Friday, June 10, 2016

Muhammad Ali’s abhorrent views on race

Some long overdue realism from Jeff Jacoby below.  The adulation currently given to Muhammad Ali is ridiculous to the point of hysteria. It can be explained only by the fact that he was black. It's just Leftist racism again.

It reminds me of the "Obamamania" hysteria in the run up to Obama's first election.  Leftists have such a hard time finding any validation for their beliefs that when they do find some validation of them they go quite over the top.  And one of their most unrealistic beliefs is that blacks are as generally capable as are whites.  That lies behind their constant attempts to get blacks equally represented in various skilled occupations.

So, when they find a black who does actually have something going for him, it fills them with joy.  It props up their very counter-factual worldview.  With blacks heavily over-represented in violent crime, educational failure and welfare dependancy, their absurd view that "all men are equal" is under daily assault

LONG BEFORE he died, Muhammad Ali had been extolled by many as the greatest boxer in history. Some called him the greatest athlete of the 20th century. Still others, like George W. Bush, when he bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, endorsed Ali’s description of himself as “the greatest of all time.” Ali’s death Friday night sent the paeans and panegyrics to even more exalted heights. Fox Sports went so far as to proclaim Muhammad Ali nothing less than “the greatest athlete the world will ever see.”

As a champion in the ring, Ali may have been without equal. But when his idolizers go beyond boxing and sports, exalting him as a champion of civil rights and tolerance, they spout pernicious nonsense.

There have been spouters aplenty in the last few days — everyone from the NBA commissioner (“Ali transcended sports with his outsized personality and dedication to civil rights”) to the British prime minister (“a champion of civil rights”) to the junior senator from Massachusetts (“Muhammad Ali fought for civil rights . . . for human rights . . . for peace”).

Time for a reality check.

It is true that in his later years, Ali lent his name and prestige to altruistic activities and worthy public appeals. By then he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a cruel affliction that robbed him of his mental and physical keenness and increasingly forced him to rely on aides to make decisions on his behalf.

But when Ali was in his prime, the uninhibited “king of the world,” he was no expounder of brotherhood and racial broad-mindedness. On the contrary, he was an unabashed bigot and racial separatist and wasn’t shy about saying so.

In a wide-ranging 1968 interview with Bud Collins, the storied Boston Globe sports reporter, Ali insisted that it was as unnatural to expect blacks and whites to live together as it would be to expect humans to live with wild animals. “I don’t hate rattlesnakes, I don’t hate tigers — I just know I can’t get along with them,” he said. “I don’t want to try to eat with them or sleep with them.”

Collins asked: “You don’t think that we can ever get along?”

“I know whites and blacks cannot get along; this is nature,” Ali replied. That was why he liked George Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor who was then running for president.

Collins wasn’t sure he’d heard right. “You like George Wallace?”

“Yes, sir,” said Ali. “I like what he says. He says Negroes shouldn’t force themselves in white neighborhoods, and white people shouldn’t have to move out of the neighborhood just because one Negro comes. Now that makes sense.”

This was not some inexplicable aberration. It reflected a hateful worldview that Ali, as a devotee of Elijah Muhammad and the segregationist Nation of Islam, espoused for years. At one point, he even appeared before a Ku Klux Klan rally. It was “a hell of a scene,” he later boasted — Klansmen with hoods, a burning cross, “and me on the platform,” preaching strict racial separation. “Black people should marry their own women,” Ali declaimed. “Bluebirds with bluebirds, red birds with red birds, pigeons with pigeons, eagles with eagles. God didn’t make no mistake!”

In 1975, amid the frenzy over the impending “Thrilla in Manila,” his third title fight with Joe Frazier, Ali argued vehemently in a Playboy interview that interracial couples ought to be lynched. “A black man should be killed if he’s messing with a white woman,” he said. And it was the same for a white man making a pass at a black woman. “We’ll kill anybody who tries to mess around with our women.” But suppose the black woman wanted to be with the white man, the interviewer asked. “Then she dies,” Ali answered. “Kill her too.”

Ali was contemptuous of black boxers, such as Frazier or Floyd Patterson, who didn’t share his racist outlook. His insults were often explicitly racial. He smeared Frazier as an “Uncle Tom” and a “gorilla” whose inferiority fueled stereotypes of black men as “ignorant, stupid, ugly, and smelly.”

Ali was many fine things. A champion of civil rights wasn’t among them. Martin Luther King Jr. at one point called him “a champion of segregation.” If, later in life, Ali abandoned his racist extremism, that is to his credit. It doesn’t, however, make him an exemplar of brotherhood and tolerance. And it doesn’t alter history: At the zenith of Ali’s career, when fans by the millions hung on his every word, what he often chose to tell them was indecent and grotesque.

SOURCE.  There's another critical comment here.


What's going on with Donald Trump?

Richard Muller, Prof Physics, UCBerkeley, gives a surprisingly acute and dispassionate explanation below for what motivates most Trump supporters. He actually describes my thinking quite well and I suspect that he describes it so well because it has something in common with his own thinking.  Few politicians are  expert at anything so you judge the man as a whole and hope that he takes expert advice on matters of detail

Many people in the United States (and around the world) believe that it takes no particular skill or knowledge to be President of the United States, or the head of any government. These are people who believe that intuition and feeling is more important than expertise.

(As I have before, I strongly recommend Alan Cromer’s great book, Uncommon Sense in which he describes in some detail the dramatically different ways that people approach problems.)

These people have a sense that the entire system is corrupt, and that running the government consists of making decisions based on common sense. If extra information is necessary, then the President can solicit it from specialists. Why would the President need to know the difference between Sunni and Shiite, when he can always ask? Why would the president need to know the difference between fusion and fission, or the meaning of the nuclear “triad”, when he can have experts at his beck and call? What is most needed is someone who feels and thinks like you do, and who can be trusted.

Can he be trusted? Well, let’s give him 4 years and see. If he turns out to be corrupt as everyone else, then we can throw him out. It’s worth the risk.

For many such people, Donald Trump seems to be ideal. They like the way that he speaks his mind; they like his self confidence, and even his arrogance. He does not put up with insult or slights; he gives back more than he gets. In many ways, he appears to be a common man who has been successful, and (since no skill or knowledge is needed) will be the perfect person to put in charge.

People who feel this way will not be persuaded by arguments that Trump is unprepared, since they don’t think preparation is necessary. Deep down, they think that they themselves could be a good President. All it really takes is a degree of honesty, and a refusal to be corrupt; an ability to ignore the bribes and the lobbyists and to simply do the right thing. The people who run for office do so from a combination of luck and corruption; maybe because they knew the right people. It’s not what you know, but who you know. [grammatical error made purposefully]

I grew up surrounded by such people in the South Bronx. They read the New York Daily News, and saw in it a common sense that they shared. The world is simple but corrupt; let’s put someone in charge who will not be beholden to special interests.

Think about this when you talk to Trump supporters. Arguments that Trump is not qualified seem irrelevant to them. They distrust “policy” as a kind of alien religion; just do what is right, and you can tell what is right by trusting your instincts.

If you are an intellectual, or someone who thinks either that Trumps policies are misguided, or that Trump actually has no policies, or someone who thinks Trump gets his facts wrong, you will be very hard put to change the minds of any Trump supporter. Such people think differently than you do. The essence of character and experience that you consider essential, they regard as irrelevant.

I think this is why Trump has been so immune to the standard objections that could destroy the political careers of conventional politicians. Many people find him attractive; they see him as someone who approaches national and international issues with the same intuitive approach that they take, and they find that comforting.



You’re Stupid, So We Are Going to Take Away Your Freedom

In a country based on the principle of liberty, should we really contemplate depriving people of freedom because they sometimes don’t make choices experts think are best for them? My title really understates the liberty-depriving philosophy of the nanny state. More accurately, it is: Some people make what we think are bad choices, so we are going to deprive everyone of liberty.

I’m thinking about this after reading Harvard Professor John Y. Campbell’s article in the May 2016 issue of the American Economic Review titled “Restoring Rational Choice: The Challenge of Rational Consumer Regulation.” Campbell reviews several bad financial decisions consumers tend to make, such as not refinancing their mortgages when it is financially beneficial to do so, and ultimately concludes, “The complexity of twenty-first century financial arrangements poses a daunting challenge to households managing their financial affairs” so “household financial mistakes create a new rationale for intervention in the economy.” People make financial decisions that Professor Campbell thinks are mistakes, so he wants government to intervene.

Professor Campbell has lots of company here. People argue that government should restrict consumer’s choices of what drugs to take (both recreational and pharmaceutical), force them to pay for safety equipment on their cars that that, as it turns out, can explode and kill them, force them to participate in a government retirement program, and even limit their ability to buy sugary carbonated beverages. In all these cases, the argument is that left to their own devices, people make “bad” choices, so the government should intervene to force them to act more (to use Campbell’s term) rationally.

Freedom has no meaning if people are only free to make the choices government experts think are rational.

The arrogance of this view of the appropriate role of government is striking. Progressive thinking from people like Professor Campbell and Michael Bloomberg concludes that they can make better decisions for you than you could make yourself; therefore, they will force you to do what they think is best. But ultimately, it won’t be Campbell or Bloomberg who will make those decisions for you, it will be a group of politicians who are more looking out for their own political futures than your welfare. Does government really make better choices for people than they can make themselves?

Campbell’s conclusion that “household financial mistakes create a new rationale for government intervention in the economy” overlooks long-standing government interventions into household financial affairs. One only has to look at the Social Security program, established because people make the “mistake” of not saving enough for their retirements. That system currently gives taxpayers a lower rate of return on their payroll taxes than they could get if they invested in the stock market. In theory, people make mistakes; in practice, government intervention into household financial affairs leaves many of them worse off. And that’s without noting the projections that the system soon will be broke.

The nanny state’s premise that people should be deprived of their freedoms because they might make bad choices attacks the political philosophy upon which this nation was founded. If Campbell wants to spread the word that people are making what he views as financial mistakes, I’m all in favor of that. But it strikes at the ideals of the American Founders to suggest that people’s financial mistakes offer a new rationale for government intervention in the economy.



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 09, 2016

How to study IQ when you are not studying IQ

The article below is a significant advance.  The authors bypass IQ tests and go straight to the genes behind it.  They show that a particular set of genes can give you the same sort of correlates as you get with IQ tests.  Once again smart people are shown to be advantaged in all sorts of ways.

The work is still at an early stage, however, as the correlations were much weaker than are found with IQ tests, indicating that only some of the relevant genes have so far been found and suggesting that some of the genes used were statistical "noise".  

There are by now a few comments about the study online, all of which are remarkably tight-assed.  They do their best to play  the findings down.  Put in the context of previous IQ studies, however, the findings are powerfully confirmatory of the pervasive importance of IQ -- vastly unpopular though that fact may be

The final sentence below is sheer nonsense -- added for the sake of political correctness only.

The Genetics of Success: How Single-Nucleotide Polymorphisms Associated With Educational Attainment Relate to Life-Course Development

Daniel W. Belsky et al.


A previous genome-wide association study (GWAS) of more than 100,000 individuals identified molecular-genetic predictors of educational attainment. We undertook in-depth life-course investigation of the polygenic score derived from this GWAS using the four-decade Dunedin Study (N = 918). There were five main findings. First, polygenic scores predicted adult economic outcomes even after accounting for educational attainments. Second, genes and environments were correlated: Children with higher polygenic scores were born into better-off homes. Third, children’s polygenic scores predicted their adult outcomes even when analyses accounted for their social-class origins; social-mobility analysis showed that children with higher polygenic scores were more upwardly mobile than children with lower scores. Fourth, polygenic scores predicted behavior across the life course, from early acquisition of speech and reading skills through geographic mobility and mate choice and on to financial planning for retirement. Fifth, polygenic-score associations were mediated by psychological characteristics, including intelligence, self-control, and interpersonal skill. Effect sizes were small. Factors connecting DNA sequence with life outcomes may provide targets for interventions to promote population-wide positive development.

Psychological Science June 1, 2016.  doi: 10.1177/0956797616643070


American men are NOT getting fatter:  But the women are really puffing out

Forgive that rather frivolous heading.  The sober scientific stuff is below, hot off the medical press.  But it is surely encouraging  that male obesity has levelled off for eight years now.  Perhaps the "war" on it can be put into the deep freeze now.  That will frustrate the food nannies like Mrs Obama.  "Take their cakes away"! she will be saying of the ladies.  There are now nearly twice as many YUGE women as YUGE men

Trends in Obesity Among Adults in the United States, 2005 to 2014

Katherine M. Flegal et al.


Importance:  Between 1980 and 2000, the prevalence of obesity increased significantly among adult men and women in the United States; further significant increases were observed through 2003-2004 for men but not women. Subsequent comparisons of data from 2003-2004 with data through 2011-2012 showed no significant increases for men or women.

Objective:  To examine obesity prevalence for 2013-2014 and trends over the decade from 2005 through 2014 adjusting for sex, age, race/Hispanic origin, smoking status, and education.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  Analysis of data obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a cross-sectional, nationally representative health examination survey of the US civilian noninstitutionalized population that includes measured weight and height.

Exposures:  Survey period.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Prevalence of obesity (body mass index ≥30) and class 3 obesity (body mass index ≥40).

Results:  This report is based on data from 2638 adult men (mean age, 46.8 years) and 2817 women (mean age, 48.4 years) from the most recent 2 years (2013-2014) of NHANES and data from 21 013 participants in previous NHANES surveys from 2005 through 2012. For the years 2013-2014, the overall age-adjusted prevalence of obesity was 37.7% (95% CI, 35.8%-39.7%); among men, it was 35.0% (95% CI, 32.8%-37.3%); and among women, it was 40.4% (95% CI, 37.6%-43.3%). The corresponding prevalence of class 3 obesity overall was 7.7% (95% CI, 6.2%-9.3%); among men, it was 5.5% (95% CI, 4.0%-7.2%); and among women, it was 9.9% (95% CI, 7.5%-12.3%). Analyses of changes over the decade from 2005 through 2014, adjusted for age, race/Hispanic origin, smoking status, and education, showed significant increasing linear trends among women for overall obesity (P = .004) and for class 3 obesity (P = .01) but not among men (P = .30 for overall obesity; P = .14 for class 3 obesity).

Conclusions and Relevance:  In this nationally representative survey of adults in the United States, the age-adjusted prevalence of obesity in 2013-2014 was 35.0% among men and 40.4% among women. The corresponding values for class 3 obesity were 5.5% for men and 9.9% for women. For women, the prevalence of overall obesity and of class 3 obesity showed significant linear trends for increase between 2005 and 2014; there were no significant trends for men. Other studies are needed to determine the reasons for these trends.

JAMA. June 7. 2016;315(21):2284-2291. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.6458


Trump and his critics

The article below by Daniel Bier is from a libertarian perspective and does a good job of demolishing popular nonsense about Trump.  He goes on however to find some faults with Trump.  He claims that Trump is authoritarian and opposed to limited government.  From a libertarian POV that may be so but you could levy the same charge at most American politicians.  Trump favors a degree of economic protectionism but so did George Bush II -- as with his steel tariffs.

Trump clearly wants to liberate Americans from the stifling shackles of political correctness, which seems a very important liberation.  Trump may not bring about any economic liberation but even Reagan could do only so much.  Wanting to get all your wishes at once is a bit childish.  And the writer overlooks that economic reform is in any case in the hands of Congress, not the President.

And the allegation that Trump stands for "extreme nationalism " is simply ill-informed.  As Orwell pointed out succinctly, a nationalist differs from a patriot in that nationalists want to conquer other countries.  Trump is the exact opposite of that. He want to  get America OUT of involvement with the rest of the  world -- which puts him at one with both traditional American conservatives and libertarians.  Odd that a libertarian writer got that wrong. Daniel Bier is still young, I guess.

And the allegation that Trump is authoritarian is very shopworn and unworthy of a knowledgeable writer. See here for a comprehensive demolition of that claim.  Trump has a forceful and confident style, that's all. And mistaking the style for the substance is dumb.  Politically, Trump is just an American patriot.  And after America has had the amazing experience of a traitor in the White house, that is badly needed.

Take  the “win by losing” strategy. Lately, it has emerged as a distinct genre of commentary about Donald Trump.

Take, for example, “The Article About Trump That Nobody Will Publish,” which promotes itself as having been rejected by 45 publications. That’s a credit to America’s editors, because the article is an industrial strength brew of wishful thinking, a flavor that is already becoming standard fare as a Trump presidency looms.

The authors give a boilerplate denunciation of Trump (he’s monstrous, authoritarian, unqualified, etc.), but then propose:

What would happen should Trump get elected? On the Right, President Trump would force the GOP to completely reorganize — and fast. It would compel them to abandon their devastating pitch to the extreme right. ...

On the Left, the existence of the greatest impossible dread imaginable, of President Trump, would rouse sleepy mainline liberals from their dogmatic slumber. It would force them to turn sharply away from the excesses of its screeching, reality-denying, uncompromising and authoritarian fringe that provided much of Trump’s thrust in the first place.

Our daring contrarians predict, Trump “may actually represent an unpalatable but real chance at destroying these two political cancers of our time and thus remedying our insanity-inflicted democracy.”

You can’t win, Donald! Strike me down and I shall be… forced to completely reorganize and/or roused from dogmatic slumber!

The authors assert these claims as though they were self-evident, but they’re totally baffling. Why would a Trump win force the GOP to abandon the voters and rhetoric that drove it to victory? Why would it reorganize against its successful new leader? Why would a Hillary Clinton loss empower moderate liberals over the “reality-defying fringe”? Why would the left turn away from the progressives who warned against nominating her all along?

This is pure wishful thinking. This is pure, unadulterated wishful thinking. There is no reason to believe these rosy forecasts would materialize under President Trump. That is not how partisan politics tends to work. Parties rally to their nominee, and electoral success translates into influence, influence into power, power into friends and support.

We’ve already seen one iteration of this “win by losing” fantasy come and go among the Never Trump crowd: the idea that Trump’s mere nomination would be a good thing, because (depending on your politics) it would (1) compel Democrats to nominate Bernie Sanders, (2) propel Clinton to a landslide general election victory, or (3) destroy the GOP and (a) force it to rebuild as a small-government party, (b) split it in two, or (c) bring down the two-party system.

But, of course, none of those things happened. Clinton has clinched the nomination over Sanders (his frantic protests notwithstanding). Meanwhile, Clinton's double digit lead over Trump has evaporated, and the race has narrowed to a virtual tie. Far from “destroying the GOP,” Trump has consolidated the support of the base and racked up the endorsements of dozens of prominent Republicans who had previously blasted him, including Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan.

The GOP is not being destroyed — it is being gradually remade in Trump’s image, perhaps into his dream of a populist “workers’ party,” heavy on the protectionism, nativism, and authoritarianism. Meanwhile, knee-jerk partisanship and fear of Clinton are reconciling the center-right to Trump.

This is the bad-breakup theory of politics. Moderates win by defeating the fringe, not by losing to it. Yet, for some reason, conservatives, liberals, and libertarians all like to fantasize that the worst case scenario would actually fulfill their fondest wishes, driving the nation into their losing arms — as though their failure would force the party or the public do what they wanted all along. This is the bad-breakup theory of politics: Once they get a taste of Trump, they’ll realize how great we were and love us again.

But the public doesn’t love losers. (Trump gets this and has based his whole campaign around his relentless self-promotion as a winner.) Trump’s inauguration would indeed be a victory for him and for his “alt-right” personality cult, and a sign of defeat for limited-government conservatives and classical liberals — not because our ideology was on the ballot, but because all our efforts did not prevent such a ballot.

Trump embodies an ideology that is anathema to classical liberalism, and if he is successful at propelling it into power, we cannot and should not see it as anything less than a failure to persuade the public on the value of liberty, tolerance, and limited government. Nobody who is worried about extreme nationalism and strong man politics should be taken in by the idea that their rapid advance somehow secretly proves their weakness and liberalism's strength.

This does not mean that we’re all screwed, or that a Trump administration will be the end of the world — apocalyptic thinking is just another kind of dark fantasy. As horrible as Trumpism may be, it cannot succeed without help. And here’s the good news: Most Americans aren’t really enamored with Trump’s policies. The bad news is that they could still become policy.

Classical liberals who oppose Trump should realize that things aren’t going to magically get better on their own. We will have to actually make progress — in education, academia, journalism, policy, activism, and, yes, even electoral politics.

We have to make the argument – and we have to win it.If this seems like an impossible task at the moment, just remember that the long-sweep of history and many trends in recent decades show the public moving in a more libertarian direction. It can be done, and there’s fertile ground for it. We have to make the argument for tolerance and freedom against xenophobia and authoritarianism — and we have to win it. The triumph of illiberalism will not win it for 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)


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Faces of a fraud


Excluded Middles


Aristotle’s third law of thought, the law of the excluded middle, has enjoyed a long and to some degree controversial history. Briefly, it posits that a statement must be either true or false, excluding any middle ground, which on the face of it makes perfectly good sense. Extrapolating from the domain of logic to the social world, however, the excluded middle takes on a different and indeed opposite connotation, for its absence spells not propositional rigor but cultural disaster.

Consider, for example, the operation of the law in the realm of everyday economic activity. Much has been written about the withering of the middle class in our over-regulated, tax-unfriendly times. See, for example, Vahab Aghai’s America’s Shrinking Middle Class, where we learn that “between 2000 and 2012, the United States lost 10 percent of its middle class jobs.” Meanwhile, low income jobs have grown commensurably.

The fiscal policy of holding interest rates below the rate of inflation wipes out the value of middle class savings. The glut of government regulations garrotes economic initiative while indirect taxes eat up a substantial chunk of the scraps direct taxation has left. Modest businesses cannot compete with large corporations, state-controlled industries and intrusive government bodies, sending many small entrepreneurs onto the welfare rolls. Craftsmen and trades people depend on the black market to avoid the department of revenue and its crushing value-added cash grab. Start-up innovators find themselves snagged in the Byzantine warrens of the patent office. Ranchers and cattle breeders have been targeted by the EPA and BLM (and similar agencies in other countries), whose bureaucrats have run amok in invasive and confiscatory practices with tacit administrative approval. And the rot is spreading. The old adage that the rich and the poor will always be with us skips over the fact that the middle may not.

It is a precept of economic wisdom that when the middle class is put out of business, as it were, economic stagnation and social decay inevitably ensue, and national unity is beset by civil unrest, unsustainable levels of poverty and cultural decline. According to reputable historians, this was one of the major causes of the implosion of Imperial Rome in the fourth and fifth centuries. When the tax burden grew so onerous that remittances began to dry up, “taxes no longer flowed to the seven hills,” writes James O’Donnell in The Ruin of the Roman Empire, “nor did the food supplies sent in lieu of taxes.” The crushing weight of taxation destroyed the farming sector—essentially the middle class of the empire—which formed the backbone of Roman society, and the social apparatus gradually collapsed with it. Famine and revolt were principal factors in facilitating the onslaught of the barbarian hordes, which completed the debacle.

Evasion became the order of the day, so much so that, as historian Robert Adams wrote in Decadent Societies, “by the fifth century, men were ready to abandon civilization itself in order to escape the fearful load of taxes.” Moreover, when a disproportionate number of those who do not pay taxes or contribute to the economy ride on a diminishing number of those who do—the case in many Western nations—an inflexion point will be reached where the productive estate is economically disenfranchised. One recalls Silvia Morandotti’s famous wagon cartoon, a visual rendition of archeologist Joseph Tainter’s remark on the Roman breakdown in The Collapse of Complex Societies that “those who lived by the treasury were more numerous than those paying into it.” We are observing a similar disincentivizing process at work today. Redistribution of legitimate earnings to the treasury and to those living off “entitlements” presages social and cultural atrophy. As Milton Friedman warned in Free to Choose, when the “distribution of income” is skewed to the disadvantage of the industrious and entrepreneurial strata, the corollary is one or another form of “dissipation.”

In these ways, the middle class is squeezed out of the political equation, with predictable results for the rest of the social order: economic hardship, lack of employment, declining birth rates, cultural anomie, and the importation of migratory peoples regarded, in the words of Greek-Egyptian poet Constantine Cavafy’s “Waiting for the Barbarians,” as “a kind of solution.” Neither the culture nor the market will die overnight, but the symptoms of terminal degeneracy are everywhere to be seen.

An excluded middle can have deleterious consequences in other realms as well, most critically in education, where skills are formed and attitudes consolidated, impacting the culture at large. I have observed during a lengthy and varied teaching career—both as a professor and writer-in-residence—the gradual shriveling of the middle range of students. My classes and seminars slowly came to consist of a thinly populated top tier of bright stars, a thick sediment of dim pedagogical objects incapable of much in the way of intelligible response, and a smattering of in-betweens. My wife, a professor at a large Canadian university, has remarked the same phenomenon and has discussed it on this site, though in a far more discreet and species-specific way, in an article aptly titled “The Unteachables: A Generation that Cannot Learn.” The belief of the plurality of unqualified students, she writes, “that nothing requires improvement except the grade is one of the biggest obstacles that teachers face in the modern university.” These students enter university already convinced that they are the cream when they are, in fact, the curdle. There is almost no way to patch through to them with the message that there is enormous ground to recover.

How, then, is one to teach? If the professor focuses on the able and willing, perhaps 90% of the class is cast into oblivion. If she directs her attention to the unteachable majority, it follows that the intelligent and motivated, who merit and would demonstrably profit from such attention, are cheated of their due. Regrettably, the administrative perspective on this conundrum favors the incompetent, blockish and parasitical layer at the bottom at the expense of both the good student’s proper benefit and the good teacher’s professional conscience. One can treat with a heterogeneous middle, some of whom will awaken to the delights of learning and others who can be expected to bear with the presumed ordeal of memory and instruction, but where the middle contracts or vanishes, the entire enterprise becomes self-defeating.

Although marked by certain destabilizing resemblances, such as monetary inflation and grade inflation, or a warped distribution of income and a misbegotten distribution of talent, there is, of course, a distinction between the two excluded middles we are considering. The socioeconomic middle is the glue of a democratic nation, that which binds it together and creates the economic stability that allows it to flourish and to retain its coherence. It is the guarantor of a genuinely liberal polity. The educational middle is a pool of intermittent and potential competencies that allows for a viable teaching and learning environment. The teacher need not abandon her elite students in order to cater to a tepid and undifferentiated mass that is largely beyond intellectual rescue, nor concentrate on the former while hampered by a guilty conscience for recoiling from the latter. An included middle markedly facilitates a more equitable educational transaction. The teacher retains some flexibility, appealing to the middle to approximate the top while providing for a reasonable dispensation of pedagogical goods.

But as things now stand in a progressively dumbed down culture festering on entitlements, crippled by political correctness, and preoccupied with identity politics, institutional resentments, the canards of “diversity” and affirmative action, and the spurious campaign for “social justice,” the educational establishment has devolved into a recursive image of the greater culture by a kind of Droste effect while at the same time contributing to the cultural distortions it reflects. We are not speaking of the scientific and technical disciplines where the more intelligent and dedicated students are to be found, but of the sinks of uselessness comprising most English Literature programs, Cultural and Identity Studies, and Sociology departments.

The upshot is that most Arts and Humanities graduates are not fit for actual life, having learned little except how to parrot their activist professors, chant slogans, howl vulgarities and shut down speaking events with which they disagree. Such skills are not particularly marketable and the classifieds are not infinitely elastic. A still-functioning market will eventually pronounce a harshly punitive verdict on the massive cohort of mediocrities who continue to graduate on greased skids into the real world. Admittedly, they are the casualties of defective early schooling, the pedagogy of self-esteem and the moral devastation of an adulticide culture, but all too few have the inner strength to recognize their plight and grapple with their condition. It’s a sad state of affairs, but there seems little that can be done at present to redress it.

True, the more fortunate aspirants will manage to find employment as administrators, teachers and sessionals in academia, as social workers and as government bureaucrats, remunerated by an ever dwindling taxpayer base. But such positions are finite and the supply will necessarily outstrip the demand. Competition will become fierce for even superfluous jobs and appointments. Part time and menial labor will be their only resource, failing which the social justice warriors will become welfare recipients—like their betters extruded from the middle class—until society can no longer afford to subsidize them. We will have entered, to quote Russian poet Sergey Stratanovsky (and he should know), “into the communal muddle,” which he piquantly calls “the Leningrad stairwell.” Another socialist utopia will collapse in financial squalor and public malaise.

To paraphrase PJ Media's Richard Fernandez, the middle class may well be “losing faith in the platform” of the collectivizing Left. But the issue is whether it will endure long enough to overturn a progressivist campaign “predicated on the assumption that a… government can defy the laws of financial gravity.” The situation is arguably worse for the educational middle—the “feeder school” for the environing culture—which is not so much losing faith as losing out, whittled into insignificance and devoid of even residual electoral clout to register its anger and indignation. It is a miscellaneous aggregate lacking the social congruity and at least partially unified consciousness of the economic middle, and therefore without recourse. The disenchanted middle class can vote for Donald Trump’s populist agenda; the vestigial class middle can vote for nothing much since it is typically uninformed, is fungibly dispersed and, indeed, has effectively disappeared.

In any event, just as the so-called “War on Poverty” turned out to be a leveling project and thus a war on general prosperity, the Dewey-inspired “progressivist” or “child-centered” paradigm at the root of modern educational dysfunction is really a war on scholarship. The mindset in play leads in either case to the transitory empowerment of the lowest common denominator, at the expense of the once-majority middle echelons—until the entire system, failing a decisive change of course, must inexorably go bust. The road to serfdom is paved with discarded medians.

One thing remains painfully clear—or should. When middles are excluded, whether in the halls of academia or the arena of productivity, a miniscule tier at the top may yet find means to benefit or survive while the bottom will form a spreading magma of misery and destitution. The buffer of in-betweeness will have been eliminated. And a once-vigorous culture will subside into a condition of economic and intellectual inertia.



Extreme socialism defeated in Switzerland

SWISS voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have guaranteed everyone in the Alpine nation an unconditional basic income, according to projections by public broadcaster SRF1.

The plan could have seen people in the wealthy nation of 8 million people receive about 2,500 Swiss francs  per month — enough to cover their basic needs.

Proponents argued that a basic income would free people from meaningless toil and allow them to pursue more productive or creative goals in life.

Critics said the plan would explode the state budget and encourage idleness, arguments that appear to have convinced voters. Based on a partial count of results from 19 Swiss cantons (states) on Sunday, the gfs.bern polling group calculated that 78 per cent of voters opposed the measure against 22 per cent in favour.

The Swiss government itself advised voters to reject the proposal put forward by left-wing campaigners who collected the necessary 100,000 signatures to force a vote on the issue.

But the idea has won over some economists, who say it could replace traditional welfare payments and give everybody the same chances in life.

Salaried workers who earned more than basic income would have received no extra money, while children would have received one-quarter of the total for adults.



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, June 07, 2016

Something not quite right?


The Song Lyric That Made Me a Conservative

Steve Noxon

I clearly remember the moment that I realized I was a conservative.  I can’t tell you the date or the time, but I definitely remember the moment.

I was in my early 20s and was running a little local courier service, delivering prescriptions for a number of local independent pharmacies. I spent a lot of time in my car, driving around, listening to music, occasionally some talk radio, but mostly just enjoying life while making enough money to support myself.  On slow days, I had time to play tennis or maybe do some windsurfing between runs.

I wasn’t really all that interested in politics.  Why would I be?  Life was great and always would be.

Then a song came on the classic rock station.

I started singing along and playing drums on the steering wheel.  I’d heard this song before, but I guess I had never really listened to the lyrics.

Then I heard it:  “Tax the rich/ Feed the poor/ ‘Til there are…/ No rich no more…”

As stupid as it sounds, I clearly remember yelling at the radio, “AND THEN WHAT?”  I then proceeded to talk to myself for the next 10 minutes, breaking down this ridiculous concept.  Tax the rich until there are no more rich? That would solve all of the country’s problems?  Just keep taking more and more from those who’ve earned it until it’s all gone, then somehow expect them to get rich again, so we could take it all again?  It just seemed so childish and idiotic.  Seriously, who thinks this way? (FYI, this was pre-Internet.)

Well, as a nearly life-long resident of Connecticut, over the years, I’ve gotten my answer.  Yes, some people really are crazy enough to believe that this stupid little lyric in some mindless little rock song makes for good economic policy.  And these very same people are now running my state.  From the Governor’s office to the House and Senate to the state colleges and universities to the state employee union leaders, the idea that taxing the rich until there are “no rich no more” is considered brilliant economic policy.  And only evil, greedy rich people who obviously made their filthy money denying their employees a living wage would disagree with the brilliance of this policy.

Strangely enough, this concept is not going over very well with the state’s billionaires and businesses.  Recently, two of the state’s 15 billionaires decided that they’ve had enough and are leaving the state for greener pastures and taking hundreds of millions in potential tax revenue with them.  And the others seem to be getting a little antsy themselves.  Connecticut has already lost GE to Massachusetts (!?!), and many other companies are making noises about moving elsewhere as well.  Aetna, a long-time resident of Hartford that employs hundreds of CT residents, is hinting that they may be moving to Kentucky.  Even former Governor Jodie Rell (R) is switching her residency to Florida, due to the toxic economic environment here.

It’s not hard to figure out why this is happening.  While Connecticut was going through it’s recent annual budget battle, attempting to fend off yet another massive yet inevitable deficit, some of the Democrat leaders of the state just could not help but bad-mouth the very same people they need to fund their out-of-control spending.  But why would anyone stay where they are obviously so disliked?

Republicans, what few there are in positions of power, have tried to fight back against the tide, but what with the state’s Democrats so beholden to the public sector unions that they are about to make a former union president the new Speaker of the House, they can do little more than complain.

It’s gotten so crazy here that even the Hartford Courant’s editorial board, not exactly known for their conservative credentials, has asked the legislature to maybe treat the state’s billionaires a little nicer.

Otherwise, there will eventually be “no rich no more” in the state. And then what?



Nothing Revolutionary or Exciting about the American Left

The American left. What a bunch of boring and predictable control freaks. Take for instance the liberal journalists, clamoring for their next hit piece on Rand Paul or anyone else who dares to resist state oppression. Whatever happened to the revolutionary spirit of the American left? Whatever happened to the creativity and fire? As soon as a libertarian leaning conservative takes one step towards the land of freedom, the American left is whipped up into a fascist frenzy. I thought that you guys were supposed to be hip and cool? I don’t see any lefties fighting the Man. Hell, you are the Man!

This morning I woke up to discover that Senator Paul is taking steps to restore Congressional war powers. Rather than fighting miniature wars all over the damn planet, Senator Paul has a novel idea. He wants Congress to actually declare war before the executive branch decides to entangle itself in yet another ‘conflict’ in some far off desert. The United States Constitution states that Congress has the power to declare war. The Congressional war power creates a barrier so that tyrants like Barrack Obama are not allowed to invade every little nation in sight. Rather than stand with patriots like Rand Paul, the American left is quick to denounce his truly liberal ideas and label him an ‘isolationist’.

I thought that the left was supposed to be anti-war! I don’t see any righteous rage against the war mongering Obama regime coming from the left-wing journalists at the Huffington Post or the New York Times. They’re all a bunch of cowards and phonies. Sellouts, all clamoring to move their assigned press seat a little closer to their totalitarian overlords.

When the lefties in America say they want to revolutionize the system, what they really mean is that they want to double the size of the system. Where’s the progressivism in that? I thought that you liberals wanted to change the system, not magnify it to the nth degree.

Where’s the revolutionary spirit in the Bernie Sanders campaign? He doesn’t want to end the drug war. He doesn’t want to put an end to the police state. He’s not the cool Uncle Bern that he has been made out to be by teenagers huddled in their basements, afraid to come out and face the world. The Sanders system means more laws, more cops, and more state control. What’s so rebellious about that?

If you want to see a true rebel you should look to the libertarian right. Us ‘old fashioned right-wingers’ have been working hard over the past few decades to truly smash the state. We don’t want more laws, we don’t want more cops, and we don’t want more state power. We believe in a truly revolutionary system of capitalism. We stand against oppression in all forms, whether personal or political. The libertarian right is the true bastion of progress.

If you want to be a revolutionary, don’t stand with the old order of the American left. Be a real rebel and throw away your commie flags.



Should you need the government's permission to work?

by Jeff Jacoby

Unabashed libertarians can be wacky — at the Libertarian Party convention in Florida last weekend, one contender performed a striptease — but they aren't anarchists. Libertarianism isn't a philosophy of dog-eat-dog or of a society with no protections for health and safety. It is a philosophy that promotes maximum freedom of choice, so long as it doesn't involve force or fraud by individuals or by government. The influential libertarian writer Leonard Read summarized the idea in a single phrase: "Anything that's peaceful."

Libertarian policy ideas have made some important gains recently. Perhaps the most significant is the growing support for rolling back occupational licensing, so that more people can work without needing Big Brother's consent.

For decades, states have declared more and more occupations off-limits to anyone without a government permit. "In the early 1950s less than 5 percent of US workers were required to have a license from a state government in order to perform their jobs legally," observed the Brookings Institution in a study last year. "By 2008, the share of workers requiring a license to work was estimated to be almost 29 percent." To become a barber in Massachusetts, as Leon Neyfakh noted in the Boston Globe last year, a prospective hair-cutter must spend 1,000 hours of study at a barber school, followed by a year and a half as an apprentice. Florida mandates a minimum of six years of training before it will license an interior designer. In Oklahoma, anyone wishing merely to sell caskets has to earn a degree in mortuary science, undergo a year-long apprenticeship in funeral services, and pass a state-mandated exam.

Licensing requirements just as onerous or ludicrous can be found in almost every state. Arizona licenses talent agents. Tennessee prohibits shampooing hair without a license. But the pendulum is finally heading in the other direction.

Reformers left and right have mobilized against laws that pointlessly force Americans to be licensed by the state before they can get a job in their chosen field. To compel would-be surgeons and airline pilots to obtain the government's imprimatur as a condition of employment is one thing. But when the states impose licensing mandates on locksmiths and yoga instructors and hair braiders and florists, they clearly aren't being motivated by concern for public safety and the well-being of powerless consumers.

The proliferation of occupational licenses, especially for blue-collar and working-class trades, has been driven by naked rent-seeking. That is the term economists use when narrow special interests use political connections to secure benefits for themselves — in this case, when established practitioners press lawmakers to enact licensing and registration barriers that hold down competition. Thus, as libertarians have maintained for years, occupational licensing aggressively benefits "haves" at the expense of "have-nots."

The Institute for Justice, the nation's leading libertarian law firm, has long argued that the right of an individual to earn a living without unnecessary government interference goes to the heart of the American Dream. Licensing laws block honest people from doing honest work. That makes entrepreneurship more difficult in general; it makes it especially tough for Americans from low-income backgrounds, for immigrants and minorities, and for those without an advanced education.

The Obama administration has taken up this issue as well. "By making it harder to enter a profession, licensing can reduce employment opportunities, lower wages for excluded workers, and increase costs for consumers," wrote the Treasury Department, the Department of Labor, and the Council of Economic Advisers in a joint report in July 2015. "Licensing restrictions cost millions of jobs nationwide and raise consumer expenses by over one hundred billion dollars. The stakes involved are high."

But there's been progress.

Two years ago, the Institute for Justice filed a federal lawsuit in Georgia challenging a Savannah ordinance that barred private individuals from giving tours without a license. To get a license, tour guides were required to pass an elaborate test on local history and architecture, obtain medical certification, and pay recurring fees to city hall. After a year of litigation, Savannah backed down and repealed the ordinance.

Other gains have come in Arizona, where Governor Doug Ducey just signed legislation repealing state license requirements for a number of jobs, including driving instructor, citrus fruit packer, and cremationist. In North Carolina, a bill underway in the legislature would make it lawful to earn a living — without needing government approval — as a laser hair remover, sign-language interpreter, acupuncturist, and pastoral counselor. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts recently signed a measure liberating hair-braiders from licensing rules.

Consumers won't be exposed to the wolves if the state doesn't supervise every occupation. The private sector is replete with certifying, rating, and accrediting bodies that can attest to the qualifications of almost any occupation and product. The internet empowers consumers as never before with timely information about vendors, professionals, and service-providers of all kinds. From Angie's List to Yelp, from Uber to TripAdvisor, the market promotes transparency and reveals quality with a nimble persistence no state agency can ever match.

If baristas, illustrators, and journalists can operate free from government licensing, hair braiders, painting contractors, and acupuncturists can too.


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up --  about immigration and such things


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, June 06, 2016

In a democracy, socialist tyranny creeps up.  Only conservatives and libertarians can combat it to a degree

As Hayek explained, nothing about democracy can save socialism from itself

Before Bernie Sanders ever started railing against the “1%” and complaining about having the choice of 23 different deodorants at the supermarket, socialists didn’t always come across as so petty, peevish, and old hat.

The achievements in other realms of socialists such as Oscar Wilde, Helen Keller, and Susan B. Anthony have stood the test of time, often dwarfing the fact that they were socialists in the first place. One socialist in particular—born Eric Arthur Blair— is so universally revered for his moral insights against collectivism that his legacy has become a battleground for partisans. You may know him by the name George Orwell. For years intellectuals have played parlor games to claim Orwell’s legacy for the right or for the left.

Would he have supported the Vietnam War? The Cold War? Did anti-communist novels such as Animal Farm and 1984 signal that Orwell had given up on socialism?

Orwell’s appeal to popular sentiment is seemingly clever, but is a double-edged sword.

As interesting as these debates may be, the record seems clear. Writing in 1946, George Orwell gave an impassioned answer to what motivated his ideas in the essay “Why I Write”:

“The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.”

Though George Orwell played many roles over the course of his life—embattled boarding school student, elephant-shooting imperial policeman, down and out vagrant, revolutionary militia man, journalist, novelist, and more—he was undeniably a democratic socialist.

Orwell on Hayek

Playing the role of book critic in 1944, Orwell—that “Trotskyist with big feet,” as fellow socialist H.G. Wells once called him—reveals his size 13 footprints to be perfectly in step with the populists of today, as he attempts to escape the troubles of socialism by taking refuge in his beloved democracy.

Reflecting upon F.A. Hayek’s call for unfettered capitalist competition in The Road to Serfdom, Orwell writes:

“The trouble with competitions is that somebody wins them. Professor Hayek denies that free capitalism necessarily leads to monopoly, but in practice that is where it has led… the vast majority of people would far rather have State regimentation than slumps and unemployment...”

Orwell’s appeal to popular sentiment is seemingly clever, but is a double-edged sword. Could it not also be said that the trouble with democratic elections is that somebody wins them? Which is worse for the losers: the free competition of the market or the zero-sum outcomes of democratic elections? Which of the two is more dog-eat-dog?

Word is, democracy has found a new paramour, one Donald J. Trump, and much to her former lovers’ dismay, she insists on parading around with him in public.

That question aside, I forgive Orwell for his ignorance of economics. It is undoubtedly a flaw in his thinking but an understandable one for a devoted democratic socialist writing in 1944. Let us be honest: George Orwell is not read today for his economic insights. No, he is read for his keen moral instincts and his intellectual integrity—what Christopher Hitchens highlights as Orwell’s “power of facing unpleasant facts”—and in his review of The Road to Serfdom, Orwell stays true to form.

Taking Hayek seriously, Orwell is faced with the unpleasant fact that socialism is so often married to and marred by collectivism, saying:

“In the negative part of Professor Hayek’s thesis there is a great deal of truth. It cannot be said too often – at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough – that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of.”

Though Orwell’s honesty and instincts should be applauded here, I believe there is still some trouble afoot. Once again, in trying to save socialism, he takes refuge in his beloved democratic ideal. Maybe, he wagers, if socialism is infused with democracy, we can avoid the tyranny of collectivism!

Democracy and Nationalism

But, is democracy truly sufficient to protect socialism from collectivism? Has not democracy always led to an attenuated “us”—in reality a small clique of ruling elites—carrying out their own conceits at the expense of the very people they are meant to represent? Does not democracy often lead to a certain type of collectivism, what Orwell called nationalism?

Ironically enough, Orwell helps provide us with an answer in the very same review. Let us see the rest of the above quote from about “free capitalism” leading to monopoly:

“...since the vast majority of people would far rather have State regimentation than slumps and unemployment, the drift towards collectivism is bound to continue if popular opinion has any say in the matter.”

Over 70 years have passed since Orwell made this prediction, and it seems he has been proven right. “Popular opinion” has indeed demanded more “State regimentation,” and accordingly, we have drifted closer and closer towards collectivism under the banner of democracy. Thus, though I do not convict Orwell for his ignorance of the “dismal science,” I do find him guilty for his love of democracy.

Love, as much as it may guide us to greatness, can also blind us to the perilous paths we have chosen. And the perils of democracy are more bountiful than that of any femme fatale. Unfortunately, because democracy flatters the vast majority of the human race with the allure of its siren’s song—its chorus constantly promising “the people” that they are naturally fit to rule—many people today are still quite smitten despite the red flags.

These are not flaws of a know-nothing reactionary movement but features of democracy itself.

Yet, this may mean we are simply overdue for a massive heartbreak. As unpleasant facts would have it, 2016 appears destined to go down in history as the year when democracy’s scorned lovers finally call her a harsh mistress. Word is, democracy has found a new paramour, one Donald J. Trump, and much to her former lovers’ dismay, she insists on parading around with him in public.

Take, for instance, the laments of neoconservative, Robert Kagan. In his piece “This is how fascism comes to America”, Kagan claims that Trump:

“...has tapped into is what the founders most feared when they established the democratic republic: the popular passions unleashed, the “mobocracy.” Conservatives have been warning for decades about government suffocating liberty. But here is the other threat to liberty that Alexis de Tocqueville and the ancient philosophers warned about: that the people in a democracy, excited, angry and unconstrained, might run roughshod over even the institutions created to preserve their freedoms.”

I too take Tocqueville and others philosophers seriously when they warn us of democracy’s perils. But this message, from this author, at this time, delivered with such partisan dishonesty, only serves to destroy all credibility and gravitas. Where was Kagan (or Andrew Sullivan) in all the years leading up to Donald Trump’s rise? Do they really think the movements that backed Barack Obama and George W Bush were friendly to liberty, free of contradictions, and refrained from stoking the "fears, vanities, ambitions and insecurities” of the people? Do they not understand that democracy was a danger to liberty long before Donald Trump found success in electoral politics?

Democracy Versus Liberty

As H.L. Mencken wrote in 1925:

“Liberty and democracy are eternal enemies, and every one knows it who has ever given any sober reflection to the matter. A democratic state may profess to venerate the name, and even pass laws making it officially sacred, but it simply cannot tolerate the thing. In order to keep any coherence in the governmental process, to prevent the wildest anarchy in thought and act, the government must put limits upon the free play of opinion. In part, it can reach that end by mere propaganda, by the bald force of its authority – that is, by making certain doctrines officially infamous. But in part it must resort to force, i.e., to law... At least ninety-five Americans out of every 100 believe that this process is honest and even laudable; it is practically impossible to convince them that there is anything evil in it. In other words, they cannot grasp the concept of liberty.”

Tragically, most detractors of Trump still do not seem to grasp the concept of liberty. Most damn Trump, not because of their differences with him or their love of liberty, but because they see an aspect of themselves in the Donald—their love of power over others.

They only loved democracy in the first place because of its promise of power; they only love democracy when it is theirs to command.

American democracy has not only survived nationalist fevers throughout the nation’s short history; it has often encouraged them at the expense of liberty.

In practice, democracy has never lived up to its ideal. At bottom, democratic elections are not about advancing high ideals or embracing rational decisions made by an enlightened populace. Democratic elections are about winning power. “Mobocracy” is not exclusive to our time or a particular political party. Playing on people's insecurities and fears of "the other" is not exclusive to a particular billionaire. These are not flaws of a know-nothing reactionary movement but features of democracy itself.

As Oscar Wilde (one of the few socialists who does not seek refuge in the democratic ideal) said of democracy in 1891 in his The Soul of Man under Socialism:

“High hopes were once formed of democracy; but democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people. It has been found out. I must say that it was high time, for all authority is quite degrading. It degrades those who exercise it, and degrades those over whom it is exercised. When it is violently, grossly, and cruelly used, it produces a good effect, by creating, or at any rate bringing out, the spirit of revolt and Individualism that is to kill it. When it is used with a certain amount of kindness, and accompanied by prizes and rewards, it is dreadfully demoralising.”

Compared to Kagan’s screed, Wilde’s assessment of democracy strikes me as a much more plausible exegesis of the Trump phenomenon: a spirit of revolt after years of the democratic process being cruelly used. But Trump’s revolt, unfortunately, is not in the spirit of Wildean individualism. No, as Pat Buchanan points out, the Trumpian revolt is animated by a resurgence of American nationalism. But it will not kill our democracy by any means. It may even strengthen it. American democracy has not only survived nationalist fevers throughout the nation’s short history; it has often encouraged them at the expense of liberty. When given the choice—since the pith of both democracy and nationalism is the exercise of state power—democracy will usually side with nationalism against liberty for the sake of attaining such power.

The tragedy here then only grows greater when we realize the very people now warning us about the excesses of democracy in the shadow of Trump also helped lay the groundwork for Trump by slowly transforming America from a republic into a social democracy. Elections have consequences. Political parties have consequences. Social and economic policies have consequences. War has consequences. And in all cases, the consequence has been the centralization of power on the Potomac.

George Orwell’s wager appears to have left him and his kind on the losing side. They (but especially Orwell) should have taken Hayek’s claim more seriously, that:

“By bringing the whole of life under the control of the State, Socialism necessarily gives power to an inner ring of bureaucrats, who in almost every case will be men who want power for its own sake and will stick at nothing in order to retain it.”

Democracy, it appears, isn’t the refuge Orwell thought it would be. Maybe, he should have fallen in love with liberty instead.



Liberal logic


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, June 05, 2016

Lessons from Obama

The American founders had the very good idea that they could prevent the development of tyranny by dividing the functions of government into three independent parts: Legislature, Administration and the courts.  And they had another safeguard too:  A procedure for impeaching a lawless president.

All those safeguards have now broken down.  As president, Obama's job is to administer the law, not to make it.  But he openly flouts that.  What he cannot cajole the legislature to do, he boasts that he will do with phone and pen. He has no shame about usurping the role of Congress.  He acts like a king -- exactly what the founders wanted to prevent.

And SCOTUS too has set itself up as yet a third legislature.  They interpret the constitution to mean whatever they want it to mean-- regardless of what it actually says.  So they find a right to abortion in the constitution when the word is not even mentioned there and they deny protections that ARE mentioned there. Despite the equal treatment clause, they approve  various forms of "affirmative action", which are nothing if not arrangements to treat people unequally, dependent on their race, sex or anything else.

And what can anybody do about these usurpations?  Nothing.  But that should not be so.  Something should be done to pull these arrogant people back to within their constitutional roles.  Impeachment founders on the generally rather even divide of voting power in the Senate and the way that an impeachment vote will rarely deviate from party loyalties.

So some new mechanism to rein in these improper power grabs is clearly needed.  Dealing with SCOTUS is fairly easy.  Congress has the power to specify what SCOTUS can consider.  So Congress can simply pass a law saying that (for instance) any consideration of race in hiring is forbidden and add the rider that that particular law is not within the authority of SCOTUS to consider.

So it's the presidency that is the big problem.  And it would seem that only an age-old method is likely to suffice.  It is a method easily abused but it could be formalized in a fairly safe way:  Military intervention.  A constitutional amendment would be far too difficult to get through and, as we have seen, constitutions are too easily defied.

What could be done, however, would be to pass a law setting up  a consultative committee comprising the heads of the four main armed forces -- Army, Navy Airforce and Marines.  And the duty of that committee would be to observe a President and, on their own initiative, warn him whenever he overstepped his legal powers or failed to administer the law.  And if the warning was not heeded, a military unit (Marines?) could be delegated to arrest him and put him on trial before a court martial.  And that court would have the power to detain him in secure custody until the next President is elected.

A wily president would of course put in his own men as heads of the armed forces as soon as he came to office.  And that could indeed weaken the safeguard.  One should however remember President Salvador Allende of Chile.  Before he tore up Chile's electoral rolls he put a safe, non-political man in charge of Chile's armed forces.  That man was Augusto Pinochet.  And there are other instances of that general kind.

Australians will remember the dismissal of Prime Minister Whitlam by Governor General Sir John Kerr, his own appointee. No blood was spilt on that occasion, showing that the peaceful and orderly dismissal of an elected national leader is possible -- but Australia does have the advantage of being a constitutional monarchy, so there is some supervision of the politicians -- JR


Paul Ryan's Declares for Trump

House Speaker Paul Ryan will vote for Donald Trump, he wrote Thursday in an op-ed for the GazetteXtra of Janesville, Wisconsin. The statement of support comes after Ryan initially withheld his endorsement when Trump emerged the GOP nominee.

Trump traveled to Capitol Hill after Ryan announced he wasn't ready to endorse Trump to meet with Ryan and other GOP leaders.

"Donald Trump and I have talked at great length about things such as the proper role of the executive and fundamental principles such as the protection of life," Ryan said in the op-ed, before listing a series of policy ideas.

"Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall," Ryan said.

Ryan's spokesman Brendan Buck made clear that the op-ed should be considered an endorsement.



In Clinton, Americans don’t trust


ONE YEAR AGO, a Quinnipiac University poll of voters in three swing states highlighted a looming problem for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign: More than half the respondents in each state regarded her as dishonest. A nationwide CNN poll the same month yielded similar findings: Fifty-seven percent of voters said Clinton was not trustworthy.

Democratic sages brushed the matter aside. “Does Hillary Clinton’s Trustworthiness Matter?” asked Time magazine in a story at the time. The consensus of the experts it quoted: Nah, not really. “People are looking first and foremost for someone who will . . . get things done for them,” said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. Honesty wasn’t essential to victory. After all, went the argument, Bill Clinton won two presidential elections, despite widespread doubt about his trustworthiness.

But Clinton’s dishonesty problem hasn’t gone away. When Gallup asks Americans what word first comes to mind when they hear Clinton’s name, by far the most common answer is some version of “Dishonest/ Liar/ Don’t trust her/ Poor character.” It isn’t only Republicans or conservatives who are repelled by Clinton’s honesty deficit. Exit polls during this year’s primaries showed that among Democrats who said that honesty was the value they prize most in a presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders racked up huge margins over Clinton. He carried 91 percent of those voters in New Hampshire, for example, and 82 percent in Wisconsin.

With the release last week of a report by the State Department’s inspector general on Clinton’s misuse of official e-mail, the former secretary of state’s reputation for mendacity only grew worse.

For a year or more, Clinton has insisted that she broke no rules by maintaining her own private e-mail server to conduct government business. She repeatedly claimed that she had nothing to hide. That she was “more than ready to talk to anybody anytime.” That her reliance on a back-channel for e-mail violated no security protocols. That it was not only “allowed by the State Department,” but that the department had “confirmed” that it was allowed. That her use of a private server was “fully aboveboard.” That everyone she had dealings with in the government knew about it.

But the inspector general’s report shreds those claims.

No, Clinton never sought legal approval to use a private server for e-mail. If she had made such request, it would have been denied.

No, Clinton was not “more than ready” to cooperate with investigators: Unlike four other secretaries of state (John Kerry, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Madeline Albright), Clinton refused to be interviewed by the inspector general. Six of her aides refused as well.

No, Clinton’s “homebrew” server setup was not common knowledge. Even President Obama knew nothing about it.

No, Clinton’s behavior wasn’t “fully aboveboard.” When State Department staffers voiced concerns about her insecure e-mail channel, they were silenced by their superiors and instructed “never to speak of the secretary’s personal e-mail system again.”

A reputation for dishonesty has trailed Clinton from her earliest days in national life. The controversy over her e-mail deceptions is only the most recent, and not even the most outrageous. (Worse, to my mind, was publicly blaming the murder of four Americans in Benghazi on an inflammatory Internet video while privately acknowledging that it was a premeditated attack by Islamist terrorists.) So far, Clinton’s lack of integrity hasn’t derailed her political career. Maybe it never will.

Or maybe, as she competes for the White House against an opponent whose swollen ego and disregard for truth match her own, Clinton’s sordid character will finally prove her undoing. “Crooked Hillary,” Donald Trump has gleefully nicknamed her. The more he repeats the label, the more indelibly it will stick. Clinton’s honesty gap may have seemed manageable a year ago, but that was before Trump’s scorched-earth tactics changed everything. Now, even the State Department all but calls its ex-boss “Crooked Hillary.” How much more can her electability withstand?



On 'Inequality'

Larry Elder

Is there a more brain-dead concept than to empower the government to fight “income inequality”? What sane, normal, rational human being thinks that human talent, drive, interests and opportunity can — or should — result in equal outcomes?

Despite my love of athletics, I knew in third grade that my friend, Keith, could run much faster than I could. For two years I played Little League ball, and I got better at it. But no matter how hard I tried or how many hours I spent, I could not hit, run or throw as well as my friend Benji.

Later in life, I started playing tennis, and I became quite passionate about it. But most of the people I played against had started playing years earlier, and most had taken lessons for years. I got better, but given my competitors' head start, the gap remained.

Financial planners advise clients to start early and stick to some sort of game plan. Is there any wonder that those who do so will have more net worth than those who started later, or who lacked the discipline to follow and stick to a plan? How is government supposed to address these “unequal” outcomes?

Most entrepreneurs experience failure before hitting on an idea, concept or business that makes money. Even then, it takes 20 to 30 years of long hours and sacrifice, along with occasional self-doubt and a dollop of luck, to become a multimillionaire.

I recently saw a movie starring Cate Blanchett. She is a very good actress, but she is also strikingly beautiful. Is there any doubt that her good looks, over which she had no control, are a factor in her success? Is it unfair that an equally talented actress, but with plain looks, will likely have an “unequal” career compared with that of Blanchett?

Speaking of acting, most who venture into that field do not become successful, if success is defined as making a living as an actor. These overwhelming odds still do not deter the many young people who flock to Hollywood every year to “make it.”

Had a would-be actor dedicated that same drive and personality to some other profession, success would have been more likely, if less enjoyable. Should the government intervene and take from the successful non-actor and give to those who unsuccessfully pursued a long-shot acting career? An ex-actor told me of her recent lunch with a friend she had met when they both left college and pursued acting. While the ex-actor moved on to a different, successful career, her friend stuck to acting, through thick and thin. The actor informed her friend that she recently turned down a commercial. Why? What struggling actor turns down this kind of work? Turns out, through some sort of “assistance” program, said the friend, the state of California is “assisting with her mortgage.” She has no obligation to repay the money, and she will continue to receive the assistance as long as her income is not above a certain level. How does this strengthen the economy? The ex-actor, through her taxes, subsidizes the lifestyle of the actor, who admits turning down work lest she be denied the benefits.

But this is exactly the world sought by Bernie Sanders — a government that taxes the productive and gives to the less productive in order to reduce “income inequality.”

In the real world, two individuals, living next door to each other, make different choices about education, careers, spouses, where to live, and if and how to invest. Even if they make exactly the same income, one might live below his or her means, prudently saving money, while the other might choose to regularly buy new cars and fancy clothes and go on expensive vacations. Is there any question that the first person will end up with a higher net worth than the latter? Is their “inequality” something that government should address?

Although Beyonce is a good singer, is there any question that there are others with superior voices? But Beyonce is also blessed with “unequally” good looks, charisma and perhaps better management — maybe better than the other two ladies in her musical trio, Destiny’s Child, whom she once sang with. Three singers, in the same group, have had “unequal” outcomes.

Communism, collectivism and socialism rest on the same premise — that government possesses the kindness, aptitude, judgment and ability to take from some and give to others to achieve “equality.” Karl Marx wrote, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” And that’s the problem. The statement implicitly acknowledges that some have more aptitude, drive, energy and ability than others. To take from some and give to others reduces the initiative of both the giver and the givee.

This is the fundamental flaw with income redistribution, the very foundation of communism, socialism and collectivism. One would think that Bernie Sanders would have figured this out by now. But wisdom among 74-years-olds, like outcome, is not distributed equally.



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.

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