Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Uncle Miltie at 100

Milton Friedman was the classic smart Jewish kid.  He was smart, he worked hard, and he never backed out of an argument.  We need more of his kind.

For conservatives he represents a nuts-and-bolts defense of capitalism, while Mises (another smart Jewish kid, from the city of Lemberg, now Lwow in the Ukraine) represented a more Kantian, philosophical approach.  Hayek, I would say, because of his detour through Britain, brought more of a British empirical approach to the subject.

Milton Friedman was the public face of free-market economics because of his Free to Choose TV series.  But why, you will wonder, did PBS agree to put such a man up on TV?  The reason is that conservatives were miffed that the BBC and other public broadcasting agencies had put up John Kenneth Galbraith on TV with his hymn to liberalism, the 13 part series called The Age of Uncertainty.  What about our guy, was the cry!  So, grudgingly, PBS put up Milton Friedman for a 10 part series.

Today's eulogizers seem to remember Free to Choose as a stunning success, but I remember feeling that it didn't quite come off.  The main reason, I felt, was that Galbraith in The Age of Uncertainty came across as urbane and cool, whereas Uncle Miltie was hot and combative.  Of course, Galbraith was the liberal's favorite liberal, lionized wherever he went and telling liberals exactly what they wanted to hear.  Friedman was a smart Jewish kid telling the establishment things it didn't want to hear.

Do we need another Milton Friedman today, someone who can teach free-market economics to a new generation?  No we don't, any more that we need a new Ronald Reagan.

A generation ago Milton Friedman taught men that free-market economics was the only way to go.  It was better for men to battle for market share than to battle for bureaucratic power.

But the task now is to teach women that civil society will create a better world for their children than centralized one-size-fits-all programs from the government for health, education, and welfare.  You'd think it ought to be a breeze, because women don't like being treated like a number in a line at the DMV: they think that their child is unique and that their mother's health care requires individual attention.

So we are still waiting for the smart Jewish kidette to amaze us with her brilliance and lead women away from the liberal culture of compulsion and home to freedom and the true social relations promoted by civil society--the society, in a word, of people helping people.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dems Wasted Oughties Enthusiasm

I don't know whose idea it was, but someone decided that the Democrats would take the toss-up election of 2000 and rile up the base.  So all the liberal Subaru Outbacks carried Re-Select Bush bumber-stickers right through the 2004 election.  Har-de-har-har.

You can see the results at Gallup.  In summer 2004 Democratic voter enthusiasm was at 68 percent, in summer 2008 it was at 61 percent, while Republican enthusiasm was at 51 percent and 35 percent.

Today things are different.  In summer 2012 Democratic enthusiasm is at 39 percent and Republican enthusiasm is at 51 percent.

In my view the Democratic decision to crank up partisan rage back in the early Bush years has proved to be a strategic error.  Of course, I felt back in 2001 that the decision to insist that the 2000 election was stolen was an act of meanness.  After all, when the Democrats obviously stole the 1960 election in Illinois and Texas Richard Nixon took it like a man, because he didn't want to divide the country (and who knows, maybe he thought it wouldn't help him).

The partisan mobilization turned out to be an error because Democrats taught their followers to believe that a win in 2008 would "fundamentally transform" America.  Now that the Obama administration clearly hasn't transformed anything except the national debt, what will the partisans do?  Where will they go?

They will get demoralized.  Meanwhile, the rest of America is getting enthused about getting to the polls.

There is a good reason why the Obama win has turned to ashes.  It didn't come up with anything to deal with our underlying economic and social problems.  Liberal partisans suffer under the delusion that their agenda is something fresh and new.  It isn't.  It is just big government wanting to simplify and organize and control the people.  As governments have tried to do right down the ages.

The magic of social animals, from ants to zebras, is that we do the right thing instinctively, without being told. The magic of all living things is that they are adaptable.  They respond to changing conditions by changing their ways.

The problem about big government is that it is designed to treat humans like machines.  The problem with big government is that when conditions change it does not change.  The same is true, to a lesser extent, with big business.

The problem for Americans is how to reform big government into adapting to the future before it drives us all off the cliff.

That is why the Democrats ads featuring Paul Ryan pushing grannie over a cliff are such a joke.  We want to be nice to grannies--and to grandpas like me--but only up to a point.  First we have to make sure that the average working stiff doesn't go over a cliff, not to mention the average mom, and the average student, and the whole economy.

That, presumably is what President Obama means when he says that "I believe that the way you grow the economy is from the middle out. I believe in fighting for the middle class because if they’re prospering all of us will prosper."

The only problem is that the notion of growing the economy "from the middle out" is utterly fatuous.  It means, of course, that the president will take money from the rich via the Buffett Rule and give it to the middle class.  The only problem is that redistribution doesn't grow the economy.  Never did, never will.

The only problem is that Democrats just don't get it.  And now they are losing the big head of steam they worked up in the Oughties when the evil Bush was president.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The 1.5 Percent Solution

Oh dear.  So today's GDP report shows that "the United States economy slowed in the second quarter" with slow consumer spending, government cuts, and higher imports.  So now what, in a world of 1.5% GDP growth?

So how about we ditch the whole Keynesian paradigm for something new?

Look, here's how the world looks from here.  For over a century, the educated elite, the governing class of our age, has operated on the following cultural assumption.  Liberals could ladle out social gains to the working class--and latterly minorities and women--without worrying much about what all those benefits and regulations and subsidies might do to the overall economy.

And if things did go wrong and the economy tipped into a recession there was always Keynesian stimulus, i.e., additional government spending on favored voting constituencies, and in the last resort, inflation.

That was the assumption the Obama administration brought with it into Washington DC in 2009.  Its agenda called for a quick trillion dollar stimulus, a couple rounds of quantitative easing, and back to the important work of finally implementing universal health insurance and replacing fossil fuels with green energy.  Why not? That was what the culture of the liberal governing elite said to do.

The conservative counterargument goes something like this.  All government interventions in the market are almost always designed to impose some favored political outcome on the interactions of economic actors, whether by taxes used in government spending or in regulations or subsidies.  Each intervention, therefore, adds up to an additional weight on the economy that slows it down, just as additional weight on a jockey slows down the horse.

Now each of these arguments is actually more than an argument.  It is a culture, a lifeworld.  In Liberal World we are engaged upon a quest to eliminate injustice and inequality using the power of government.  In Conservative World we are engaged upon a quest to unleash the power of individuals and teams to build wealth and prosperity by getting government out of the way.  In the system of Juergen Habermas, this lifeworld is a taken-for-granted culture about how the world works, how we perceive the world, and how people act in it.

Obviously when the conservative taken-for-granted lifeworld is different from the liberal taken-for-granted lifeworld then something eventually has got to give.

That "eventually" might be right now, as the economy rather obviously is failing to bounce back from the Crash of 2008.  Liberals believe that what is needed is additional "stimulus" and, if necessary more quantitative easing "QE3".  Conservatives believe that tax rate cuts and government spending cuts are in order.

So you can see that neither side learns anything from events.  We just keep proposing the same nostrums.  Here's an example.  The Obama administration is restoring the minority-friendly policies that conservatives believe got us into the Crash of 2008.  The new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau that was part of Dodd-Frank has dusted off the 1994 regulation that ordered banks to giver preferential treatment to "protected classes" in loan origination.

That's not surprising, of course.  As conservative William Tucker writes in utter fury:
Do you remember that thing about how the banks wouldn't lend to blacks and Hispanics because they were racists? And do you remember how they passed the Community Reinvestment Act so that banks were forced to reduce down payments practically to zero and lend to a lot of people they knew were bad credit risks? And do you remember how Wall Street bundled all these risky subprime mortgage and sold them to investors around the world so that when it became clear that those people weren't going to be able to pay their mortgages banks everywhere were left holding the bag and all five of the Wall Street investment houses either went under or had to be bailed out by the federal government?

And do you remember how, when it was all over, liberals said it was actually the banks' fault for "deceiving" all those people into thinking they could afford to buy homes and that the banks should be punished for it and some of those people be allowed to keep their homes anyway? And do you remember how all this cost the government close to a trillion dollars and put the whole economy in a hole that we really haven't begun to dig ourselves out of yet?
The point is that the New York Times and the Democrats have been busily pushing "the banks did it" meme for the last four years, and liberals believe it.  Because if liberals admitted that it was their credit subsidies and pro-minority discrimination that brought the whole financial house crashing down in 2008, why then they would have to abandon the taken-for-granted assumptions of their culture, their lifeworld.  And people just don't do that.

The American people don't believe either the conservative line or the liberal line.  They believe a mish-mash in between.  Yes the greedy bankers did it.  Yes the stupid borrowers who bought way more house than they could afford did it.  So there!

But the 1.5% economy is putting up storm signals.  It is saying that the liberal line isn't working.  And all the campaign flaps about "You didn't do that" and Romney's outsourcing are all grist to the mill that will grind out a decision in November.

Do we want to continue with the liberal world view, the assumptions of the liberal lifeworld, or do we switch more to the assumptions of the conservative lifeworld?

It's up to the voters.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Silence of Romney's Guns

Some people are complaining that Mitt Romney hasn't yet come out with a compelling narrative for his election.

There is Conrad Black, who wants more criticism of the mess of the Obama years:
It would be a national tragedy if we got all the way through what promises to be an exceptionally trying and vapid election campaign without a full airing of the president’s fishtailing and flip-flopping on all these and many other matters.
Or Matt Towery in an article on polling.  He is anxious to see how the Romneys will actually fight the election:
In the end, it is message, image and strategy that win the race -- and debates. For Romney, the message is not clear, and the image is still fuzzy. But he may have a strategy that is going to work.
 Meanwhile Karl Rove is raising the spectre of Fannie and Freddie.  He wants to remind us that seven years ago the Bushies tried to push a reform of Fannie and Freddie, but the Democrats in the Senate told the GOP that they would filibuster their reform bill.
Democrats opposed regulation in large part because the GSEs were an important source of funds for community groups allied with the Democratic Party, and they were run by Democratic power brokers like former Clinton Office of Management and Budget Director Franklin Raines and Walter Mondale's 1984 campaign chairman, James Johnson. And so the Bush reform died.
And the Obama administration still hasn't done anything about Fannie and Freddie.  They are moldering away in the back of the FHA, getting broker and broker with about $5 trillion in debt.  Think about what happens when that gets added to the national debt.

My guess is that the Romneys have a schedule and that all will be revealed when Romney gets back from his foreign tour and starts to ramp up for the Republican National Convention.  There will be a "message," there will be image-building, and there will be plenty of negative ads on the many failures and corruptions and tyrannies of the Obama administration.

But you really don't want to show your hand too early.  You don't want to give the Obamis time to prepare for a counterattack.  Also, we don't exactly know whether the economy gets worse between now and October or the European slow-motion death spiral turns into a maelstrom.

And there is this ancient piece of wisdom.  When your opponent is digging himself a hole, hand him a shovel.  Or Napoleon's advice: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

Given the number of unforced errors the Obama campaign has committed thus far in 2012, you really don't want to get in its way.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Trouble with Big Anything

Everyone is tut-tutting and serve-them-righting about the NCAA penalty dealt out to Penn State, home of the nasty Sandusky child-abuse scandal.

What a monster; how could they let it happen, etc.

But let's get real.  Of course nasty things like that will happen at a big bureaucratic organization.  The only reason we all know about the Penn State case is that it included college football and a legend in his own time, Joe Paterno.  That makes it bait for a national scandal.  But suppose the Jerry Sandusky in the case were not an assistant football coach but just some average Marginalized Studies department professor.  Who would care then?

The fact is that we are in two minds about Bigness.  Conservatives hate Big Government and love a scandal about government waste, fraud and abuse.  But we kinda like the armed forces and their hierarchical military spirit.  Liberals hate Big Business and love to report on, say, Big Oil laying waste to the planet with horrible oil spills.  But they love Big Government and all its caring compassionate programs that help the poor and the marginalized.  At least everyone hates the DMV.

But what about Big University?  Liberals hate the football program; conservatives hate the left-wing indoctrination.  Big Philanthropy?  Conservatives love to hate the liberal foundations like the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.  Big Religion?  Liberals love it when Catholic priests are caught covering up child abuse.

But I wonder if it's time to look at the problem of bigness in general.  The Penn State case shows the problem.
In 1998, a boy’s mother reported to police that Sandusky had showered with her son in a Penn State facility. An investigation began that Penn State officials were eager to see go away...

A janitor saw him in November 2000, but didn’t report it for fear “they’ll get rid of all of us.”...

Paterno and the others “repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.”
Everyone is creeping around, like a moral mouse, looking after Number One, anxious not to rock the boat.

It seems to me that the answer is that we need a lot fewer big hierarchical institutions around.  It's not just that they tend to cover up criminality, but that they are notably fragile and resistant to change.  Over the years they run down delivering less and less for more and more money.  They are a conspiracy against cooperation and adaptation.

I was reading a book about Prussia the other day, H.W. Koch's History of Prussia, and learned that the Prussian state bureaucracy had won for itself tenure and pensions by 1820.  That is eighteen-twenty!

Shades of government bankruptcies in 2012!  All bureaucrats want, in any big organization, in any era, is to get tenure and a pension.  Then that they can do nothing for the next ten, twenty years while they collect their salaries.  And then the glorious moment arrives when they retire and start to collect their pensions!

It is surely our job to make sure that the bureaucrats don't get it.  Because when we have guaranteed tenure and pensions to some special class of people it means that the rest of us are more at risk.  Like right now.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Liberals and Fracking

I was out to dinner with liberal friends last night and got roundly spanked for blogging about blacks that think "we're owed."  I don't know anyone that thinks that, said my black acquaintance.

That's comical, really.  Because the whole point of liberal politics is the idea of "We're Owed" writ large.  That's why we talk about "entitlement" programs.  I'm entitled; we're owed!

But the big takeaway was fracking.  The word has gone out, presumably through the documentary "Gastown," and liberals are all convinced that fracking, the technique of fracturing oil and gas-bearing rock in the neighborhood of a drill hole using water, sand, and a bit of detergent, will contaminate the drinking water supply and end the world as we know it.

Our liberal friends are passionate about this, almost as passionate as they are about "marriage equality," or really, gay marriage.

What is interesting to me, as an engineer that spent 30 years in energy and environmental consulting, is how cocksure professional musicians and professional photographers can be about these technical issues.  It didn't occur to me at the time to make the argument from authority, but I shoulda. You know what?  When it comes to music I absolutely defer to your knowledge and experience.  So how about the environment and the energy biz?  I spent 30 years, man and boy, working on sewers and energy resource questions.  I know a thing or two about cleaning up the environment and about the financial feasibility of intermittent resources like wind turbines.

But really, it's not about the science.  It's about the religion.  It's about the end of the world and original sin and finding redemption from the sins of the world.  It's about "immanentizing the eschaton."  When you don't believe in God any more then you tend to want to create Heaven on earth and not wait for salvation in the next world.

Yes, and those liberals all believe that the oil companies get gigantic subsidies, and make profits in the hundreds of billions of dollars.  Let's check Exxon Mobil.  Market cap. is about $400 billion and the P/E ratio is about 10.  So that means net profits are $40 billion a year.  Gross revenue is about $440 billion per year.  Big, you'll say.  But not obscene.  Apple makes about the same profit on one third of the revenue.

Our liberal friends.  What are we to do with them?  I guess the most sensible thing would be to beat Obama like a drum 55% to 45% in November, take over the Senate, repeal Obamacare, cut spending, reform entitlements, cut tax rates while cutting deductions and loopholes and drill, drill drill.

Liberals got the wrong idea when Obama won in 2008.  They thought it was game, set, and match.

But there is a reason why liberals had to rebrand themselves as "progressives."  Americans really don't like liberals.  They are America's ruling class and they are annoyingly bossy.  A nice win for the Gipper would really quiet our liberal friends up for a decade, and let the rest of us get on with building families, expanding the economy, and repairing the national balance sheet.

Then, a decade or two from now, it will be time for a new generation of liberals, a generation that "knew not Obama" and the really dumb strategic mistakes he made.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Estonia, Spain and the Welfare State

Today they are reporting massive demonstrations against "austerity" in Spain.
The protest was one of over 80 demonstrations called by unions across the county against civil servant pay cuts and tax hikes which drew tens of thousands of people, including police and firefighters wearing their helmets.
It's the basic problem with the welfare state.  It taxes and spends up to the limit in good times and then finds out that the welfare state functionaries and beneficiaries strongly object to the trimming of their benefits in bad times.

That's why there is Paul Krugman and Keynesian economics.  The solution to a debt and spending crisis is not to cut spending, they say.  Oh no.  That would cause "pointless misery." The solution instead is more spending and devaluation.

So it creates "pointless misery" for Estonia to bite the bullet and cut government spending and government employee salaries.  Far better to increase government spending on stimulus and bull through to the future. (Only, of course, in the case of Spain you can't devalue the Euro, so you call on the Germans to pony up.)

I think it is important to understand what is going on here.  Keynesian economics was born in the 1930s when the welfare state first went belly up after the central bank manipulations of the 1920s had created an unsustainable boom.  The Keynesian solution was devaluation and inflation.

But the Keynesians are just tame regime apologists trying to help get the welfare state pitcher out of a jam.  It is very difficult to get people to accept pay cuts--particularly government employees--after an unsustainable boom.  Union leaders an community organizers can get thousands into the streets to demand that the cuts be rescinded.  But if you devalue the currency or inflate it away then you have presented the people with a fait accompli.  Voila!  The politicians are out of a jam, for you can't roll back a devaluation.  Not without "pointless misery."

The real solution, of course, is that a nation's "welfare" should not be run through the government with all the waste, fraud, and abuse that entails.  Government doesn't do flexibility, doesn't do efficiency, doesn't do customer service, doesn't do constant improvement and renewal.  Government does force, and what government employees and beneficiaries want is the money, never mind if the whole country flushes down the toilet.

Moreover there is a great philosophical reason why the welfare state is a bad idea.  It comes out of Habermas' analysis of society as a dual concept, part system and part "lifeworld."  Government is all system.  You bully through a law, and then everyone has to obey the law or pay a penalty.  But humans as social animals live in a lifeworld where people in a community are constantly discussing and evaluating norms and behavior.  The more you build a welfare state the more you dehumanize people by forcing them into a system.  You make them into passive consumers of benefits and passive payers of taxes.  In a truly "social" system everyone would be involved and responsible in the day-to-day business of the lifeworld, giving and receiving and discussing and evaluating and judging--on the day-to-day business of the health of old people, the education of young people, and the relief of the poor.

When social services are returned to the lifeworld then an economic crisis would prompt everyone to pitch in to find a way, somehow, to keep grannie's meds coming, junior's education going, and helping the poor get through the hard times.  That would be a big difference from today's situation where the money goes to the most powerful special interest, whether "banksters," bureaucrats, or beneficiaries.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Why Obama Gets It Wrong

Why does Obama get it wrong?  I don't mean at the political level, the level of not saying anything that riles up the opposition with stupid stuff that says that "You didn't do that."

Actually, the president made a bigger error, as Charles Murray pointed out.  Wrote Murray:
There’s a standard way for Americans to celebrate accomplishment. First, we call an individual onto the stage and say what great things that person has done. Then that person gives a thank-you speech that begins “I couldn’t have done this without…” and a list of people who helped along the way. That’s the way we’ve always done it.
That's the way we recognize success.  We tell the successful one: "you are awesome."  And the successful one replies: "Aw shucks; I couldn't have done it without the janitor."

The bigger error comes out in Barney Frank's little nugget, retailed by Ross Douthat.
In [the liberal] worldview, the government is just the natural expression of our national community, and the place where we all join hands to pursue the common good. Or to borrow a line attributed to Representative Barney Frank, “Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together.”
Er, no, Barney.  That is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of government.  Let us look at how Alan Page Fiske, author of the Relational Models theory of human sociality puts it.  He says that there are four ways in which humans express themselves as social animals.  There is Communal Sharing.  There is Authority Ranking.  There is Equality Matching.  There is Market Pricing.

If we put it as baldly as possible, we would say that government is Authority Ranking all dolled up as Communal Sharing.  And that is being charitable to government.  Here is what Fiske actually says (PDF) about Authority Ranking.
The Authority Ranking (AR) mod bases sociality on asymmetrical differences... which define how to rank people: by age, gender, caste, seniority, promotion system, achievement on a task or test, contest or combat, passage through a ritual, possession of symbolic paraphernalia, bestowal of fiefdom, position determined by divination or revelation, charismatic performance, religious devotion, election, delegation or appointment by higher authority.
Sounds like the liberal welfare state to me.

Now, of course the United States is a community in the sense of Communal Sharing based "on the perception that a set of persons have something in common--something that makes them socially equivalent in some respect."  Well.  the whole point of the liberal ruling class is that racists, sexists, homophobes, and bitter clingers are not "socially equivalent."  The whole idea is to write them out of polite society.

And we know how Communal Sharing works in practice.  That's because Elinor Ostrom won a Nobel prize for her work on the "commons."  For Communal Sharing to work you have to have a small community with face-to-face relations where people are socially controlled by their need to maintain their reputation in the community as good citizens.  Naming and shaming is the name of the game for defaulters and rewards "You did it!" for the exemplary citizens.

But liberals don't do this with their welfare state.  They divide society into "us" and "them."  "We" are the good guys and "They" are the bad guys.  You are not allowed to name and shame anyone in the liberal ruling class--that is what "civility" is all about.  No are you allowed to name and shame anyone that is a liberal client--that is what the race card, class warfare and "blaming the victim" are all about.

The fundamental truth about conservatism is that conservatives have argued since the days of Edmund Burke that a national government cannot be the same as a local council of elders.  You can say that, at its best, your local council of elders can do Communal Sharing and rule by persuasion.  In other words, you can have Communal Sharing in you "little platoon."  But big government is government.  It is not a council but the power base of a ruling class.  It is an armed minority ruling over the people in a defined territory.  Government is force, and force goes beyond humans as social animals to the realm of Newtonian mechanics.  That is what Burke meant by "economists, sophisters, and calculators."

The real problem with presidents who say "You didn't do that" and Barney Franks that say "Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together" is not that they are lying to us about government and community and the individual.

The problem is that they are lying to themselves.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Gaffe, A Palpable Gaffe!

According to Michael Kinsley, "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth - some obvious truth he isn't supposed to say."

So it is pretty obvious that the president's gaffe on Friday 13th, "you didn't build that," is a classic gaffe.  Liberals like the president all think exactly what the president said, that everything good was created by liberal government, but it isn't a good idea to say it because most Americans believe in the American Dream, which is an individualist dream not a communal dream.

And now people are having tremendous fun dragging up photos of Steve Jobs with and iPhone, Bill Gates with a PC, Thomas Edison with a light-bulb, and photoshopping in the president yelling "You Didn't Build That!"

Conservatives may wonder why in the world liberals believe such rubbish.  That's easy.

We Americans have two duelling myths.  Conservatives believe in the Invisible Hand myth, that if you build it they will come.  Liberals believe in the Exploitation myth, that without liberals building caring and compassionate government programs we would all be slaves and sweatshop workers.

So when a liberal sees a picture of healthy, happy workers in some office park, they think "We liberals created that" with labor laws, with anti-discrimination laws, with minimum wage laws, and civil rights acts.  It's government to the rescue.

The thinking neo-Marxist disagrees.  He thinks that both big business and big government both carry the seeds of exploitation.  That's what Jewish emigres Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno wrote in the 1940s in The Dialectic of Enlightenment.  Both modern business and modern government are based on "instrumental reason," reason deployed for practical purposes.  "What men want to learn from nature is how to dominate it and other men."  And then there is this: "Enlightenment behaves towards things as a dictator toward men."  This line of thinking further developed by James C. Scott in Seeing Like a State. Governments want to make their people "legible" so they and tax them, conscript them, and control them.

So let's get free of the PollyAnna stuff about caring compassionate government, liberals.  Government is force, domination, tax, control.  It is delusion to think otherwise.

But there is a problem, and it is this.  Violence has gone down since the beginning of the age of the big corporation and the big government.  How can this be when we have big business and big government running around exploiting and dominating everything in sight?  The answer, as developed by lefties like Juergen Habermas, a student of Adorno, is that there is more to the human experience than the clanking mechanisms of instrumental reason.  Humans are social animals; we interact with each other not just in strategic system actions to extract maximum leverage from the rest of the world.  We also live in a lifeworld where we work out the good, the true, and the beautiful together in communicative interaction.

This fact of our social, rather than mechanical and instrumental, nature works itself out in theories of our social interaction, as developed by chaps like Alan Page Fiske.  We relate to each other in part by Communal Sharing, by Authority Ranking, by Equality Matching, and by Market Pricing.  On this view you could say that the dystopia imagined by Horkheimer and Adorno represents a world where everything has shrunk into a mechanical Authority Ranking and Market Pricing.

In fact, though, people hate it when human life is shrunken to just Authority and Markets.  That is why the folks laid off by Bain Capital are so upset.  They look at Romney and Bain as pure calculators that forgot that they were human.  That is why conservatives, ever since Edmund Burke, have championed "civil society" over the instrumental reason of "sophisters, economists and calculators."  And Neuhaus and Berger have championed the "mediating structures" to soften the harshness of the "megastructures" of business and government.

But people like President Obama and Elizabeth Warren don't get it, and that is why they are stumbling around with their mega-gaffes.  They think that their big government is the acme of evolved civilization and compassion.  They think that everything good in our society is built upon their programs, their education, their very fast trains, their green energy, and all the other corrupt government programs that are bankrupting our society.

The really interesting thing to me is that the real innovators, the Rockefellers, the Jay Goulds, the Carnegies, the Henry Fords, the Bill Gateses, the Steve Jobses, the ones that "didn't build it" are not very social or sociable at all.  Their astonishing innovations are the result of their anti-social nature.  They are obsessive people that don't listen and conform to other people and worry about what other people say about them.  They are almost pathologically anti-social.  They drop out of college.  They go off to India.  They are impossible to work for.  Yet they change the world with their genius.

But that makes sense to me, even if it doesn't to liberals.  Human society depends on an eternal battle between the individual and the society.  That makes it almost impossible to determine which is right: the individualist creed that champions the individual creator against the dumb herd, or the communalist creed that works to bring everyone together into consensus.  And without a society, the individual genius would just be one hand clapping.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why Obama Trashes Businessmen

When President Obama gave his "On your own" speech as Osawatomie, Kansas, conservatives were upset.  When house-flipper Elizabeth Warren told a meeting that people don't create businesses on their own, conservatives sneered.

But when President Obama told business owners that "If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that," conservatives exploded, and pundits opinionated here and here and here and here and here and here.

Now, of course, there is a sense in which the president is right.  There is no business until there is a government protecting property and contracts.

But why does the president think he needs to tell us this?

I will tell you.  The president has to believe that government is the enabling force behind every successful entrepreneur.  Every liberal supporter of big government has to believe that a world without big government run by liberals is a dark, cruel world of unimaginable injustice.  Otherwise what is the point of all those government programs?

I like to say that there are two economic myths competing for the hearts and minds of modern people.  There is the Invisible Hand myth, that says that all you need to do is offer your services to the world and it will reward you.  Then there is the Exploitation myth that says that everyone is screwed unless a powerful and just government comes to your aid and rights the oppression and injustice of the ruling class.

You can see immediately what falls out of these two myths.  On the Invisible Hand view, the need for government, any government, is obviously minimal.  On the Exploitation view, the need for government, and a particular kind of government, is immediate.

Obviously, neither of these myths can be true.  It is just not true that the world is a Pollyanna-land where the lions lie down with the lambs.  On the other hand, it requires tortured logic to insist that the stunning economic growth that has taken place since the dawn of the Invisible Hand myth in the 18th century is proof that the world is imprisoned in a hell of exploitation.

In America, the particular version of the Invisible Hand myth that we celebrate is called The American Dream.  It says that anyone can grow up to be president of the United States.

Here's a modern version of the American Dream. Once upon a time, in 1961, a boy baby was born in America.  His parents loved him very much.  But then he was abandoned by his father, and then his step-father, and then his mother.  So it fell to his grandmother to raise him to adulthood.  But despite all this, the boy, Barack Hussein Obama II, grew up to become the First Black President of the United States.

But notice that the grandmother didn't do it on her own.  Oh no.  She was a vice-president of a bank, a greedy banker, a "bankster."  And banks, as we know, are the darlings of big government, cosseted, and subsidized, and bailed out and given access to the Federal Reserve System's discount window.  So it wasn't Barack Obama that did it on his own.  Oh no.  It was the Federal Reserve System.  And liberal admission officers that admitted him to selective colleges.

The reason that we celebrate the American Dream and people that found successful businesses is not that we ignore the importance of society and a just government.  It is that we know how very hard it is to found and build a successful business.  We want to encourage young people to overcome their fears and accept the risks and the heartaches of trying to build something "of their own."  Liberals have their own version of this.  They call it encouraging "positive self-esteem."

Many years ago the Democrats tried this class warfare game. and they failed miserably.  I seem to remember some pundit explaining why.  The reason is that there are tens of millions of Americans that nurture a great hope that they may one day get successful and rich.  Think Joe the Plumber. They are fools, of course, because probably not one in a hundred will live out his dream.  But remember, the one thing left when Pandora's Box emptied out was hope.

It was said that in Napoleon's army every private carried a marshal's baton in his knapsack, because the Grande Armee was an army that promoted on merit.

But not in Obama's Solyndra America.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jews and Paulites Knock on GOP Door

Back in March we stolid Romney supporters here in Seattle, Washington, were nearly overwhelmed by the insurgent Ron Paul supporters.  In my precinct caucus we had three Romney supporters and two Paul supporters.  The Romney guys were old 'uns and the Paul supporters were thirtysomethings.

I had a simple message for the Ron Paul supporters.  I said, you are welcome here.  Come into the Republican Party and make it your home.  I meant, of course, that they should come in the GOP and start to rearrange the furniture to make it more comfortable for libertarians like them.

Now I read that Jews in suburban Illinois are moving in battalion strength into the Republican column.  It is not because of Obama and his Israel policy.  It is because the last ten years of Democratic state government has trashed the Illinois economy.  Said one GOP activist:
You have to understand that in this part of the world, as in so many, life is with family. Whether you’re Jewish, Catholic, or Protestant, you don’t want to see you[r] children to grow up in a state without opportunity and move away. What I see is people are realizing that their children will have no economic opportunity here and move. When people think their grandchildren are going to be living in Texas or North Carolina because of failed economic policies, party loyalty evaporates. Here, it’s a family crisis if the grandchildren are more than fifteen minutes away.
 Jews are seeing the death spiral of big government and are open to persuasion.
Jews are slowly beginning to understand that compassion and social justice cannot mean a coerced transfer of the benefits of their labor to someone else. The concepts of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) are moral obligations of the individual, not obligations imposed on the individual by the state.
This is the central argument of modern conservatism.  You can only give charity and repair the world through your own moral actions in civil society.  Government cannot repair the world.  It can only compel obedience.  Compelled charity is not charity.  Healing the wounds of the world with force just opens new wounds.

Of course we know why Jews have been anti-Republican in recent years.  It's the Christianity.  Jews naturally fear that the Christians might turn on them again and scapegoat them, and Democratic politicians know it.  If there is one thing that Democrats know how to do it is to play the race card to keep the blacks home, the class card to keep the workers home, the gender card to keep the feminists home, and the bigotry card to keep the Jews home.

Actually, that class card hasn't been working so good in recent years.  What's the Matter with Kansas, anyway?

But the truth is that the Republican Party has a great big open door.  Anyone can come in, and anyone can make it their home.  The Republican Party may be the stupid party, but it is also the "nice" party, and we are determined to be nice to the new neighbors.  In the last 40 years, we've had Reagan Democrats come and go, but mostly come.  We've had the Religious Right come aboard.  Lately it's been the Tea Party.  Now it's looking like the libertarians and the Jews are next.  Maybe Catholics too.

All I can say is:  Come on in and make the Republican Party your own.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Will Micro-tasking Take Over the World

President Obama and his acolytes are making a big deal about "outsourcing", the evil Republican plan to help evil corporations send all American jobs offshore.

But perhaps an even bigger threat is "microtasking", the on-line movement for people to do small tasks for corporations over the Internet for cash.  After all, argues Jonathan V. Last, it could detach corporations from the people that do the work.
Because while it’s true that the new world of anonymous, mass, remote freelancing may be a perfect distillation of a textbook labor market, it’s also a radical change in Americans’ understanding of the social compact between business and the citizenry. And it’s not clear that this change is for the good...

Because they are perpetual and, in a certain sense, unaccountable, modern corporations have a different set of interests than flesh-and-blood people, and a very different relationship with the people’s voice--government--than old-fashioned sole proprietorships or partnerships... [T]he corporation by design has only an interest in its own survival and profitability: It will concern itself with government insofar as it can enlist the government in helping it make money. On every other question, the corporation is, by definition, indifferent.
So global freelancing will take over the world, right?

Well, not exactly.  We turn to liberal Jonathan Haidt and his The Righteous Mind.  He writes about how instinctively humans color every action with moral judgment, and how profoundly "groupish" we are.

Humans love to belong to "teams", according to Haidt, from families to tribes to religions, and we do our best work when we work as part of a team.  The most notable kind of team is the military squad, and it turns out that parade-ground drilling helps form the bond of the band of brothers, the critical bonding between soldiers that prompts them to sacrifice for each other.  Rhythmic dancing is similar to rhythmic marching; it helps promote a "groupish" feeling.

A corporation, Haidt reminds us, is just such a group.  Loosed upon the world two hundred years ago, it turned out to be a "winning formula."
It let people place themselves in a new kind of boat within which they could divide labor, suppress free riding, and take on gigantic tasks with the potential of gigantic rewards...

It is possible to build a corporation staffed entirely by Homo economicus... But this approach (sometimes called transactional leadership) has its limits...

In contrast, an organization that takes advantage of our hivish [i.e. groupish] nature can activate pride, loyalty, and enthusiasm among its employees and then monitor them less closely. This approach to leadership (sometimes called transformational leadership) generates more social capital--the bonds of trust that help employees get more work done at a lower cost than employees at other firms... Unlike Homo economicus, they are truly team players.
 Maybe we should stop worrying about whether "outsourcing" and "offshoring" will end the world as we know it.  Markets are wonderful, and capitalism has given us enormous wealth.  But almost everyone navigates the capitalist ocean in a boat with a crew of other humans.  It's likely that capitalism wouldn't work at all unless its workers worked in the modern teams we call corporations.  Just as soldiers since time immemorial have been organized in the 150-man unit called a "company."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where's Romney?

Things feel a little flat on the presidential campaign front, and Republicans are beginning to fret.  Where's Romney?  How come he hasn't hit ObamaCare out of the ball-park?  How come he hasn't wrapped Obama in ObamaTax?  How come he got photographed riding a jet-ski?

Here's what I think.  I think that Mitt Romney spent the entire Fourth of July week strategizing.  And that's a good thing.  Starting from now we will start to see what Romney and his people think they need to do to prepare for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, August 27-30, 2012.

The first thing out of the box appears to be a decision to go after the president on his Bain outsourcing message.

Meanwhile everyone is offering their advice.  Here's Pat Caddell writing about "trust" and "taxes."  Here's Hugh Hewitt's chappie Clark Judge writing about the "battle of the agendas phase" of the campaign.  And there are a ton of people declaring that Romney has screwed up.  Totally.

In my view, this campaign offers Republicans an extraordinary opportunity to talk to the American people about some basic facts of life.

On taxes, I'd talk about the choice.  OK, Mr. President, so you want the rich to pay a little more.  Let's agree that we want to use the money of the rich for a good societal purpose.  Now, the question is: will the rich contribute more by creating new jobs (since almost all of "the rich" apart from liberal trustafarians are business owners) or by paying more in taxes?  What do you think, America?

On trust, the question is how to call the Barack Obama untruthful without calling the President of the United States a liar.  It's a delicate question that I am happy to leave to the professionals.

But the bigger question, I feel, is to make politics bigger.  The fact is that politics seldom gets beyond "what have you done for me lately?"  People support candidates that they expect to turn around and reward them.  That's why Social Security is a success.  Most people think that they benefit.  That's why ObamaCare is in trouble.  Most people think that they are going to get screwed.  It all adds up to Springtime for Freeloaders.

Our liberal friends are the worst at this.  They claim to be working for the good of all, but when it comes to the hustings it's all about class warfare and the race card and we care about you because we spend money on you.

What I want is a move away from the clientism of welfare-state politics towards a "culture of involvement."  In my America we won't need big government because every person in America will be engaged civically in contributing their time and money to the solving of social problems large and small.  It would be a society that is less governmental and more social.

Meanwhile we have an election ahead, a sluggish economy, and a president doing his best to divide us. I just hope that Mitt Romney came up with a good plan from his Fourth of July recess.

I am not talking about a "plan" for the economy.  We know what is needed there: tax cuts, spending cuts, regulation cuts, and sound money.  I am talking about a "plan" to persuade the American people to vote out President Obama, the worst president in history.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Real Blunder of the Sixties

The sensible Robert Samuelson has a piece out today about the economic blunder of the 1960s.  He writes:
Until the 1960s, Americans generally believed in low inflation and balanced budgets. President John Kennedy shared the consensus but was persuaded to change his mind. His economic advisers argued that, through deficit spending and modest increases in inflation, government could raise economic growth, lower unemployment and smooth business cycles.

None of this proved true; all of it led to grief.
OK.  It's true, as far as it goes.  Although there have always been advocates of "cheap money" and there always will be. Sometimes they get the ear of politicians, and sometimes they don't.

It is true that, by giving itself permission to borrow and print money, America's ruling elite basically exempted itself from rules of prudence.  It swept away an important political excuse, as in "Gee fellas, I'd love to spend more money on your pet program but it would involve deficit spending, and that would be wrong."

But the real blunder is the whole idea that major social functions should be performed by government.  It is just not true that there is a need for a compulsory program of national retirement savings.  Most people are pretty prudent; once they get their kids raised they start to save for retirement.

That goes for health care and education, too.  Women are passionately engaged in health care for their family, and drive family spending to budget for health care.  Ditto education.  If the government weren't delivering health care and education then people would do it on their own, like the middle class did before the invention of the welfare state.

Of course, all these social functions would be different if government didn't do them.  They would involve a lot more personal involvement.  People would volunteer at hospitals and schools and give money to them; they would help their relatives with hospital bills and school fees; they would belong to fraternal organizations that provided social benefits to their members.  That is what middle-class people used to do.

But the ruling elite decided that they wanted to run all these social functions.  They would use government and the tax system to organize and fund it all, and they would use university experts to plan and structure the programs.  And when they got in a jam they would borrow a little money.  When they got into a recession they would print a little money.

That is what Keynesianism is all about.  It is all about the welfare state pitcher trying to get out of a jam.  A little spit, a little scuff, and he should be able to throw a strike and make that last out.

The trouble is that, after a century of spit-balls and scuffing, the Keynesian ball is such a mess that today's pitchers can't deliver that crucial out.

Ten years ago Robert D. Putnam set our liberal friends tut-tutting with his Bowling Alone.  He mourned that America was hollowing out because people weren't "joining" any more.  Of course liberals completely missed the point.  Humans join organizations not because they like joining up but because social organizations help them to live and thrive and help them when they need help.  But with the welfare state and its bureaucratic provision of all the social functions there is no point in joining organizations for mutual benefit.  It's a waste of time as you merely end up duplicating a function that the government provides for "free".  You might as well just stay home and sit in front of the TV.

The truth is that our liberal ruling class has created a monster.  The more that it taxes and spends the less that people feel responsible for getting out and making a difference, and the more people demand "free stuff" like everyone else.

The bottom line with blunders is that it costs a bundle to set a blunder right.  Usually the cost can be counted both in money and in heartache.  Back in the 1980s Ronald Reagan gave us a chance to correct the blunder after the stagflation of the 1970s, but liberals refused to reform their welfare state and their "free stuff" subsidies.  Today, the politics of President Obama amounts to "free stuff" politics on steroids.

So now we have to go through the horrors of 1979-82 all over again.  Only this time it is hurting a lot more than back in the early days of the Reagan revolution.  That is because we are in a bigger hole this time.

Will liberals learn their lesson this time?  We can but hope.  Here is an idea. Eight years of a Republican in the White House and a Republican Congress would go a long way to changing their minds.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Keep On Higgsing

The discovery of the Higgs boson is a great achievement for physics.  Whether the discovery is the Higgs boson or a Higgs-like boson is besides the point.  The characteristics of the products of proton-proton collisions at the energy levels in the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva will doubtless expose anomalies that will partly confirm and partly challenge current theory.

Of course, at the layman's level, with its metaphors of "particles" and "zoo," we really don't have a clue what is going on.  After all, we are dealing with a micro world where there are no particles.  There are quanta of energy and some of the quanta have mass, whatever that is.  The whole thing is a morass of mathematics and the particles and fields are just convenient metaphors.  Everything is a question of probabilities until there is an observable event. The Higgs boson is associated with the Higgs field and is supposed to explain why some quanta have mass and others don't.

In my layman's view, all the narrative around physics is the same as Plato conjuring up his cosmology in the Timaeus.  It takes current knowledge and recklessly extends it towards an explanation of the eternal mystery of the meaning of "life, the universe, and everything."

But all science ever seems to do is unfold even deeper mysteries.  Today, as we wrap up the Standard Model of 20th century physics, we already have a mystery waiting in the wings.  As one physicist put it:
"Even if we find out that this is indeed, to the best of our ability to measure, the Standard Model Higgs boson, there are all these other questions that are unanswered. One of the first questions is: What composes the dark matter in the universe? There's no room in the Standard Model of the universe to make up the dark matter, so we have to look at other candidate alternatives."
So we are at the same position as we were over a century ago when the Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887 revealed that the speed of light always checked out the same.  According to the best physics at the time, it ought to be different, depending on its orientation to the "ether."   If the speed of light is the same in all directions, what does it mean?  A man who was then 8 years old came up with the shocking answer.

Every time we make a big breakthrough in physics, we pretty soon find that there is another mystery confronting us.  That is why philosophy has abandoned "foundationalism."  We don't know the basic building blocks of the universe.  All we know is that we have science that checks out at observable energies.  Knowledge is good until it gets updated with something new and improved.

Meanwhile the physicists need to come up with a rationale to keep their big toys going and maybe come up with a reason for something bigger and better.  I wonder what they will propose.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why Liberals Like ObamaCare

Last week I picked up a copy of James C. Scott's Seeing Like a State on my way from Seattle to Ashland, Oregon.  It had been on my Amazon Wish List and so when I went into Powell's I was looking for it.

But how had it got on my Wish List?  I checked and I see it's because I read a piece by Jonah Goldberg back in April.  Now that I have read it, I can say that, like Jonah, Seeing Like a State has "left a lasting impression on me."

Let's have Jonah tell the story.
If there were one thing I could impress upon people about the nature of the state, it’s that governments by their very nature want to make their citizens “legible.”...

The premodern state was “blind” to its subjects. But the modern state was determined first to see them, and then organize them.
Sound familiar?  This legibility project involved a host of efforts, from mandatory surnames to changing land tenure from communal to freehold.  Why?  Because a person with a surname is easier to find.  A freehold is easier to tax than a village with a word-of-mouth understanding of who owns what and why.

At a basic level, the state need to be able to "see" its subjects in order to tax them and conscript them.  An Asian state with rice cultivation needs to identify and control the people working in the paddy fields.  A modern industrial state needs to know all about its economy so that it knows how much it can spend on buying peoples' votes, or how much national debt it can afford.

There is no end to this.  The state pretty soon decides it needs to run the education system so it can generate productive workers--and also make sure that they learn the right history.  It decides that it needs to vaccinate to control infectious diseases and know who has and who hasn't been vaccinated.  From there, it decides it needs to provide basic health care to keep its workforce (and possible soldiers) strong and healthy.

Pretty soon you get to Obamacare where the government wants to monitor and control everything about healthcare.  Here's what is in store for doctors under ObamaCare according to Daniel Henninger.
[It's the] Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), lodged in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Here's the Centers' own description of what PQRS does: "The program provides an incentive payment to practices with eligible professionals (identified on claims by their individual National Provider Identifier [NPI] and Tax Identification Number [TIN]) who satisfactorily report data on quality measures for covered Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) services furnished to Medicare Part B Fee-for-Service (FFS)."
See what is going on?  The physicians will be required to report their activities to the government so the government can figure out what is going on in healthcare--make it "legible"--and control it.

It is exactly as Scott writes in Seeing Like a State.  In Scott's view, the way this government imperative works in the modern state is that it wants to reduce everything to a rational system, like mass production in the industrial corporation.  Only, of course, these days the huge bureaucratic corporation is going out of style.  People talk of rapid-response, flexibility, print-on-demand, etc.  And there is F.A. Hayek who argued that big bureaucracy was inherently flawed because it could not know as much as thousands of workers or millions of consumers.

If the government is not to be all-seeing and all-powerful, then we need to restrict its right to know everything about us.  Our liberal friends talk a lot about "privacy," but they usually restrict it to sexual and political matters.  They don't want the government to know what they are doing in the bedroom or in the activist group.

But liberals don't care about privacy in economic matters.  That's why they support massive centralized systems to control pensions, healthcare, education, and welfare.  That's because liberals are the modern ruling class and that makes them "see like a state."

When conservatives call for strengthening civil society they are calling for reducing the legibility and visibility of individual citizens.  That's why Berger and Neuhaus wrote about "mediating structures" to shelter individuals from the "megastructures."   All they are proposing is to restore the protections that village communes and medieval guilds used to provide.  But the modern state did away with the old mediating structures precisely because they prevented the central government from knowing about individuals and controlling them.

Of course, the horse has left the barn on that, centuries ago.  But it is clear that individuals need to be protected from the power of the state.  What other way is there than a civil society that restricts the visibility of the individual to the state and restricts state control?

We also need to see that the market reduces the need for the state to make the individual visible and legible, because the market economy is a system where economic actors produce and serve and buy and sell.  We don't need to see inside the head of a trader, and we don't need to see inside the boundaries of a corporation.  We just need to be able to trust them.  In the market economy it is perfectly OK to have companies and corporations that throw a veil over many of their internal activities.  But certain facts need to be public, such as income, equity, debt, etc.

Back in the Soviet Union they pretty well destroyed the Russian peasant world in a crazed effort to make it organized and visible and to tax it with grain seizures to pay for its forced industrialization.  But many social activities just cannot flourish if they are organized like a bureaucracy and simplified down to one-size-fits-all.

If we learned anything from the Soviet Union it is that an individual that is completely visible to the state is an individual that is completely in the power of the state.

Conservatives have the answer, of course.  It is that the government welfare state should be broken up and returned to civil society institutions.  Government really shouldn't do anything unless it absolutely requires force: national defense and internal policing.  And when it sticks to that it doesn't need complete visibility and legibility, to know everything about every single individual.

The problem is how to persuade the American people, especially those hooked on "free stuff."  Which is just about all of us.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Understanding the Intimidation of Justice Roberts

Whether or not Chief Justice Roberts changed his mind about ObamaCare because of liberal media intimidation doesn't change anything.

The fact is that all politics is civil war by other means.  Different groups have different power centers.  When you are fighting the political wars you cannot just do frontal assaults like World War I.

By the end of World War I the Germans figured out how to attack an entrenched line.  You divide up your assault force into small squads, each led by an NCO.  The job of the squads is to find the soft spots in the line, penetrate them, and then call for reinforcements.  You have to hit the enemy where he is weakest.  Otherwise you get defeated.

Same thing goes for conservative politics.  We cannot expect to win with a frontal assault on liberalism in the Supreme Court.  That's because the present ruling class is not a landed ruling class or a business ruling class; it is an educated ruling class.  If the Supreme Court ruled against ObamaCare 5-4 the educated ruling class would combine to utterly destroy the intellectual basis of the ruling.  It wouldn't matter how specious and mendacious the attacks would be.  The conservative court would just get overwhelmed.  And then where would we be?

Whatever the strength of conservatism, it cannot concentrate in the intellectual strongholds of the educated elite.  It has to concentrate elsewhere and then storm the liberal strongholds.

The overriding goal of the conservative movement is to overthrow the current regime of big-government hegemony, the "internal colonialism" of a wise and beneficent Oz that knows better than the people how to organize life in this advanced and complicated world, a world too complex and too bewildering for ordinary people to navigate without expert supervision.  Colonialism is colonialism, whether conducted by the British in India, local strongmen in Africa, or liberals in the United States federal government.

There is a role for experts in our modern society.  But the lesson of the 20th century is that you don't want the experts in an unholy coalition with the politicians.  Why is that?  Because when you build anything, from a building to a social program, you will probably build it wrong and have to change it.  Government is singularly ineffective at responding to problems with timely solutions.  There is a simple reason for this.  Government is force; it can only deal with problems that have got beyond mere disagreement.  It is the agency for imposing solutions, not working them out.

Modern conservatism has build an intellectual system that experiences government as a force that needs to be limited to the problems that really need force, like Commies on a world-wide expansion or single young men on an urban rampage.  But liberals won't listen to us.

So what do we do?

First of all, there is good news on the ideas front. In the last 50 years, many left-wing writers have given us ideas that confirm and validate our conservative instincts.  Horkheimer and Adorno said that the much vaunted Reason of the Enlightenment is a force for domination of Nature and other men.  Juergen Habermas has extended their analysis and called for the development of the person-to-person "lifeworld" of communicative discourse as against the dominative "system" world of instrumental reason.  Now we have professors like James C. Scott taking the ideas of Michel Foucault--originally intended as a critique of bourgeois capitalism--and applying them to "high modernism," the rigid bureaucratic systems of Le Courbusier and Lenin.  We have Jonathan Haidt discussing the various different ways in which moral discourse is developed and how liberals are deficient.  We have the Relational Model of sociality developed by Alan Fiske and the ideas of civil society developed by Lawrence E. Cahoone.  They all show how the bureaucratic centralism of the welfare state is ineffective and fails to conform to mankind's nature of social animals, and they are all ready to blossom when we get into a situation where the Liberal Ascendancy starts to totter.  These thinkers tend to be "esoteric" in the Straussian sense.  They are careful not to offend the educated ruling class, but anyone can take their ideas and apply them directly at the cruelty and injustice of the liberal welfare state.  

Meanwhile we have the conservative movements of resistance.  The notion of "resistance" is another left-wing concept, usually applied to their favorite victims and as often as not used to describe movements that are not movements at all but AstroTurf rent-a-mobs organized by community organizers.  The other day I wrote quickly about three conservative movements of resistance: the pro-life movement, the Second Amendment movement, and the Tea Party.  You will notice that these are all movements that are actively scorned and marginalized by our liberal friends.

But there are other movements of resistance.  There is the home-school movement.  There is the anti-global-warming movement.  What do these movements have in common?  They are all focused in different ways on resisting the centralizing power of the educated ruling class.

A friend once asked why Americans were anti-intellectual.  The answer is that Americans dislike the power of the intellectual ruling class.  They understand that the the intellectual ruling class is a force opposed to them and their way of life.  So they know they must fight it.  Nothing personal, of course..