Monday, September 30, 2013

The Bible on Nairobi

If you want to understand what is going on with the Nairobi shootings, at the Westgate Mall and at the Gujba College of Agriculture dorm, then the first stop is Ayaan Hirsi Ali's coming-of-age memoir, Infidel.  Because she was there.

Born a Somali in Mogadishu during the Marxist rule of dictator Siad Barre, Ayaan's childhood took place on the cusp between the old tribe and clan world of her grandmother and the exploding Islamism in the cities, including Nairobi, where Ayaan spent her teenage years.

The complete meltdown of the Barre regime in the early 1990s meant that hundreds of thousands of Somalis fled to the border with Kenya, and many of them like Ayaan managed to get into Kenya.  If you want to know how quickly the everyday world descends into disease and hunger when people have to flee their homes for their lives, then read the book.

The refugees ended up in Nairobi, and the young 'uns went to school.  They might be Christian schools left over from the Brits.  Or they might be madrassas run by the Muslim Brotherhood.

The point that comes out of Ayeen's childhood and her book Infidel is not that the cynical Arabs are poisoning young minds with their mullahs and their money.  It is that the young minds, pitched out of the tribal world into a modern-ish metropolis, are eagerly looking for something to make sense of their lives.

Religion, whether transcendental or secular, is the way that humans make sense of their lives.

Marxism is a religion just like the rest.  It promises heaven on earth, if only we can liquidate the evil bourgeoisie and the capitalists.

Ayaan herself went through numerous religious stages, and being a girl, this involved constantly figuring out what to wear.  She designed for herself a shapeless garment that she calls a hidjab.

And Nairobi was full of proselytizing preachers.
The charismatic Christians were no less aggressive than the fundamentalist Muslims in those days.  The whole country [Kenya] was falling apart and perhaps people were grabbing for certainties... Shabby street-front churches began to sprout where once there were grocery stalls.
But at the same time, good Muslim girls like Ayaan were going to movies and reading English novels, everything from Jane Austen to trashy romance novels.

Of course there is violence and war in the streets in places like Nairobi.  That's what happened during the industrial revolution in the west.  And guess when Marxism reared its ugly head?  In the mid 19th century when "thousands [of Germans] were driven from their homes by unemployment and unrest."  It was obviously a big thing in Germany because the Germans are the most numerous ethnic group in the US.  They didn't up-sticks because they felt like a vacation.

In all the worry about Islam we easily forget that there is another religion that is spreading throughout the world like wildfire.  Christianity.  And its most virulent form is the Pentecostalism that began in 1906 in a street-front church in Asuza, California.

We don't hear too much about the Christian side of this partly because liberals aren't interested.  And partly because it is a girl thing.

Think about it.  Men are fighters and women are lovers.  Islam urges a global holy war against the infidels, and Christianity says that God loves you, and that God sacrificed his Son for you.  So who do you think would be attracted to Islam, and who would be attracted to Christianity?

We know about Ayaan Hirsi Ali because she ended up in Holland, ended up going to college, ended up the proximate cause of the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh, and she ended up writing a book about it.  She also ended up marrying historian Niall Ferguson.

But there are hundred of millions of people emerging out of the tribal nomad world and the feudal agricultural world into the modern world, and their lives are not a fairy tale.  Ayaan's own sister, Haweya, just gave up and died.

The question is: what shall be done?  You can argue that the colonial era was a crime.  But then the Marxist dictators are an abomination.  And the mullahs are flying millions of innocents into a box canyon.

You can say that Bush was a fool to imagine that he could plant democracy in Iraq.  But then the Obama turn to the Islamists looks like pure liberal folly.

Maybe we should get back to basics.  Maybe we should get back to individualism, responsibility, limited government, civil society, and goodwill.  That's what we say we believe in, after all.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Coming Death of the Liberal God

There's no point in all this defunding-Obamacare politics, writes Daniel Henninger in The Wall Street Journal, because universal health care is not just a program, but a a great political idea, perhaps the foundational idea of liberalism.
What the GOP's Defund-ObamaCare Caucus is failing to see is that ObamaCare is no longer just ObamaCare. It is about something that is beyond the reach of a congressional vote.

As its Oct. 1 implementation date arrives, ObamaCare is the biggest bet that American liberalism has made in 80 years on its foundational beliefs. This thing called "ObamaCare" carries on its back all the justifications, hopes and dreams of the entitlement state. The chance is at hand to let its political underpinnings collapse, perhaps permanently.

If ObamaCare fails, or seriously falters, the entitlement state will suffer a historic loss of credibility with the American people. It will finally be vulnerable to challenge and fundamental change. But no mere congressional vote can achieve that. Only the American people can kill ObamaCare.

No matter what Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies do, ObamaCare won't die.
So, writes Henninger, all this Ted Cruz stuff is missing the point.  You don't kill a great foundational belief by defunding it.
But there is one thing that can kill an established political idea. It will die if the public that embraced it abandons it.
No, Henninger writes, instead of tilting at windmills Republicans and conservatives should be coming up with "the policy ideas" that will replace Obamacare.

Dear me.  These journalista types really do lose it sometimes.  The point is that all politics is conducted at the level of the symbolic defund Obamacare movement.  Did President Obama give speeches telling us all about the policy ideas of Obamacare?  Not at all.  He made great symbolic promises, as in: if you like your doctor and your health plan, you can keep it.

What Ted Cruz and lamentably few others is doing is committing sacrilege on a liberal idol.  That's how you start a new religion.  You show that you can profane the old gods and live to tell the tale.

Let's go to Nicholas Wade in his Faith Instinct.  There is only one way for a god to die, he writes.  "Gods die when people no longer worship them."

But expecting today's liberals to stop worshipping their secular gods and believing in their foundational liberal faith because it doesn't work is a mug's game.

In fact, Nicholas Wade is not quite right about the death of gods.  Gods only die when the last believer dies.

Today's liberals will go to their deathbeds thinking "if only" about Obamacare.  If only those racist, sexist, homophobe, anti-choice fascists and their evil hate speech had been stopped in time with proper freshman orientation programs.  And so on.  Because if Obamacare had been done right then we would have universal health care and we would live forever.

But the new generation will not believe in universal health care.  They will remember the disaster of Obamacare.  And so the ranks of the true believers will slowly dwindle away.

The question for Republicans and conservatives is how to do the politics.  The first thing to do is to show that universal health care is not a sacred vision but an ordinary government program advocated by the usual canting politicians and run by the usual corrupt administrators and special interests.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, they told Dorothy and friends.  Of course.  Because you wouldn't want her to find out that there is no health care god.  There are only politicians and activists offering free stuff in return for your vote.

But the politics of Obamacare is not just about exposing the god that failed so that the proselytizing liberals fail to find new converts.  It is also about rallying the conservative base, and showing the uncommitted moderates that all the cool kids think that Obamacare is so over, so "whatever."

We conservatives need new leaders that will raise a new standard high for freedom and for dignity, the right of ordinary Americans to be who we are and not the serfs of the authoritarian welfare state.  You don't do that by advancing new policy ideas.  You do it the Les Mis way by jumping on the barricade and singing "Who Will Join in our Crusade?" and getting people all riled up.

That is what Ted Cruz is doing and that is why the Republican base is getting all riled up.  The next question is perhaps the bigger one.  Can Cruz build the organization to fight and win a decisive presidential election that will cow liberals into retreat and empty the pews in their Church of Secular Liberalism?

That's what we have elections for.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ted Cruz's Real Game

I know we are all supposed to be a little shocked at Ted Cruz and his reckless actions over the continuing resolution.  And defunding Obamacare.  What happens if the American people blame the Republicans, again, for shutting down the government?

Let's relax, shall we?  My guess is that nobody will remember much about the Fall of 2013, except that Ted Cruz stuck a stake in the ground and fought against Obamacare.

Today, the energetic Michelle Malkin puts the Obamacare issue front and center, with "Obama Lied, My Health Plan Died."  Yep, our Michelle is self-employed, so her health plan recently sent her a letter telling her that her health plan won't be available next year under full Obamacare.  So Obama's central promise that, if you like your health plan you get to keep it, is a lie.

Of course it was a lie.  Anyone could have seen that coming.  But America's women are trusting souls.  They believe it when someone tells them that they can keep their health plan.

In a grand strategic sense, I assert that women are coming of age with the Obama era.  Up to now, in the era that women have had the vote, they have never got royally screwed.  They got the vote, the little darlings, they got to abort their babies if the father didn't step up to the mark.  They got to divorce men that didn't turn out too good.  They got to come out into the working world and compete for jobs with men, and even got the legal system to put a finger on the scales of justice in their favor.  They got Medicare to take care of their mothers.  They got dozens of welfare programs to take care of them if their "partner" didn't step up to the mark.

But health care is where women live.  Health care is what women talk about when they are together.  Health care is what women worry about.

What women want, of course, is unlimited high-quality health care for them and their children and their mothers at an affordable cost, so naturally, that is what Candidate and President Obama promised them.  What Obamacare is suddenly giving them is mediocre health care at an astronomical cost.

And the average LoFo woman voter is just now beginning to find that out.

In the next two years we are going to see an electoral earthquake, and at the center of it will be angry, scorned women compared to which Hell hath no fury.

Ted Cruz is running for president on the assumption that the rightmost 60 percent of the 2016 voters will be looking for a tough, no nonsense street fighter.  As the two political armies march towards the climactic Battle of 2016 Ted Cruz is turning up at all the meaningless skirmishes, the minor contests at which a few people get clobbered and the march resumes the next day.  Ted is turning up at the skirmishes, bravely leading the troops, demonstrating to all and sundry that he is the man to lead the great army that will be brought to strategic concentration in 2016.

Now imagine what it would mean if all those waffling soccer moms and security moms and America's-First-Black-President moms of the last 20 years became, in 2016, raging healthcare moms.

But what about divisiveness?  Is Ted Cruz too divisive to win those LoFo moderates?

To those of you worried about Ted Cruz being too divisive and not enough of a team player, we old geezers that were around in the 1970s have something to tell you.

Back in the 1970s Ronald Reagan was considered by all sensible people as a complete flake.  He was a right-winger; he was a B-movie actor; he was divisive; he was a puppet of his kitchen cabinet; he was ignorant.  And even libertarian-conservatives like me half bought the liberal line.

It all turned out to be rubbish, pure liberal moonshine.  A couple of telling points.  When they looked at Reagan's papers after his death they found that he had read all the classics, including Mises and Hayek.  They could tell that because the books were full of Reagan's annotations.  They also found that many of the weekly radio addresses he made between 1976 and 1978 were drafted in his own handwriting: so Reagan actually wrote them.  Imagine that!  Those Reagan radio addresses ran the gamut of presidential issues; you could say that Reagan was prepping for the presidency when he gave them, making sure that he had taken the trouble to at least develop a familiarity with the issues that would come across his presidential desk.  The tone of the addresses was brusque and slightly angry, a startling difference from the aw-shucks avuncular President Reagan that we learned to know and love after 1980.

One worrying thing about Reagan was that he didn't do well under questioning.  He didn't do well at presidential debates.  You felt that he really didn't have his answers down pat, and you worried that some liberal questioner would trip him up.  That helped advance the liberal line that Reagan wasn't really up to the job.

Ted Cruz is different.  In the first place he has been the brilliant student all his life, punching his ticket at all the prestigious way-stations on the elite liberal career track.  In the second place he is pitch-perfect on the split-screen TV interview.  Here he is on Sean Hannity.  Flawless.

I have a feeling that the combative Cruz is exactly what we in the GOP base are going to want in 2016.  We are like Dorothy's Aunt Em.  For twenty years we have wanted to tell liberals what we thought about them as they trashed every honorable conservative as a kook and an extremist.  Ted Cruz may be just the man to do it for us.  Only he'll do it so smooth that liberals won't know what is happening to them.

Not until after the health care moms of 2016 change US politics forever.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why the Obamacare Fight Matters

Look, Obamacare will get funded.  Either this week or next week.  And if there's a "government shutdown" the Republicans will get the blame.

But that's not the point.

The point is that, unlike all the other lovely entitlement programs from Social Security to Medicare, Obamacare is violating Kristol's Law.  That's Irving Kristol, Bill Kristol's dad.

Kristol's Law says that if you want to help the poor, you need to deal in the middle class.  When Social Security was passed, the average middle-class senior didn't have a pension plan.  When Medicare passed the average middle-class senior didn't have health insurance.

But today, the average middle-class family already has health insurance.  So if we are now going to extend health insurance to the 30 million (who are mostly young people and people without assets) that don't have it and throw in a subsidy as well, it stands to reason that the average middle-class family is going to find itself spending more on health care.  A lot more.

Kristol's Law merely makes explicit the unsaid calculus of the authoritarian welfare state.  It tries to offer free stuff to a lot of people that seems to be paid for by a few.  That's why President Obama is always going around talking about getting the rich to pay a little more.  In fact, of course, you can never really tell who will be the net payers for a government program.

The meaning of Kristol's Law becomes even more explicit when you remember that all government, from the robber band to the guerrillas in the hills to formal democratic government, always operates by offering the promise of loot and plunder to its supporters.  It is always a calculus of force: Join us and you will get yours.

The conservative argument against the calculus of loot is threefold.
  1. Government is force.  Humans are social animals; we cooperate and do things for other people not because we are forced to but because that's what social animals do.  Force is a destroyer; cooperation is a multiplier.  The more force, the less prosperity for anyone; the more cooperation, the more prosperity for all.  Because why bother to go out to work in the morning when you can force someone to send you a check?
  2. Administration by experts doesn't work.  This has been settled science for over half a century.  Ludwig von Mises in the 1920s argued that socialism couldn't work because it could not compute prices.  Mises's student F.A. Hayek in the 1940s argued that the "man in Whitehall" just couldn't know enough, compared to a million consumers and producers, to direct the economy.  We've seen the expert model fail recently over global warming.  Based on the simplistic idea that carbon dioxide was the marker for global warming, teams of experts and activists insisted that we reduce our consumption of carbon-based energy.  But the computer models they built on that theory clearly aren't any good at predicting the future; climate is a lot more complex than they thought.  Back to the drawing board.  But the market does that automatically without political intervention.
  3. Entitlements and subsidies lead to disaster.  Our liberals friends insist that health-care and education and food stamps are a "right."  The trouble is that, in fact, health-care and education and housing and transportation are the things we work for; the whole economy is based on people striving to get the goods and services they need.  We make things and serve other people so that we can earn wages and buy the things we need to live and prosper.  If you give a single mother with two children $35,000 a year in benefits then she doesn't need to get married and doesn't need to get a job to support herself and her children.  This leads to social and cultural and economic breakdown, as the settled science shows.
The conservative approach is to remove the liberal culture of compulsion and replace it with the cooperation of "civil society."  Health care?  Well, today's longevity is a factor of about seven things, from asepsis to vaccination to sanitation to education to income to food to actual "health care."  Education?  Uber-liberal homeschooler David H. Albert in And the skylark sings to me shows that there are abundant resources to help parents educate their children without government getting in the way. Jobs? Well it would be much easier for employers to hire people if they weren't harassed by endless taxes and regulations, starting with the minimum wage and the payroll taxes.

Would the conservative alternative work?  Of course it would, for humans are social animals.  But there is a problem.  Millions of people have adjusted their work effort and their lives to take advantage of the government's free stuff.  It will take a total meltdown for them to release their grip on their entitlements and their "rights."

But with Obamacare, we can make a start.

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Happened to the German SPD?

The Germans call her "Mutti."  It's a diminutive of "Mutter" or mother.  So it means that Germans call their Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel "Mommy."  You can say this about Margaret Thatcher; nobody ever called her Mummy except her children.

But in the triumph of Mutti there is this to consider:  What happened to the SPD?  After all, Merkel's CDU/CSU union only got 41.5 percent of the vote.  So nearly 60 percent of the voters voted against her.

The answer is that the SPD did something in the 2000s that a left-wing party must never do.  It actually tried to reform the welfare state.  Under Gerhard Schröder the party deregulated the labor market a little, making it more flexible, and it lowered unemployment benefits.  This caused a split in the party and the growth of a new left-wing coalition, Die Linke, meaning literally "the Lefties."

So, in Sunday's election, the SPD got 25.7%, Die Linke got 8.6% and Die Grüne (Greens) got 8.4% of the vote.  In our US system, that would be as if the "progressives" in the Occupy movement and the enviros split off into separate parties from the mainstream Democratic Party.

Could it happen here?  Well it did happen in Canada, where the dominant Liberal Party got panicky in the 1990s and enacted sweeping cuts in federal spending do "do something" about the Canadian national debt.  Net result?  The Liberals lost their mojo.  In the latest election in 2011 the Liberal Party slipped to #3 in party strength behind the explicitly social democratic NDP.

There's a big lesson here, one that is difficult for your average conservative like me to understand.  The average center-left voters come to politics expecting to get their share of the loot.  For sure, they don't think of themselves as looters and plunderers.  They just demand their "rights" and they don't see beyond that reality to the bigger horizon of national solvency.

If their party takes away their "rights" to welfare and unemployment then they will take their vote elsewhere, to a party that really will "fight for the people against the powerful."

I like to explain all this as the divide between the modern People of the Responsible Self and the People of the Group Self.

The People of the Responsible Self first emerged in the Axial Age 2000-3000 years ago when the idea of an individual responsible to God was invented in the Axial Age religions.  That is the meaning of "individualism."  It does not mean pure egoism; it means individual responsibility for thought and action, as opposed to loyalty to the group self of the tribe and clan.

If you want to understand the People of the Group Self, a good place to look is Infidel by Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  In Ayaan's youth, her grandmother taught her the names of her parents going back generations.  For a Somali, that was your identity: the memory of the names of all your ancestors.  In that society it is unthinkable to go against the authority of the clan and the tribe.

In the modern era the cause of the Group Self is taken up by left-wing parties and their identity politics.  The parties of the left represent people still clinging to the old way of human community. Identity politics advances the group as the defining identity in race, class, gender.  Thus our US Democratic Party appeals to people by their group identity, as blacks, Hispanics, women, gays.  It stands to reason that the one thing you must not do, if you lead a left-wing identity party, is to weaken the sense of group identity and group "rights."

Maybe that explains President Obama.  He must know, either consciously or instinctively, that once he concedes the need for retrenchment or "austerity" the Democratic Party is toast.  That's why he's intransigent on all the domestic issues.  Because if the Democrats won't fight for the people and their "rights" against the powerful, its voters will find another party for their vote or just stay home.

Meanwhile "Mutti" Merkel has won a famous victory over her divided lefty opposition, and we wish Germany's first Bundeskanzlerin well.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What the Obamis Get Wrong

We've seen in recent days that the Obama economic policy seems to privilege the rich and screw the poor.  That's because cheap money goes first of all to those closest to money: people with assets.  And secondly, I would argue, that government spending goes to existing interests, people with power.

When I say that government spending goes to existing interests I am saying nothing about the purity or the corruption of the government.  I am just saying that it is in the nature of government spending that it goes to existing interests.  Period.

By existing interests I don't just mean rich bitches and crony capitalists.  For instance, the biggest government programs are entitlement programs for the middle class: Social Security and Medicare.  The poor get screwed with a blizzard of miserable welfare programs and the failing Medicaid.  Then there is education, which subsidizes the education of middle-class children right through grad-school.  And the poor get screwed with abysmal schools in the inner city.

It's simple.  The vast majority of voters are middle class, and so the middle class will get most of the loot.  That's how government works.

Scratch a liberal though, and you'll find someone that genuinely believes that all those programs really help.

Liberals really believe that one-size-fits-all government programs help people.

Conservatives believe that one-size-fits-all government programs will always end up benefiting the administrators of the program and the special interests that gather around them.  Conservatives believe that first and foremost, government spending will be used to get politicians elected.  Modern politicians, in our view, are no better than the leaders of robber bands; they offer the prospect of loot to their supporters, and aim to deliver when they get elected.  As St. Augustine put it, a robber band is made into a kingdom "by the addition of impunity."

The genius of modern liberalism is to dress this naked larceny in the raiment of caring and compassion.

So we learn that the median young, the minority, the single woman has lost real income in the first four years of Obama while the rich like me have benefited.  How could this happen with a president that wants to grow the economy from the middle out?  Whatever that means.

Obamanomics doesn't work because the administrative welfare state model doesn't work.  The administrative welfare state model doesn't work because it is indistinguishable from the robber band model of loot and plunder.  It is a model of net subtraction.

Take Obamacare.  It was a grand attempt to extend health insurance to the uninsured. Never mind that the 30 million or so uninsured might just be people for whom insurance didn't make any sense, people without assets to protect from medical bills.  That is to say, if you are a person without assets it makes sense to go bankrupt rather than pay your medical bills.  But in order to get Obamacare passed the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress had to hand out goodies to all the special interests.  It looks like they promised a lot and probably double-crossed a number of their special-interest supporters, from Big Pharma to labor unions.  But the point is that in order to give benefits to the deserving poor they had to give away a whole bunch of goodies to special interests.  Net subtraction.

Take Medicaid.  Right after World War II the feds offered free money for hospital construction.  The only caveat was that the hospitals had to let anyone in for treatment.  After a while the hospitals decided that they really needed to get reimbursement for all the government-mandated free care.  Voila: Medicaid.  But of course the government soon found that Medicaid was getting too expensive so they started trying to duck the commitments it had made by reducing the amounts paid for Medicaid-funded procedures.  Hey, what would you expect a robber band with added impunity to do?  So doctors and hospitals started cutting back on serving new Medicaid patients.  And so on.

When you have the whole economy riddled with this sort of scamming and subsidizing, it's not surprising that the economy starts to get kinda rocky.  Like right now.

That's because all government spending, all of it, is a dead weight on the economy and society.  Oh there may be exceptions.  DARPA.  The internet.  Interstate highways.  Public health.  But it is a delusion to project these occasional successes onto government as a whole.  Government spending is waste.  Period.

But people will kill to keep their government contracts, their government benefits, and their government subsidies.  That's why we need government control much more than we need gun control.  Stop the killing!  Actually, politicians are so afraid of people with benefits that it seldom gets to killing; the last thing politicians ever try is cutting entitlement programs.

The solution to the Obama economic malaise is simple.  Cut.  Start cutting now, and keep on cutting.  And return to sound money.  And clean the tax code out and replace it with simple, low-rate taxes.  And reform the credit system so that it's almost impossible for homeowners to get underwater, and banks to get insolvent.

Here's why liberalism doesn't work.  The poor, the unskilled, and the undisciplined are starting out with a problem.  Nobody wants to hire them.  They will get hired eventually, but only when all the skilled and the disciplined already have jobs.  If you have a minimum wage then the unskilled and the undisciplined may never get hired.  If you give money to the unskilled and the undisciplined then you take away some of the incentive for them to get skills and develop discipline.

In other words if you espouse liberal politics and liberal government programs you will keep the poor poor, the unskilled unskilled, and the undisciplined undisciplined.

Meanwhile the rich get richer.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Now It's Bernanke's Turn to Choke

A week or so ago, President Obama choked on his "red line" to stop the use of WMDs in Syria.  He decided not to ask Congress to authorize him to bomb Syria.  What was he afraid of, do you think?

This week the fluffer is Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who choked rather than start dialing back the Federal Reserve's money printing operations known as QE3.

What is Bubbles Ben afraid of, do you think?  Could it be that he is afraid that the US economy itself will choke unless he continues printing money hand over fist?

Obamacare anyone?

If that is so, then what is the point?  If the economy won't grow without the injection of $85 billion in new money every month, five years after the Crash of 2008, then I'd say it's time to get on the blower and say: Houston, we have a problem.  To coin a phrase.

Just an aside here.  The total in Federal Reserve monetary base just before the Crash of 2008 was just a skinch over $800 billion.  As of July 2013, in the ongoing QE3, the monetary base was $3,310 billion.

Just to put the $85 billion in perspective.  That rate of monetary expansion would expand the pre-2008 monetary base by 10 percent a month!

 Well, we know what the Obama-Bernanke economic policy has created.  It has created the slowest economic recovery since World War II.  It has also benefited the rich while hammering the rest of the country.

And of course the young, the black, and single women are hardest hit in the period June 2009 - June 2013 when overall median real household income fell 4.4 percent:
  1. Young under 25: down 9.6 percent.
  2. Black: down 10.9 percent.
  3. Single women: down 7 percent.
  4. Hispanics: down 4.5 percent.
  5. High school education or less: down 6.9 percent.
Meanwhile a chap like me has doubled my net worth since the nadir of winter 2009.  I don't know if I'm in the dreaded 1%: the Census Bureau says that 13 percent of households have more than $500,000 net worth.

But really, you LoFos.  The Obama administration has been the worst imaginable for the young, the black, the single woman.  And you folks voted for the guy.

Will you still be voting for Democrats in 2014?  In 2016?  You think those guys really care about people like you?  Or do you now think that they don't give a damn about you, but will say anything to get your vote?

This week Bubbles Ben has said he is going to keep printing more money, which will inflate the net worth of rich guys like me.  Next up is "Calamity Janet" Yellen, the First Woman Fed Chair!  Oh wow! Here's what Reagan Budget Director David Stockman has to say about her.
She has no clue how to wean wall street from the pathetic addiction to this massive stimulus, easy money that has been going on for the entire century.

I backed that up because she has spent her whole life as a monetary bureaucrat in the Fed system, and has no clue what honest capital and genuine free markets are about.

[She] believes the entire system has to be run by a monetary politburo, turning all the dials and short-term interest rates and yield curves and the entire financial system.
So, when the inflation starts to rage and the dollar starts to flush down the toilet, what do rich guys like me do then?  And what will ordinary middle class wage earners do, let alone the young, women, and minorities that are hardest hit?

Because I'm damned if I'll let President Obama and Bubbles Ben and Calamity Janet strip me of the savings that I've worked all my life to accumulate.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Who caused the Crash of 2008? Government.

In his speech on Monday September 16, 2013 President Obama spewed his usual vomit of dishonest partisan talking points.  As in:
They said that they wanted entitlement reform -- but their leaders haven’t put forward serious ideas that wouldn’t devastate Medicare or Social Security.  And I've put forward ideas for sensible reforms to Medicare and Social Security and haven’t gotten a lot of feedback yet. 
Oh really Mr. President?  I haven't heard a whisper about your ideas on entitlement reform.  But I have heard about Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare reform, a sensible idea to switch to a straight subsidy.  And if you are interested in entitlement reform, why don't we hear more about it?  Why aren't you barnstorming up and down the land, like President Bush did for his Social Security proposals in 2005?

But I really want to deal with the president's mendacious narrative on the Crash of 2008.  President Obama said:
And as we worked to stabilize the economy and get it growing and creating jobs again, we also started pushing back against the trends that have been battering the middle class for decades.  So we took on a broken health care system.  We invested in new American technologies to end our addiction to foreign oil.  We put in place tough new rules on big banks -- rules that we need to finalize before the end of the year, by the way, to make sure that the job is done -- and we put in new protections that cracked down on the worst practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies.  We also changed a tax code that was too skewed in favor of the wealthiest Americans. 
Let's take these item by item, Mr. President:
  • Broken health care system.  The problem with the health-care system is that it is cartelized by government.  Principally, the problem is that most people don't pay directly for routine care.  Your Obamacare will make these problems worse.
  • New American technologies. I suppose this is an oblique reference to all the green energy crony capitalism and boondoggles that your administration has backed.  But the decline in foreign oil addiction is due to the "fracking" revolution.  And your administration is trying to slow it down and hinder it.
  • Tough new rules on big banks.  You mean, I suppose, the endless boreal forest of Dodd-Frank rules.  Here's a tip for you Mr. President, which might help the next Democratic president avoid 5 years of sub-par growth.  The time you need tough new rules is during a full-bore boom.  That's when you need to bump up credit-score requirements for loans and down-payment requirements.  Right now, when asset values are down, banks should be taking a flier on new loans.  And anyway, the big banks know that they are too big to fail.  They know that the government must bail them out.  Nothing has changed.
  • Worst practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies.  This is the one that stuck in my craw.  The number one thing we need to learn from the housing bubble is that it was government, through the Community Reinvestment Act and the GSE mortgage lenders, that forced mortgage lenders to lend to people with bad credit.  The "worst practices," Mr. President, were forced on lenders by people like you working with ACORN in Chicago in the 1990s. Remember that?
  • Taxes favoring the wealthy.  How come the share of federal income tax paid by the 1% went up as tax rates were lowered?
Let's get down and dirty with the mortgage meltdown. Here's a real cool chart on mortgage delinquencies in 2008 by credit score.

Gosh, golly, geewillikins.  It looks like the lower the credit score the more likely people were to default.!  Who would have thunk it?  So here's the smoking gun, according to Tom Bloomer.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac did their part by lowering borrowers’ credit score approval thresholds in their automated underwriting systems for loans they would purchase from originating lenders. The key changes, according to a mortgage brokerage executive with whom I spoke in 2006, involved reducing the conventional loan threshold from a FICO credit score of about 670 to 630 and the subprime threshold from about 630 to 590 (other online sources I’ve found indicate that each threshold may have actually been an additional ten points lower).
Notice how, on the chart, 670 is just the place where you want to draw the line.  15% defaults. Perfectly manageable.  But if you go to the new subprime threshold of 590, you get to 51% default.  No bank or GSE is long for this world when it is suffering 51% defaults.  Especially if the government has forced lenders to lower their down-payment requirements.

The credit system, sports fans, relies on two things.  It relies on the confidence that other people will make their payments.  And it relies on the confidence that the assets backing any loan would liquidate the loan balance if the debtor defaulted.

Liberals spent twenty years turning that upside down with their government coercion of banks into lowering credit thresholds -- thus increasing the probability of defaults, and lowering down-payment requirements -- thus increasing the chance that loans in default couldn't be liquidated.

Thanks liberals.  You guys are so brilliant I gotta wear shades.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Welfare State: Mend it or End it?

What should we do about the welfare state of comprehensive government social-insurance programs? We know that Social Security can't go on the way it has.  We know that Medicare is worse.  We know that government education from K to grad school is mindlessly elbowing boys aside as it mindlessly continues to regard girls as an "under-served population."

But the question for conservatives is: should we mend it or wait until things get worse and end it?

Here's NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez interviewing Christina Hoff Sommers, author of the updated 2000 book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Policies are Harming Our Young Men.  Yeah.  Thirteen years later and nothing has been done.  Girls are doing better and better in school, and boys are doing worse and worse.  Sommers suggests a program similar to ones in Australia and Britain.
[W]e can follow the example of the British, the Canadians, and the Australians. They have openly addressed the problem of male underachievement. They are experimenting with programs to help them become more organized, focused, and engaged. These include more boy-friendly reading assignments (science fiction, fantasy, sports, espionage, battles); more recess time (where boys can engage in rough-and-tumble play as a respite from classroom routine); campaigns to encourage male literacy; more single-sex classes; and more male teachers (and female teachers interested in the pedagogical challenges boys pose). A few years ago, the Australian government launched a campaign called “Success for Boys.” This program provided grants to 1,600 schools to incorporate boy-friendly methods into their daily practice.
Oh good.  Another one-size-fits-all government program.  With its own advocates, its bureaucrats, and its special interest suppliers.

Here's Reagan-era warhorse Martin Feldstein offering a reform of Social Security and Medicare by raising eligibility levels and lowering benefits.
Congress should vote now to continue raising the full benefit age from 67 to 70. When that is fully phased in, the annual cost of Social Security benefits would be reduced by about 20%, equivalent to a saving in 2020 of $200 billion or about 1% of GDP.

Gradually raising the age of Medicare eligibility in line with the age for full Social Security benefits would achieve a budget saving of more than 1% of GDP in 2020 and later years. Individuals between ages 65 and 70 could still enroll in Medicare by paying a fair premium.
Do conservatives really want to get caught in this trap: the people that cut Social Security and Medicare?

The conservative vision of a limited government and a large civil society would surely require that parents control the education of their children.  So it would be meaningless what the government thought about it.  Parents would organize their children's education according to their lights not according to some elite activist's lights.

The conservative vision would surely require that the inflexible one-size-fits-all structure of Social Security and Medicare should be replaced by personal saving.  You want a secure retirement with a good income and a solid health care package?  Why, you work and save for it.  And if you have made a mistake or two on the way, or if the government strips the nation of resources in a war or a financial collapse, then you get to work a year or two extra.  Your work and your savings then create jobs and careers for the young generation as you enjoy your retirement.

No doubt we should all be forced to pay for a safety net for people that will not or cannot provide for their children or themselves.  But the default must be that people take care of their own.  The default must be that millions of us, responding to the challenges and the opportunities of our individual lives, work and save and adapt in our own individual ways to contribute to the welfare of the whole.  That is the foundation of humans as social animals.  We each do our best, contributing according to our lights.

When we talk about a program to help boys, or a cut to Social Security and Medicare, we are still talking the liberals' language, with the government in the center of our lives, telling us what to do, or else. And inevitably the whole thing will turn upon the free stuff that the government hands out to its supporters.

I went to watch a play-reading over the weekend.  It used Don Quixote to illuminate the problems of the homeless and the mentally ill and the question of Dignity for such people.

Well, here's an idea.  There can be no Dignity in the authoritarian welfare state.  That's because government is force, and system is domination.  Nobody, not the Tea Party member being roughed up by the IRS or the homeless Hispanic hearing voices, gets to be treated with Dignity when the government functionaries are backed by government force.  Because there always comes a point in an interaction with a government functionary where the functionary says do what I say or else.

There is such a thing as society.  It's just not the same thing as the state.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What American Exceptionalism is Really About

Since Russian autocrat Vladimir V. Putin raised the question of American exceptionalism this is a good time to remind ourselves what it is all about.

The best way to start is to show that President Obama's idea of American exceptionalism, as addressed in his Strasbourg news conference in 2009, is all wrong and misses the point.  In answer to a question about American exceptionalism he said:
I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.
That, Mr. President, is exactly what American exceptionalism is not about. America is not a tribe or a nation state based upon a state church and a Volk as originally thought up by the German Romantics.  It is a universal state for people that define themselves not by race and ethnicity but as individuals responsible individually to God.

Most people define themselves by their place, their family, their clan, their tribe, their race.  And they experience their national existence as a war against other nations, a fight in a cruel world of scarce resources.  But American exceptionalism tries to put all that on the waste heap of history.  I like to say that we Americans are People of the Responsible Self.

That is why we are individualists: not because we are selfish and egoistic, but because we experience ourselves as individually responsible for our lives, to God if we believe in God and to the people we know, and to society in general.

The reason that President Obama hesitates as he did in Strasbourg is that liberals don't believe in American exceptionalism.  Their whole world-view is a revolt against American exceptionalism, its individualism, and the idea of the individual as a responsible self.

Liberals have returned to the idea of the state as a robber band, plundering and pillaging the world for free stuff to give away to its members.  Liberals have returned with their identity politics to the definition of people by their tribal membership -- in race, class, gender -- rather than their universal individual humanness.  Liberals believe in the color of your skin, not in the content of your character. Liberals have turned politics into a scramble for loot and subsidy.  Liberals encourage people to think of themselves as victims, denied their rightful share of the world's benefits.

I like to say that this view of politics goes right back to our chimp ancestors.  In that world the welfare of the troop depends on the food supply, and the food supply, mostly in fruits, depends exactly on the ability of the males to extend their territory by border warfare.  Obviously this chimp world is a zero-sum world, because the food-bearing territory that the males conquer must be taken away by force from the neighboring chimp troop.

It all sounds very familiar.

The point about the modern world is that everything depends not upon the food-producing land that we occupy, but upon the ingenuity of each individual human to produce good and services for other humans.  Wealth does not consist in land or in natural resources but in "intangible capital," the skills and knowledge of humans and their ability to work together.

But people that have just arrived in the city don't yet understand this.  And so they respond to community organizers that tell them that they are being oppressed and exploited.  They are in a tough place, of course, because they don't yet know how to contribute to society with their skills and knowledge.  That makes them second-class citizens.

Let's give our liberal friends the benefit of the doubt.  They believe in their world view.  They believe that they are doing the right thing by handing out free stuff to the traditionally marginalized.  And it sure doesn't hurt that getting free stuff from the local patron is what the traditionally marginalized understand from their lives in the country as peasants.

But American exceptionalism says we are called to something higher, something better.  We are called to be People of the Responsible Self that think first about what we can do and what we contribute, and only second about what we will get and what we deserve.  This culture seems to have started in the cities in the first millennium BC, at the birth of the modern religions from Hinduism to Judaism to Christianity in the so-called Axial Age.

On this view Islam is something of an outlier, because Islam, in its very name, is a religion of the Submissive Self, not the Responsible Self.  It is a religion of warrior tribes, not cooperative city dwellers.

In How Civilizations Die David P. Goldman says that civilizations die by not having children.  See Europe, Russia, Japan, American liberals, and Islam.  People with a faith in the future have children. People that have given up do not.  American conservatives and American immigrants have children. American liberals do not.  Indeed American liberals worship the idols of creativity and abortion and population control and non-heterosexuality which lead to an empty crib and no grandchildren.

Goldman predicts a glorious future for America.  That's because of our American exceptionalism.  But obviously we can't really get a grip on the future until Obama and his liberal friends exit stage left.

And after the end of Obama the American people will need to declare, with their vote, that they are a People of the Responsible Self.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Does Nazism = Marxism = Liberalism?

Is it allowed in Obama's America to object to the idea that a departed Marxist was a "Marxist Humanist Mensch"?

That's what John Podhoretz did when "leftist social critic Marshall Berman" was recently so eulogized.  He reacted, perhaps a little too quickly.  His tweet read: "Imagine a tribute to a Nazi humanist mensch.”

After a while he decided that he ought to apologize.

Actually, the idea that a thinker of poisonous ideas could be a mensch is not that outrageous.  People can espouse vicious ideas in their writing and still be kind to children and animals.  The point is that in Obama's America you are not allowed to call a dead Nazi social critic a mensch.  But you are allowed to do it for dead Marxists.

And if Nazism is an abomination, leading to the death of millions, what about liberalism, or "Liberal Fascism", as Jonah Goldberg so delicately puts it.  It led to the suffering of millions in the Great Depression and now it is creating great discomfort for millions in the Great Recession.

The point is that all these political doctrines -- Nazism, Marxism, and liberalism -- call for the supremacy of the political ruling class.  In all of them, politics and political power trumps everything.

Any sensible person would regard such ideas with suspicion.  Of course a ruling class, or would-be ruling class, would believe in the claptrap of political supremacy.

But not modern conservatism.  And that has to mean something.

Let us stipulate that Nazism, Marxism, and liberalism have a valid point.

Nazism grew out of the era of German Liberation during the Napoleonic Wars when German intellectuals like Fichte desperately tried to create an idea of German nationhood to push back against the endless imperial invasions of the French.  And the "volkisch" ideas of German Romanticism had a point too in honoring the solidarity and the community of traditional folkways.  A lot of the thinkers working on this were real "mensch" and good for them.  It all only became a murdering totalitarianism after the German defeat in World War I and the Germans, living in what they knew was the most advanced country in the world, started flailing around for an Answer to their problems.

Marxism grew out of the explosive industrial revolution that seemed to be turning workers into mechanical slaves.  It was plausible to worry that the newly powerful capitalists were something to fear and something to be fought.  Of course, Marxism was dead wrong.  But nobody knew that back in the 1840s.

Liberalism grew out of the same soil, the idea that someone had to supervise the huge new corporations that dominated railways and steel and oil.  Otherwise they would run amok.  It all seemed so plausible back in the 1890s.

Meanwhile, capitalism was crunching along, midway through raising daily income from $3 per capita to the present $120 per capita, based on the Invisible Hand doctrine that the market was self ordering.  Absent state power, the new capitalism would behave like an unconscious organism, according to Herbert Spencer.  People were like cells, obliviously doing their thing in the middle of a vast social organism, but still helping the whole thing thrive.  You believe stuff like that, fashionable people howled?  Give me a break!

Here's how I look at it.  Think of Nazism, Marxism, and liberalism as "plausible lies."

It makes sense that in a cruel world of knives in the back (German: Dolchstoß), you need a powerful nation built upon a people that share language and race.  Only it doesn't.  It turns out that humans are perfectly capable of cooperating across language and race barriers, so long as the language and the race baiters shut up.  Nazism is a lie.

It makes sense that individual workers would be helpless before the thundering power of Machine Industry.  Only it turns out that Machine Industry works much better when people are treated like humans and encouraged to be "self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility (German: verantwortungsfreudig)."  Marxism is a lie.

It makes sense that the economy would be a complete shambles unless "large-minded" administrators and experts were given the authority to organize things rationally.  Only it turns out that millions of producer and consumer decisions easily outperform the expert and the administrator.  That's because the millions are trying and failing and learning things in their millions, whereas the government expert and the government administrator can only try a few things, and cannot admit when they are wrong.  Liberalism is a lie.

That leaves us with the implausible truth that voluntary social cooperation is the way "forward" -- a voluntary social cooperation freed from a sovereign political hegemony that endlessly orders everyone around.

To figure out how that works you can do a lot worse than listen to Edmund Burke, the "first conservative."
  1. No Lois Lerners.  Government administrators must not use their power to despoil ordinary citizens, e.g., "dangerous" Tea Partiers.  Burke started this revolutionary notion with his Impeachment of Warren Hastings.
  2. No religious persecution.  Let people worship their own gods.  Burke lost his seat in Parliament for supporting Catholic emancipation.
  3. No rule from afar.  It's stupid to think you can rule America from Westminster, said Burke.
  4. No rule of the experts and mechanics.  The human condition is not a mechanical toy.  Keep the "sophisters, economists, and calculators" off the levers of power.  Burke predicted that the French Revolution would end in the gallows.  OK, he was wrong; it ended in the guillotine.
So there you have it: three Plausible Lies and one Implausible Truth.  But why be amazed?  Truth, they say is stranger than fiction.  Because fiction always has to be plausible.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

No Shortcuts writes JR Dunn

Terrified by three-and-a-half more years of Obama?  Too bad, writes American Thinker's J.R. Dunn.  There is no easy way out; nor should we want one.  What this nation needs is a decisive rejection of liberalism.
I want every single train of events set in motion by Obama, his administration, and his supporters, down to the last halfwit college undergrad, to play out in full.  I want every disaster that fool and his parade of twitches have triggered to blossom in bleak completion.  I want to see all their trains collide, all their ships sink, all their airships burnt to cinders.
The purpose of this is not to experience the fun of it.  It's not going to be fun, not for anyone.  And there is no shortcut to the sunny green uplands of a conservative future.
I prefer that we drink this cup to the dregs, take this road to its lonely end.  The liberals need to undergo the whipping that they have dodged for over seven decades.  The voters of this country, who have treated politics like a reality series, need to be backhanded by the world as it exists.  We require a rude awakening.  This country's pols, both left and right, need to be overwhelmed with worry as to what the next day will bring.  The people of this country need to be buried up to their necks in the results of their own infantilism.  All the fantasy castles need to be demolished to the last stone.  Liberalism must be discredited and humiliated, its adherents defeated and dispersed.  The leader of the whole circus must be tormented to the human limit and beyond, forced to break down in front of the cameras as he begs for help that will not come. 
In my view, it is women, white women, that need to experience this meltdown most of all.  Liberals have been spinning lies to women for decades and women have lapped it all up -- hey, no offence, women are programmed to lap up the milk of the lover's blandishments.

But women are going to find out in the next few years how bad liberalism is for them, their children, and their loved ones.

It will all be too late, of course.  That always happens with women.

But it is not a weakness in women that this always happens.  It's clear that women are programmed, by God or by Darwin, to believe in the conventional wisdom of their local community of women.  And when things go south, women are programmed to hang on, hoping against hope that they can get their children to adulthood before the flood carries everything before it to utter ruin.

Since woman have the vote, their credulity and their just-hang-on culture is now part of the public square, and we skeptical, rebellious men just have to deal with it.

That's why we need to experience the absolute liberal wipeout for the next three-and-a-half years.  So that the American people, down to the lowest information women voters, say: Never Again. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Obama Discredits Liberalism

When I wrote my usual American Thinker op-ed over the weekend titled "Discredit Liberalism Utterly" I had no idea that when the article ran yesterday it would be the same day that President Obama would do the job for us.

Imagine that. Imagine how the president could have done more to discredit liberalism utterly in his speech on Syria of September 10, 2013, a day which will live...  As the day that liberalism started to die.

On top of that it was also the day that two Colorado state senators were recalled by a movement led by a twentysomething plumber.  You know their names: State Senator John Morse and State Senator Angela Giron.  You may not know the plumber.  His name is Victor Head.

John Ransom addressed the discredit liberalism issue in "6 Tricks that God has played on Liberals since November:"
It’s not even just that they are wrong, it’s that at the top of the liberal pyramid they are liars, intellectually bankrupt, the moral and intellectual equivalents of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, spreading a gospel which not only they don’t understand, but the they exploit for their own, and no one else’s gain.
Yeah, that does put it in a special light.  Liberals are no better than the Bakkers.  In a real sense.  We don't know what the Bakkers really believed about God.  And we don't really know what liberals believe about liberalism.  But we do know that, when you add the numbers up the only people that really seem to benefit from liberalism are liberals.

Just like the Bakkers and God.

Jonah Goldberg also has a piece today that kinda hammers the whole "discredit liberalism" meme home.  He talks about the idea that liberals are live-and-let-live people and that liberal support for gay marriage and abortion proves it.  That, he says, is the Grand Myth of liberalism.
Social liberalism is the foremost, predominant and in many instances sole impulse for zealous regulation in this country, particularly in big cities. I love it when liberals complain about a ridiculous bit of PC nanny-statism coming out of New York, L.A., Chicago, D.C., Seattle, etc. -- "What will they do next?"

Uh, sorry to tell you, but you are "they." Outside of a "Law and Order" script -- or an equally implausible MSNBC diatribe about who ruined Detroit -- conservatives have as much influence on big-city liberalism as the Knights of Malta.
And when it comes to gay marriage and abortion, you'd better agree with liberals or else.  Gay marriage?  The local Human Rights Commission in New Mexico will come after you.  Abortion?  Obamacare says you gotta pay for it.

Thanks to those sharing and caring live-and-let-live liberals.

The only problem for me is what happens after liberalism is utterly discredited.  Even Aussie conservative Tony Abbott figured he needed to romance the ladies with a proposed maternal leave policy financed by a teeny-tiny tax on the rich earning more that $500,000 a year.

You see, nothing changes.  All politicians are like predatory plunderers, egging on their supporters with the promise of loot.  Women are supposed to be sharers and carers, yet politicians treat them like they were potential rapers and pillagers, anxious to get their hands on some free stuff.

The solution is obvious.  Fire the minds of men and women with the idea of limited government, that any plan to plunder A and give it to B is sick and wrong, and against "our values."

But who will be the one to make the first move?  Any ideas, President Obama?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tony Abbott Equals Reagan Equals Bush

When Barack Obama acceded to the presidency after various verbal infelicities, such as the 57 states incident, he was hailed as a brilliant everything.

But conservative politicians are always represented as barely human.  Ronald Reagan was an amiable dunce.  George W. Bush was a dumb Texas cowboy.

So it's no surprise that Tony Abbott, leader of the conservative Liberal Party and winner in the recent Australian general election, has been characterized as an embarrassment.  He made a verbal slip about the "suppositories of wisdom" and is regarded as "hostile to women" and sexist for talking about the "sex appeal" of certain women parliamentary candidates.
Slowly, the public has come to accept Mr Abbott as its next prime minister, though he has long been dogged by claims he is hostile to women, particularly after his fierce approach to Miss Gillard.

He was heavily criticised for appearing at a rally against the carbon tax outside Parliament House surrounded by banners referring to Ms Gillard as "Ju-Liar" and "the Bitch".

Australia's first female prime minister hit back at him in a stirring speech in parliament last October that made global headlines.

"I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man," she said. "I've had enough, Australian women have had enough."
Well of course.  You're not allowed to criticize liberal women: That's sexist.  Just as you are not allowed to criticize President Obama: That's racist.

Any US conservative can see the parallels with US politics.  Conservatives are always characterized as unfriendly to women.  Or making divisive comments.  Or being sexist.  Or extremist.  A chap like Barack Obama can be way off on the left wing but get reported as the savior of women, children, and minorities.

Somewhere there is a campaign consultant that knows how to neuter this sort of thing.  But it won't be easy, because the routine marginalization of conservative politicians reflects the left-wing nature of the mainstream media.  The media lives in a bubble where of course conservatives are extremist, of course they are unintelligent, of course they are racist, sexist, homophobic.

That's why I issue the call to "Discredit Liberalism Utterly" in the American Thinker today.   I mean that particularly in the minds of nice women who have learned their lessons well in the modern secular seminary.  Because only when those nice women feel utterly betrayed will the scales fall off their eyes.  Only then will they realize that liberalism is bad for women for their children and other humans.  That liberals sees them as dupes, marks, easily manipulated innocents.  Because for liberals it is all about getting and keeping and deploying government power.  No matter how it hurts ordinary people just trying to live their lives.

Meanwhile, Tony Abbott has won in Australia, and "Australia is under new management and once again open for business."

Monday, September 9, 2013

"My Daughter the Bestselling Author"

Since time immemorial,or at least from the founding of the Second Temple, Jewish mothers have proudly reported the doings of "my son the doctor." OK, so they used to talk about "my son the rabbi" until the invention of asepsis and the founding of the AMA made doctors respectable at last.

Still, you get the point.

But now I can report to all my friends that my daughter Beatriz Williams is now a "New York Times Bestselling Author."  That's because in this week's NYT Bestseller Lists A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams hit #16 in the e-book fiction list and #24 in the combined e-book and print fiction list.  A Hundred Summers is Beatriz's second title for Putnam.  Overseas, her debut novel, was published in 2012 and is now out in paperback.

And really, what's "my son the doctor" compared to "my daughter the bestselling author"?

What does this mean?  It means that forever after my daughter's publisher can style her on the cover as "New York Times Bestselling Author Beatriz Williams."

It also means that it is not too late to order yours.  A Hundred Summers is a tale of lost love here.  And Overseas, a tale of love across time, is here.  Go ahead.  Click away!

I talked to a friend and asked whether she thought that the title "New York Times Bestselling Author" amounted to a patent of nobility, or whether it was better described as membership in an order of chivalry, the kind that lets you wear a star on your chest.

She thought that patent of nobility came closest.  But I beg to disagree.  In the first place, patents of nobility are forbidden to the United States government by the US Constitution.  In the second place, titles of nobility are traditionally inherited and there is no doubt, at least for now, that the title of "New York Times Bestselling Author" is not heritable.

No, I think that New York Times Bestselling Authors are all members of a glorious order of chivalry.  As in most such orders there are degrees of membership: Members, Knights, Knight Commanders and so on.  The Order of the New York Times Bestselling Authors is just the same.  There are ordinary Bestselling Authors and then there are Distinguished Bestselling Authors and of course #1 Bestselling Authors.  And so on.

All joking apart, this is a magnificent achievement for my daughter Beatriz, the culmination of years of hard work, relentless discipline, sleepless nights, and just raw talent.

Congratulations, daughter dear.  There is no higher honor -- other than being a wife, mother of four strapping children, and devoted Starbucks customer.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Levin's Amendments a "Fantasy"?

I've criticized Mark Levin's The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic from the right, writing that what's needed is not a laundry list of reforms but an ideological revolution to power them.

But for a lefty like Anne-Marie Cox at the British Guardian the whole Amendments thing is an "originalist fantasy" -- and boring too.

Because the states are never going to authorize a convention under Article V of the US Constitution.

Well, yes.  I get that.  I get that the constitutional amendment process is fiendishly difficult, and that to propose ten amendments is political insanity.

But that's not the point of Levin's Amendments.  The point is to dress up a conservative program of reform in the sacred garments of the Constitution, to turn the boring grind of day-to-day politics into a holy crusade.

I happen to agree with Cox that the originalist movement is a busted flush.  I happen to agree that a state-led convention process would be a dead letter.  But that is not the point.  The point is to get the conservative faithful riled up and ready for political battle.  Obviously, political recruiter Mark Levin has succeeded in that, since Amendments has already spent weeks as a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Right now, even as we speak, Amendments is #9 on Amazon.

And remember, Ms. Feminist Cox.  The Equal Rights Amendment may have failed to get ratification by the required 38 states in 1982, but its ideas and its prescriptions have seeped into every corner of American life in the public square.  I'd call that a stunning strategic success, even if the tactical ERA battle failed.

All this just means that the specific reforms that Levin advances, from returning the Senate to its original function as the voice of the states to the limitation on taxation, will be a dead letter unless we completely and decisively demolish the liberal world view.

By that I mean that conservatives must advance a world view that encloses both the originalist vision and the progressive vision and points the way to something new.

That something new, from the conservative point of view, must include the notion of limited government and civil society.  It will require a flank attack on our liberal friends, catching their activists facing the wrong direction, so that their strategy and tactics, indeed their whole world view, collapses before the ideological might of the conservative world view.

In my view the world-beating conservative world view should beat the liberals with the ideas of their own ideological saints.  If you want to talk about alienation with Marx, what is more alienating than a life on government benefits utterly cut off from a useful contribution to society through work?  If you want to talk about the exploitation of surplus value, what is worse than the government taxing away and sequestering 15 to 25 percent of the ordinary worker's wages every paycheck?  If you want to talk about oppression, what is more oppressing than the demolition of lower-class culture by the liberal social agenda?  Isn't that what all invaders try to do when they defeat their hated enemy?  Why can't conservatives use Marx as a club to beat their political foes?

But when it comes to a positive agenda, and a new and all-encompassing world view, I hold that we should mine the left for the best political ores.  I start with the first generation Frankfurt School and Horkheimer and Adorno.  Their Dialectic of Enlightenment admitted that domination is in the very blood of Enlightenment because: "What men want to learn from nature is how to dominate it and other men."  In other words, they admitted that their Holy Grail of Enlightenment is also the wound of an Original Sin.  I have boiled this idea down into a catchphrase: System is domination.

That means every one of the lefty comprehensive and mandatory government programs is nothing more or less than a system for domination: cruel, unjust, corrupt, and wasteful.

Then we advance to the next generation of Frankfurters and Jürgen Habermas, student of Adorno.  His grand opus The Theory of Communicative Action proposes understanding the world as a duality of "system" and "lifeworld."

The problem for Habermas is the "colonization of the lifeworld" by systems, the systems of bourgeois capitalism, steering media, and the authoritarian administrative welfare state.  The answer is to empower the "lifeworld" as a public sphere of negotiation and exchange of truth values in a spirit of equality to balance the strategic might of system domination. Right on Jürgi! In my words,
People are not just egos pursuing a selfish goal; they are social beings immersed in a shared lifeworld, a culture that begins with “ego” and “alter,” the self and the other in which, of course, language is central in defining what it is possible to think about in the shared culture.
It is worth noting here that "Action" in the title of Habermas magnum opus is "Handeln" in the original German.  That means a lot more than action.  It includes the idea of negotiation and even haggling.  In regard to Jews, for instance, "Handeln" can be used as a pejorative, meaning people that are always bargaining and looking for a deal.

I hold that we conservatives can only defeat the world view of our liberal friends with their own ideas, ideas from the very best lefty thinkers.  We have to change "what it is possible to think about in the shared culture."  That means, of course, reversing the culture of political correctness, which is precisely an attempt to limit "what it is possible to think."

But how do you change "what it is possible to think"?  You don't, most of the time.  But when things start going wrong, badly wrong, then people start to break out of the taken for granted culture, the "lifeworld" in Habermas' words that "appears as a reservoir of taken-for-granteds, of unshaken convictions that participants in communication draw upon in cooperative processes of interpretations."

The whole point of a culture, of a "lifeworld," is that it provides a "taken-for-granted" blueprint for successful life in society in the here and now.  But when things go wrong, then people start to ask questions.  They start to critique the "taken-for-granted."  They start to search for a better way.

The glory of the Obama years is that nobody could perhaps have designed a better way to bring all the liberal "taken-for-granteds" into question.  And the irony of the whole thing is, as Stephen Moore points out in the Wall Street Journal that the young, minorities and women are hardest hit by the Obama economy and energy policy and, no doubt, social policy.

Yes, indeed, Anne-Marie Cox.  Mark Levin's Liberty Amendments is a boring fantasy.  But that's not the point.  The point is that the book's success shows that the people are starting to ache for an answer to our present problems.

It is up to us to build a shining ideological edifice that will create conservative light out of liberal darkness.  Do that, and the reforms in The Liberty Amendments will become a slam dunk.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

NYT Worries about that Emerging Democratic Majority

President Obama's winning coalition is a wonderful thing to liberals.  But how durable is it?  In "How Fragile Is the New Democratic Coalition?" Thomas B. Edsall runs the numbers for the New York Times faithful and worries whether it will all last.

A key part of the Obama majority, according to Edsall, was what Ron Lesthaeghe and Lisa Neidert of the University of Michigan Population Studies Center call the Second Demographic Transition, i.e. people who practice and preach "postponement of marriage, greater prevalence of cohabitation and same-sex households, postponement of parenthood, sub-replacement fertility, and a higher incidence of abortion."  In other words, liberals.

And, of course, any young person that goes to government schools, and in particular the secular seminaries we call "university," is likely to be carefully taught in the ways of the Second Demographic Transition.  Unless they have a crusty old Dad at home they are likely to become liberal fellow travelers.  Because that's the default thing to do.

To conservatives, all this looks like the "Life of Julia" broadcast by the Obamis in 2012.

Of course, long term, we conservatives understand that the practice of the life of Julia means not a Demographic Transition but a demographic extinction.  Come to childless liberal Seattle to experience that.  The lesson it provides to conservatives is that the culture of nearly all religions makes sense.  Society needs to jog its young and its not-so-young away from the culture of expression and Do Your Own Thing into more socially beneficial channels, ones that encourages and supports marriage formation, childbearing, and child-raising.

But in the near term, I wonder if the Second Demographic Transition and the Julias and Julians within it will get off the Democratic coalition before it's too late.

It makes sense for the liberal ruling class to promote secularism, cohabitation, abortion and all the rest.  It makes sense precisely as advertised in The Life of Julia.  A person living that kind of life needs big government.

But it doesn't make sense for anyone that feels the conservative instinct, that we, the generation of the living, have a duty to the generations of ancestors and the generations yet unborn.  We know that the only thing that matters is to get children on the ground and grandchildren after them.

The problem for the liberal fellow travelers is that big government doesn't give a damn about Julia, or anything else beyond Julia's next vote in the next election. Liberal politicians tell the young, the minority, the female that they care about them.  Then why are incomes declining in the Obama years, for all but the top 20 percent like me that are floating on the Fed's QE3?  Why are things worst for the young, the minorities, and for women, as Stephen Moore writes in the Wall Street Journal?

OK.  If that is so then why did the young and the minority and the female vote for Obama in 2012?

Look, there's a good argument that the November 2012 election came at the last moment that ordinary people could believe in the golden words of our president, that he cared about people like the young, the minority, the women.  The reality is that the spending, regulation, and subsidy of big government end up helping people with pull, not the average person trying to make it out in the outer suburbs, and if you believe that politicians care about you, I gotta bridge to sell you.

Back in the 2000s and the Obama years thus far conservatives couldn't advance their argument against the conventional wisdom that the Democrats were the natural home of the young and the minority and the female, because nobody was getting hurt.  Not yet.  Of course the temperature was going to cool and the seas were going to recede.  Of course free contraception was just the ticket for a frisky young woman.  Of course the Democrats cared about minorities while the Republicans were country-club racists.

And the mainstream media wasn't going to disabuse anyone of the Democrats' political line.

Back then conservatives and Republicans knew that it all had to end in tears.  Settled science, you know.

In fact, economist Ronald Coase's death on Monday reminds us that government regulation doesn't usually result in better outcomes than the free market.  You could look it up, under "The Problem of Social Cost".  Economics 101.

We conservatives know that anti-natal culture, of sexual self-expression and abortion and single-parent families, is a dead end.  Math 101.

We know that the permanent campaign, the desideratum of community organizers everywhere, is a dead end, because if you divide people too much into us and them, then they will take the hint and actually divide up in civil war. Politics 101.

We know that the politics of free stuff runs out when the free stuff runs out, and it always does. Margaret Thatcher 101.

But we understand that it is hard for young people, minorities, and women to get this.  They haven't been around the course a couple of times.

Well, they are half way around the course for the first time right now, and my prediction is that by the time they complete that learning experience there will be a lot fewer Democrats in the pack than there were when they started out.

That's why they say when anything goes wrong: "minorities and women hardest hit."  Because they are the most dependent on government.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Telling a Conservative Story

Suddenly, after the Labor Day holiday, everyone is talking about the conservative message to America: how to talk to Americans about what America has become and how we could fix it.

If it weren't obvious last week, it certainly is obvious this week.  In November 2016, after eight years of Obama and his wrecking crew, America will think it is Time for a Change.  Even if conservatives say and do nothing between here and the next presidential election, Americans will be responding to the economic and national security problems by looking for alternatives.  They will be thinking that there has to be a better way.

People often sneer at today's conservative politicians and compare them to Reagan.  Here's Jonah Goldberg.
Ronald Reagan's cult of personality remains strong and deep on the right, and I count myself a member of it. But what often gets lost in all the talk of the Gipper's adamantine convictions and timeless principles is the simple fact that he was also a really good politician.
And given that for most of human history "human wisdom was passed on in stories" being a really good politician means telling stories.
Many historians will tell you that the secret of Reagan's political success was his gift for storytelling.
Yes, but.  Ronald Reagan got nowhere with the American people until the Carter Malaise of the late 1970s: Americans just weren't interested in his stories.  In fact, liberals sneered at his stories and made him into a kind of laughingstock.

What made Ronald Reagan into a "really good politician" rather than a footnote to history was that at the critical moment, really his last chance at the presidency, people started listening to his stories.

In my view, conservatives have had a great story to tell in the last decade.  It's just that the American people haven't wanted to listen.   Why would they?  They had plenty of jobs; their homes were soaring in value.  What, me worry?

All along, conservatives have been saying that we needed to reform entitlements, we needed to reform education, we needed to reform health care and reduce Third Party payments.  It didn't matter how good of a story we were telling, the mainstream media would inject an iota of doubt with their "but critics say" retorts.  And Democrats were always ready with a new subsidy, more free stuff.  People blew off our message and our stories.

Let's acknowledge the basic problem.  Democrats are offering voters free stuff if they vote for a Democrat.  That is the basic transaction for any government; it rules by offering rewards to its supporters.  Typically these rewards are obtained by taxation or by favorable administrative rulings.

But conservatives say that this basic political transaction is a chimera.  Force shouldn't be a first resort when trying to solve a national problem; it should be a last resort, when all else fails.  In fact we say that we humans thrive not by looting each other with a government enforcement officer by our side, but by figuring out what other people want and working to give it to them while hoping for a bountiful return.

But notice the problem here.  We conservatives are saying that politics should not be a game of "vote for me; get free stuff."  We say that national politics should be a process of getting the politics out of routine day-to-day living and working!  We are arguing the opposite of the free-stuff pitch.  We are saying that if you want more stuff, then make stuff for other people!  How crazy is that?

Conservatives often whine that liberalism is the easy choice: just vote your feelings.  But I think that this is misleading for us to think so.  Hey, we conservatives have feelings too.  It's just that our feelings say that we would all be better off, and happier too, if we asked, with JFK, what we could do for our country rather than what our country could do for us.

Notice that liberals make this argument when they say with Oliver Wendell Holmes: "I like to pay taxes; with them I buy civilization."  For liberals, taxes are a form of giving.

Only civilization is not the liberal administrative state.  Civilization is the citification of humans, transcending race and creed and tribe and doing the unimaginable: trusting trustworthy strangers.  And taxes are not giving.  Taxes are force: pay them or go to jail.

The great opportunity in the upcoming election cycles is that things are clearly going wrong.  When liberals and the media argue for more of the same -- more taxes, more spending, more regulation, more subsidies -- then ordinary people will start to wonder.  If it didn't work before, why would it work now?

That's when conservatives can come in and start telling good stories.  But it ain't gonna be easy.  Because conservatives are proposing a politics of anti-politics.  Vote for us and we'll reduce the free stuff.  Yeah, that should be a winner.

That's why conservatives are always reduced to telling a tale that leaves the "cuts" out.  Vote for us and freedom and prosperity!  Vote for your birthright and don't settle for a mess of pottage!

That's why there's religion.  People need to be persuaded to be social beings, thinking first about how to contribute to society and only second about how to get theirs from society.

That's why it's fatal for politics and religion to be combined into an established church.  It is not easy for people to resist the temptation of taking what they want by force.  It's the opposite of the song, that you have to be carefully taught to hate.  Nonsense.  You can whip people into a frenzy of hate in five minutes.

But you do have to be carefully taught to believe in limited government.  It's a new idea, a radical, dangerous innovation.  And it breaks away from the time-honored culture of the male warrior, to find wealth in loot and plunder, and the time-honored culture of the community of women, to expect the men to defend them and provide for them.

The miracle is, of course, that any human has broken out of the old ways of plunder and clientage.  But we did, starting most obviously in the Axial Age.  In our age, the breakout happens as people complete the cultural journey from rural agriculture to city industry.

We have a name for the people that have completed the journey.  We call them the People of the Responsible Self.  Anywhere you run into people that think of themselves as responsible people you are looking at potential conservatives and Republicans if you can just get them to ditch their attachment to race and clan.

So let the conservative storytelling begin!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Government and the STEM Crisis

We will take time out from the Syrian crisis, and the problem President Obama is experiencing in asking for support from people he has spent the last five years excoriating.

Because I recently read a fascinating article in the IEEE's Spectrum by Robert M. Charette "The STEM Crisis Is a Myth" on the political booms and busts of the STEM crisis.  That's the perennial idea that the US isn't producing enough Scientists, Technicians, Engineers, and Mathematicians (STEM): therefore more government spending and regulation.

Let's get the caveat in right here.  IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a professional association.  So it is the modern equivalent of a guild, with all that that implies.

According to Michael S. Teitenbaum, the STEM crisis "dates back to World War II."
Ever since then it has tended to run in cycles that he calls “alarm, boom, and bust.” He says the cycle usually starts when “someone or some group sounds the alarm that there is a critical crisis of insufficient numbers of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians” and as a result the country “is in jeopardy of either a national security risk or of falling behind economically.”
First we were falling behind the Soviets.  Then it was the Japanese.  Now it's the Indians and Chinese.  Therefore we must take action.  Only right now a lot of STEM college graduates can't find jobs and many of them leave STEM jobs for something else.

Really it's no mystery.  If you want government subsidy and/or appropriations you need to gussy up a crisis.  Government is force, so to justify force you need to show that the economy, absent government force, is not doing the job.  Therefore government spending.

Charette blows though an lot of numbers to show that there isn't a shortage of STEM-qualified people, but the bottom line is this:
And yet, alongside such dire projections, you’ll also find reports suggesting just the opposite—that there are more STEM workers than suitable jobs. One study found, for example, that wages for U.S. workers in computer and math fields have largely stagnated since 2000. Even as the Great Recession slowly recedes, STEM workers at every stage of the career pipeline, from freshly minted grads to mid- and late-career Ph.D.s, still struggle to find employment as many companies, including Boeing, IBM, and Symantec, continue to lay off thousands of STEM workers.
Oh really.  And that brings us to the point.  A crisis means that employers can't find qualified people for love or money.  If employers are not bidding up the price of STEM workers then there is no shortage.  Government intervention is not required.  Subsidies are not needed.  Force is not justified.

Of course, the article's IEEE commenters know exactly what this is all about.  H-1B visas.  Employers like cheap labor and are happy to keep STEM wages down by importing STEM graduates from overseas with H-1B visas.   So they lobby for increased immigration, like right now with the comprehensive immigration bill.

Still, as one commenter says: "Let wages perform their signaling function and we [will] all be better off."

If only.  And how far is the average American willing to go?  Because you can make the argument about everything that we do with the government.  Education?  You really think that parents won't get education for their children if the government didn't do it?  Health care?  You really think that women wouldn't find a way to get health care for their families in the alternative universe where the government didn't trowel it on with a bulldozer?

On the one hand, we are all social cooperators who do things for other people every day.  On the other hand we are tribesmen that instinctively respond to the alarm signal to prepare for battle.

It's up to us to figure out when there's a real crisis, and when it's just a boy crying "Wolf!" -- as usual.