Friday, January 11, 2019

Heaven preserve us from international bureaucracies

Thomas Friedman’s 2005 best-seller “The world is flat” asserted that we were moving inexorably towards globalization and that barriers to trade and people movement were disappearing, as would many aspects of sovereignty. It is now clear that this process produces a political reaction, in which ordinary people protest vehemently against the flattening of their planet. We should rejoice: a flat world would be a tyranny, and the bumps in our current planetary economic system are all that protects us from this nightmare.

Walter Russell Mead, in a year-end article, echoed this zeitgeist when he described the “liberal international order” as the biggest loser of 2018. This sounds alarming, until we realize that the “liberal international order” is not the classical sense liberal, nor fully international, nor even much of an order. It consists of a morass of international treaties and institutions, all of which are designed to replace the norms of the free market with the dictates of unelected bureaucrats. That is not “liberalism” in the classical sense, which allows free markets the maximum possible rein, with small governments confining themselves to setting up rules of trade and information provision. It is also anathema to individual freedom of all kinds.

Another symptom of the declining credibility of the “liberal international order” comes from Japan, where Vladimir Putin calendars, complete with bare-chested pictures, were the #1 best seller this year. This is not to claim that Japanese are dying to give Putin back the Kurile islands, far from it, nor are they keen to bring corruption and unexplained disappearances to Japan. However, Putin with his nationalism and contempt for international norms represents the best possible protest against the stultifying political correctness that the “liberal international order” represents.

At the state level also, the credibility of bossy international treaties and global organizations is declining rapidly. The U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change has been put down to President Trump’s eccentricity and hatred of the global order. However, last week Japan, generally a dutiful upholder of international agreements, pulled out of the International Whaling Commission, saying it had utterly failed to maintain a balance between whale preservation and orderly development of the whaling industry.

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has been in office for years and is nobody’s idea of a screaming radical. Japan’s withdrawal from an agreement with which it had complied for over 30 years is thus deeply significant. It is also however entirely justified; the Commission had allowed no whaling since 1986, on the grounds of whale stocks’ depletion, but those stocks have now rebuilt. Japan’s cultural and economic wishes for an active whaling industry should take precedence, in any rationally ordered society – which the Commission, being an international body, isn’t.

The current passion for international governance, of one sort or another, grew out of World War I and was reinforced by World War II — it was felt that anything that could avoid such global catastrophes in future would be beneficial. However, the winners of World Wars I and II, the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union, were all run by big-government advocates.

In 1919, for example, Britain’s Lloyd George believed in the “war socialism” which had taken hold during his period of office in 1916-18, while Woodrow Wilson was an authoritarian would-be-despot whose Progressive ideology believed that all problems could be solved by sufficiently fanatical and determined intellectuals. As for France, Georges Clemenceau was a more practical statesmen than the other two, but he was still a French Socialist, with an instinctive belief in government control.

In 1944-45, similar forces were at work. The United States was run by second-generation Progressives, who wrongly believed their meddling had solved the Great Depression (and several of whom were in any case in the pay of Stalin) while British policy was set mostly by the benign but economically unsophisticated Socialists led by Clement Attlee and the thoroughly un-benign but even more dictatorial Maynard Keynes. The free-market types who had run both the United States and Britain in the 1920s and 1930s – one thinks of the very able Andrew Mellon and the thoroughly capable Neville Chamberlain – were not involved in the design of either set of globalist institutions.

As a result of their provenance, the global institutions that came into being were thoroughly statist and oriented towards rule by “experts.” The World Bank has an innate bias towards the public sector in its lending, and generally requires local governments to support the projects it finances. The IMF offers free advice to governments, but that advice is always tailored towards government control, and the IMF by its very existence put out of business the London merchant banks’ advisory business, which had supported emerging markets economic development so well in the 19th Century.

Likewise, the treaties that were generated by the new international bodies were all heavily oriented towards state control and away from the private sector. Agreements such as the Law of the Sea treaty and the various climate-change agreements allowed infinite influence for left-oriented lobbying groups, but little if any say for private business, which was deemed to be a “vested interest” not worthy of a place at the table. All of this was entirely in the tradition of Keynes himself, who appears to have talked to few private bankers and no businessmen at all in his investigations of how the economy worked, thereby deriving an entirely misguided picture of economic reality.

In recent years, an alternative to the international development institutions has grown up, in the Chinese “belt and road” initiatives to develop emerging market infrastructure. In Africa in particular, but also in countries such as Ecuador and Sri Lanka, these were greeted with joy, as mechanisms by which capital could be injected into the economic development of these countries, without the tiresome and misguided moral and economic lectures from the World Bank and its equivalents.

However, very recently it has become apparent that the Chinese initiatives are a “debt trap” by which Chinese influence can be extended permanently into the recipient countries. China foreclosed on Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port facilities, taking control of them. In South Africa, China is blamed for the massive corruption of the Jacob Zuma administration, through its relationships with the Gupta family. In Malaysia, Mahathir’s new government has torn up several Chinese development agreements, in a bid to preserve Malaysia’s independence. Thus, Chinese imperialism is now seen by emerging markets as only marginally better than the international institutions as a road to development.

There is a better alternative. The global institutions designed by Progressives and socialists after World Wars I and II were not the only way to avoid global conflict. A century earlier, the Holy Alliance between the major powers, assembled at the Congress of Vienna, had provided an ongoing forum to discuss the inevitable areas of friction between different countries’ interests, and arrange solutions for conflicts short of war. It imposed no new international institutions, but merely arranged for a Congress to be held whenever a problem needed to be discussed. By the subsequent Troppau Protocol, the powers agreed to intervention only to prop up an existing government if its potential overthrow might disturb the international peace.

Since it had the ability to overpower any potential malefactor, and its members were in general agreement about the type of world they wanted to preserve, the Holy Alliance was both a more effective and less coercive version of the League of Nations/United Nations structures developed after the World Wars. Regrettably a foolish British statesman, George Canning, decided Britain’s interests lay more with the middle-class urban “liberals” attempting to disrupt the international order than with the order itself, so the Holy Alliance lasted in effective form for less than a decade. By the time global tensions escalated in the run-up to World War I, there was no forum where the world’s statesmen met regularly, to know each other and sort out difficulties such as territorial disputes and Balkan assassinations.

The “liberal international order” is a statist socialist myth. Rather than the current plethora of international bodies and treaties, the G7 and G20 annual meetings between the world’s leaders are all we need to solve disputes and arrange for arbitration of any especially knotty issues. These should not have secretariats of their own, because such secretariats become devoted to their own preservation and aggrandizement, as well as falling prey to Marxist and Alinskyite charitable organizations. Simple meetings, reinforced by ongoing contacts between the various national bureaucracies, are all we need to solve disputes. Anything more diverts control from elected or otherwise legitimate national governments, where it belongs.

Go on, abolish the supra-national bureaucracies, including the EU Commission and its associated empire! You will find that the more extreme forms of populism die down, because people are once again in control of their own destinies.



Navigating the Great Divide

In the months after the election of Donald Trump, there was a mini-political movement in California to get the Golden State to secede from the Union.

It didn't get off the ground, though during a recent trip to Northern California, many of the people I met were still so distraught over the Trump presidency that were he to win re-election, secession would be much more seriously pursued. A majority of Californians don't want to be governed by Donald Trump, and many liberal leaders and talking heads openly compare him to Adolf Hitler.

What if we arrived at a point where a solid majority of Californians wanted independence (and perhaps states like Washington and Oregon sought to join them)? Should they have the moral and constitutional right to do so? Would the other states ever impose military control over Californians to keep them in the Union?

The standard response is this issue was settled during the Civil War. Really? What the Civil War proved was that the North had more military might than the South. Imagine that it were the South in 1860 that held the political and military advantage to impose its will over the North, and moved to legalize the evil of slavery everywhere. Would the North have been morally wrong to secede?

The issue of secession takes on renewed vigor now given the British exit from the European Union. The EU allowed a fairly orderly process for allowing nations to leave the EU governing structure. The political tide in many places around the world appears to be for self-rule and sovereignty.

In America, the deepening and perhaps irreversible red state-blue state schism deserves immediate attention. We as a nation are more divided on ideological, cultural, economic and geographical lines than at any time since the Civil War. Look at the electoral map from recent elections.

In most of the South and the Mountain States — red America — liberal Democrats are virtually nonexistent in state government. In blue America — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island — Republicans have been wiped off the map. Today, there are only two states that have a divided legislature.

I hope that we can bridge our differences and come together as one nation. This 50-state union is what has made America the unrivaled superpower economically and militarily. We benefit mightily from being the largest free trade zone in the world and from our common bond of freedom.

But it's not unimaginable that the polar opposite visions of where America should be headed economically, culturally and morally can't be repaired. I hope I'm wrong, but prudence dictates we start thinking of what might happen if liberal and conservative America grow so polarized that they can't peaceably coexist in the future.

The fault lines are already showing. In some "progressive" parts of the country, liberals literally don't want to sit at the same lunch counter or restaurant as pro-Trump conservatives. Political activists are so persuaded of the rightness of their position — on abortion, climate change, universal health care, immigration policy, taxation — they now believe they have the moral authority to shut down the First, Second, Fourth, Ninth and Tenth Amendment rights of the people they disagree with.

Houston, we have a problem. The federal government is losing the consent of the governed.

Could this red-state vs. blue-state America end in violence and uprising if one side feels hopelessly aggrieved by the tyranny of the majority of the other side? We know, regrettably, from history that it can.

How do we head this off? Two ideas need to be pursued.

The most practical solution is a reinvigorated emphasis on federalism — a political movement that takes ever-expanding power away from the federal government and restores the sovereignty and home rule of the states. That way Americans can self-select to live under the laws they agree with but within the context of the legal protections of U.S. citizens embedded in the U.S. Constitution.

If you want drugs legalized, government-run health care, abortion on demand and an end to fossil fuels, move to California. If you want low taxes, right-to-work laws and prayer in school, move to Alabama.

If this doesn't work, America may need to consider a Brexit-like option. One of the flaws of the U.S. Constitution is that it never set forth terms of legal separation. Perhaps that needs to be fixed with a constitutional amendment that allows a state to leave the union if a supermajority of the citizens wants to opt out. As long as the states remained as a free trade zone and perhaps agreed to a common currency (like the euro) the economic costs would be small.

Some may view this as an un-American or even a treasonous idea. No. Offering states an exit option would force the majority of states to be more attentive to the grievances of the minority and would help resolve conflicts and could save the union from dissolution.

One last point: If it ever came to this, I suspect that conservatives would not have a big problem with blue states legally separating from red states. Liberals would greatly resist red states from separating from blue states. That is true because a) liberals believe in big centralized government having authority over the citizenry (they are more elitist and authoritarian), and b) they know that the low-tax, less-regulation, right-to-work, economic-freedom model of the red states would economically crush a nation with socialist impulses ruled by Bernie Sanders or another Barack Obama.



Mike Huckabee on barmaid Sandy: ‘There Was a Time When Dems Weren’t Socialists’

On his Twitter page, former governor of Arkansas and two-time GOP presidential primary candidate Mike Huckabee called out Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and the Democratic Party on policy grounds, suggesting that “[t]here was a time when Dems weren’t socialists.”

“I’m just fine w/ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing; I’m NOT fine w/ her tax proposals,” admitted Mike Huckabee in a tweet. “JFK wouldn’t be either. There was a time when Dems weren’t socialists. What happened to them?”

Huckabee’s remarks stem from a piece published Jan. 4, 2019 by Americans for Tax Reform titled “Ocasio-Cortez Tax Plan Creates 82.7% Top Income Tax Rate for New Yorkers.” According to the piece,

“In an upcoming 60 Minutes interview, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) will call for federal income tax rates of up to 70 percent as part of a proposal to create vast new government spending programs.

“The current top federal income tax rate is 37 percent, [and] the Ocasio-Cortez plan will nearly double the tax rate for the top bracket.”

Avowed “democratic socialist” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in her “60 Minutes” interview, suggested raising taxes “as high as 60 or 70 percent” on the wealthiest Americans to pay for her “Green New Deal,” what calls “a highly ambitious, some would say ‘unrealistic,’ proposal that would convert the entire U.S. Economy to renewable sources of energy in just 12 years, while guaranteeing every American a job at a fair wage.”

The Daily Signal’s Jarrett Stepman, in a commentary piece on Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal, warns that “the tax hikes on the rich would be one of the least radical parts of the agenda,” and further suggests that “if implemented, the Green New Deal would upend our way of life and destroy the liberty and prosperity that Americans, of all backgrounds, currently enjoy.”



Ocasio-Cortez Has A Meltdown Over Being Fact Checked Too Much

Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) exploded on Monday after multiple left-wing publications fact-checked her and criticized her defense of the numerous falsehoods she has told.

The Daily Wire reports:

The former bartender claimed on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday that people were too focused on being “factually” accurate, and not focused enough on being morally right, which drew widespread criticism.

That criticism carried over into news reports today from left-leaning publications, including The Washington Post and CNN, which published reports titled, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s very bad defense of her falsehoods” and “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s very slippery slope on facts,” respectively.

Even leftist Whoopi Goldberg slammed Ocasio-Cortez, advising her to “sit still for a minute and learn the job .. .before you start pooping on people and what they’ve done, you got to do something … “

Ocasio-Cortez then suggested that it was not fair that she was, in her own mind, being held to the same standards as President Donald Trump.

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler dismantled her claims, tweeting to her: “We have fact-checked you twice. We have fact-checked 7,645 Trump claims.”



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1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

A movement for California's exist from the Republic all last exactly so long as they think they all still be getting water from out of State.