Monday, May 31, 2010

Dems Bash Rich for Midterms

First it was President Obama, who told an audience in Quincy, Illinois:

“We're not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that's fairly earned. I do think at a certain point you've made enough money, but you know, part of the American way is, you can just keep on making it if you're providing a good product.”

Er, I don't think that has much to do with financial reform, Mr. President. As I see it, your financial reform package is designed to maintain government control over the finance industry. What has government domination of the finance industry done for us? Fannie. Freddie. Value of the dollar down 98 percent in 100 years. On that record we are supposed to increase the government's powers?

Then it was Hillary Clinton in a speech at the Brookings Institition urging governments to "increase their public revenue collections" to spur investment.

"The rich are not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment issues (the United States is), whether it's individual, corporate, whatever the taxation forms are," she said.

You mean increase taxes on job creators in a recession, Madam Secretary?

Then there is Robert Reich who says that "'investing' in 'people' through education and social welfare programs leads to job and economic growth."

You mean the wonderful system that gives us 15 percent of adults "below-basic" in literacy? And welfare programs that have cratered the low-income family?

If Clinton and Reich were correct, then with the massive increase in "public revenue collections" in the 20th century from about 7 percent of GDP to about 35 percent, we should be seeing a lot more jobs and economic growth. Actually, spurts in growth happened after the government lowered tax rates in the 1920s, 1960s, 1980s, and 1990s.

In fact, rich people pay rather more than their fair share of taxes, particularly income taxes. In 2006 the "top 1 percent of households earned 18.8 percent of income and paid 28.3 percent of taxes."

Democrats seem to be eager to argue for increased taxes in the upcoming mid-term elections this Fall. We will see what the American people think of that.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Big Government's Katrina

Republicans and conservatives naturally want payback on Katrina.

Famously, President Bush's failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina within moments demonstrated what Democrats had been saying all along, that Bush was a jumped-up frat boy who wasn't intelligent enough to be president.

Now everyone is saying that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is "Obama's Katrina."

But that would be a mistake. That would be missing the forest for the trees. As Rahm Emanuel said so succinctly: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

Blaming Obama would be missing a golden opportunity to have a national conversation about Big Government.

What Deepwater Horizon shows is not that Obama is incompetent. It shows that Big Government is incompetent.

It means that all the tens of thousands of programs we have built up over the last century are a waste. All the regulations and the permits in the world can't stop people from making an honest mistake. Or misreading data. Or cutting a corner. Or being in a hurry. Or just frightened to make a decision that will cost a lot of money and get them in trouble with their boss.

There's even a book about it: Normal Accidents: Living with high-risk technologies by Charles Perrow.

Humans advance by trial and error. We don't live by the precautionary principle, that we should really think through everything before we start messing around with sacred Mother Earth. We can't. Life is too short. So we push blindly ahead and every now and again we make a mess. Sometimes it's a big mess. Then we clean it up.

The great advance in the last century is in just how good we have got in keeping things clean and in cleaning up messes.

Peggy Noonan is right to point out that Deepwater Horizon is a disaster for Obama and his political philosophy. (Imagine if this happened on President Bush's watch!) So it is.

But that's why we needed the Obama presidency. We needed the American people to see that it wasn't George W. Bush who was the problem. The issue isn't competence of presidents, the delusional god of liberals.

The problem is that you can't run a complex world with hierarchical bureaucracies and regulations and permits and "Mr. President, is it safe?" Life is much messier than that.

Let's not pile on President Obama. Even if he deserves it. Let's concentrate on the bigger picture. Let's focus on the failure of Big Government.

The American people deserve something better than blundering Big Government.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Slow Growth Hurts Obama

It's hard to know exactly when the Bush economy becomes the Obama economy. But if I were an Obami I'd be hitting the panic button right now.

Why? Because the GDP growth estimate for the first quarter of 2010 has just been lowered to 3.0 percent. Already, therefore, the gangbusters growth of the fourth quarter, 5.7 percent, has moderated, according to AP.

The economy grew at a 3 percent annual rate from January to March, the Commerce Department said Thursday. That was slightly weaker than an initial estimate of 3.2 percent a month ago. The new reading, based on more complete information, also fell short of economists' forecast for stronger growth of 3.4 percent.

The usual guesstimate is that you need more than 3 percent growth to get the unemployment rate down. So 3 percent doesn't get that headline barometer on the economy down fast enough to make the Obama economy look like a winning issue, not in 2010 or in 2012.

Conservatives would say that it serves him right.

Obama's economic policy has been right out of the Keynesian playbook: print money and crank up government spending "stimulus." Next year Obama will be raising tax rates.

It's the opposite of the Reagan playbook, which was tight money, lower tax rates, and cut domestic spending.

So we are getting a laboratory test of the two competing recipes for cooking up economic growth. They can't both be right.

The reasoning behind the conservative policy is pretty simple. Government is a dead weight on the economy, so if you reduce government spending you reduce the weight. Tax rates affect economic behavior. Low tax rates encourage business activity. Easy money doesn't really help the economy. Business and savers need a solid monetary unit that keeps its value. Easy money creates a bubble economy in which the least sophisticated get burned, as we saw in the recent real-estate bubble.

We can expect more and more desperate measures from the Obama administration in the months ahead as it tries one thing after another to ignite growth. After November, of course, there's a good likelihood that the president will have a Republican Congress to deal with.

Wouldn't it be delightful if the president, against his instincts, agreed to tax cuts and spending cuts proposed by a Republican Congress--you know, with its foot on his neck, as we say these days--and then got reelected when the economy caught fire.

Because never mind whose idea it was, if the economy turns around before 2012 then it turns around on Obama's watch.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's the Pensions, Stupid

When are we going to stop public employees from ripping us off?

O never mind that the average public employee earns about 50 percent more than the average private sector employee.

No, never mind about that. It's not the salaries. It's the pensions, stupid.

If you want the policy analysis, go to this briefing from the National Center for Policy Analysis.

If you just want the News at Eleven tidbits, Mark Hemingway is your man. He suggests you pop over to to check out the pensions in the great state of California. Warning: Not for the faint of heart.

[The site] provides a searchable database of all 12,201 public employees in that state earning six-figure pensions.

In case you were wondering, Bruce Malkenhorst, former city administrator from Vernon, Calif., earns a pension of $509,664 a year. Yes, you read that right.

Let's head for New York. Even The New York Times is getting into the act--actually reporting news that reflects badly on Big Government. Hemingway again.

The Times reported "13 New York City police officers recently retired at age 40 with pensions above $100,000 a year; nine did so in their 30s."

Well, isn't that nice.

Some day soon, some politician is going to ride the public pension scandal into national office.

Now I wonder who that would be? It would have to be a politician expert at framing an issue into a sound bite. It would have to be someone with some street cred as a common-sense conservative. And it would have to be someone with exquisite timing.

You'd almost think it would have to be a woman. Now, let me think...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Palin and Polarization

You could tell that most people were a bit embarrassed when Sarah Palin accused President Obama of being too cosy with BP last weekend. Is she crazy? Don't Democrats hate the eevil oil corporations?

But after the White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs patronizingly responded that Palin should "get slightly more informed as to what's going on in and around oil drilling in this country", the spunky Alaskan responded by Twitter.

"Obama is the top recipient of BP PAC & individual money over the past 20 years. Dispute these facts," she wrote, linking to a Politico article citing campaign finance reporting showing more than $3.5 million given to candidates by BP since 1990.

Ouch. Be careful Bob. Palin knows quite a lot about the energy issue.

Earth to Dems: Do not misunderestimate Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin might not yet be up to speed on the arcane details of foreign policy but she is a practical politician that knows how to frame an issue.

But will Palin turn out to be too polarizing to win in 2012? I listened to an east-coast gay tell how he "loathed" Sarah Palin--because of all the usual Democratic talking points, especially gay marriage.

You wonder whether the Democrats have managed to define Sarah Palin as so out of the mainstream to make it very difficult for moderate women to support her.

No doubt Palin would disagree. Her book Going Rogue went to great lengths to present her as a Common Sense Conservative. In her speeches since she has said "common-sense conservative" with practically every other sentence. She is obviously aiming for the center.

The danger for Democrats is that when the moderate women get to know Palin in the middle of 2012 they may discover that she is completely different from the image that Democrats have invented for her.

But still, Palin has a long uphill road to travel. Unlike a certain American politician who, despite a career as a left-liberal, presented himself to the American people in his immaculate conception at the Democratic Convention in 2004 as a healing moderate.

Who knows what will transpire? But we do know this. Sarah Palin sure has a way of putting herself in the middle of everything. She did it with her "death panels" remark on ObamaCare and now she is doing it with the gulf oil spill.

What issue will come next? Taxes? Supreme Court? Public Pensions?

Whatever it is, it will be timed to have the maximum impact.

Monday, May 24, 2010

One minute Nancy Pelosi is trumpeting jobs, jobs, jobs.

The next minute she is telling the Democratic Party's creative artists that "you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations because you will have health care."

Huh? How do those go together?

It all goes back to Marx, writes Bill Kristol. The young Marx wrote that people wouldn't be stuck in a single occupation in the socialist society. Instead they would be able to follow their bliss. The older Marx worked on the excruciating policy analysis economic necessities in Das Kapital.

Then later, along came John Maynard Keynes, who promised a life free from economic necessity and the hag-ridden "pseudo-moral principles" of the last 200 years, but not yet.

This promise of two incompatible things before breakfast reflects the over-under nature of the Democratic Party. On the one hand it is the party of creative elitists who want a life of ease so they can follow their bliss into arcane academic research and the creative arts. But it also represents the ordinary worker who just wants a good paying job.

Conservatives, writes Kristol, want none of this dual delusion.

We conservatives, for our part, reject this as the worst of both worlds: stultifying big government statism on the one hand, and dangerously utopian liberationism on the other...

And we conservatives differ from Keynes in having regard for the bourgeois virtues. We believe those virtues (itself a conservative word, these days) do have a certain worth and dignity—that bourgeois life does not make fair foul and foul fair.

So for conservatives, it’s jobs in the day and tea parties after dinner, with hunting and church and patriotic parades on the weekends. Not to mention a flourishing private sector to provide jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs to all the Pelosi Democrats voted out of office this November.

Amen to that, brother.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Really the Liberal Trilemma

Yesterday we introduced the Rodrik Trilemma: How to reconcile democracy, national sovereignty, and global economic cooperation.

But it's not really Rodrik's problem. It's the Liberal Trilemma. We wouldn't have this problem if liberals didn't insist on running everything.

Democracy? Sure, the people should rule, through the rule of the politicians, as explained by Joseph Schumpeter. But the people (or rather the politicians) should not exercise the power to grab all the resources of the nation to distribute to their pals. Or more to the point, the politicians should be wise enough to insist on limited government. Because too much political power will end up destroying society.

National sovereignty? Sure, nations should be a power unto themselves. But they should be careful what they wish for. Absolute national sovereignty is national autarky, where a nation wants for nothing outside its own borders. But you can't have that in practice, nor should you want to. A nation should take its place in the family of nations, jealous of the others for sure, but anxious to lower the level of family argument.

Global economic cooperation and free trade? Sure. As much as you can stomach. It is, after all, only the desire to reward our supporters and flip off other nations that induces us to restrict the free flow of goods and services in this world.

It's not too hard is it? Everything in this world would be better if only liberals weren't messing things up with their Culture of Compulsion.

When liberals abandon their delusive dream of a world of liberals, by liberals and for liberals, then we can get on with the human project.

Right, all we seem to do is clean up liberal messes: the corrupt, cruel, unjust, and wasteful precipitate of liberal delusions.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Solving Dani Rodrik's Trilemma

Huh? Rodrik's Trilemma? What's that all about?

Sorry to be so abrupt, but I only read about it last night in this article about the Euro crisis. The idea is that you can't have democracy, national sovereignty, and global free trade all at once. Let's let Turkish-born Dani Rodrik tell the story from his own blog.

I have an "impossibility theorem" for the global economy... It says that democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full.

But then, why would we want to? Of course, on his blog, Dani thinks in terms of bureaucratic arrangements overseen by policy experts. But we are better than that.

So let's recast the problem. Let's call democracy the conflict of the factions. In a pure case, the current civil war in Thailand, you have two political factions, "competing patronage networks, bound together primarily by personal loyalties and emotional attachments," each with about 40 percent of the vote duking it out on the streets.

Let's call national sovereignty the conflict of the nations. In a pure case it is Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia fighting the war of the worlds--for what? Hitler wanted access to Russia's resources.

Let's call global economic integration the conflict of the corporations. In the pure case it is auto or cellphone companies competing for the custom of the global consumers.

Notice what is missing in this? Exactly. We have the political sector, the economic sector, but somehow the moral/cultural sector went missing.

And, of course, the moral/cultural sector has the answer to the problem.

The answer to the trilemma is Don't.

In democracy, don't try to establish a vast tribal patronage faction that imagines that it obtains economic security with a culture of compulsion featuring tax and spend and crony capitalism.

In national sovereignty, don't think like Hitler that you have to have military control of resources to be safe. In the modern world all resources are available on the global market. And the real resource that matters is not under the ground but between the ears.

In global economic integration, don't try to run your corporation on the assumption that it has to take over the world in order to be safe. Hey, corporations come and go. People move on. Life goes on.

Of course, the injunction "Don't" is the injunction of all the great Axial Age religions. They all recommend dialing back the conflict and surrendering to the fact that you can't force the world to guarantee your security and your safety.

"In service is perfect freedom:" that's the injunction from Christianity. Don't try to dominate the world. Try to serve the world.

Do that and you won't have a trilemma.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Young Turk Doesn't Get It

Liberal commentator Cenk Uygur doesn't want to hear messenger Lee Harris. He'd rather stick with his liberal faith system. That's my take from Cenk's interview with Harris on The Young Turks. (Cenk is a Turkish American. Get it?)

In his new book The Next Civil War: The Populist Revolt Against the Liberal Elite, Lee Harris fleshes out the commonplace conservative meme that the tea party movement "is only the latest installment of an ongoing cultural war that began long before the current economic crisis. It is a rebellion against a self-appointed intellectual elite" that knows what is best for everyone.

Liberal Cenk wants none of it. But his arguments against Harris are instructive.

First of all, he argues that, while he accepts the Tea Party disillusionment with the bailouts, he also believes that Tea Partiers, while not actually racists, are still protesting the passing of their power. They can no longer pass the same job down to their sons, because there is a pesky Hispanic or black competing for that job.

And the Tea Party rage is misdirected. It's not the liberal elite that's the problem, it's the "establishment" in Wall Street and Washington, insurance companies that want to cut you off for a pre-existing condition, eevil corporations, etc.

Now this, to me, shows a very interesting blindness. It is addressed this very day by Victor Davis Hanson in "The Technocrats' New Clothes." Climategate, the Icelandic volcano, and the Greek meltdown tell us that the all-knowing technocratic elite don't know so much after all, writes Hanson.

So let's go back to Cenk's two arguments. First of all, the only reason that a father could pass a job down to his son was that the liberal elite insisted we had to give monopoly powers to labor unions, and institute "prevailing wage" laws that discriminated in the 1930s against unorganized Negro workers. Anyway, since labor unions in the private sector are almost defunct, except in government protected sectors like autos and government construction, what's the problem, except where powerful liberals get to put their kids into elite universities.

If there is a passing of power, it is that the once-favorite clients of the liberal elite, the white working class, are no longer favorite clients. But the white working class never had much power. The political power then and now resided with the liberal political, educational, and cultural elite.

Secondly, the power of the Wall Street and Washington "establishments" issue directly from the power and size of government. If government weren't so big and powerful, then the Washington establishment wouldn't be so powerful. And if government weren't sluicing so many bonds through Wall Street then the Wall Street establishment wouldn't be so powerful.

Why is government so big and powerful? Because liberals, through their dominance of the day-to-day public square, particularly through news media, through education, and through the TV and movies, want government to be involved in everything from health care to the environment.

When you decide that you want most things decided in the political sector then you create a huge political establishment trying to influence the way that the trillions of dollars are spent. But that establishment is an establishment that the liberal elite wished into being with their big-government political philosophy.

There have been some comments in recent days about the decline of the old WASP establishment. The elevation of Elena Kagan, Jewish American, to the Supreme Court would mean that there are almost no Protestants left on the court, according to Robert Frank. The Protestant establishment has slowly declined away from its once all-powerful domination of politics and culture.

Well yes. But the point is that the WASPs have gracefully allowed new competitors to displace them. They have not used the power of the state to keep the newcomers down. They played by the rules, and the rules moved them out of power.

But what about the liberal elite? First of all, liberals like Cenk Uygur deny that they even constitute an elite. Why would they want to do that? Secondly, when challenged, they fight dirty. You can start with the vilification of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Robert Bork, George W. Bush, Miguel Estrada, and Sarah Palin. You could continue with the bare-knuckle governing methods that rammed the unpopular health bill through Congress.

The great question facing the United States is not that there are populists that have less than pure motives for their populist rage, or that the populist activists are likely to be misled by special interests. Hey, what else is new?

The great question is whether the liberals will go quietly when they are shown the door.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crime and Society

One thing leads to another. I was reading an article about something or other and saw the name Leon Festinger. He's the chap that developed cognitive dissonance theory.

Cognitive dissonance theory observes that people adjust their beliefs to rationalize their behavior rather than the other way around. But enough of that.

Here's what struck me. Festinger did work on social networks. Quoting Wikipedia:

Festinger explored the various forms that social groups can take and showed, together with Schachter and Back, "how norms are clearer, more firmly held and easier to enforce the more dense a social network is."

Oh really. So that would explain the explosion in crime during the 20th century. The looser that social networks are, and the more people live in the city with few social ties, the less they are likely to conform to social norms.

This is telling us, in case you wondered, that the way to break up society is to make the natural social networks less strong. Then, of course, you have to compensate by increasing the size of government and multiplying the number of laws, and increasing the span of "zero tolerance" and general frightfulness.

And you sit around and decide that, despite your immense education and compassion, there is nothing you can do about crime and social breakdown.

The whole thrust of conservatism, ever since Edmund Burke, is that the key to social tranquility is the "little platoons." People owe their greatest loyalty to the little platoons, and will contribute most to them. Little people, on the other hand, get lost in big organizations. That's why big organizations need to have bureaucracies and rules and enforcement mechanisms.

The trick, of course, in this modern, global age, is to balance the loyalty to the small and the particular with tolerance for and trust in the universal. We want people to be able to learn to trust foreigners and people of different religions and different culture.

Conservatives believe that this is best achieved in a society where government, the agency of force and division, is as small as possible and voluntary association is as large as possible. Conservatives want people to be richly connected in a dense network of social organizations from the family to the church, to the fraternal association and to their place of work.

Liberals, on the other hand, want to free themselves from the local--the family and the church. They want to live like Romantics, creating original works of art in yeasty and exciting urban bohemia. But of course, when you burst out of local community you have to replace it with something, because we all need the support of social institutions. That's why liberals support the welfare state.

And that's why the US is divided into two political camps: the married with children, religious, working population orbiting around the Republican Party and the single, childless, secular and non-working folks gravitating towards the Democratic Party.

The agenda for conservatives is clear: work on encouraging and fertilizing the non-governmental associations. That's a society that needs fewer laws, less compulsion, less conflict. No doubt it will also be less violent, more sociable, and happier.

And that's why women are the future of conservatism. Because women are best at the local and the intimate, relationship and face to face.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How Do We Get Out of This?

How much money should the government spend, asks columnist Robert Samuelson? That is the question raised by the huge Obama deficits and the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.

It's also the question raised in Britain by Janet Daley when she writes: "Labour Must Admit It -- Big Government is Dead."

Unfortunately the problem is bigger than than just arguing about how big the government should be. The problem starts with the whole question of what government is for.

Michael Barone raises the question rather neatly in an article dissecting Attorney General Eric Holder's reluctance to admit that radical Islamism is a problem. It's the belief that ordinary Americans are a Howling Mob.

The reason that President Bush rushed out on 9/11 and urged Americans to be nice to their Muslim neighbors issues from the same source as Holder's reluctance to name. Both of them fear the Howling Mob. They fear that Americans are just one knee-jerk away from descending on their Muslim neighbors and killing them--or their African American neighbors, or their gay/lesbian neighbors.

It's that patronizing elitism that drives the whole notion of big government. Ordinary people can't be trusted to be civilized; government must instruct them. Ordinary people can't be trusted to educate their children; government must teach them. Ordinary people can't be trusted to get health insurance; government must mandate it.

The attitude becomes self-validating, for when people don't have to suck it in and run their lives responsibly, many don't. If many people act irresponsibly, then elites assume that ordinary people are irresponsible. And why not? The bigger the government the more power to the governing elite.

The proper answer to the question about the size of government is this: Government should not be a jot bigger than it has to be to keep the peace and run the legal system. That's because anything is better than teenagers and twenty-somethings running around in the street with guns.

As for everything else, Americans would be a lot better off, materially and morally, if they did for themselves rather than paying big government to do it badly. They would be more involved in their children's education, more involved in granny's health care, and more involved in pitching in to contribute to civic improvements.

But what about the poor? Well, with all the money not going into taxes, then Americans would have a lot of money, and a lot of moral inducement to get out there and help. They could start by helping out a neighbor, and quietly help a parent with school fees, and go on from there.

With government a lot smaller, it would be able to expand rapidly in time of war or emergency and help get the nation out of a jam. Without breaking the bank.

As for the Howling Mob, here's a little known fact. Ordinary people very seldom turn into a mob. It usually takes a charismatic leader--i.e., a politician--to arouse their rage and get them to surrender their individuality and their timidity to the madness of a crowd.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gender Imbalance in Education

There is a shocking gender imbalance in the nation's higher education system, raising huge questions of equity and discrimination.

Yes, you are right. Women are enrolling and graduating at rates totally in excess of their share of the population. They are outrageously and inequitably overrepresented in college enrollments and graduations.

Dr. Mark J. Perry of the University of Michigan is the guy keeping track of these numbers. Here is how the imbalance is expected to work out in the Class of 2010, showing the number of women graduating per 100 men. (Perry's numbers from here).


You can see what is going on. Women are outgraduating men in all areas that don't lead directly to a job.

But, of course, all the programs to encourage women and discourage men are still in place. It just shows the utter incompetence of the poltical system to do anything except hit people over the head. Back in 1970 the men/women university graduation rate of all degrees was 60/40. By 2017 it will be 40/60.

OK let's take another look at the numbers. This time it is enrollment in graduate school by gender (numbers from here).

Health Science100398
Physical Science10049
Public Admin.100292

You can see the comical nature of the current push to advance women in engineering and science, the so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) effort that hit the radar during the defenestration of Harvard President Larry Summers. I guess the sisters won't be happy until women are outgraduating men in all disciplines!

But the numbers speak for themselves. Women predominate in the areas that are stereotypically interesting to women: teaching children, caring for peoples' health, organizing people. They are underrepresented in areas that are not so interesting to women: areas dealing with things rather than people.

You really wonder about the sanity (let alone the wisdom) of pushing so hard against nature.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Government Legislating Morality

We all know that conservatives are all eager to act as moral policemen, eager to spy on liberals in the bedroom. And we all utterly deprecate it.

But what about liberals?

Moral Police Inspector Michelle Obama wants to tell us what to eat. Armed with a task force report she and her food police sergeants are eager to implement 70 recommendations to improve child nutrition.

Then there's Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn whose "Walk Bike Ride" initiative aims to change the transportation system in Seattle to encourage walking, biking and transit and discourage automobile transportation.

At a loftier level there's Derek Bok, former president of Harvard, and his new book The Politics of Happiness. Bok has looked at other countries whose governments now are working on Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. He has a stack of government policy recommendations for the US so that it can increase happiness.

Nobody doubts that it is a good thing for children to eat healthy and for people to walk and for people to be happy. The question is: should the government get involved, given that government is force?

Liberals get annoyed with me when I point out that all this government action that puts a moral spin on things, or puts government in charge of happiness, is a violation of the First Amendment, or at least Thomas Jefferson's take on it. In the US we have a separation between Church and State. That is, beyond actually banning an establishment of religion, we feel that the moral and the political should be kept apart.

Liberals get annoyed because they don't think that their political agenda should be considered a religion. But if you are secular and don't belong to a church, then your only way of establishing moral order is through government directly, or indirectly through government schools and government colleges.

Just as we all agree that the Spanish Inquisition was a bad thing, enforcing the moral rules of the Catholic Church with a moral police force and the death penalty, so the same should apply to all governmental efforts to sneak out of the bread and butter of government, the providing of basic public services, into the more exhilarating world of moral militancy.

It's comical, really, that our liberal friends have smuggled the idea of a national church in the back door, but they do that with everything. It will end, of course, in tears. The idea of separating the moral and the legal is a highly sophisticated idea that allows a gray area of behavior that may be morally condemned but not legally sanctioned. That gray area we call freedom. But liberals seem to end up implementing everything on their moral agenda with a law. And that means enforcement by the cops or, as we now say, "enforcement officers," and it reduces the area of freedom, the right to make mistakes.

The problem posed by the the secularization of society erupted immediately upon the birth of the secular society with the French Revolution in 1789. Politicians like Robespierre found themselves enmeshed in the moral, and enforcing the moral code with the guillotine. We have created a word to describe the government that combines secular lawgiving with secular religion: Totalitarian. And the French revolutionaries spawned the bloodier secular religio-political regimes we know as communism and fascism.

I'd just say to Michelle Obama, to Mayor McGinn, to Derek Bok, and to all my liberal friends: be true to your ideals. Believe in the separation of church and state and apply it to your own moral agenda. If you don't you'll be sorry.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dear Sen. Patty Murray

Yesterday, Senator, you voted against reform. You voted against cleaning up our financial mess. You voted for crony capitalism.

Yet The Wall Street Journal reports that no Democratic senators were to be seen as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) led the debate against Sen. John McCain's amendment to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the bankrupt government mortgage twins. And only two Democratic senators, Feingold and Bayh, voted for reform.

And yet you are running for reelection to the US Senate this fall? Are you serious?

Maybe your staff hasn't quite brought you up to speed on this. The primary cause of the financial meltdown in Fall 2008 was the flood of mortgage debt--about $5.5 trillion in all--sluiced into the credit markets by the the two Government Sponsored Enterprises. All the CDOs and CDSs and other Wall Street shenanigans that you tribunes of the people railed against were merely dodges to hide the government-created mess of liar loans and dress them up for fixed-income pension funds.

If there is one thing the nation needs to do, before health care, before stimulus, before green energy, before fixing education, it is to put the Fannie Freddie era behind us and bring sanity back to the nation's mortgage finance.

On Tuesday you refused to do that, voting to kick the can down the road.

And that tells the voters of Washington State all they need to know about your fitness to serve another six years in the United States Senate.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Question for Elena Kagan

I know that conservatives are all fulminating right now about Elena Kagan's policy while Dean of the Harvard Law School. She banned military recruiters from the law school on account of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy on gays in the armed forces.

Well what do you expect? She's a liberal. Anyway, I believe that liberal ideas on gays and the military, together and separately, come under the category of "worse than a crime, a blunder." Eventually they will blow liberalism apart, or if that fails, blow the nation apart. I believe that upon the Kantian categorical imperative: If everyone did that, then what?

So if I were a senator "axing" questions of the second Obama Supreme Court nominee I wouldn't give any time to questions about gays and gay marriage. Either the liberals will sneak gay marriage into the constitution or they won't. If they do then it will be a false signal to foolish young people that don't understand the folly of childlessness.

No. My line of questioning would go something like this.

"Back in 1933, President Roosevelt ordered the American people to turn in their gold for dollars. Then he devalued the dollar. Do you think that is constitutional, Ms. Kagan?

"Given that the United States is facing a huge entitlements crisis in the years ahead, the government will be wanting to access more money to pay for its programs.

"Do you think that the government has the power under the constitution to reach into peoples' savings accounts denominated in foreign currencies and convert them into dollars and then devalue the dollar?

"Do you think that the government has the power under the constitution to reach into peoples' 401(k) accounts and levy a percentage of the assets in a national emergency?

"Do you think that the government has the power under the constitution to reduce Social Security payments?

"Do you think the government has the power under the constitution to reduce Medicare benefits?

"Do you think the government has the power under the constitution to reduce public employee retirement benefits?

"Inquiring citizens, and in particular my constituents back home, would like to know, Ms. Kagan.

"In point of fact, whose side are you on, Ms. Kagan?"

These questions may seem rather arcane to you readers right now. But think about the Greek bailout. Think about the GM and Chrysler bailouts. Think about the fact that the dollar, worth 1/20 ounce of gold a century ago is now worth about 1/1200 ounce of gold and no end in sight.

These will be the great questions of the next 20 years.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tea Party: First Blood

If the Tea Party means anything it means limited government. That means government is limited.

So maybe it's appropriate that the first real casualty should be a Republican senator from Utah, Robert Bennett. He was denied a place on the Republican primary ballot for the US Senate by the Utah Republican State Convention.

If political principles mean anything, they should mean that we, our side, our guys, follow our principles. Principles mean nothing if they are just cats-paws that we use to scratch the other side.

That's what the Democrats did with their two election victories in 2006 and 2008. They ran on Republican principles of waste and corruption. And the American people responded. But as soon as they were elected they proceeded to pay themselves a $787 billion stimulus and ram through a monstrous ObamaCare that will waste trillions. All that stuff wasn't supposed to apply to Democrats, just eevil Republicans.

First put your own house in order. Maybe teaching over-spending Republicans a lesson will let the odd Democrat through, so the new Congress in 2011 won't be as conservative as it might be. But principles matter. It matters that, if we conservatives believe in limited government, we hold our office-holders to that standard before we hold Democrats to that standard.

We're not talking about a mad consistency. We are just talking about a sensible practical consistency that people, especially moderate voters, can respect.

Above all, the people that must earn our respect are the Tea Party moms like Dana Loesch. They are thinking about the future of their children.

"Motherhood itself has become a political act," says Ms. Loesch. "And the tea parties are an extension of our need as moms to protect the future for our children."

It was about a year ago that I wrote that we needed a woman-centered conservatism. But the gals were there before me.

Mind you, it makes sense. After the exhilaration of liberation, women are now back to thinking about the big picture. And the big picture for women means the welfare of their children and their families.

When you think about the welfare of children and of families, you start to think about limiting the power of government. It just comes naturally.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Brits Are No Fools

So the British voters decided not to decide. They made the Conservative Party the biggest party in Parliament. Latest results are Conservatives: 305 seats, Labour: 258, Lib-Dems: 57. But the voters denied the Tories the 326 seats that would give them a majority.

It makes sense. The Tories are the center-right party. They don't really believe in the relentless expansion of the centralized welfare state.

But nearly everyone in Britain is sucking from the nanny state's teat. You can imagine that they are hesitant about weaning themselves off nanny's milk, even if the country is running a 10 percent of GDP deficit. Even if Greece is imploding just down the street.

In a way, it would be better for the Tories if the center left parties formed a coalition and governed against them. Then the center-left parties would be confronted with the need to do something about their cruel, corrupt, unjust, and wasteful welfare state. They might actually cut some spending!

Then they could take the blame for the cuts and let the Tories take over when the bloodletting was over.

But that is hoping for too much. The likely scenario is that the Conservative Party under David Cameron will form a government and implement some spending cuts and be forever after pilloried as the cruel Tories that cut the heart out of Britain.

Or maybe not. If David Cameron has a special skill, it would be to talk to the center and entice it into believing that he cares about Middle Britain almost as much as his posh Tory friends. If he can do that, then maybe he can form a new center-right coalition to push back against the center-left consensus that has ruled Britain since 1965 with only a brief Thatcher interregnum in the 1980s.

There is always hope.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Brit Voters in a Foul Mood

Today the Brits go to the polls to elect a new government. The polls are still tight, showing the Tories (the nickname for the Conservative Party comes from the Irish for outlaw or robber) in the lead by six to eight points with a mere 36 to 38 percent of the vote.

But of course, nobody knows what will happen, because it all depends on the turnout. Are Conservative voters mad as hell about the utter failure of the Labour government that started with Wordsworthian bliss thirteen years ago? Will "middle Britain switch back from Labour to Tory? Will Labour voters turn out to vote for the party that told them they were bigots? Just how many of the people that got all a-shiver over the Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg at the TV debate a couple of weeks ago will actually get to the polling booth?

That's the point of elections. After the campaigning and punditry is done, it comes down to the voters. My prediction is that Labour voters will be just a little less enthusiastic and Conservative voters just a little more enthusiastic than the pollsters' turnout models assume.

The big question is whether the winning David Cameron can convince the people of Britain to knuckle under to swingeing spending cuts like the Irish. Or whether the government workers will take to the streets as they have in Greece.

The great failing of Margaret Thatcher was that she failed to persuade the great middle of Britain that her Thatcherite policies were really best for all Britons. She always found herself in a fight. Maybe back then it was inevitable. Someone had to face down the coal-miners union in the epic strike of the 1980s.

But the trick for David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party in Britain, is to persuade the Brits that they are all in this together. That everyone must sacrifice, and all will benefit. That is what government is for, after all. It is there to rally the people in the face of military invasion or natural disaster. It is there to trigger the social-animal instincts and rally the nation when it is threatened.

Can he do it? We'll have to wait and see. Voters have a funny way of voting in exactly the person they need to get them out of a jam. Think of Ronald Reagan. But Britain is not the US, and it doesn't have quite the special dispensation that looks after children, drunks, and the US of A.

Meanwhile, the British people are voting, and for the moment, nobody knows anything.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why Blacks Vote Big Government

The great generation of African Americans that came to maturity before the civil rights revolution were not all Democrats. Some of them turned into eminent conservatives. So 74-year-old like Walter Williams confesses that it's a great disappointment to him that so many blacks support big government.

[T]he unique history of black Americans should make us, above all other Americans, most suspicious of any encroachment on personal liberty and most distrustful of government.

When blacks were slaves, government had laws to repress them. Now that blacks are free, government fails to protect them from crime and fails to educate their children. Why would blacks support a party that betrays them so cruelly?

Here's a couple of reasons why. The first is a universal. Nobody objects when the government wants to cut you a check. In fact the smallest measurable time interval on Earth is the time between getting a check from the government and deciding that you deserve it.

Second, we turn to developmental psychology. It finds that many people, particularly those with marginal skills, experience life as a power struggle between the people and the powerful. That is why Al Gore in his presidential campaign said that he was fighting for the people against the powerful. (If only!) People that think like that attach themselves to a powerful patron---for protection from the other powerful forces in society. They "go along to get along." Does the powerful patron exploit them? Sure, but think how much worse it would be without his protection.

People emerge from out of this world view when they acquire the skills to make it in the city (and often acquire enthusiastic Christianity). They begin to think that they can make it on their own (or with God's help). Then they start to believe in liberty and Don't Tread On Me.

In his book The New Americans Michael Barone shows how almost all immigrant groups to the US go through this process of emergence. The ones that experienced the heaviest repression in the old country (the Irish and the blacks) are the slowest to emerge from the "people vs. the powerful" mindset. When they do, they start to feel like Americans, rather than hyphenated Americans.

That's why the question asked by the MSNBC reporterette of an African American at a tea party rally is canonical. She wondered if he didn't feel uncomfortable, you know, being surrounded by all those white people. His reply was classic.

"No, No. These are my people. Americans."

Get it?

I have a dream. That one day, almost all African Americans will think the same.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object

Fred Barnes thinks that the Obama administration has deliberately ramped up to ramming speed (shades of Ben-Hur) in an effort to get as much of the liberal agenda enacted as possible before Congress is purged of its liberal galley slaves in November.

Meanwhile Peggy Noonan reviews the movement of rejection that is building in the heartland. On immigration, the political class has ignored the concerns of ordinary folks (for the understandable reason that they don't want to lose the Hispanic vote) and ordinary folks just aren't going to take it any more.

Maybe you can call the Obama-Reid-Pelosi trireme an irresistible force, but, as the picture in the Journal shows, it looks like it's heading over a waterfall.

As a former Brit, I've been watching the campaign over there for the General Election on Thursday, and I've been marveling at the difference in the political atmosphere. Over there in Britland, you see a surly lot of voters that are fed up with their political elite. But they don't seem to be riled up enough to do anything about it. They grumble and whine, but that's all they do. They expect their leaders to come up with the answer.

Over here, the difference is palpable. People are just as pissed off, but they are are not sitting around waiting for leadership. They are getting up off their duffs and doing something about it.

And I mean both liberals and conservatives. Our liberal friends have just come off an eight-year effort discrediting everything the evil George W. Bush ever said or did. Hey, it worked! It got them the best result for Democrats in an election since 1964.

Now we've got conservatives and Tea Partiers revved up and they are taking to the streets and the telephones and the internet in a determined effort to do something about the radical, socialist, Marxist President Obama and his rubber-stamp Congress. The elections this November are shaping up as the biggest political earthquake since 1994. And very likely more.

Is this a great country or what?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Whatever Happened to the Third Way?

Back in the Nineties, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were advertising something new in politics. They called it a Third Way between left and right.

Bill Clinton talked about the New Democrats that understood the limits of big government and got elected when Ross Perot split the conservative vote, and Tony Blair led a rejuvenated New Labour Party to a stunning victory in 1997.

How then did the Democrats offer up Barack Obama with his trillion dollar stimulus and his two trillion dollar ObamaCare? And how come that the Labour Party in Britain is running third in the polls for the General Election on Thursday? That set Michael Barone wondering what had happened to the "Third Way."

Both parties have moved well to the left. Barack Obama and Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, head governments that are running budget deficits of 10 percent of gross domestic product. Both are promoting higher taxes and expansion of government programs.

So what's so wrong with the Third Way strategy that both parties have dumped it? There's no indication that the Third Way has lost popularity with the voters. But the "lurch to the left" has certainly run into trouble, so much so that the left is blaming the voters as bigots (Britain) and racists (US).

The answer to the problem is simple. The liberal elite in both countries never really believed in the Third Way. The Third Way was always just a tactical maneuver.

Instead the liberal elite believes in itself. It believes that the enlightened elite should guide the political sector and that the political sector should closely micromanage the economic sector. The moral/cultural sector should stay out of it except when it speaks with a liberal or secular voice.

There's no point in being an enlightened, educated elite unless you get the power and the prestige as well. A lightly regulated, self-responsible economic sector would be no fun at all to the liberal elite, for it would suggest that the elite and its expertise was unnecessary.

The fact is that this is nothing new. Ever since Rousseau in the 18th century the educated class has believed that it was born to rule, and it has argued tirelessly that nobody else was morally or ethically fit to rule. Not the middle class, not the capitalists, and certainly not the religious leaders. And of course the working class, bless their hearts, needed guidance.

There's a problem with this political philosophy. It is that the educated elite knows nothing about the practical things of making and doing. It wants to stand around naming and blaming, taxing and spending. And it also wants to thrill to the roar of the crowd. But its plans and programs always end in corruption and failure.

There will be more "Third Ways" in our future, and more New Democrats and New Labours. The liberal educated elite moves tactically to the center whenever it needs to. But after it gets elected it soon gets back to its old habits, and we end up with Obamas and Browns.

One wag recently went to the London zoo and decided that Gordon Brown "is like a camel in a filthy mood."

Who knows what Barack Obama will look like after another year or two as president?