve and passed those Progressive Era constitutional amendments like direct election of senators and federal income tax. Imagine our present progressive leaders being able to pull off stuff like that! As they say about the children of brilliant parents: eventually you regress to the mean. Eventually you get a federal government run by a bunch of people with the right connections rather than outrageous talent. Eventually you get the Parkland shooting in which government at all levels failed to act. Think of the difference between Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Or think of the difference between Elon Musk and whoever is the CEO of Clorox. Not that there is anything wrong with Clorox.

There is a yearning in all of us to get past all the sound and fury of Democrats contesting the last election. But maybe the sound and fury is a good thing, because it prevents the cool heads at Democrat Central from getting down to the really important stuff: what with Trump and Brexit and all the white liberals ageing out, whither the Democratic Party?

That's the real big picture.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Protection in an Age of "Feminine Sensibility"

In the aftermath of the Parkland school massacre we are experiencing what, for conservatives, is a curious disconnect. On the one hand we have the usual liberal suspects clamoring for gun control. On the other hand we have the evidence of major governmental failure: failure to follow up on multiple opportunities to deal with the accused mass murderer before he struck; failure of the armed police guard at the school to intervene, and general government incompetence up and down the line.

What is going on here?

I return once again to my Georg Simmel line, that in the modern era with the emergence of women into the public square we are going to see women move the public square into a direction that conforms with a "more feminine sensibility."

One of the forms of feminine sensibility is that every woman expects, as of ancient and immemorial instinct, that she should be protected.

In the bad old days of the patriarchy every woman was protected by living in a household that was headed by a man. That man was responsible for the woman's protection. Today we find many women -- independent women, in the words of Simone de Beauvoir -- that do not live in a household headed by a man. But all women still expect to be protected.

You can see how this plays into the whole gun-control issue.

Obviously, if the proverbial patriarchal male no longer provides protection to our independent woman; someone else must step in to provide protection. Obviously there is only one agent that can do that: the government's police force.

And just as obviously, it makes sense to disarm all men so that our independent woman would be free from attack by a deadly weapon, and thus protected. Thus, the feminine sensibility would affirm, with the disarmament of men and the enabling of the police, women are once more safe.

I believe this is what is called magical thinking.

In the first place, the banning of deadly weapons is not going to protect women. There are ways of violating women other than with guns: there are knives; there are blunt objects; there are fists; there are threats.

In the second place, government is not going to protect women. This is obvious from the actual record of government failure in the Parkland school massacres. It is obvious from the science of bureaucracy, that predicts, after a brave beginning, that every bureaucracy will devolve into utter immobility. This is because the logic of bureaucracy is that is almost always more sensible to do nothing than to do something. No doubt this is why Dickens calls his stereotypical bureaucrats at the Circumlocution Office: Barnacles and Stiltstockings. He does not call them Braveheart or Producer.

In reality governments across the world and down the ages have promised protection but delivered oppression. The cost of protection is usually servitude.

Our age is notable, for its Great Enrichment has freed both men and women from the necessities of immediate survival. In the old days you either got with the program or you died. And often you died anyway. But in our age we can experiment and not immediately experience the penalty of failure. This has its good side and its bad side. The ability to experiment has produced both the Great Enrichment of global capitalism and also the Great Massacres of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Maoist China.

I suspect that in the great and glorious future, as all the bright ideas and the silly failures shake themselves out, we will find that women still expect to be protected, and that the most efficacious way for a woman to be protected is through the agency of some man.

There is no mystery about this. Men are fighters and women are lovers. For men the complications of caring and relationships cut into the simple life of fighting, whether against the next-door tribe or the next-door market competitor.  For women the existential perils of the fight cut into the necessary complications of loving and caring.

And so, I predict, at the end of the Age of Feminine Sensibility we will find that women will want to be feminine and leave the masculine stuff for the men. Because Darwin, or evolution, or something.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

What is this "Our," Kemosabe?

Do you ever notice the way our liberal friends talk about "our communities" or "our democracy?" This week, in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, they are talking about "our children."

What is going on here?

I've been wondering about this because I have just had this feeling that our liberal friends are putting something over on us with this "our" stuff. After all, how come they don't talk about "our gunowners?"

I've decided that the "our" shtick has to do with the necessities of liberal politics. In the first place, liberals have a problem with the nation state. So liberals cannot really talk about "US democracy" because that builds up the nation state of the United States of America. Liberal politics is built up around the principle of anything-but the nation state. So using the catchphrase "our democracy" conveniently elides the 800-pound gorilla, that the US is a nation state and it is built upon a cult of the nation and its Anglo-American roots, its revolutionary war and its Constitution.

Similarly, when liberals talk about "our communities" they are eliding the uncomfortable fact of their identity politics, that liberals encourage their supporters to think of themselves as other than Americans, and instead to think of themselves primarily as blacks, Latinos, women, LGBT, etc. -- indeed as any group brought together by activist politics. Thus "our communities" conveniently assembles together all the incompatible identities flying the flag of convenience of identity-group liberalism. Strictly speaking, blacks, Latinos, feminist women and gays have nothing in common. Indeed, given that they all want something out of the administrative state, they are all existentially in competition for the state's resources. But they are held together because of the power of the educated-class liberals that lead them and discipline them.

I think that the "our" designation is also a manifestation of Georg Simmel's "more feminine sensibility" that has changed the western public square in the last century. I think that women like to think in these more inclusive terms, as thinking of all acquaintance as part of "our family" and any disagreement as a scandal, whereas men are more apt to be comfortable with divisions and ongoing disagreements as part of the nature of things.

I think that conservatives and alt-righters should be forthright about celebrating America the nation, and work to de-legitimize the cunning evasions of the "our" concept. We should talk about the US, about American democracy, American law, US patriots, the common heritage of responsibility and contribution to the national idea, and so on. And we should talk about race and gender as all very well in their way, but as dangers that divide us and potentially blind us to our common humanity and our participation in the service culture of the market economy and the great family of the nation state.

See, I think that the war on the nation practiced by our educated class and the global elite generally is utter folly. The nation state is the last best hope of humans, thus far. It has provided a means of identity that is larger and more inclusive that the old identity of tribe and clan. Right now there is no prospect of a larger identity, such as pan-Europeanism or globalism, quite simply because we humans do not all speak the same language. Meanwhile the educated-class support of identity politics threatens to break up the hard-won unity of the nation state, with unimaginable consequences.

Despite the constant war on the nation state you can see that it has a lot of power to inspire and to bring people together. That, after all, is what Make America Great Again is all about.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rummaging Around at Powells Bookstore

We are down in Portland, Oregon, for a couple of days, and naturally the first order of business is a visit to Powell's City of Books on Burnside Street. It's right down the street from Whole Foods.

It is, of course, a great bookstore, although it didn't have a couple of items on my Amazon Wish List: Simon Leys' Chinese Shadows  and Peter L. Berger's Social Construction of Reality. Well, I can understand Powell's not having the Berger book, since maybe Berger is a bit too right wing for lefty Portland. But the Leys book? Hard to figure.

Here's a couple good things about Powell's. In the Philosophy section they have big dividers announcing, say, books "By Plato" followed by books "On Plato." And that goes for all the prominent philosophers, past, present and future.

Now, in the Psychology section, Jung and Freud are abstracted from the general run of psychology and occupy a special section all on their own, facing an information desk. Jung is on the left and Freud is on the right. Hmm. So what is that all about, given that Jung is probably right of center and Freud left of center. Does that mean that Jung is considered the first among equals in the Powell's universe and Freud second? Or what?

I tell you what I worry about. How long can Powell's survive downtown in Portland? Let's face it; books are not the kind of business that can justify occupying prime downtown real-estate. Let's leave the decline of Borders and Barnes and Noble; those guys have their own problems. A more vital concern is my own favorite HalfPrice Books.  In Seattle HalfPrice is retreating from downtown to the suburban strip mall. It used to have a store right close to downtown Seattle on Capitol Hill. That store closed years ago. HalfPrice used to have a store in the University District. That store closed a year ago. Now I have to drive 20 minutes to get to a HalfPrice book store. It's an outrage!

Still, the internet has been good for the book business. Used to be that a used bookstore was a musty mess of the old and the irrelevant. But now, with an active pricing system for used books from Amazon to Abebooks, every used bookstore knows the price on just about every book imaginable and knows exactly what to feature on its shelves. And it shows.

Well, I got a book by Thomas Kuhn, the "paradigm shift" guy, on his further reflections on his Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Remember that his main line was that science was a social endeavor, and that scientists are social beings. Thus science advances as the old generation dies off and can no longer enforce its orthodoxy. The application to climate science is obvious. We have seen, in the Climategate emails, how climate scientists enforce orthodoxy. And we see how funding drives the scientific community, for modern science lives by funding from government, and government funds the agenda that enhances its power.

Today, I think, I am going to go to Powell's and look at its "Activism" section. Yes, in lefty Portland, the culture of activism is alive and well and it has a whole section on How to Do It. I suppose that my interest in Activism is not really the how-to, but the why. What is it that motivates people to launch themselves into the practice of politics as a saving faith?

You know my take on Activism. I think that the rise of the market economy has radically altered the nature of politics, and the warrant for government force. I think that the modern era is founded upon the new and radical reality that the basis of human cooperation must be the surrender to the market and its prices, rather than surrender to the local lord and his power. The Soviet Union and Maoist China did a controlled experiment on this, and proved that political power is a dead hand. And yet we have this great movement, what I call the Great Reaction, with what amounts to a religious faith in the use of political power.

I don't get it. But I certainly do get the importance of Powell's Books, even if it can't forever survive in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Federal Budget: Best of Times or Worst of Times

Today there are a couple of commentaries on the federal budget. One is from Goldman Sachs, worrying that interest cost will eat the budget, and one from Stephen Moore, with the idea that "Obama cut the deficit in half" is crazy.

What's a mother to think?

The simple answer is: Yes.

Yes, the federal budget will dissolve in huge interest costs if nothing is done, and in the worst case if nothing is done we will end in hyperinflation, à la Venezuela.

Yes, it misses the point to say that Obama cut the deficit in half on his watch. Because the federal debt doubled on his watch.

OK. As President Eisenhower said, if you can't solve a problem then make it bigger.

Our big problem is that we spend a trillion dollars a year and more on government pensions. And we spend nearly a trillion and a half dollars a year on health care for old people and the poor.

The first problem is a monstrous injustice. We are saying that the needs of older, retired Americans come first, rather than the needs of young families that are getting the next generation off the ground. On my idea of justice, individual people are responsible for their own retirement savings and they retire when they can afford it. Of course there are going to be people who run out of money through no fault of their own. We, whether we the government or we the charitable or we the children, can take care of that without breaking the national bank. There is an additional benefit to this plan, apart from its justice. And that is that the economy would be borne aloft on a huge flood of savings.

The second problem is also a monstrous injustice. It is nice to provide health care for older people, and it is nice to provide health care for the poor. The trouble is that when you decide to do it with government it means that you do it with administrative bureaucracy. And that means, according to the theory of regulatory capture, that the health system gets run in the interest of the health care providers rather than the interest of health care consumers. It means that the health care system gets mewed up in thickets of government protocols and mandates and credentialization. So the health care system becomes incredibly expensive and learns how to respond to government mandates rather than consumer preferences. I don't know what health care would look like if it was basically driven by consumer demand, i.e. what individual consumers, backed up by catastrophic health insurance, wanted with their individual spending on health care. Maybe someone should write a book or make a movie. But we the government and we the charitable and we the children could still take care of people that couldn't afford health care through no fault of their own.

So my view is that the government should not occupy the commanding heights of pensions and health care. Pensions and health care are important social functions that should be the responsibility of individual people, who would be much the better for taking care of their own instead of having it taken care of, rather badly, by the ruling class. Put it this way: saving for your own retirement builds character.

Regarding the deficit and the debt, the basic facts are that in 2008 the US went through a once-in-a-generation financial crash, where the credit system almost seized up. In such a situation, according to Reinhart and Rogoff in This Time is Different, the national debt usually doubles. That's because the way to get out of a financial crash in which the whole credit system seizes up is for the government, through the central bank, to act as lender of last resort and basically nationalize the credit system for a while. And that is what happened: with TARP (at $700 billion in lending) and with various credit guarantees totaling $20 trillion, the government stabilized the financial system. And it was all in place before Obama was inaugurated in January 2009. I would say that Obama enacted the wrong policies in  2009, with a Keynesian stimulus and then the dead hand of Obamacare. But at least we enjoyed a modest recovery from the Crash. It could have been worse.

Yes, but how do we prevent this sort of thing in the future?

The proximate cause of the Crash of 2008 is that the financial system discovered, rather too late, that the derivatives based upon the mortgage bonds of government housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not sound because the mortgage bonds of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not sound. In the 1990s and 2000s the government mandated that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lend, more and more, to sub-prime borrowers. By the time of the crash, over 50 percent  of mortgages financed by Fannie and Freddie were to sub-prime borrowers. This is a problem, according to Walter Bagehot in Lombard Street, published in 1873. The credit system is founded upon two notions. The first notion is that borrowers are able to service their loans. Obviously, sub-prime borrowers are not really able to service their loans if interest rates rise or if they lose their jobs. The second notion is that loans should be properly collateralized so that if the borrower fails to service the loan then the lender can sell the collateral to recover his principal. If people in the market start to question the ability of borrowers to pay their loans and/or question whether loans are properly collateralized then you get a crisis of confidence and the credit system seizes up. So, in 2008 we had borrowers that could not service their loans and we had low-down-payment loans that could not be properly liquidated. Really, we are lucky that the Crash of 2008 was not much worse than it was.

So what, you might ask, should government look like in the best of all possible worlds?

It is simple. The national government should only spend money on defense. In the case of war it should raise taxes and borrow money. After the war it should cut defense spending and reduce the debt. That is all. And its central bank should help finance the war and act as lender of last resort in the case of the once-in-a-generation financial panic. That is all. The government should not use its power to game the credit system with loans to its supporters.

Of course, this is all fantasy. The reality of life on this planet is that we the people are always petitioning the government to pull our chestnuts out of the fire when we get into a little trouble. But that is mere bagatelle compared to the sins of the ruling class. The ruling class is always using the government to fight the war to end all wars, whether fighting the Kaiser, fighting the Nazis, or fighting racism, or fighting global warming.

And it will be ever thus.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Real Trump Budget

It took me a week, but I finally took a look at the Trump budget on my special federal budget feature on usgovernmentspending.com.

The table below shows budgeted outlays for federal spending for the next six years, starting with the current fiscal year, FY 2018.

Year
$ billions
FY 2018
Outlays
FY 2019
Outlays
FY 2020
Outlays
FY 2021
Outlays
FY 2022
Outlays
FY 2023
Outlays
Pensions1,044.51,107.51,181.71,251.41,331.51,404.4
Health Care1,182.41,225.31,291.61,316.41,423.81,467.8
Education111.6112.5104.596.898.295.9
Defense867.8949.9987.1995.51,022.31,030.3
Welfare354.0347.9345.7351.1363.0366.6
Protection42.342.344.245.346.247.6
Transportation94.494.093.392.469.466.8
General Government55.253.853.050.951.850.8
Other Spending110.6110.148.043.922.615.7
Interest310.3363.4446.6510.4567.7618.5
Total Spending4,173.04,406.74,595.94,754.14,996.55,164.6

Do you see what is going on? Pensions, health care are steady as she goes. Yay seniors! Defense shows a minor increase. Education and Welfare show minor decreases. Transportation is going to take a hit. Yay bullet trains to nowhere!

But look at Other Spending. It's going to be reduced by 90 percent! But what is it? Well the big numbers are Mortgage Credit at -$35 billlionish, which I assume is income from Fannie and Freddie the mortgage giants, and an innocuous item called "Adjustment for Budget Control Act Caps (Non-Security)" that goes from zero in FY18 to -$60 billion by FY23. Yeah. I don't have a clue what that is, but I am sure it is some kind of shenanigans.

Hey, but look at Interest. It is going to double from $310 billion in FY18 to $618 in FY23.

But the bottom line is this. Pensions, i.e., Social Security, and Health Care, i.e., Medicare/Medicaid, are the only things that matter, because they amount to over $1 trillion a year and they are going to continue going up.

Everything else, the stuff that people scream about from year to year, is peanuts.

But nobody is proposing to do anything about Social Security and Medicare. Because we baby boomers insist. Grandpa says that he already paid in to Social Security; grandma says they'd better not touch "my" Medicare.

But here is my lament. With the $10 trillion we added to the national debt after the generational financial crash in 2008 we coulda privatized Social Security. Just saying. And you know what that would have done? It would have created trillions in private wealth for ordinary people. Instead of just getting a check from the government they would have their own accounts at Vanguard and Fidelity, and would be passing a lot of that money on to their children.

As the song says: "Ain't it all a blooming shame."

Friday, February 16, 2018

Federal Budget: Well, What Do You Expect?

After updating my usgovernmentspending.com with the new Trump budget, I am looking around me to see what other people think.

Here, for instance, is Donald Lambro complaining about "wasteful spending," such as Scott Pruitt flying first class, and the stupidity of $13 billion to fight opioid addiction and $18 billion for the wall, and the fantasy of imagining that we can cut $250 billion from Medicaid and $200 billion from Medicare.

Then there is Angelo Codevilla complaining that the extra $81 billion for defense isn't going to fix anything, not the waste in Afghanistan or the waste on the F-35 fighter. And we still don't have a decent anti-missile defense.

I'm sure that our Democratic friends are squawking like stuck pigs about little children going hungry in "our communities" and how this means the end of "our democracy."

But here is the big picture on the federal budget spending, with pensions (i.e., Social Security) in red, health care in green, defense in gray, and welfare in yellow. All other spending is at the bottom in blue:



Here's the link to usgovernmentspending.com if you would like to muck around with this chart.

What you see in the chart is that basically nothing has changed, overall, in the last 25 years. Nor is it likely to change. Oh sure, there is a significant cut in defense spending in the 1990s. You see a steady increase in health care, starting in 2000. But the size of federal government spending started at 20 percent of GDP, swelled up to nearly 25 percent of GDP in the Great Recession, and has now declined down to about 20 percent of GDP again. So nothing has changed over the last 25 years.

We are going to continue with Social Security instead of letting Americans plan and save for their own retirement. We are going to continue with Medicare instead of letting Americans decide for themselves how much of a drug cocktail they want to spend their life savings on at the end of life. And we are going to continue the great and glorious Pentagon establishment and its flashy procurements despite the nagging suspicion that it is all going to flush down the toilet if we ever get into a real shooting war.

And everything else in the federal budget is chump change, even the dreaded yellow line of welfare (exclusive of Medicaid, CHIP etc.) at the top of my chart.

Here's what I think about all this. First of all, one fine day the whole federal budget will go south. Maybe it won't happen on our watch, maybe it will. But one thing is certain. If you or I have been relying on that government free stuff to keep coming, we are going to be in a world of hurt when the balloon goes up. For senior citizens like me it means "eating the paint off the walls" as they said after the end of the Soviet Union. And notice how they aren't saying anything about how senior Venezuelans are doing in the current meltdown. I wonder how the old folks are doing there, what with food scarce and health care non-existent?

Then there is the other problem. All these government programs are incredibly rigid and non-responsive. They go on forever without changing, without adapting to changing conditions. Until it's too late. The market system adapts every day to changing conditions, and we each have to adapt too, in our jobs, in our homes, in our families. Yet we have mewed up some of the most important social functions in government programs that cannot be changed.

How should we prepare for the financial challenges of life, from losing a job to educating the kids to saving for retirement? Who knows, because today we pay for most of it through inflexible government programs. And yet it is through meeting the challenges of life that we develop our humanity.

Yes, but what about the people that can't take care of themselves through no fault of their own? Surely we need government programs to take care of them.

But does government really take care of people unable to take care of themselves? Does it really help people to allow them to live for years without work? What about the crazy mass-shooters? What about the white working class dying of despair and opioid addiction? What about the miseries of people that lost their homes in the real-estate crash? What about the teenagers that can't get jobs because of the minimum wage? What about the huge cost of health care, courtesy of government regulation and credentialism? What about the abysmal educational achievements of African American kids after half a century of affirmative action and diversity programs?

See, I think that the point of humans as social animals is that social cooperation is about reducing the incidence of force. It is about people coming together and helping each other without someone saying: do this or else. Right now we have a federal government spending about 20 percent of GDP on the principle of force, because government is force, and state and local spending another 15 percent of GDP. Then we have the regulatory state that regulates everything that moves.

In my view, if you want to understand our problems then you have to start by thinking through what happens to a society when 35 percent of its interaction is under the knout of force, when little children are forced to go to government schools, when workers are forced to send 20 percent of their wages to government, when the relationship between worker and employer is fouled by an incomprehensible tangle of regulation.

Our lefty friends make a big deal about "militarism" and wasteful military spending. They are completely blind to the militarizing of everything else in this so-called "welfare" state.

People look at the federal budget and complain that nothing has changed. Then they look at school shootings and demand that the government "do something." Right now the US Senate is busy voting down all the possible immigration reform bills, so it looks like nothing will happen on that front.

People talk a lot about problems: sexual harassment in the workplace, marginalization of minorities, you name it. And each item on the agenda requires an increment of force.

I think that the problem is the opposite of what the activists say. I think the challenge is to find ways of dismantling the vast edifice of force that we have constructed over the last century, of which the federal budget is Exhibit A. I think the challenge is to implement new paths of social cooperation -- without resorting to the hammer of force.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Can Men and Women Recover Their Lives from Leftism?

The last few months have seen the remarkable emergence of psychologist Jordan B. Peterson, whose bestseller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos has found a particular audience in young men. Peterson is, of course, recalling young pajama boys to responsibility from their parents' basements.

The other puzzling phenomenon is the rise of special snowflake girls at our nation's universities during the Obama years. They seem to be insisting on safety: from sexual harassment and from unwelcome ideas. This is not surprising to me. What Women Want is protection. All the rubbish about women being superheroes and rough tough corporate execs is just that: left-wing rubbish. The point is, I think, that a woman cannot go about being a woman unless her safety is provided for.

There is no mystery about this. The central activity of women in the world is the birthing and the raising of children. To do this, a woman needs a quiet, safe place to care for her little ones. That is why, for instance, recent opinion polls report that a clear majority of mothers want to stay home with their kids. No kidding! The fact is that women don't like the free-for-all of the sexual revolution; they don't like ultra competition; they don't like business startups; they don't like the open outcry of the battle of ideas; they don't like being separated from their young children.

This is not to say that women should be forced to stay home, forced to stay out of trouble, forced to live modest lives. Not at all: the essence of freedom is the right to make a complete mess of your life and go against all sensible cultural memes without being put in the stocks. But I think that it is a cruel injustice to teach girls that they ought to be adventurous and career oriented and live life just like a man.

Of course, the cultural force that teaches women to be "independent women" and to live against the wisdom of the ages is the modern phenomenon of the left. I do not know exactly why it is that the left teaches, nay, bullies women to be unwomanly, and men to be unmanly. I suspect it has something to do with the blind leftist hatred of everything bourgeois and middle class.

I suspect that we are approaching a crisis in the cultural authority of the left. This was highlighted for me in a piece on the cultural divide between left and right. It shows that since 1994 the right has moved a little to the right, but the left has moved a lot towards the left.

In my view the movement to the left is getting beyond folly to real social damage, and is creating such emotional stress for individual leftists that it will soon reach a breaking point.

The point of the left has always been the idea of liberation from the iron cage of existence. Why should people have to suffer when the means of their liberation is available? In the Marxist utopia we should be able "to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner." In the early 21st century, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi exults over the wonders of Obamacare:
"As you hear from these stories, this is a liberation...  This is what our founders had in mind--ever expanding opportunity for people.

"You want to be a photographer or a writer or a musician, whatever --  an artist, you want to be self-employed, if you want to start a business, you want to change jobs, you no longer are prohibited from doing that because you can’t have access to health care..."
See, I think this has things exactly backward. I think it is a wonderful thing for people to take risks and attempt to live the creative life. But I strongly believe that such risk-takers should do it on their own dime, and not force ordinary people to subsidize or pay for their risk-taking. The fact is that universal healthcare enslaves everyone in a mandatory government program so that some people can be liberated from the responsibility of managing their own risks.

Let us analyze this with my reductive Three Peoples theory. In my theory the People of the Subordinate Self are liberated from exploitation and oppression when they come to learn and practice the virtues of individual responsibility. It is a hard thing to do, and many people prefer to live as virtual serfs, as government program beneficiaries or as government bureaucrats with lifetime tenure, rather than accept the burdens of responsibility. Likewise, in my theory the People of the Responsible Self rise up into a life of creativity from a base of a responsibility. They do not imagine themselves being liberated from responsibility if they decide to become "a photographer or a writer or a musician."

But in the crazy-cakes world of the left the artist or the feminist or the gay is endeavoring to liberate herself from the shackles of responsibility; indeed she is really a victim for being forced by society to observe its bourgeois norms. This kind of thinking is an almost irresistible temptation for someone on the left because the default program of the left is the liberation of helpless victims from exploitation and oppression. It is only a small step from advocating for ex-slaves or victims of the patriarchy to imagining oneself, who so longs to escape the coils of responsibility into the ethereal heights of creative art, to be just as much a victim as the real victims of society.

I think it is best to regard all liberation, except in the strict sense of liberation from actual slavery or serfdom, as a fantasy. We are humans, social animals, members of society, and that means that we should endeavor first of all to contribute to society and build up a credit balance in the bank of cooperation before we draw it down in a risky creative venture. For any well-born would-be creative to regard themselves as a victim, because the government has cut grants to the arts, or because they can't afford health insurance, is laughable.

Indeed, if there is real privilege is these times it is the privilege we create that allows people to do experimental things, in art or in business, at all. In most societies down the ages experimentation was regarded as a very present danger and was stopped in its tracks. Because when an experiment goes wrong it often causes real hardship to others in society.

In my view both the alt-right and the safe-spaces left are experiencing the same thing. Something is wrong, so we must return to the old ways to find safety and reconnect with responsibility.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

David Brooks Does Not Get It

Back in the good old days when he worked for the Wall Street Journal in Europe, writes David Brooks, there was nothing but good news. German unification, fall of the Soviet Union, etc. But now we see
the return of ethnic separatism, the rise of authoritarian populism, the retreat of liberal democracy, the elevation of a warrior ethos that reduces politics to friend/enemy, zero-sum conflicts.
Back in the good old days we had the Wall Street Journal celebrating "dynamic entrepreneurs and America’s heroic missions." Now we have FoxNews "with its daily gospel of resentments" and President Trump's "warrior mentality" and "constant race baiting." We have descended into clan warfare.
Eventually, conservatives will realize: If we want to preserve conservatism, we can’t be in the same party as the clan warriors. Liberals will realize: If we want to preserve liberalism, we can’t be in the same party as the clan warriors.
OK. So what is David Brooks missing? He writes as if the agenda of the left doesn't exist; he writes as though conservatives have no warrant for resentment and warriordom. But, enquiring minds want to know, how come conservatives got all mad and warriorly?

So let's tell the story of the last half century in another way. Back in the 1980s we conservatives felt that the Reagan revolution had established the idea that the market system ought to prevail because theory and because practice. Theory said that socialism and the administrative state could not work and the record of the Reagan years proved it in practice. But then came Bill Clinton saying he was a New Democrat but then immediately setting his wife to legislate a total administrative state solution to health care. Then came left-wing race and gender politics -- after the Civil Rights Acts supposedly solved the problem of government discrimination -- that encouraged Americans to think of themselves as clan members rather than Americans. Well, voters taught Clinton a lesson in 1994, and then elected George W. Bush who promised a "compassionate conservatism" that would square the circle between conservatism and liberalism. Wonderful! Everybody would live happily ever after. Except that liberals hated George W. Bush and everything he stood for.

Then came Barack Obama and a determination to fundamentally transform America with good old administrative state solutions to health care in Obamacare and to finance with Dodd-Frank. Plus left-wing race and gender politics and climate change politics.

Conservatives realized that we were chumps. If we behaved like good guys then what Margaret Thatcher called the "ratchet" would continue to inch America to the left, with bigger and bigger government and more powerful regulators and race-and-gender liberalism bullying us and stigmatizing us as racists, sexists, homophobes, and wave upon wave of immigrants to swamp our inheritance of Anglo-American law and democracy. We realized that conservatism wasn't working. We realized we had to fight back.

Now let us make clear what we mean by conservatism and liberalism. Today, conservatism means the nation state as the imaginary clan of all the people living in a nation state, understanding that we are all Americans first, fellow citizens of a city on a hill, the last best hope of mankind on Earth. But today liberalism means a global elite organizing its supporters into sub-national clans: the clan of African Americans, the clan of feminists, the clan of gays. And these clans are represented as helpless victims of the dominant white male hegemony.

Now I would say that the conservative notion is a good one. It builds upon the most successful script for organizing people into a political community, the completely fanciful and confused notion of a national people with a glorious history and language and culture that goes back into the dawn of history. And conservatism holds high the astonishing Great Enrichment of the market system, allowing economic relations to develop into astonishing prosperity without too much bullying and economic repression from the government.

I would also say that the liberal notion is a bad one. It starts with the notion of a global elite of educated, evolved people that know best, and uses identity politics to stir up and exploit the race and gender resentments of its supporters to make war upon the ordinary people that identify with the nation. There is, of course, an evil genius in this strategy that comes down to us straight from Philip of Macedonia and Julius Caesar: divide and conquer.

There is an honorable reason for the global elite/identity politics model. After World War II the global elite decided that it had to step in and excise the cancer that produced the poisonous nationalism of Adolf Hitler. The solution was to combine the nations in supra-national organizations that would be controlled by the global elite. So far so good. But politics didn't just go away. If nationalism and the nation state was to go away, something would need to replace it. And what replaced it was identity politics. Political leaders would not advance the cause of the nation; instead they would cater to the cause of the minority.

In other words, the educated and evolved elite encouraged what David Brooks now calls "clan warriors" because in politics you have to appeal to some common denominator, and if you are not going to play to patriotism, the clan of the nation, then you play to other clan: race or gender or class.

Now, ideally, we humans would all rally to the notion of humanity, the notion of humans as one global clan. But that time is not yet, primarily because of the fact that humans speak different languages. So politicians are going to rally us to some lesser group, to a nation or to a lesser tribe.

In my view the nation is still the best way to rally people into some kind of unity.

So here we were in the election campaign of 2016, and the top two Republican candidates were Ted Cruz, that proposed to rally conservatives against liberals, and Donald Trump, that proposed to rally all Americans to Make America Great Again, with walls and less immigration that would put America First.

Do you see the brilliance of the Trump notion? He does not set American against American. He puts Americans against non-Americans. And he fights for ordinary Americans and celebrates them as he did in his State of the Union speech.

In a way it is encouraging that David Brooks doesn't get this. One assumes that none of his liberal friends get it either.

You see the really dirty secret of what President Trump is doing is that he is speaking to the folks that liberals want to hive off into resentful identity politics silos. He is encouraging them to think of themselves first of all as Americans, as in E Pluribus Unum, in a glorious effort to Make America Great Again. Imagine if he succeeds!

Now, in my view, the global elite agenda is utter folly. Just because you stop rallying people to their nations, it doesn't alter the fact that in politics you always rally the people towards something. Since you cannot rally ordinary people to the idea of global humanity, not yet, you have a choice. You can rally them to the nation or rally them to something smaller.

And when you rally people to something smaller you are likely to break up the nation states of the world into something smaller and meaner. As in a Scotland independent of Britain, or Catalonia independent of Span, or California independent of the US.

But hey, as long as David Brooks does not get it, then Donald Trump gets to celebrate the notion of America with all of us normals while the liberal globalists wander around scratching their heads wondering what went wrong.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Trump Budget: Two Years of Trillion Dollar Deficits

Now that I've got usgovernmentspending.com updated with the Trump FY19 budget, here are the takeaways.

First, the tax cut is going to increase deficits, big time. Here are the deficits predicted by the FY18 budget:



And here are the deficits predicted by the FY19 budget.



Yikes! Back to trillion dollar deficits! Most of the increase in the deficit comes from the Trump tax cut. For instance, the budgeted FY18 federal revenue in the FY18 budget last year was $3.81 trillion, whereas in the FY 19 budget it is $3.42 trillion. That's a decrease of $391 billion.

But I wonder how accurate the forecast can be. See, here are the projections of income tax revenue, first in the FY18 budget.



Now here is the income tax revenue from the FY19 budget after the Trump tax cut.



So the Feds are expecting the Corporate Income Tax take to drop by $100 billion in FY18. Really? I'd expect a one year bump as corporations like Apple bring home billions in profits parked offshore and pay tax on their ill-gotten gains. But the Feds expect a bump in Individual Income Tax in FY18, the first year of the tax cut.

What about the spending side? Here is Defense in the FY18 budget.



And here is Defense in the FY19 budget.



So you can see that Trump is putting about an extra $100 billion a year into defense that puts it above the trillion-a-year mark by FY22.

But the basic math on the federal budget is this, for FY18.

Federal Pensions$1.0 trillion
Federal Health Care$1.2 trillion
Federal Education$0.1 trillion
National Defense$0.9 trillion
Federal Welfare$0.4 trillion
All Other Spending$0.6 trillion
Total Federal Spending $4.2 trillion

It is interesting, is it not, that all the arguments about federal spending are usually about the All Other Spending part of the budget. Which is a mere $600 billion a year. Meanwhile the big money, year after year, is in Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and Defense.

And remember, Donald Trump says he is not going to touch Social Security and Medicare.

Now, if I had my druthers, we'd privatize Social Security and Medicare so that the workers spent their lives saving for retirement and end-of-life health care rather than lending it to politicians in the hope that they would get it back in their retirement years. And most probably the workers would pass a ton of that money on to their children.

But imagine what would happen if we suddenly saved a couple trillion in the federal budget. According to, I think, Milton Friedman, the reality of governments is that they tax and spend up to the limit allowed by the bond market and the voters. What would happen to that $2 trillion a year in savings from people taking over responsibility for their golden years? Would it be returned to the voters in tax cuts? Or would our ruling class find other ways to bribe the voters?

I am not sure that I want to know the answer to that question.

Monday, February 12, 2018

No, Democrats Are Not Just Americans With Different Ideas

Today as I was updating usgovernmentspending.com with the new numbers -- and Trump is proposing a couple of years with $1 trillion deficits! -- I heard Michael Medved telling his audience that the partisan divide is rather overblown, and that Democrats are really good guys at heart with different ideas for America.

Well, not quite, Michael. First of all, the differences in ideas make a big difference. And second, there is a very large stream in the Democratic side that regards politics and political power as a saving religion, and that to oppose them in any way is a damning sin, of racism, sexism, and homophobia, and that the power of the state should be used to shut the opponents up.

In my view, that is a big deal.

First of all, the basic differences in ideas.

Democrats believe in the administrative state. They believe that numerous things that we do together should be done under the supervision of experts and administrators and paid for with taxes. There's a trillion in government-administered pensions, more than a trillion in government administered health care, and more than a trillion ind education.

If we conservatives had our druthers, we would get these importance social protections out of the hands of government, because government does things very badly.

But the truth is that the Democrats own the inside track on this. Most people have enough of the serf in them that they feel safer with the local liberal in charge of their protection: guaranteeing pensions, health care, and education for the kids. People like me would like to persuade the American people to change their minds about this, but we recognize that we have a long way to go. So, for me, there is a quiet resignation that things are not going to get better; we are going to have big government and the administrative state around for a long time, even if, with President Trump, we are taking a whack at out-of-control regulations.

But the big thing, and the thing that is really non-negotiable, is that most Democrats, and certainly all the little kiddies going through elite finishing school, have a saving faith in the power of politics to change peoples' lives and fight injustice. In other words, they believe that political power is the means to bend the arc of history towards justice. I call this the "activism culture."

In my view the activism culture is built on the truth that, at the beginning of the 19th century as the industrial revolution was getting into full swing, the vast majority of people in the industrializing regions were "outside the system." The whole governing thing was reserved for the absolute monarchs with help from the land-holding aristocracy. In the first half of the century the issue was to include the rising middle class into the system, and after the middle-class got the vote then the issue became the franchising of the working class. The activists assumed that revolution would be needed to get the unfranchised into the system.

The assumption of revolutionaries like Marx and Engels was that the rising power of the bourgeoisie, the captains of the new industry, would become the equivalent of the old aristocracy and grab power, using the wealth of the new industrial system. Just as the old aristocracy kept the jealously kept the wealth of the land for them and their descendants, so the captains of industry would rule over the world tightly holding on to their industrial gains. The workers of the world would be "immiserated."

Obviously, the only way the unfranchised could get the attention of the rulers was by marches and demonstrations and demands, and so the modern activism culture was born. And it makes sense. If you are inside the system with a vote then the powers-that-be will pay attention to you, because they need your vote. But folks outside the system need a more direct way of influencing the government.

But there is a problem. Once a group has been franchised with the vote, and admitted into the system, what is left for the activists to do? This was the problem faced by the intellectuals of the Frankfurt School after World War I when the Social Democratic Party of the German workers became the government of Germany. The answer for them was to realize that there were others in the world not yet franchised and admitted into the system: women and racial and sexual minorities. The activists that once championed the workers could now advocate for the victims of the patriarchy and of slavery and of colonialism.

This has been tremendous fun for the activist community, right down to the present moment, giving meaning to the lives of countless well-born scions. But it is based upon a lie.

The lie is the notion that the captains of industry and the middle class is a ruling class intent upon its own power project and determined to keep down the people outside the system. In fact the captains of industry are not that interested in power, and the middle class is not that interested in power. It is a monstrous injustice to act as if men have been keeping women barefoot and pregnant since the dawn of time and enslaving and colonializing brown people since the days of Columbus.

In fact the capitalists and the bourgeoisie got out of slavery in the 19th century and colonialism in the 20th century because, frankly, they did not pay.

Moreover, the record of the last century is that mobilizing whole peoples to fight injustice is counterproductive. The lesson of the Soviet Union and China and other countries that followed the activist agenda is that when you decide to organize a country in a crusade against injustice you create killing fields and miseries and injustice unimaginable under the old regime.

So the position of conservatives in respect of the left and its #Resistance and AntiFa and SJWs and the gender and race studies kiddies at the university is that these are budding totalitarians and must be stopped at all costs. Their ideas are wrong, their methods are wrong, and they must be stopped.

The left's ideas are wrong, because the market system does not require detailed top-down supervision; on the contrary, it stagnates when subordinated under administrative control. Indeed the science shows that socialism cannot work because it cannot compute prices, and the same applies to the administrative state that tries to administer prices: it is called the economic calculation problem. Then the administrative regulators of  regulated industry tend to become "captured" by the industry they regulator: regulatory capture. And then legislation on economic matters tends to buy the votes of people indifferent to a project and burden the defeated minority with costs but no benefits. This is the finding of Buchanan and Tullock's The Calculus of Consent. This is why I say that there is no such thing as justice, only injustice. It is one thing to remove an injustice. But once you start to implement a program of justice you will immediately create injustice.

The left's methods are wrong because people inside the system do not need to threaten each other with "peaceful protest." We have had two hundred years of the Great Enrichment since the dawn of the industrial era, and the overwhelming fact is that the market system accommodates and enriches all comers. Force is not needed except to punish people that rob and steal and cheat.

My hope is that the #Resistance will harm the Democrats in the next two election cycles so much that the Democrats will be forced to curb the activists and hide them away. And that will deal with the problem until next time.

The alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Suppose that Gentry Liberals are Democrats' Biggest Problem

Let us consider the latest Michael Barone piece, that "Gentry Liberals Own the Democratic Party." He means that:
In our three largest cities -- New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- gentry liberals have become the dominant political demographic.
But, of course, Donald Trump is president. Then,
Gentry liberals have produced the metropolitan areas with the highest income inequality in the nation. They decry gentrification -- and the accompanying movement of low-income blacks and Hispanics out of their neighborhoods -- even as they cause it. They sing hymns to diversity even as they revel in the pleasures of communities where almost everybody believes and consumes exactly the same things -- and votes Democratic.
In other words, gentry liberals pursue politics that is very nice for gentry liberals, cities with expensive streetcars and bike lanes and yeasty cultural resources, and sky-high prices that keep the deplorables out of town. And every gentry liberal can enjoy the comfortable reassurance of #WeBelieve yard signs on every corner. President Obama is the poster boy for gentry liberals; he "has lived all his adult life in gentrified neighborhoods."

But there is a problem.
Dominating the party is one thing; producing candidates and issues with appeal to the broader national electorate is another. Gentry liberals have the microphone and the money to dominate the Democratic Party. Whether they can overcome their snobbish disdain and bitter contempt for those beyond their comfortable enclaves and come up with a winning national strategy is unclear.
Well, yeah. I hope that the dominance of the gentry liberals, the folk I call the People of the Creative Self, increasingly marginalizes the Democratic Party from the American mainstream. Hopefully this gentry-liberal dominance already is doing it.

For instance, one can only guess that Nancy Pelosi's eight-hour filibuster from the floor of the House of Representatives was an attempt to deflect the rage of the gentry liberals that the orange clown had run the table on the Democrats with the tax cut plan, the SOTU speech and the government shutdown. Not to mention the fact that, more and more, it seems clear that the Obama administration was spying on the Trump campaign on the excuse of trumped-up fake dossiers.

But will the Trump-led Republican Party actually take it to the Democrats and marginalize the preening educated-class liberals, gentry liberals, People of the Creative Self? Here's a piece that might influence you. J.B.White calls Donald Trump "The OODA Loop President."

What's that, you say? Well, the OODA Loop is the brainchild of a true American character, John Boyd, a fighter pilot that also lived to create the transformative F-15 and F-16 fighter jets from a desk at the Pentagon.

OODA stands for observe, orient, decide, act. It encapsulates what any warrior -- or market warrior -- does in a fight. But it takes time to go through the cycle, from one action to to the next. Thus speed is of the essence. The idea is to get inside your opponent's OODA Loop, disrupt his plans, and act faster than he can respond.

Which Trump seems to be able to do.

But there is another aspect of Trump, that came out in his SOTU speech: his apparent mastery of the "cares about people like me" metric. White writes that Trump prominently acknowledged
haunting, memorable, and heartbreaking trials and tribulations made extremely personal by a range of attendees who suffered great loss.
You know, of course, which voters would be most affected by this kind of rhetoric. Ordinary middle-class women, who would like respond to Trump's acknowledgement of the trials and tribulations of ordinary Americans as "caring about people like me."

The mainstream media has made a big deal about the notion that women vote for Democrats. And so they do, unless you subtract gentry liberal women, the #MeToo Pussyhat brigade, and black women. Then you find that ordinary middle-class women are not overwhelmingly Democrat at all.

But suppose that Trump starts successfully appealing more and more to ordinary middle-class women that are not gentry liberals, what then?

Well, we are going to find out pretty soon, as we swing into the mid-term election season.

You see, my judgement is that the whole liberal agenda is a gentry liberal conceit from entitlements to labor law to economic regulation to environmentalism and climate change. On my view, the diversity and inclusion movement seems to be all about getting gentry-liberal women jobs in universities and Silicon Valley. But the gentry-liberal agenda is not much fun for ordinary middle-class Americans.

What ordinary Americans want is a decent job, an affordable house in a decent area, decent schools for the kids, decent roads, and decent health care. Gentry liberals make that more difficult.

And Donald Trump seems to be the Great Communicator that can help ordinary Americans see that.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

FISAGate: Don't Forget That These People are Idiots

So here we are, reaching the "what did the President know and when did he know it?" in the FISAGate scandal.

For you young-uns, the "what did the president know" meme was made famous by then Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN) during the hearings of the Watergate committee headed up by dear old (actually very canny) Sen. Sam Ervin (D-NC).

Of course, the FISAGate thing will never get as big as Watergate, partly because Democratic scandals are never as big as Republican scandals. The mainstream media make sure of that. And besides, FISAGate cannot be a big thing, because that would mean that President Obama was involved and that would be racist.

Yesterday, texts between FBI love-birds Peter Strzok and Lisa Page revealed that "potus wants to know everything we're doing."

Well, well, well. And here I thought that President Obama never knew anything unless he'd read about it in the newspaper.

As this self-inflicted scandal starts to knife into Democrats, it is important to get one thing clear.

High government officials are not what you are taught to believe: dedicated public servants, highly qualified experts, keen analysts, men of the people, and all that stuff.

They are idiots. They are fools, knaves, and weaklings stumbling around trying the clean up the latest fine mess their fools, knaves, and weaklings of bosses have got them into.

By bosses, I am thinking, of course, of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Knowing that these two were supposed to be the one-two First Black President and First Woman President is bound to tell you something about their personal intellectual qualities.

Now I don't know if the whole FISA court shenanigans was a four-stage deep state plot to influence the 2016 election, as Conservative Tree House seems to think, or whether it was just a Keystone Kops affair of idiots tripping over themselves. It really doesn't matter now.

But I will tell you what. The "brilliant" idea of the Trump-Russia collusion thing will go down as the biggest mistake in recent American history. What if the Obama administration had been using the FISA court to spy on the Trump campaign? The Republicans would never have raised it after winning the election, because it would be too hard to give it traction without the help of the mainstream media. The only way to be sure that Republicans would investigate it would be to back them into a corner with a Trump-Russia special prosecutor investigation, because it just makes it a bit easier to make sense of the foolish Trump-Russia conspiracy meme.

However, I do think that the Republican investigators do seem to know what they are doing, and they have been quietly working away for the last year building a trap for the Obama administration Heffalumps to fall into. Why do I think this? Because things seem to be falling into place with curious regularity on the FISAGate front.

One thing that is curious to me is the choice of Carter Page as the reason for the FISA court application. As information comes out it appears that Carter Page was an FBI informant and seems to have been used in counterintelligence against the Russians. This is a man that Ann Coulter calls Agent 000. (Er, is that Agent Double-Oh Zero or Agent Triple Zero?). I suppose that Carter Page was just the convenient name that happened to be around. I mean, you wouldn't want to compromise real intelligence investigations with a dead herring like Carter Page. Plus, the only reason he was associated with the Trump campaign was apparently, according to Coulter, that nobody in the foreign policy community would have anything to do with Trump, dahling. So the Trumpists were stuck with a fellow not quite out of the top drawer, old chap.

All this is to say that regimes and dynasties all have their sell-by date. That's because the scions of the revolution aren't quite as sharp as the original revolutionaries. Stalin was not as smart as Lenin, although certainly just as brutal, and Gorbachev was totally lacking in the brutal ruthlessness that a true tyrant needs.

Our present progressive elite has been around more or less since the end of the US Civil War, and the world we see around us is the result of their political agenda to create a wise and compassionate administrative state. But today's progressive scions really don't know what they are doing or why. They are just Good Little Boys and Good Little Girls from good families that learned their lessons well.

If you listen to their propaganda, you will hear that they have heroically tamed the capitalist (and now racist sexist homophobic) beast and saved capitalism (and the white patriarchy) from its own worst instincts.

But I think that our progressive elite has merely looted the modern economy, like any conqueror, to reward its supporters. Eventually they will run out of other peoples' money and then the fun will begin.

In the old days the political elite was confined to its necessary role as protector against existential perils like the Mongols. That was merely because the pre-industrial state could not support a government sector that extended much beyond defense; it just did not have the money.

But today's elite has looted the economy to pay pensions to grandpa, health care to grandma, free education to Johnny, and a welfare bureaucracy to keep the poor out of the way. And now they are having a problem coming up with an encore. Meanwhile their government-employee supporters are looting government services like police and fire and education to pay for their well-deserved retirements.

The elite's self image of educated and evolved experts wisely helping the oppressed and the marginalized has had an amazing run. But now it is challenged by Trump, who is offering an alternative narrative.

Whereas the progressives have done a great job splitting off the working class and now minorities and women from the mainstream of American life, Trump is proposing to unify the whole country around the narrative of celebrating America, good ordinary America and Americans, and anyone can join.

It is going to be really interesting to see if he can pull it off. There is one thing that is going for him. Lefties like Stalin and Hitler resorted to the nationalist meme because they realized that in the modern era it was the only way to unify people to their standard. You can say that Stalin  and Hitler were monsters, but they surely knew how to play the game. People belong to nations now, and nothing else works as well.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Great Reaction: The Left's Neo-Tyranny

I am continuing to develop my idea of the left as a Great Reaction, a movement against the radical Great Enrichment of the last 200 years that seeks to return to the good old days of exploitation and oppression.

Because what else can you call a movement that stands against a culture that has increased per-capita income from $1-3 per day in today's dollars to the current $150 per day in the US? Why would anyone argue, except in the details, against a phenomenon that has transformed the world from hunger to abundance?

To me, the key thing about the Great Enrichment is that its cultural carriers, the businessmen and middle class of the modern era, are not that interested in power.

But our lefty friends very definitely are interested in power. And they naturally assume that everybody else is interested in power as well. For them, the transformation from the present hellhole of racism, sexism, and homophobia to the sunny upland of liberation and emancipation can only by midwifed by political power. The result is that, wherever leftism has been tried, in small utopian communities or the campuses of government universities or actual governments, it has implemented old-style tyranny, in the manner of Genghis Khan and other historical notables, where the government rules by intimidation and oppression, and you keep your head down and get with the program if you want to know what is good for you.

So the Great Reaction is a movement of neo-tyranny. It believes that tyranny, top-down political force, is necessary to implement its vision of a better world.

Let us give our lefty friends their due. At first look, it would seem that only overwhelming force would be equal to the task of rooting out oppression, exploitation, othering, slavery, serfdom, marginalization, and subordination in human society. And indeed there is something in every man that is tempted by the Last Temptation of Christ, where Satan tempts Christ with dominion over all the kingdoms of the world, to do evil that good would come.

And I have conceded that in hunter-gatherer society the need for defense of the tribal territory against the neighboring tribes is elemental. Without the means and the will to defend the territory there is no tribe and no community. Every hunter-gatherer tribe must be armed and ready against its neighbors.

And the agricultural community also requires particular protection by armed force, else the Mongols or the Vikings or the pirates of the Spanish Main will descend and rape and pillage.

So it stands to reason that force is needed in the world to protect the innocent from the spoilation of the guilty.

But how much force is needed? And against whom? Who whom: That is the eternal question.

The left is unequivocal. Force is needed, transformative political power, in order to battle against the forces of evil. What's more, it makes sense that as humans have developed greater and greater material powers, using the energy in chemical combustion and perhaps nuclear reactions to multiply the material force of human and animal power, then it would be necessary for the right people to apply extreme preventative force to keep the new powers from bursting their banks and destroying everything in their path like a flood.

The list of potential evils that leftist thinkers and activists have identified, against which they judged political power was necessary and against which they mobilized in ideological war, is long.

First there were the absolute monarchs, the target of the French Revolution. Their unjust rule had to be destroyed and everything associated with it. Of course, in the event the French aristocracy had been defanged by the absolute monarchs centuries before, according to Tocqueville in his Old Regime and the French Revolution. And the regime of Louis XVI was mild and progressive compared to what came after it. Plus, it was broke. Of course, no regime goes out into the good night without encouragement. Nevertheless, the French Revolution unleashed the monsters of the Terror, and several coups and revolutions throughout the 19th century. Maybe the evils of the absolute monarchs were not so deep as to require the neo-tyranny of regicide and the wholesale slaughter of the old aristocracy and the bloody aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.

Then there were the capitalists and the bourgeoisie, the target of the Communist Manifesto. It was obvious to any young head full of mush in the 1840s that the rising bourgeoisie and its Dark Satanic Mills were embarked upon a massive power project that would enslave the workers and make feudalism look like a walk in the park. These exploiters had to be stopped before they immiserated the entire working class and the petite bourgeoisie. In the event, the bourgeoisie did not oppress the world, because it was not that interested in power. The great capitalists, whether they liked it or not, were mewed into a system that rewarded them for actions that created products and services for the consumer. And the capitalist market exchange system put such a large premium on trust and faithful performance of promises that the capitalists probably could not have brought themselves to dominate the world with force, even if they had wanted to. Instead, the inventors of machine textiles clothed the world, the inventors of steam power gave ordinary people the means to travel the world. The ones that suffered were those eclipsed by the latest technical and market revolution that marginalized their once proud "buggy-whip" industry. It must be said that the prophesies of Marx and Engels represent the most utterly failed prediction in human history and the followers of their vision have unleashed unimaginable horrors upon ordinary people with deaths in the millions in the mania to stop the exploiters before they strike again with a new technological revolution, some invention to make, say, the smartphone look like the Ford Edsel. Maybe the neo-tyranny of a government-owned economy directed by political activists is not the solution to the hypothetical danger of worker immiseration.

The world is still unwinding the horrors perpetrated upon the human race by the dedicated followers of Marx. But every political elite with half a brain now knows that, whatever its appetite for power, it cannot strut upon the world stage unless it fosters a vibrant market economy at home. But the idea of well-born political activists deciding that all the world's a stage and that the rest of the world is the captive audience for its activist struts and frets, its peaceful protests and its non-negotiable demands against the depredations of the monster du jour, has gone from strength to strength. The notion of a class of helpless victims, not so much of capitalism, but of patriarchy, or racism, or homophobia, cowering in cold fright waiting for the noble band of activists to liberate them into emancipation, has proved to be irresistible to a certain class of well-born youth. But each of these activist movements is a mere neo-tyranny, franchised by noble intentions with the right to dominate and humiliate the objects of their righteous rage.

I stumbled across a piece on discrimination today that belies the lefty assumption that all monsters are evil. Ben Shapiro writes:
Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute is fond of citing a 1934 study about discrimination against Chinese-Americans. The study followed a Chinese couple as they visited hotels and restaurants across the country. They were denied service a grand total of one time. Then, study author Richard LaPiere sent questionnaires to the various establishments asking whether they'd serve a Chinese couple. All but one that responded said no.
You can see that's why the South needed Jim Crow laws to make sure that people discriminated in proper fashion. Otherwise those Southrons might have proved to be way too soft-hearted to administer the tough and necessary agenda of their leaders.

The Great Reaction is a movement primed by the faith that the average human deplorable must be humiliated before he strikes again. And in the service of this witchhunt the movement has dug deep into the arsenal of pre-modern cultures that it likes to stigmatize as ignorant and superstitious. So we have the neo-tribalism of identity politics, the neo-feudalism of the welfare state, the neo-sacrifice of the environmental movement, and the neo-guilt of the modern Torquemadas.

And behind it all is the great temptation of neo-tyranny, the use of force to force the world to be good.

I don't think so.