Sunday, September 22, 2019

How there can be an underlying stability behind policy changes

This is a sequel to an essay I put up two days ago, an essay in which I commented on how political parties can change their policies, sometimes into a reversal of their previous policies.  The classic  example was how the Communist party of the USA changed in an instant from Pro-Nazi to anti-Nazi when Hitler ceased to be an ally of Russia and attacked it instead

But I also said that the policy change can disguise an underlying consistent orientation.  In the case of the CPUSA that orientation was no secret.  As Communists they supported Hitler when he was allied with Communist Russia and did so for that reason only.  They were consistently Comunist in the underlying orientation behind their changing policies.

I would like to give a less obvious example as well, however: The example of Australian attitudes to immigration.

Although all white Australian are descendants of immigrants, Australians have never been generally pro-immigration.  People "like us" (British) were acceptable but not others. This was clearly seen in the first years of the 20th century, when the "White Australia" policy was enacted.  No Chinese or blacks were allowed to immigrate and even continental Europeans were looked on askance.

But, as I said previously, circumstances alter cases and when a good reason to loosen up presented itself, attitudes became more permissive.  The new circumstance was WWII, when the Japanese attacked some targets in Australia.  This drew attention to how the small population of Australia made the country hard to defend.  This led to acceptance of a new policy to take in as immigrants any whites at all, not only the British.

So a perception of foreigners as troublesome lay behind the original white Australia policy but that motive was overriden by the experience of WWII.  It came to seem imperative to expand Australia's population for reasons of national defence.  And that led eventually to the total abolition of the white Australia policy (by the conservative Holt government) with selected Asians starting to be  admitted.

And then came the boat people, initially geniune refugees from  the Vietnam war. They were all accepted on humanitarian grounds. After a while, however, various people from the Middle East started to arrive uninvited on Australian shores in ramshackle converted fishing boats -- also claiming to be refugees.

It was clear from the beginning that they were not refugees, however.  Almost all had refuge in some other country, often Pakistan, before arriving in Australia.  And they usually destroyed their identity documents before arriving so that the Australian government would have difficulty in checking their stories.

That brought out all the slumbering concern about foreigners in Australians.  With most of the immigrants likely to be unskilled parasitic crooks who would not make any positive contribution to the country, hostility to them arose.  Most of them went straight on to welfare and stayed there.  As a result, the boat people are now effectively kept out by the Australian navy, making Australia one of the few advanced countries with effective controls against illegal immigration.

So Australian policy has flipped from anti-immigration to pro-immigration and back to anti-immigration.  But underlying it all the time was a perception that immigarnts were in various ways a detriment to the existing population.  The underlying thinking and motivation did not change even though the policy did.

So does that mean that all Australians are racists?  Going by the loose definitions used by the Left it does. But opposition to immigration is not irrational.  Adding  whole glob of new arrivals does tend to take away something from the existing population. Adding  whole glob of new arrivals to an existing set of infrastructure is always going to generate some problems.  It is going to overcrowd schools, hospitals and roads that were built for a smaller population.  And the various waves of immigration have put Australia in exactly that position. Traffic, school and hospital congestion has become notably worse in recent years.

So the opposition to immigration was simply a realistic defence of people's existing good life, a fear of change that was well warranted.  And, as I have previously pointed out, that is the normal reason behind conservative opposition to Leftist proposals for change.  They may seem changeable in the policies they will support but their underlying motives remain broadly the same

I might note in passing that Australia does take in a large number of legal immigrants.  People who have been vetted in advance for their likelihood of making a good adjustment to life in Australia are accepted, though the number accepted is in dispute. So a country that welcomes large numbers of arrivals from all over the world is hardly racist.


Trump's Total Culture War

Donald Trump is waging a nonstop, all-encompassing war against progressive culture, in magnitude analogous to what 19th-century Germans once called a Kulturkampf.

As a result, not even former President George W. Bush has incurred the degree of hatred from the left that is now directed at Trump. For most of his time in office, Trump, his family, his friends and his businesses have been investigated, probed, dissected and constantly attacked.

In 2016 and early 2017, Barack Obama appointees in the FBI, CIA and Department of Justice tried to subvert the Trump campaign, interfere with his transition and, ultimately, abort his presidency. Now, congressional Democrats promise impeachment before the 2020 election.

The usual reason for such hatred is said to be Trump's unorthodox and combative take-no-prisoners style. Critics detest his crude and unfettered assertions, his lack of prior military or political experience, his attacks on the so-called bipartisan administrative state, and his intent to roll back the entire Obama-era effort of "fundamentally transforming" the country leftward.

Certainly, Trump's agenda of closing the border, using tariffs to overturn a half-century of Chinese mercantilism, and pulling back from optional overseas military interventions variously offends both Democrats and establishment Republicans.

Trump periodically and mercurially fires his top officials. He apparently does not care whether the departed write damning memoirs or join his opposition. He will soon appoint his fourth national security adviser within just three years.

To make things worse for his critics, Trump's economy is booming as never before in the new 21st century: near-record-low unemployment, a record number of Americans working, increases in workers' wages and family incomes, low interest rates, low inflation, steady GDP growth and a strong stock market.

Yet the real source of Trump derangement syndrome is his desire to wage a multifront pushback -- politically, socially, economically and culturally -- against what might be called the elite postmodern progressive world.

The European Union, not the U.S. Constitution, is seen as the preferable model to run a nation. Transnational and global organizations are wiser on environmental and diplomatic matters than is the U.S. government.

The media can no longer afford to be nonpartisan and impartial in its effort to rid America of a reactionary such as Trump, given his danger to the progressive future.

America's ancient sins can never really be forgiven. In a new spirit of iconoclasm, thousands of buildings, monuments and statues dedicated to American sinners of the past must be destroyed, removed or renamed.

A new America supposedly is marching forward under the banner of ending fossil fuels, curbing the Second Amendment, redistributing income, promoting identity politics and open borders, and providing free college, free health care and abortion on demand.

An insomniac Trump fights all of the above nonstop and everywhere. In the past, Republican presidents sought to slow the progressive transformation of America but despaired of ever stopping it.

No slugfest is too off-topic or trivial for Trump. Sometimes that means calling out former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for persuading NFL stars to kneel during the national anthem. Huge, monopolistic Silicon Valley companies are special Trump targets. Sometimes Trump enters cul-de-sac Twitter wars with Hollywood has-beens who have attacked him and his policies.

Trump variously goes after antifa, political correctness on campus, the NATO hierarchy, the radical green movement, Planned Parenthood, American universities and, above all, the media -- especially CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

For all the acrimony and chaos -- and prognostications of Trump's certain failure -- a bloodied Trump wins more than he loses. NATO members may hate Trump, but more are finally paying their promised defense contributions.

In retrospect, many Americans concede that the Iran Deal was flawed and that the Paris climate accord mere virtue signaling. China was long due for a reckoning.

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation proved fruitless and was further diminished by Mueller's bizarrely incoherent congressional testimony.

Some of the most prominent Trump haters -- Michael Avenatti, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Antony Scaramucci and Rep. Adam Schiff -- either have been discredited or have become increasingly irrelevant.

Trump has so enraged his Democratic adversaries that the candidates to replace him have moved farther to the left than any primary field in memory. They loathe Trump, but in their abject hatred he has goaded the various Democratic candidates into revealing their support for the crazy Green New Deal, reparations for slavery, relaxed immigration policies and trillions of dollars in new free stuff.

In a way, the left-wing Democratic presidential candidates understand Trump best. If he wins his one-man crusade to stop the progressive project, they are finished, and their own party will make the necessary adjustments and then sheepishly drift back toward the center.



Warren's Corrupt 'Anti-Corruption' Plan

Are lobbyists corrupt? Sure, but so are the politicians taking the money and writing the rules.

Elizabeth Warren, who corruptly exploited her own bogus claims of Native American heritage to advance her academic career, has a plan to eradicate corruption from Washington. You might say she wants to borrow a popular refrain to “drain the swamp.”

Warren laments, “In 1958, the National Election Survey first asked Americans a simple question: Do you trust the government to do the right thing most of the time? That year, 73% of Americans said yes. In 2019, that number is just 17%. Five out of every six Americans do not trust their government to do the right thing. Why have so many people lost faith in government?”

The senator blames “right-wing politicians” for spending “a generation attacking the very idea of government,” before launching on her tired refrain about the “wealthy and the well-connected” — of which Warren herself is a prominent member. But we can think of two answers to her question that are intimately related. The first is this admonition from Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address: “A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

The second is that the warning issued by James Madison, author of the Constitution we celebrate today, has come to pass: “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.”

Why don’t Americans trust the government? Because it’s doing things poorly that it was never constitutionally empowered to do in the first place. Power, meet abuse. To say so is not “attacking government.” It’s advocating a limited and constitutional one.

Virtually the entire Democrat platform since, oh, about 1958 has been along the lines of the so-called “Great Society” — unconstitutional and failed welfare programs that “take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned,” only to give it to someone who didn’t earn it. Of course, Democrats really began traveling down the “progressive” road with Woodrow Wilson’s income-tax-funded administrative state and stomped on the accelerator with Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” socialism.

Naturally, Warren only doubles down on the Democrats’ top-down, government-control approach. Regulate this, outlaw that, tax the other thing. That’s why it’s almost comical that her plan echoes Barack Obama in its call for “big, structural change to fundamentally transform our government.” How is it fundamental change to do more of what government has spent the last century doing?

In all honesty, we do indeed need a fundamental transformation — one that returns the federal government to its proper, constitutionally limited role. That means things like prioritizing national defense while ceasing the income redistribution that consumes two-thirds of the $4 trillion budget and feeds the very lobbying problem Warren claims to want to eradicate. Warren and her fellow socialists demand even more redistribution programs that would only exacerbate the corruption they claim to want to solve.

But as a final thought, the Founders thought the right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (i.e., lobbying) was important enough to place in the First Amendment. Yes, lobbyists can be corrupt, but no more so than the politicians and unelected bureaucrats crafting reams of rules dictating everything from what kind of light bulb we use to how much water our toilets flush. Warren’s plan to gut the First Amendment simply because she doesn’t want to hear from lobbyists who oppose such things isn’t removing corruption; it’s adding tyranny.

The late, great Charles Krauthammer wrote this of lobbyists in 2008:

Everyone knows the First Amendment protects freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly. How many remember that, in addition, the First Amendment protects a fifth freedom — to lobby?

Of course it doesn’t use the word lobby. It calls it the right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Lobbyists are people hired to do that for you, so that you can actually stay home with the kids and remain gainfully employed rather than spend your life in the corridors of Washington.

To hear the candidates in this presidential campaign, you’d think lobbying is just one notch below waterboarding, a black art practiced by the great malefactors of wealth to keep the middle class in a vise and loose upon the nation every manner of scourge: oil dependency, greenhouse gases, unpayable mortgages and those tiny entrees you get at French restaurants.

Lobbying is constitutionally protected, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it all. Let’s agree to frown upon bad lobbying, such as getting a tax break for a particular industry. Let’s agree to welcome good lobbying — the actual redress of a legitimate grievance — such as protecting your home from being turned to dust to make way for some urban development project. …

Good lobbying … is a cherished First Amendment right — necessary, like the others, to protect a free people against overbearing and potentially tyrannical government.



The Rent Is Too Darn High

Government regulation took a bad situation and made it worse with rent control.

Seems like it’s hard to find an affordable place to live these days. Sure, employment is up across the board and overall the economy looks good. So why are so many people living on the streets? For one, we can thank government regulation for taking a bad situation and making it worse by imposing rent controls in some of America’s major cities.

Megan McArdle writes at The Washington Post, “Rent control doesn’t do anything about the reason that rents are rising, which is that there are more people who want to live in desirable areas than there are homes for them to live in. Housing follows the same basic laws of economics as other goods that consumers need: When the demand for a product consistently exceeds the supply, prices will rise until the quantity demanded is equal to the amount that suppliers have available.”

McCardle adds, “If you force the price of something below market level, people will supply less of it. Since cities tend not to impose rent controls unless they’re already experiencing a severe housing shortage, that would be bad.” In other words, why would developers consider building new housing when the government stands ready to cut into their profits?

Despite the poor track record of rent controls, government officials are still promising solutions that created the problem in the first place.

For one, Bernie Sanders thinks we need more government regulation. His latest presidential plank is a $2.5 trillion plan to cap rent increases to one and a half times the rate of inflation. This comes out to about 3%, which is lower than Oregon (5%) and California (7%) — places where rent control has reduced available housing and increased homelessness. A bill currently in the California legislature is seeking to reduce the cap to 5%.

So what’s the problem with helping low-income tenants keep their apartments when they’re already struggling to pay bills and put food on the table? Sure, rent control benefits some, but it has a disastrous ripple effect across cities that make the housing crisis even worse and leave many other residents unable to find a place to live.

“Rent control has long been derided by economists as a well-intentioned policy that comes with a host of unintended consequences: Limiting the return developers can make on new housing construction disincentivizes them from building more units,” Reason’s Christian Britschgi explains. “Some landlords, unable to pass on the costs of repairs or renovations to tenants, let their buildings deteriorate. Others might convert their regulated rental units into more expensive condominiums that can be sold at any price, reducing the overall supply of rental housing.”

And that’s one reason why the majority of states have laws prohibiting rent control. Only California, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, DC and allow the practice. But that’s not stopping tenant lobbyists from pushing for a broad expansion of rent control. According to The New York Times, other states, including Florida, Washington, Colorado, and Illinois are now considering rent-control programs.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is here


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