Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Paglia's Feminist Foolishness

In looking over the WSJ's "weekend interview" with Camille Paglia, it's hard to decide who is more foolish, Paglia or her interviewer Bari Weiss.

It almost makes you despair that we will ever come out of the utter folly of feminism and the women's movement, which both so totally misunderstand woman and womanhood.

The crowning folly is the notion that the highest calling for woman is a career in the workplace.  Here is Paglia's muddled thinking muddied by the pen of her muddled interviewer.  On the subject of sex education Paglia wants to get away from mechanical stuff and concentrate on life choices.
"I want every 14-year-old girl . . . to be told: You better start thinking what do you want in life. If you just want a career and no children you don't have much to worry about. If, however, you are thinking you'd like to have children some day you should start thinking about when do you want to have them. Early or late? To have them early means you are going to make a career sacrifice, but you're going to have more energy and less risks. Both the pros and the cons should be presented."
 What do you mean "career sacrifice," Camille?  Are you suggesting that career is naturally or appropriately the center of a woman's life, or ought to be, or that a woman should think carefully before she steps away from a career?  What makes you think that "career" is so gosh-darned important anyway?

Let us illuminate this folly with a discussion of chimpanzees.  Remember!  The scientists tell us that our DNA is only one or two percent different than our great ape cousins.  So the behavior of our cousins should tell us a lot about ourselves.

Chimpanzees, according to Nicholas Wade in "Before the Dawn," operate a society in which the females devote their lives to food gathering and caring for the young and males defend the borders of the troop's territory.  Both "gendered" roles are essential because more territory equals more food equals raising more young chimps to adulthood.

In our modern notions, we would say that the men were involved in constant border wars and the women lived in a community of women that cared for the troop and its children.

But when the hunter-gatherer age gave way to the agricultural age only a minority of men were needed for border wars.  The rest were needed for the heavy work of plowing (because women get miscarriages from heavy work).  You can still see this gendered role playing out in the paddies of South India, as the men drive the oxen and the women plant the rice plants in the mud.

With the industrial age the need for border warriors is even lower than in the agricultural age, so the question arose: what to do with the men?  The brilliant answer was "careers," from the French "carrière" or racetrack.

Instead of warriors, competing to be the top-dog in the caste of war fighters, men would now compete in the world of bourgeois business.  They would battle for market share, for promotion in government and corporate bureaucracies, for the glory of being the next Steve Jobs, the man that made Apple into a global cultural phenomenon.

Even so, of course, a majority of men would never enter the career stakes.  Lacking the competitive drive to dominate, they would be happy to acquire a skill, get a job, and live a life as husband, father, and provider.

At some point some bright spark decided that men were hoarding all the career goodies for themselves: women should get a share.  Women should get an advanced education, should enter the lists of career advancement, should break the glass ceilings that prevented women from exercising power and influence.

Except that while a majority of men are not particularly interested in a career of power, an overwhelming majority of women are uninterested in a career of power.

Yet here we have a culture and a ruling class that thinks it is doing a good thing by brainwashing every young man into believing that he should go to college and devote his life to a career, whether in business, government, or education.  And we have Camille Paglia dutifully repeating the same meme for 14-year-old girls, to think seriously about whether they should compromise career with children.

Let us get real here.  The most important thing that 90 percent of men and 90 percent of women will do is get married, make a family, raise their children and then get those children off the nest.  Work, career, fame, fortune, they are all very well, but they mean nothing if they do not serve that central purpose of life.

The stunning achievement of the modern age is to have figured out how to sublimate the aggressive instincts of men from war to the fake war of economic competition.  It has taken dominating aggressive males and bent them to the yoke of the market and the organization and made them into gentle husbands and fathers.  Otherwise the surplus population of warriors would just be causing trouble.

Do you not see that this domestication of males is an incandescent achievement that makes the invention of fire a mere footnote?

On this view why should anyone think that the means of domesticating men into the "career" would have any relevance for women, who are already domesticated and need no prompting to get with the program?

In the corporate world they encourage the corporate climbers to extend their "circle of influence."  It makes sense, for the male career is a career of domination, of corporate or market conquest.

But a woman's life is rarely a career of domination.  The women that I know, brainwashed to a fare-thee-well by the cult of career, eventually find themselves reverting to type.  They find that they are less interested in conquering the world and shattering the glass ceiling than in building a "career of care."  They want their loved ones safe and their minds forever return to the care of their loved ones.  Everything they think and do relates to the care and safety of their "circle of care."

And what about Camille Paglia, the feminist firebrand?  She's been a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia since the 1980s.  Hey, Camille, what happened to breaking the glass ceiling and becoming a dean or a president?  Golly, here's a terrifying thought.  Perhaps Paglia just wants to teach and to write.  That means that she never wanted the great arc of a career, only a chance to write iconoclastic books like "Sexual Personae" and teach other people to become artists.

Eventually, lesbian Paglia and her partner decided that they wanted a child, and now 66-year-old Paglia has an 11-year-old son.  Only Paglia and partner are now separated.

I wonder what the 11-year-old son with think about all this in 20 years.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Note to Hegemons: Slaves Don't Tell You What They Really Think

The flap over Phil Robertson and his Biblical philippic on homosexuality, bestiality, fornication and all the rest of the old-fashioned sins has another angle.

Writes John Fund:
But people saved plenty of ire for his comments, offered in an interview with GQ magazine, that when he grew up in Louisiana in the 1950s he never saw “the mistreatment of any black person” and that African Americans in that era didn’t have complaints about white people.
Well of course he didn't see any mistreatment.  If you want to know what the slaves think about their slavery, don't ask the slavemaster.  In the Jim Crow of the Southern states, a white guy ain't gonna get the straight scoop from a man he and his kind are likely to call "boy."

The whole point of any hegemonic system is that the hegemons need to train the underlings to accept their subservience as a fact of nature.  It's kinda like Downton Abbey.  The downstairs people never let a peep of their resentments show to the upstairs people.  They just dutifully do their work and melt into the furniture.  Moreover, if the rulers are doing things right, the underlings will be focusing on their resentments vis-a-vis their fellow underlings.  They will pissed of that some other servant is getting an undeserved advantage because she has the ear of the mistress.  They are not thinking about the injustice of the whole system.

So if the liberals were actually as intellectual and knowledgable as they claim they would not just be condemning Robertson for his racism.  They would be twisting the knife with knowing remarks about feudal lords and slave owners down the ages.

Of course, liberals have their own problems in this department.  They think that everyone except a few bigoted conservatives absolutely love their welfare state and their wonderful Obamacare.  But most Americans know that when a liberal professor comes calling with a menacing remark about a "nice little grade you got here" they know how to behave towards the liege lord that has the power to make things really difficult for them.

Maybe in 30 years you'll run into some doddering old professorette that can swear on a stack of grant proposals that none of her students were ever mistreated or shamed as the conservatives imagine.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This Christmas, Let's Reach Out to Liberals

In this time of good cheer, spare a thought for your liberal friend.

This is not a good time to be a liberal.

No, I am not talking about the fact that it looks like the bullies from GLAAD accidentally ran into a Louisiana buzz-saw.  I am talking about the implosion of the liberal idea.

The Obamacare meltdown is the immediate cause of liberal misery, but that is just the proximate cause.  Crowding up behind the pathetic and serial failures of the Obamacare rollout is the fact that the Obama experience brings into question, at long last, the whole liberal project.

If liberals can't build a website, what's the point?

If liberals can't create a big-government program with at least the pretense of competence and coherence, what's the point?

If liberals can't restore the economy to prosperity, what's the point?

If liberals can't predict the climate, what's the point?

If liberals are just another proud, overbearing, unjust, incompetent ruling class -- like all the ruling classes that came before them -- what's the point of them?

Every ruling class relies to a greater extent than we appreciate on the favor of the gods, the Mandate of Heaven: good harvests, good health, good times, good prospects.

And Barack Obama came in with such promise.  Why Barbara Walters reckoned that "we" all thought Obama was the Messiah.

(I know, that stupidity tells us more about Walters than about Obama).

If we conservatives were liberals we would redouble the efforts of GLAAD, of PETA, of HRC, of the race-baiters, of the academic PC crowd and the George Soros think tanks and we would rout the liberal army and scatter it to the four winds and salt their fields and ban their secular churches and on and on.

But we are conservatives.  And so, this Christmastide, let us each think of a liberal friend and reach out with a compassionate arm.

Let us tell our liberal friends that we feel their pain, and we want to help.  Of course, we'll say, things can't go on as before, with liberals spending the national credit card like there was no tomorrow.

But let it be said that conservatives will stand ready with a friendly word and a helping hand as our liberal friends go through the dark night of the soul in the months and years ahead.

Not because of them, but because of who we are, this Christmastide.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Government Always Screws the Powerless

Back in the day the modern progressive movement assured us that it fought for the common man.  And the working man.  Then it progressed to fighting for women.  For minorities.  For the "traditionally marginalized."  Or even for various sexual minorities, from gays to lesbians.  And now, of course, the New York Times is asking whether we should revise our ideas on polygamy -- sorry, "plural marriage".

And. of course, we have the famous prediction from John B. Judis and Ruiz Teixeira in The Coming Democratic Majority, that Democrats would rule forever on the support of women, minorities, young people, and professionals.

Now there is just one little problem with all this happy talk.  Government is force, and politics is power.  Whatever the rulers say, their program is power, and their behavior reflects that.

Any ruling class has two ideas, and two ideas only.  It is interested in seizing power, and it is interested in maintaining power.  All its promises and blandishments are made in service to those two objectives.

The people, whether they are old crusty geezers, greedy bankers, corporate greed, white racists, male patriarchs, or traditionally marginalized are mere pawns in the ruling class's game of power.

So yeah.  Back in the early modern era the newly rising bourgeoisie expatiated on the wonders of the common man.  But the governments they created were still governments, and the common man suffered mightily in the natural economic cycles of the capitalist age.

In the 19th century governments learned to sell themselves to the rising working class.  They offered them wondrous benefits, to be taken from the evil capitalists.  What it meant in practice was that the ruling class would sequester the savings of the working class and return whatever was left, in pensions, health care, unemployment, disability, after extracting its considerable fee in power and money.

We might ask whether the working class would have done better keeping its own money for its pensions, health care, etc.  Because the ruling class has ended up with a bankrupt system that is failing, and failing right now.  And what is the point, for the working class, of savings and health care that doesn't pay off?

The same is true for the groups that were going to make the Democrats the majority forever.

What about women?  Democrats have promised them a kind of liberation from all the heavy burdens of life: from overbearing husbands to unwanted children.  And, see here, wouldn't it be nice for women to get out of the house and work in the wage economy where the grass is greener, and even have career like men?

Or minorities.  Yep, minorities have lived under disadvantages since the dawn of time.  But the problem for minorities in the modern era is not merely removing disadvantages and exploitations, but learning how to thrive in the industrial and now post-industrial economy.  The politicians have offered the most wonderful shortcuts to this onerous process, but they lie.  The modern economy is founded upon the idea you figure out how to contribute to your fellow men and their needs and then you go do it.  Anything the politicians do to meddle with this process only lengthens it.

Hey, how about those young people?  Let's get one thing clear about young people.  On the one hand, they are highly susceptible to the fashions and fads whizzing around.  On the other hand they are the least powerful.  Why?  Because they haven't had time to organize and make themselves into a group for politicians to fear.

When the politicians tell the young people they care about them, they lie.  Politicians are going to use the young people, that's all.  On the one hand they may be able to fool the young people into serving in their political armies.  If they do that then the young people will suffer the fate of most soldiers and get left by the side of the road to die in some foreign country.  On the other hand they are going to make the young people suffer for the sins of their fathers.  It is the young people that will have to work to pull out of the wars, the famines, the financial crises, and the clear away the accretion of unsustainable privileges.

That's where we are in America in 2013.  We've had a century and more of the promises and blandishments and power and privileges of the ruling educated class.  Like every ruling class its promises and blandishments were mere self-serving apologies for power.  That is what the postmodernists tell us about the previous, bourgeois ruling class.

In the next few years the women, the minorities, and the young are going to find out just how broad and deep have been the lies of the liberal ruling class.  And so they will be looking for change.

But who knows if they will turn to the conservatives for relief?  After all, conservatives don't offer Hope and Change, and a heaven on earth.  Conservatives are People of the Responsible Self.  Conservatives offer people not a relief, a liberation from the cares of the world, but instead an engagement with the world.  For conservatives it is the individual, each individual, that must find out how to socialize with the world and contribute to his or her fellow man.  There is no such thing as a free lunch.

But conservatives have this to encourage them.  We would never had had a chance to earn the confidence of the American people until the liberals and their project of heaven on earth had failed.

After all, who would pass up a chance for heaven on earth for a mere offer to live a life as one of the People of the Responsible Self?

Nobody.  Not until that heaven on earth had been revealed as a hell of power and privilege.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Government Did It

This week there's a story in The Economist about the 13-week-old strike in Greece by university administrators.  The government, which is broke, is trying to reduce the administrator head-count.

Of course, the Greek government is doing it in a sneaky way, but what else is new.

But the strike makes the point.  Workers at government universities are not in the business of delivering services to consumers.  They are in the business of getting their paychecks.

Nor are the students are in the business of paying for an education.  They are trying to game the system to get a cheap degree.

Of course, everything the government does has this flavor.  But usually, the government gets to blame someone else.  You know the drill.  If there's a financial crisis it's all because of greedy bankers.  If gas prices are soaring it's all because of price-gouging oil companies.  If you can't get the health care you want, it's all because of insurance company profits.

But nine times out of ten, it's not the greedy bankers or the oil companies or the insurance companies.  No it's not the greedy corporations.  Financial crisis?  Probably due to government cheap credit.  Soaring oil prices?  Probably due to government restricting oil production.    Health insurance going up with bigger deductibles and exclusions?  Probably due to government micro-management of health care.

In other words, the government did it.

Of course, mixed in with all this is that corporations vigorously lobby for subsidies, carve-outs and exemptions from the politicians.  In exchange for political contributions.  So maybe they deserve to get the blame.

With Obamacare the government is trying to set up the insurance companies to take the blame.  But it's looking like the Obamis may not make the sale.  That's probably because Obama and the Pelosis thought that Obamacare was going to be a glorious success and that the uninsured would be crying hosannas as they signed up for their subsidized care.  So they started out grabbing all the credit for themselves, right up until the whole thing collapsed.

So, as of right now, the American people seem to be clued into the idea that the problem is Obamacare, not the evil insurance companies.

But the Greek experience gives us a hint of what is coming as the various US governments run out of money.  The government workers will go on strike.  The disappointed beneficiaries will take to the streets.

So the prudent man and woman will be planning for this.  They will be figuring that Social Security won't be much of a deal.  That Medicare will dissolve into unworkable regulations and price controls.  That government education will get worse and worse.  That welfare will fail more and more.

What should the prudent man do?  Well, he should do what any 19th century man would do.  He would figure that he'd have to pay for everything himself, from saving for retirement, health care, and hard times, to shelling out for his kids' education.  Yes, and he'll even figure that it's up to him to attend to the relief of the poor.

Many people will rail against the scapegoats offered up by the media, the politicians, and the activists.  But they will be fools.

Because government is just like an army.  It marches its troops around and fills them with propaganda.  But in the end it leaves them, dying, by the side of the road.

That's why the prudent thing to do is to ignore the government's propaganda.

Chances are, when something goes wrong, the government did it.

And, in the liberals' 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are Conservatives Voucher Addicts?

Michael Lind, founder of the New America Foundation, who styles himself a "radical centrist," thinks that conservatism is a one trick pony.  In Salon he complains that all conservative policy reduces to "vouchers."

He has a point.  We all know that conservatives want vouchers for education, to let parents take government money to the school of their choice.  But that ain't the half of it.
Healthcare? The right wants to replace Medicare and Medicaid with vouchers to let people shop for health insurance or healthcare in a deregulated healthcare marketplace.

Retirement? The right wants to privatize Social Security, replacing it with tax-favored individual contributions to private retirement savings accounts — a de facto voucher system.

The environment? Cap-and-trade, now demonized by conservatives, originated as a pro-market alternative to direct regulation of greenhouse gases.
Conservatives need to do vouchers in order to keep "the billionaires and the populists together in the GOP coalition."  The populists like their Medicare and Social Security, and "can’t afford to send their children to expensive private schools."  So vouchers represent an cynical abandonment of principle in the hard-right libertarian billionaires, a recognition that they need to buy the support of the gap-toothed populists.

We'll leave alone the notion that the conservative movement is run by libertarian billionaires.  After all, most of the billionaires are Democrats, from Bill Gates to Warren Buffet and the Google guys on down.  At least Republicans have the Koch brothers.

But give us a break, Michael Lind.  We want to demolish the whole corrupt, unjust structure of the authoritarian welfare state, so we have to start somewhere.  And for conservatives the way to start is to convert centralized one-size-fits-all bureaucratic administrative systems into subsidies.

Michael Lind may not know it, but conservatives are in two minds about vouchers.  Some policy analysts have warned that school vouchers will allow liberals to dominate the education system without actually running it as a bureaucratic system.  Just as the federal Department of Education bureaucrats can order universities around on the diversity and hate-speech front even though the universities are nominally independent, you can bet that they'd do the same to voucher-funded private schools.

Oh and by the way, when Lind sneers that "So far conservatives haven’t proposed voucherizing the Pentagon", he's full of it.  The Pentagon doesn't build its weapons at government arsenals; nor does it grow its own food. It outsources to eevil defense contractors.  Probably the only reason that government gets anything done at all is that it outsources pretty well all the actual "making" and "doing" to private contractors.

For conservatives vouchers aren't a panacea.  They are just a start, and usually preferable to naked, shameless, direct, brutal government by bureaucratic centralism.

And we have a principled justification for this.  With subsidies, at least you have the form of a market, and you have a system that responds every day to market signals even if the market signals are corrupted by subsidies.  With bureaucratic centralism there is no response to market signals, only to special interests and complete breakdown.

Still, subsidies lead to bubbles, as in real estate and in higher education.

Liberals use subsidies and vouchers as a half-way house too.  Obamacare is an example.  If liberals had their druthers, Obamacare would be a "single-payer" system, a glorious government bureaucratic system funded by taxes.  But liberals know that the American people don't want that.  So they came up with Obamacare and its subsidies: subsidies for the low-income, subsidies for the older participants, subsidies for the "pre-existing condition."

But maybe the eevil Republicans know their vouchers and subsidies better than the Democrats.  Because it looks like the Democrats utterly failed to do the math right on Obamacare.  And Democrats utterly failed to complete the bureaucratic tasks needed to get the whole thing off the ground.

But maybe that has nothing to do with government and subsidies.  Maybe all we are seeing is a ruling class coming to the end of the dynasty and running out of ideas.

But that's the sccusation Michael Lind directs at conservatives: "out of ideas."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Daring to Talk About Injustice

The most obvious thing about Obamacare is that it is unjust.

It is unjust in the way that it forces responsible people to subsidize irresponsible people.

It is unjust in the way that it forces young people to subsidize older people.

It is unjust in the way that it forces everyone to subsidize big business like insurance companies, health providers, and Big Pharma.

It is unjust in the way that it forces liberal ideology about contraception and abortion on the rest of us.

It is unjust in the way that it forces individuals to get with the program while putting off for a year the mandate for employers.

And so on.

And that's just today, as Obamacare gets started.  You can bet money that Obamacare will multiply its injustices in the future as the special interests work their will on the law and its regulations.

Here is a principle to guide us on this.  Any government program, however noble its goal, will end up as a gross injustice, because government is force, the cockpit of power, where the powerful force the powerless to submit to them.

Let's take the great edifices of the welfare state and investigate the injustice in their foundations.

Social Security started as an attempt to relieve the poverty of the aged, at a time when old people were commonly poor and at a time when the age expectancy at birth was about 65 years.

But today seniors are the richest kind, healthy and wealthy, on average.  Why are we forcing young and middle-aged people, in the middle of their great effort to raise families, to support people like me?

I will tell you what Social Security is:  it is generational injustice.

I will tell you what generational justice looks like.  It looks like a private savings system where people retire when they can afford to.  What does that look like?  It means that you can retire when you have created enough jobs for young people with your savings to yield a decent retirement income.  The government's role in such a system would be to help, e.g., manual workers that really can't work past about 45 to 50 years-old.

Ditto Medicare.  It encourages senior citizens to shop around from doctor to doctor looking for the magic pill to put off the natural ageing process, and it culminates in heroic end-of-life care that makes end of life a nightmare for millions of the aged and their children.  We expect working people to pay for this?

Welfare is a different kind of injustice, because it discriminates against the "deserving poor" and rewards the scam artist that has learned how to play the benefits game.  Back in the 19th century the charities all agreed that it was monstrous for the idle poor to make a higher income that the industrious poor.  But now we have enacted precisely that program, and demolished the low-income family into the bargain.

We all know how liberal politics works.  It is all "because inequality."  It used to be that the left justified increased government power with "because exploitation."  But that argument has worn a little thin except in the most extravagant circles.  So now liberals argue that their big government plans are justified "because inequality."

And that is what President Obama was telling us in his inequality speech on December 4, 2013.  We need a higher minimum wage, more education spending, pro-union laws, etc., "because inequality."

Conservatives must get out there with a new message.  We must cut government spending "because injustice," because all government programs end up as a gross and indecent injustice.

The conservative politician that can sell "because injustice" to the American people will be the next Ronald Reagan.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Raise the Minimum Wage, Mr. President?

For about a year now, our "progressive" friends have been amping up a campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.  Now President Obama is joining the chorus.  It's all part of the liberal war on "inequality."

This, of course, is shocking to me, because I thought that the science on the minimum wage was settled.  Simply put, the minimum wage does three things:

  1. It locks young, inexperienced people out of the job market.
  2. It helps institutionalize above-market union wages.
  3. It drives business into the informal sector.
That's what I wrote just out of the top of my head.  So what is the received notion, courtesy of Wikipedia?  Well, the answer is: it's complicated.  There are all kinds of dueling studies showing that the minimum wage does, or does not help.

But one effect that Wikipedia highlights is that increasing the minimum wage probably increases the wages of people already employed that have wages less than or near the newly legislated minimum wage.  And, it speculates, this would propagate upwards as employers more or less maintain the differentials between unskilled and skilled workers.

Of course, the problem is that the minimum wage is just one government intervention in the labor market.  Welfare -- in its many manifestations -- is another.  Welfare allows people to retreat from the labor market unless or until wages rates increased to make it worth while to get a job instead of reposing on benefits.  So you could say that, if you have a welfare system a minimum wage is superfluous since workers won't work for "chump change" if they can use welfare as a backup.

And there are other, secondary effects.  The various regulations and taxes on labor encourage marginal workers and employers to desert the formal sector and work "off the books."  What is the cost of that?  It's a good question.

The truth is that the hoary interventions of the welfare state, from minimum wage to licensing to credentialism to restrictions on firing for cause, will always be with us.  Whether or not they work to "help people" they certainly encourage the marginal workers that respond to identity politics and look for leaders to "fight for the people against the powerful."

Right now we have liberals all agreeing that we must "do something" about inequality.  It could not be, of course, that a century of liberal economic intervention that has brought about today's inequality.  It must be that the rich are exploiting the poor.  So more government intervention is needed to bring the GINI coefficient down.

Hayek spoke about this years ago.  Modern interventionism is built upon the fallacy that you can treat the economy as if it were a simple mechanical contraption.  To think that you can direct the economy from Washington DC is what he called "The Fatal Conceit."

And anyway, Democrats are going to need something to rally the troops in 2014 after the debacle of Obamacare.  What better than to box the Republicans into proving their lack of compassion over the minimum wage?  Who could, in all conscience, oppose raising the wages of the lowest paid?

The truth is that the lowest paid are caught in a dreadful quicksand.  What was advertised as a safety net has turned out to be a poverty trap.  But as long as activists can get attention and politicians can get elected promising free stuff, so long will we have a minimum wage.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Who Failed the Dead Welfare Kid?

When a kid dies of an untreated dental abscess, who's to blame?

I'm talking about Deamonte Driver, a kid from Maryland.  It's a story from Avik Roy's book "How Medicaid Fails the Poor," retailed by Mona Charen.
When Deamonte complained of a toothache in September 2006, his mother began calling around, seeking a dentist who would take a patient with Medicaid coverage. 
When she finally found a dentist, he reported that "Deamonte had six abscessed teeth and required the services of an oral surgeon."  But that took more delay, and Deamonte ended up in the emergency room.  One of his abscesses had spread to the brain.  Despite brain surgery, Deamonte died from this untreated dental problem.

Yeah, there is no question that Medicaid "failed" Deamonte.  But there is something that worries me more.

Deamonte had six abscessed teeth.  So did Deamonte's mother think that unless she got medical and dental for free she couldn't do anything about it?  Did she have no husband with a job, no relatives that could kick in a couple hundred bucks?  No savings?  No church?

To me, the central problem with the liberal welfare state is the implied removal of responsibility.  It's the government's job to educate my children, the government's job to give me health care, the government's job to rescue me from poverty -- and that releases me from responsibility.

Back when the National Health Service came in in Britain, people were ecstatic because now the worry was gone, the worry that, if someone in the family got sick, it could wipe you out.  Now the government would take care of the worry.

But suppose the government doesn't do its job, as we are finally learning that it doesn't.  In Britain we are finally learning that the care in NHS hospitals is appalling, and people are left to die without being properly fed and hydrated.  Supposing Medicaid underpays doctors so that very few of them are willing to take Medicaid patients.  Suppose Medicaid recipients have trained themselves not to spend money on health care and dentistry.

Why then, if little Johnny gets a toothache you don't get him to the dentist unless it's free.  Because after all you are a single mother and you can't afford to pay for regular dental checkups.  And if no dentists in your area take Medicaid, then it's not your fault.

No doubt.  And it's not your fault that your kid dies because none of those greedy doctors would agree to treat your kid for free.

By the way, I know a doctor who does see Medicaid patients, despite the hassle and the low pay.  He just does it because he's a mensch.  And these folk come in with serious dental problems all the time.

But let's think about what we know.  This kid died because his mom didn't get healthcare and because she lived her life on the assumption that if she couldn't get it for free then she couldn't get it.  And it wasn't her fault.

There is another way of life, a way of life different from the neo-tribal way of the welfare state dependent.  That way of life is the way of the People of the Responsible Self.

On the way of the People of the Responsible Self, "it's not my fault" isn't an option.  You construct your life so that, if your kid gets sick, you can afford a doctor.  And if you can't you just load up the credit cards.  Because money is money, bankruptcy is bankruptcy, but your kid is your kid.  With money you can lose it and get it back.  With bankruptcy you can go through a few years of hardship but get through it.  But when your kid is dead there is no getting him back.  He's gone.

The mistake too many people make is to believe the politicians and think of government as a ministering angel.  It isn't.  Government is all about power; government is force, and politics is division.  The only thing the politician is interested in is getting elected and reelected.  He'll promise you things, and set up programs and all the rest.  But if your kid needs medical treatment and you don't have the money then you are living on a hope and a prayer.  Maybe government will come through; maybe it won't.  Why would you put all your eggs in one basket and live your life on the assumption that government will live up to its promises?

The reason for humans being social animals is that it improves the chance of survival.  If you have a two-parent family it improves the chances of survival.  If you have a job, it improves the chances of survival.  If you have brothers and sisters and cousins and uncles and aunts it improves the chances of survival.  If you join a church or a fraternal association it improves the chances of survival.

The problem with the welfare state is that it seduces people into believing that they can neglect all the social connections as long as they have their government benefits.  When things go wrong, they can always say "it's not my fault."

That is what they call famous last words.  Because the government safety net is not really a safety net at all.  It is just an illusion, a promise from a politician.  A real safety net is a mighty multi-stranded web.  It includes a spouse, a job, an extended family, emergency savings, friendships, relationships, memberships.  The more you have, the stronger and the safer is your safety net.  The less you have, the more you are at risk.

In the end, the excuses are just excuses.  Because when your kid is dead, your kid is dead.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Paradox of Individualism

In our age we are taught from our cradle to honor altruism and fear selfishness.  Of course, we are social animals and we survive by sticking together and helping each other.  And our mothers start working on us at an early age: "don't be selfish, share your toys."

On the other hand, our Marxist friends like to conjure up a collectivist golden age when everyone got along and people worked producing things only for use.  Alienation began when people started working for wages, producing for exchange rather than for use.

What a bunch of baloney!  There was never a collectivist golden age.  Before the modern age people were slaves and serfs; they worked, according to the medieval scholars, for the household, the family unit.  Guess what that meant?  It meant that everyone in the family was subordinate to the head of the household.

People weren't producing for use, whatever that means, in those far off days: people were producing for the family unit and producing what the household head told them to do.  Women and young people, especially, were ruthlessly exploited in peasant families.  In return for their labor they got what the head of the household said they could have.  There was no responsibility; there was no accountability.  It was the rule of the strong, and the weak knew that it was best to go along to get along.  It was the world of the aggressive and the passive aggressive.

But the modern era of individualism is different.  It is not, as Ayn Rand seems to suggest, celebrating the "virtue of selfishness."  It is encoded in the idea of the invisible hand.  You got some selfish needs?  Then produce something for other people that other people are prepared to pay you for.  It is encoded in the idea of individualism.  Individualism is not individual selfishness, it is a notion of individual responsibility, and it starts with the Axial Age religions that converted the tribal collective gods, the ones that distributed gifts to humans in response to propitiatory sacrifice, into the one God before Whom we are each individually responsible for our actions.

Notice how the invisible hand fits together with the notion of individual responsibility.  You, the responsible individual, are not sitting in some peasant family, waiting for the boss to tell you what to do.  You are an individual, free and responsible, and you wake up in the morning thinking: wow, what can I do to earn a living, to get my next meal?  Well, you do what Booker T. Washington did, on his journey across the South to get him an education, when he woke up in the morning after a night under the wooden sidewalk.  He went down to the dock and offered to help unload a ship.  With his wages he bought him a breakfast.

It's a paradox.  Under collectivism we become whining victims pushed around by the local household boss or the government, endlessly complaining about what "they" have done, and crawling around to find ways to scam the system.  Under individualism we become responsible individuals that spend our lives worrying about what the other person wants and needs -- and is willing to pay for.

Which is more selfish?  Which is more self-centered?  Which is more social?  Which is more "alienated?"  On the answers we give to those questions about collectivism and individualism depends all that the world can do for us, and all we can do for the world.

It all reduces to a curious paradox.  The notion of collectivism, which seems to evoke altruism and solidarity, always requires the application of force.  The notion of individualism, which seems to encourage unbridled selfishness and egoism, in fact demands of us a constant solicitude for the needs of others.

Why is that?  It starts, perhaps, with the recognition that society is not a system, a mechanical contraption driven by Newton's laws, but an unconscious biological organism of constantly interacting cells.  Under Newton, each cog in the system responds to force.  Under biology, each cell instinctively knows what to do and does it.

And then?  Well, that is up to us to decide.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hate Killed JFK, and other liberal myths

Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald, an avowed Marxist who had traveled to the Soviet Union and had a curious relationship with the Castro regime in Cuba.

So it makes complete sense that for fifty years liberals have been blaming the assassination on right-wing hate in Dallas.

For seventy years, since the end of World War II, liberals have been mucking about with healthcare, so it makes complete sense that they attribute the mess to insurance company profits.  Only insurance companies don't have high profit margins.  In 2009 when President Obama was talking about "insurance companies making record profits" they were actually #86 on the list of profitability.  Brewers were #1 at 25.9% profit margin.   Oil and gas production came in at #23 and 9.7% and Health Care Plans came in as #86 and 3.3% profit margin. Latest profit margin for Microsoft in 2013 is over 28%. So how about an Affordable Beer and Software Act?

What about greedy bankers that tell the politicians what to do and caused the crash of 2008?  In that case why is the government fining J.P. Morgan $13 billion for lying to investors back in 2006 about the quality of mortgages they were selling?  Shouldn't the big banks have the Justice Department in their pockets?  Apparently the Obama administration is worried about the perception they were too easy on the banks.  But guess what?  Back in the 2000s the banks were getting in trouble for not lending to low-quality borrowers?  When the government can blow one way in the 2000s and another way in the 2010s, as the mood takes it, who is in charge?

Thankfully, it is the liberals' own mentors, the postmodernists, that can tell us what is happening.  History, they say, is an apology for power.  Or, to turn it around, power needs a narrative, a story, to give it legitimacy.  Every bid for power is like that.  Think how the North American colonists railed against the evil King George.  Think how the liberals railed against George W. Bush.

If the liberals want to muck around with the health care system they need to find a plausible story to justify it: hence the record insurance company profits.  Yeah, just imagine those greedy CEOs wallowing in profits while little kids die of disease!  And just imagine how much money the government will need, forever, to run its fabled health insurance exchanges.

If liberals want to muck around with the credit system they need to find a plausible story to justify: first their desire to force banks to lend to high credit risks, and second, their need to blame someone when the credit system busts a gasket.  It's all the greedy bankers, chum.  In course it is.

The lesson of the Obama years is that the politicians will say anything, absolutely anything, to get their program of power passed in Congress.  And they they will say anything, absolutely anything, to keep the program going when it hits the iceberg.

So let's get a clue, shall we?

There's a difference between power politicians and greedy businessmen.  When businessmen lie and defraud they can be prosecuted and fined.  But there is no penalty for a political lie, except being voted out of office.  When a businessman lies you can have him up in court where there are detailed rules about admissible evidence and about perjury, and detailed instructions for the jury.  But in politics there are no rules, and the ultimate jury, the voters, can freely vote their hopes and fears and refuse to face the truth.

But obviously, right now, the American people are seeing a trial of liberal credibility such as we have never seen in our lifetimes.  We conservatives had better make the most of it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GOP: Conservatives vs. Moderates

On the O'Reilly Factor, Dr. Charles Krauthammer tried to pour oil on the troubled waters of the Republican divide.  All this is just a question of tactics, he said.

But conservative firebrand Jeffrey Lord begs to differ.  Republican moderates, he argues, are willing to accede to the leftwards ratchet.  Republican conservatives want to ratchet the government to the right.  Moderate George W. Bush wanted a compassionate expansion of federal education funding with No Child Left Behind.  Conservative Ronald Reagan wanted to abolish the federal Department of Education.

Allow me to translate.

Republican conservatives are ideologues.  We believe in limited government.  Republican moderates are pragmatists.  They do not believe in any principled limits to government.  If someone comes up with a good idea for a government program to help children, why, what's the harm?

The harm, according to conservatives, is the free stuff.  Politics is almost always about politicians promising free stuff to their supporters.

When some politician comes up with a plan for a government program to help children, it always involves a free or subsidized delivery of benefits to the children of the politician's supporters with funds to be supplied by taxing or regulating people who are not the politician's supporters.

That is unjust.  It is force.  But worse, it doesn't even work, because the program to help children slowly turns into a jobs program for the program's bureaucrats and doesn't help children.

Or take Obamacare.  The "good idea" is to provide health insurance to people that currently don't "have" it.  It is claimed that about 30-45 million people don't have health insurance.  You can see that these 30-45 million people would approve of "getting" insurance, provided that they didn't have to pay for it.  Now it stands to reason that such a plan, if it subsidizes the previously uninsured, is bound to shift costs to the presently insured.  But Obama and the boys wouldn't admit that.  They claimed, from behind a barricade of complications, that "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan."

In fact, of course, as we are experiencing day to day, Obamacare does shift costs to the insured.  And the mechanism that the Obamis used to do this is to force health insurance companies to change the pricing and the content of their health insurance plans.  This year the government is forcing people with individual plans to pay more for coverage; next year it will be the turn of employer plans.

Now, the whole point of politics is, as the song goes:
You've got to accentuate the positive
eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
But don't mess with mister inbetween
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Obama and the boys, the negative has decided not to get eliminated. Tens of millions of people are going to have to pay more for health insurance, and they know it.

So the Obamis have screwed up on the basics of free-stuff-ology.  They have failed to hide the costs of the free stuff that were always going to be forced upon average middle-class Americans that go to work, pay their taxes, obey the law, and make sure to have health insurance.  Result: political death spiral.

Back to the difference between Republican moderates and Republican conservatives.

Republican moderates believe that there's not much you can do about free-stuff politics.  The American people want free stuff and they will vote for politicians that promise it.  You gotta go along to get along.

Republican conservatives believe that free-stuff politics is morally wrong.  It amounts to the dictum that Might is Right.  You gotta majority, you get to plunder the minority to hand out free stuff to your supporters.  Call it the Divine Right of Majorities; it's no better than the old Divine Right of Kings.

Republican conservatives believe that if the notion of humans as social animals means anything it means that we do not use force on each other, except in the case of murder and robbery.  This means, obviously, a policy of No Free Stuff, because free stuff always means that someone has been taxed or otherwise compelled to surrender their labor or property so it can be handed out to someone else.

Bottom line for Republican conservatives is that we believe we should always be trying to reduce the amount of free stuff handed out by the politicians and fighting attempts to increase it.

Leaving aside the moral question, there is the practical question.  As government has got bigger and bigger it has gotten harder and harder to find new ways to hide the fact that free stuff always has to be paid for.  Also, each free-stuff initiative kills off a zone of voluntary cooperation and freezes a relationship in place: so much money has be collected in taxes and so much money has be handed out to the government's supporters, and don't you dare try to "cut" the amount of free stuff.  Eventually, you run out of other peoples' money to hand out.

The idea of voluntary cooperation and the market has always struggled against the idea that the poor could never get an even break.  Of course the rich would use their power to loot and plunder.  Of course the poor would go to the wall.  Stand to reason.

The modern innovation is to come up with an explanation of why this isn't true.  If you prevent the powerful from using their power to loot and plunder you find that people can and will cooperate for mutual advantage.  The Invisible Hand doctrine says that if you go out into the world to serve people rather than plunder them you will find that there are people who are prepared to pay for your services.  The better you figure out their needs the more you are likely to get paid.  The newly escaped Negro slave Frederick Douglass went out into New Bedford, Massachusetts one morning and offered a woman to move a pile of coal.  After the job was done the woman paid him with two silver half-dollars.  And that was just the beginning of Douglass' life in freedom.

The great Question of the last two hundred years is over precisely this issue.  Can the market economy really deliver justice to the poor laborer?  Or is the relationship between employer and employee inherently unjust and exploitative?

The whole point of socialism/liberalism/progressivism is that only politics can repair the inherently unequal relationship between laborer and employer.

The whole point of modern conservatism is that socialism/liberalism/progressivism only makes it worse.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Clueless Liberal in the Academy

Much of the time it seems to conservatives that liberals and Democrats have everything figured out.  They know how to rile up the base; they know how to frighten women with their "war on women" tactic.  They all seem to get the same talking points and stick to them.

But then some liberal academic writes an article for CNN that demonstrates their utter cluelessness.

Take Prof. Julian Zelizer.  He's a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and he has written a bunch of histories and a biography of Jimmy Carter.  He's looking at the wreck of Obamacare and writing that liberals really screwed up by proposing a half-baked proposal like Obamacare.  Let's give him his say:
The ACA was a product of a kind of half-baked liberalism that has been popular among many Democrats for several decades.

Since the 1990s, many Democrats have settled for jerry-built proposals that shy away from direct and aggressive federal intervention. Many Democrats have concluded that in the current era, the only domestic programs that stand a chance of passing Congress are those that rely on the participation of market-based actors, limited federal funding and heavy federal-state collaboration in the administrative process.
 The problem for full-baked Democrats is that it's hard to develop a clear message that lets people see the benefits of a program, and it turns into the mess that Stephen Teles has called "kludgocracy."  The solution is clear: well presented programs like Social Security, with clear benefits and clear funding that people can understand.

So, according to Teles,
if the government chose cleaner solutions to big challenges such as health care and education, "government would be bigger and more energetic where it clearly chose to act . . . but smaller and less intrusive outside of that sphere."
The cluelessness of this idea is nothing short of breathtaking.  Let's go through it all step by step.

  1. "Cleaner solutions."  Social Security is a stupid example, and it shows the insular thinking of our modern academics.  The point about Social Security is that it is just about money.  The government takes in money and it hands it out to its supporters.  It doesn't have to do anything, like run a health care or education or welfare system.  The science is in on this.  Government can't do anything well except shovel money at its supporters.  The reason is that government is force, but the production and consumption of goods and services needs to be price and consumer driven.
  2. "Half-baked liberalism."  The reason that liberals have been offering half-baked liberalism is that, as Rush Limbaugh says all the time, liberals can't admit who they are and what they really want to do.  Liberals would love to offer comprehensive and mandatory programs for everything.  It's just that the American people would upchuck on the spot if they ever did.
  3. "Less intrusive".  Give me a break.  Where in the United States is the government not intrusive?  The government wants to tell us how to do everything, from sugary drinks to toilet flushing.  And all because of liberals.  The reason we have the "kludgocracy" is not because liberals have been stymied in their grand plans but because there are 100,000 liberal activists all beavering away on their one little issue and getting legislation and regulations passed to intrude on every aspect of human life.
It ought to be obvious, to anyone that has a clue, that all government is a "kludge."  What do you think the Soviet Union amounted to?  It was a kludge with terror on the side.  Ditto Cuba and all the rest.  When you get government without terror on the side then you just get kludge.  You get politicians offering more and more benefits to get elected.  But without the terror.

Let's look at things another way.  Let's start with Mises.  Socialism can't compute prices.  Expanded to its full potential this means that all government programs are a mess because they are always trying to deny the reality of prices.  What does that mean?  It means politicians are always trying to pretend that their grand plans don't have real and inescapable costs.

You can see this with the progression from Social Security to Medicare to Obamacare.  Social Security was, at least in the prospectus, all paid for by the payroll tax.  But remember, it was never a real savings program.  It was always "pay as you go."  Medicare was only partly "paid for."  It was a kludge job.  It had to be, because, no doubt, people in 1965 wouldn't have agreed to pay the real costs.  Anyway, government lowballed the costs, conveniently forgetting that people would line up to consume free stuff, and how.  Then with Obamacare the government had to flat out lie, because nobody would agree to any new program that wouldn't let them "keep their plan."  And that would apply to a single-payer program as well as the half-baked kludge of Obamacare.

OK. Now let's go to Hayek.  The bureaucrat in Washington can't out-perform a million producers and consumers in the marketplace.  Producing and consuming products and services -- including so-called public goods like health care -- are complex operations, and require constant adjustment by consumers and producers to the marketplace.  "Marketplace" means adjusting every day what people want, what they are willing to pay for, what producers can produce, and at what cost.  Government can't do that.  It simply can't.  Government is a system that responds to activists, special interests and "peaceful protesters" instead.  In other words, government responds to the threat of force.

Finally, there's Buchanan and Tullock and "public choice theory." (Why am I having to educate a distinguished academic on this?)  Public choice theory tells us that every government initiative involves log-rolling.  Any proposed use of government force means that a majority of the legislature votes to tax a group of people to fund some program that will provide certain benefits to another group of people.  Typically, the people asked to pay the costs of the program will vote against it.  So the proposers need to buy the votes of people only mildly hurt by the program to bring the full force of the law on the hapless minority.  That's why every legislative bill these days is a 1,000 page monster.  You have to pay off all the big interest to get their buy in.  It makes sense -- see the progression from Social Security to Medicare to Obamacare above -- that this problem will get bigger and bigger as the government itself gets bigger and bigger.

Right at the end of The Calculus of Consent Buchanan  and Tullock describe the only just voting system.  It is unanimous consent.  Under unanimous consent the majority that benefits from a program must pay the costs of the minority in order to get their buy in.  Notice that the market is a system of unanimous consent.  Nothing gets produced or bought and sold unless the buyer and the seller agree.  What a concept.

Unanimous consent, I think, is a process that would truly give us a government that "would be bigger and more energetic where it clearly chose to act . . . but smaller and less intrusive outside of that sphere."

But Zelizer is an academic.  He would know that.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Bonfire of Interest Group Liberalism

For over half a century conservatives have been warning that nothing good will come of interest group liberalism.  It leads to the special interest state and reduces society to unconstrained scramble for loot in the halls of government.

Back in the 1940s, with the golden glow of the New Deal in their rear-view mirrors, the hagiographers of the the Roosevelt era were inclined to see the clash of special interests as a good thing.  It was a natural way for coalitions to come together and hash out their differences.  But then in 1969 Theodore Lowi argued in The End of Liberalism that interest group liberalism was just a contest of political power and had nothing to do with the rational or moral questions underlying political questions.

Well, now we have Obamacare and its bonfire of the special interests.  Former regulator James V. DeLong reprises the appalling record of special interest log-rolling that it took to concoct this monster.

And now liberals are shocked, shocked, that it is all falling apart, that the president's promise that you can keep your health plan was all a lie, that millions of people are losing their health plans, and that people are experiencing sticker-shock as they shop for new plans.

Listen, liberals.  The science has been in on this for decades.  Hayek wrote that the government could never have the bandwidth to run anything.  Buchanan and Tullock invented public choice theory to show how special interest lobbying and voting always resulted in the majority eating the minority for lunch.  And then there is "regulatory capture," the idea that an regulated industry always ends up capturing the minds of the regulators set up to control them.

Actually, I think that liberals know all this deep in their hearts.  Their problem is that they are riding the dragon and they don't know how to get off.  They got the power they have by promising stuff to people, and their power depends on keeping on keeping on.  They have even figured out ways to import more voters likely to vote for more programs.

Anyway, there's a chance that the American people will make a decisive turn in the next two election cycles as ordinary middle-class Americans experience directly how interest group liberalism hurts them.

Or maybe they won't, and we'll keep on floating down the river to the waterfall.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

GOP Establishment vs. Tea Party

Charles Krauthammer's appearance on Comedy Central's Daily Show seems to have sparked a big row.  It's between what might be called the Republican establishment's accommodationist stance towards the welfare state and the constitutional argument against it, typified by the Tea Party movement.

Charles Krauthammer defends the establishment argument here, and Andrew C. McCarthy makes the constitutional argument here.  Former leftist Ron Radosh votes for accommodation here.

I think the disagreements are based on the different assumptions of the different parties.

I don't think that anyone is suggesting that Republicans go into the elections of 2014 and 2016 and propose to end entitlements as we know it.  That is what the Republican establishment, as practical politicians, are telling us.

Anyway, the Tea Party folks aren't proposing to end entitlements; they expect to get theirs.

What thoughtful conservatives argue is that the authoritarian welfare state is doomed.  It is doomed because it has made promises that can't possibly be redeemed.  In their secret hearts conservatives would like to believe that they can persuade Americans to wean themselves off the entitlement drug.  But the truth about addiction is that people don't wean themselves off until they "hit bottom."  They have to see the wreck of their life in living color before they will swear off the demon rum.

I don't think anyone can expect that entitlements will end any other way.  They will end when the checks stop coming and the checks will stop coming when the government's credit is totally tapped out.

The question is what comes next.  How can we rebuild America on better principles?  The Tea Party, aided and abetted by folks like Mark Levin and his bestselling books such as The Liberty Amendments are reminding us that America is supposed to be about limited government.  A limited government can't make the kind of reckless promises that have got us into this mess.

Let's take Social Security.  We conservatives look at the current system and we call it unjust.  It is unjust because it expects the working population to pay seniors for the promises of the politicians irregardless.  The act of paying your payroll taxes is completely divorced from the process of getting your checks.

To illuminate this, let's look at a private system of savings for retirement.  You save your money, according to your means; you invest it in broad market index funds and bonds.  Every year you look at your nest egg and figure out whether you can afford to retire.  Let us illuminate what it means when you reach that point.  You are basically saying that the capital you have saved can now create enough jobs to support you in your retirement.

Let's say you have saved $250,000.  That money is out in the economy providing capital to companies that use the money to create jobs.  In return you get, say, 5% return, which is $12,500 per year.  Or you can get an annuity which will pay you about 10% on your money.  If that $250,000 is not enough, then you work a few years more.  If the market tanks, then you have to wait to retire until it's recovered.

This is a self-organizing and self-correcting system.  (Oh, and by the way, the news has been reporting for a while that baby boomers are putting off retirement, because they lost so much in the Crash of 2008).

The role for the welfare state in this is,  possibly, to take care of the people who have failed to save money, or have become disabled -- all through no fault of their own.  Although I think that it is better for charitable relatives and neighbors to do the taking care.  The role of the state, it seems to me, is to borrow money after a great disaster to keep house and home together while people work to recover from the crisis.

The problem with government running a safety net is that government is an armed minority that stays in power by giving out loot to its supporters.  It has ever been so, ever since the Iliad, and it is certainly still so in the day of the advanced administrative welfare state.  So instead of creating a cooperative, social network of people caring for each other, government always gives you a predatory elite and its ravenous supporters that understand nothing except power and pillage.

The fundamental weakness of the welfare state system comes fully into focus when things go wrong, as right now, when the government has to cut back a little on its disbursements in so-called "austerity."

What happens?  The supporters of the government, the pensioners and the government employees, pour into the streets and "demand" their rights.

It ought to be obvious, to anyone with a brain, that the administrative welfare state is not a self-correcting system.  Instead, it is a system that is always careering towards chaos and conflict.

I like to say that the problem with government is that the only thing it knows how to do is conduct a war.  So everything it does has to be turned into a war: on poverty, on drugs, on bigotry, on racism.

The problem with wars is that there necessarily has to be a winner and a loser.  That is not cooperative; that is not social.  It is martial.  And that is why conservatives argue that the social safety net should not be a government safety net.

Once the government is in charge then the safety net turns into jobs for the boys, and subsidies for the cronies, and outlandish promises that can never be redeemed.  Of course it does.  That's because government is an armed minority: an army.  The political leaders are the captains and they love to fight.  The individual soldiers are recruited with the lure of loot, and they expect to get it, or else they will offer their soldiering talents to another captain.

In real life, of course, the captains use the soldiers as cannon fodder.  The soldiers often don't get their loot; they die of disease or get killed in a battle.  And sooner or later they don't get paid.  That is the lot of the political supporter too.  They get all carried away with the promise of the free stuff.  But in the end their glorious leaders betray them, and leave them to rot by the side of the road, used up and broken, just like broken-down soldiers of real armies.

That, of course, is what is happening right now to the supporters of Obama, like the woman who liked the idea of Obamacare but didn't realize that she would be the one to pay for it.

Socialism, progressivism, statism, call it what you will, has always lived on utterly empty promises.  Obama's promises for Obamacare are more egregious that most, but not too much.  The problem for Obama and for his liberal cohorts is that perhaps the Obamacare promises should have been a little less specific, and should have been a little less short-term.

After all, when millions of women are getting cancellation notices from their insurance companies, they know that they cannot keep their health plan, as the president promised.

But it is only when administrative liberalism has hit bottom that the practical Republican politician and the Tea Party radical will be able to unite and offer the American people a new social safety net based on limited government and consensual cooperation.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Are Conservatives Like Me Anarchists?

I'm a little perplexed.  Over the past two weeks I've been called an anarchist twice.  The first time was when I was explaining my civil society ideas to a 60-ish liberal, a man that started out adult life as an SDS activist at Boston University.

The second time was when a liberal took out after my piece "There Has To Be a System."

Who, Me?  An anarchist?  I have to admit it took me aback.

But then I realized that it all made sense.  To a liberal, a world without their big-government programs would indeed be a world without structure, a world of chaos.

But let's get one thing out of the way.  Wikipedia defines "Anarchism" as "a political philosophy that advocates stateless societies based on non-hierarchical free associations."  That's not what I or any conservative I know about or any libertarian I know about is proposing.  Anarchy comes from the Greek and means "without a ruler."

What libertarian conservatives do want is a state that is as small as possible, with a ruler whose powers are strictly limited to the need to defend people against looters and pillagers foreign and domestic.  We do want most social or "societal" functions dispatched by free associations, which might or might not be "non-hierarchical."  But we admit the need for a state.  It's just that we don't admit the need for a state of liberals, for liberals, and by liberals.  We think that such a state can be described in a single word: unjust.

So when liberals call me an anarchist they are projecting.  They are saying: but you want to tear down everything that we have spent the last century building.  And all that will be left is societal rubble.

This all issues naturally from the liberal analysis of the condition of humanity.  Starting at least with Marx, the left has asserted that capitalism is at least as hierarchical and exploitative as feudalism.  Under capitalism the workers are exploited.  The only solution is to meet force with force: a revolution to smash the power of the bosses, or "countervailing power" to match corporate power with union and government power.

If you think the lefty way then you think of society as purely a balance of power, just like the balance of power between nations.  Unilateral disarmament by the workers (and now the traditionally marginalized) would mean their utter destruction by the bosses.

(Yeah.  Funny how liberals call for unilateral disarmament between nations but not within nations.)

The conservative and libertarian worldview says that the fundamental relationship in the modern era is the economic relationship of the invisible hand.  The way to get ahead is not to go out looting and pillaging like some medieval king or some fascist or socialist dictator.  The way to prosperity is to divine the needs of the consumers and give it to them.

Liberals say no, that couldn't be true.  Unless we step in with our wage and hour laws, our social safety net, and our vigilant regulation of business then workers will get exploited without limit and we'll get a society of gross inequality with the rich and the poor and nothing in between.

Conservatives say the science is settled on this.  Starting right when Marx made his predictions about the "immiseration" of the workers the lot of workers has improved.  And the lot of workers has improved fastest where the economy and the society were the most capitalist.  In the 1950s John Kenneth Galbraith talked about "countervailing power" between Big Business, Big Labor, and Big Government.  Today, of course the Big Businesses of the 1950s are a corporate memory and the private sector unions reduced to penury.  Instead we have the market-focused behemoths like Walmart, Microsoft, and Apple and Google.  But Big Government is bigger.

What did Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, say about corporate power?
There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.
You can see why corporations like to get in bed with government when things start going south. Government can stop the consumer from "spending his money somewhere else" and can force him to keep spending his money at the old place.

Conservatives as anarchists?  No, liberals.  You are just interpreting the world anarchy, a "world without rulers," to mean "a world without liberal rulers."

Can't say I blame you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Liberals Driving People Away From City

One of the hardy perennials of our national political garden is the liberal piece about racist whites bailing out of the city.  Here's the latest, Jessica Grose's "Rich People Love Diversity, Until They Have Kids," from Slate.

Things are getting worse, of course.
According to an analysis of census data by Kendra Bischoff of Cornell University and Sean Reardon at Stanford University, the proportion of families living in affluent areas doubled from 1970 to 2009—it went from 7 to 15 percent. At the same time, the percentage of families living in poor areas also more than doubled—it went from 8-18 percent.
You see, what's happening is that these affluent areas "deliberately exclude affordable housing."  That's how they stay uniformly affluent.

Meanwhile over at Forbes Joel Kotkin is reporting on the baby boomers moving away from the suburbs.  They are not moving back to the city.
Perhaps no urban legend has played as long and loudly as the notion that “empty nesters” are abandoning their dull lives in the suburbs for the excitement of inner city living. This meme has been most recently celebrated in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.
On the contrary, they are moving further out, everyone except the most affluent, the ones that can afford the high cost of inner-city living.

The indictment that liberals hurl at the white flighters is that the middle class is abandoning the poor to the inner city.  And that they are racists.  Meanwhile liberals are moving into the city because they like to live in a diverse community and they care about the poor.

Of course there is a germ of truth in the liberal indictment.  Most non-liberal whites think that living next to underclass minority communities is utter folly.  You just don't want your kids anywhere near the dysfunctional and violent youth of the underclass.  And now we have a report of a white couple getting beaten up by a gang of black kids in Brooklyn.  So we were right.

But liberals are only telling part of the story.  Middle class and affluent folks are not leaving the city just to get away from the toxic and dangerous culture of the underclass.  They are also leaving to get away from the toxic political culture of liberals.

You see, liberal political control in a city is a long-term marker for decline.  It means everything from the inconvenience of up-to-the-minute micro-bossiness about recycling and plastic bags and all the latest liberal nostrums in the schools.  And for some reason liberals see nothing wrong with overgenerous public pensions bankrupting state and local governments.

Even if they are not conservative, most people just want to be left alone to live their lives in their own way among their own kind.  And especially they want to raise their kids in a safe and friendly environment.  And safety in this context means safe from liberal social engineers.

Here's another idea from the social scientists.  Guess who drives the urge to go and live in the suburbs?  It's women.  Women may like to live in the cool city when they are single twentysomethings.  Why not?  Young people tend to congregate where young people tend to congregate.

But after women get married and start a family they want a nest.  Ever notice that you never see birds nesting?  There's a reason for that.  If you want to get your fledglings off the nest you need to hide them away from the predators.  Human females are no different.  Once they get into the family way they experience no need to strut their stuff on the sidewalks of the city.  Instead, they want safety and security for the children they bring into the world.

That's what really powered the move to the suburbs after World War II.  Affluence and automobiles meant that women could bury themselves in leafy suburbs and, for the first time since their ancestors came off the farm, leave the edgy city to the fashionables.

Maybe, as the trendspotters would like, women would like to return to the city when their nests empty out. But by that time women are anchored in their dream homes and their relationships in the suburbs.  And they really don't need to return under the tutelage of liberals that take politics with every meal.

The exodus from the city to the suburb has nothing to do with racism or with evil oil companies killing the old streetcar lines.  It has everything to do with women nesting, and liberals driving normal people out of the cities with their poisonous politics.

Friday, October 18, 2013

EBTers Sack Walmart

Obamacare isn't the only government program having computer problems. Recently the EBT program went down.

EBT's the electronic replacement for Food Stamps. It's a debit card that gets refilled every month so that welfare recipients can use them to buy food.

When EBT went down most merchants stopped accepting EBT payments. But two Walmart stores in Louisiana decided to honor EBT purchases anyway.

So what do you think the good EBT folks did when Walmart kindly let them continue shopping on the honor system? Did they thank Walmart for letting them shop even though nobody could verify whether they had a balance on their EBT cards?

No they didn't. What they did was to buy up the stores and loot them, buying not just food but clothing and electronics.

It's a dramatic illustration, as if we needed one, of the difference between government and business, a difference that I dramatize in my American Manifesto.

Government is force. A government is an armed minority occupying some territory and funding itself by requisitioning or taxing the local inhabitants. Who need it? The argument is that you need an agency of force to prevent the robbers and pirates from running rampant. Yet governments maintain themselves by paying their supporters from funds extorted from ordinary people. This may be in wages and pensions paid to modern government employees, or in a license to loot, like crony capitalists, liberal grant recipients, Social Security Disability Insurance, and EBTers.

So wherever you find it, government is an armed minority doling out loot to its supporters, even though it says that its whole reason for being is to defend against the looters.

But business is different. Business is not about force and loot, because business does not start with the problem of how to maintain the apparatus of force, but how to find or make something, some product or service, that people are willing to pay for.

So right away business starts not with Ego's needs, but with Alter's needs, to use the lingo of modern Marxists. It means that business must spend every waking hour thinking about what other people want not what I want.

Suppose you have discovered a product that other people want. Then you have a new problem. How do you get the customers to come back and buy again? The answer is simple. You must build a relationship with your customers; you must treat your customers well, and get them tolike you and feel that they are treated well. There is a word for this sort of thing. It is called Trust. There is even a book about it, by Francis Fukuyama.

So when the EBT system goes down, Walmart thinks of its EBTers as valued and trusted customers. Unfortunately, Walmart is wrong.

EBTers and the other supporters of the welfare state are not trusted "others." They are like the soldiers of a warrior chieftain. They are like the warriors in the Iliad. They only know looting and pillage. They range the world looking for things to steal and loot, just like Sherman's "bummers" or the Russian soldiers that, reportedly, raped every single German woman east of the Elbe on their way from Moscow to Berlin in World War II.

The modern global underclass is just like the licentious soldiery of old. They are not connected into the market economy by a web of service and reciprocal obligation, by long-term relationships of trust. On the contrary, they are looters and pillagers, and they owe loyalty only to the political chieftain of the moment, the one that offers them the best opportunity for ripping off free stuff.

The sooner we stop it the better.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Be of Good Cheer

OK.  So the House Republicans lost the shutdown war.  So what, as they say in corporate-speak, are the "lessons learned?"

Lesson One: Obama had to have a win, and he got it.  But we shall see whether it turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory or not.  Because Obama won on the issue to keep his Obamacare lead balloon fully inflated even as its website was collapsing and Americans all over the country were waking up to a doubling of their health insurance premiums.  Golly.  Another victory or two like that and the president will destroy the Democratic Party.

Lesson Two: Republicans needed to show their base that they had some fight in them.  Yes, it was a pathetic Keystone Kops routine, but at least they fought.

Lesson Three: Republicans needed to know which leaders were prepared to get up on the parapet and yell defiance at the Ruling Class.  That was what Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) "meaningless" non-filibuster was all about.

Lesson Four: These Obama crises are really good for usgovernmentspending.com.  Yesterday the site got just under 20,000 visitors.  Back in early September is was more like 4,000 visitors per day.  Yay Obama!

Remember back in the innocent days of 2000 when Al Gore ran for president and his website was full of stuff about "fighting for the people against the powerful?"  Back then I thought this sort of faux populism rather funny, but I'm not laughing now.  Right now I am feeling a deep hunger for a leader who will fight for the People of the Responsible Self against the ruling class of liberals, experts, special interests and crony capitalists and their supporters, the EBT folks that looted Walmart.

Why is this?  It is because the liberals are finding themselves behind the 8-ball and they are cheating in order to stay in the game.  Back in November 2008 after liberals won the election with the First Black President they never thought they'd be sitting where they are today, defending an unpopular law with parliamentary tricks and executive illegalities.  Liberals think that, with their pro-science world view and their Keynesianism and their education and their policy-analyst expertise that they know how to operate the levers of political and economic power to fix society and fix the economy.  They never thought that in 2013 they would be running the printing press flat out (making money for the 1%).  They never thought that the economy would be struggling to make 2% GDP growth.  They never thought they would have to observe a code of omerta on the embarrassing fact of high unemployment.

Because liberals own the mainstream media and the culture and the universities and all, they have a safety net and can attempt death-defying political high-wire acts that Republicans and conservatives just cannot attempt.  But eventually gravity wins out.  Eventually even the most partisan of liberals and the most oblivious of low-information voters begin to feel in their gut that something is wrong.  That "eventually" is probably occurring right about now.

Think about it.  For ten years liberal leaders have been teaching their followers that conservatives, from President Bush on down, are stupid.  And when they are not stupid they are racists, sexists, homophobes.  What was needed was for an intelligent government that knew what it was doing and that relied on science not on religion for its inspiration.  Well who is stupid now?  Who is stumbling and bumbling now?  Who is failing to bring Americans together now?  Who has produced the worst government program failure ever?

Of course the liberal partisans are never going to admit that their guy is a bust.  But they will start to lose faith in the project.  They will start to cast around looking for better leaders.  They will start drifting away from the reassuring NPR news.  The lo-fos will start picking up on anti-Obama cracks from the TV comics.

And then there is 2016.  African Americans will be staring in the face the truth that we conservatives already knew.  Put not thy faith in princes, even First Black Princes.  African American voters will be wondering what their enthusiastic support for President Obama has delivered for them.  They will not be excited about an old white woman like Hillary Clinton, even if she will be America's first woman president!  Yeah.  They will stay home.

But in 2016 the conservative base and the independent conservatives that sat out 2008 and 2012 will be loaded for bear.  All they will need is a presidential candidate that can ignite their smoldering rage.  If they want a nice guy they can have Marco Rubio.  If they want a tough guy they can have Ted Cruz.  Both men come from big states, so that's all right.

Yeah.  It's tough to take a loss, especially against a guy like Barack Obama.  But Obamacare will still be there messing up peoples' healthcare next week, and next year.

And Obamacare is an issue that goes straight to the hearts of women: their healthcare.  Here's a fearless prediction.  Look to the gender gap snapping shut in 2014 and 2016.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What is Wrong With Republicans?

Here we are, less than a day before debt default -- or more exactly -- pay-as-you-go, and the House Republicans collapsed in a heap on the floor.

Is this a disaster, or what?

Who knows?  But J.T.Young writes that it's a lot easier for the presidential party to impose party discipline.  And right now President Obama desperately needs party discipline to show some backbone to his troops after the chaos of the Syria debacle and the Obamacare rollout.
Democrat divisions have been becoming more pronounced. Prior to the debt limit and shutdown, which strengthened Obama’s control over his Congressional allies, recent concerns have arisen over Obamacare and its implementation, continuing revelations over NSA surveillance, the recent Summers-Yellen debate over heading the Fed, and over his stance on Syria.

If Congressional Democrats should really break with Obama in appreciable numbers, his presidency would start to disintegrate as well and Democrat fissures become even more numerous and apparent.
Yeah.  That's the real problem.  Unless President Obama spends a lot of energy maintaining discipline in the ranks his people will start looking forward to the time without Obama.  When that happens, and it is a question of when and not if, the Obama ship will go on the rocks -- while everyone complains about Obamacare 24-7.  Why even a chap from Daily Kos is all wigged out about his steep increases in health insurance premiums.  And now that "Tirge Caps" is getting hammered he has this to say about the president's signature achievement: "This appears, in my experience, to not be a reform for the people."

Listen.  All I'm worried about is that I'm in Boston and scheduled to take the train to Connecticut on D-Day, October 17.  What happens if the president pulls some new shutdown shenanigan Thursday?

But let us ease up from this misery and delight in the Hot People of the Responsible Self.  I am thinking of the hot mom that posed with her three young children on Facebook.  To the haters and nay-sayers that objected to her photo she had this to say.
I won’t go into details that I struggled with my genetics, had an eating disorder, work full time owning two businesses, have no nanny, am not naturally skinny and do not work as a personal trainer,” she wrote, in part. “What I WILL say is this. What you interpret is not MY fault. It’s yours. The first step in owning your life, your body and your destiny is to OWN the thoughts that come out of your own head.
Couldn't have said it better myself.  We humans are social animals, so everything we do is socially conditoned.  But back in the Axial Age the idea got about that each individual ought to be individually responsible for their one life to God.

If you are a conservative and Republican things are pretty discouraging right now.  But with people like Maria Kang in America you have to feel that we are destined to get out of the current Obama Slough of Despond pretty soon.

We'll do this not because of fate, but because of the individual determination of each Person of the Responsible Self.

And because President Obama is driving the Democratic Party off the cliff.

It may look like the president is beating up Republicans up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, but I suspect that he is subjecting his party to unnecessary and damaging battles that are a waste of political capital.

Only time will tell.