Friday, May 18, 2012

Ideology and "what works"

Like The "Progressives" of the early 20th century, President Obama and many of his fellow Leftists these days are quite fond of making the claim that they are simply motivated by "what works" and are not driven by ideology the way conservatives are. The philosophical emptiness of such claims is thoroughly amusing and I have always seen it as just too shallow to be worth a reply. Just how empty the claim is can be shown by a simple question: "How do you define "what works"?" -- or -- "When do you know that something has "worked"?"

The inevitable answer to that has to be in terms of ideology: "Whether something leads to greater economic equality", would certainly be a common Leftist answer to my question. But that simply shows that the Leftist subscribes to an ideology that economic equality is desirable.

In his latest book, however, Jonah Goldberg is marginally more respectful of the claim. He first documents the claim at some length but instead of wiping it off with a simple question, he devotes a whole chapter to refuting it. And his conclusion is that both Left and Right have ideologies -- but ideologies that are different.

Jonah does note however that in the past it was in fact conservatives who abjured ideology and customarily pointed to Leftists as ideologues. And I think that view is essential to understanding conservatism. In his book Inside Right, Ian Gilmour, once Lord Privy Seal of England under Margaret Thatcher, offers an historical study of conservatism and concludes that conservatives are "trimmers": People with ideas that change with circumstances without much in the way of pre-established doctrines or policy consistency.

In my own historical study of conservative thought I noted many instances of such claims from conservative thinkers and concluded that conservatism can only be understood as a psychological disposition -- a tendency towards cautiousness -- and that different policy responses may be generated by that underlying psychological conservatism from time to time -- though a desire for individual liberty is a common outcome of that psychological disposition.

So I side with the earlier conservative thinkers and say that it is conservatives who are the non-ideological ones. The Leftist claim on that distinction becomes mere trickery. They think that by claiming to be something that is really true of conservatives, they can gain some added respectibility for their policies and deflect attention from whom the real practical people are. It is a sort of reverse-projection: Instead of seeing their own faults in others, they see the strengths of others in themselves.

So I see Jonah as too kind to the Left. They are just crooks who will say anything if it will get them power. Conservatives should not let the Left get away with stealing our clothes. And the best way to do that is to keep asking them my questions above.

Conservatives don't have to make broad claims about standing for "what works". Rather we just deal with individual issues as they arise and point out what the consequences of a Leftist response to those issues is likely to be. The track record of socialism is so dismal that that is not hard to do. If anything engenders caution, it is socialism


'Obama was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii': President's OWN literary agency promotional booklet from 1991 claims he WAS born in Africa

The simmering political row over President Obama’s heritage was dramatically reignited today as a 1991 booklet boldly announced that the Democrat was ‘born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.’

In the cover for a 1991 promotional booklet by Mr Obama’s then-publisher Acton & Dystel, he is as ‘the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, (who) was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.’

The information, which could be used as more ammunition against the incumbent, comes months before what will likely be a close campaign between Mr Obama and likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

The 36-page promotional booklet was exclusively obtained by Breitbart, and was sent out to colleagues within the publishing industry in the early 1990s.

A later biography, which can still be found on Acton & Dystel’s archives, reads: ‘Barack Obama is the junior Democratic senator from Illinois and was the dynamic keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. ‘He was also the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. He was born in Kenya to an American anthropologist and a Kenyan finance minister and was raised in Indonesia, Hawaii, and Chicago. His first book, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, has been a long time New York Times bestseller.

The blue, teal, and silver booklet was printed in part to celebrate Acton & Dystel’s 15th anniversary, and also to display the breadth and depth of authors the imprint published.

Other authors featured include Ralph Nader, former Speaker of the House Thomas P. O’Neill, and pop group New Kids on the Block.

Miriam Goderich, who now works at partner company Dystel & Goderich, is listed as the pamphlet’s editor. An assistant for Ms Goderich told MailOnline that she was not commenting on the story at this time.

New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait writes that the ‘controversy’ was little more than the result of a ‘lazy literary agent.’



Number of babies born to ethnic minorities surpasses whites in U.S. for first time

America has reached a landmark point as, for the first time in its modern history, most of the babies being born there are non-white. White children aged under one are outnumbered by those from ethnic minorities including blacks, Hispanics, Asians and mixed race, US Census Bureau figures show.

Of the four million children born in the US in the 12 months to July 2011, 50.4 per cent were from ethnic minorities. That compares with 37 per cent in 1990.

The figures also reveal the prolonged impact of a weak economy, which is resulting in fewer Hispanics entering the U.S.

Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University, said: 'This is an important landmark. This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders.'

In recent years, births have been declining for both whites and minorities as many women held off having children due to the economic slump, although the drop has been larger for whites.

Minorities increased 1.9 per cent to 114.1 million, or 36.6 per cent of the total U.S. population, lifted by prior waves of immigration that brought in young families and boosted the number of Hispanic women in their prime childbearing years.

But a recent slowdown in the growth of the Hispanic and Asian populations is shifting notions on when the tipping point in U.S. diversity will come - the time when non-Hispanic whites become a minority.

After 2010 census results suggested a crossover as early as 2040, demographers now believe the pivotal moment may be pushed back several years when new projections are released in December.

The annual growth rates for Hispanics and Asians fell sharply last year to just over two per cent, roughly half the rates in 2000 and the lowest in more than a decade. The black growth rate stayed flat at 1 per cent.



Health care: No, the state doesn't know best

by Jeff Jacoby

PRICES WERE OUT OF CONTROL at the end of 3rd-century Rome, and the Emperor Diocletian was determined to rein them in. In AD 301 he issued his famous Edict on Prices, a complex piece of legislation that banned speculation and established price ceilings for a wide range of goods and services. But the ambitious law failed. Though violators could be punished with death, inflation and speculation persisted. Goods were hoarded, or sold on the black market. The economic crisis worsened. Eventually the law was abandoned. Like countless rulers before and since, Diocletian discovered the hard way that price controls don't work. They worsen the problem they are intended to solve, leading to shortages, rationing, and even higher prices.

Yet the belief that government can control inflation by fiat never seems to lose its allure.

Which brings us to the "Health Care Quality Improvement and Cost Reduction Act of 2012," a 178-page bill introduced in the Massachusetts House this month amid jaunty predictions of cheaper insurance premiums for Bay State families and tens of billions of dollars in medical savings over the next 15 years. An even longer bill -- 235 pages -- has been introduced in the state Senate.

These bills aren't written in Latin and they don't impose the death penalty, but their core principle is not much different from Diocletian's: The state knows best. What fraction of the local economy should health care consume? How fast should medical spending rise? On what business model should provider networks be organized? How should hospital and doctors fees be calculated? Where should consumers get information on quality and cost of care? When are a provider's high rates justified? What penalty should it bear when they aren't? In the world these plans envision, decision after decision comes not through the voluntary interplay of doctors, patients, hospitals, and insurers, but from government agents who impose them from above.

Adding up the "dizzying and expansive" array of decrees in the House legislation, health-care analyst Joshua Archambault of the Pioneer Institute finds 941 instances in which the bill mandates that something "shall" be done. Among these are more than 25 kinds of penalties, fines, and surcharges, for price control and punishment always go hand in hand. Looming over all would be a new Division of Health Care Cost and Quality, a command-and-control behemoth that would dominate the state's medical and health-insurance landscapes, with the power to affect billions of dollars and millions of lives.

And would any checks and balances restrain this behemoth? In the language of the House bill, it "shall be an independent public entity not subject to the supervision and control of any other executive office, department, commission, board, bureau, agency or political subdivision." Throw in a toga, and Diocletian would feel right at home.

This is "Health Reform 2.0," as some on Beacon Hill are calling it -- the logical follow-on to Mitt Romney's 2006 overhaul. In practice, the RomneyCare model has meant less freedom, more tax-funded subsidies, surging growth in insurance premiums, longer wait times to see a new doctor, and undiminished reliance on emergency rooms. For those who deem such outcomes a success, more top-down interference with health care may seem like a splendid idea.

But those who regret having believed the exaggerated hype about "Health Reform 1.0" -- particularly Romney's 2006 assurance that everyone in Massachusetts "will soon have affordable health insurance and the costs of health care will be reduced" -- may want to take the latest rosy predictions with more than a grain of salt.

State Representative Steven Walsh, the Lynn Democrat who co-chairs the Legislature's Health Care Financing Committee, swears that this time "reform" will accomplish everything its advocates dream of. "Bring on the skeptics," he crows. "We're going to be a healthier community because of this in five years and we're going to save an awful lot of money doing it."

If only. Bureaucrats, no matter how well intentioned, cannot know how much medical services should cost or how insurance premiums should grow. Ham-fisted state intervention is responsible for much of what ails the Bay State's markets in health care and medical coverage. More ham-fisted intervention isn't the cure.

Many things have changed over time, but the laws of supply and demand aren't among them. Price controls invariably make economic problems worse. It was true in Diocletian's Rome. It's no less true in Deval Patrick's Massachusetts.




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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

Robert said...

If I were Romney and won in November, I would promptly subpoena all the records Barack Obama is keeping hidden from the public and determine if he was a valid President, or a usurper. If he turns out not to have been a natural-born U.S. citizen, I would promptly move to have all of Obama's appointees, their actions, and all of Obama's Executive Orders declared void from the start, and legislation he signed voidable. The big prize, if it turns out Barack Obama was not eligible to hold the office, would be to immediately replace his invalid appointments to the Supreme Court with Constitutionalists, and move the balance from 5-4 to 7-2 Constitutionalist.