Friday, July 05, 2013

Inequality is not a problem

The fundamental problem of the political left seems to be that the real world does not fit their preconceptions. Therefore they see the real world as what is wrong, and what needs to be changed, since apparently their preconceptions cannot be wrong.

A never-ending source of grievances for the left is the fact that some groups are "over-represented" in desirable occupations, institutions and income brackets, while other groups are "under-represented."

From all the indignation and outrage about this expressed on the left, you might think that it was impossible that different groups are simply better at different things.

Yet runners from Kenya continue to win a disproportionate share of marathons in the United States, and children whose parents or grandparents came from India have won most of the American spelling bees in the past 15 years. And has anyone failed to notice that the leading professional basketball players have for years been black, in a country where most of the population is white?

Most of the leading photographic lenses in the world have -- for generations -- been designed by people who were either Japanese or German. Most of the leading diamond-cutters in the world have been either India's Jains or Jews from Israel or elsewhere.

Not only people but things have been grossly unequal. More than two-thirds of all the tornadoes in the entire world occur in the middle of the United States. Asia has more than 70 mountain peaks that are higher than 20,000 feet and Africa has none. Is it news that a disproportionate share of all the oil in the world is in the Middle East?

Whole books could be filled with the unequal behavior or performances of people, or the unequal geographic settings in which whole races, nations and civilizations have developed. Yet the preconceptions of the political left march on undaunted, loudly proclaiming sinister reasons why outcomes are not equal within nations or between nations.

All this moral melodrama has served as a background for the political agenda of the left, which has claimed to be able to lift the poor out of poverty and in general make the world a better place. This claim has been made for centuries, and in countries around the world. And it has failed for centuries in countries around the world.

Some of the most sweeping and spectacular rhetoric of the left occurred in 18th century France, where the very concept of the left originated in the fact that people with certain views sat on the left side of the National Assembly.

The French Revolution was their chance to show what they could do when they got the power they sought. In contrast to what they promised -- "liberty, equality, fraternity" -- what they actually produced were food shortages, mob violence and dictatorial powers that included arbitrary executions, extending even to their own leaders, such as Robespierre, who died under the guillotine.

In the 20th century, the most sweeping vision of the left -- Communism -- spread over vast regions of the world and encompassed well over a billion human beings. Of these, millions died of starvation in the Soviet Union under Stalin and tens of millions in China under Mao.

Milder versions of socialism, with central planning of national economies, took root in India and in various European democracies.

If the preconceptions of the left were correct, central planning by educated elites with vast amounts of statistical data at their fingertips, expertise readily available, and backed by the power of government, should have been more successful than market economies where millions of individuals pursued their own individual interests willy-nilly.

But, by the end of the 20th century, even socialist and communist governments began abandoning central planning and allowing more market competition. Yet this quiet capitulation to inescapable realities did not end the noisy claims of the left.

In the United States, those claims and policies reached new heights, epitomized by government takeovers of whole sectors of the economy and unprecedented intrusions into the lives of Americans, of which ObamaCare has been only the most obvious example.



Some news from Israel

Caroline Glick reports:

My friend, Latma's actress Ronit Avramov-Shapira and her family were stoned last night when they were driving through Samaria. She and her two year old daughter were injured -- lightly, thank G-d -- by broken glass.

Her husband saw the rocks on the ground and had the presence of mind to warn her to protect their daughter just before Palestinian terrorists hurled a rock the size of a grapefruit through her window.

It was a murder attempt.  It wasn't reported. After all, who cares about stone throwing?

 Ronit's infant son was also hit. He had glass covering him from stem to stern including in his diaper. But miraculously, he came out alright as well.

If you don't feel like throwing up or breaking something upon reading this, there is something deeply wrong with you. If you don't feel like throwing up or breaking something upon reading this, then, welcome to the majority of the global elite. Pat yourself on the back. You are a true progressive.  Oh, and go to hell.

Via Facebook


The first important conservative thinker

Charles Moore reviews Edmund Burke by Jesse Norman (William Collins)

Since politics is, inevitably, a rough old trade, its theorists are often uneasy practitioners. The intellectual in politics finds it much harder than most to admit that he seeks fame, office and power: he cannot be content unless he also feels he is in the right. This greatly annoys his colleagues. The self-righteousness can be unbearable. As someone said of Gladstone: "I don’t mind it when he has the ace of clubs up his sleeve; but I wish he wouldn’t pretend that the Almighty put it there." Edmund Burke, as Jesse Norman admits, could be self-righteous, and his intellectual passions sometimes led him, as, in modern times, they sometimes led Enoch Powell, to be too violent in his assaults on his opponents. He was not successful politically, and he never rose above the rank of paymaster-general. When he died in 1797, he could enjoy only the most melancholy of satisfactions – that, in the main argument of his public life, he had been right.

Norman himself is a practising, indeed a rising politician, and so he is clear-sighted about Burke’s practical failures. But he is also a subtle historian of ideas. He does an excellent job of extracting from his subject’s speeches and writings why, in his view, Burke is the first and most important conservative thinker.

Usefully, he divides the book into two parts. The first and longer section tells the basic story. How Burke, the educated but outsider Irishman, made his way in the world; how he boldly identified injustice in Britain’s treatment of its American colonies; how he assailed the East India Company for its greedy "too big to fail" nabobs who had as much hold over Parliament as big banks do today. The author shows how Burke suffered more than he gained from the shifting aristocratic coalitions of the period. He was brave and right in his assault on the excessive power of the Crown, but went too far and attacked George’s III’s madness in personal and offensive terms. And Norman tells the story of how Burke fell out with Charles James Fox over the consequences of the French Revolution.

The second section distils Burke’s philosophical and political wisdom, and applies it to what has happened since. Norman tackles head-on the charges of inconsistency against Burke, and for the most part refutes them.

The lack of neatness is a good thing, he argues, because Burke developed his ideas from the study of history rather than the brutal imposition of theory. Burke had an anti-theory theory: "Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing colour and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind." He therefore assailed the then fashionable idea of Jean-Jacques Rousseau that man had a natural state in which he was good and free, which political society had stolen from him. For Burke, almost the opposite was the truth – only through the social endeavour of civilisation (which includes a good political order) could human beings acquire rights and dignity and do justice. Rousseau’s were "the ethics of vanity". People were not naturally virtuous in their savage state. They became so through manners, tradition and mutual obligation. If they destroyed their inheritance, they would destroy themselves.

The French Revolution of 1789 involved just such destruction. Its false appeals to reason gave bogus moral cover to mass murder. It exploited the deceitful idea of the "general will". The "rage and frenzy" of the mob could tear down in an hour what it had taken centuries of prudence to build up. The Revolution trampled on real existing rights, such as those of property, and replaced them with delusory universal ones (a tradition sadly perpetuated today by the European Court of Human Rights). It sought to rule by what Burke called an "armed doctrine", which concealed its own shortcomings by exporting revolutionary violence.

Burke predicted the result of revolutionary chaos: a dictator strongman would emerge – "some popular general shall draw the eyes of all men upon himself. Armies will obey him on his personal account... the moment in which that event shall happen, the person who really commands the army is your master." He had not heard of Napoleon when he wrote this, but his prophecy was wholly accurate.

Jesse Norman argues that it was Burke who defined what we have ever since meant by revolution. He saw that what Rousseau – and, in succeeding centuries, Marx and Lenin and Hitler and Mao – all admired for its purifying power to bring a new era of right rule into the world was the most horrible thing that could happen to a nation. This was a conservative insight, as opposed to a merely reactionary one. As his struggles for America, Ireland and Corsica showed, Burke was no automatic defender of existing authority. But what he understood, and expressed with immense rhetorical power, was how human beings stand in relation to one another. Although they are morally autonomous individuals, they do not – cannot – live in isolation. In our language, laws, institutions, religion, and in our families, we are part of a continuum.

Society is "a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born". It is not society that keeps mankind in chains, but the pretence that now is the only time that matters. Almost every piece of rot you hear in politics comes from those who wish to lock man into what WH Auden called "the prison of his days". It is comforting that the Burkean Jesse Norman is in the House of Commons to tell them when they are wrong.



Study: Regulations eat 2 percent of GDP every year

$54 trillion.  That would be the size of the economy today if regulation had remained at its 1949 level, a Jan. 2013 study on excessive federal regulations has found.

The study is by Appalachian State University economics professor John Dawson and North Carolina State University economics professor John Seater and was recently highlighted by the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark J. Perry.

Overall, federal regulations have reduced the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2 percentage points a year from 1949 through 2005, leading to “an accumulated reduction in GDP of about $38.8 trillion as of the end of 2011. That is, GDP at the end of 2011 would have been $53.9 trillion instead of $15.1 trillion if regulation had remained at its 1949 level.”

In other words, the economy would be 256 percent larger than it is today but for the regulations. Even if the amount of regulations had been half of what it was, the economy would still be twice as large as it is today.

To reach the measurement, Dawson and Seater use the overall length in pages of regulations as a proxy for how pervasive and costly they are on the private sector. It proceeds from the well-reasoned assumption that the length of a regulation is predictive of its complexity relating directly to the cost of compliance.

Thus, the more complex economic regulations by government are, the slower the economy will grow. In that respect, they are a lot like if there were speed bumps constructed on the highway.

Of course, the content of regulations, which the study does not consider per se, is undoubtedly a critical factor. If regulations were issued that decreased the cost of doing business, instead of increasing it, the study would have measured the opposite effect.

Therefore, implicit in the findings is that the regulations that have been issued over the past 60-plus years have in fact increased the cost of doing business in the U.S. — eating growth in the process.

The study is significant because it cuts across all industries, and considers the overall impact of the administrative state on output. So, while one cannot draw conclusions about individual regulations on particular industries, it shows that regulations will be costly regardless of the sector.

But what can be done about it?

George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley recently found that federal agencies issue about 3,000 regulations a year, compared with Congress only approving about 140 laws annually.

A simple reform that might slow down this regulatory overkill would be to require congressional approval for all regulations. This would differ from the Clinton era Congressional Review Act that allows Congress to overturn a regulation with majorities in both houses and the President’s signature.

Since 1996 when the Congressional Review Act was made law, there have been about 50,000 regulations issued. Just one was overturned in 2001: a Labor Department regulation on ergonomics. That is an appalling disapproval rate of 0.002 percent — giving executive agencies vast discretion and insulation against oversight.

In contrast, requiring congressional approval of regulations would force agencies to prioritize their requests. Very few regulations would be approved without bipartisan assent, restoring Congress’ proper role as the primary lawmaking body in the republic, and make the regulatory process once again accountable to the elected branches.



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