Friday, August 23, 2019

Innocence and the Three Peoples

Earlier this week I discussed the Culture of Innocence that is defining for the Left. The clients of the Left are always helpless innocent victims being unjustly oppressed by the capitalists, or the patriarchy, or the white supremacists, or the fascists.

Mark Bauerlein in "Deliver Us from Innocence" observes that the nation state partakes of this culture.
Niebuhr saw it at work in foreign policy: “Nations, as individuals, who are completely innocent in their own esteem, are insufferable in their ­human contacts.”
But Bauerlein goes on, real innocence only applies prior to The Fall.
Before the Fall, Adam and Eve were sinless, ­cognitively ­innocent and morally innocent. But after the Fall, with moral innocence shattered, this other innocence turns into a mode of obtuseness. It is ­sin-blind and self-unaware. It will not and cannot see itself addressed when Jesus looks upon sinners and says with authority, “go and sin no more.”
Or, to put it bluntly, once you have acquired self-consciousness which includes, I think, the ability to sort-of see yourself as others see you, the continued protestation of innocence is an exercise in bad faith. Innocence went out the window once Eve bit into the apple from the Tree of Knowledge.

But. Whatabout the innocence of nations? Whatabout the innocence of the Jews? I think the answer is simple. When you are fearful, when you are living in a dangerous place, then you must regress to a previous place. Because when you are fighting for your life you do not have the luxury or the leisure to start thinking "on the one hand this, on the other hand that." So you regress to a place of fake innocence to help you face the dangers of the times.

Now we apply this to my reductive Three Peoples theory.

It seems to me that, to a considerable extent, the People of the Subordinate Self are not yet self-conscious; they are, in fact, innocents. They experience themselves as helpless victims of the gods, of their lord. They are fatalistic, and do not imagine that they have the agency to do anything about their situation. The left has played on this in a masterful way by offering to take the place of the gods or the lord and lead the subordinates to safety.

The Jews were the guys that put all this together, and why not. They just extended their own situation as an endangered minority and applied it to any non-majority group. Because, I think, the same rules apply. If you are Strangers in a Strange Land then you must stick together, for safety.

The People of the Responsible Self are not helpless innocent victims. We believe in personal responsibility. In a way, of course, this is a mirage, because the truth is that individuals are, to a great extent, the helpless victims of circumstance. You could be caught in a storm at sea; you could be caught in the middle of a bloody revolution or a Great Depression or a war through no fault of your own. But you are still thinking: how do I get out of this situation? You do not lie back and think of England. And even if the worst comes to the worst, you think to yourself, well, I fought the good fight. You do not think how come the government didn't protect me.

The People of the Creative Self, of course, cannot be helpless victims, nor even responsibles. Because the whole point of human creativity is that now, we humans are creating the world, not just living as the subordinates of the gods, or as responsibles living in the world that God created and according to the Law that God set forth. But things are not so simple, as Ariel Levy relates in "The Rules Do Not Apply."
[38-year-old] Levy was married to a woman and five months pregnant, having been impregnated with a friend's sperm, when she lost her baby, delivering it alone in a hotel room in Mongolia, where she was on a reporting trip.
Yes. You can kick over all your middle-class morality and its suffocating rules. You can marry a woman; you can decide to have a baby in your late 30s. You can go on your reporting trip anyway.

But evidently someone forgot to tell you that the creative life is hard, and will likely end in failure. You might have learned that by reading Nietzsche, but of course you have been carefully taught that Nietzsche was a Nazi. Or maybe you would have got a clue from Joseph Schumpeter that wrote about "creative destruction." Or you might have learned that 9 out of 10 business startups end in failure.

Our great global problem is that, like Toad of Toad Hall, the globalist educated ruling class wants to play all the roles from helpless victim to rulemaker for the deplorables, to courageous creative artist and activist. And if things go wrong, it's the patriarchy's fault.

But creativity is hard. That is what all the myths about going into the underworld (of the unconscious) and finding out if you are really up to the mark are all about. And that is why, if you survive your Hero's Journey, it will probably end in a sacrificial death on the border between Order and Chaos.

Our glorious creative class is, right now, on its own collective journey into the underworld of the unconscious. It is a journey of frightful peril and most will not return to the light of day with all their marbles.

If you discover that you are not up to the journey, that you don't have the necessary hardness for the creative life, well then better slide back to a life of Responsibility where The Rules Do Apply and protect you from doing stupid stuff. Or you can become a helpless innocent victim and wait for someone else to tell you what to do to solve your problems.

But don't complain about the patriarchy or white supremacy or America being a racist slaveholding country since 1619. Either suck it in, follow the rules, or fall in line.

What I am saying is that you can't pick and choose. You wanna be a fancy-schmancy creative? Then no fair acting like a victim. No fair saying "but they didn't tell me."

And no fair playing the activist game, pretending to be taking it to the Man when really you are just a regime thug doing the dirty work for the rulers.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Bronze Age Mindset Gets the Michael Anton Treatment

I had no idea that Bronze Age Mindset by Bronze Age Pervert (BAP) had cracked the top 150 on Amazon. No idea! Right now it is #3,872.

But that is what Michael Anton, of "The Flight 93 Election" tells us in a Claremont Review of Bronze Age Mindset. Anton got his copy from Curtis Yarvin, the software geek that wrote "Unqualified Reservations" as Mencius Moldbug. Of course, Anton has a bit of a struggle with BAPs Nietzschean view of the world. Whatabout a "stable, just, and lasting regime?"

And what exactly does BAP mean by "pirate?" Not, I assume, what they mean in The Pirates of Penzance when the hero got accidentally apprenticed to a pirate instead of a pilot. Hey, accidents happen. But still, this young man discovered, "it is a glorious thing to be a pirate king."

Anyway, I thought a bit about the "pirate" thing, because it really was shocking to read about in Bronze Age Mindset. And then I thought: Elon Musk. There's your modern pirate for you.

Elon Musk is a modern rascal, who is ruthlessly taking advantage of all the government money and investor money going, for solar cells, for electric cars, and even space rockets. But why? I think it is pretty obvious. Musk is from South Africa. If I were a native South African white like Musk I suspect I would say to myself and the world: screw you. Screw you vile hypocritical lefties that pitched me out of my homeland with all your sanctimony about apartheid. Hey, how did that turn out, down the road, with a murder rate at 36 per 100,000, which is positively medieval? So now I owe nothing to nobody. Scew you.

Ditto for any young man in the west today living under the sanctimonious racist twaddle of our globalist educated ruling class.

I was reading a biography of Nietzsche, written in 1940 by a man I respect, Crane Brinton, and it joins the chorus blaming Nietzsche for the Nazis.

And certainly there is plenty in Nietzsche that would suggest things to a Nazi-to-be. So, shall we bury Nietzche because he helped bad people have bad thoughts and so became "the Nazis' favorite intellectual?" Sure, if that's what floats your boat.

But I think that what Nietzsche is saying is that, if you think you can rationally philosophize your way to a stable, just, and lasting political regime you are smoking something. The truth is that the world is a shitshow. There is nothing stable and lasting, and probably if you try to make things stable and lasting you will cause instability. There is no such thing as justice, only injustice.

So, the truth about life, the universe, and everything is that we are winging it, always have and always will.

So, will the pirates of BAP enslave us all and bring on a new Dark Age? Maybe, but I doń't think so, and not because I believe that BAP's pirates are any nicer that the pirates of old. It is because the modern era does not lend itself to ruthless political power.

Surely, the lesson of the Soviet Union and Maoist China mean that if they mean anything. The point of Marx was to prophesy that a ruthless movement of political action led by Educated Youth was the one thing needful to smash the bourgeoisie and prevent the "immiseration" of the working class in a new feudalism. How did that work out, Chuck? It was an absolute, pedal-to-the-metal, bloody disaster. Unequaled in history, I dare say.

So what do we learn from the disaster?

I think the lesson is that the modern movement of human rights, of ending slavery, of limiting the power of government and politics says nothing about us moderns being better and moral. It is because all these things assist in human flourishing.

Or, if you want me to get crude, the clunking fist of political power does not pay.

Not only that, but slavery does not pay. It is too hard to supervise, and the slaves don't work very hard, compared to wage labor.

And so, over the last half millennium, in fits and starts, we have entered a new era, where the old rules of power have been replaced with new rules.

Back in the 19th century the Fabians sneered at the capitalists forever asking: does it pay? But, of course they are fools for saying that. All "does it pay" asks is, are you throwing money down a rat hole by doing that? Because if you are, it could be that you are dumb or something.

But that is what the market economy is asking every moment. What is this product, this service worth to you? A lot? A little? More than yesterday? Less than yesterday? And what it means is that most everything can be worked out by the decisions of people to buy or not to buy interacting with other people. No clunking fist needed, but it really helps if you are trustworthy and the people you deal with are trustworthy too.

But that still leaves the question of the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

As men, we can think of it this way. After we have provisioned and protected the women so they can put the next generation on the ground and get it off the nest, what then?

The fact is that men are programmed for adventure. Used to be the adventure of hunting megafauna until we killed them all. Then it was the adventure of protecting our food-growing land from the chaps next door.

So now what do we do? What is there in the world of risk, and adventure, and developing courage, and making a name for yourself?

I don't know and neither, I think, do you. But that is what the young'uns are trying to figure out. When they get it all figured out, I hope that they will go gently with racist sexist homophobes like me. But you never know.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Scott Adams: Four New Types of News

I just took the trouble to transcribe a piece of Scott Adams' daily podcast, where he develops the idea of four new types of news in "The Golden Age of No Real News." Says he:
There used to be a time what news was something like: Hey, some events happened; let us tell you about the events. Then we called that news.
But now things have changed. So Scott Adams comes up with four new types of news.

Fake News. "Something that didn't happen; something taken out of context... In this case The New York Times simply denying that an event happened." Adams is talking about John Harwood and Maggie Haberman denying the plain text of the leaked NYT editorial meeting where they said they were going to go after Trump because of his racism.

Hypothetical News. This probably always existed, but now it is more prominent.Hypothetical news is like this:
If there is a recession, Trump might not get reelected. If the meteor hits the Earth, we're not prepared.
It's like they ran out of real news!

Mindreading the News. It is "based on what we imagine... other people are thinking. Now, that goes well with taking Trump out of context" and substituting your assumption of what people are thinking.

Reframing History News. This, of course refers to the New York Times "1619 Project" keying on the first year that slaves from Africa arrived in North America. Hey, it's great to get beyond the textbooks and look at history again. But this is not an innocent exploration of the past. The purpose of it is to think differently about the present, i.e., Trump Racist.

It is really not hard to understand what is going on here. It is the liberal educated ruling class thrashing around trying to figure out what to do now that the good old narrative that they inherited from their good old liberal parents is not keeping the rubes quiet and respectful.

And of course the big thing is race. For half a century our liberal friends have ruled us and kept us down on the farm with the accusation of racism. But now, the race card is not working very well any more.

Think about it this way. What would you do if the method you used for keeping the peasants quiet no longer seemed to work, and you started getting reports that the natives were restless? Well, the simple answer is that you wouldn't know what to do because nothing in your life had prepared you for this day.

When you are a ruling class the point is to rule. You think up ideas that you decide are good for people and you enact legislation and write regulations and hand down legal decisions about what people may do and not do, about which group is to be privileged and which group is to be marginalized. I've been reading the history of the Brits in India in The British Conquest and Domination of India, and it all comes down to the ruling Brits at the time deciding, well, we are going to issue this proclamation; we are going to formulate that regulation; we are going to cut the salt tax in half; we are going to split Bengal into two halves because right now it is too large for one regional government to handle.

That is what our liberal friends have been doing for the last 50 years. Oh, there aren't enough African American firefighters, so we need Affirmative Action. Whatabout women fighter pilots? We should change the rules to increase the number of female pilots in the Navy. There aren't enough women in STEM, so let's change the rules to increase the number of women in tech. All the money in college sports is going to men's sports and that is wrong, so let's force equality in colllege sports.

But, of course, our lords and masters are not thinking about the lives they are wrecking, the injustice they are creating. They merely think, well, here's a racism, here's an oppression, here's an injustice, so how do we fix it?

And then when the peasants rebel they are genuinely shocked. Hey, all they were trying to do was to creat a more just and equal society! How can anyone be against that? Unless they were racists inspired by Trump's dogwhistles!

Well, I don't suppose any liberal is going to listen to me, but here goes.

The reason our Founding Fathers wrote down in the First Amendment that there should be no "establishment of religion" is because people disagree about things, especially morality. So the idea of limited government is to restrict the agenda of government to those things that nearly everybody can agree upon.

Nearly everyone agrees that murder is bad, theft is bad, rape is bad, and that the perps should be locked up.

But what about education? Education of children, nearly everyone agrees, is a good thing. But what should we teach the kids? That's where people start to disagree. Problem with a government education system is that the government tends to limit the range of educations available to children. And there are activist groups with agendas that want to force all children to be educated in accordance with their agenda.

Of course, when you are the ruling class and, say, the natives get restless about Drag Queen Story Hour at the local elementary school, you are outraged! Who do these homophobes think they are!

Hey Fredo! That's what I think about wind and solar power. Who do these watermelons, red on the inside, green on the outside, think they are! But we have to save the planet! Sez who? The scientists getting government grants? The corporate shills getting green energy subsidies? The little rich kid with a family foundation that wants to "make a difference" with activism? You gonna force me to ride a bike to work?

So my judgement about the four new tpes of news, as described by Scott Adams, is that they represent a flapping around in the liberal bubble. They tell us that our liberal lords and masters don't have a clue.

And the big thing they do not get is that there is really very little the government can do outside of keeping us safe that really benefits us.

And the big question is this. After you have created all your wonderful programs, what happens when the world changes and all the conventional wisdom assumptions you made back in the day no longer apply? Are you chaps going to revise and reform all your programs? Or are you just going to tell the rubes to shut up and take their medicine?

And flap around inventing new types of news to muddy the waters and confuse everyone?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

More Tlaib: How To Tell a Genuine Movement for Justice

It really is something. We have four Women of Color congresswomen, the Squad, running around the world making like they are helpless victims "fighting racism, oppression [and] injustice" as tweeted by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

How do we know they are lying? I will tell you. You know they are lying when there is almost no possibility of them losing their jobs, of getting arrested and interrogated, or sent to a concentration camp as a result of their "activism."

Because real activists, real political opponents of a regime are, in the time-honored phrase, risking their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for the cause.

Like the protesters in Hong Kong right now, protesting against the Communist Party of the Peoples Republic of China. I would say, speaking personally, that they are risking everything.  I'd call that "fighting" of a very different order from the four Squaddies, who are the Little Darlings of the US ruling class, on account of their race, their gender and their lefty political agenda.

The activism of the Squaddies is fake activism. It is political activity endorsed and applauded by everyone from The New York Times to the "studies" professor at your local state university. The Squaddies are in fact the bribed apologists of the ruling class, enacting fake activism just as they have been carefully taught by their Rules for Radicals instructors.

Here's a look into what real activism means. It's a piece from Quillette about the tactics used by the Hong Kong demonstrators.
One of the reasons for the effectiveness of the protest movement is the decision to remain leaderless. 
Standard doctrine is that every political movement needs "strong and charismatic leaders to succeed."
Many resistance movements such as the Civil Rights Movement with Martin Luther King Jr., the resistance to apartheid with Nelson Mandela, and the India Independence Movement with Gandhi benefited greatly from such leadership. 
Yeah. That works well when you are dealing with western democracies, like the US and the UK. Yes, and even the eevil raciss apartheid regime in South Africa. But the Commie bastards in China?
Joshua Wong, the strong and charismatic leader of the Umbrella movement in 2014, was jailed in 2017 for unlawful assembly. With strong leaders present, the authorities can arrest them, fatally weakening a movement.
So today's movement in Hong Kong is "leaderless."
Just as they are doing with seemingly every obstacle in their way, Hong Kong protesters innovated around the need for a strong leader. They are using communications technology to be both highly organized and leaderless, leaving the authorities unable to take out any key elements that would cause the effort to collapse. 
Remember? The whole idea of the internet, when invented by DARPA, was that it was decentralized and could survive having links chopped off.

Now, it is perfectly obvious that the four Squaddies don't have to worry about stuff like that. They are celebrated by our ruling-class media and would never get taken out by the authorities. Because the whole liberal-left universe would rise up with one voice to damn to bottomless perdition anyone that tried.

So you can see that the folks at Google, guys like James Damore and Zachary Vorhies, are the real thing. They got fired from Google for their insolence, their acts of lèse majesté. Not to mention their acts of sacrilege against the sacred objects of the regime religion.

Yes. The whole game of liberal activism is fake. Because it is all conducted with the concurrence of the regime. The purpose of the liberal activist is to gin up an apparent groundswell of support for some lefty agenda item: See! The People are rising up in rebellion. We must Act Now!

Notice that if unapproved groups try a bit of activism and peaceful protest they are roundly condemned by all the right people as racists and terrorists.

But real "activism" is a political movement that sets itself up in opposition to the ruling class, where its activists run the risk of losing their jobs and having their lives ruined.

It has been many a long day since that was true about any lefty activist in the US and Europe.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Understanding Tlaib: The Culture of Innocence

There's an ad that runs constantly at my gym LA Fitness. It has the girl gym employees protesting against stinky gym bags, complete with protest signs and rhyming couplets.

There is something about women picking up on a political meme. It shows that the political issue in question has passed from the phase of a genuine movement against injustice to a fashion statement.

Want to see confirmation of this? Try this piece on "luxury beliefs," where the upper class has moved on from defining itself in terms of luxury goods -- that you can't afford -- to luxury beliefs that you can't afford. Example: "monogamy is kind of outdated," according to a young woman Yale graduate who is from "an affluent family and works at a well-known technology company."
Yes, she personally intends to have a monogamous marriage — but quickly added that marriage shouldn’t have to be for everyone.
So, the rich and famous can talk about letting it all hang out. But the only thing is that, according to science in Coming Apart by Charles Murray, the rich don't actually do that. Instead they have fabulous careers and merger marriages while the bottom 35 percent don't work much and don't marry much.

Here's another example. Squad member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) declining to go to Israel to see her grandmother if she couldn't do "activism."
I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in--fighting against racism, oppression [and] injustice.
Now, Rep. Tlaib, as I understand, represents a district that includes the Muslim part of Detroit, Michigan. Are the Muslims fighting there against racism and oppression and injustice? I doubt it. I've been to the Muslim area of Detroit, and eaten in a Middle Eastern restaurant there. It looked to me as though the Muslim "community" in Detroit was doin' fine. The black community, not so much.

Are the Muslims in Detroit being denied the vote? No, I don't think so; certainly not if a Muslim woman from Palestine gets to be their representative. Are the Muslims in Detroit unable to get jobs? I doubt it, considering the apparent prosperity of the Muslim quarter around Hamtramck. Injustice? Hardly, considering how much horsepower our ruling class puts into fighting Islamophobia.

I mean. When the ruling class is putting a thumb on the scales of justice in your favor, I don't believe you can cry "injustice" with any credibility.

I am trying to follow the demand that the opera composer Verdi places on his librettist, Piave, in the TV series The Life of Verdi to avoid extra, useless words. In fact, how about distilling the whole thing down to "one word!" says Verdi. "Oh yeah," says Piave, rolling his eyes.

So what I am trying to do is distill the whole fake "culture of activism" down to one word, or at least a Nietzschean aphorism. "Luxury Beliefs" is certainly a starter. Then there is the notion of "The Conceit of Innocence."

Here's what I mean by the Conceit of Innocence.

Marx proposes that the workers were helpless innocents. Very good. The workers certainly had it tough in the 1830s, although perhaps not as tough as their ancestors struggling in the breakup of the feudal system. But the activists leading them were usually not workers. They were, like Marx, scions of the middle class, that were doin' fine. So they chose to lead the workers to paradise; it gave their lives meaning.

You can certainly say that Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington were the real deal, former slaves. Of course, they were guys that wanted to be not-slaves, to be independent, responsible free men working for a living. Then there was W.E.B. Du Bois. He was a middle-class black from way back. La Wik:
[His mother] Mary Silvina Burghardt's family was part of the very small free black population of Great Barrington and had long owned land in the state.
Du Bois was a lefty academic. He believed that the black population should be led by its "talented tenth."

The feminist movement has always been a movement of the well-to-do, and it remains so today.

Let's return to the "luxury beliefs" above. Marx, Du Bois, and feminists like Simone de Beauvoir were all upper-middle-class intellectuals. They made their bones spinning likely stories about racism, oppression and injustice. Their writing gave their lives meaning.

Now let's talk about a real movement for justice: the Indian National Movement. The story of the Brits in India and the movement for an Indian Nation is almost a stage play about the modern era.

The Brits in India starts with the Brits establishing trading ports at Bombay, Madras and Calcutta. They wanted to trade in Indian textiles and spices, but they had a problem: the Indian feudal lord next door. The Brits wanted a nice stable law-governed place where they could do business. But, from the Muslim Mughals to the local Hindu prince, the status quo was a feudal lord and his court. And below that were lesser landowners and the peasantry. For the Brits this was inconvenient and also dangerous, because the feudal lords operated on a loot and plunder system which might extend, with the Marathis, to actual raids into neighboring feudatories. Bad for bidness.

As the Brits extended the sway of their European nation-state market-economy law-governed society it more-or-less forced the princes and a slowly emerging middle class to adapt to it. By the middle of the 19th century you could say that an actual "Indian public opinion" had begun to operate, because of communications, newspapers, and the India-wide regime of peace enforced by the British Raj.

Here's an example of what I mean. Starting in 1770, any time there was a failure of the monsoon resulting in a famine, the disaster became a political scandal for the Brits. The Brits responded by creating government programs of relief and of moving grain to the famine areas which got easier once the railway age got established. Here's my take. Before the Brits came India would have been so fragmented and communications would be so poor that nobody would know about a famine outside the affected area. Anyway, absent modern transportation there was nothing a ruler could do about it anyway. So no news. No scandal. Just an act of God.

The more the 19th century advanced the more that the notion of Britain being a foreign Paramount Power exercising hegemony over South Asia became a scandal: not just to the rising class of educated Indians, but to the Brits themselves. We moderns just experience foreign rule over a subject population as sick and wrong: racist, oppressive, and unjust, in the words of Rep. Tlaib. We cringe at the very thought of it.

So you can see that in India the notion of an Indian National Movement to create an India for the Indians is really an artefact of western European moral and political culture. Before the Brits got there it was unthinkable in the strict sense: nobody would have thought it. And when the Indians did in fact create an Indian national state, they created two of them: one Hindu and one Muslim. That, I propose is according to the logic of human life, that politics is downstream from culture is downstream from religion.

Notice that the Palestinian Question, beloved by Rep. Tlaib, is not quite as simple as the Indian Question. In the good old days of the Ottoman Empire, nominally Muslim, all kinds of different religious communities existed side-by-side. As soon as the Ottoman Empire collapsed these religious differences took on a new salience, in which, obviously, the Jewish desire for their own nation state was a big factor. The Jews, being highly intellectual and westernized, were already prepared, without instruction from the Brits, to form their own nation state. The rest of the Middle East, not so much.

In fact, I would suggest that in the Middle East the national idea has not yet really triumphed over the previous culture of religion-and-tribe.

I guess here's my point about Rep. Tlaib and "racism, oppression and injustice." Such notions are western notions that only apply when the idea of nation of laws and the idea that there should be no discrimination by race have captured the culture.

And, I would argue, these notions are, to a great extent, not salient in a fully-developed western nation, where such questions have already been resolved. They are an obsession of upper-class scions looking for "luxury beliefs" to give their lives meaning and enable them to lord it over the lesser breeds without the law such as deplorables.

When you are an upper-class scion wanting to give meaning to your life through activism and fighting "racism, oppression, and injustice" you start, I think, with a Presumption of Helpless Victimized Innocence for your chosen victims. And you go from there.

Actually, I suspect that the Culture of Innocence is a necessary part of the culture of a minority community in a larger society. You have to have sharp elbows to survive, and you have to justify the sharp actions that it takes to survive in a cruel, heartless world. You can't allow yourselves to think about all the deals and compromises and betrayals that it took to survive. That's because you must be mobilized and prepared, at any moment, to fight for your life. So you develop a Culture of Innocence.

Obviously, this situation is the situation of Jews down the ages. The question is: can the Jews in, say, the US relax, and just take their place in our modern multicultural post-industrial society? Or should Jews remain mobilized, because at any moment, the left -- that was invented by Jews -- could turn on Jews in the service of black racists and resentful Muslims? Or maybe, pace New York Times, the threat could come from the right and its resentful deplorables?

You tell me.

UPDATE: See also "Deliver Us from Innocence" by Mark Bauerlein. From a reader.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The New York Times' Problem

Whaddya going to do, if you are the executive editor of the New York Times? I mean, how do you report the news and also cater to the world view of your employees and readers?

I gotta say, reading the inside story of Dean Baquet talking to the folks in his newsroom, that it ain't easy. For instance,
Staffer: Could you explain your decision not to more regularly use the word racist in reference to the president’s actions?
Baquet's answer is waffle-waffle-waffle.
I’m not saying we would never use the word racist. I’m talking about that weekend. You quote the remarks. The most powerful journalism I have ever read, and that I’ve ever witnessed, was when writers actually just described what they heard and put them in some perspective.  
Translation: we are using "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" instead of "racist" these days.

Earth to New York Times bubble. The Civil Right Act was passed half a centuy ago. That was final. So now you chaps are reduced to accusing people of saying racist things. But what matters is racist acts, like, oh, I don't know, the government having racial quotas. The universities having diversity goals. And that includes diverstiy hires at the New York Times.

Rule One. The guy that brings up race is the real racist.

Why do I say that? Science, that's why.

See, science says that the interesting thing about, say, vision, is that the whole point is to decide what to notice. There is a riverful of information coming in through the eyes. But none of us has the time and the processing power to evaluate everything. We need to determine: what is the important information?

For instance that stripey-looking pattern over on the middle-right: how should I interpret it? As a pattern of sunshine through a patch of bamboo? As a rugby player? As a beautful young woman in a fashionable dress? As a zebra? As a man-eating tiger?

You can see that the name of the game is interpretation. It depends what you want to see. Are you a young man full of hormones? Are you a big-game hunter? Are you a tourist in a tiger reserve?

Are you a political lefty obsessed with race fifty years after the Civil Rights Act?

Psychologist Jordan B. Peterson of 10 Rules says that we look at the world through the lens of our values. Which is to say that we are programmed to notice the things that are important to us.

This is why conservatives are wrong to say that "we" use logic and reason while liberals and the left are directed by their feelings. Not at all. We conservatives believe that government should not be in the business of bringing all human life under the supervision of government. We tend to think that, after protecting us from enemies foreign and domestic, the government does not have much left to do. Of course we rely on science -- political philosophy and economics -- for this. But we don't know that our ideas are true. We merely have faith in them. Just as liberals have faith that racism is running rampant throughout our society, and cite events that prove, to them, that racism is still a scourge.

If you are a person that believes, according to the best science known to you and your pals in the liberal bubble, that racism is getting worse, because Trump is dog-whistling racism to his base, then of course you think that the New York Times should be shining the light of truth on Trump's racism each and every day.

If you believe, like me, that government basically did its job on race half a century ago in passing the Civil Rights Act, and that there is not much more that is possible for government to do without messing things up, then you look on liberal interest in racism as ignorance at best, foolishness at least, utter blindness to reality without doubt, and bad faith at worst.

And there is no doubt that if you are a racism-believer then Donald Trump rallying the white working class is a frightening, terrifying event. Why look at the "murder" of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri! Why hasn't the whole police department in Ferguson been sent to jail for racism?  Whataboyt Trump and Cummings. How dare, How Dare the president criticize Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) for the mess in Baltimore, Maryland.

Hey, it all depends on how you interpret events. Do you think that Michael Brown was a drugged-out thief that was threatening a policeman? Or do you think he was a helpless victim gunned down by a racist white policeman? It all depends on the values filter with which you interpret events.

Do you think that Rep. Elijah Cummings is a corrupt politician or a heroic leader of his people? It all depends how you view the world, and whether you have a Black Lives Matter yardsign in your front yard.

Of course, in my view the problem is that the more people look at the world exclusively through the lens of their values the more, in effect, they are bringing their religion into the public square. There is nothing particularly scandalous about this; everybody does it.

But our Founders, back in the day, thought that religion and the state should be at arms length from each other. Because the larger a society the more likely that it will include people that disagree about the proper value-lens with which people should interpret the world. They thought, a century after the Thirty Years War and Salem witches, that when religious people get to dominate the public square with their values and name and shame people that disagree with them, then they are setting society up for a religious war.

And of course, the bigger the government the more it is using taxpayers money and the votes of the majority to impose one world view upon another.

But if you are a person that cannot see anything except "my values good" and "your values bad" then youn will not have a clue about this.

Rather like the chaps that read and write the New York Times.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Hey Fed! How About Doing Something About the Inverted Yield Curve, Geniuses!

Yesterday, August 14, 2019, the stock market fell out of bed with the Dow losing about 3 percent.

What is going on?

Could it be that the Treasury Yield Curve -- see here -- is inverted, and an inverted yield curve is a pretty good sign that monetary policy is too tight and is forcing a recession?

Now, in the past the Fed has forcd a recession in order to squeeze inflation out of the economy. Are we fighting inflation right now, Fed? I hope not. I've heard from real-estate people that the real estate market has been flat for the last year.

Yesterday, according to the US Treasury, 1-month Treasury Bills closed at 1.96%; 5-year Treasury Notes closed at 1.51%; 30-year Treasury Bonds closed at 2.03%.

So we are at an ace of a true inverted yield curve when shortest term rates are higher than long-term rates.

Hey Fed? You guys colorblind? Don't you see the flashing red light? Inverted yield curve! That means recession warning.

President Trump has been calling for lower interest rates for several months. But hey, he's just a yahoo.

And only last week the Fed finally lowered its key rate by 0.25%.

Hey Fed. Why not get your rate down to 1.5% right now, and worry about whether you acted too precipately in 6 months?

The truth is that the Federal Reserve Board, brought into being after the 1907 Crash, has been an amateur disaster ever since. The idea what that it was sick and wrong to leave the financial system in the hands of robber baron J.P. Morgan.

Yeah, well. How did that turn out?

The Fed screwed up the 1929 stock market crash, letting banks fail for 4 years. When the whole point of a central bank is to be the lender of last resort. Lender of last resort, to keep the financial system from cracking up, chaps!

The Fed screwed up in 2008, with Little Ben Bernanke advertising that he didn't have the legal authority to rescue the financial system, specifically Lehman Brothers, without legislation.

Good grief, Ben. Don't you understand the meaning of "lender of last resort?" Ain't you read Walter Bagehot's Lombard Street? And anyway, who cares about legal authority! If you are Chairman of the Federal Reserve you do what it takes to stop a financial panic. Period. And if the second-guessers come after you and blame you for this or that undotted "i" or uncrossed "t", well, you fall on your sword, or go to your execution, knowing that you did the right thing. That is what Sacrificial Heroes do, chum. As opposed to deep-state swampies.

Anyway, the biggest item in the financial bailout of 2009 was the $3.3 trillion "guarantee" for money market mutual funds, and the bailout of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac at $5.3 trillion. Total amout was almost $17 trillion. Was all that authorized by legislation? The TARP bank bailout at $0.7 trillion was penny-ante compared to that.

So here we have the Fed stumbling and bumbling about what to do about interest rates. With recession warnings sounding in our ears all over. What else is new?

Look. There's no surprise about this. The Federal Reserve System is an administrative state thing, staffed with bureaucrats. What would they know about the credit system? The Federal Reserve Board is full of political hacks. What would they know about central banking and "lender of last resort?"

The story of the Federal Reserve is that it is always a day late and a dollar short. As you would expect from deep-state swampies.

What I say is that it is time to reform the Federal Reserve System, and set it up so that it is run by people that know what they are doing.

But the problem is Chantrill's Law. That it is impossible to reform any government program. Because beneficiaries. Nobody will permit their loot and plunder to be diminished in their lifetime. Even if the world is crashing in ruin about their ears.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

China's Big Problem

Just yesterday, President Trump announced delays in the imposition of tariffs on the Peoples Republic of China. Which encouraged the stock market, getting increasingly spooked by the inverted Treasury yield curve.

Inverted yield curve means that short term Treasury interest rates are higher than long-term rates. Normally, every longer term Treasury security has a higher rate than the next shorter term. Right now, 1-month bills are 2.09 percent, 5-year notes are 1.57 percent, and 30-year bonds are 2.15 percent. Not good, because the whole credit system works on the basis of longer term securities having a higher rate than shorter term.

An inverted yield curve is a recession warning. I'd say that the Fed should lower short term rates to 1.5 percent right now. But bureaucrats are slow and sluggish.

But never mind about us. Whatabout China?

China has a big problem. Its leaders are under the misapprehension that the name of the game is political power, political power for them and theirs. We, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, must have the power to Make China Great Again.

This, of course, is the reactionary doctrine running through all Communist, Socialist, Nationalist, and Fascist politics. That the key question is who holds political power, and what power plays are necessary to make the political entity powerful in the world and bring on a secular paradiase.

Whereas the lesson of the last 300 years is that the secret to success is to reduce political power to a bare minimum.

Put it this way. The peoples of the world who have become the most prosperous in the age of the Great Enrichment are the ones that embraced capitalism and free markets. The ones that crashed and burned are the ones that adopted some form of socialism or Communism, such as Leninist Russia, Maoist China, Hitlerite Germany, and Nehru's India. And of course there were lots of tin-horn dictators hither and yon.

The political movements that enacted the horrors of Communism etc., basically all made the error of assuming that the rising power of capital would replay the political story of the agricultural age, with a landed warrior class oppressing and impoverishing a landless peasant class. Only now it would be a capitalist class oppressing a proletarian worker class.

Only it didn't work out that way. You can see that in my chart of the Global Great Enrichment.


Do you see what is going on? India and China were stumbling along at agricultural-level income until they abandoned socialist economics and switched to capitalism about 1980. Soviet Russia was stumbling along half way between industry and agriculture. Bit of a sticky wicket after the end of communism. Etc. Notice WWII starting 1940: just about everyone took a dive except the good old US and A.

The Chinese government, inspired by President Xi, seems to think that they are going to rule the world by being rough and tough. Control their own people. Control all their tributary states with the Belt and Road Initiative. Steal everyone's technology.

Except that they are scaring the pants off all their neighbors. And the capitalists are starting to move their supply chains out of China because, well, just to be safe. And wealthy Chinese are panicked to get their wealth out of China, because, well, just to be safe.

My point is that if you want to be global hegemon then you ought to copy the British and the US model and at least try to be avuncular, rather than the roughest, toughest guy on the block.

Trouble is that everyone in politics has basically signed onto the roughest toughest hombre west of the Pecos model, from the Commies to the SJWs to AntiFa. Whereas the model that really works is to be the place where everyone wants to keep their money, from equities to real estate to government bonds. That means that you have to have limited government that lacks the power to stick people in jail when the mood takes it, and seize peoples' assets when the mood takes it, and name and shame individuals when the mood takes it.

Come on China! You chaps ae probably the smartest people in the world, after the Jews. Get with the program! Become the place where all the smart people want to live, where all the smart people want to invest, where all the smart people want to keep their money!

You'll be amazed at the results! So will we.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Four Laws: Regulatory Capture

There are, I think, Four Laws, scientific principles, if you like, that need to be understood in relation to all proposals for More Government.

And nobody wants to be against settled science. Oh no. That's superstition and bigotry!

The First Law is that socialism cannot work because it cannot compute prices.

The Second Law is that the economy cannot be directed by the Man in Washington.

The Third Law is the law of regulatory capture. What on earth is that?

The idea of economic regulation is that the chaotic capitalist economy needs rules and regulations to keep it from ripping off consumers and polluting the land. So let's make a law, and set up a regulatory agency and staff it with experts. And make the capitalists conform to sensible rules, especially related to prices, to keep them from looting and plundering.

But there's a problem, and it is associated with economist George Stigler. The problem is even mentioned in the authoritative La Wik. It is called "regulatory capture."
Regulatory capture is a form of government failure which occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.
In other words, the corporations getting regulated learn how to game the system. They learn how to make friends with the regulators, how to get them to understand their world view, to sympathize with their problems, and even come to live in the same world as the regulated industry. Let's go back to La Wik for a more expansive description of the situation.
For public choice theorists, regulatory capture occurs because groups or individuals with a high-stakes interest in the outcome of policy or regulatory decisions can be expected to focus their resources and energies in attempting to gain the policy outcomes they prefer, while members of the public, each with only a tiny individual stake in the outcome, will ignore it altogether. Regulatory capture refers to the actions by interest groups when this imbalance of focused resources devoted to a particular policy outcome is successful at "capturing" influence with the staff or commission members of the regulatory agency, so that the preferred policy outcomes of the special interest groups are implemented.
Look, let's ease off from the conspiratorial view of the big bad capitalist or the evil and corrupted deep-state administrative swampie. But people instinctively act in what they think is their self-interest. It's just natural that the folks getting regulated are going to have a life-and-death interest in the regulatory rules, and they are going to want those rules to be forgiving. And the regulators are mostly just administrative place-men -- of the kind that we have recently come to know in the Trump Russia Collusion game -- and their natural instinct is to play it safe, opt for a quiet life, and make sure that they don't risk their pensions.

We see the phenomenon of "regulatory capture" all around us. The green energy industry is perhaps the most egregious, because its interests align with our globalist elite. Everyone, from climate scientists to wind-farm manufacturers and owners, to electric car manufacturers, is in on the game, with subsidies and grants for all. But we've already had a couple of mega-failures with renewable energy, including a mega-blackout in South Australia where the swampies are now suing the renewable energy producers for the blackout. Imagine! The greenies force a crazy technology on the electric industry and then are shocked, shocked when it turns out that the subsidy bottom-feeders aren't quite up to snuff. And now there has been a major blackout in Britland involving renewable resources.

Then there is the health-care industry that is regulated up the ying-yang, but whose pricing is almost impenetrable. Why be surprised? The health-care industry must try to stay in business while being regulated by the government, forced to provide low prices to Medicare and Medicaid, having to deal with insurance companies, and last but not least, having credentialism and licensing up the yahoo for all its physicians and nurses. You don't think that the health-care industry is right in the middle of all political initiatives related to health care? Imagine if the health-care industry were not organized like an electric utility but instead like WalMart, with weekly specials and bargains and loss leaders and I know not what. How about this special: Free laser surgery with your colon surgery! Well why not? While you are recovering from cancer surgery why not get your eyes done?

Actually, what you have probably noticed is that the regulatory capture problem is not just a matter of a regulated industry corrupting its regulators. That, you might say, is the case of "pure" regulatory capture.

In many cases the regulated industry is part of a political movement. The politicians and the activists determine on some vital project that is going to cure cancer or save the planet. But what do they know? They must find the chaps with the business chops and the technical know-how, and co-opt them into the movement. So the idea that the industry is being rigorously regulated and kept honest is a lie from the get-go. The industry instead is a bunch of grifters and subsidy hounds that are twice as smart as the activists and politicians, and know how to milk a cow. Think of chaps like Elon Musk, who seems to have the rare talent of showing up wherever there are big fat subsidies to be lapped up. And know that for every public figure like Musk there are a hundred mini-Musks below the radar.

I worked for many years at a consulting engineering company that specialized in serving public (i.e. municipally-owned) electric utilities. Its first Managing Partner was a guy that was an activist in the public power movement in its hey-day in the 1930s.

In other words, regulatory capture is often not just the innocent corruption of a regulatory agency and its bureaucrats, but a deliberate act of loot and plunder by our modern equivalents of Vikings and Mongols, the politicians and the activists.

Nobody is saying that there shouldn't be laws regulating business and transactions between people. That we should just shrug our shoulders at "externalities" like air and water pollution. But the point is to try and diminish negative externalities by use of the price system -- such as by taxing pollution -- and the ordinary legal system -- by suing people that have harmed you -- rather than hand it off to a regulatory agency and its bureaucrats and their pals in the industry they are regulating.

Monday, August 12, 2019

White Supremacy, White Nationalism, Toxic Masculinity: What's Not to Like?

For nigh on 50 years, the worst thing in the world was to be called a racist. It was shameful thus to be called, and liberals used the epithet ruthlessly.

Now, apparently, the cry of "racism" does not pack the punch it once had. So now we are supposed to cringe at the cry of "white nationalist," or "white supremacy." And don't forget "toxic masculinity."

Now is our chance, to take the new vile accusations of the left, and put 'em where the sun don't shine.

I don't know exactly what is meant by "white nationalism," but I'd say that any ideology for any nation state in the world is bound to be based on the ideas of some white man that lived in the last half millennium. Even the idea of a nation state is a white idea.

And what was the whole idea of a nation state? It was to replace the constant war-of-the-nobles of the feudal era. Good or bad, kids? Check out Shakespeare's Wars of the Roses plays if you are not sure.

White nationalism? Hey, if you are a non-white whaddya think is best for you? To side with the guys whose religion and culture birthed the amazing Great Enrichment that has brought the whole world out of one-failed-harvest-away-from-starvation. Or Back to the Future with the neo-feudalism of the Islamo-terrorists? I can't see into peoples' minds, but if I were an East-Asian American or a Hispanic American I would want to get on with establishing my family in the prosperous US economy, and making sure my kids get serious and get themselves a good education -- despite the government's best efforts -- and get a decent career going. The heck with protesting and identity politics.

Oh yeah. And what is identity politics but racism, straight up.

When we talk about "white supremacy" what do we mean? Government under law? The separation of powers? Human rights? The right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances? The understanding of prices and markets with economics? The Industrial Revolution? The automobobble? Ocean transportation? The aluminum sky of jet planes?

Whatabout slavery? It was universal until, for some reason in the late 1700s a bunch of white people started to organize against it politically. But there is still quite a lot of slavery going on in the world today. In non-white lands.

Whatabout colonialism? Well, in India, the British colonialists reckoned by about 1850 that they ought to hand over India to the Indians -- at some point. But by just being there in India they taught the educated Indians about the nation state and its financing; they more or less encouraged the Indians to develop an Indian National Movement. Yep. That's your white supremacy: teaching the "natives" how to do it. How patronizing can you get?

The point about colonialism is that, some time in the 19th century, and gathering strength thereafter, the notion arose in white countries that colonialism was not the thing, old chap. And I think that is because, in the industrial era, westerners -- white people -- discovered that the old agenda of conquest and loot and plunder, that had obtained from the dawn of agriculture and before, did not pay any more.

In China, a Chinese Christian wrote about the Chinese experience of the collision with white supremacy. From Jesus in Beijing by David Aikman, about the "success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world."
At first we thought it was because you had more powerful guns that we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and the successful transition to democratic politics.
Can you spell "politics is downstream from culture is downstream from religion?"

Yeah. So let's look at the two biggest countries in the world, the great agricultural cultures of India and China. Both of these countries have adopted white-developed political systems. In India we have the nation of federated states, with democracy and, after a pause of 40 years, capitalism. In China we have the Marxian Community Party running the place as what amounts to a national socialist state, because in 1979 the Communist Party leader switched from on white supremacy idea, socialism, to another white supremacy idea, capitalism. Whaddya know?

So. When the two most ancient cultures of the world adopt western -- or white -- ideas, what exactly are you trying to say with your pejorative of "white supremacy?" Enquiring minds would like to know.

And as for "toxic masculinity," you girls just have no clue what you are talking about. Yes, I know that the girls have all got together since time immemorial to complain about men. There is no question, we are insensitive beasts that only have one thing on our mind.

But the fact is that it is men that invented the modern world, in which women could now come out into the public square. It was men that discovered the Germ Theory and that made childbirth much safer for women and for the first time in the history of the world made female life expectancy longer than male life expectancy. OK. It was a girl, Florence Nightingale, that invented modern nursing. Yet it is also true that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

I say that the emergence of pseudo-intellectual pejoratives like "white supremacy" and "toxic masculinity" are signs that the old pejoratives are losing their sting. And it couldn't happen fast enough.

But the thing to do with the new pejoratives is to rush to own them. Yeah I'm a white nationalist! You gotta better idea? Full speed ahead on white supremacy! With a bit more capitalism we could finally eradicate the last vestiges of hunger! Toxic masculinity! How about doubling the number of tech startups!

And here's a final thought. In the second half of the 19th century in the British Raj the question of "famine" became a thing. What? You think that India wasn't having famines all along, since well before the British East India Company showed up in Madras and Calcutta?

The point is that, by 1850 there was public communications that could broadcast the fact of famine far and wide. So people beyond the stricken area actually knew about it. And there was a technology, railways and steamships, that could in double-quick time get food to the stricken areas. And there was money, wealth, for handouts to the stricken areas to give people food and jobs while the famine lasted. And there was the idea that the government should "do something" when the monsoon failed.

All that is part and parcel, as the Brits say, of white nationalism and white supremacy and the toxic masculinity that invented steam transportation on land and sea.

Long may they reign!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Suppose We are Not Heading for Civil War?

Lots of experts are predicting civil war -- the next step from our current "cold civil war." I also have a military acquaintance that is worried about that.

Heck, I'm worried about that.

And I am worried that, in the aftermath of two-a-day mass killings, one by a lefty Warren supporter and one by the son of a licensed psychotherapist, President Trump caved on the "white nationalist" canard.

Hey, if Trump the brawler doesn't have a Twitter come-back for the usual accusers of racism, then ain't nobody ready to confront the race-card issue.

I mean, it means that President Trump doesn't feel it is safe to say, for instance.
What planet are these Democrats and "fake news" journalists on? I just don't care about race; I only care about Americans. And if you ask me, when it comes to race and racists, it takes one to know one.
But the time is not yet ripe.

Still, I can't help feeling that, rather than get to a race war, we are actually getting to the moment of Thermidorean Reaction. That's the moment in the French Revolution and its aftermath when Robespierre fell, the Reign of Terror ending, and pretty soon the French had Napoleon to rule them.

The notion is that the religious fervor of a Reign of Terror cannot last forever, because ordinary people just want to get on with wiving and thriving. Example du jour is Ferguson, Missouri, where the white Mayor James Knowles -- a known Republican in a 67% black city -- got reelected in 2017 with 57% of the vote. Joseph Duggan:
Blacks, whites, and, increasingly, Latinos, live side by side today in the community. Those who are staying in Ferguson or who will move there tend to be motivated by solidarity—on being together as neighbors first and foremost without undue impulses of activism or ideology.
The point is that humans are progammed to come together at a moment of crisis to defend the homeland or the race, or recover from a natural disaster, or combine to kill some scapegoat, or whatever. But we are also programmed to wive and thrive and tend our families and communities. And that most of the time.

The game of a ruling class is to rile up the natives when it needs them for some ruling-class power project. And that project must be represented as a response to an existential peril, according to my maxim that
The only warrant for government action is existential peril.
In other words, if you are a ruling class and you want to flex your ruling-class muscles, as ruling classes often do, then you must sell the people on an existential peril. It could be the Nazis, the Commies. It could be "white nationalists;" it could be climate change.

It could be a true peril. It could be a brazen lie. From the ruling-class perspective, it doesn't matter.

My feeling is that the way that the ruling class has elevated the race issue over the last half century is sending a message. Our ruling class is running out of existential perils with which to frighten us.

Meanwhile, its failures have been piling up: big government in all its aspects from unaffordable entitlements to failing schools. Cultural deserts, from the white working class dying of despair to the women traumatized by the sexual revolution to blacks producing 75% of children outside marriage, to the radicalization of the universities, to the LGBT folly, to the recent classification of illegal immigrants as the archetype of helpless victims.

If I were the secret Mr. Big of the present ruling class I would be afraid, afraid that the whole thing could come tumbling down. And I would know that the only thing to do would be to rile up the natives in one more big college try. In other words, a Reign of Terror and Virtue.

But the point is that a ruling class that opts for a Reign of Terror is a ruling class that is looking right into the face of failure. Because when things are going good you don't need a Reign of Terror, you just go on your next Royal Progress and greet your happy peasants with the usual Royal Wave.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Four Laws: The Man in Washington Cannot Outperform Consumers and Producers

There are, I believe, Four Laws, scientific principles, if you like, that need to be understood in relation to all proposals for More Government.

The First Law is that Socialism cannot work because it cannot compute prices. This law was discovered in 1920 by Ludwig von Mises.

The Second Law is a corollary of the First Law. It argues that the Man in Washington, the Planner directing the economy, cannot outperform the consumers and the producers because he does not have enough informaiton. This law was enunciated by Friedrich von Hayek, a student of Ludwig von Mises. He first enunciated this Law in his The Road to Serfdom:

The Road to Serfdom was written during World War II when the Austrian Hayek was living in England. It was addressed "to socialists of all parties" and the argument was against the consensus among all educated people that "planning" was inevitable, a vital response to the increasing complexity of modern society. As Hayek writes, of that consensus,
[T]he complexity of our modern civilization creates new problems with which we cannot hope to deal effectively except by central planning.
It is true, for example, that certain activities in modern cities, such as public utilities, cannot be resolved purely by competition. This leads the planning advocates to the following:
What they generally suggest is that the increaing difficulty of getting a coherent picture of the complete economic process makes it indispensible that things should be coordinated by some central agency if social life is not to dissolve in chaos.
Hayek argues that the opposite is true.
This argument is based on a complete misapprehension of the working of competition. Far from being appropirate only to comparatively simple conditions, it is the complexity of the division of labor under modern conditions which makes competition the only method by which such coordination can be brought about. There would be no difficulty about efficient control or planning were conditions so simple that a single person or board could effectively survey all the relevant facts. It is only as the factors which have to be taken into account become so numerous that it is impossible to gain a synoptic view of them that decentralization becomes imperative. But once decentralization is necessary, the problem of coordination arises -- a coordination which leaves the separate agencies free to adjust their activities to the facts which only they can know and yet brings about a mutual adjustment of their respective plans...
This is precisely what the price system does under competition, and which no other system even promises to accomplish.
The above is the problem with Hayek. He writes long sentences in complicated prose that are unquotable!

But what Hayek is saying is that you guys that think that a complex economy requires coordination from the top -- from people like us -- in fact the opposite is true. The more complex the economy becomes the more it becomes impossible for the sainted planners to know enough about the various activities to make the right decision, or even have enough hours in the day to begin to make enough decisions to keep the economy from falling apart.

In modern parlance we would say that the economy is an emergent phenomenon, not a system, and so mechanical decisions, based on reading this dial or pulling that lever, cannot suffice. Or we could say that the planner-in-chief and his assistants just cannot have the bandwidth necessary to apprehend all the information necessary to understand the economy, let alone have the time left to adjust the economy to keep it on track.

In Britland, where Hayek was writing at the time, they started to talk about the planner the "Man in Whitehall." In Margaret Thatcher's era they would say that the Man in Whitehall cannot know enough to direct the economy. In the US we have our Man in Washington.

And here the situation is that the Man in Washington, the administrators and whatever, cannot know enough to direct their programs effectively. Because it is just too complex. That is why, for instance, we had the No Child Left Behind program and the Common Core education standards are all about. National standards! A gentle push to educators to make sure they do their jobs! But, you will notice, nothing has happened. That's because with a top-down planned system the problem is not just an inability to respond to individual events, but that the whole system is designed to prevent individual response.

I think though, that the "bandwidth" argument is the best, because you can make a comparision with the internet. Google Maps, for instance, is collecting traffic information every second from all over the world. And then distributes it out to each individual smartphone. How do they do it? Not with an administrator directing traffic, but by a decentralized system that runs by itself.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Emergency, White Supremacy, and Identity Poltics, Oh My!

Here's My Guy Kevin Williamson railing against the eternal emergency.

Rule One: In the present emergency we need "certain illiberal and anti-democratic measures are necessary" to save us. Rule Two: There is always an emergency.

Then there's Jeff Goldstein inveighing against all identity politics. After all, he argues, "white supremacy" is an inevitable consequence of identity politics.
[I]n a cultural and political climate that rewards and empowers identity groups while it brackets individualism as some deplorable and dangerous social ill, those most marginalized by the prevailing norm would seek to gain power and “legitimacy” within that very system.
And this rather charming notion from Evan Sayet, comedian.
“One reason conservatives are so happy and [l]efists are so miserable is that capitalists need friends,” wrote Evan Sayet. “They need business partners and investors, trading partners and customers so satisfied they come back again and again. 
“The socialist needs enemies,” Sayet went on. “There must be people who hate him and oppress him. If he’s not hated and oppressed then socialism doesn’t exist. 
“If he [the socialist] can’t find any such hatred, he’s forced to make it up[."]
All of which is merely illustration of my maxims:
The only warrant for government action is existential peril.
Therefore the world must be coming to an end unless we act now.

And the perennial:
Politics is division. 
You want to create a political movement? You want to win an election? Then you must unite your followers around you into a political army. And the way to do that is to unite them against an enemy.

Not to forget Hegel and the Freud movement. Not to mention Newton. Action and Reaction are equal and opposite. The thing is equal to its opposite. We project our own faults on our enemies.

So all politicians need an emergency in order to get anything done. Otherwise life is just looking for friends and customers and business partners.

So, the identity politics politician needs white supremacy as an enemy to unite the Coalition of the Fringes. Otherwise the various entities of the coalition will start fighting each other.

Oh, lefties, and by the way. If you chaps demonize whites as the root of all evil, and start kicking them off social media and firing them from their jobs, then you are going to provoke them into forming a racial movement based on whiteness. Because some guy is going to come along and play your lefty game with what you lefties might call "the white community" if whites were part of your movement. Which is, as the comedian just pointed out, that "[t]here must be people who hate [you] and oppress [you]."

The whole basis of humans as social animals is that we band together for protection. And the impulse to band together is the feeling that there is a dangerous something out there. It might be a lion, a tiger or a bear, oh my. Or it might be the malevolent tribe next door. Or it might be the whole white race, organized into a secret conspiracy of white supremacy. Or, it might be the blacks, the browns, the yellows, the females, the educated, the LGBTs organized as a political coalition to name and shame whites as "white supremacists."

But the basic problem of every aspiring leader is that if there is no emergency, no enemy, no existential peril then there is no need for political power.

And what does the leader do then poor thing?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Marianne Williamson: Getting Only Half the Point

At American Greatness Matthew Boose takes a look at the unexpectedly popular Marianne Williamson who, he proposes is bringing something to politics other than mere wonkery.
Like Trump, Williamson is an outsider who understands that politics is about bigger things than what can be reduced to policy bromides. 
Well yes. But Mariane Williamson is a preacher -- if a new-age preacher -- and I thought that we were supposed to have a separation between church and state.

Williamson is outraging the liberals, apparently, because she is saying that you can't cure depression with drugs, and that is "anti-science." Well maybe she has a point. Maybe we have a problem, Houston.
To admit that America is broken spiritually invites reflection on the cultural revolution of the past half-century. Has America really progressed, or have things gotten worse?

Why are there so many mass shootings these days? Why are young Americans killing themselves at record high rates? Why are they having children at record low rates? Why are diagnoses of depression and anxiety so high, despite a marked jump in antidepressant use? Why is life expectancy in the wealthiest nation on earth going down, rather than up? 
Yes but. Politics is downstream of culture is downstream of religion. The job of politicians is to divide the voters at election time -- on my maxim that politics is division -- and the job of policy wonks is to figure out how to divvy up the loot one more time -- on my maxim that government is an armed minority that taxes the people to reward its supporters.

The whole question of what is the good life, what is the right way of life, what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything comes upstream of politics. It is the subject matter of religion.

And, according to the Bill of Rights, the United States shall have no establishment of religion.

However, even a semi-moron can see that religion is always bumping into politics and politics is always bumping into religion. That is because when the nation's legislators make laws they are necessarily informed by their various religions. They have a vision of the Good Life and Justice and they are bound and determined to get there.

In our age, with the decline in authority of Axial Age religions, new religions are popping up all over. They may be Socialism, the idea of building a Heaven on Earth with government power. They may be Nietzsche's Übermensch off in the mountains doing his Zarathustra thing. They may be Jungians getting in touch with their personal or collective unconscious. Or they may be new-age gurus like Marianne Williamson.

And wouldn't you know. All these religions seem to take a remarkable interest in politics.

But our Founding Fathers knew that this was a problem. The problem was identified for our age by our liberal friends who found it intolerable when fundamentalist Christians were "legislating morality." Or when McCarthyites were flushing Communists out of the State Department and the public schools.

But now the shoe is on the other foot and liberals and lefties all over are legislating their morality and getting conservatives bounced from their jobs at Google and Mozilla. Notice that the liberals that are beside themselves with McCarthyism have no problem with the defenestration of folks that don't worship in their church.

To talk about our political problem in terms of Trump and Williamson going a bit deeper than the usual idiot wonks is to miss the problem.

The problem is that, with government so busy with 1,001 programs -- all of which come down to some sort of idea of Good and Evil which all originate in some sort of religion or quasi-religion -- there will inevitably be a lot of religious conflict arising out of some peoples' religion getting to set the government agenda and other peoples' religion getting marginalized as "bigoted" or "superstitious".

If government were smaller then people could exercise their religions and project their values in the public square without having to fight to get government on their side.

For in the real world people only "get" the notions that are taken for granted in their cultural bubble. Their beliefs and their understanding of the meaning of life, the universe and everything go without saying. But other peoples' faith and beliefs are experienced as a threat.

You can see the problem. If people get the power of government on their side then they will use it to neutralize the "threat" from other peoples' beliefs.

And since, on my reductive Three Peoples theory, there are at least three kinds of people on this Earth that means that there are three world views competing for that government dollar and the opportunity to legislate their morality.

The less government there is the more that each of the Three Peoples can live according to their values and not keep bumping into people that think they are a threat.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Four Laws: Socialism Can't Compute Prices

There are, I think, Four Laws, scientific principles, if you like, that need to be understood in relation to all proposals for More Government.

The First Law was first enunciated in 1920 by the Austrian Jew Ludwig von Mises, the man that founded the Austrian School of economics in an article titled "Die Wirtschaftrechnung im sozialistischen Gemeinwesen" and translated into English by S. Adler as "Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth."

Mises expanded on his argument at book length in Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, first published in German in 1922. The short form of his argument is that socialism cannot work because it cannot compute prices.

In his 1978 Foreword to my copy of Socialism Nobel economist F.A. Hayek writes:
When Socialism appeared in 1922, its impact was profound. It gradually but fundamentally altered the outlook of many of the young idealists returning to their university studies after World War I. I know, for I was one of them... 
Socialism promised to fulfill our hopes for a more rational, more just world. And then came this book. Our hopes were dashed. Socialism told us that we had been looking for improvement in the wrong direction.
What exactly did Mises argue?

Let us assume, he writes, that the socialist state resolves the problem of consumption by handing out coupons for the various consumption goods to which the comrades are entitled. Immediately a market will arise. For instance, "beer tipplers" will want to exchange their non-alcoholic drink coupons with the alcoholic drink coupons of "teetotallers." And then an exchange problem arises.
If, for instance 1 cigar becomes equal to 5 cigarettes, it will be impossible for the administration to fix the arbitrary value of 1 cigar = 3 cigarettes as a basis for the equal distribution of cigars and cigarettes respectively. 
And, in fact, the socialist commonwealth will find itself using the informal prices in the consumer "market" as a guide to socialist production.

The problem is that there are no upstream prices, no way of rationalizing the production processes to deliver, in the end, consumer products in accordance with the demands of the comrades. It is one thing for Robinson Crusoe to make a complete inventory of costs and benefits in his solitary life as he evaluates economic options in his solitary attempt to survive. "In the case of more complicated and more lengthy processes of production it will, plainly, not answer."

In an exchange economy we get prices as the unit of economic calculation.
In the first place, it renders it possible to base the calculation upon the valuations of all participants in trade.
So prices reflect the net effect, today, of all the participants in the market. It also enables participants to determine whether they can participate profitably in the market, making their product or providing their service. Finally, prices provide a way of referring all exchange values back to a single unit: i.e., money.

Of course, money and prices do notd tell us directly about "extra-economic" values. Except, that obviously, they do. Because the "beer-tippler" unconsciously values his beer over other potential choices, such as food for his children. And his choices ripple through the economy.

It is tempting to think of a socialist commonwealth as rather like a big business, that has various divisions and relationships. But the economic calculations of big business are always related to market prices outside the boundaries of the corporation.
For each separate calculation of the particular branches of one and the same enterprise depends exclusively on the fact that is precisely in market dealings that market prices to be taken as the bases of calculation are formed for all kinds of goods and labor employed. Where there is no free market, there is no pricing mechanism; without a pricing mechanism, there is no economic calculation.
This is the vital point. In the market economy, people are buying and selling millions of items every day, setting prices that reflect their value preferences on that day, and those prices ripple up through the production system. And those prices reflect not just what people think and want today but what they think of the future. This is most notable in commodity and stock prices.

Of course there are substitute pricing mechanism in the socialist economy. First of all, there are the prices of commodities and labor outside the socialist commonwealth that the socialist planners can use in their plans.

Then there is Shortages. If a production unit runs out of a certain material then it shows that the socialist Plan has mistaken the demand for that factor of production. But then what? Does the production unit shut down until more product is delivered? Does it do a deal with another nearby production unit? Your pipe for my angle iron? Or do we wait for next year when the planners will have adjusted their plan to account for last year's error. In fact, though, socialist production enterprises tend to want to produce everything in-house, including manhole covers, because of the risk of running out and the uncertainty of getting stuff from other production units.

We moderns all complain about prices. But nobody does anything about it, and just as well.

Because the price system is another proof of God's existence. Who would have thought that individual buying decisions by individual consumers would transmit messages right through the economic "system" giving all participants daily nudges towards adjusting their activities towards satisfying the most urgent needs of the consumer? It's a miracle.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Politics is not about A Rational Disccusion of the Issues

This  morning I am reading a ton of tut-tutters tutting about the Democratic debates. They are upset that all the candidates were tilting against dragons and monsters instead of proposing sensible and rational solutions to our national problems.

One expert even noted how candidate Trump in 2016, despite horrendous mistakes and ignorance about policy, still dominated the debate stage with his insults and personal attacks on the other candidates.

Because politics is not about issues. It is about confronting the enemy.

No kidding! Trump dominated the stage by setting up monsters like illegal immigration and corporations outsourcing jobs, and promising to fight for America.

Rule One: Politics always involves an enemy. Doesn't matter who or what it is. It can be the Jews. It can be Big Pharma. It can be Big Oil. It can be the Commies. It can be radical Islam. It can be racism. It can be homophobia. The whole point is that there must be something, some enemy, some existential peril, for which only force is the answer, and we must band together to slay the monster!

But here is the problem. Suppose you are a peaceable sort of chap that doesn't see an enemy behind that rock? Well, then, you ain't gonna win the election.

The special innovation of the left is to have changed the identity of the enemy. In the old days of dynastic rulers the enemy was either some pretender to the throne or the prince next door. Then in the age of the absolute monarchs we had nation against nation with the subtext of religion. You see that in the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648 and also the Dutch invasion of Britain in 1688 to turn it into a Protestant bulwark against Catholic France.

But the French Revolution changed all that. It inaugurated a politics based on a secular religion, where the enemy was not the neighboring king or an ambitious aristocrat but the class of aristocrats and the class or priests.

Then Marx had the idea of the middle class and the new industrial lords of business as the enemy of the working class and humanity.

Then the Frankfurt School had the idea of not just the workers as helpless victims of the middle class but women and minorities too. They had suffered at the hands of the racist sexist middle class patriarchy since the dawn of time.

And so we get to today's politics which is all about finding some monster that is devastating the lives of some utterly helpless and innocent victims.

The most recent innovation is the idea of the end of the world caused by man's despoiling of the environment. Actually, this is not a new idea but an ancient idea. The Fall. The expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Actually, we are talking about the creation of human agency. Back before the Fall, you see, mankind did not have agency, was just an animal. But when you get agency you get responsibility. If things go wrong it is not just the gods dumping on humans, but humans making a wrong or evil decision, violating God's Law or, in more recent times, social justice.

(Isn't it interesting that the left is advancing the idea of human agency and responsibility in one area, climate change, while the entire rest of its politics is about non-agency, the helpless victimhood of minorities, women, and LGBT?)

So, in the left's worldview there are the responsibles: corporations, white supremacists, patriarchs, Christians, Republicans. They are to be held to the highest standards.

Then there are the victims: minorities, women, LGBT, illegal aliens, Democrats, Muslims. No standards apply, because, being helpless victims they do not have agency and cannot be held responsible for their behavior.

When you think about it, this is a beautiful system. It provides an eternal conflict for lefties to fight, and they are always on the side of the angels.

But my line is that the rise of the market economy and the transformation of wealth from land to "intangible capital" means that we need a lot less politics. Because there just aren't that many things that need to be resolved by force.

You can see the problem as faced by Republicans in the post-Reagan era. The gentlemanly Republicans kept getting snookered by the Dems because the Bushes and the Romneys believed in a kinder, gentler politics, a compassionat conservatism at the same time that Democrats were winding themselves up into a fury over racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Enter Trump with the streetfighter instinct to conjure up some enemies to slay. And now all the experts are tut-tutting about an unprecedented era of partisan division, and they are shocked, shocked, at Trump's crudities.

It's a problem. If we agree that politics and strong government is no longer a requirement in the industrial era how do you get the lefties to abandon their politics of outrage and demonisation?

To put it another way, how do we do the political equivalent of turning warriors into sports heroes? Notice how organized sports arose in the 19th century, just exactly at the time, I would argue, that wars became stupid.

Because here's the point. When we talk about a rational discussion of the issues what we are really saying is that here is something that can be resolved by the ordinary processes of the market economy and the give and take of day-to-day life. In other words, it need not involve politics.

I think that the secular movement we call conservatism is basically organized around the de-lethalizing of politics. That's what all the folderol of constitutions and separation of powers and due process is about. It is trying to lower the temperature so that nobody feels that they have to turn to armed force in order to get their injustice addressed.

But the left has operated under the faith that all the bourgeois constitutions and ownership and due process are a sham that is pretending that white supremacy and patriarchy and exploitation and oppression doen't exist.

Well, maybe they are a problem, but how bad can it be when per-capita income has increased by 30 times in the last 200 years?

But how do you resolve the argument, between the ordinary middle class that is not that interested in power and a secular-evangelical left that is organized for #Resistance and believes in the saving grace of political power?

Tell that to the activists.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Four Laws - Table of Contents

Four Laws: The Limits of Government in the Economy

Table of  Contents

1. Four Laws: Socialism Cannot Compute Prices

2. Four Laws: The Man in Washington Cannot Outperform Consumers and Producers

3. Four Laws: Regulatory Capture

4. Four Laws: Government Cannot Reform

5. Four Golden Rules of National Economics

"You Idiot:" Of Course We Were, Are

American Greatness's Julie Kelly admits it: "You idiot!" She admits that she was gullible and stupid and trusted people that she shouldn't have trusted. Then she lists all the things about which she and Beltway Republicans have been wrong since whenever. Including:
  • Free trade; outsourcing.
  • Nation-building in the Middle East.
  • Immigration.
  • Contempt for our fellow countrymen.
  • And so on.
OK, free trade isn't a panacea, but the less restraints on trade the better, because restraints are usually all about helping powerful special interests. And free trade was a way of spreading the wealth around in the Cold War.

Nation-building wasn't so hot, but in the far-off days before fracking when Middle East oil was the name of the game, well, we had an interest in making sure that the oil got here. We needed to be able to bash the Wahabis and the Saddams and the Iranian mullahs around just to show we cared.

Immigration got me here, an immense benefit to America! And if feminists teach educated American women not to have babies, something's got to give. But every immigrant is another entry in the labor market and the law of supply and demand applies. And if employers are tempted to hire illegals under the table and avoid paying payroll taxes, and our Democratic friends exempt illegal aliens from the burden of following the law...

Contempt? Well, that's the name of the game with politics. Our guys are great guys and the others are contemptible. And what do you say about the white working class that kept voting for Democrats long after the Democrats made it perfectly clear that they didn't care a whit for the white working class?

The job of government is to protect us from existential perils. But should it protect each and every job from the next technical revolution? That is what a lot of us want when our industry goes into decline. Should government protect us from discrimination? Probably, but that does not mean that government should be doing quotas and timetables. Should government protect widows and orphans? Probably.

But here's an idea. Suppose we say that government's job is just to protect us from enemies, foreign and domestic. And that it is the measure of each of us how much we help people that have lost their job, that are marginalized because of their race or gender or class, that are too poor to help themselves through no fault of their own. That way, government stays in its lane, which is force, and the rest of us are under constant self-examination, worrying about whether we helped enough.

Couldn't we say that the welfare state is a moral cop-out that lets us all sit in front of our 4K digital wall TVs and say, well, I gave at the office in my paycheck, so don't bother me?

My line is that the industrial revolution has completely overturned the basis of human society in the agricultural age, which was to protect our food-growing lands from pirates and predators. The consequence is that we need much less force and political power.

But the politicians and the voters are acting as if nothing has changed. The Dems are running around conjuring up huge new applications of government power, from universal health care to the Green New Deal. Of course they are, because the business of political leadership is to lead a band of warriors to either conquer new lands and promise glorious loot and plunder, or to defend our land against other conquerors -- say, eevil fossil fuel producers -- and protect us all from their depredations.

It is very difficult for any politician to say: hey, not really much to do around here. I´ll just sit on the front porch to be ready in case anything blows up.

So all politicians run around like idiots, and their staffers and sycophants run around in circles to make it look as if they are doing something useful.

And the rest of us sit around and complain that "they" haven't fixed the pothole on our street.