Friday, June 03, 2016

The Trump equals fascism charge is wrong, reckless and dangerous

Some of the points below are also ones I have made, but  Robert Romano has more -- JR

“This is how fascism comes to America.” So reads the alarmist, provocative headline from the Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan writing for the Washington Post that the Republican nomination of Donald Trump is essentially the modern equivalent of Hitler and Mussolini’s rise to power.

It’s the 1930s all over again, wouldn’t you know. Besides being fallacious, Kagan’s charge — and that of many, many other commentators — is reckless and irresponsible. Even dangerous.

Let’s leave aside the facts that Trump’s son-in-law is Jewish, and that his daughter converted to Judaism, both of whom Trump fully embraces. Or that he opened up the Palm Beach mansion and golf course Mar-a-Lago to Jews and blacks at a time when segregation at all-white country clubs in the south was still a thing, long before he ever set foot in the political arena. So, gee, what the heck does Trump running for president have to do with the racist, anti-Semitic ideology of the Nazis? Those examples are too easy.

Getting to the heart of Kagan’s case, he writes, “Fascist movements, too, [like Trump] had no coherent ideology, no clear set of prescriptions for what ailed society.”

In reality, fascism is the textbook example of an abominable, antidemocratic ideology run amuck, that believed one ruler could embody the entire will of the nation. But there was more to it than that. Combined with its national destiny mythos, racist doctrines and corporatist economic programs — war is profitable! — its coherence and rigid execution was directly responsible for the deaths of 60 million people, many through mass genocide, in the war the fascists and militarists started in the 1930s and 1940s.

As Michael Ledeen, a noted, actual expert on fascist movements, notes in Forbes magazine in response to Kagan, “It’s fanciful to call Nazism a bundle of contradictions when, a decade before coming to power, it had a detailed diagnosis of what ailed Germany, and how to fix it.  It was called Mein Kampf, and it provided the basis for the Third Reich. Kagan apparently doesn’t consider the Nazis’ racist doctrines to be explicit either, even though they were the basis for very detailed legislation, indoctrination in all the schools and universities, military operations, and eventually the Holocaust. Nazism was a great deal more than one-man rule by a charismatic leader.”

In the meantime, Trump does not believe it is America’s destiny to rule the world — quite the opposite — as he critiques episodes such as the Iraq war in the 2000s. Agree or disagree with his position on the war, opposing the war, even after the fact, is definitely not the ideology of militarism and war under fascism — which mobilized the war industry as an expression of state power, to settle historical scores and to impose rule upon those deemed inferior.

Instead, Trump’s articulated caution on the foreign policy stage, if anything, is actually an expression of realism over idealism in international affairs.

Trump openly rails against corporate cronyism, the real culprit behind the modern destruction of representative government in the U.S., where national legislation and policy is crafted by the highest bidder. Examples abound, whether under the Export-Import Bank, the bank and auto bailouts, the widely backed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, the green energy scam or health care lobbyists writing Obamacare.

Trump did not create the corporate state, and to the extent he speaks out against it positions him as an anti-corporatist, rather than as one of its champions. Agree or disagree with his solutions, he’s calling attention to a real problem of collaboration between certain industries and the federal government to achieve national objectives, the very definition of corporatism once envisioned by the fascists.

Trump also speaks out against threats like radical Islam, which really is a fascist-like ideology bent on the domination of Islam over the entire world, the extermination of non-believers and the oppression of women. Isn’t Trump’s condemnation an expression of anti-fascism? Standing up to barbarians — such as with calls to halt immigration from where radical Islam thrives — is no vice. Agree or disagree with that far-reaching prescription, there is no question radical Islam threatens Western, liberal democracies.

Trump stands opposed to illegal immigration, not because, as Kagan charges, Trump wants “to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion,” but because simply they came illegally. That is not a racist attitude, since it does not distinguish between countries of origin. Come here legally, whether from Mexico City or Beijing, no problem, says Trump. Having enforceable borders or immigration laws generally is not even a tenet of fascism, it is a reality of every single country in the world that checks passports upon entry.

Trump says he wants to work with Congress rather than through the unaccountable executive actions of Barack Obama and George W. Bush that have governed the past 15 years. Wouldn’t that be the opposite of the all-powerful executive envisioned under fascism?

Today, Washington, D.C. is really a marvel of modern statism, where Congress has outsourced much of its Article I law-making powers to an alphabet soup of departments and agencies that regulate almost every aspect of life. Two-thirds of the budget runs on auto-pilot beyond the annual appropriations process, racking up trillions of dollars in debt. Classified surveillance programs such as conducted by the National Security Agency were conceived and run without any basis in law, framers of the original Patriot Act warned after the Edward Snowden revelations like Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Calif.) who authored the bill.

Now, Trump may not stop each of these encroachments by the executive branch and abdications by the legislative branch, but he hardly created them. The administrative state has taken more than a century to reach its current state of maturity, and it will hardly be undone in a single administration — if ever — as the obstacles to untangling it could prove to be insurmountable. But through signaling his intention to work with elected leaders in Congress, rather than via executive dictates, Trump at least articulates a preference for lower-case republicanism and representative government. Which is definitely not fascism.

In short, Robert Kagan should know better, although that doesn’t stop him and others from laying the fascist charge against Trump. But it is not merely wrong in an academic sense and ignores all the real fascism that exists in the world around us — it also a dangerous line of rhetoric.

As Dilbert creator Scott Adams presciently warned on March 13 as the Trump equals fascism meme was becoming commonplace in our discourse, “we see the media priming the public to try to kill Trump, or at least create some photogenic mayhem at a public event. Again, no one is sitting in a room plotting Trump’s death, but — let’s be honest — at least half of the media believes Trump is the next Hitler, and a Hitler assassination would be morally justified.”

Almost on cue, just a week ago, best-selling fiction author Brad Thor on the Glenn Beck Show openly discussed the assassination of Trump on the air with millions of listeners. Said Thor, “He is a danger to America and I got to ask you a question and this is serious and this could ring down incredible heat on me because I’m about to suggest something very bad. It is a hypothetical I am going to ask as a thriller writer. With the feckless, spineless Congress we have, who will stand in the way of Donald Trump overstepping his constitutional authority as President? If Congress won’t remove him from office, what patriot will step up and do that if, if, he oversteps his mandate as president, his constitutional-granted authority, I should say, as president. If he oversteps that, how do we get him out of office? And I don’t think there is a legal means available. I think it will be a terrible, terrible position the American people will be in to get Trump out of office because you won’t be able to do it through Congress.”

In other words, you’d have to kill him. Thor all but say it aloud. Responded Beck, “I would agree with you on that…” Really? Which part?

Sirius XM has since suspended Beck’s show based on the segment — because according to a company statement it “may be reasonably construed by some to have been advocating harm against an individual currently running for office, which we cannot and will not condone.”

Thor attempted to walk back his statement, suggesting he was actually calling for armed revolution against a dictatorial Trump — saying, “If we had to unseat a president without the backing of the Congress, we would need a patriot along the lines of George Washington to lead the country from tyranny back to liberty.” We’ll leave it to readers to decide whether civil war would be a preferable alternative.

But the damage could already be done.

Just as Adams noted, “Collectively — the media, the public, and the other candidates — are creating a situation that is deeply dangerous for Trump.” Specifically, someone could take a shot at him, and it will likely be directly related to the number of charges of fascism that have been leveled at him. As if the U.S. was on the brink of committing mass extermination of undesirables — which is basically implied by pervasive use of the Nazi charge — and that the only way to stop it is for patriots to take matters into their own hands.

This is becoming an incitement to mass hysteria, and it is wrong, irresponsible and, yes, dangerous. It’s not even remotely true, but here we are.

In effect, Robert Kagan, Brad Thor and others are playing with fire. For cooler heads to prevail will require careful, rational discourse about what fascism actually was — something that is clearly lacking today. Take a deep breath, people. This is getting out of hand


Trump just doesn't bother with the intellectuals.  That's why Kagan and Co. find fault with him.  But Bill Buckley was similarly disrespectful: "I would rather be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard University." -- JR


Elitist Arrogance

Walter E. Williams

White teenage unemployment is about 14 percent. That for black teenagers is about 30 percent. The labor force participation rate for white teens is 37 percent, and that for black teens is 25 percent. Many years ago, in 1948, the figures were exactly the opposite. The unemployment rate of black 16-year-old and 17-year-old males was 9.4 percent, while that of whites was 10.2 percent. Up until the late 1950s, black teens, as well as black adults, were more active in the labor market than their white counterparts. I will return to these facts after I point out some elitist arrogance and moral bankruptcy.

Supporters of a $15 minimum wage are now admitting that there will be job losses. “Why shouldn’t we in fact accept job loss?” asks New School economics and urban policy professor David Howell, adding, “What’s so bad about getting rid of crappy jobs, forcing employers to upgrade, and having a serious program to compensate anyone who is in the slightest way harmed by that?” Economic Policy Institute economist David Cooper says: “It could be that they spend more time unemployed, but their income is higher overall. If you were to tell me I could work fewer hours and make as much or more than I could have previously, that would be OK.”

What’s a “crappy job”? My guess is that many of my friends and I held the jobs Howell is talking about as teenagers during the late 1940s and ‘50s. During summers, we arose early to board farm trucks to New Jersey to pick blueberries. I washed dishes and mopped floors at Philadelphia’s Horn & Hardart restaurant, helped unload trucks at Campbell Soup, shoveled snow, swept out stores, delivered packages and did similar low-skill, low-wage jobs. If today’s arrogant elite were around to destroy these jobs through wage legislation and regulation, I doubt whether I and many other black youths would have learned the habits of work that laid the foundation for future success. Today’s elite have little taste for my stepfather’s admonition: Any kind of a job is better than begging and stealing.

What’s so tragic about all of this is that black leadership buys into it. What the liberals have in mind when they say there should be “a serious program to compensate anyone who is in the slightest way harmed” is that people who are thrown out of work should be given welfare or some other handout to make them whole. This experimentation with minimum wages on the livelihoods of low-skilled workers is ethically atrocious.

In the first paragraph, I pointed out that black youths had lower unemployment during earlier times. How might that be explained? It would be sheer lunacy to attempt to explain the more favorable employment statistics by suggesting that during earlier periods, blacks faced less racial discrimination. Similarly, it would be lunacy to suggest that black youths had higher skills than white youths. What best explain the loss of teenage employment opportunities, particularly those of black teenagers, are increases in minimum wage laws. There’s little dispute within the economics profession that higher minimum wages discriminate against the employment of the least skilled workers, and that demographic is disproportionately represented by black teenagers.

President Barack Obama, the Congressional Black Caucus, black state and local politicians, and civil rights organizations are neither naive nor stupid. They have been made aware of the unemployment effects of the labor laws they support; however, they are part of a political coalition. In order to get labor unions, environmental groups, business groups and other vested interests to support their handout agenda and make campaign contributions, they must give political support to what these groups want. They must support minimum wage increases even though it condemns generations of black youths to high unemployment rates.

I can’t imagine what black politicians and civil rights groups are getting in return for condemning black youths to a high rate of unemployment and its devastating effects on upward economic mobility that makes doing so worthwhile, but then again, I’m not a politician.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL 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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, June 02, 2016

We are enslaved to a Leftist elite

We work.  They swan around, congratulating themselves on their righteousness and superiority

Thomas Lifson argues that Bernie Sanders presents "a mortal danger to not only the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, but the continued viability of the party’s strategy of mouthing populist rhetoric while practicing crony capitalism. Too late, they now realize he actually means what he says."

In an age where truth is the worst policy, socialism -- like Santa Claus -- is something no adult should believe in. That Sanders might actually have illusions lies at the heart of his appeal. To a cynical public a politician who doesn't calculate in explicit monetary terms is the nearest thing to secular sainthood. Hans Gruber, the villain in Die Hard, disappointed the industrialist he kidnapped by confessing: "Mr Takagi, ... I am far more interested in the 100 million dollars in negotiable bearer bonds hidden in your vault."

Takagi: You want money? What kind of terrorist are you?

We expect revolutionaries to be indifferent to money. Yet in reality the Left thinks about nothing but money as the Venezuelan socialists who have stolen $350 billion from the treasury, according to the Basel Institute on Governance, should have proved to the world. If it's any consolation to the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders is not as indifferent to lucre as he seems. Sanders' filings show he's received money from Super PACs and donors with links to Wall Street -- so he may be normal after all.

Perhaps the first major 20th century writer to realize that the ambition of all true Communists should be to become billionaire revolutionaries was Hilaire Belloc. In his 1912 book, The Servile State, Belloc argued the then-burgeoning Communist movement would find more success ditching Leninism in favor of an alliance with Crony Capitalists to reinstate Slavery. "Slavery, or a Servile State in which those who do not own the means of production shall be legally compelled to work for those who do, and shall receive in exchange a security of livelihood."

This modern form of slavery would address not only the concerns of the revolutionaries by fixing job insecurity and guaranteeing retirement on a plantation basis, but also assuage the monopolists, who stay up nights worrying about preserving market share in the face of competition. An alliance between socialists and crony capitalists would solve both problems at once. The only price to pay for this convenience is the loss of public freedom and that is readily paid.

As for the rest, it would be sustainable. The crony capitalists would underwrite the projects of the collectivists. The ant-heaps of each would be so similar to the other that only a few changes in signage would be needed to turn regulated capitalism into the workers' paradise. It was a tremendous insight. Belloc realized Bolshevism was was too obviously destructive to last and anticipated the rise of what we would now call the Blue Model. F.A. Hayek paid tribute: "Hilaire Belloc ... explained that the effects of Socialist doctrine on Capitalist society is to produce a third thing different from either of its two begetters - to wit, the Servile State." Regarding the Servile State, George Orwell realized whatever name it gave itself, such an unholy alliance would be much the same quantity.

Many earlier writers have foreseen the emergence of a new kind of society, neither capitalist nor Socialist, and probably based upon slavery ... A good example is Hilaire Belloc's book, The Servile State ...  Jack London, in The Iron Heel ... Wells's The Sleeper Awakes (1900) ... Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1930), all described imaginary worlds in which the special problems of capitalism had been solved without bringing liberty, equality, or true happiness any nearer. More recently, writers like Peter Drucker and F.A. Voigt have argued that Fascism and Communism are substantially the same thing. And indeed, it has always been obvious that a planned and centralized society is liable to develop into an oligarchy or a dictatorship.

The crucial point would be that this proposed Third Way would be more secure than the traditional Leninsim which rested upon the unholy Troika of Party, Army and Cheka. Paychecks would actually be met, courtesy of the crony capitalists. It's not surprising that after the collapse of the Soviets, the next collectivist social project was the much more "responsible" EU. But Larry Elliott, arguing in the Guardian for a British exit from Brussels, realized that distinction was more a matter of degree than substance. He characterized the EU not as "the US without the electric chair; it is the USSR without the gulag."  The correspondence with Belloc's 1912 prediction is eerie.

Belloc argued that the only two exits from the evils of crony capitalism were an expansion of property holdings to the great majority of the people (the classic conservative program) or collectivism. Of the two alternatives, the elites would find collectivism far the easier path. He wrote, "if you are suffering because property is restricted to a few, you can alter that factor in the problem either by putting property in the hands of many or the hands of none ... a trust or monopoly is welcomed because it 'furnishes a mode of transition from private to public ownership.'" Crony capitalism furnishes collectivism so well that the Servile State becomes indistinguishable from the Workers' Paradise and its leaders equally interchangeable. Thus we have billionaires who become men of the people and men of the people who become billionaires. Who could have foreseen this in 1912?

The so-called Socialist ... has not fallen into the Servile State by a miscalculation ... he welcomes its birth, he foresees his power over its future ... it is orderly in the extreme ... and the prospect of a vast bureaucracy wherein the whole of life shall be scheduled and appointed to certain simple schemes deriving from the co-ordinate work of public clerks and marshaled by powerful heads of departments gives his small stomach a final satisfaction.

Best of all, the socialist agitator was free under the arrangement to engage in his favorite project of remaking mankind to free him from "the ravages of drink: more fatal still the dreadful habit of mankind of forming families and breeding children." Belloc's Servile State anticipated the carnival at Davos with its weird hodgepodge of moralism, pseudo-scientific causes and economic diktat precisely because it understood what the power coalition of the future would look like.

Where both Belloc and Orwell may have erred was in assuming the Servile State could fix the sustainability problems that doomed Leninism. The hope of finding a lasting formula for collectivism lies at the heart of the USSR's reboot and the EU and Hillary's socialism in words but crony capitalism in deeds strategy, in contrast to Bernie Sanders' hair-on-fire socialism. Nobody argues with the collectivist goals, just about how to pay for them.  Both the EU and its American imitations are attempts at finding a socialism which can pay the bills. Unfortunately the present political crisis raises the  possibility that the Servile State itself is inherently unsustainable.

The issue which dogs Hillary and which no cosmetic distancing from Sanders will solve is that the middle class is losing faith in the platform. The political turmoil threatening to break apart the EU and the American Blue Model is rooted in the fact that both are broke and have no prospect of meeting obligations as manifested in the stagnation of wages in the West and also in the collapse of the "security" safety nets for which the present-day slaves have traded away their freedom. The progressive campaign is essentially predicated on the assumption that a sufficiently resolute government can defy the laws of financial gravity. There is now some doubt on that point.

Collectivism cannot even pay its pensions. "The present value of unfunded obligations under Social Security as of August 2010 was approximately $5.4 trillion. In other words, this amount would have to be set aside today such that the principal and interest would cover the program's shortfall between tax revenues and payouts over the next 75 years."  One of the culprits, ironically, is that the socialists have succeeded all too well in changing mankind's dreadful habit of forming families and breeding children.

It's not just the Government that's broke but also its political partners. Recently the Teamsters' Central States Pension Fund announced that it was bust. Unless it gets an infusion of taxpayer money, pension benefits for about 407,000 people could be reduced to "virtually nothing." Orwell famously said that "if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." What he and Belloc failed to anticipate was that the boot might rot to pieces and fail to fulfill its function to oppress.

What Belloc left out of his model, very oddly for him especially, was God. (Those who object to the word can substitute one of their choosing: reality, consequences or arithmetic, it makes no difference.) God can't be fixed and shows up at the most inconvenient moments. Teamsters who are able to intimidate everything find they are finally helpless against addition and subtraction. At the end of it all they, like everyone else who has mismanaged their pensions, can pay their retirees "virtually nothing."

In the face of this failure perhaps it is time to revisit Belloc's alternatives. If the only remaining path is to encourage a return to the popular ownership of property and making markets freer as opposed to cutting deals with monopolists -- then so be it. Technology may be working in favor of the path not taken. As intellectual property becomes the dominant means of production, every human is automatically born with a certain amount of capital, provided Planned Parenthood doesn't get to him first.

Lincoln Steffens thought he saw a future that worked but it was cruel fraud. Why not try property this time instead of slavery? We've tried being slaves. Let's try being free. Belloc points out this idea is so revolutionary that anyone who espouses it will almost certainly be suspected of mental incapacity.



The Economically Illiterate Fear Successful Companies, Pine for Failures

It Fundamentally Confuses the Meaning of Profit and Loss

Donald J. Boudreaux

My 19-year-old son, Thomas — of whom I’m as proud as any parent can possibly be of a child — is a budding astrophysicist. His professional interests reside purely in the hard sciences and in mathematics. Yet his understanding of economics runs deeply. (Yes, I’m bragging. Or is it bragging if it’s true?)

Thomas naturally understands the inevitability of trade-offs; he understands that there is no such thing as a free lunch (or a free anything); he understands spontaneous order; he is realistic enough to realize that for every one perverse incentive at work in the private sector there are 1,001 perverse incentives at work in the “public” sector; and Thomas understands that firms that profit in the private sector serve the public — and that the greater the service, the higher the profit.

Thomas is also naturally a libertarian: he has no wish to butt into the affairs of others and he is appalled at the prospect of anyone butting into his affairs. He is, indeed, a civilized and decent man.

This afternoon Thomas and I were driving back from lunch and our conversation turned to McDonald’s. Thomas correctly noted that McDonald’s has suffered some difficult times in recent years. My son and I agreed that he — and possibly even I — will live to see the day when McDonald’s either declares Chapter 7 bankruptcy, is ignominiously absorbed into some other thriving firm (possibly a firm that doesn’t now even exist), or is transformed into an enterprise very different from what it is today. Thomas and I agreed also that the same fate awaits Wal-Mart and, likely further down the road of time,, Apple, Google, and almost all of the other of today’s thriving commercial successes.

Thomas knows enough history to know that today’s commercial behemoths — the firms that today seem destined to survive forever, unbeatable, blessed with the touch of Midas — are tomorrow’s pathetic also-rans. That’s the nature of market competition. Think Pullman, Western Electric, Woolworth’s, K-Mart, Sears, Kodak, PanAm, RCA, and General Foods — to name only a few, and only national American, once-giants. (Investors in these firms somehow missed out on the miraculous “capital-grows-automatically-and-all-by-itself” formula that features so prominently in Thomas Piketty’s work.)

Anyway, Thomas and I predict that the day will come when leftists rise up to lament the demise of McDonald’s and of Wal-Mart. My son and I expressed to each other our bemusement at the fact that leftists are as predictably nostalgic for dying firms as they are apoplectic with hostility to whatever firms are today thriving and most profitable.

Then, simultaneously, it struck both Thomas and me that leftists — by applauding and praising only firms that are currently in decline while despising and criticizing firms that are currently at their peak — applaud and praise only firms that use resources inefficiently (which is what accounts for these firms’ current decline) and despise and criticize only firms that use resources efficiently (which is what accounts for these firms’ current success).

To criticize the success of private firms in competitive markets is to display a failure to understand that these firms’ high profits reflect their unusual success at improving the lives of countless input suppliers (including workers) and consumers. And to seek to use government force to prevent the demise of firms being driven into bankruptcy by market forces is to seek to use government force to enable firms to continue to use resources inefficiently — that is, to use resources in ways that worsen the lives of many input suppliers (including workers) and consumers.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL 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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

There is still good social and economic upward mobility in America

Jeff Jacoby's argument below is both a cheery one and mostly right. He seems unaware, however, that the Italian study he mentions has a large predecessor in the work of Gregory Clark, who also finds that wealth is to a significant extent dynastic.

Clark's findings that SOME lineages stay wealthy is an interesting one.  And he explains it well.  He says (to simplify a little) that what is inherited is not wealth but IQ.  As Charles Murray showed some years back, smarter people tend to be richer and tend to marry other smart people.  So their descendants stay smart and smart people are mostly smart about money too.

But Clark's findings do not in fact diminish any of the points Jacoby makes.  Dynasties of wealth do exist but most people's wealth or poverty is not dynastic

TWO RESEARCHERS AT the Bank of Italy have documented something remarkable about Florence, the gorgeous Tuscan capital where the Medicis ruled and the Renaissance was born: The city’s wealthiest residents today are descended from its wealthiest families six centuries ago.

As The Wall Street Journal reported this month, economists Guglielmo Barone and Sauro Mocetti looked at tax records compiled in Florence in 1427 alongside municipal tax data from 2011. “Because Italian surnames are highly regional and distinctive,” the Journal explained, “they could compare the income of families with a certain surname today, to those with the same surname in 1427.” What they found was that the wealthiest names in 21st-century Florence belong to families that were near the top of the socioeconomic hierarchy in 15th-century Florence — those who were lawyers, or who belonged to the wool, silk, and shoemaker guilds.

Barone and Mocetti did not identify the actual families listed in the Florentine tax rolls, but they note that about 900 of the surnames are still used in Florence by some 52,000 taxpayers. Not all of them are descended from those who bore those names in 1427, of course. And the new study appears to focus primarily on correlations among the very highest and lowest income-earners, not on the majority in between. Over the course of six centuries, the authors note, Florence has undergone “huge political, demographic, and economic upheavals,” and they acknowledge that intergenerational mobility is higher in Italy today than was the case before the 20th century.

Yet even with all those caveats, the persistence of economic and social status across 600 years of Florentine history is eye-opening. And it helps explain what impelled myriads of Italians to uproot their lives and relocate to new homes — especially the 5 million people who immigrated to the United States between 1876 and 1930.

Critics have been lamenting the death of the American Dream for decades, but the US remains what it has always been: a land of opportunity where neither poverty nor wealth is immutable, and no one’s station in life is fixed at birth. Politicians whip up economic envy; activists stoke resentment at a “rigged” system. And yet economic mobility is alive and well in America, which is why so many foreigners still stream to our shores.

Ample evidence bears this out, much of it gathered in long-term studies that track the earnings of large blocs of Americans over many years.

In 2012, the Pew Charitable Trusts published one such study, appropriately titled “Pursuing the American Dream.” Drawing on longitudinal data spanning four decades, Pew was able to show that the vast majority of Americans have higher family incomes than their parents did. Among US citizens who were born into families at the lowest rung of the economic ladder — the bottom one-fifth of income-earners — a hefty 57 percent had moved into a higher quintile by adulthood. In fact, 4 percent had risen all the way to the highest quintile. Over the same period, 8 percent of those born into the highest income category had dropped all the way to the bottom.

For a different examination into economic mobility, analysts at the Treasury Department studied 84 million federal returns of taxpayers who had taxable income in both 1996 and 2005. They, too, found that “roughly half of taxpayers who began in the bottom income quintile moved up to a higher income group.” For two-thirds of all taxpayers, real incomes had increased. And — repudiating the frequent lament that upward mobility is vanishing from American life — the Treasury study concluded that the “degree of mobility among income groups [was] unchanged from the prior decade.”

The 25th great-grandsons of medieval Florentine shoemakers may still be riding high, but things don’t work that way in America. Here, riches-to-rags stories are not uncommon. When Bhashkar Mazumder, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, examined the earnings of thousands of men born between 1963 and 1968, he discovered that 17 percent of those whose fathers were in the top 10th of the income scale had dropped to the bottom third by the time they were in their late 20s or early 30s. Movement between income groups over the course of a lifetime is the norm for most Americans. The rich often get richer, but plenty of them get poorer, too. Though the top 1 percent makes a popular target, it’s actually a group no one stays in for very long. On the other hand, it’s a group that 11 percent of Americans will reach at some point during their working lives.

Affluence in America is dynamic, and our economic system is biased toward success. But bias isn’t a guarantee. Mobility — up and down — depends to a great degree on the choices that people make for themselves. Individuals who finish high school, marry before having children, don’t engage in criminal activity, and work diligently have a very high likelihood of achieving success. Those who don’t, don’t.

Of course, there are impediments to mobility that are beyond the control of any individual, and that are most likely to hurt those who start out in America’s poorest precincts. Broken public schools, for example. The normalization of single-parent households. Too-easy access to welfare benefits. Counterproductive mandates, like minimum-wage laws and stifling licensing rules. Would that our political demagogues and professional populists put as much effort into dismantling those barriers as they do into demonizing the rich and yapping about inequality.

Yappers notwithstanding, the American Dream is far from dead. This isn’t Florence. No one is locked out of economic success today because of their ancestors’ status long ago. America remains the land of opportunity. Make the most of it.



Obama’s Hiroshima Speech Reflects His Blinkered View of History

In his remarks, the president did not explicitly apologize for the U.S. decision to use atomic weapons to end World War II as some had advocated. But he implicitly criticizes the “terrible force unleashed” at Hiroshima and laments “how often does material advancement or social innovation blind us to this truth? How easily we learn to justify violence in the name of some higher cause.”

His comments reflect an aloof view disdainful of all violence, lumping aggressors and defenders together. Hiroshima was a tragedy but so were all the lives lost in the preceding years of conflict.

Visiting the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., is a sobering experience. The cascade of gold stars adorning the walls are a heart-rending depiction of the 400,000 American service members who died in both the Pacific and European theaters of war.

Each of the 4,048 stars represents 100 American deaths—sons, fathers, and brothers who never came home. Imagine the human tragedy if the number of gold stars were doubled, which would result from a full-scale Allied invasion of Japan.

Nor does Obama mention the millions of Japanese lives spared by the events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In his memoir, President Harry Truman wrote that after Japan rejected another plea for surrender, he had no qualms about his decision to drop the bombs “if millions of lives could be saved … I meant both American and Japanese lives.”

Emperor Hirohito announced to his subjects that he based his decision to end the war on the “new and most cruel bomb … Should we continue to fight, it would … result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation.” In addition, there are estimates that 100,000 to 250,000 non-combatants in occupied Asia would have died for every month that the war was extended.

Hiroshima reflects the tragedy not just of a weapon of war, but of aggressive regimes and the wars they impose. Rather than a utopian quest to eliminate nuclear arms, he should have called on nations to band together against the despots who still threaten to impose their will over weaker neighbors.

As Americans prepare to enjoy the Memorial Day holiday, we should reflect on the meaning of the day.

We honor the brave men and women of the U.S. military who for centuries have fought and made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom for ourselves and others overseas subjugated to despots. Many of those did so during the four years brought on by the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Rather than describing an idealistic vision of the future, perhaps Obama should have pondered George Orwell’s comment that “People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

As President Ronald Reagan declared in his inauguration speech, “The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.”



Forget NATO. Trump Should Defund the UN

The courage to go after sacred cows is one of Donald Trump's more appealing, if controversial, traits.   He raised the issue of NATO, contending the USA pays far too much of the freight in the mutual defense pact.

Such proposals, the candidate has made clear, are not so much policies as "suggestions" or what one might call, from his business perspective, negotiating positions.

Regarding the NATO suggestion, frankly, I am of two minds.  While it's clearly arguable the American contribution is excessive, the investment might be necessary for the preservation of the alliance (weak as it is) and to maintain the necessary U.S. leadership position.  "Leading from behind" has been one of the obvious fiascoes of the 21st century.

But I have another, somewhat similar, suggestion for Donald about which I have no ambivalence.  It's time for the U.S. seriously to curtail, if not end, its mammoth annual contribution to the United Nations that dwarfs those made by all the other 192 member-states

Here's how CNS News reported the situation in 2012:

"In one of its last actions of the year, the United Nations General Assembly on Christmas Eve agreed to extend for another three years the formula that has U.S. taxpayers contributing more than one-fifth of the world body’s regular budget.
No member-state called for a recorded vote, and the resolution confirming the contributions that each country will make for the 2013-2015 period was summarily adopted. The assembly also approved a two-year U.N. budget of $5.4 billion.

The U.S. has accounted for 22 percent of the total regular budget every year since 2000, and will now continue to do so for the next three years"

That's 22 percent for virtually nothing.

While the UN many have been formed in an outburst of post-World War II idealism, it has descended into an international society for Third World kleptocrats of mind-boggling proportions—the Iraq War  oil-for-food scandal being only one nauseating example--who engage in non-stop Israel-bashing to distract their populaces from their own thievery. What in the Sam Hill do we get out of that?

Everybody knows this, of course. When critical negotiations take place (i.e., the Iran nuclear talks, speaking of fiascoes, and the Syrian peace talks, not that they have much chance of success), they are removed from the UN and conducted between the serious players. No one is curious about what Zimbabwe's Mugabe has to say, at least one hopes not.

Now it's certain this suggestion—defunding the UN—would be treated with (feigned) uncomprehending derision by Hillary and even more contempt by Bernie, who would most probably like to cede US hegemony to the United Nations anyway, assuming some good socialist, like Venezuela's Maduro or Brazil's Rousseff (well, maybe not her), was secretary-general.

But the American voter, I would imagine, when informed of even a smattering of the facts, would support Trump in defunding or, more likely, greatly curtailing America's financial support of the United Nations.  It's a negotiation, after all.

Maybe the UN can be reduced to a few divisions of more practical use like the World Health Organization. UNESCO has, sadly, already gone the way of political insanity. Whatever the case, a smaller UN footprint in NYC would be a big step in the right direction. Think what a positive it would be for the traffic and parking situation on the East side of Manhattan.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL 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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Is Trump just another Fascist?

I have commented on this accusation before but the article below originates from the NYT so I probably should offer a few more comments.

For a start, Trump is if anything philo-semitic rathrer than antisemitic.  That's not strictly relevant as Mussolini was not antisemitic either -- until Hitler pushed him into it.  But in the popular mind Fascism and antisemitism are strongly associated.  When Donald opened his club in Palm Beach called Mar-a-Lago, he insisted on accepting Jews and blacks even though other clubs in Palm Beach to this day discriminate against blacks and Jews.  And his recent speech at AIPAC was warmly pro-Israel.

But picking at little bits that Trump has said here and there miss the main game entirely.  Fascism was LEFTIST and Trump sure is not that.  There has NEVER been a Fascist type regime emanating from  conservatives.  Some past conservative regimes have in fact been remarkably libertarian -- the 19th century's Lord Salisbury, for instance

And the various Latin American dictators of C20 were Bolivarists, not conservatives. And Bolivar had little time for democracy.  The keenest modern-day Bolivarists rule Venezuela. Enough said about that, I think.

You would have to go back to Oliver Cromwell to find a dictator with any sort of conservative identity and Cromwell was not much of a dictator.  He was invited to his role by his fellow Puritan leaders, who saw the need for strong leadership in turbulent times. Cromwell was certainly hard on his Irish opponents but they largely brought that down on their own heads.  There was no Geneva convention at that time.

Leftists moan about Pinochet but he rose to power in response to a desperate plea from the Chilean parliament after a Marxist president had burnt the electoral rolls.  That Pinochet  subsequently used Leftist methods to round up Leftist opponents of his rule was simply a case of him giving the Left a long overdue taste of their own vicious medicine.  And Pinochet was not in fact conservative.  He was originally appointed to the army leadership precisely because he was seen as non-political.  He was just a General doing a job to which he had been invited.  And he retired from that job voluntarily.

Outside of Africa, ALL the vicious regimes of C20 were Leftist -- whether Communists or Fascists.  So the fact that  Trump is not a Leftist GUARANTEES that he is not a Fascist

Former governor William F. Weld of Massachusetts has equated Donald Trump’s immigration plan with Kristallnacht, the night of horror in 1938 when rampaging Nazis smashed Jewish homes and businesses in Germany and killed scores of Jews.

It was a provocative analogy, but it was not a lonely one.

Trump’s campaign has engendered impassioned debate about the nature of his appeal and warnings from critics on the left and the right about the potential rise of fascism in the United States. More strident opponents have likened Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

To supporters, such comparisons are deeply unfair smear tactics used to tar conservatives and scare voters. For a bipartisan establishment whose foundation has been shaken by Trump’s ascendance, these backers say, it is easier to delegitimize his support than to acknowledge widespread popular anger at the failure of both parties to confront the nation’s challenges.

But the discussion comes as questions are surfacing around the globe about a revival of fascism, generally defined as a governmental system that asserts complete power and emphasizes aggressive nationalism and often racism.

In such places as Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan employ strongman tactics. In Austria, a nationalist candidate came within three-tenths of a percentage point of becoming the first far-right head of state elected in Europe since World War II.

In Hungary, an authoritarian government has clamped down on the news media and erected razor wire fences to keep out migrants. There are worries that Poland could follow suit. Traditional parties in France, Germany, Greece, and elsewhere have been challenged by nationalist movements amid economic struggles and waves of migrants.

In Israel, fascism analogies by a former prime minister and a top general have again inflamed the long-running debate about the occupation of Palestinian territories.

“The crash of 2008 showed how globalization creates losers as well as winners,” said Mark Leonard, the director of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “In many countries, middle-class wages are stagnant and politics has become a battle over a shrinking pie. Populists have replaced contests between left and right with a struggle between cosmopolitan elites and angry nativists.”

That dislocation may not lead to a repeat of Europe in the 1930s, but it has fueled a debate about global political trends.

“On a world level, the situation that affects many countries is economic stagnation and the arrival of immigrants,” said Robert Paxton, a professor emeritus at Columbia University and one of the most prominent scholars of fascism. “That’s a one-two punch that democratic governments are having enormous trouble in meeting.”

Americans are used to the idea that other countries may be vulnerable to such movements, but while such figures as Father Charles Coughlin, the demagogic radio broadcaster, enjoyed wide followings in the 1930s, neither major party has ever nominated anyone quite like Trump.

“This could be one of those moments that’s quite dangerous, and we’ll look back and wonder why we treated it as ho-hum at a time when we could have stopped it,” said Robert Kagan, a scholar at the Brookings Institution known for hawkish internationalism.

Kagan sounded the alarm this month with a Washington Post op-ed article, “This Is How Fascism Comes to America,” that gained attention. “I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from conservative Republicans,” he said. “There are a lot of people who agree with this.”

Trump has provided plenty of ammunition for critics. He was slow to denounce the white supremacist David Duke and talked approvingly of beating up protesters. He has praised Putin and promised to be friends.

He would not condemn supporters who launched anti-Semitic blasts at journalists. At one point, Trump retweeted a Mussolini quote: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”

Asked by Chuck Todd on the NBC program “Meet the Press” about the retweet, Trump brushed off the quote’s origin. “I know who said it,” he said. “But what difference does it make whether it’s Mussolini or somebody else?”

“Do you want to be associated with a fascist?” Todd asked.

“No,” Trump answered, “I want to be associated with interesting quotes.”

Trump’s allies dismiss the criticism as politically motivated and historically suspect. The former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich, who has said he would consider being Trump’s running mate, said in an interview that he was “deeply offended” by what he called “utterly ignorant” comparisons.

“Trump does not have a political structure in the sense that the fascists did,” said Gingrich, a onetime college professor who earned his doctorate in modern European history. “He doesn’t have the sort of ideology that they did. He has nobody who resembles the brownshirts. This is all just garbage.”



Genetics is the overwhelming influence on what sort of person we are

Leftists hate genetics because it stands in the way of their Fascist desire to "mould" us in some way suitable to their fantasies.  But the more advances there are in genetics, the more we see the impossibility of their dream.  Their fantasied Eden is just not possible.  Our genetic inheritance is a rock in the way of change. We are what we are and everybody just has to deal with that.  The study below is the latest advance.  It both combines a huge amount of  data and shows surprisingly high levels of inheritance for a huge range of human traits.  Hans Eysenck, a prolific writer on genetics, once said to me in an off-the-cuff remark: "It's ALL genetic".  That is very close to being so

Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies

Tinca J C Polderman et al.


Despite a century of research on complex traits in humans, the relative importance and specific nature of the influences of genes and environment on human traits remain controversial. We report a meta-analysis of twin correlations and reported variance components for 17,804 traits from 2,748 publications including 14,558,903 partly dependent twin pairs, virtually all published twin studies of complex traits. Estimates of heritability cluster strongly within functional domains, and across all traits the reported heritability is 49%. For a majority (69%) of traits, the observed twin correlations are consistent with a simple and parsimonious model where twin resemblance is solely due to additive genetic variation. The data are inconsistent with substantial influences from shared environment or non-additive genetic variation. This study provides the most comprehensive analysis of the causes of individual differences in human traits thus far and will guide future gene-mapping efforts. All the results can be visualized using the MaTCH webtool.



Overtime Regulations to Hurt Employees, Small Businesses

The Department of Labor's overtime rule hurts American workers

Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced revisions to the proposed rules interpreting the Fair Labor Standard Act’s regulations on the overtime compensation pay of white-collar, salaried workers. Currently, salaried employees making more than $23,660 annually are exempt from the DOL requirement that employers pay time-and-a-half for each hour over 40 hours weekly. The final rule, with several key changes to the proposed rule, will extend over-time pay protections to over 40 million American workers.

The most significant change to the DOL final rule is that it extends overtime pay benefits to all workers to $47,476 – roughly double the current annual salary ceiling. It also increases the minimum salary required for a “highly compensated employee” exemption to the rule. This amount was increased from $100,000 to $134,004.

Additionally, these salary levels will be subject to an automatic increase every three years.

The logic behind this rule is that if employers are forced to pay their current workers for the overtime they are already working, the regulation will produce one of two outcomes: 1.) the extra compensation will go straight into the pockets of salaried workers, or, 2.) companies will instead decide to hire more workers, thus creating new jobs.

However, in application, the Department of Labor’s justifications fall short, as many companies will adjust employee hours or lower their salaries.

Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce predict that these rules will have a crippling effect on small businesses and salaried workers.

By forcing businesses to compensate millions of workers for overtime hours, the Department of Labor is hurting the employees it is designed to help. Many salaried employees will not see additional pay as employers will arrange work schedules so that fewer employees work less than 40 hours.

Employees will also be pressured to work overtime hours “off the books” without receiving additional overtime pay. This could specifically affect positions that provide labor-intensive research or any other job that does not function on a predictable 8-hours-a-day schedule.

Those working more than 40 hours per week may be laid off or may have fewer opportunities for advancement. Advancement opportunities will also be cut short for hourly employees, as those hoping to work toward a salaried position will have to wait a great deal longer. The Department of Labor is not only crippling the finances of our small businesses, but is also undermining the efficacy of the American workforce.

Overtime pay regulations have been studied before, and the results are less-than-promising. A 1991 University of Texas study by economist Stephen Trejo found that downward pay adjustments occurred to offset increased overtime pay. A 2003 study by Trejo also found that overtime pay regulations do not reduce average work hours.

The Department of Labor overtime-pay mandate will have far-reaching impact on millions of American workers and small businesses. Congress should reject this poorly-analyzed attempt at regulatory overreach.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL 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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, May 30, 2016

Leftist thinking and the Violence in New Mexico

The explanation of Leftism below by Douglas Goode is very similar to my own but I look further back into what makes Lreftists such arrogant monsters

For a number of years I have summarized the difference between American conservatives and American liberals as follows:  Conservatives derive their ideology from facts; liberals fabricate their facts from their ideology.  But it wasn’t until I began reading Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society that I realized my pithy summation simply didn’t go far enough.  It only dealt with the symptoms, not the cause; its pith summarized only the what, but not the why.  And because of this, however pithy, clever, or even accurate my summation was, merely stating it to an individual of the Left-leaning persuasion was probably not going to help him or her abandon his or her allegiance to Leftist ideology.  Whatever its wisdom, it was flat-out insufficient to the task of helping a Left-leaning/collectivist individual see the inherent fatal flaw of his or her world view.  At best, its pithy wisdom merely generated a hearty chuckle from fellow conservatives and individualists.

In chapter 4 of Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society he discusses why Left-leaning individuals are so consummately skilled at cherry-picking (or even fabricating facts) to prop up their world view.  (If you can, obtain a copy of his book: pour over it; make notes in the margins and otherwise mark it up; make your copy decidedly your own.  Sowell conveys a great deal of meaty content in clear, concise, and easy-to-understand prose.  His book is about intellectuals, but is not written for them.  Instead, it is written for everyone.)  In chapter 4 he demonstrates that the why is due to what he calls the “vision of the anointed.” He convincingly articulates that this vision is held and believed by intellectuals (and their hangers-on, their fellow travelers, who may not properly be classified as intellectuals themselves).

He compares and contrasts this “vision of the anointed” with the “constrained vision” or “tragic vision” which conservatives (as well as other ordinary people) hold.  The “constrained” or “tragic” vision is characterized by a far more sober review of history and assessment of the human condition.  No, it’s not that conservatives, individualists, and ordinary people have a dark or negative world view of history or of their fellow man.  Instead, they just don’t suffer from well-intended and/or pleasing fantasies.  They have hopes for a better world, certainly, but hopes that are grounded by, or tethered to, a far more realistic point of view.  For in spite of whatever well-intended hopes and wishes conservatives and individuals have for a better world, these hopes and wishes are constrained by the tragic and unavoidable realities of the human condition.

But those who have the vision of the anointed believe with almost a religious fervor that they can implement the ideas formulated by intellectuals in order to make human society better.  They see the tragic circumstances of wars, poverty, and numerous other examples of human misery merely as problems for which intellectuals can formulate solutions.  Problems which will be eradicated if we just get out of the way of all the (self-professed) smart people; problems that can be eliminated if we just spend enough of other people’s money.  (Margaret Thatcher’s warning falls on deaf ears.)  In short, if all of us conservative rubes would just let the smart Progressives call the shots and run the show, why, we’ll end up with a better world.  “A Future We Can Believe In.”  In a word, Utopia.

Those individuals who have the constrained vision or the tragic vision see the many instances of human misery as unavoidable aspects of the human condition.  Again, whatever well-intended hopes and wishes they have for a better world, these hopes and wishes are constrained by the tragic realities of the human condition.  When they can they work to mitigate and minimize those numerous instances of human misery and suffering.  (This is why conservatives are far more generous with their time, their money, and their treasure than liberals.  Conservatives are far more generous than liberals.) But they understand and comprehend that no number of acts of charity, no amount of wishful thinking, and no liberal amount of government spending will ever be enough to eliminate human suffering completely.  Thomas Sowell writes, “In the tragic vision, barbarism is always waiting in the wings and civilization is simply ‘a thin crust over a volcano.’”  He continues, “It [the tragic vision] is a vision of trade-offs, rather than solutions, and a vision of wisdom distilled from the experiences of the many rather than the brilliance of a few.” (Intellectuals and Society, pg.78)

Further, those grounded in the constrained vision realize that the poking and prodding and modifying the thin crust of Civilization carries a terrible cost.  That when we allow the self-professed best and brightest have their way, when we allow them to ignore the distilled wisdom of millions upon millions of individuals (whether in the ages gone by, or in the present), when we allow those relative few afflicted with the vision of the anointed to impose their solutions upon those millions, a great deal of unintended suffering and tragedy naturally and unavoidably follows.  When you abrade the fabric of a Civil Society too much, it frays.  When you persist at abrading it in spite of the blaring claxons sounding warning after warning, it completely unravels.  No matter how pure your motives.  No matter how thoroughly you’ve convinced yourself that just the right tweaks and government “investments” will make things all better.

Sadly, those afflicted with the vision of the anointed do not see this.  Despite the historical record, despite failure after failure of socialism, communism, or any other collectivist vision, they cling to their ideological fantasies with an almost unflinching iron-clad grip.  They have to.  Their entire egos are invested in it.  For this is another aspect of the vision of the anointed.  They see their vision not as one among several:  they see their vision as the only legitimate one.  Worse, they see themselves as part of an inner-circle, if you will.  They see themselves as the anointed.  Thus, they believe that they are due and deserve special deference and laud.  Worse, they see all of us who do not share their self-professed enlightened point of view as not just wrong but downright evil.

Is it any wonder, then, that when you challenge their pleasing fantasies, you’re not just “damaging their calm,” you are utterly decimating their chosen and cherished fantasy world?  Worse, because they have invested their very egos into their fabricated fantasy, and see you or see me as evil, they cannot debate in the arena of ideas and agree to disagree when A Conflict of Visions manifests.  In their erudite eyes, views different from theirs must be illegitimate: in short those views must be destroyed, not tolerated.

So they are going to be terribly tempted to fight tooth and nail.  When they can no longer resist that temptation they quickly resort to violence.  Our challenges to their chosen and cherished fantasies are a towering threat to their entire being.  In their eyes, their very lives and livelihoods are at stake.  What we saw in New Mexico is repeated over and over again where Left-leaning malcontents gather to protest and abandon all self-restraint.  The thin, civilized crust containing the volcano’s raging fire is insufficient for the task.  Mr. Trump and his supporters serve as just the current focus for this volcanic rage.  He, and they, are not the first; he, and they, will not be the last.



Hillary as a monster from the Id

Please don't put the powers of the Presidency into the hands of a hostile and vindictive b*tch

American elections had, since the abandonment of the bipartisan "containment" [of the Soviets] consensus in 1972, been fought largely on ideological grounds: McGovern vs. Nixon, Carter vs. Reagan, Clinton vs. Bush I, Gore vs. Bush II, even Obama vs. McCain/Romney. The genius of Obama and his team was to present the most ideological candidate since Reagan as the smiling African-American liberals wished lived next door, and so the extremity of his anti-American agenda was masked by the smile and the shoeshine.

We now arrive at what -- at this moment, anyway -- is likely to be the 2016 choice. Obama, like Bush II, did not provide for a plausible successor, and the GOP, against its usual dynastic practice, chose not to hand the baton to multiple-loser Mitt Romney. Instead, the Democrats will likely nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton, a woman of no accomplishment, but whose scary mug has been thrust into American faces since the campaign of 1992, and just won't go away. In a just world, of course, she would have been long ago indicted on any of her multiple scandals, but -- with the evidence of the Clintons, cockroaches and the Kardashians before us -- we do not live in a just world.

Mrs. Clinton is a hard-core Alinskyite -- she wrote her senior thesis on this devil while at Wellesley -- as is Obama. There is no question she is to the left of her husband, Bubba, whose sexual and financial appetites were always first and foremost in his mind. But her weakness is the same as her husband's: an unceasing, voracious appetite for money:

“Follow the money.” That telling phrase, which has come to summarize the Watergate scandal, has been a part of the lexicon since 1976. It’s shorthand for political corruption: At what point do “contributions” become bribes, “constituent services” turn into quid pro quos and “charities” become slush funds?
Ronald Reagan was severely criticized in 1989 when, after he left office, he was paid $2 million for a couple of speeches in Japan. “The founding fathers would have been stunned that an occupant of the highest office in this land turned it into bucks,” sniffed a Columbia professor.

So what would Washington and Jefferson make of Hillary Rodham Clinton? Mandatory financial disclosures released this month show that, in just the two years from April 2013 to March 2015, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state collected $21,667,000 in “speaking fees,” not to mention the cool $5 mil she corralled as an advance for her 2014 flop book, “Hard Choices.”

Throw in the additional $26,630,000 her ex-president husband hoovered up in personal-appearance “honoraria,” and the nation can breathe a collective sigh of relief that the former first couple — who, according to Hillary, were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001 with some of the furniture in tow — can finally make ends meet.

No wonder Donald Trump calls her “crooked Hillary.”

Even more than her beloved helpmeet, Mrs. Clinton has perfected the Leftist art of living high on the hog while at the same time mouthing (insincere) platitudes about her love for the masses. Pick your forbear: Lady Macbeth, Eva Peron or any of the currently interchangeable female dictators in South America.

It's not just those of us on the Right who despise the Clintons. My good friend, Les Leopold, comes at the Clintons from the Left:

The Democratic Party must nominate the candidate with the best chance of defeating Trump. If Bernie wins California, Hillary is not the best candidate.

Oh, I hear the groans aplenty. Hillary won the most votes. Hillary has the most delegates. Bernie can’t possibly win against the Republican attack machine. Katha Pollitt in The Nation colorfully expresses the position heard often from progressive Hillary supporters:

“I just don’t believe Americans are ready for a 74-year-old self-described socialist with a long far-left CV who would raise their taxes by quite a lot. By the time the Republicans got finished with him, he’d be the love child of Rosa Luxemburg and the Ayatollah Khomeini, and then it’s hello, President Trump.”
But if Hillary loses California, what does that say about her ability to win in the fall? It would mean that she has alienated most white voters. It would mean she again has lost the vast majority of independents, a crucial category. It would mean she couldn’t win dog catcher among those under 30. And most importantly it would mean that she could lose to Trump.

Precisely. The Left wants to make this a starkly ideological election: Sanders the communist vs. Trump the capitalist. A rogue L'il Orphan Annie vs. Daddy Warbucks! The poor Lithuanian peasant heroes of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle vs. the meatpacking overlords. Sanders would make it so. And, frankly, that would be the best thing for the country: let's have it out, and let's have it out now.

But it won't happen. Even should the FBI recommend Hillary's prosecution on multiple grounds, it's unlikely that the Obama "justice department" would prosecute. After all, right now Barry has it both ways: he can make Hillary dance to his tune or send her to slam, and there's not a damn thing she can do about it. Real Chicago Mob stuff; and it's at times like this that we should remember that Saul Alinksy himself once worked with Al Capone.

Further Sanders-for-real vs. Sanders-the-makebelieve-candidate would be handily destroyed by the GOP, even with the entire press corps rooting for him. Pictures of life in Venezuela right now would be all that it takes. Still, in my heart, I'm rooting for Sanders, one of the most implausible American presidential candidates of all time. Having Sanders on the ballot would finally force the Democrats out from behind their masks and reveal them for what they truly are: a criminal organization masquerading as a political party, and one dedicated to feasting off the corpse of the American experiment while professing fealty to it. The reason they've rigged the game for Hillary is that they don't want Sanders blowing their cover.

Despicable is too nice a word for them.

It's easy to understand, and respect, the opposition of the #neverTrump brigade. Trump is not a "movement conservative" (although I highly doubt that many in the kiddkie korps of kommentators even understand what that means), nor does he pretend to be one. Having watched him since 1981, when I first arrived in Manhattan to work for Time magazine, he appears to have only his own ego as his guiding star; in this, he is not unlike the Clintons.

On the other hand, if the thought of Hillary Clinton -- whose Id rages even more furiously than Trump's -- as president doesn't terrify you, I suggest checking yourself for a pulse. Mrs. Clinton, filled with hatred and a lust for vengeance that would put Hagen to shame, would rampage through the American government like none other, Obama himself included. Obama, after all, only hates America as founded, and wished to "fundamentally transform" the country according to his second-hand socialist whims. His revenge was learned, generic; he will be thrilled to have the sucker taxpayers keep him in style for the rest of his life, and then some.

But with Hillary, this time it's personal. All the rejection (from her husband, and from the voters) is about to go critical, and the explosion will be something to behold -- from far away, which is where I plan to be. It's your vote, and it counts as much as anyone else's. But this year, it's not about ideology. It's about us.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL 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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, May 29, 2016

In defence of Trump's trade policies

The orthodox view among economists is that restrictions on trade impoverish a country. And politicians on both sides of the aisle have absorbed that. So with his promise to "bring the jobs back home", Trump flies in the face of a very strong consensus.  

So what will happen? Will Trump increase prices for all Americans?  Do his ideas have no real benefit at all?  The article below considers that and puts up various arguments as to why The Donald is not so silly.  We must remember that Trump is trained as an economist so we can be certain that he will not damage America inadvertently.  He knows the downside of what he proposes.

Economists do acknowledge certain exceptions to the argument for free trade -- the so-called "Australian" case, for instance. And the real world does have a way of upsetting all theories and predictions.  That 19th century America thrived mightily behind high tariff walls is always an embarrassing case, for instance.  So the arguments put forward below are along those lines:  That reality is different.

As a former High School economics teacher myself, I am still rather attached to the consensus view but concede the possibilities mentioned below.  My own view is that Trump will raise tariffs slightly on social grounds.  He thinks that America can afford to pay a small price to avoid social and economic disruption.  And that is a perfectly sensible argument.  Social stability is not guaranteed and may have a price.

And the big costs that Americans bear are from the huge weight of regulations that burden almost all economic activity.  Trump has pledged a heavy attack on such regulations so any price increases due to higher tariffs could be more than outweighed by cuts in regulations.  In other words, reduced regulation could cut prices by a lot more than increased tariffs raise them.  American living standards should resume their long-stalled rise under Trump

THE STRONG DOLLAR AND THE DANGERS of a globalized economy have combined in recent months to favor American manufacturers who sell their products domestically rather than internationally, according to the Wall Street Journal (May 23): "Global industrial giants are struggling under the weight of a strong dollar, reeling commodity markets and weak demand in emerging and advanced economies alike, from Brazil to Europe to China. But domestically oriented U.S. manufacturers are faring better, with steadier business buoyed by the relatively brighter auto, housing and job markets."

As became clear in 2008 (if it wasn't already clear before), interconnectedness in financial markets is a significant part of systemic risk, even though in some cases it ameliorates risk. Global connection within a market, connection across markets and the financialization of all markets bring both opportunity and risk. When sectors of the American economy are heavily connected, whether at the point of manufacture or at the point of sale, with far-flung parts of the globe, every part of their manufacturing and sale process is also made more fragile. It is not always a boon to "antifragility," as the book had it some years ago.

The companies that have weathered the recent turmoil in emerging markets and Europe have been those able to sell their goods domestically regardless of the vagaries of overseas market conditions. The strong dollar has weighed on exporters, but much less so on domestic firms selling their goods locally.

Such news doubtless comes as a shock to those knowing conservatives who knew all along and still know that globalization is the future and get on with it and let's build the future. It's a perplexing stance, in response to which Peter Thiel sensibly noted (in this week's Conversations with Bill Kristol) that the lead stages of globalization are already behind us. Yet the conservative horror at Trump's trade proposals pretends that globalization is all in the future. The Journal's simple report is no longer common sense. Why not?

IT DOES NOT REQUIRE "PRINCIPLES" to recognize that firsthand knowledge of one's countrymen often puts one at a market advantage over those who are from abroad. In making this observation, our purpose is not to argue that trade should only be domestic, or that exporters of products genuinely needed at a foreign market are at a permanent disadvantage. Coffee-growers in Latin America have to export their product to American roasteries, and individual coffee plantations are at no market disadvantage compared to selling on their home markets since in many cases a foreign market is required to move product.

Trading on one's strengths fully comports with the Greatness Agenda outlined by JAG. The Principled crowd for whom free trade is a Principle, however, wrongly assume that the global direction of free trade in many market sectors means that domestically focused manufacturing is increasingly unnecessary or even undesirable. They also wrongly point to the overall glossiness of American manufacturing statistics to excuse the decline in manufacturing employment, as though it doesn't matter if anyone works so long as we've got the things. The problem with elevating free trade into a principle of Principled Conservatism is not that protectionism is the proper opposing principle, but that the application of domestic principles to foreign trade inappropriately hamstrings American policy-makers.

Several years ago, the Harvard Business Review had to remind its readers that the advantages of domestic manufacturing would not necessarily show up in traditional discounted cash flow models designed to compare the costs of locating a plant at home or abroad. "The trouble with this approach," they wrote, "is that DCF typically undervalues flexibility. As a result, companies may end up with supply chains that are lean and low cost as long as everything goes according to plan—but horribly expensive if the unexpected occurs."

Domestic manufacturing has other benefits, as well. Nicholas Ventura, the founder of a small clothing company, employs six hundred people in textile manufacturing across a sixteen-block radius in Los Angeles. By focusing on manufacturing domestically, he wrote in the Washington Post, business owners can avoid the "extreme cost-saving minimums" required for overseas production. "The speed of domestic supply chains," he also noted, "is leaps and bounds quicker than that of overseas supply chains." Similarly, "Forecasting trends in the marketplace is more forgiving with a quick supply chain."

All these points are intuitively obvious, yet they're overlooked when the cultural consensus regarding global capitalism points would-be manufacturers to look abroad. Even if Trump's call to "Make America Great Again" serves no other purpose, it assists however modestly in reorienting potential capital investment domestically. We harbor no illusions about the difficulty in doing so, not least from the pressure brought upon companies as they seek to finance their expanded operations.

The drive toward outsourcing manufacturing, geographically separating design and manufacture, separating production from market, and even separating each part of the manufacturing process are all aspects of culture and not simply market operations. Changes to American trade policy must be preceded by a cultural transformation toward identifying a link between economic production generally and national greatness. The attempts to minimize the phenomenon of Trumpism, to explain it away or to lob cheap (foreign-produced?) insults at its messenger overlook the importance of that simple change.

FORGOTTEN IN THE DISPUTES over Trumpian trade policy is the fact that in the United States, domestic trade is free trade—free across the borders of American states. The drive for free trade within the U.S. was a constituent part of the nation itself and not merely its constitutional settlement. That constitutional permission of trade across state lines formed the American commercial psyche and so formed the nation itself.

Foreign trade, however admirable and important it may be in particular market sectors, does not "form" the nation in the same way. The classical philosophers were regularly concerned about port cities, where citizens could consume foreign ideas and foreign sailors could consume, well, ladies of the night. Plus ├ža change ...

What distinguishes domestic trade and foreign trade is that foreign affairs are not subject to the same principles which operate in domestic context. Appealing to the "principle" of free trade as a part of the "principles" of Principled Conservatism™ confuses the relationship between conservatism and the American republic as well as the role of "principles" in domestic politics and foreign affairs. The point of the principles of conservatism (at this point, what difference does it make?), is to identify the ways to conserve the American polity. For ourselves, we are neither carte blanche in favor of free trade nor committed to a system such as Fichte's Closed Commercial State. (The matter of the closed commercial state is an important one, however, from the standpoint of identifying the tension between the political forms necessary to achieve domestic goals and those necessary to act effectively in matters of foreign affairs.)

This difference is found in other aspects of American constitutional practice, as well. One cannot say that "liberty of speech" is good such that the American government is equally obligated to protect the liberty of speech of its citizens and that of resident aliens, guest workers, travelers and the like. Similarly, the evident goodness of trade tells us, on its own, not a single thing at all about what our attitude toward Chinese steel dumping should be at a particular moment. (Much to the Cato Institute's chagrin, Reagan violated the principles of free trade on numerous occasions. George W. Bush did, too!) Similarly still, the goodness of living under a representative democratic government in itself tells us nothing about whether to allow some particular immigrant to apply for U.S. citizenship. A sovereign state has the right to close its borders to any group or to open them to any group.

None of these "nothings" tells us that these things are forbidden, either. We may well establish a mutual abolition of tariffs on certain goods with a certain country at a certain time. We may well admit high-skilled workers from European countries, or even Canada, to come to the U.S. and apply for citizenship. Our evaluation of those matters is one of prudence in the interest of American greatness.

Though we disagree with their analysis on other respects, conservatives who link trade policy to foreign policy are at least on the right track. Williamson's argument that "Free men do not have to beg the prince's permission to buy from or sell to whom they choose" is simple obscurantism.

Those who treat free trade as an absolute principle often seem to imagine that America is a very small state with limited national resources, almost entirely dependent on foreign trade to leverage its handful of industries in favor of purchasing basic goods from abroad. Yet the forty-eight contiguous states (and the additional far-flung pair) were gathered in time across a continent rich in natural resources, harboring a variety of climates, and filled with people with a knack for commercial ingenuity. America's commercial ingenuity is part of the strength that it can use for the purposes of preserving and extending national greatness.

A sly comment in National Review's most recent paean to free trade agreements admits that it would be "almost certainly impossible" for the U.S. to pursue protectionist policies even if it wanted to. The reason why is telling. "U.S. manufacturers," writes Scott Lincicome, "have evolved over decades to become integral links in a breathtakingly complex global value chain—whereby producers across continents cooperate to produce a single product based on their respective comparative advantages—that could not be severed without crippling both them and the global economy." The complexity of global manufacturing chains is part of the reality that Lincicome's glossy statistics overlook. Comparative advantages are becoming ever more fungible and easily replaced. Simply occupying a little spot in the global supply chain may not be enough to keep American manufacturers in the supply chain. When the whole supply chain is located domestically (and again, we are not elevating that as a Principle), the matter is different.

How the principle of American greatness became lost and regarded as the antithesis of a principle by Principled Conservatives is the story of conservatism's decline. "There shall be free trade on the part of the United States" is not a Principle but the abdication of political judgment in matters pertaining to American strength. When the Wall Street Journal has to call everyone's attention to the comparative advantage of domestic manufacturing itself, maybe our Principled friends will start to think of ways to shore it up.



Trump Just Announced His Pick for Attorney General – Hillary’s Worst Nightmare!

Donald Trump has made yet another announcement that will dismay Democrats across the country, and that is his choice for Attorney General. Trump tweeted that his pick for Attorney General is South Carolina conservative Rep. Trey Gowdy, who currently chairs the U.S. House of Representative’s Select Committee on Benghazi.

Gowdy has been a constant thorn in the Obama administration’s side, and has exposed the White House’s incompetence on everything from amnesty to IRS abuses to the illegal deletion of Clinton’s emails.

Trump’s tweet read, “@HillaryClinton’s toast. Dems had better get the”B Team” off the bench. @TGowdySC for Attorney General under President Trump.” This tweet came right on the heels of an announcement that Trump would want Sarah Palin on his Cabinet.

Trump is looking to build a team of influential conservative leaders who have fought against the liberals. He and Gowdy share the same no-nonsense style.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL 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 A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)