Friday, April 18, 2014

When Stupid LIberals Become Evil

I wonder if it’s time to update Charles Krauthammer’s catchphrase about liberals and conservatives. Conservatives think liberals are stupid; liberals think conservatives are evil, says Dr. K.

Because if you are stupid enough to believe that your political opponents are “evil”, then you are stupid enough to wander into the paths of evil. Like right now.

If you are stupid enough to think that the practice of politics is exhausted by the politics of the community organizer, and that the only thing you need to do is to rally your troops with racist, sexist, classist catchphrases, then you really don’t deserve to govern in America.

I have my own catchphrases, and one of them is that “politics is division.”

There is, or at least I hope there is, a warning in that catchphrase. If you want to have a society in which people are doing something more than fighting each other over loot and plunder then you’ll have to make your politics extend to something a little bigger than mere division of the nation into “us” -- the good, the evolved, the educated -- and “them.”

And we know that liberals know this because they keep blathering on about the “other.” Except that if you are a sophisticated liberal that knows your German philosophy you will talk on a slightly higher plane about “ego” and “alter” of course.

When liberals reduce their politics, as the president seems to be doing this season, to efforts to rile up the race base, with speeches at the convention of the racist National Action Network, or rile up the feminist base with lawyers’ protection bills like the Paycheck Fairness Act that makes employers guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent, or with class appeals like the president’s minimum wage policy, when liberals do that then conservatives have every reason to wonder if liberals are something worse than stupid.

Because you are basically saying that there is no compromise with the other side. They must be destroyed.

How are you going to be able to work with people across the aisle after such a season of naked race, sex, and class baiting?

Now we have the IRS scandal, which seems to be escalating beyond mere efforts to embarrass conservatives trying to organize for political action into efforts to trick conservatives into criminal acts.

In the opinion of J. Christian Adams these efforts of the liberals stem from the thinking and the doing of their left-wing activist base. He goes into a lot of detail showing how these groups have persuaded themselves that right-wing speech is illegitimate and should be censored.  They even have University of California at Irvine Law Professor Rick Hasen with a blog to bring all the speech regulators together.

We all make a joke about this, and chuckle about the inanities of “political correctness.” But think about this. Liberals, the ones that lecture us about the “other,” seem not to understand the danger to themselves of censoring the “other’” speech.

What do I mean by this? I mean this: Does it not occur to liberals that when you censor other peoples’ speech it makes them really angry? Does it not occur to liberals that one of the reasons we have the First Amendment is to provide people with a safety valve? They may not get what they want from the political process but at least they have the right to peaceably assemble and present their grievances. If people present their ideas and then get defeated in a fair election, they they are likely to go home and feel that they have at least had a chance to make their case.

The only way this regulation of other peoples' speech works in the long term is if you are prepared to go Full Monty totalitarian and put your opponents in the gulag.  I presume that liberals are not planning to do that.  Not yet.

So why don’t liberals have the common courtesy of letting their opponents organize politically without harassment?  How come that they are stupid enough to harass their opponents enough to make them really angry?

Well we know how all this comes about. It comes about because politics for liberals is a kind of religion. It is not just a practical thing about repressing violent foreign powers and violent domestic criminals. Politics is also about right and wrong, good and evil. It is also about saving society from injustice.

It is very easy, when your politics is to you religious, to make the next logical step, and try to suppress the Evil One. Nobody needs to ask Satan how he feels about things; you just stick it to him.

This is why I think that liberals are in for the worst times they can imagine. Ordinary, decent people are going to be shocked and indignant as they slowly get the picture on the corruptions and the repressions of the Obama administration -- let alone angry that they can’t keep their doctor and can’t keep their health plan.

Of all people, liberals should know this. They were beside themselves during the Bush administration, absolutely outraged by Christian conservatives in positions of government power. Can they not therefore see that conservatives might be absolutely outraged by what they experience as liberal abuse of power?

Answer: no they can’t. They can’t see it. It’s comical, in a way, because liberals have built a huge edifice of developmental psychology to account for the fact that most people can’t see other peoples’ point of view, starting with people that cannot even experience the possibility of other points of view. Only at the upper reaches of developmental psychological systems are there people that can put themselves in the place of the “other” and can understand the fact of other people, other ideas, other world views as perfectly natural and physical. Yet the liberal psychologists are about the worst when it comes to political intolerance.

And because liberals live in a bubble and have a way of forbidding anyone from uttering a discouraging word, they won’t know what’s hit them until it’s hit them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stop Complicating Home Finance

The US Senate is presently putting together what reads like Obamacare for Mortgages, a fiendishly complicated bill that will privatize, yet super-regulate home mortgages -- with a ton of special subsidy programs to queer the whole thing into a nightmare.  At least that's what the Wall Street Journal reports.

So the political elite hasn't learned from the Great Crash of 2008.  And no wonder.  Democrats have been indefatigable in blaming greedy bankers for the problem, rather than face the truth, that the deliberate federal policy to subsidize home mortgages forced bankers to extend loans to people that couldn't afford them.  If you read The New York Times and listen to NPR you wouldn't have a clue about what really went down.

It gets worse.  Here's a report on some focus groups of Option-ARM mortgage borrowers conducted for now-defunct Washington Mutual back in 2003.  The borrowers really had no clue what they had signed up for, with low payments and negative amortization for now followed by huge increased payments later on.  They knew they had a great deal -- for now -- but really weren't thinking too hard about what came later.

Yes.  WaMu was staggeringly negligent in pushing out mortgages to people that didn't have a clue what they were getting into.  But WaMu was just dutifully implementing national policy, pushed  by liberals for a generation.  It started with liberal activists complaining about "red-lining" in the 1970s.  Red-lining referred to the reluctance banks showed in loaning money on inner-city homes.  And why not?  Decaying inner city neighborhoods are not the place to loan money on demand deposits. It's simple prudence.  So we had to make sure that a certain share of mortgages went to "sub-prime" borrowers.

Because liberals are smart and compassionate.

And when the whole thing blew up, liberals blamed the greedy bankers.

Yes, of course the bankers were greedy.  Anyone that works close to government is greedy, because there's a lot of free stuff going on if you are smart enough and pushy enough to get in line for the handouts.

Given the financial ignorance of most people, the government's role should be to regulate the financial system to make it as simple as possible.  But that would make it harder to buy peoples' votes and hand out free stuff.

Given the financial ignorance of most people, we should reform the home mortgage business to remove the subsidies, to disabuse people of the notion that their homes are an "investment."

Given the financial ignorance of most people, we should get the government out of mortgage finance.

But the realities of legislating means that any reform of Fannie and Freddie will have to buy off the powerful special interests, in finance, in real estate, and in the liberal activist community.

Which means that the cure will probably be worse than the disease.

The real cruelty of the Liberal Century is the idea that government can be smart and intelligent -- if run by intelligent, large-minded people with the help of rational experts.

No it can't.  That's what we know now after a century.  Governing makes you dumb.  Governing makes you stupid.  Government makes you cruel.  You can take the largest-minded person in the world, but if you put them in charge of a government or a government program, they will turn out stupid.

This is not rocket science.  Government is force; politics is division.  When you put government in charge of something it will turn it into a bureaucratic monstrosity, pushing people around.  And the politicians will be figuring out how to divide people and how to buy votes with the money sloshing around in the government program.

Suppose the program turns out to be a complete mess?  How do you unwind the mess of bureaucratic rules; how do you persuade people to give up their nice little subsidies?

Exactly.  You can't.  Short of Armageddon, people are going to demand to keep their goodies.

They will keep on demanding their goodies until the invading soldiers are going house to house raping the women, and the question is no longer subsidies and handouts, but getting food to stave off starvation.

Meanwhile the mortgage mess remains a mortgage mess.  Thanks a lot, liberals.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Liberalism will end as a joke

You can't be serious.  That is perhaps what conservatives feel as each new Obama era folly hits the headlines.

This week we saw Democrats in the House claiming that the Republican pursuit of Lois Lerner was McCarthyism.

We heard of the Dallas office of the IRS brimming with pro-Obama election fever.

We saw liberal students and faculty getting Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born woman who has risen from tribalism to an icon of freedom, uninvited as Commencement speaker at Brandeis.

We saw the Obama administration ginning up their female base with yet another equal pay act.

We saw dear old baseball legend Hank Aaron linking Obama critics to the KKK.

Yeah, I know.  Marx told us that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

But I wonder if there is a deeper truth there.  Beyond the idea that a movement begins as a cause, then becomes a business, and finally becomes a racket, I suggest that the final phase of any human endeavor is to become the butt of jokes.

And why is that?  It is because any human institution eventually gets inherited by fools, and fools are too stupid to realize they are running the place into the ground.  And so their clumsy pretense at wisdom and cunning becomes the butt of jokes.

And one day it all goes up in smoke.

Yeah, I know.  We Obama haters are desperate for a divination from the heavens that indicates that our prayers for a life after Obama will be answered.

But somehow, I have a feeling that the next 30 months leading up to the 2014 midterm and the 2016 presidential election will see a meltdown seldom seen before in US politics.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How do we beat the secular religious thugs?

The defenestration of Brendan Eich last week electrified the conservative world.  Imagine!  A guy contributes money to an initiative campaign in 2008 and that disqualifies him from running Mozilla, the non-profit foundation that makes Firefox.

So the gay rights movement has progressed from hiding in the shadows to forcing its opponents into the shadows.  That is what you call progress.

But we conservatives ask: what can we do about this?  How can we stop the lefty bullies from bullying everyone in America to kow-tow to their household gods?

The answer, of course, is Michael Novak and his Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.  In that book Novak develops what I call the Greater Separation of Powers.  It is the idea that the public square in modern society amounts to three sectors: political, economic, and moral/cultural.

When the power of the political and the economic and the moral/cultural sectors are united, you get what is called "totalitarianism."  Not good, eh Vlad?  I mean Lenin, not Putin.

In the United States our founders built a constitution based on the concept of the separation of powers that Baron Montesquieu had formulated in his Spirit of the Laws.  The three branches of government, legislative, executive, and judicial, should be separate and should fight each other for power.

The founders also pushed the idea of the separation of the political and the moral/cultural in the notion of the separation of church and state.  They didn't want an "established" church, where the government picked winners and losers on the moral/cultural front.

You can see why.  When people on a moral crusade -- such as women's rights, or climate change, or gay rights -- get the bit between their teeth, they tend to get a little carried away.  They start to recreate the Holy Office of the Inquisition, or, if you like, the OGPU, the Gestapo, the KGB.  They start by showing people with the wrong opinions the instruments of torture, and they go on from there.

So it's a good thing to separate government power from religious power, including secular religious power.  Everyone agrees about that except liberals, because liberals cannot see that their politics is in fact a religion.  There are none so blind as those who will not see.

The Brendan Eich business was not an exercise of government power, but a moral/cultural attack on a private foundation.  So it points to the next frontier in the separation of powers.

What power should moral/cultural activists have over the economic sector?  And that reminds us of the other separation of powers issues that has been boiling over for the last century and a half.  What power should the political sector have over the economic sector?

The problem of political power over the economic sector has been a contentious one forever.  Most people fear that economic power is a monster that must be held in check by the strongest political chains, or else.  The whole point of Marxism is that economic power is to the worker what the landed warrior class of the feudal era was to the peasant.

But classical political economy starting not later than the late 18th century has argued that economic power is only powerful if it responds to the market, if it makes and sells things that people want to buy. History has proved the theory correct.  There is nothing worse for prosperity than subordinating the economic sector to the whims of the political sector.

And the late Great Recession proves the rule.  Here we had government subsidizing home mortgages for a generation and forcing the credit system to loan money to sub-prime borrowers.

Now the credit system runs on two articles of faith (i.e., credere, to believe).  First, it must believe that people will make their payments.  Second, it must believe that when people can't make payments then their loan can be liquidated by the collateral pledged to guarantee the loan.

Earth to liberals:  when you force the borrowers to lend to sub-prime borrowers and you also force lenders to make low down-payment loans, you are setting up a double-whammy of a financial panic!  Because when the downturn comes not only will subprime borrowers not be able to make their payments but their under-collaterized loans can't be properly liquidated.

So that's why Michael Novak recommends a Greater Separation of Powers.  The political sector should have limited power to lord it over the economic sector and that goes for the moral/cultural sector too.

As for the economic sector, it seems that most corporate honchos couldn't care much about political and moral/cultural matters.  Except when they go to government for crony capitalist special favors.  And when they retire and decide to spend all their money on charitable giving.

Yeah.  It's not too difficult to figure out how to get out of the mess we are in.  Just reduce the power of the politicians and the moralists.  And let the economy take care of itself.

It will, you know.  Nobody knows nothing about the economy, and the political activists and moral activists least of all.  The best thing to do it just to look on the economy with wonder.  And then cash your dividend checks.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Two Midnight Rule: What Do You Expect?

What happens when government takes over health care?  You get dozens of bureaucratic horrors like the "two midnight" rule for Medicare.  What is the two midnight rule?  It is rule CMS 1599-F.
This new, Obamacare-forced rule specified that a hospital stay can only be paid for by Medicare insurance if that stay “(1) expects the beneficiary to require a stay that crosses at least two midnights and (2) admits the beneficiary to the hospital based upon that expectation.”
In the American Spectator, Jeffrey Lord does a fine job of playing the Democratic Party helpless victims game, telling the story of one Frank Alfisi, who died because he needed to be admitted to hospital to get a kidney dialysis.  A dialysis doesn't need a two day stay, so Medicare wouldn't cover it and the hospital wouldn't perform the dialysis.  Alfisi was too sick for a regular dialysis.

So President Obama killed Frank Alfisi.

On the contrary, this is what you get when you put the government in charge of things.

This is what you get when you pretend that the government can act like a compassionate daughter, like Frank's daughter Amy.

This is what happens when you believe politicians that say that they care about people.

This is what happens when people buy health insurance and assume that it takes care of everything.

The fact is that all institutions, from government to insurance companies to hospitals, run on rules.  The rules are arbitrary.  The rules say that we will do stuff for you if you the facts say one thing, and we won't do it if they say another.

Of course our modern world is drenched in institutions like this, starting with the rule of abstract principles.  Everything is subject to the tyranny of rules and principles.

In fact, of course, life is a lot messier than the rules and the abstract principles pretend.  You see it in the assumptions of Newtonian mechanics, that it is dealing with point particles and frictionless motion.

And you see it in the assumptions of 1,000 page bills to reform the whole health care system.

There are two things that can overcome the rules.

One of them is money.  If you have the money, you can tell the hospital: screw the rules; I'll pay for the admission and the dialysis.  Unfortunately for Frank Alfisi he had already spent all his money caring for his deceased wife in her terminal illness.

The other thing is love.  You can say: I don't mind what it costs, we are going to stump up the cash for dear old Dad.

But in our degenerate age we prefer to re-enact the helpless victim as poster boy melodrama.  We ask, with TV cameras rolling, how "they" could be so heartless as to deny care to Frank or to deny coverage to Betty.  Everyone knows their role, from tough reporter to tearful relative, and plays it to perfection.

Some of the better modern thinkers have recognized the problems with the modern age of reason.  They recognize that instrumental reason is mechanical, that institutions based on modern reason act "strategically," that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.  That something else is needed, something other than systems and bureaucracies.

The modern era has been going for about 200-500 years, depending on your taste.  It's long past time for anyone to be shocked by the heartlessness of modernity.  We should all recognize that modern governments and insurance companies and hospitals are purely "strategic" institutions.

If you don't want to fall between the cracks you need a Plan B.  Otherwise the "two midnight" rule or its close bureaucratic relative is going to get you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

What Will Happen to the Loser in Obamacare's War

I was talking to a dentist this morning about his win-win strategy at work.  He has a scheduler that gets a bonus every time she fills the daily schedule for the hygienists.  Win-win.  Win for the dentist, keepings his expensive hygienists busy earning revenue; win for the scheduler, who gets to share in the profits of the firm's extra revenue.

Now let's talk about government.  In the last few months I've moved from Government is Force to the idea that government needs a war.  That's why we have wars on communism, wars on poverty, wars on drugs.  It's obvious.  If government is force then government needs a job where force is called for.  Force is, we'll agree, an extreme remedy for any ill, so any government initiative must represent itself as a remedy for a monstrous evil in its inevitable call for force.  In other words, a war.

But the thing about a war is that usually it ends up with a winner and a loser.  In the great wars between nations the losing side really gets hammered.  I am thinking about France in 1815 after the Second Hundred Years War.  The fact is that France has never amounted to anything since 1815.  Or Germany after 1945.  The fact is that Germans invented pretty well everything in the period from 1800 to 1930.  But after Hitler stripped the brain out of Germany and tossed it over the Atlantic, and after Germany lost WWII, well, Germany just doesn't cut it any more.  Russia after losing the Cold War?  Not so hot.

And here's another thing.  Germany and Japan and Russia, the three big losers in the last century, all have very low birth rates, way below replacement.  In other words they are heading for oblivion.  Is that always what happens to nations defeated in war?

Now back to the US and our notorious divided nation.  And Obamacare.

Let us leave aside the notion that one of the arguments for limited government might be that we want to avoid winners and losers here at home.  Because we are all in this together.  We lost that argument, at least until the next revolution.

Let us think instead about the risk in a big domestic war like Obamacare that the folks that started the war might lose it.

It's a commonplace that nations start wars without seriously thinking about the consequences.  Certainly this has been true about Obamacare.  The Democrats went for Obamacare because it has been part of their 39 Articles since whenever: national health care.

We won, they said in 2009.  So we are going to do Obamacare.  We aren't going to do health reform that gets some Republicans in for a fig-leaf "bipartisan" bill.  So the Democrats went for decisive victory.

Imagine what would have happened if Obamacare had been a stunning success.  It would have demolished the Republican Party.  But it wasn't, and we know why.

Obamacare violated Irving Kristol's Rule.  If you want to help the poor, you must deal in the middle class.  Only Obamacare didn't.  It couldn't, because the middle class already has health insurance.

So, as Rush Limbaugh pointed out, the smart middle class voted Obamacare down in 2010.  The non-smart middle class is going to be voting against it in 2014.

Here's what I wonder.  What is going to happen to the Democrats after their glorious Eastern campaign for Obamacare hits its Stalingrad in the fall of 2014?

The reason that politicians are notorious and annoying trimmers and compromisers and log-rollers is that they instinctively know that a decisive battle is too risky.  Yeah, they could win, but what if they lose?

The consequence of Democrats losing in 2014 as the American people turn decisively against Obamacare is incalculable.  Because there has been nothing like it in our collective experience. A great government program in which one of the US political parties has invested all its marbles gets decisively defeated.  And the political party in question gets stuck owning the devastating defeat and failure.

Democrats have no clue what is about to happen to them.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Liberals Swatting at Gnats

I was dining with some liberal friends the other night and they were all tut-tutting about "Switchgate," GM's recall scandal.  GM knew for years that it had defective switches in up to 1.7 million vehicles, but refused to recall them.  About 12 people have died in accidents because of this defect.

There are two aspects of the scandal: the defect itself, and the bureaucratic coverup.

Yeah.  It's terrible.  But how many people have died as a result of Obamacare, already?  I mean, here's a story of a guy who claims his cancer medication has gone up from "$100 a pop" to "$600 a pop."  Suppose there are a mere 10,000 folks out there like him?  How many, do you think, have already decided they can't afford it?

Yeah.  Liberals are quick to rage at the horrible corporate greed in GM trying to save a few bucks on defective ignition switches.  Or the monstrosity of the Keystone XL pipeline that will put the crimp on Warren Buffett's railroad profits, or the hell of fracking.  Boy can they strain out a gnat.

But then they swallow camels by the dozen.  What about the millions of lives ruined by welfare?  What about the millions of retired Americans devastated by the government's crazy zero interest rate policy?  What about the millions of lower-income children denied a decent education by half a century of liberal special interest pandering to teachers' unions and liberal education fads?

I will tell you what this is all about.  It is about tribalism.  Let us start with John Derbyshire at Takimag:
The ordinary modes of human thinking are magical, religious, social, and personal.…Scientific objectivity is a freakish, unnatural, and unpopular mode of thought, restricted to small cliques whom the generality of citizens regard with dislike and mistrust.
 No quite, John.  Don't forget "tribal."  And the difficulty humans have with scientific ways of thinking also applies to economics and markets.

Collectivism is tribal and political.  We hesitate to criticize our own tribe.  That is why it is so hard to criticize "our teachers" in the public school system; that is why it is so hard to reform a government program.  All these things are part of our collective identity in our tribe of America.  To criticize them is to criticize America, or as the Obamis say "who we are."

But individualism, the market, the corporation, science: these are brand new concepts in the cultural experience of humans.  People are not at all sure about them and do not hesitate to criticize them for the least mistake.  We give government the benefit of the doubt while ragging on corporations for the least little thing.

We ought, instead, to give individuals and markets and corporations the benefit of the doubt and come down on politicians, bureaucrats, and political action groups like a ton of bricks.  Why?  Well let's start with the fact that politicians and bureaucrats come armed with the power of force.  Corporations and markets only act indirectly through the power of money.  You can say: I refuse to buy at Walmart.  You cannot say: I refuse to pay my taxes.

Maybe after another year of Obamacare there will be a lot of people, even a few liberals, ready to start tut-tutting about the universal scandal of government programs that kill people, and the government officials that cover up their mistakes.