Friday, December 19, 2014

WHY do the old swing Right?

Back in 1985, I reported, in one of the academic journals, the results of a large body of attitude surveys that showed what beliefs were characteristic of older people.  Both in what they favoured and in what they rejected, old people were shown to be very conservative.

Most people do swing rightwards as they get older, with the best-known examples being, of course, Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill.  Reagan was even a union official in his early days and yet became arguably the most beloved conservative leader of all time.

And there are other examples.  The person may not always change party loyalties but their views may evolve within that loyalty.  A good example comes from my home state of Queensland, in Australia.  Following is a brief excerpt from his Wikipedia entry:

Edward Michael (Ned) Hanlon (1887 - 1952) was Premier of Queensland from 1946 to 1952. After leaving school, he worked in the railways, and soon became a union official. In the 1912 Brisbane General Strike he played a prominent part as a militant....  Over the years Hanlon's outlook mellowed, and he shifted to the political right. He ended up, as [Labor Party] Premier, sending the police to suppress union demonstrations during the 1948 Queensland Railway strike.

So, again, why?   It couldn't be simpler: The essence of conservatism is caution.  And underlying that caution is a perception that the world is an unpredictable place.  So change has to take place in small steps if its objectives are to be achieved.  Massive changes such as Obamacare are to be avoided in case large unforeseen negative consequences emerge -- consequences  of the sort that emerged rapidly in the case of Obamacare.

And as we get older that unpredictability of the world is forced upon us -- and that makes us cautious.  Experience conservatizes us.  And that is why the young tend to be Leftist:  They lack experience.  Shielded by their parents, they have yet to realize that the world is full of surprises -- many of which are unpleasant.  As the great Scottish poet Robert Burns put it so memorably (and prophetically):

"The best-laid plans o' mice and men gang aft agley

and leave us nought but grief and pain for promised joy".

Apologies for quoting the less-known next line of the verse. But it is undoubtedly apposite.

The transformation wrought by experience is only part of the reason for the differences I found, however. The world has undergone large changes in the last couple of hundred years or so, with a big swing towards socialism in many countries in the middle of the 20th century, ending in a decisive swing worldwide back to broadly free-market economic policies after that.

The large economic upswing   -- greatly increased prosperity -- that began with the abandonment of socialist economic policies in the Reagan/Thatcher years, however, had consequences as well.  As economic concerns became less pressing for most of the population, the policies and attitudes that accompanied economic struggle became less pressing too.  People could afford to reduce greatly the strategies they saw as needed to put bread on the table.  So there was an upsurge in permissiveness all-round.  Survival was no longer a harsh master.  So social (non-economic) attitudes liberalized  -- reaching rather absurd lengths as time went by -- as with the idolization of homosexuality in the early 21st century.

So the age-related attitude differences noted in my research also partly reflected the era in which the individuals concerned were born.  People who grew up in times of economic stringency acquired attitudes appropriate to that.  Homosexuality, for instance, had to be anathematized because it threatened the survival of the family.  And the family is of course the original social security safety net.

And so people who grew up in times of economic ease formed the more permissive attitudes allowed by that.  People acquire attitudes in their youth which tend to last for the rest of their life  -- unless powerfully contra-indicated by life-experiences  -- which is the sad fate of many who enter adulthood with socialistic ideas.

A FOOTNOTE:  The USA is a very successful country economically and yet also has large pockets of social conservatism.  Why?  It's at least partly because many Americans don't FEEL economically secure.  And why is that?  Because the only way many Americans can find to keep their families reasonably safe is to engage in "white flight".  They need to get away from the extraordinarily high rate of violent crime that pervades black or partly black neighborhoods.

But the only presently legal (post-segregation) way to get away from such neighborhoods is to move to the more expensive suburbs that blacks can rarely afford.  And that takes money, rather a lot of money.  So Americans are economic strivers at a huge rate.  The pursuit of money is America's biggest religion.  It's a great pity that their society makes Americans so unrelaxed

The truth of all that can be seen in Australia.  Australia's largest non-European minority is hard-working and law-abiding East Asians  (mostly Han Chinese) -- at about 5% of the population.  And Australia is also an economically prosperous place with very conservative economic policies.  Australian Federal governments even bring down surplus budgets on some occasions!  Contrast that with the trillions of debt run up by the Obama administration.   So a prosperous but safe country should have a very relaxed population.  And that is exactly what Australia is known for.

Apropos of that, I remember reading about 30 years ago (in "The Bulletin", I think) that Australia had at that stage the world's highest proportion of half-millionaires.  Once they had accumulated that much, smart  Australians tended to hop off the treadmill and retire to more recreational pursuits.  Americans, by contrast, stayed on the treadmill for much longer -- because money is at least part of their religion.  They reject St. Paul's view that the love of money is the root of all evil.  They know money as the root of all safety.  Even in their churches, Americans are often subjected to a prosperity gospel that would do Calvin proud. -- JR.


An American bureaucracy at work

In June, NASA finished work on a huge construction project here in Mississippi: a $349 million laboratory tower, designed to test a new rocket engine in a chamber that mimicked the vacuum of space.

Then, NASA did something odd.  As soon as the work was done, it shut the tower down. The project was officially “mothballed” — closed up and left empty — without ever being used.

The reason for the shutdown: The new tower — called the A-3 test stand — was useless. Just as expected. The rocket program it was designed for had been canceled in 2010.

But, at first, cautious NASA bureaucrats didn’t want to stop the construction on their own authority. And then Congress — at the urging of a senator from Mississippi — swooped in and ordered the agency to finish the tower, no matter what.

The result was that NASA spent four more years building something it didn’t need. Now, the agency will spend about $700,000 a year to maintain it in disuse.

“What the hell are they doing? I mean, that’s a lot of people’s hard-earned money,” said David Forshee, who spent 18 months as the general foreman for the pipefitters who helped build the tower. Like other workmen, he had taken pride in this massive, complicated project — only to learn that it was in mothballs.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that, you know, you thought you’d done something good,” Forshee said. “And all you’ve done is go around in a damn circle, like a dog chasing his tail.”



The VA is a bureaucracy too

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provided lawmakers with misleading and inaccurate information when they first detailed the number of veterans who were harmed by long wait times, according to a new report by the Office of Inspector General.

The VA released a “fact sheet” in April 2014 that summarized an internal, system-wide review of unresolved consults or additional requests for services that remained “open or active” after 90 days.

The review was carried out over the course of two years. According to the summary it evaluated “all consults since 1999” and identified 23 deaths of veterans related to delays in gastrointestinal care.

In a report released on Monday, investigators now say the “fact sheet” was filled with misleading information that raises questions as to whether or not the cases were ever “appropriately reviewed or resolved.”

“By early May 2014, when facilities were expected to have completed their reviews, the number of unresolved consults had decreased considerably,” the report notes. “However, because [Veteran Health Administration] did not implement appropriate controls, we found it lacks reasonable assurance that facilities appropriately reviewed and resolved consults; closed consults only after ensuring veterans had received the requested services, when appropriate; and, where consult delays contributed to patient harm, notified patients as required by VHA policy.”

Additionally, inspectors found that “several key statements related to the scope and results of the [agency’s] review were misleading or incorrect,” including things as basic as the stated timeframe.

Instead of reviewing cases open since 1999, inspectors found that facility managers were told to “review consults that had been unresolved for more than 90 days but less than 5 years.” If a case “had been unresolved for more than 5 years” the managers could “close those without review.”

The instructions meant that the VA only reviewed open consults beginning in September of 2007, eight years later than what they wrote in their “fact sheet.”

Miller said in a statement the report shows that cases unresolved for more than five years were “simply closed out … en masse and without proper review,” and VA officials made “undeniably false” claims that their review went back to 1999.  “We may never know the actual number of veterans affected by gaps in the VA system that existed for years,” Miller said.



Jonathan Gruber Thinks Like Most Liberals: You Are Too Stupid to Run Your Own Life

Key Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber has been under a hot spotlight recently for disparaging comments he made about his fellow citizens.

In a series of videos taken at various conferences and lectures between 2010 and 2013, Gruber claimed that the effects of Obamacare had to be hidden from Americans because of “the stupidity of the American voter.” The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor said that “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage” in writing such legislation and likened its critics to “my adolescent children.”

    Gruber was echoing a common sentiment among the American Left: You are too stupid to run your own life.

Adding, well, injury to the insult, it’s been discovered that Gruber received almost $6 million in taxpayer dollars for his various services in designing and consulting on Obamacare.

This rolling disgrace culminated Tuesday in a particularly stern hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which gave the penitent Gruber a thorough dressing-down.


While I hate to disagree with the formidable Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.,  I think Gruber should be given a medal for honesty!

Don’t get me wrong: Gruber’s erstwhile opinions about his fellow Americans are despicable. But he was only echoing a common sentiment among the American Left: You are too stupid to run your own life. It’s just rare that they tell us directly.

The attitude of the Washington political establishment in general—and liberal elites in particular—is that Americans aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions. The public must be cajoled, misled, threatened and flat-out lied to in order to achieve the greatest good.

Take, for example, Gruber’s assessment of the tax/fee argument at the heart of Obamacare’s passage and later Supreme Court fight:

    This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Ok, so it was written to do that.

This is absolutely true. Everyone in Washington—on both sides of the aisle—knows that this was a key maneuver in getting Obamacare passed. The scandalous thing here is not what Gruber said, but that he dared to admit it.

He follows in a grand tradition of progressives who posture themselves as champions of the common man, only to realize that the common man doesn’t necessarily share the same goals. Thus, regular Americans must be duped into acting a certain way. It’s for their own good, don’t you know!

This is a profoundly undemocratic mindset but all too common amongst those in power. Earlier this year the Associated Press recognized the Obama administration as the least transparent in history. This administration has prosecuted whistleblowers, attacked journalists and had the IRS put the squeeze on activist groups. It excuses this behavior with a “father knows best” attitude.

If you assume that your political opponents merely “cling to guns or religion” out of bitterness, it’s much easier to rationalize impinging upon the First and Second Amendments. If you’re convinced that folks couldn’t possibly live a healthy lifestyle on their own, you end up micromanaging their lunches or downsizing their beverages.

You might even be tempted to mandate their healthcare options.

Thinking you know what’s best for the American people—better than they do, in fact—leads to a far greater violation of their best interests: taking away their freedom to decide for themselves.

Unfortunately, there are a lot more people in government who think like Jonathan Gruber.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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