Friday, August 31, 2018

The Dilemma of the Well-born Human

Contrary to the notion that the Big Problem of life, the universe, and everything is The Poor and Marginalized, described in the 19th century as "the Social Question," I argue that the Big Problem is what to do about the Well Born, the child of a prosperous, or powerful, or educated family.

See, if you are the child of, shall we say, "privilege," then any life significantly less notable than your parents is shameful, a descent into anonymity. And that is often demoralizing. And yet, if you are, say, the child of a notable, such as the recently deceased Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), what are the chances that you would ever equal the life and notoriety of your noble father? Pretty low, alas.

Think of it. Suppose you are Prince Hal, son of the Henry IV who seized the throne of England. Why, the only thing to do is to seize the throne of France. At which young Hal failed despite winning the Battle of Agincourt.

Or suppose you are the son of John D. Rockefeller, inventor of the fossil fuel industry. We know next to nothing about him.

Of course, sometimes the son of a local notable goes on to become world-famous. Heinrich Marx was the leading lawyer in Trier, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, in the early 19th century. His son never really amounted to much, except that, with the help of another rich kid, he penned two of the most famous political titles ever: the Communist Manifesto and Capital.

And that is what every progressive rich kid has wanted to emulate, ever since.

In my view, the situation of a young Karl Marx is iconic for well-born young people in our age. What  can they do with their lives to make them special? To be just an ordinary educated bourgeois family man is a humiliation. And now we have the same problem with well-born women, as Christopher DeGroot describes it, in taking apart a lefty analysis of sexism. Here is the problem, as the lefty scholars describe it.
[Their analysis] defines prevailing sexism in a market as the extent to which its residents believe that: (i) that women’s capacities are inferior to men’s; (ii) that the family unit is hurt when women focus on activities outside the home; or (iii) that men and women should occupy specific, distinct roles in society.
They are talking, of course, about the success or lack of success of women in the workplace and in notable careers such as politics, business, and the academy.

These lefty academics take it as Written that the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, is to have a meaningful career. And they believe (i) that women have the same interest in notable careers as men; (ii) that women's lives are hurt when women focus on activities inside the home; and (iii) that men and woman should occupy, in equal proportion, the various distinct roles in society.

Which is fine for people like them. If you want to believe that the meaning of life is a fulfilling career then go ahead. But what about the rest of us? Suppose there are  people in the world that believe that career and conventional success are false gods? What then?

The consequence of  the ideology of careers for women means that, if a well-born woman in today's world does not create a notable life for herself in addition to marriage and children, she is looked down upon by the other women in the well-born Mean Girls clique. In fact she might herself unwelcome in the well-born Mean Girls clique.

And this is wrong. Whatabout a woman like the Saigon domestic servant I mentioned in my piece yesterday. What she would not give for a responsible husband and a settled home from which she could launch her children into the world! What she would give not to be living on the edge, cadging life from the accidents of fate

Whatabout the deplorable women in Rust Belt states?  They would love for their husbands to have stable, well-paying jobs so they could attend to children and family and contribute to neighborhood groups and activities!

Whatabout the well-born women that really aren't inspired by a corporate career, or "activism," or advanced degrees? They would love for the traditional roles for women to get a little respect, so the Mean Girls wouldn't look down on them so much.

And this is why we need my reductive Three Peoples theory. See, your academics coming up with another crap theory about sexism would never do that if they had read, learned, and inwardly digested my Three Peoples theory.

For instead of their mindless left-liberal obsession with "sexism" they would say to themselves: I wonder what kind of of life would be considered the best by your average Person of the Subordinate Self, a woman recently arrived in the city from the country and wondering what kind of life she could hope for? What would float her boat? Earth to lefty! I don't think she would be thinking too much about an advanced degree and a professional career. And I don't think that "you priests" should be indoctrinating her with your secular religion to become that kind of person.

And what about our Person of the Responsible Self, a woman that goes to church, that wants a good marriage and several children? Are we to tell her to forget the children and get thee unto a corporation? Is she to be ashamed of her interest in nursing? Or her decision to home-school her children? The truth is that the vast  majority of people are perfectly content to live a quiet responsible live in a network of friends and family, and don't feel the need to get their name up in lights. And I don't think that "you priests" should be shaming her as an ignorant religious bigot.

Finally we come to our Person of the Creative Self. Does such a woman have to fit her life into the strait-jacket of approved left-liberal life trajectories, which always seems to mean a bureaucratic career in a credentialed job that has street-cred among the urban professional classes?

See, I think that the approved life trajectories negate the very idea of the Creative Self. If you go to university and get an advanced degree, and then go into government, or the academy, or corporate life, you are really living as a dull routinist. Peter Thiel points out the issue in the very title of his From Zero to One. He is saying that any creative endeavor represents going from nothing to something, starting in a trackless waste, and then bringing it to order. And that is a very hard thing to do. It is like deciding to become a writer, where the truth is that many people would like to be a writer, but very few people have the chops to do it.

Do you see what I am saying? I am saying that any creative life cannot be a routine thing, mapped out and gridded by routine left-liberal academics, and the acquisition of approved academic credentials. Because creativity is surprise; it is the eruption of the unexpected. It cannot be made to order, and marked out by political activists, and judged according to the self-appointed priesthood of the arc of history.

In other words, Sorry Charlie. You well-born scions of the notable may wish to conquer the world with your educated and evolved "good taste." But the world wants ideas that "taste good." Not the approved notions of the creative class to change the world according to their priestly dicta, but the accidental creations that turn out to change the world.

When you grasp this then the utter failure of the left to realize their vision over the last century and a half makes sense. The left imagines that it grasps the meaning of life, the universe, and everything and that all that remains is to execute on the politics and the ideology to bring this vision to reality. But that is not how the world works. Real creativity, real change, is not a planned or routine thing. It is the eruption of the unexpected, an accident: a resolution, if you like, of the uncertainties of a state function.

And for those, the well-born and the would-be notable, there is the truth that in the field of creativity, many are called but few are chosen.

And so, the Great Question of our age is not the mapping out of the meaning of creativity as "rigidly defined areas of uncertainty and doubt," and the enforcement of diversity and inclusion, but the problem of creating meaning for those millions of would-be creatives that were called but not chosen.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Life as it Used to Be

I was to the dentist today, and the dentist opined about the frightfulness of things. Since I had a cotton wad in my mouth I couldn't contradict her.

Because, even with the ongoing refusal of the Democrats to admit they lost fair and square in 2016, the world is a pretty wonderful place for us deplorables here in the land of the free and the brave.

But Linh Dinh writes from Saigon about life -- as it used to be almost everywhere. Not exactly nasty, brutish and short, but certainly very precarious. For instance, back in the good old days, people either had servants or they were servants. Dinh writes about a servant in Saigon, one of ten siblings, whose father was a drunk and beat her mother.

And my "domestic violence, we are not just  talking about in the house. Neighborhood violence was not uncommon. The servant's relatives got into a meat-cleaver fight with neighbors involving nearly-severed arms, and after that she was afraid to go to school, so she is illiterate.

At age 16 she took the bus to Saigon and eventually got a restaurant job for $23 a month, including room and board. She married a Cambodian, but he soon stopped working and started drinking. So back to the city, and a job for $500 a month working till midnight looking after two kids and enduring the mistress accusing her of theft. Now she's working for $345 a month looking after a baby. But her 15-year-old son has a factory job and her 13-year-old daughter is working as a domestic servant and apprenticing at the same factory. So life is good, as she shows Dinh a picture of her father on her cellphone.

Yeah. Funny thing about that factory work, that is supposed to be so demeaning. Compared to what? Working in the rice paddies? Work as a domestic servant? The fact is that, all over  the  world, for the last 200 years, people have walked off the land to the city as fast as they can, because life in the city is good. They walked off the land in Britain 200 years ago to work in the coal mines. They sailed in coffin ships from Ireland to fall onto the dock in Boston more dead that alive. They took ship from the starving Scandinavia of the 1890s to end up in Minnesota. Life was hard in the city, but by God it was better than starving on the farm.

So life is good in Saigon.
Ỵ has many changes of clothes, tasteful fake eyebrows, persuasive false teeth and a used cellphone, bought for just $15. Two years ago, she purchased her second stolen motorbike, this time for $65. Most domestic servants can only afford bicycles.
Yes, imagine that. A cellphone for a 3rd world domestic servant. Now, back when I was in Thailand in the mid 2000s, they told me that a used 100ml motorbike was $300. But I guess the stolen ones go cheaper. Vietnam per-capita GDP in 2016: $2,185. Compare to US at $57,000.

But, wait a moment. Here we have a poor woman in Saigon. And she has cellphone and a motorbike. What a world!

I remember reading about the workers at a Nike factory in Vietnam. They asked the workers what they liked best about working for Nike. The reply: Working indoors. Next best thing? Getting a job at the Nike factory for their relatives.

Meanwhile, in the US, the Census Bureau reports: "There are no jobs Americans won’t do, poor citizens hurt by illegal immigration." Imagine that!

I know what you are thinking. Is  the Census Bureau allowed to do studies like that?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wat? Patriotism vs. Nationalism

In the aftermath of the death of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) there are a number of articles out about the difference between patriotism (good) and nationalism (bad).

In The American Spectator Ralph Benko, after Adam Gopnik, defines patriotism vs. nationalism thus:
The patriot loves his place and its cheeses and its people and its idiosyncrasies; the nationalist has no particular sense of affection for the actual place he advocates for... but channels his obsessive grievances into acts of ethnic vengeance.
Then Jonah Goldberg calls John McCain a patriot (good) and President Trump a nationalist (bad). Actually, it is not too clear to me how Jonah defines patriotism, beyond that
McCain's worldview was, properly speaking, patriotic, not nationalistic, in that it was credal, bound up in democratic principles. 
For John McCain wanted to form an international organization:
n 2007, for instance, McCain proposed creating a League of Democracies to counter the influence of the United Nations and other organizations that do not really care about democratic values.
Here's National Review's Jim Geraghty on America as a war against identity politics.
Identity politics in the American context almost inevitably carries an undercurrent of “we, in this group, are the good Americans; those, in that group, are the bad Americans.” Whether we like to admit it or not, that’s a near-dominant theme in our modern politics and our arguments on social media.
 But America was supposed to be different.
The point of the American experiment, fueled in large part by Europeans fleeing a continent full of rigid class roles, limited opportunities, political and religious repression, was to create a country where you could be whatever you wanted to be, and your group identity didn’t matter.
Well, I'm sorry.  This is all so much special pleading for the author's own preferred mode of tribalism, the principle on which the "we" and the "they" is defined.

So let us try to understand what is going on, from my point of  view.

The basic fact is that humans are tribal: we are social animals. We protect ourselves from the rest of the world by defending our patch of land from pirates and plunderers, and we do that by banding together in tribes. From time immemorial this tribe has been a tribe of the kindred, of people fairly closely related by blood, defended from the world by the armed might of their men.

But certainly since the dawn of agriculture, things have been more complicated than that, because the first thing that happened, with the dawn of agriculture in the Middle East, was the agricultural empire. The empire could not really be a tribe of the kindred, so we humans started to fake the tribal thing.

We started to develop the notion that the Pharaoh or the King, or even God, was the Father of us all. So we were not a bunch of warring clans, but really children united into the greater family of the abstract Father. Not the tribe of blood relationship but the abstract notion of relationship, as children of the king, or children of God, created a new sense of belonging.

I tell you what I think of that. I think it is brilliant. Fake tribes! Who would have thought it!

In the feudal era we have the notion that the feudal lord was the father of his vassals. And there was a certain fatherly duty that the lord owed his vassals and his serfs, one of which was to defend them against other feudal lords.

But then came the end of the feudal era in Europe, and the rise of the absolute monarchs, so a new sense of belonging and membership was needed. Enter the nation state, the notion that the basic unit of  human membership was not the feudal principality but the kingdom, with its king, its language, its  people, its history, and its sacred land.

Of course, the idea that Britain or France was a single nation with sacred borders and a divine right of  kings was a bunch of made-up baloney, a new notion of membership that was needed because if you  were not a strong nation in the Europe of 500 years ago you got stomped on.

For instance Germany, in the Thirty Years War from 1618 to 1648. In those days Germany was a collection of smaller states headed by princes and counts and bishops. So the nations of Sweden and France felt free to march all over Germany and strip the German peasants of their food. About a third of Germans died in the war. You can imagine that the Germans really fell in love with the national idea after being tromped on for thirty years by the lovely French, but it look them 200 years and the genius of Bismarck to actually make them into a nation.

Or Austria in 1900. Suppose you were a German speaker in Austria. Austria was a multicultural empire, presided over by the German-speaking Hapsburgs, but it had slowly given more and more autonomy to the various nationalities: Czechs, Hungarians, Romanians, Serbs. If you were a chap like  the young Adolf Hitler, the outlook for German speakers looked pretty bleak. So why not have a Greater Germany, a Großdeutschland, of all the German speakers?

Cool idea, Adolf, except that where would you stop? At the Austrian Anschluss? At the annexation of German-speaking Czechoslovakia? The German speakers in Poland? Hey, what about western Russia, which had been importing good German farmers for centuries? You can cook up a reason to invade just about anywhere, if you have an army and a mind to do so.

Obviously, the national idea, for all its genius in promoting the idea of all Brits or all Germans or all Americans as one tribe, all in it together, can get out of hand.

Anyway, starting in the mid 19th century a new notion of fake tribal membership began, with the idea of all the workers of the world belonging to an imagined international community of workers. In this formulation, the workers were "we" and the bourgeoisie was "they." Workers of the World Unite!

Cool idea, except that in World War I the various workers of the world fought for their nations, and not for the workers of the world. Plus, we have learned in the decades since, the idea of a workers' state is a bad one, that leads to starvation, mass murder, and secular religious wars.

Meanwhile a new form of membership was growing up with the rise of global capitalism. Lots of people started working for large corporations, and when not angered by layoffs and wage-cuts during recessions and depressions, seemed to like the neo-feudal community of the big corporation. Here is a piece about the relative contentment of Amazon workers.

Meanwhile, the left, that invented the idea of worker solidarity, found it necessary to invent a new form of membership: race and gender solidarity, what we now call identity politics.

In my view it makes sense. The left does not like nation states, because colonialism and imperialism and aggressive nationalism and fascism. But if you are not going to organize politically around the nation, then what? The answer is to organize around sub-national groupings, such as race and gender, what Steve Sailer calls the Coalition of the Fringes.

The problem is, I suggest, that setting all the non-whites against the whites, and all the women and non-hetero-males against toxic white masculinity, means that the defining membership idea is not longer the nation, but the sub-national tribal identity. The assumption of the left is that they can manage all the disputes among their Coalition of the Fringes, especially if it can keep them united against the eevil white heterosexual male. But if you ask me identity politics leads straight to civil war.

Enter Donald Trump. He is proposing to reestablish the nation as the basic membership unit, as in Make America Great Again. But there is a problem. Do you see what it is?

The problem is that politics is division; if there is an "us" then there must be a "them" to unite the "us." In the old nation state this was, for the Brits, the French; and for the French, the Germans. And for the US, since World War II, the Soviets. And latterly the Islamofascists. So there must be an enemy, otherwise politics is not needed.

So Donald Trump came up with the brilliant idea to blame everything on multinational trade deals and immigration. Other countries, or international bureaucrats, were stiffing the American worker. But Trump would fight for the American worker, by renegotiating trade deals, Oh, and on immigrants that were taking jobs away from American workers.

Do you see the genius in this? It unites all Americans, male, female, white, black, Latino, and Asian into one community, of Americans that want to Make America Great Again. And it doesn't propose waging actual war on Mexico or Canada or China in order to do so.

Really, the only people that might be opposed to this agenda would be the international educated elite that can always get a visa to work abroad as visiting professor, or working for an international agency, or getting transferred to a foreign subsidiary of a global corporation. Because the current system runs as though it were designed to benefit people like them.

My point is this. There is always going to be tribalism. The only question is: which one? The old tribalism of the blood kindred is dead and buried. And, believe me, we won't have world government until we detect the Martians coming to attack us. So we humans have to devise a workable abstract tribalism based on some principle other than kinship. So we invent fake kinship.

Personally I believe that nationalism is the best thing going, the idea of a people, living in a sacred space, joined together by some fake national myth. Not because nationalism is so great, but because every other -ism is so stupid.

But the worst thing going is the identity politics of the left, the idea that, after two centuries of the Great Enrichment from $3 per person per day to $150 per person per day, that this group or that group is horribly oppressed and exploited and has nothing in common with the average white middle-class married, patriotic family man.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Two Paths: for Rich Kids After the Death of God

Today the formerly-Facebook-censored Dennis Prager issued part 3 of his "Explaining the Left" series. Quoting Victor Frankl, he writes:
[T]he greatest drive of man is meaning.
Frankl's book is titled "Man's Search for Meaning." And golly, whaddya know, Jordan B. Peterson's book is titled "Maps of Meaning."

That is what God and religion down the ages is all about. As Douglas Adams jokes in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: it's "the meaning of life, the universe, and everything."

But now God is Dead, at least to the educated people of the West. So what do we do? The Left is one answer to that question. Prager:
The answer to the great dearth of meaning left by the death of biblical religion in the West is secular religion. The first two great secular substitutes were communism and Nazism. The first provided hundreds of millions of people with meaning; the latter provided most Germans and Austrians with meaning.

In particular, both ideologies provided the intellectual class with meaning. No groups believed in communism and Nazism more than intellectuals. Like everyone else, secular intellectuals need meaning, and when this need was combined with intellectuals' love of ideas (especially new ideas -- "new" is almost erotic in the power of its appeal to secular intellectuals), communism and Nazism became potent ideologies.
And, after Communism and Nazism failed the God is Dead crowd, inspired by the Frankfurt School, adapted a new secular religion. You will notice that it curiously combines the class warfare of Communism with the race warfare of Nazism.

What is notable about both Communism and Nazism and the modern derivative we call postmodernism, or political correctness, or "woke" -ness, is that it is a doctrine of political power: we will redeem the world with a political movement to eliminate the sins of the world.

It is telling that the old religions all conceded that we were not going to be able to create a heaven on Earth. Eternal Bliss was only available in the afterlife, and only to the folks that got with God in this life. But with the growth of science, maybe we could do better!

Now it is my belief that the left's faith in politics is a Great Reaction, a nostalgic move back to the old days when political or military power was all in all, because it was needed to defend your tribe's patch of land and its life-giving food. In that world you had to be perpetually armed against all others, because only one tribe could eat the food from a patch of land.

So I understand the left's secular religion as a kind of knee-jerk reaction to the Death of God. The left is reacting rather as the Germans reacted after the disaster of World War I. This most advanced country in the world -- that had invented modern philosophy, modern cars, modern physics -- returned to the pre-modern faith in race and land. People normally do this when the world turns against them, according to new-age philosopher Ken Wilber. They instinctively seek a return to "what worked."

But here's the thing. There is an alternative to the left's nostalgia, and it has been here all along and, in many ways, it reflects the left's return to the past, with a difference. We are talking about the cultural movement represented by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Jung, Frankl, and people like Joseph Campbell, and this year's sensation, Jordan B. Peterson. All of these people are looking back to the old religions to figure out what religion and myth were all about, and then used their new understanding of the role of religion and myth in human life in order to inform the present.

If you read Campbell, and I just checked through my late mother's copy of Creative Mythology, you find copious references to Nietzsche and Jung. Ditto Peterson. So what is going on?

I will tell you what I think.

The rise of science in the last millennium has changed the way we think about the world. In the old days we used to think that God created the world and all we could hope to do was to live in it according to his plan. But science has taught us that we can learn a lot about how the world works, and successfully do something about it. In other words, we are now able to go about the world creating things. So Creation is no longer a monopoly of God. Mankind has figured how to get in on  the creative action.

That is why the top dogs of my reductive Three Peoples theory are the People of the Creative Self. We are people that realize that we are not born into this world to be subordinate peasants or merely responsible individuals. We are called into the world to create.

The lefties have chosen to create according to a Gospel of Force. They will use force, through politics and government, to wash away the sins of the world, inequality, oppression, exploitation, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia and create a new world.

But the gospel of Nietzsche is different. He tells us not to change the world but to change ourselves, to "become who you are," to go on an individual journey of self-discovery like his Zarathustra, to rise above the herd and become exceptional.

The gospel of Campbell is to live The Hero's Journey of myth and descend into the underworld (i.e., the unconscious) and only after you have learned your lessons well to return to the world to give your life and knowledge to your fellow humans. The gospel of Peterson is to live on the edge of order and chaos and become the Sacrificial Hero that dies to redeem the world.

Notice the difference between the two gospels? One is a gospel of force, conducted by people who already know what the world needs. The other is a gospel of self-discovery, conducted by people who know they have have a lot to learn, and that one day, by the grace of God, they may find a way to benefit their fellow humans.

Notice that even at the level of economics the differences are stark. The lefties already know what needs to be done: the only thing necessary is to encode their doctrine in beneficial legislation, even to the extent of molding the entire economy into a government administrative bureaucracy.  But the market economy requires each of us to go out into the world to discover how each of us might find something with which to contribute our labor and our skills and our ideas to the world. Only after self-discovery do we find out what our contribution might be.

It is telling that Peter Thiel's book about the market economy is called From Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build  the Future. Yeah. How do you get from Zero to One?

It needs to be said that the life of creative discovery is much more challenging than the life of a subordinate peasant or modern "victim," and also more challenging than the life of a responsible citizen and worker. It is not for everyone, nor yet for everyman.

But let it be said that, for the well-born, folks that have had all the advantages of being born to intelligent and resourceful parents, there are Two Paths. One path is the nostalgia of political "activism," that has bewitched young rich kids ever since Marx and Engels. The other path is the existential challenge of self-discovery in the hope of one day getting from Zero to One.

One of the Two Paths fails in blood and misery every time it is tried. The other has brought us from $3 per person per day to the present $150 per day, and a world of astonishing peace and trust.

And we, each one of us, get to choose which path to take. What a world.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Problem with Grand Strategy for Empires

Just in the last few days I have encountered articles proposing that Presidents Xi of China and Putin of Russia are strategic geniuses setting their countries up for global domination.

The Chinese one was from "Spengler," or David P. Goldman. He thinks that the Trump tariff threats are a strategic error because the Chinese economy is much stronger than Trump's advisors (and also supply-sider Art Laffer) think. Anyway China is in the midst of an economic transition at the end of which it will rule the world.
Deng Xiaoping began a convulsive transformation in 1979, launching the largest migration in world history, a movement of 550 million from countryside to city – two Americas, or the whole of Europe from the Urals to the Orkneys. Xi Jinping is presiding over another convulsive transformation, from a smokestack-and-export economy to a high-value-added, consumption-focused economy.
In the first transition "Thousands of years of custom, habit and history have been uprooted in a single generation, and China has created a new people." In the second:
China is engaged in a second transformation, from a country of industrial workers one generation removed from the farm, to an economy led by technology and services. And the Chinese propose to accomplish this in a single generation, while shifting a great deal of their industrial operations to cheap-labor venues from Turkey to Malaysia. That is part of the object of the One Belt/One Road initiative.
Well, yeah. Maybe. Or maybe the top-down my-way-or-the-highway ideology isn't that well adapted to the creation of a creative market-driven economy of "technology and services." Maybe the folks left behind, like the white working class in the US, will rebel at being catapulted into the 22nd century.

OK, now let's look at Russia, where Andrei Martyanov thinks that Putin is the second Pyotr Stolypin. Stolypin was Prime Minister of Russia in the aftermath of the failed 1905 Revolution.
[Stolypin's] strategic dictum was simple to grasp: “Give Russia 20 years of internal and external peace and quiet and it will change beyond recognition.” Vladimir Putin and his team follow this dictum to the letter.
And the major objective of this, then and now, is to be a world-class military power. China seems to agree too, as they build a blue-water navy.

But I think this is all rubbish.

Look, I think it is great that Russia and China are serious about playing catchup. This chart from usgovernmentspending.com shows what they need to do on the GDP front.


This chart shows that Russia, China, and India are all playing catchup with the West and Japan. So yeah, they should all be copying what we are doing and becoming global, trading nations that live by trade rather than political domination.

But then what? That is where the strategic mindset fails. For it assumes that power is everything, and that the wise ruler should have a long-term power plan going out to the near horizon.

Frankly, I doubt that.

Put it this way. The US, you might notice, is on the top of the heap, GDP-wise. Did the US come up with a magnificent strategy 100 years ago about how to rule the world? Hardly. We just stumbled and bumbled along, as usual, making it up as we went along. And along the way we were the leaders in a number of technological revolutions, from electricity to air transport to computers and the internet. All completely unforeseen by the smart set. So it is probably a good thing that our ruling class didn't have a clue, because sure as can be, whatever grand strategy we might have formulated in 1900 or 1950 would have been useless in 2020.

OK, so we did have a grand strategy from 1950 to 1990, to "contain" communism. And it worked.

Moreover, the grand strategists are usually backward looking, trying to keep the existing regime going, and usually making a mess of it. Think of the German and Russian and Austrian emperors that bumbled into World War I and crumbled into dust, giving us the Great Reaction that featured Bolshevism and Fascism. Think of Hitler's grand strategy of blood and soil. Think of Mao ZeDong's strategy of cultural revolution.

Right now, for instance, in the United States, the ruling class is transfixed with the idea of erasing the guilt of colonialism and racism and the age-old subjection of women. Is this a brilliant idea or a Great Reaction into a neo-oppressive politics that subjects the entire population to the latest wizard wheezes of intersectional crazies? My belief is that the current ruling-class obsessions have nothing to do with the case. It is all just the posturing of rich kids, churned out by our elite finishing schools, that have been educated in useless mush.

No wait. When you think about it, the ruling class is doing the sensible thing. By filling young elite heads full of mush they are making sure that the little geniuses never have an original thought in their heads and thus never think how the whole ruling class ideology sucks from head to tail.

Look. Of course Russia and China need to play catch-up. And they need to stay out of trouble and let the market breed peace and prosperity, and lead their people out of the country into the city and then socialize them to the market economy.

But as to what happens after that, let's be clear. Nobody has a clue. If Russia and China look to emulating the US so they can become world hegemons in their turn, I have this to say to them.

When you guys reach up to US levels of GDP, meaning that your intangible capital reaches to 80 percent of total capital just like it is here, then the game will have changed.

I hope that the US will have stumbled onto the right road by that time, in accordance with Bismarck's dictum that there is a "special providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America."

But you never know.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Great Reaction: The Story So Far

For me, the great social movements that have dominated the headlines and dug the mass graves of the last century and a half -- Communism, the welfare state, environmentalism, identity politics -- amount to a Great Reaction against the most astonishing event in world history, the Double Revolution, that in physics that has given us relativity and quantum mechanics, and in everyday life has given us the market economy.

When the world is suddenly utterly changed it is natural for people to look back to the past. New-age philosopher Ken Wilber describes it as people stepping back to "what worked" when it seems that things are all going to hell around them. So of course, with the unparalleled changes of the last two centuries there are many people that yearn for an older simpler time.

This nostaglia was evoked by Archie Bunker in the title song of All in the Family, "Those Were the Days" of the time when "Girls were girls and men were men." And the whole point of All in the Family was to sneer at the white working class that was all of a sudden finding itself left behind by history. Or at least by the ruling class.

Or, in a less innocent manner, it was natural for the Germans to revert to blood and soil after the disaster of World War I. And that is what Hitler offered them: a pure Aryan race, and a Drang nach Osten for land to the east of Germany. Absolute insanity for the nation that had invented the automobile and the new physics and left behind the old faith of slave-farmer Gerald O'Hara that "land was the only thing that lasts."

Every effort in the Great Reaction is to re-invent some social or religious or economic facet of the good old days, so my way of illustrating this is to "neo" everything about it.

Most obviously, there is the neo-feudalism of the welfare state. In the good old days of feudalism, the peasants were held in thrall, as semi-slaves, to the warrior class. The peasants tilled the fields and grew the food, and surrendered a good part of their labor to their lord in return for his protection against pirates and other lords that might come and relieve the peasants of their food and land. Same thing now: the ruling class makes all kinds of promises to the workers and offers all kinds of benefits, and people feel secure in their work and in their lives. But this is an illusion, a confidence trick. As the feudal peasants found out when the lords threw them over, and as  the white working class has found when the ruling class went global about half a century ago.

Then there is the neo-tribalism of identity politics, that unscrupulous politicians and ideologues use to divide modern voters into race and religious and gender tribes. In the modern era we have tried to use the nation state to create a new kind of membership, to get people to feel membership in something bigger than their kindred and their tribe. But the truth is that our natural human instinct is for the clan of about 120 people, and any politician worth his salt knows how to activate those ancient instincts.

How about the neo-piracy or neo-plunder of modern taxation? Back in the old days under slavery the lords would appropriate as much of the slaves' or serfs' production as possible. Then in the 19th century the expropriation of taxation came as low as 10 percent of GDP. Now it is back up to 35-40 percent in the advanced countries. But what is this expropriation but a return to the old days when the way to get rich was to steal resources from the neighboring tribe? We are better than that, because for us wealth comes from the ideas and labor of humans and the knowledge in between their ears.

Then there is the need to propitiate the gods, in neo-sacrifice. In the good old days humans would sacrifice animals -- or even the first-born son as Abraham nearly did with Isaac -- to propitiate the anger of the gods. René Girard proposed the notion of the scapegoat, an individual sacrificed to carry all the blame for social discord, as a way to restore social harmony in a social group divided by conflict. Our modern politicians are masters at this. Recessions and financial crashes are never the result of reckless government policy but always the fault of greedy bankers and speculators. Or The Jews. The disasters of socialist regimes are always due to "saboteurs and wreckers." Also, of course, we have the environmental movement that wants us to "live simply so that others may simply live" which assumes that there is a fixed amount of resources and that my sacrifice is needed to put food in the mouth of somebody else.

Don't forget the rise of neo-guilt. Nietzsche blames Christianity and "the priests" for the widespread incidence of guilt. He represents this as a cunning trick to get us to turn our healthy tribal hate and cruelty back on ourselves. I like to propose a more innocent notion, that turning warrior rage back on ourselves in Original Sin tames us for the market economy in the city where Viking berserkers are really not helpful to a prosperous economy. Back in the day our modern evangelizers were, like Nietzsche, anti-guilt and anti-Christian. But now all the best people are trying to make white people guilty about their "white  privilege" and men guilty about their "toxic masculinity." I think we need a new history of guilt so that we can really understand the social origin and significance of guilt.

One of the most obvious manifestations of the Great Reaction is the emergence of the neo-tyranny of totalitarianism. It's remarkable that, despite the universal horror of tyranny, of man's inhumanity to man, we have seen the most tyrannous political regimes in history in living memory: Stalinism, Hitlerism, and Maoism, and various lesser lights. And here in the United States we have the neo-tyranny of the politically correct to stamp out "hate speech" using the power of the state.

Now my judgement is that these neo-isms reflect basic human instincts that cannot really be abolished. The fact is that many people prefer to live in subordination, and thus we will always need institutions in which they can diminish the risks and rewards of life. But I'd say that it is best for such people to go work for a corporation rather than saddle us with the weight of the welfare state. We humans are tribal down to our toes, but we are also smart enough to imagine new, less exclusive, ways of belonging. We humans need ways to resolve conflict, but we can surely find new ways to do that without blood sacrifice and guilt-tripping whole communities.

And surely there is a higher, better way to provide for common needs than by taxing -- that is, taking by force -- from every worker over a third of his wage.

The Great Reaction is a challenge to us all to imagine something for this age, after the Double Revolution of modern physics and the modern economy, something higher and better than a cowardly return to Old Ways of olden times.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

What to Say to People That Want More Government

Introducing his latest piece on the nightmare of California, Steven Greenhut introduces a Good Little Girl:
At a conference examining California’s housing crisis, one of the more liberal audience members expressed her frustration at those of us who even talked about free markets... Couldn’t we just get back to discussing government regulations and programs?
One of my pet prejudices is that women, more than men, actually believe what they are taught in school and by their friends. Men, I feel, are a bit more skeptical. Since we are famously expendable, we at least affect a certain disbelief for the conventional wisdom that might choose to sacrifice us on battlefields to the gods of the ruling class.

Evidently the woman in question is a Good Little Girl that learned to mouth liberal pieties not later than her sojourn in the nunnery of her undergraduate college.

But what she is saying is that voluntary trust and cooperation are for the birds. Only government force and prescription will do. She is calling for the clunking fist. Of course, nobody ever told her that. She has been raised to belief that the application of government to social and economic problems is to correct the vile injustices of the market system.

But markets are about free exchange: governments are force; politics is division; system is domination.

Yeah, and here's a piece that reports that millennials lose a lot of support for the welfare state when they are told how much it costs.  No kidding.  How could they have got through K-12 without knowing that?

So what are we to say to the Good Little Girl that gets up at a community meeting and says, enough of talking, I call for force!

How about something like this:

Madam, I can't believe you said that! Do you not realize that you are saying that peaceful cooperation cannot work, and that only force gets the job done? You are echoing the cry of every young hunter-gatherer that ever called for a dawn raid on the neighboring village, every Viking that called for a run up a river in England to steal the grain, kill the men, and sell the women and children into slavery. You are echoing the vile dictators of the 20th century, of left and right, that called for the supremacy of the political leader, whether the supremacy of a Stalin, of the Thought of a Mao Zedong, or that Austrian chap. And these men had over 110 million humans killed, not counting war deaths.

Have you not been taught the science? That Marx's economics was exploded back in 1870 with the marginal revolution? That an Austrian Jew predicted, in 1918 less than a year after the Bolshevik revolution that socialism, the ownership of the means of production by the rulers, could not work because it could not compute prices. That another Austrian told us that 10,000 administrative and regulatory bureaucrats could not out-think and out-plan millions of producers and consumers? That an American academic told us that regulation could never work because it would always result in regulatory capture of the regulators by the folks they were supposed to regulate?

In our age we have seen income rise by more than ten times. What has done this? Surely not government, the fount of force, but the unexpected and unsought for inventions of the last 200 years: the textile revolution that brought cheap machine-made clothes to the poor; the steam revolution that brought trans-continental migration to the poor; the medical revolution that brought death-rates for women, and especially women in childbirth, below the death rate for men; the machines that diminished the premium for physical strength and allowed women to participate in the work-for-wages revolution; the contraception revolution that allowed women to control their fertility for the first time ever.

Madam, I beg you, with all my strength, not to pray to government and its God of Force. Have faith  instead in your fellow humans, their ability to cooperate, their capacity for trust, their commitment to dealing one-on-one for mutual benefit, provided the rules are set up to reward fair dealing and trust, and above all their commitment to work with each other without invoking the divine intervention of the lightning bolt of government, and its terrible twin, Force.

Have faith in people, not in force.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Who is the Most Riled Up for the Midterms?

I'm not that much up on the details of political campaigning. But I do understand that part of it involves motivating your side to get to the polls, and another part of it involves demoralizing the opposition so that they are too discouraged to go to the polls.

So, the question is: how does the Mueller investigation work out for the midterms? Does it demoralize the Republican voters or does it rile them up? I have no idea. I suppose that the Manafort conviction and the Cohen plea bargain are supposed to demoralize the Republican faithful. But does it?

On  the other side is the censorship of conservative voices on social media. I wrote about this yesterday as a kind of cluelessness of the social media companies that up to now have been censoring conservatives because that is what the lefty activist groups like Media Matters have been demanding. So, for social media and for other corporations, the path of least resistance is to accede to the demands of the lefty activists. But, I argued, the censorship of conservative voices riles up the conservative faithful, and may encourage a bigger turnout of Republicans in the midterms.

The normal result in a midterm election is for the president's party to lose seats in Congress. That is basically because the president's supporters are usually happy with things, and thus are not all riled up, and thus do not all turn out to vote. On the other hand the opposition party's supporters are all riled up, outraged at the monstrous corruption and injustice of the current administration. Take the Reagan era from usmidtermelections.com. The Democrats gained 26 seats in 1982, 6 seats in 1986, and 8 seats in 1990. In the Clinton era the Dems lost 54 seats in 1994 but gained 8 seats in 1998.

Yeah, what was going down in the 1990s? Well, Hillarycare was on the ballot in 1994, and that rallied Republicans from far and wide. And the Clinton impeachment was on the ballot in 1998, and that rallied Democrats to support their president.

So what happens in 2018? On the one hand, as I said, we have the Mueller investigation. Does that rally Democrats or does it rally Republicans? Or both?

On the other hand, we have the social media attack on conservatives. Does that rally Republicans railing against social media injustice, or does it encourage Democrats uniting against white supremacy? Then there is immigration. Does that unite Republicans against illegal immigrant killers or does it rally Democrats against separating children from their parents?

Then we have the improving economy. Does that help Republicans, or just put Republican voters to sleep?

Because I am a conservative partisan I naturally rally to the conservative and Republican side of these issues. I would like Republicans to hold Congress and for Trump to win reelection in 2020, and for the Democratic left to be well and truly humbled as the left was after the Reagan era. But I realize that the world is full of people that disagree with me, and it may well be that we are going to see a revival of the left: a Democratic "blue wave" in the midterms and a rounding defeat of President Trump when he runs for reelection.

Of course the standard conservative fear right now is that if the Dems win the midterms and the social media companies continue to censor conservative voices then any non-lefty voice in America is finished, because, after all, anything that disagrees with the lefty line of the moment is "hate speech." No doubt that kind of fear is an overreaction, because, after all, nobody is going to start rounding conservatives up. I mean, this is America!

All true, except for one thing. Republicans and conservatives believe that politics and government are blunt instruments that aren't good for much more than defending against enemies foreign and domestic. But our liberal and Democratic friends believe in politics as a saving truth. Bully for them. But that means that they believe that force is appropriate to move America towards that saving truth of a world free of oppression and exploitation, racism, sexism, and homophobia. Because government is force.

So what do you do when your guys think that force is seldom useful, and the other guys think that force --  instantiated through politics and government -- is a saving truth?

Unfortunately the answer is obvious. You have to meet force with force until the other guys cry uncle.

And I don't like that at all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

See I Think That Social Media Censorship of Conservatives is a Good Sign

I know that we are all supposed to be outraged by the censorship of conservatives on social media.  Because where will it all end?

But I think it is the best thing ever. Because I think that gradually, over the next year or two, the social media guys will wake up to the fact that they are being rolled by the left, and they will realize that the left has tricked them into a whole world of hurt.

The point is that that social media are presently the useful idiots of the left's campaign to silence the opposition. Here's a report by WND on the plans of left-wing group Media Matters to target the social media guys to eliminate "right-wing propaganda and fake news." Back in January 2017.

In other words, without the impetus from lefty activist groups the social media guys would never have thought to start censoring "hate speech" and violent rhetoric. The social media guys are kids educated at the nation's elite colleges and they, not particularly interested in politics, just accept as received wisdom whatever is coming down in the elite media.

So of course they would fall into line and accept that any group that the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as a "hate group" ought to be banned from social media. They don't get that the SPLC is just a fundraising operation that makes its bones by getting nice liberal ladies to pony up cash to fight discrimination, so there must be hate and xenophobia out there. They don't get that the whole of lefty "activism" is just a rich-kid excuse to avoid getting a real job.

Because it is much more fun fighting injustice than figuring out how to serve your fellow man in the marketplace. Do you  see the difference. All you need  to be an activist is to repeat the slogans taught you by your "studies" teacher and go out and preach. But to be a success in the marketplace takes smarts, courage, luck, persistence, and a genuine desire to be of service to other people.

So we have had PragerU censored and shadowbanned, the crank Alex Jones pretty well removed from social media. And various mainstream conservatives censored, as detailed by Breitbart News.

I get it. I really do. This is just a replay of the descent of the French Revolution into the Reign of Terror. The problem was and is that the promised heaven on earth of secular lefty politics never lives up to the advertisement.

So when the promised heaven on earth doesn't show up, what do you do?  The answer is obvious. If you think that the application of politics is the requirement for a just society and the first application of politics doesn't do the job, why the solution is more politics!

What lefties from the French Revolution on down to today's AntiFa cannot get into their tiny little minds is that there is very little that politics can do to make the world safe for the oppressed. And the more you apply political force the worse it gets.

Today's lefties have convinced themselves that it is conservative hate speech that is preventing the arc of history from bending towards justice. So if you ban conservative hate speech then you can move forward to the Promised Land. Yay!

Well, you can try that. Stalin tried it. Mao tried it. Stalin gave up his purge when he needed the Russian people to defend Mother Russia from the Nazis. Mao never gave up with his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, but eventually he died and his successors lifted the weight of oppression from the shoulders of the Chinese people enough to bring the Chinese economy from $2 per person per day to the present $30 per person per day. Imagine!

The current lefty revival will also fail. But not before it ruins the lives of millions of people.

Meanwhile, the left is doing the deplorables the compliment of trying to silence our voices in the public square. We will see where that gets them.

That is why I insist that there is no such thing as justice, only injustice.

And there is nothing quite like silencing voices of the other side in the public square to get people of the other side all riled up.

You would think our lefty friends would understand that.

But they don't. And they still won't understand when the social media guys start de-leftying their algorithms. And they will still not understand when the social media guys start to realize that SPLC and BLM and AntiFa are left-wing thugs that lie about everything and are messing up their nice social media business.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Science is a Social Activity, Pt. 742

One of the startling things about the modern era is that, by admitting that we don't have a clue about the gods, about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, we have paradoxically learned more about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything than we ever imagined.

OK, so back in the Age of Reason we figured we had it all figured out. I suppose that was what Descartes was all about. But through the British empiricists and skeptics we finally arrive at dear old Kant, who famously declared that we could not know things in themselves, only appearances.

Does that mean that science is impossible? Not at all. It means that science is merely a theory about things in themselves. If the theory is a good fit with the appearances of things, then it is a good theory, and we can go ahead and use the theory to, e.g., make LED lamps based on the assumption that quantum mechanics is true.

But then we have Gödel's incompleteness theorems. The point here is that every theoretical system begins with assumptions. And then there is Tarski's theorem about the undefinability of truth. The short meaning of this is that science will always involve guesses and leaps in the dark, not the careful unraveling of reason and logic.

Or, if you like, Thomas Kuhn's assertion in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that science is a social endeavor, where most scientists most of the time act like conformists, staying within the boundaries of accepted doctrine, and only occasionally do total crackpot scientists dare to step outside the consensus to propose a new theory, or paradigm, that brings the consensus science into question.

The dear old Atlantic has a confirmation of Kuhn's notion. It's an article by Bianca Bosker "The Nastiest Feud in Science" about the brouhaha among paleontologists about the great dinosaur extinction -- or Ct-P extinction event to us chaps in the know -- 66 million years ago. Was it an asteroid strike, right here in Yucatan, as physicist Luis Alvarez proposed in 1980? Or was it a 100,000 year outbreak of volcanism, belching volcanos pouring out all manner of eevil pollutants just like in the modern era with our fossil fuel mania, as proposed by rough tough Swiss-born Gerta Keller?

Yes, you knew there had to be a rough tough kick-boxing girl scientist in there somewhere. Otherwise no article in The Atlantic. Because everybody knows that the real scientists were women all along, like Einstein's wife. Remember her?

As you can imagine, where liberal academicians are involved, the whole argument about the Ct-P extinction event has been a 30 year pissing match where partisans have deep-sixed academic articles they didn't like and used their power to retard the careers of rising academics that didn't properly toe the line. In other words, exactly like climate science.

Yeah. Read the whole thing.

All very interesting. Because we humans love to obsess about the End of the World.

But I must say that the takeaway for me was the notion that these scientists sure are having a ball spending money on our dime. Who wouldn't grab at the opportunity to travel all through the Deccan Traps in India, where a lot of the volcanic lava back then seeped out into the innocent environment and where you can get a look at the evidence by finding useful rock outcrops and confusing the natives.

See, I think it is time to do a radical reform of the universities. And my first priority would be to stop government financing of research. Really, research is a rich man's hobby. For chaps like Darwin. Or Einstein in between important bureaucratic deadlines working as a patent-office clerk.

And the study of "toxic masculinity" and the rest of the lefty racist sexist agenda should be for rich girls to play Mean Girls with other Mean Girls. But not with money taxed from deplorables.

All this stuff, from Yale-Harvard graduates getting a lock on Supreme Court seats and NYT house racist slots to the general uselessness of all the people  in the foreign policy/intelligence bureaucracy, is just jobs for the scions of the elite -- the kind of guys satirized by Trollope as Sir Raffle Baffle -- and I don't hold with any of it. It is all bullshit.

Yeah, it would be really cool to know how the various extinctions occurred. Asteroids, Deccan Traps, Aliens. You name it.

But really, people should be paying for the opportunity to do this stuff. It's a game for rich kids, like wineries and the new craze for craft breweries and distilleries. And I'm all in favor of it: science and craft breweries.

I just don't think that anything improves when it is associated with politics. It's the old story. When you mix ice-cream and ordure, the resulting mixture is ordure.

And you can tell what is going down in The Atlantic article about extinction events when it inevitably gets into climate change. Surely, Bianca Bosker, you are better than that.

Like I say, the only warrant for political power is existential peril. If the Persians aren't messing with the Hebrews or the Mongols aren't messing with the Russians or the Nazis aren't messing with Jews, or good faithful progressives, then the only thing to scare the ordure out of people is climate change.

And I don't hold with that.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Yes, But What Message are People Receiving?

You read a lot in political media about "messaging." This has to do with the notions and ideas that you, the political actor, want to implant in the minds of the voters. As I understand, messaging has a lot to do with riling up your supporters and demoralizing your opponent's supporters.

But what message are the voters actually receiving? For instance here is a piece about a poll  of millennial women aged 18-35. A full 54 percent of them did not identify as "feminists:" this in a group of which only 19 percent identified as Republican. What is going on? Well,
Leah, a 22-year old independent, told Edwards, “I feel like the movement has been largely taken over by far-left wing activists that make it nearly impossible for me to identify with.” 
Or this:
A 25-year-old Republican named Stephanie, whom Edwards spoke to, even went so far as to say, “I don't think women in the modern western world are oppressed.” Stephanie continued, “I think modern feminists try to create a boogeyman out of what they call the patriarchy and hunt it down, but it's not necessary.... Men and women have different strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledging that is not sexist.”
In a way, it is shocking that young women can actually believe this, since the whole culture is mobilized to convince them of their victimization. How did they escape the indoctrination? Perhaps it is because the left also operates a counter-narrative of female empowerment. So which is it? Oppression or empowerment? Is a Good Little Girl supposed to feel like a victim or as a powerful free agent?

Perhaps political actors should think more about the message that is inadvertently transmitted by your supporters. In this piece about "Nice Ladies Leaving the Democratic Party" people just don't like the totalitarian mindset of lefties that abuse you as soon as you disagree with them. So, for many women,
The Democratic Party no longer fits their personalities, their values, or their self-image as loving, caring, tolerant human beings. The coup de grace is when they realize they are not free in their liberal social circles to utter one word of doubt or criticism of the party line. If they do, they find themselves attacked and ostracized.
This refers to a significant issue. Politics, civil war by other means, is a male thing. It is an application of what I call the male Culture of Insult. You attack you opponents and punish people for disagreeing. But the female Culture of Complaint does not deal in direct insult, but in indirection, using my classic line "I can't believe she said that." In the Culture of Insult you don't directly attack people that violate the party line. You tell you friend that you can't believe that she said that.

Here's another way that men and women differ. Women expect to be allowed to participate and "share." Period. Men believe that they have to prove themselves before they are taken seriously. When I was on non-profit boards years ago, I would always assume that it would take me a year to be taken seriously and listened to. But I had a female friend that was insulted that she was not listened to the moment she joined a board and wanted to "share."

So I would say that a lot of the day-to-day activism tactics of the left really turns women off. And I would suspect that the bully-boy tactics of the street arm of the Democratic Party, AntiFa, really upsets the average woman. There is nothing that terrifies a woman so much as a gang in the streets. Of course. For woman, going back to hunter-gatherer days, a band of men means trouble.

That's the reason why nobody knows nothing, not in the election of November 8, 2016, not in the election of November 6, 2018. Because nobody really knows the message that the voters are receiving and processing. And that is especially true in an age like ours, where people know that certain opinions are acceptable and other opinions are not to be endured by the ruling class. People are social animals and are acutely aware of what is permitted to deplorables. But they also develop notions of what life would be like in a better world where people like themselves got to say and do what they thought and felt.

And the problem with enforcing correct opinion is that you never know what people really think until they go into the voting booth and pull the lever. That is why, years ago, certain wise men proposed the notion that Congress should write no law... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. No mention there of impermissible "hate speech."

Rule One for a wise ruling class is that you want to know what the people are thinking and saying, even Alex Jones of InfoWars. Otherwise the day may come when you get blindsided by an assembly of the people petitioning for a redress of grievances that you had forced underground.

And then it may be too late.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

No Lefties, Politics is Not the Answer

The lesson of the Great Enrichment of the last 200 years is that it was not planned. Not legislated. Not even expected. Nobody saw it coming except some Brit in 1685 that took a look at the new manufacturing and wrote that
Though we are a nation already pretty substantial... yet it is easy for us to be ten times richer.
Carew Reynell was the guy's name. Ever heard of him? Didn't think you had. Me neither. In fact Reynell had it wrong. We are 30 times richer than 1800. And not much enrichment happened between 1865 and 1815 because the Brits were busy conducting a Second Hundred Years War against the French.

The point is that the Great Enrichment was a succession of what George Gilder calls Surprises, economic revolutions that nobody saw coming, whether the textile revolution, the steam revolution, the oil revolution, the electricity revolution, etc. Not only that, but the political system usually tried to  stop the revolutions, as it is presently trying to do with Uber and AirBnB. Of course it does. Politics is about power, and the ruling class using the power of government to enrich itself and its supporters. Economic revolutions upset the balance of power and threaten the rule of the ruling class.

You can see why economic revolutions are a Surprise. Take the current possibilities of "blockchain," the technology behind the Bitcoin cybercurrency. You tell me: is this going to change the world, blow current government finance out of the water, or is it a flash in the pan that is being hyped by a bunch of nerdly cyberpunks?

The question is the same as asking about Apple Computer back in 2001. On December 8, 2000 Apple stock closed at $1.08. Today, August 16, 2018, it is trading at $213. So, if I had bought $10,000 of Apple stock for Christmas back in 2000 I would have stock worth about $1,970,000 today. But hey, who was thinking about that back then? Apple hadn't even produced the first iPod yet. And when they did, it was just something that The Kids were interested in.

So, I dare to say, it is not politics that has radically improved peoples' lives over the past 200 years. It is chaps like Steve Jobs, and the nobodies that invented the Spinning Jenny, and that started drilling for oil, and that figured out the relation between electricity and magnetism and then brought electric light and the telephone to every household. And the mechanic Henry Ford that started the process to bring the price of the average personal automobile down to about three to six months of the average worker's wage.

Yet the believers in politics never rest. Here is Sen. Elizabeth Warren with a proposal to put corporations completely under the knout of politicians with her Accountable Capitalism Act. Here are the folks in California trying to gin up state-wide rent control.  And there is this piece by Steve Baldwin about the myriad ways in which President Obama tried to increase Democratic and political control of America.

Actually I understand what is going on. These folks are trying to make the world safe, to nail down their idea of the safe and just society, and defend against disruptive and dangerous irruptions. And what we humans are instinctively programmed to do is defend our "patch of land" from all who would threaten it.

But the world has changed. Now we live in the market economy. Now the threat is that your corporate job will be canceled by the next economic revolution. But that is pretty mild compared with the Mongols sacking your town and killing all the men and enslaving all the women.

People aren't willing to settle for the uncertainty of the market. They want everything nailed down. If they are renters, they don't want to pay more when housing demand goes up. If they are homeowners they don't want their view spoiled by a new housing development. If they are workers they don't take kindly to pay-cuts and layoffs during a recession. And there are always Sen. Warrens and President Obamas to give voice to their rage.

My sister wonders how come the Founding Fathers had a better understanding of human nature than today's experts. How was such a group of intellectual giants possible? I think the answer is that the bourgeois thinkers in the 17th and 18th century were consciously trying to tame the power of kings and aristocrats, so they built a system to limit political power of the Old Regime. But our modern ruling class cannot get its head around the notion about someone else getting power. I mean, darling, imagine some rude, crude monster like Trump getting power. Not going to happen, not on our watch!

Now you would think that the smart guys would say: yeah, our ideas are great, but suppose some yahoo were to become president and use our powers against us?

The fact is that Trump has done exactly that. Obamacare was too complicated to be fully encoded in legislation, so most of it was left for "the Secretary" to enact in regulations. Guess what: Trump has unwound Obamacare with regulations that reverse the regulations of the Obama guys. No fair! Illegal! So write a couple of tame professors in The New York Times. Well, then, you chappies, the Obama boys should have taken their time and written the entirety of Obamacare in the original Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Actually, it's worse than that. The problem with government programs and big entitlements is that you can't reform them, because the beneficiaries will resist to the knife any attempt to reduce their benefits. You the rulers have to cheat. With Medicare a bunch of "reforms" were passed deep in Obamacare that nobody campaigned on and that amounted to stealth rationing. We are talking about Sarah Palin's "death panels" and the protocols of Medicare Hospice, in which the "system" decides at some point to throw the switch and have you starve to death, courtesy of Medicare, while telling the family comforting words about their "journey."

I'd say that when you pass significant Medicare changes without getting the consent of the governed, or pressure universities to institute special administrative panels to attack "rape culture" on campus without even going through a formal regulatory process, you are committing injustice. But that is the problem with the modern state. It is doing so many things that the bandwidth of the legislature is not broad  enough to legislate it. So it ends up doing stealthy stuff behind the curtain. I call that sort of governance is simple injustice.

But there is none so blind as he that will not see. As progressives flop around from one power grab to another they fail to see the bigger picture. That politics makes most things worse. That the regulatory state serves only the powerful and the well-connected. That the Great Enrichment happened while nobody was looking.

And that the need to defend that "patch of land" to the last man went out with the agricultural age.

The problem is that if our ruling class would ever come to the realization that its use of political power is cruel and unjust it would have to confront another problem: what use is the ruling class, anyway?

But that is the point about ruling classes. After the first generation, the revolutionaries, they are all idiots.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

"America Was Never That Great." Oh Really?

So now New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo has come out and said "America was never that great." To groans from the audience. And now he is trying to "'splain" his remarks.

Really, you wonder about guys like that. Because he is playing to Trump's strength.

The point about Trump's "Make America Great Again" is that it speaks to all Americans as Americans. It divides the world into Americans and the Rest.

Remember my maxim: Politics is Division. If you are a politician you want to divide up the electorate  so that you get the majority and the other guy is left with the rest. If you are the president of the nation state of the United States of America that is exactly how you want to divide the world. America vs. the Rest. People that want to make America great again vs. people that say American was never that great. Our optimism vs. their pessimism. Our hope vs. their fear. And so on.

Moreover when the economy is firing on all cylinders and black and Hispanic unemployment rates are at all-time lows, why then the slogan Make America Great Again seems to set exactly the right tone.

I mean. Why would you say America was never that great when the economy is growing at 4 percent and very likely more?

Let's reset back to Obama's Hope and Change.  It was great in 2008 because of the mess of Iraq and the Great Crash. Only thing is that Obama didn't deliver. He didn't revive the economy (because he spent money on keeping teachers in their jobs and he increased regulations rather that shaking out the reins and telling business to go get it); he didn't realize the hopes he ignited in black voters. And his change with Obamacare was an abject failure and a lie.

But in 2008 Hope and Change was a great line and Republicans hated it. Of course they did.

Today in 2018 Make America Great Again is a great line and Democrats hate it. Of course they do.

In my view Make America Great Again has another side. Most Americans are never going to amount to anything. We can aspire to a good job; we can be good fathers and mothers. But we are never going to see their names up in lights. So our chance for immortality (aside from having children and grandchildren) is that America does well, so we can bask in the knowledge that America is the greatest country in the world and the American people are the greatest people in the world.

But if you are a credentialed member of the ruling class, you think differently. For instance, you will very likely spend a part of your life in some gig in a foreign country, as a visiting professor, or working for your employer for a couple of years for a foreign subsidiary. The boundaries of your world are not the shores of the US. You belong anywhere, because you belong to the global elite. Visas and residence permits are not a problem for people like you. So it is not surprising that academics and journalists and writers tend to be globalists.

If you are a member of a minority, still feeling your way from agricultural idiocy to urban competence, then you are probably tribal in your sense of belonging. You are not ready to make your primary identity as American, but identify with your tribal group. Our modern minorities like blacks and Latinos are merely the latest in a long story. When the Irish came to the US they became Democrats because the Americans of British ancestry were usually Republicans. And they became Democrats because it was Republicans that were creating public schools to cure them of their Catholicism. If you read Teddy White and his Making of the President books, you will find long disquisitions on the Irish vote, the Italian vote and the Jewish vote. People carried their Old World loyalties into the New World. Today we don't talk so much about the Irish and Italian vote so much as the deplorable white working-class vote.

So when Trump tweets about record low black and Hispanic unemployment here and again here, what do you think he is doing?  He is trying to get blacks and Hispanics to feel that they are a part of America, participating fully in the economy, and he is tempting them to identify as Americans rather than as blacks and Hispanics. The dirty dog.

Oh, and, of course, the whole Trump thing about illegal immigrants and borders plays to the natural tribal instinct that Our People are OK, but the people beyond the border, not so much.

My point is that all politics is about Us and Them; the only question is who counts as Us, and who counts as Them. The liberal line is that Us includes the enlightened and evolved and the marginalized victims and the Them is the racist sexist homophobes. Trump says that the Us is the ordinary Americans that want to make America great; the Them are the people that say America was never great.

All I say is that one of these slogans is the smart one and the other is the dumb one. Which one do you think?

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

There is Something in the Air

Something I notice: when I am thinking about my American Thinker piece on Friday or Saturday, I often pick a topic that turns out to be what everyone else is thinking too. Today's piece "Defend Conservatism by Going on the Attack" is an example.

Everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Ed Kilgore is writing the same thing. Rush:
The argument is America sucks versus, no, it doesn’t. 
So it's not an argument about "policy." It's a fight over the meaning of America, and the next time we get to do something about it will be in November.

Really, we shouldn't be surprised that all of us normals are resonating in a collective unconscious. Democratic elections are merely a cunning way of doing civil war in the sham fight of an election "campaign" where the "victor" gets to win political power and the loser says "wait until next time." So it is not surprising that conservatives are feeling that we have "got" to win the midterms in November. It is rather obvious what liberals and Democrats want to do to us if they win.

Really liberals? Is this your mobilization and resistance a good idea? To proudly announce to the world that you will impeach President Trump if you win? To call everyone that disagrees with you a "hater?" To pressure the social media giants to deplatform InfoWars guy Alex Jones? Or even worse to take down a campaign video by a Republican woman running for Congress in California?

I keep coming back to The Sixties. That's the last time that the left got off the leash and filled the streets and told America that it sucked. That was when the media breathlessly reported on the amazing Kool Kidz that were changing the world. That was when ordinary non-political people were told they were bigots, and when they unaccountably rallied to GOP politicians that stood for the "silent majority." That was when the Democrats decided to force a Republican president out of office.

But the point is: how did that turn out, Democrats and lefties? It ended up with Bill Clinton running as a moderate. Nobody here but us moderates. And when he proved himself a leftie, the Democrats lost Congress for the first time in 40 years in the 1994 midterms.

Hey, then Democrats ran a bunch of moderates in the 2006 midterms and won back Congress. And Barack Obama ran as a moderate. But as soon as he showed his true colors in office the voters gave the GOP the House in 2010, and the Senate in 2014. And now we have Trump.

Here's how I understand the situation. The lefties are practicing a secular religion and they are trying  to unify it with the government, using the government to legislate their morality -- only they call it "ethics" and "humanism."

The trouble is that, for people on the receiving end, someone else's religion looks like a reign of terror: conform to our faith or face the consequences. And its governmental edicts look like injustice.

So even though the whole ruling-class apparatus of schools, and culture and education are saying what a wonderful thing the left's program is, the fact remains that many people experience it as an attack on their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

See, I think that Rule One in politics is: don't get the other guys riled up. Mobilize your own side, but don't mobilize the opposition.

Only trouble is that Big Government automatically mobilizes the opposition. Notice how all my maxims illustrate the problem: Government is Force, so everyone on the receiving end is going to be mad; Politics is Division, so the more politics the more divided and the more people get aroused to action on both sides; System is Domination, so folks on the receiving end of the governmental bureaucratic system are going to experience Injustice.

And finally: There is no such thing as justice, only injustice. I mean a lot with this simple maxim. I mean that almost all legislation is unjust, because it takes tax money and spends it on a powerful client group. And I mean that even with the most popular programs like Social Security and Medicare. Why can't the care of older Americans be done by voluntary savings and the intervention of the odd billionaire to take care of older citizens impoverished by-no-fault-of-their-own?

In fact, if you look at law, "justice" is something the legal system attempts to provide for someone that has experienced harm from someone else. But, of course, the legal system can never really make the victim of harm whole again, in the sense that no wound can really ever heal so that it seems that it never occurred. All the legal system can to is make a statement that a harm or injustice has been done, make some redress, and that society, by the verdict of the trial, acknowledges the harm done.

And this is why I believe that our lefty friends are chasing a chimera. You cannot achieve justice through politics; you only end up compounding past injustice with new injustice.

Well, we shall shortly find out if I am right. If Republicans do better than expected in the November midterms it will mean that the "silent majority" lives: people that just want to be left alone to wive and thrive and survive without the Sturm und Drang of secular lefty religions with its street marches and protests and banners.

Monday, August 13, 2018

How About "Access to Property, Wealth, and Personal Agency?"

The director of a delightful dramatization of Sense and Sensibility at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Hana S. Sharif, understands the Jane Austen novel as women
navigating a world that denied them access to property, wealth, and personal agency.
That got me to thinking.

First of all, contra feminist agitprop, the key to Sense and Sensibility is not the patriarchal hegemony of evil patriarchal patriarchs working out its evil will on helpless innocent young women but that the two men seeking the hands of our young Dashwood daughters, Elinor and Marianne, are denied access to property, wealth, and personal agency by widowed elderly women. No unsuitable marriages for them! 

So the matriarchy did it! The grande dames (or rich old biddies), Mrs Ferrars and Mrs Smith, are determined to disinherit the young men if they marry the propertyless Dashwood sisters. And the powerful older women are careful to make sure that the young men, Ferrars and Willoughby, do not have professions that might give them some independence from their parental moneybags.

A moment's thought tells us that it must be so in an agricultural hierarchy where the social position of an upper-class family depends on its rents from its rich acres. Everything depends on the prudent management of those riches from one generation to the next. And upper-class women were just  as invested in making strategic marriages as the upper-class men. In fact, according to Gergory Clark in A Farewell to Alms, the agricultural society of Britain was a society of downward mobility, in which second sons (and daughters) descended the social hierarchy from upper class to middle class, and kicked the middle class downward into the lower class. You can see that this is a high-stakes world.

Notice too that the feminist narrative about the patriarchy is really only interested in the upper class. What was life like for the middle class of the towns in the agricultural era? Who knows? But we can guess that the further down the social scale you go, the more life becomes a desperate struggle to stay alive at any cost, hierarchy and patriarchy be damned.

Let us think instead about our own age, and the access to property, wealth, and personal agency afforded to young men and young women.

First of all, in our age we infantilize young people by confining them in government schools and government-ruled universities in which they have very little agency, particularly since all educational institutions are now liberal and ne'er is heard a discouraging word against the liberal ruling class. As for property and wealth, the liberal ruling class has instituted a vast program of debt slavery by encouraging young people to get into debt while obtaining higher education; this seriously hampers their ability to acquire property and wealth and exercise personal agency.

Notice that the way that young people are selected for selective colleges is by toadying to the ruling class party line in their college applications. where is the  access to property, wealth, and personal agency in that?

Also, the characteristic job today is a subordinate position in a vast corporate bureaucracy or hierarchy where young people are taught to be obedient and good team players. Where is the personal agency in that?

And this is not just for deplorables and helpless minorities but well-born scions of the ruling class. They must all get with the program or suffer the consequences, just as it was with Edward Ferrars and John Willoughby back in 1811. Then and  now, if the ruling-class scions get with the program then they are rewarded as their parents and their connections shower them with ruling-class benefits. But woe-betide the rebel.

Are there any rebels in the liberal ruling class? Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Three Ages of Trust

I just realized that I am going to have to read George Gilder's latest book, Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy.

Why? Because I realized, reading a review of Gilder's book, that blockchain technology radically changes the nature of trust. To see why, let's look at trust through the lens of the three great Ages of Man.

In the hunter-gatherer age, we are talking about a pure face-to-face society. In that culture the dictum of Jürgen Habermas applies. Here is how I describe Habermas in my American Manifesto.
Habermas's Theory of Communicative Action, [is] an attempt to rescue Marxism from the obsolescence of its labor theory of value and the despair of Horkheimer and Adorno. Habermas still carries forward Marx’s two-world system of abstract labor and social labor; only now he finally detaches it from the exploded labor theory of value. Habermas converts the world of abstract labor and social labor into system and lifeworld. System is not just the alienating force of big bad capitalism, but of the terrible twins, rational government and rational business, the system of force and the system of money. Lifeworld is not just social labor producing social value, but, following Husserl and Heidegger, a full face-to-face culture of shared experience in the world, for being is not just consciousness of the ego, but being-there in the world, and being-with the Other.
I would say that the "lifeworld" of Habermas is the face-to-face world of the hunter-gatherer tribe, "a shared culture in which all things and all situations are 'always already' familiar." In this lifeworld trust, the social glue of human social cooperation, is obtained through the unified shared culture in which everyone is down with the always already familiar. To depart from this universal shared culture is to betray the trust that is automatically extended to all the members of the culture because they all know the rules. Such betrayal of trust is unthinkable.

But when communities grow bigger, and the hierarchy of kings and priests develops, then the universal lifeworld no longer applies. That is when written law and legal enforcement begins. It is very hard to betray the trust of the community in the hunter-gatherer tribe, but not so hard in the agricultural hierarchy. In fact it is notorious that underlings almost always steal from their bosses, from servants taking a nip of the master's gin and employees raiding the stationery cabinet at the office to the anonymous young men of the city forming into criminal gangs and confidence tricksters defrauding trusting old women. In other words, once you get out of a simple face-to-face community you have the problem of enforcing trust. And notice also that you see the emergence of a public politics in which the untrustworthiness of the Other is the basis of membership. Politicians make hay out of stirring mistrust in their supporters. In class politics they teach their followers to hate the rich and the businessmen; in race politics they teach them to hate the other races; in gender politics they teach their followers to hate the other gender. Still, people have managed to construct trust networks in the modern age. We see, of course, the growth of markets and brands, which are all about creating trust. And in the internet age we have credit cards, online retail and banking, in which trustable people can travel the globe and be trusted everywhere. Then there are online services like Uber and Ebay which create artificial trust reputations with their star systems.

Enter Blockchain. As I understand it, blockchain technology creates a quantum leap in trust. An example is title insurance. If the history of a piece of real estate is encoded in a blockchain it means that you can trust the history of the property you are buying. In fact, no need for Title Insurance Companies! But this means that we don't need government to enforce trust anymore. Trust is already encoded in the blockchains in which trustworthy people conduct their business. I imagine this also makes it much harder for cheats and frauds to practice their depredations. Thus trustworthy people do not need to pay for a bunch of government heavies to keep the peace and punish the evildoers. The system becomes trust-enforcing.

The most obvious application of blockchain is money, where government has been indispensable in enforcing a network of financial trust and has monstrously betrayed its trust. Imagine a world where the government can no longer cheat and inflate and muck around with the credit system by favoring its supporters.

Of course, it is early days, and nobody really knows what will ensue with the blockchain economy. But we can hope, and what I hope is that the ability of governments and politicians and activists  to sow distrust and loot the wealth creators will be seriously diminished. If that happens then humans may live into a new Golden Age where trust and fair dealing becomes not just the right thing to do but a matter of life and death, where it is no longer the poor that go to the wall, but the untrustworthy.

I have an idea, which I admit is just wishful thinking, that when crooks and frauds find that their cunning tricks no longer pay then they will pretty quickly mend their ways.

And find other ways to misbehave.