Monday, January 31, 2011

Oh, The Shame of It!

The whole point of British costume drama series is that they are, well, a little higher toned than the US variety. The implication is that the viewers, also, are a cut above.

Imagine my dismay at Masterpiece Theatre's Downton Abbey, which finished its first season with a cheap cliffhanger straight of of Dallas.

Oh the shame of it!

Of course there is nothing wrong with Maggie Smith playing an impossible dowager countess, though she played the role before in Gosford Park. There is nothing wrong with three problem upper-class daughters. There is nothing wrong with a a rather over-solid butler. There is nothing wrong with a rich American heiress putting new blood in a threadbare British aristocratic family. There is nothing wrong with an Earl of Grantham utterly abandoned to his noblesse oblige and sending the cook to London for eye surgery.

There is nothing wrong with beginning the series with the Sinking of the Titanic--so many friends lost, darling--and ending with the outbreak of the Great War.

But when you end the series with (plot spoiler!) the ridiculous smashup of the budding romance between the heroine, Lady Mary Crawley, and the hero, middle-class solicitor Matthew Crawley, over the ridiculous issue of whether or not she would have married him if her mother hadn't lost her baby over the criminal neglect over her ladies' maid, O'Brien, who deliberately slicked up the bathroom floor with soap causing her ladyship to slip when all Lady Mary needed to do was admit to Matthew her rather tawdry roll on the death bed of a Turkish diplomat. Well!

And then to end it with the outrageous teaser that Series Two is now in preparation! Even now!

The shame of it, I say. The shame of it.

There is one other thing that needs a disapproving mention. Not that I have anything against British costume dramas!

It is the influence of the tobacco Nazis.

Think now. Here we are in the global world of the 2010s and the food Nazis and the smoking Nazis are everywhere making life miserable. Now let us return to the Edwardian atmosphere of Downton (yes:there's a foreshadowing of decline). None of the upstairs people smoke. But some of the downstairs people do, and guess what, they are the villains, the lying, stealing Thomas and the conniving bitter O'Brien. They seem forever off behind the barn, veiled in billows of cigarette smoke, hatching their evil complots.

I say back to Ben Disraeli and the heavenly Sybil singing in the ruins of an abbey. You know that all those abbeys were stolen by evil Whig followers of Henry VIII, don't you! And I'm sure that there was a Robert Crawley back then helping himself to a dissolved monastery or two in South Yorkshire and getting himself a barony into the bargain. That was before the Crawleys got the noblesse oblige bug.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Day the Liberal Narrative Dies

For half a century our liberal friends have lived off the story that FDR saved the USA with his New Deal and his jobs programs like the WPA and the CCC. Occasionally conservatives have pushed out an analysis or a screed that picks holes in it. Most recently, Amity Shlaes in The Forgotten Man has walked all over it. But the narrative is still alive and kicking.

Now the Democrats are trying to tell us that the meltdown of 2008 was all the fault of greedy bankers. Reports Maya Jackson Randall in the Wall Street Journal:

A blue-ribbon panel investigating the 2008 financial crisis blamed failures in financial regulation, flaws in corporate governance and excessive borrowing as key elements leading to the meltdown, Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Chairman Phil Angelides said Thursday.

That's the story of the six Democrats on the panel, and they are sticking to it. It's the story that liberals and the New York Times have been selling. The Republicans split in their dissent. Peter Wallison, for the conservative American Enterprise Institute:

Instead of pursuing a thorough study, the commission's majority used its extensive statutory investigative authority to seek only the facts that supported its initial assumptions—that the crisis was caused by 'deregulation' or lax regulation, greed and recklessness on Wall Street, predatory lending in the mortgage market, unregulated derivatives and a financial system addicted to excessive risk-taking[.]

Wallison fingered the two GSE mortgage twins, Fannie and Freddie as the main cause of the crisis.

Three Republicans, led by former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas came up with ten reasons for the crisis:

The three commissioners narrowed the causes of the crisis down to 10, faulting, among other things: credit and housing bubbles; nontraditional mortgages; failures in credit-rating and securitization; financial firms' massive housing risk; firms holding too little capital; the ease at which losses spread through the system; bad bets on housing; and market shock and panic.

In my view, Thomas and his co-dissenters go too light on Fannie and Freddie. And, for that matter on the Fed that stoked the fires in the early 2000s.

But the bigger problem is the problem for Democrats. Their failure to realize that the mess in 2008 was not going to be solved with a quick Depression-style stimulus means that high unemployment will continue for years. Despite their valiant effort to blame greedy bankers and deregulation, the American people will blame the chaps in charge for the last four years. At the end of it, the Democratic economic narrative that has stood strong and tall for half a century is going to collapse.

It's about time, because the liberal governing strategy of administrative centralism is bringing the US to the brink of national bankruptcy. The liberal administrative state is cruel, corrupt, unjust, wasteful, and deluded. The sooner we send them back to their universities and their think tanks the better for the prosperity of all Americans.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

100,000 Policemen Redux

Remember when President Clinton moved to the center with his 100,000 policemen policy? You couldn't move politically without running into those 100,000 policemen being added to the beat.

Now President Obama is moving to the center with 100,000 teachers. That was the center piece of his 2011 State of the Union speech. Thus we are tempted to haul out the old Marxian line about history repeating itself as farce.

But as for getting the federal government's fiscal house in order, here's the key takeaway:

I recognize that some in this chamber have already proposed deeper cuts, and I’m willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens. (Applause.) And let’s make sure that what we’re cutting is really excess weight. Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine.

Never mind about the weak simile about overloaded airplanes. Let's focus on the key point, "the backs of our most vulnerable citizens." Because that really is the key to the next few years.

Here we are, with a trillion a year in government pensions, a trillion dollars a year in government health care, a trillion dollars a year in government education, and half a trillion dollars a year in government welfare. And it's all supposed to take a load off the back of our most vulnerable citizens. In fact, though, it has encouraged people to make themselves dependent upon government. There are millions of people who take advantage of government programs, and thus, if there are going to be cuts, people will suffer. But this is a failure of government. If this $3.5 trillion a year in help for the most vulnerable actually helped them to build independent and productive lives it would be one thing. But we know that in fact the reverse is true. Government programs encourage people to make themselves less independent, and to make themselves vulnerable so that they can qualify for government assistance.

President Obama calls for another 100,000 teachers. He calls for innovation. He calls for clean energy. He calls for high-speed rail. But all this is stuff that government already does very badly. Its education is a mess, particularly for the children of the most vulnerable. Clean energy is expensive energy that necessarily is paid for by higher energy prices that fall most heavily on the most vulnerable. High-speed rail is most suitable for government managers traveling from New York to Washington DC, or Los Angeles to Sacramento. It's not going to help the most vulnerable.

The government sector is the sector of force. It is suitable for things that need political power and force. It needs an enemy to conquer, the forces of evil to subdue. But innovation? That takes a bourgeoisie dignified and free, Mr. President. And if we are going to make the vulnerable into strong independent citizens that can contribute to society then we must free them from the narcotic of government and give them the tools to stand on their own and give back to society in work and in generosity.

Today is the first day of the future of America. Let's start that journey with a reality check. Government doesn't do innovation. It doesn't do compassion. It doesn't do anything except break things. President Obama's plan for the future is nothing more than another of Barney Frank's roll of the dice with Fannie and Freddie. And we know how that turned out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Investment vs. "Investment"

Tonight President Obama is expected to trail his proposed "investments" before the nation in his State of the Union speech.

That's the euphemism the center left has been using for government spending for the last 20 years since the Third Way started up with Bill Clinton in the US and Tony Blair in the UK.

The purpose of the euphemism is obvious. Voters understand that government spending is waste. But who can object to an investment in clean technology and education of our kids? After all, the children are our future, right?

So that's the challenge for conservatives. It's a question of extending the narrative. It doesn't matter what you call it, government spending is still a waste.

You can tell it's a waste by the way people don't value it.

Take ObamaCare. The whole point of the government takeover of health care is that there are a bunch of people, notably people with pre-existing conditions, that can't get health insurance. So one of the marquee features of ObamaCare is a plan to subsidize high-risk people. All those high-risk people with pre-existing conditions should be rushing forward to take advantage of it, right? Wrong. Only hundreds have signed up for the plan thus far.

The reason is obvious. If you have a pre-existing condition you would be a fool to sign up for health insurance premiums until you actually get sick. Unless you have assets that need to be protected from unexpected health bills.

The fact is that government is not in the business of making investments. It is in the business of buying votes with freebies and subsidies. Don't want to pay for health insurance? Maybe the government has a plan for you.

The big problem for Republicans going forward is the fact that Americans love a freebie. They love getting a special deal, whether it's a weekly special at the grocery store, or a break on their health care costs.

Here's the issue. The great social question down the ages has been the freeloader problem. The whole idea about social animals and human society is to share the risks of this dangerous world. But somehow you have to figure out a way to get everyone to put their shoulder to the wheel. There are two ways of doing that. You can force people into contributing or you can shame them. Shaming works best in a face-to-face society where a dirty look can often work wonders. But often it comes down to force, and force is expensive.

Many societies have figured out a way to split the difference between shame and force. They delegate the punishment of freeloaders to God. God, they say, will punish the evildoer and the freeloader, if not in this world then the world to come.

The liberal welfare state stands this principle on its head. It rewards and lionizes the freeloader as a helpless victim, and it encourages people to combine in special interests and factions to loot society through piratical threats and power plays,and "investments" in the pet projects of powerful interests.

But the truth is that all government spending is a waste, starting with the defense budget and going on down to pensions, health care, education, and welfare.

Because the simple fact is that if you want something done, then it will be done better by some innovative businessman striving to sell a product or service to the consumer. For him, force or shame is not an option. He has to satisfy the consumer or go out of business.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blacks and the Blue Social Model

Scholar Walter Russell Mead is advancing the idea of the failed "blue social model" to symbolize the political contest now in progress. Conservatives believe that the blue social model of Big Units, life-time employment in big corporations for blue-collar and white-collar employees, has broken down, and has been breaking down ever since its hey-day in 1970.

But hey, he writes, in "Black and Blue," there's a big problem with the collapse of the blue social model. Blacks are going to suffer disproportionately, because they are overrepresented in government jobs that will be cut in the coming years when governments run out of money and cut spending. Worst of all, there is a whole cohort of blacks about to retire from government service.

A pension crisis for state or federal workers will hit African-American families harder, proportionately, than white ones; municipal layoffs and bankruptcies will have a disproportionate effect on both the African-Americans who depend on these services and those who are paid to provide them.

There's no doubt; it's a problem. But the question is: what, if anything could we or should we do about it? This problem is a problem of liberalism. It is liberalism that decided to shunt blacks into government jobs. It is liberalism that kept the pedal to the metal on government spending. It is liberalism that encouraged the government employee unions that have bankrupted the blue state governments. So now ordinary Americans are supposed to bail out the blacks?

Let's talk about another group that has been led astray by liberals: the white working class.

In the decay of the blue social model since 1970 no group has suffered more than the white working class. They believed the promises of FDR and Democratic elected politicians. They put their trust in government. They voted for Democrats. And look where it got them. Half a century ago liberals loved the working class as knights of labor. Now liberals scorn them as bitter clingers.

The fact is that the white working class, like Eve in the Garden of Eden, was tempted. "The serpent tempted me, and I did eat." A little further on in the Bible there is the admonition: "Put not your trust in princes." The white working class did both, it succumbed to temptation and it put its trust in government. Now it is paying the price.

Blacks did the same thing. Liberals came calling with government benefits and government jobs, and blacks signed on. Now the party is over, and blacks are in the position of the white working class in 1970.

Hey, we want to be compassionate about this, but the solution for the problem of the white working class is the same for the blacks. Stop playing the government patronage game, get yourself an education, and get out into the world as an proud, independent American.

Every group that ever did that lived happily ever after.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lucky Sarah Palin

Just imagine, if you will, that all the cognoscenti were saying that the GOP presidential nomination was Sarah Palin's to lose. Exactly. It would be the kiss of death.

Instead, we have the perfect storm of liberal abuse and conservative patronizing. Liberals say, as a liberal gay once announced to me at dinner, "I loathe Sarah Palin." Conservatives say, as James Taranto writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Whether or not she is presidential timber--and we are inclined to think that she is not--there is no denying that she is a highly accomplished person.

There is a phrase for this. It is called "damning with faint praise." But, as an urban sophisticate, you know when you go out in polite liberal society that the safe opening is to assume that your audience thinks that Sarah Palin is a moron.

When asked about my views, I delicately say that I consider her a very talented politician. That creates an opening for people to admit that they have a sneaking respect for her too.

The paranoid rage about Sarah Palin is, I believe, part snobbery similar to the liberal disdain for the frat-boy Bush. Liberals are, we know, mostly very good at grades and excelling at good colleges. If your Bushes and your Palins can succeed in politics, then that means that any underqualified nobody could pip a qualified liberal in the next search for director.

But the bigger thing is that it smashes the liberal cultural and social tableau, the elegant mirror in which liberals like to admire themselves.

Out flew the web and floated wide-
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Sarah Palin is the curse come upon liberals and the carefully choreographed liberal tableau.

The liberal tableau has well-turned-out black male supervisors advising goofy male white twentysomethings; it has serious, tailored female lawyers; and it has colorful gays dispensing creative wisdom when they aren't marrying for love. Sarah Palin smashes that vision. She reminds us that career is a canard, that relationships for love is a fantasy. What really matters for 97.3 percent of us is our children. All the time we spend on career (or other diversions) instead of our children is a waste. Because for nearly all of us, nothing will remain of us except our children. And so all the things with which we fill our lives--the loves, the careers, the successes, the hobbies, the creative works, the entertainments--these are all diversions, and pretty sorry diversions and tangents at that.

The one thing you are not allowed to do in America is remind liberals of their hypocrisy and their moral delusions. And so Sarah Palin must be destroyed.

The trouble is that it won't work, because it will be antagonizing the key swing voting group in 2012: the white working class. The white working class folks know all about liberal scorn and patronizing: they've toiled under it all their lives. And they are just about fed up with it to the back teeth.

Lucky Sarah Palin.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Incivility and the Blue Model Breakdown

That ruling-class organ, the London Economist, reliably worries that the heightened political rhetoric "makes it harder for America's two political parties to co-operate in tackling urgent questions such as their nation's gargantuan debt, or its slide in the world education rankings."

What rubbish, as the Brits say. The problem, as Walter Russell Mead wrote a year ago, is that the "blue social model" is breaking down. He means the assumed post-New Deal political and social culture in which

a professional career civil service administers a growing state, with living standards for all social classes steadily rising while the gaps between the classes remain fairly stable, and with an increasing ‘social dividend’ being paid out in various forms: longer vacations, more and cheaper state-supported education, earlier retirement, shorter work weeks and so on.

Or, as Kevin Williamson writes, that everyone lives their lives according to "The Plan" of the socialist central planners. Says Mead:

Call this the blue model, and the chief division in American politics today is between those who think the blue model is the only possible or at least the best feasible way to organize a modern society and want to shore it up and defend it, and those who think the blue model, whatever benefits it had in the past, is no longer sustainable.

That division is going to begin to erode in the next few years because the blue model is breaking down so fast and so far that not even its supporters can ignore the disintegration and disaster that it entails.

The reason that the blue social model is breaking down is because it has run out of other peoples' money.

The reason that things are so uncivil right now is that our liberal friends do not believe, cannot believe, that their whole world view, the blue social model, in which liberals benevolently presided over America with avuncular concern for the "little people," is over: crashed, refuted, bankrupt. That is why they are so angry. That is why they are so angry that other people are angry.

Of course, for conservatives, the blue social model has never worked. It seemed to work because it frankly and ruthlessly taxed and regulated the economy and the wealth creators and gave the money away to liberals and their clients. Liberals argued, beginning with John Kenneth Galbraith, that the Big Units of business, unions, and governments would even things out through "countervailing power." There was no reason to believe, he wrote, that they would conspire in a powerful cabal, to grab all the gold for themselves.

But in fact, the Big Units did conspire. They set up a nice little conspiracy and they looted America; that's how they kept the peace between them. Now we have to pay for their corruption, and we ain't happy about it. And then the Democrats allowed public employee unions to bargain collectively with the government. That was another betrayal as unions bargained for high wages, high benefits, and very little in the way of public services.

Now it's all coming to an end and the liberals and their clients are mad.

There was another time in America when you couldn't discuss the important issues of the day, when heightened rhetoric made "it harder for America's two political parties to co-operate in tackling urgent questions." That was in the pre-Civil War era, when the South absolutely refused to discuss the question of slavery. As a matter of fact, the South absolutely refused to discuss the question of slavery for about 80 years, from the Constitutional convention of 1787 to the actual freeing of the slaves in the 1860s.

In my view there are two options for the angry liberals, deeply in denial about the injustice, the waste, the cruelty, the corruption of their blue social model. Liberals can retreat gracefully, or they can truculently resist until there is a Clausewitzian "decisive battle" and in the chaotic aftermath, liberals retreat in a rout.

And there is the strategic problem that liberals face that I mentioned yesterday. If you are a conservative you don't give a damn about the all the government programs, because they are not meant for you. Now the white working class, cast aside by the liberals a generation ago, are waking up to the notion that they don't have an interest in the vast swamp of government either. So when the liberals yell and scream that widows will be cast out into the street and orphans will starve, the American people will shrug. After all, who would be dumb enough to trust the government for the necessaries of life?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

As the Spending Battle is Joined

In the coming months there will be lots of fiery rhetoric about government spending. Orphans will starve and widows will die. But there is one thing to remember. It's liberals that have a problem, not conservatives. The longer that liberals put off agreeing to spending cuts, the harder it will be for the folks vote for liberals and have put their trust in government. Let's go through the list of proposed cuts that Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe have drawn up in The Wall Street Journal.

  1. Return discretionary spending to 2007 levels.
  2. ObamaCare
  3. Eliminate bailouts, and cut the cord with Fannie and Freddie
  4. Eliminate subsidies on ethanol and unproven energy.
  5. Scrap Departments of Commerce and Housing and Urban Development.
  6. End farm subsidies, cut NASA, Repeal Davis-Bacon, End urban mass transit grants
  7. Cut defense spending
  8. Cut entitlements by slow conversion of Social Security to personal accounts, and conversion of Medicare and Medicaid and tax subsidies for employer health benefits into "capped contributions to individuals."

According to Armey and Kibbe that would amount to $3 trillion in cuts over ten years.

But never mind that.

Look at all the proposed cuts. Does anything shine out at you? Exactly. None of that stuff is really going to affect you.

Maybe that's the big problem with the liberal welfare state. Liberals carefully started out by handing out benefits to the opposition. But now they have forgotten the consensus politics of the old days. Now they and their clients just flat out elbow everyone else away from the trough. That's what happened in the Reid-Pelosi Congress from 2007-2010.

It was great fun while it lasted. But there is a problem with it. The time is coming, because of looming default, to start cutting. Oh well, say conservatives. Oh no, scream liberals! If the only people benefiting from government programs are liberals and their clients, then only one thing can happen if we have to cut spending to stave off default. We will have to cut liberal government programs. So it will necessarily be liberals and their clients that will suffer.

And that is sad.

But it is not the end of the world.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Who Knew? AZ Suspect Bush Hater

You gotta love our liberal friends at The New York Times. They spend a week spinning the notion that the suspect in the AZ shooting is a right-wing nutcase. Now, it turns out, in a long thumbsucker, that Loughner bought into all the liberal conspiracy stuff: 9/11 conspiracies and Bush hatred.

He became intrigued by antigovernment conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 attacks were perpetrated by the government and that the country’s central banking system was enslaving its citizens. His anger would well up at the sight of President George W. Bush, or in discussing what he considered to be the nefarious designs of government.

Oh no! How could that be? How could a young high-school student get involved in all that wing-nut stuff? I'll tell you how. All the left-wing conspiracy stuff is pretty easy to find. Any ordinary high-school student would find it in the air. That's because, in the mid-2000s, it was swirling around in the mainstream media, and prominent Democrats were winking at it. Remember the premiere of Michael Moore's lefty Fahrenheit 9/11 in Washington DC? Prominent elected Democrats, including United States senators, went to that performance. No doubt mainstream TV hosts like John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher were winking at the anti-Bush rhetoric--even extending to foaming anti-Bush rhetoric.

So now, after a week of wild speculation, The New York Times calmly states that Loughner was angry at Bush. Why, what a shock. I'd say that any teenager in the mid-2000s that did not pick up on the anti-Bush hysteria would have been a psycho, living in his own private world. Or he would have been a Rush baby that, by accident or by influence from some non-educator adult, had received a mild indoctrination in conservative politics.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The next few years are going to be a perfect hell for our liberal friends. You see, they promised their clients, first of all the white working class, and now the expanded victim class of women and minorities, that by signing up with Democrats they would never have to suffer the challenge and stresses of ordinary adult life. They could have their benefit cake and eat it.

But now the great game of entitlement politics is hitting the buffers, as the Brits say, and the people that will suffer are the people that put their trust in liberals and Democrats.

The only thing we don't yet know is how these disappointed folks will express their disappointment, their fear, and their rage.

Friday, January 14, 2011

When Will Inflation Kick In?

Old hand Pat Buchanan chimes in today commending the president for tacking to the middle. Based on his record of bipartisan compromise since the election, including his Arizona speech, Pat rates the president "a survivor... with an almost Nixonian capacity for maneuver."

So that makes him a shoo-in for reelection, right?

Maybe not. The question is: when will inflation kick in after the enormous monetary stimulus of the last two years and the stimulus from "QE2" that began last fall? Jim Johnston from Investors Business Daily, quoting Milton Friedman, thinks that the president has got the calendar just right.

Six to nine months after an injection to the money supply, there is a short-term increase in economic activity. After 24 months, inflation appears and is persistent until money growth is slowed, another recession occurs, and 24 months pass before the inflation is abated.

If these lags are superimposed on the nation's political calendar, there is a disturbing conclusion.

A short-term increase in economic activity will occur before the 2012 presidential election, and a virulent inflation will occur after the votes are in.

Maybe. But I have a suspicion that the monetary easing already committed since the economy turned in early 2009 is going to get inflation going this year. So 2012 will be full of demands to know what the president is going to do about inflation.

All that means, of course, that making an inflation bet is not too late, even now. We are not yet well into a classic flight into real values. We are just in the early stages, where sophisticated people are still laughing at the stolid types that are buying coins and commodities.

Then there is real estate. I know, everyone "knows" that real estate is finished. But with the US government printing lots of dollars, it might not hurt to borrow some of them and pick up some deals. Remember Mr. Potter, the evil small-town banker. When everyone was losing their heads, crying sell, sell, sell, Mr. Potter was buying.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

State Spending vs. Revenue

The Census Bureau is out with its data on state spending and revenue for FY 2009, the first year of the Great Recession. Now the numbers are up on They make for pretty interesting reading. If you look at's 5-year chart of state spending, It looks like spending is heading on up, without a pause.

Actually, the numbers for 2009 are down from the "guesstimate", which shows that politicians are getting serious at last. Will we see significant spending cuts next year when the FY 2010 data come out? Will the politicians make usgovernmentspending's current "guesstimate" for 2010 look like reckless alarmism? We'll see.

The big story, of course, is in state revenue. Look at the following chart of state revenues.

What on earth is going on? How could state government revenue be cut in half in one year? I will tell you.

There is one number that dwarfs all the others. It is the $525 billion investment loss in state government retirement systems. That is what brings the state government revenue number down to $664 billion. Hopefully, of course, in 2010 the state government retirement systems will show a healthy investment gain. Hopefully.

If we discount the $0.5 trillion loss in state pensions, that means that the states were spending $1,330 billion against revenue of $1,189 billion. That's a deficit of a mere $141 billion. So that's all right.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Liberal "Tell"

In poker, after you've mastered the odds, you graduate to "tells." That's the art of reading the emotional response of your opponents during the course of the game.

So that's why conservatives should thank liberals like Paul Krugman for the rather amateurish "tell" over the tragic Arizona shooting.

So you chaps really are scared by Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement and the power of Fox News and talk radio. Why else would you chaps react like conspiracy theorists to the crazed outrage of a crazed mind?

But think of the opportunity that our liberal friends have given us. They have given conservative talk radio the chance to display the hypocrisy of the liberals, who use war metaphors all the time (why wouldn't they, given that politics is civil war by other means?). They have given Fox News the chance to present itself as measured and responsible. And they have given Sarah Palin a chance to broadcast a presidential fireside chat from her house in Wasilla, complete with a quote from Saint Ronald:

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

Yep, liberals are telling us that they are really, really worried by Sarah Palin, the Tea Party movement, and the conservative media. You can "tell" from the beads of sweat on their foreheads.

Now that it is becoming pretty clear that the alleged assailant Jared Lee Loughner is a paranoid schizophrenic, the whole episode is starting to move towards a national conversation on mental illness and institutionalization. It might move on to the whole liberal health metaphor that substitutes for a sensible and practical ethics.

My interest is moving to the larger question of the combination of politicians and experts. The problem with modern psychology is that it has gotten too close to politics and government. That is why we have had the scandals of lobotomy, forced sterilization, and forced institutionalization. Too many moral decisions have been abdicated to the legal system.

Our modern society is a differentiated society. We like to differentiate between politics, economics, and moral/cultural questions. The record of the last 200 years shows pretty clearly that when politics and economics get too close together you get crony capitalism and government using the credit system for political purposes. When the political and moral/cultural sectors get too close you get the expert-led central administrative state where people start to use the political system to legislate their morality in the faces of people that disagree with them.

The question of what to do about seriously disturbed people is partly a political question, where violence is the issue, and partly a moral question, where potential help is the issue.

Sooner or later we must stop delegating moral and cultural questions to the political sector and accept the sacrifice that comes with responsibility.

You'll know that we are making progress from the reckless ravings of our liberal friends.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Learning from Tragedy

When tragedy strikes, people go for their standard templates. If you are a liberal, the problem is thunder on the right and the answer is gun control. If you are a conservative, the problem is the welfare state and the answer is smaller government.

As as conservative, my template looks for a failure in the expert-led centralized bureaucratic administrative welfare state. Yeah! How come nobody did something to stop this kid Jared Lee Loughner before he killed? It's not as if he hadn't been a problem and hadn't became a person of interest to a number of government bureaucracies.

The chaps at The New York Times today are wittering on about experts-this and experts-that: "Red Flags at a College, but Tied Hands," writes Benedict Carey.

“It wasn’t a case of ‘Gee, no one saw this coming,’ ” Dr. Borum said. “People saw it. But the question then was what do you do about it? Who do you call? The whole thing speaks to the need for some coordinated way to detect such threats.”

See what's coming here? We need a new administrative system of experts to detect and deal with the threat of a paranoid killer. Fully funded and credentialed, of course. Not to say pensioned.

But I wonder. I wonder about the limits of government to solve social problems. We are talking about the whole question of freedom.

The meaning of freedom, if it means anything, is that people have a right to make mistakes. We say that there should be no prior restraint on the actions of normal humans just because, according to scientists, they might be a problem. Liberals are big on this, and rightly so. They point to the sorry record of lunatic asylums, psychiatric hospitals, electroshock, lobotomies, and psycho-active drugs. If you are going to restrain a dangerous person, where do you draw the line?

There's another thing. When a paranoid person kills a national politician it is national news. Everybody demands that something be done. But how often does a paranoid kill a non-public figure? What are the numbers on that? And what could we actually do to reduce the incidence of killings by people with mental illness?

Of course, my template is that the bureaucratic method is not a good way to deal with these issues, because they are not a question of rules and tests and procedure. They are a question of social relations, and that means that they are moral and cultural questions. I believe we need to rediscover and restore a moral community in our "little platoons" that can deal with people at the edge of sanity, and reclaim such people back into the human community. I think that the institutionalization of modern people, starting in kindergarten or before, is a big question mark. What does it do to a human being to be incarcerated in bureaucratic government institutions right through their childhood, and then delivered to big business bureaucracies when they are adults?

You could say that in the modern era we don't socialize people, we bureaucratize them.

Any ideas on that, you experts? I know. More research is needed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Blame Conservatives First?

Of course, as a conservative, I'm enraged by the narrative out of the left that the Arizona shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others was prompted by "hate speech" on the right and Sarah Palin in particular.

But I don't think that Democrats will be able to move their narrative.

Ever since liberals got sideswiped by an opportunist Sen. McCarthy (R-WI) in the 1950s they have been terrified that it could happen again. So they see right-wing extremism under every bed; they are determined that they will never be politically cornered as they were when it turned out that a lot of liberals had flirted with Communism in the 1930s and that some of them had even spied for the Soviet Union.

I suspect that liberals know that the average American doesn't really like liberalism, and so they are eternally afraid that some movement is about to erupt that will sweep their educated ruling class out of power forever. They project this fear onto any deranged gunman or pre-revolutionary right-wing group that erupts into the news. For years, every nice liberal lady was taught to be terrified of right-wing "militia" groups, whatever they were.

Of course, part of the drumbeat about "hate speech" is pure political opportunism. From a tactical point of view the heightened partisanship of the Bush years that was kept on a steady boil from the dead-heat 2000 election onwards was a great success. It helped the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006 and helped elect Barack Obama in 2008.

But now we are back to normal, and the real issue before the American people is: how much big government can it digest? At what point does even the voter with the biggest stomach just upchuck the turgid mess of it all?

That's why I believe that we conservatives can safely discount the effect of the media and the Democratic activist base and their "hate speech" drumbeat. The Democrats are on defense, big government is in trouble, and the retreat is going to be long and painful.

The big Democratic problem is that they have more to lose. It is Democratic voters that depend on the big entitlement programs. Apart from income considerations it just stands to reason that single, secular, childless people are more vulnerable to life's problems than married, religious people that have children.

In my view, we aren't going to reform the welfare state until it crashes and burns; that's just the way politics works. So, if you want to reform the welfare state the best thing to do is to prepare for a world in which the government runs out of money.

There's only one thing to worry about. Many governments in trouble are raiding peoples' private pension accounts. For conservatives and Republicans, it might be worth while making it politically impossible for government to come calling for our IRA and 401(k) accounts.

But when liberals run around blaming conservatives for political violence I think they are missing the point, and they are wasting their energy. Liberals have much better things to do with their time than demonizing conservative crazies. But if they want to waste their energy, who would want to stop them?

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Wages of Illegal Immigration

We don't really know why the Mexican government has encouraged emigration from Mexico to the United States. We don't really know why liberals make it so hard to regulate illegal immigration. Victor Davis Hanson calls the immigration phenomenon a virtual Manhattan Project, whose outcome we can only guess at.

My guess is that the Mexicans in the United States will disappoint the Mexican government and US liberals. That's based on the three Mexican-born Americans that I know personally. Let's call them Jose, Juan, and Joaquin.

Jose is in his fifties, and waded across the Rio Grande as a youngster holding a basket of fighting cocks. He met his uncle at a store close to the border and then disappeared into the US. His family worked in the Yakima valley picking crops, and he seemed to enjoy the experience. Now he works as a budget analyst.

Juan lives in the Seattle area and works for the government. He works all the overtime he can, and when he's not working for the government he helps out at his brothers' nursery. One of over ten children, he worked as a youngster selling chiclets on the street in his hometown in Mexico. Unlike Charles Dickens, he has a positive memory of his child-labor experience, for he knew he was helping to feed the family. He now owns his own home and visits his home-town in Mexico by driving down in the gigantic family Suburban, complete with wheel spinners. His children seem to talk and act like regular native-born US children.

Joaquin is an upper-class Mexican, with an advanced degree and a thriving career selling services to municipal governments in the US. Of course, he's always been fully documented.

Here's my take on illegal immigrants. They are going to end up a dreadful disappointment to the class warriors and the race warriors here in the US. Opinion polls already show that Hispanic voters are not particularly oriented along ethnic lines. They vote their pocket books. As soon as they get established, they start to vote Republican.

That is about what you would expect. The two rigidly Democratic ethnic groups, blacks and Jews, vote 90 percent Democrat because their leaders have successfully frightened them with the race card, for blacks, and the Christian card, for Jews.

Some time in the next generation, the blacks and the Jews are going to start leaving the Democratic Party in battalion strength. When they do, we are going to have to worry about something else. Maybe it will be the monolithic Democratic Muslim vote.