Friday, September 22, 2017

As Kurds vote for independence, Americans should cheer

I heartily agree with Jeff Jacoby below -- JR

IN A LANDMARK referendum next Monday, Iraqi Kurdistan will vote on whether to declare independence. The outcome is not in question. Iraq's Kurds have been largely self-governing for 25 years, but they yearn to be sovereign in a state of their own, just like the region's other great ethnic and linguistic groups — Arabs, Turks, Persians, Jews.

The Kurdish campaign for statehood ought to have the robust backing of the United States. Iraqi Kurds are ardently pro-American, unabashed allies in a region where the US has few true friends. The Kurds make no secret of their deep gratitude to the United States for toppling Saddam Hussein, the tyrant who waged a war of genocide against Kurdistan in the 1980s, slaughtering at least 50,000 civilians with chemical weapons and aerial assaults.

Kurdistan isn't just a grateful ally, it's a capable and skillful one. Kurdish soldiers, known as Peshmerga, are widely acknowledged to be America's most effective partners in the fight against the Islamic State. They played a central role in the recent liberation of Raqqa and of Mosul from ISIS. As waves of refugees have fled the violence unleashed by the Islamic State and the Syrian civil war, nearly 2 million have found a safe haven in Kurdistan. Among them are many thousands of Christians.

Yet instead of applauding the Kurds' bid for independence, the United States keeps dousing it with cold water.

For weeks, the Trump administration has pressed Kurdish officials to call off the scheduled plebiscite. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis worry that a vote for independence — bitterly opposed by Turkey, Iran, and the central Iraqi government in Baghdad — would imperil the coalition's efforts to crush ISIS. On Friday, the White House spokeswoman announced flatly that the United States "does not support the Kurdistan Regional Government's intention to hold a referendum."

This is foolish and short-sighted. It is also reminiscent of George H.W. Bush's notorious "Chicken Kiev" speech 25 years ago.

In the summer of 1991, when it was clear that the Soviet Union's days were numbered, pro-independence sentiment surged in Ukraine, which had long chafed under Moscow's rule. On Aug. 1, Bush traveled to Kiev and delivered a speech cautioning Ukrainians not to be seduced by "suicidal nationalism" — i.e., not to seek a path out of the Soviet empire. Ukrainians rightly scorned Bush's message. Four months later, they voted overwhelmingly to approve a declaration of independence.

Iraqi Kurds will do the same next week. And if any country should be applauding, it is the United States.

It's true that an independent Kurdistan would mean the end of Iraq as a unitary state. It's also true that it might inspire restlessness among Kurdish minorities in other countries. So what? Iraq's borders, an artifact of post-World War I colonialism, have never made much sense. Is it in Washington's interest that Iraq remain indivisible? No more than it was when it came to the USSR or Czechoslovakia.

And if an independent Kurdish state discomfits Turkey, Iran, Syria — well, what of it? For decades, all three have brutally repressed the Kurds within their borders. All three today are dictatorships largely hostile to US interests. That includes Turkey, which, though formally a NATO ally, now sides regularly with America's enemies and has moved decisively into the Islamist camp.

Kurds have earned the right to sovereignty. Like the Jews of pre-statehood Palestine, they have used their limited autonomy to prove their fitness for independence — building up the elements of democracy and civil society, developing a lively economy, choosing responsible leaders, and nourishing institutions of culture and education. A sovereign Kurdistan would advance America's goals in the Middle East, while impeding those of Russia and Iran. It would be a force for peace, stability, and minority rights, and against terrorism, tyranny, and jihadist extremism.

A free and democratic Kurdistan will be a blessing to its people, a model for the Middle East, and a rock-solid ally of America. When Kurds go to the polls next week, it should be with our admiration and support.



When the melting pot stops melting
No American identity any more?

At a National Archives ceremony last Friday in Washington, DC, 30 immigrants became naturalized U.S. citizens. In a video, President Trump encouraged them to embrace the “full rights, and the sacred duties, that come with American citizenship.”

It was a noble sentiment that once resonated with Americans who believed passing along their history to a new generation of citizens was something that ought to be done. Not anymore.

One of the new citizens, Juliet Sanchez, a teacher born in Colombia, told The Washington Post: “We can and should respect, celebrate and embrace our new culture, but you shouldn’t tell us to assimilate.” This attitude may be one factor contributing to an increasingly divided America. The other is equally disturbing.

A recent poll conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center discovered that Americans are ignorant about the Constitution and the rights it protects.

The poll found that 37 percent of those interviewed could not name any of the five rights protected by the First Amendment. Forty-eight percent got freedom of speech right. Thirty-three percent could not name one of the three branches of government and only 26 percent correctly named all three.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, responded to the poll: “Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are. The fact that many don’t is worrisome.”

One can’t have a country if citizens are ignorant of its origins and purpose. When I was in public school, civics was a required subject. That it is rarely taught today likely explains the disturbing Annenberg poll results. Adds Jamieson: “These results emphasize the need for high-quality civics education in the schools and for press reporting that underscores the existence of constitutional principles.”

Good luck with that. In an era emphasizing diversity and multiculturalism and the fear that anyone teaching the superiority of the Constitution might be named a xenophobe, or bigot, even the Pledge of Allegiance is being challenged in some schools in an effort not to offend immigrants.

Another study by the Newseum Institute discovered just 19 percent of those polled know the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion.

Ignorance about the documents that founded and have sustained America through many challenges ensures the country we have known will not be recognized by future generations. That is fine with some on the far Left who appear embarrassed and ashamed of America and think it the cause of many of the world’s problems.

Hillsdale College in Michigan is trying to make up for this ignorance about the Constitution by offering a free online course.

The problem begins in the public schools and extends into overpriced universities. Writing in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said: “Few of the liberal arts and sciences faculty at these schools offer courses that explore the origins, structure, substance and aims of the education that they supposedly deliver. Instead they provide a smattering of classes on hot-button topics in higher education such as multiculturalism, inequality, gender and immigration. This is no trivial oversight, as the quality of American freedom depends on the quality of Americans’ education about freedom.”

Higher education’s failure to educate produces graduates who find it difficult to find jobs and must return home to live with parents. Unfortunately, when they return they’re burdened with crushing student loan debt, which, according to the Department of Education, is at an all-time high of $1.33 trillion. So desperate are graduates to wipe out their debt that the personal finance website Credible surveyed Millennials (ages 18 to 34) and found that 50 percent of them would give up their right to vote during the next two presidential election cycles in order to never make another loan payment.

What does this say about our next generation of Americans?

These polls demonstrate the failed products of a once-great American education system. It is why those who can afford it are turning to private schools or to home-schooling. Many consider public education to be America’s last monopoly, but these polls indicate that it isn’t working for individual Americans and it isn’t working for the nation.



Right To Work Scores A Major Win In Wisconsin

The Free Beacon updates us on the right to work movement in Wisconsin, where the state court of appeals has just delivered a major ruling which comes as a serious blow to the state’s unions. The Badger State passed a right to work law back in 2015 which forbids companies from making union membership compulsory as a condition of employment, but the unions have been throwing their full weight into challenging the law and tying it up in court.

That may have finally come to an end this week as the justices tossed out one of their final claims. The unions argued that the law was somehow in violation of the state constitution, but the court found the argument unpersuasive.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the state’s right-to-work law was constitutional and ordered a district court to dismiss a union lawsuit on Tuesday.

The three-judge panel effectively ended a suit from a coalition of the state’s largest labor unions seeking to block the 2015 law, known as Act 1, from taking effect. The Court said the unions failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the law, which prohibits companies from mandating union membership as a condition of employment, violated the state Constitution by unlawfully denying them property without compensation.

“Act 1 does not take property within the meaning of the Wisconsin Constitution. … The Unions have no constitutional entitlement to the fees of non-member employees,” the ruling says.
What made the unions’ claim in this case so remarkably outrageous was the way they framed their objection. The plaintiffs claimed that the law deprived them of property without compensation. In essence, what they were saying was that a portion of every worker’s paycheck was theirs by right and passing a law denying them their cut of the money was therefore unconstitutional.

That’s a staggering level of hubris, but in earlier times the unions were able to get away with that sort of claim in far too many cases. Their arguments about the “free rider” problem (saying that the non-union members benefited from the unions’ negotiations) also fell on deaf ears. A federal judge in an earlier case had found that one persuasive, but that claim has now also hit a dead end.

That wasn’t the only victory on the right to work front this week. As the Free Beacon mentions later, the West Virginia state supreme court also halted a preliminary injunction placed on that state’s own 2016 right to work law on Monday.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals dismissed a lower court’s preliminary injunction that blocked the state from implementing right to work legislation passed last year…

“The unions have not directed us to any federal or state appellate court that, in over seven decades, has struck down such a law,” the court said in a Friday court order. “The circuit court erred in granting the preliminary injunction.”
We’re building up a significant body of precedent in these cases. The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t been entirely consistent on the matter, but they’ve always treated First Amendment claims in questions of mandatory union membership and dues collection seriously. This dates back to the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education as well as Chicago Teachers Union v. Hudson in 1986. Even when forced unionization was allowed, the courts have insisted that the purpose of the dues collected had to be limited in use to actual work benefiting the workers, not political speech on their behalf.

The unions have failed in that task (intentionally by the looks of it) and the courts are increasingly rejecting their claims. The irony in all of this is that the unions don’t seem to realize that if they’d just stuck to the business of representing their members at the bargaining table and spending their dues money on strike funds, retirement programs and other direct benefits, they would probably still be holding a lot of power. But when they decided to become the primary financiers of the Democratic Party, everything began going downhill for them.



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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Economic Improvement Connects to Conservative Policy

Things are looking up for the middle class, in spite of everything Obama did

America’s working class was a tremendous focus of the 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton took for granted voters in the Rust Belt in particular and chose to focus on bicoastal population centers, in keeping with the Democrat Party’s clear and continued leftist direction. Meanwhile, Donald J. Trump’s populist sloganeering stuck. His promises to “Make America Great Again” and to put “America First” not only resonated but created a firm foundation of an intense voter base.


From 2007 through 2016, the working class was dramatically impacted through a recession that began as a subprime mortgage crisis caused by Democrat policies, with home values tumbling 28% — a drop not seen since the Great Depression of 1929. The widespread foreclosures and the tremendous impact to lending institutions due to bad debt began sinking those whose biggest investment was their home. And, as we all remember, the beginning of massive government spending kicked in with Barack Obama’s “stimulus” of almost $1 trillion and bailouts to rescue companies.

And who bailed out the working class? What “stimulus” made its way into the family budgets of middle America, not just financiers and investment institutions? The unemployment rate spiked to 10% in October 2010 due to six million jobs being eliminated in the previous 12 months, testifying to the fact that the middle class was hurt disproportionately in the recession of 2007-2008.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) review of newly published Census data, real median household income dropped during the Obama presidency with an increase in measurable poverty. Households earned $55,683 in 2009, which tumbled to $54,398 in 2014. Food stamp participation in 2007 was 26.3 million recipients, and that number almost doubled by 2013 with more than 47.6 million Americans enrolled.

Middle-class households are only now seeing their income eclipse 1999-2000 levels. According to a Washington Post analysis on the same Census data, the income of black workers still remains lower than the high reached in the Bill Clinton/George W. Bush years — then it was $41,000, now it’s $39,490. All median household income rose to $59,039 from $54,105 when comparing earnings from two decades ago, 1996 to 2016. In 20 years, an average family had a $5,000 raise during a window of time that energy prices soared, the cost of health care and education exploded, and the value of one’s home was reduced by about a third. Oh, and don’t forget that mandatory government-run health insurance program that was supposed to save each family $2,500 each year but, instead, drove deductibles so high that no one can afford their “affordable” health care.

Compare that $5,000 earnings increase over almost 20 years to a six-year window during the era of President Ronald Reagan: From 1982 to 1988, poverty dropped 2.4% with an increase in real household income of $4,905.

So, when Trump spoke about the need to improve America’s economy after the Obama years with hopes to renegotiate trade deals, prioritize the American worker above illegals, and to repeal and replace ObamaCare, he won. Trump is president today not because of his polished campaign machine or eloquent rhetoric. He inspired workers to see hope down the economic road. He echoed the plans and policies from the Reagan administration.

And, indeed, the U.S. economy, according to Census data, tracked along with the launching of presidential campaign activity beginning in 2015 — perhaps a signal to all of America that the Obama economy would soon meet its end. Furthermore, reforms to food stamp programs permitted by the Republican-controlled Congress freed the hands of states to tie work requirements to benefits, and it clearly worked.

Between 2015 and 2016, according to the WSJ, median income for blacks and Hispanics climbed 5.7% and 4.3%, respectively, with 2.5 million Americans lifted out of poverty by work. The 99 weeks of unemployment benefits came to an end in 2014 with 3.4 million dropping from the program. Social Security Disability rolls also deflated by about 25,000 in 2015 and full-time, year-round workers increased by 2.2 million as many people moved out of part-time jobs between 2015 and 2016.

Americans are indeed “getting richer,” as the WSJ declared in its editorial headline. A recent Gallup poll shows that 64% of Americans think their “standard of living” is improving, the highest percentage since 2007.

Mercatus Center researcher Dan Griswold notes that, in real 2016 dollars, the percentage of Americans earning less than $35,000 has fallen to 30.2% while those earning more than $100,000 has almost tripled to 27.7%.

Now, at a 16-year low in unemployment due to 2.2 million jobs added to the economy, with unquestionable consumer sentiment driving a more favorable economy, any continued growth will come with serious policy changes such as tax reform. That could drive wages even higher.

These figures don’t lie. Americans express more confidence when they’re employed and have hope for more opportunity. With the responsiveness witnessed over the last 24 months to a reduction in government programs and regulations, Congress must act on its promise to restructure the U.S. tax code to incentivize work, savings and investment that creates jobs.



Erasing America's History

Removing the names of Confederate soldiers is the next step in the Left's cultural revolution. Leftists hate history.

The University of Virginia’s board of visitors has voted to remove bronze tablets bearing the names of graduates who had fought and died for the Confederacy during the War Between the States. According to the board, the tablets, which have hung in the Rotunda since 1903, will be placed in an undisclosed location “where they may be preserved as artifacts of the era in which they were erected, and utilized to provide context to the history of the University.”

In the wake of the Charlottesville violence, the mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, site of significant War Between the States history, and the first Medals of Honor, set the pace for UVA’s board. Democrat Mayor Andy Burke announced that the city would no longer maintain its historic Confederate Cemetery. Burke opined, “Our action today makes it clear that the City of Chattanooga condemns white supremacy in every way, shape and form.” No it doesn’t. Burke just played a tune for his “social justice” constituency. He continued, “While we honor our dead, we do not honor the principle for which they fought. Our city should be invested in our future, not a discredited past. Confederates fought against America to preserve slavery. That is the truth, and we should no longer subsidize any myths to the contrary.”

So instead Burke and others like him will continue to peddle the myth that the War Between the States was fought purely out of the South’s desperate attempt to preserve racism. These leftist iconoclasts won’t even consider the other pressing political considerations and convictions of those who fought to protect their homes and families from what they perceived as tyranny from the Northern states. They wholly ignore the fact that the issues leading to war were much more nuanced than they were black and white.

Finally, in service to their divide and conquer agenda, they continue to popularize the myth that America is essentially an evil nation of white supremacists that continues to institutionalize racism and even slavery. (Never mind the Democrat-run urban poverty plantations.) And they label conservatives as motivated by bigotry and racism in order to shut down our speech — it’s easier than having to actually produce an intellectual argument to counter their social and political challenges.



The GOP's Last-Ditch Effort To Repeal ObamaCare Is Surprisingly Good

After nine fruitless months, Republicans have finally come up with an ObamaCare replacement plan that is simple and appealing, and that should easily pass the Senate. Will the GOP blow it again?

Put together by Sens. Bill Cassidy and Lindsay Graham, the plan would take the money being spent on ObamaCare's insurance subsidies and Medicaid expansion, and give it to states in the form of fixed block grants.

States would then have wide latitude in how they spend the money — for example, they could use it to set up high-risk pools, reduce out-of-pocket costs, pay providers or subsidize premiums. They'd also be able to get out from under ObamaCare's disruptive and costly market regulations and benefit mandates.

It would repeal ObamaCare's individual and employer mandates, and its tax on medical devices. It would expand Health Savings Accounts and for the first time let those with accounts spend HSA money on insurance premiums. It would reform the rest of Medicaid by replacing the current open-ended matching grant program with fixed per-capita payments. And it would also let states impose work requirements for able-bodied adults enrolled in Medicaid.

Interestingly, while trying to craft legislation that would appeal to Republican moderates in the Senate, Cassidy and Graham have created a plan that is in some ways more conservative than the earlier House and Senate repeal-and-replace bills.

Those plans retained ObamaCare's disastrous "guaranteed issue" and "community rating" regulations and carried over its essential health benefits mandate, replacing one federal ObamaCare subsidy scheme for another. The plans were overly complicated and difficult to defend, but easy to attack.

The Cassidy-Graham bill, in contrast, is comparatively simple and straightforward. It lets states run their insurance markets as they see fit.

This is a welcome return to federalist principles that the GOP had forgotten when crafting their earlier ObamaCare replacement bills.

Is the Cassidy-Graham bill ideal? Of course not. Liberal states could keep ObamaCare in place, or use the money to finance single-payer health care. It concedes that the federal government is responsible for providing massive health care subsidies to the states. And it leaves many other free-market reforms off the table.

Of course, the Congressional Budget Office will no doubt say that the bill will cause 20 million or so to "lose" coverage — a prediction that Republicans should ignore since, as we've pointed out in this space, it is based on outdated numbers and ridiculous assumptions.

To be sure, the chances of the Cassidy-Graham bill getting approved in the Senate are slim. The deadline for getting a repeal bill approved is September 30.

Two senators — Rand Paul and Susan Collins — have already come out against it, but John McCain says he'll back this. That means Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski would have to change her previous "no" votes to "yes" if there's to be any hope of passage. (With a 52-seat majority in the Senate, the GOP can only afford to lose two GOP votes.)

Someone needs to remind Murkowski that she ran for election in 2016 repeatedly vowing to repeal ObamaCare. In May 2016, for example, she said on the Senate floor that "I have consistently supported full repeal of the ACA and have voted to do so on several occasions." But those votes, which took place while President Obama was sure to veto any repeal measure, were meaningless.



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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

China’s size may not make it dominant

Economic historian MARTIN HUTCHINSON below has a very different view of the emerging China. There should however be no doubt that China today is very modern in economic development.  Great steel skyscrapers, masses of cars and huge highways are everywhere

For sheer Silicon Valley silliness, the FT article “China is leaving Donald Trump’s America behind” by Sequoia Capital boss Michael Moritz will take some beating. It is inaccurate and politically unbalanced about the United States, but even more so about China. It also misjudges China’s present position, its actual policies and its future prospects. China’s share of global GDP could double from what it is now, but without good management it would still be geopolitically puny.

For proof of that apparently extreme statement, I would refer you to Angus Maddison’s admirable calculations of countries’ share in world GDP, dating back 2,000 years. China’s current share of world GDP, based on purchasing power parity, is estimated by the website at 18.3%. In AD1000, in the early years of the highly intelligent Song dynasty, in many ways China’s relative high point in civilizational terms, it was somewhat higher, at 23%. Since its share of the world’s population in AD1000 was only 22%, it was slightly richer than the average country, and it is reasonable to believe that its global influence and its share of human knowledge and innovation were both at least proportionate to its economic and demographic size.

But according to the Maddison figures, China’s share of world GDP did not peak in AD1000, it peaked around 1820, when China had a munificent 33% of world GDP, nearly double the current percentage. It was still near the mid-point of world wealth, with population 37% of the global total it was about 10% poorer than the global average. Yet it was close to helpless militarily and economically, ruthlessly exploited through the opium trade by a country with a pathetic 2% of world population and 5% of world GDP.

The 1820 figures illustrate the fallacy of assuming that a mighty share in world GDP equates to global domination, militarily, economically or intellectually. China had more than six times the GDP of Britain, yet under the Jiaqing Emperor (1796-1820), feeble son of the great Qianlong Emperor (1735-96), it counted for nothing in international diplomacy, its economy was stagnant and intellectually it was even more so (several discoveries of the Song period had subsequently been lost.) The only thing it had in superabundance was population, which had increased from 59 million in AD 1000 to no less than 381 million, at a time when the world’s great Industrial Revolution population bloat had yet to take off. (China today represents only 18% of world population, about in line with its output.) Britain, on the other hand, even with an 1820 population of only 21 million, had already had the Scientific Revolution, and was in the most dynamic phase of the Industrial Revolution.

The point is clear. Simply outstripping the United States in GDP (which it has so far done only on a purchasing power parity basis) will not automatically make China likely to become more powerful militarily or intellectually. The Jiaqing Emperor never faced a military challenge from Lord Liverpool’s Britain, because Liverpool’s was a peaceable and non-expansionist regime, but 20 and 40 years later, against the more aggressive Palmerston, China’s military performance was abysmal, losing the Opium War and seeing the Summer Palace burned. (Palmerston’s over-aggression was a significant contributor to the decline of Britain’s transient hegemony, but that is another story.)

Moritz’s Sequoia is a big investor in China, possibly the leading US venture capitalist in China, so it’s not surprising its leader would tout China’s virtues. All the same, when he explains about China’s “tolerance for Muslims” we should be reminded that the country force-installs spyware onto Muslims’ phones, detains thousands of Muslims in “training camps” without trial and removes loudspeakers from their mosques so Muslims cannot issue the call to prayer.

Moritz is very impressed with Chinese payments systems. Indeed, the Chinese government is assigning everyone a credit score, compulsorily, whether or not they have credit outstanding. However, it wants to use a “social credit system” so that the quality of your citizenship, your adherence to Party norms, your social networks and behaviors, etc. are used not only for credit ratings, but to deny you air travel, for example. The People’s Daily denied indignantly that the system was “Orwellian” but it would say that, wouldn’t it. Looked at in this light, the sophistication of China’s payment systems appears less benign.

Big Data in the Chinese government’s hands is a truly sinister force. Not only is there universal surveillance, but the data so collected is for sale – not just to major reputable corporations, but to anyone, no questions asked, such is the level of China’s corruption. Conversely, Chinese private citizens are strictly regulated in what they can know – the Great Firewall prevents access to international sites, unauthorized VPN networks are strictly forbidden, and even the Big-Brother-friendly Google found itself unable to operate there.

You should also remember that China, the supposed export powerhouse of the world, is still so frightened of what its citizens might do with their money that it operates a system of exchange controls. Moritz, as I did, grew up under exchange controls, in force in Britain until 1979; he will thus be able to confirm that they are highly destructive both economically and psychologically. As Moritz must surely remember, the citizens of a country with exchange controls automatically regard themselves as economically inferior to those lucky people without them; the controls produce a kind of “economic cringe” similar to Australia’s “cultural cringe” but more damaging.

Given China’s data policies, if China’s entrepreneurs are “facing the future with an unrivalled sense of adventure and curiosity” as Moritz claims, they must be a pretty frustrated lot. Finally, Moritz suggests that Trump should send his hotel staff to visit hotels in Shanghai, where they will find “a level of service unparalleled in New York.” Alternatively, Trump could send his staff to almost any U.S. small town, where he will also find service unparalleled in New York, whose service quality is lousy, second only to London and Paris for hostility and greed. Further, it is a long time since I was in Tokyo or Singapore, but I’ll bet they both still beat Shanghai hands down.

One problem with writing about China is that its figures are dodgy. GDP figures are produced almost immediately after the end of the quarter, and clearly come from the Planning Ministry’s computer rather than through actual observation of reality. Furthermore, China’s growth rates have always been suspiciously high, and its consumption a suspiciously low percentage of GDP, for a country whose richer citizens are famous for their bling.

So, let us suppose that the GDP figure is overstated, but that the consumption figure is approximately accurate, and that China’s consumption is in reality not 37% of GDP but 57%, close to that of India (59%), Indonesia (55%) and Japan (57%). Then its GDP at purchasing power parity is 37/57 x $23.2 trillion (the official 2017 estimate) or $15.1 trillion, just 78% of the U.S. level, and its growth rate, if you amortize the GDP shortfall over the past 20 years, is about 4.5% annually rather than 6.7%.

At that rate, if it continues to grow 2% faster than the U.S. on average, it will pass the United States in purchasing power GDP in about 2030, and in market-exchange-rate GDP about a decade after that. China will still have heavy social and information controls over its citizens, and therefore will still operate less efficiently than the truly free society of the United States. It is also quite likely that it will have retained its exchange controls, and so still have an “economic cringe.”

Given the existence of nuclear weapons, it is probably unlikely that a future aggressive U.S. President will burn whatever is China’s current equivalent of the Summer Palace (the Great Hall of the People?) But if China’s society remains as restricted as it now is, with gigantic loss-making state corporations, an official ideology of Communism and exchange controls on its domestic citizens, then it will still be limited to a position in world affairs like that of the Jiaqing Emperor, isolated and uninfluential. However large its population, and however dominant its share of world GDP, China will not be central to the surging economic, intellectual and political forces of the world, any more than was the Jiaqing Emperor’s celestial domain.



True socialism always ends with the Stasi

Leftwingers who boast that they’d never kiss a Tory are blind to the intolerance at the heart of their own ideology. Daniel Finkelstein comments from Britain

Laura Pidcock doesn’t like me. I don’t take it personally because it isn’t personal. I’ve never met her and she’s never met me. But I’m a Conservative and she doesn’t like Tories.

Fair enough. It’s a free country. For the time being. And the new Labour MP for North West Durham is entitled to pick her friends. She’s not alone, anyway. Her attitude — that Tories are “the enemy” and “I have absolutely no intention of being friends with any of them” — is quite prevalent on the left.

Hatred of Conservatives is common currency on social media, and at Labour conferences you can buy mugs with the words “Never kissed a Tory” on them. The Guardian’s deputy opinion editor, Joseph Harker, complained only that Pidcock didn’t go far enough. His aim (tricky for an opinion editor, even of The Guardian one would have thought) was to avoid Blairites and Liberal Democrats too.

Not unreasonably, many Conservatives are quite hurt. It’s never nice to be thought evil by someone. And the misunderstanding, that Tories are like Mr Burns out of The Simpsons, is quite frustrating. There is also something quite amusing about people who check someone’s position on free schools before they kiss them.

Yet my reaction to Ms Pidcock’s unfriendly (though, it should be acknowledged, civil) comments, and to abusive criticism on Twitter, is somewhat different. I am relaxed about her social attitudes, I don’t agree that they make it hard for her to do her job, and I’m sure (indeed I know) that there are a few Tories with a similarly short-sighted view.

But I think nevertheless that this attitude to Conservatives is of profound importance, and points to a big hole in socialism.

Ever since 1956, when news of Nikita Khrushchev’s so-called secret speech began to leak out to the West, socialists have been trying to find an alternative form of socialism. One that works. One that does not lead to the errors of Stalinism that Khrushchev identified at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Social democratic parties and new liberals had succeeded in reforming capitalism, with a welfare state and progressive tax systems, but after decades of trying still had no model for replacing it. The only attempts that had been made had produced dictatorship, murder and relative economic failure. A new left, the secret speech indicated, was needed.

There is no workable, sensible alternative to western capitalism
For more than 60 years since then, this has been the project of socialist intellectuals and politicians from Ralph Miliband to Tony Benn. The new left has, with progressives and liberals, been involved in important campaigns to end colonialism, to promote gay rights and women’s equality, and to reduce and eventually eliminate racial discrimination. But how successful has it been in identifying and propounding an alternative to capitalism?

Completely unsuccessful. After six decades of thought and political action there remains not a single successful example of a socialist society anywhere in history and anywhere in the world. Most recently they all got very excited about Venezuela. We were told by Jeremy Corbyn that we could honour Hugo Chávez by treating him as an example to us all.

This does not, of course, mean that there haven’t been successful centre-left governments or that there are no alternatives to whatever policy the Tory party puts in its manifesto. I am not equating Yvette Cooper with Mao Zedong. I am simply saying that for all the slogans about the evils of capitalism, nobody has come up with a workable, sensible alternative. Not ways of changing it, you understand. An actual alternative.

Remember the kid with all the badges in class who tried to explain to you what socialism was, and you couldn’t quite understand how it worked? Well we are still basically there, and the failure in comprehension wasn’t yours.

And this is where Laura Pidcock comes into it. Paul Mason, the former BBC journalist and political ally of the Labour leader, recently published a book called Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future. It attempts bravely to articulate what modern socialism, operating without central state planning, might look like.

I confess I was hanging on for dear life trying to grasp his scheme, but I think I got there in the end. He sees a future, as did the Occupy movement, as did the authors of New Left Review and the Bennites, in which market exchange is replaced by friendly, voluntary co-operation and free provision. Wikipedia is his model.

Reading his book on the Tube, I was wondering how he might get someone, for instance, to clean station platforms or do an extra shift without being paid. But socialists do have an answer to this of sorts. Amity.

Corbyn’s spin doctor regrets the demise of East Germany
Without the market competition that makes us ruthless and has us jostling for position, we will all muck in. Someone will notice that there is a need for someone to work in the human resources department of the organisation that produces the ink that is used on Twix wrappers, and they will pop in and do it. For nothing.

I am sorry if this sounds preposterous but it’s not my idea, is it? And if I’ve misunderstood how it all works, then answers on a postcard please. But I think you will see where Pidcock fits in. Socialism depends entirely on love and complete trust in the willingness of every person, after capitalism, to co-operate in a spirit of friendship.

So where are you left if there are whole groups of people with whom friendship is impossible, on account of their view of the world? Counterrevolutionary elements who don’t accept their socialist responsibilities. Either these people make socialism impossible, or they have to be eliminated on the grounds of their counterrevolutionary position.

Pidcock would probably laugh at this. She’s just saying she doesn’t want to chum up with Sajid Javid, and here am I saying she wants to obliterate him. And she’s probably right to laugh. But not because socialism wouldn’t require such obliteration. It would. It’s just that socialism is so vague and incomprehensible she probably won’t get anywhere near it.

The other day I was listening to a (really quite shocking) interview that Jeremy Corbyn’s adviser Seumas Milne gave to George Galloway. Have a listen on YouTube. It’s amazing.

In it, Milne regrets the passing of East Germany, really he does. He adds that obviously we wouldn’t want the Stasi back. But he misses the point. You can’t have East Germany without the Stasi.



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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Why Democrats fear voter fraud investigations

As President Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity met on Tuesday in New Hampshire to discuss voter fraud, the usual liberal suspects cried wolf.

During last year's election, the president voiced what we know - that voter fraud exists. The only question is to what degree, and that's the mission of the commission.

For anyone who dismisses concerns about voter fraud, the unhinged reaction by the left at investigating it should, at the very least, make a logical person wonder what they're so concerned about.

After all, if you believe the issue is false, or at the most an irrelevant factor in end results, you should welcome confirmation of that fact. Unless, of course, one fears the actual outcome may prove how voter fraud impacts local and state races to the point of shifting the balance of power in Washington, D.C.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and vice chairman of the president's commission, has already caused quite the stir. In a Breitbart article, Mr. Kobach revealed that out-of-state voters may have changed not only the outcome of the New Hampshire U.S. Senate race, but also could have impacted who won the state's presidential contest.

Mr. Kobach's assertion is quite simple and demands an investigation, which is exactly what the commission will do. He noted that New Hampshire is a state with same-day voter registration, which eliminates the ability to determine the eligibility of those voters. He said that last year there were 6,540 same-day registrants with out-of-state driver's licenses.

The state requires residents to obtain a state driver's license within 60 days of moving, yet since the election "5,313 of those voters neither obtained a New Hampshire driver's license nor registered a vehicle in New Hampshire. They have not followed the legal requirements for residents regarding driver's licenses, and it appears that they are not actually residing in New Hampshire. It seems that they never were bona fide residents of the State."

This number, Mr. Kobach pointed out, is large enough to have made the difference in the state's U.S. Senate race as well as the presidential election. Hillary Clinton won the swing state by only 2,738 votes. Incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte lost her Senate seat to Democrat Maggie Hassan by the slim margin of 1,017 votes.

Some critics of Mr. Kobach's assertion argue that the driver's license issue could reflect voting by out-of-state college students who live in New Hampshire. Sure, that's possible, so let's find out, shall we?

Liberals usually claim if there is fraud, it's so small and isolated that it doesn't impact end results. The margins in New Hampshire prove the falsity of that argument.

This issue and others were discussed in Manchester on Tuesday, as a cacophony of liberal whiners and harpies demanded a dismantling of the commission itself.

Because, you know, it's just so much easier to burn down something with which you disagree. Just ask the #Resist gang antifa.

The ACLU's farcical headline serves as a good example of how panicked the left really is: "Kris Kobach Pushes Voter Fraud Lies While Meeting With Fellow Suppression Activists."

Looks like they ran out of room for "Klan," "Nazi," and "Puppy killers."

Prior to this week's meeting, Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times reported on the thousands of comments that have poured into the commission.

"For a problem that critics say doesn't exist, Americans seem to have a lot of stories of voter fraud or the potential for it. They are sharing those stories with President Trump's voter integrity commission as it wades into one of the administration's thorniest fights," Mr. Dinan reported.

"Democrats have vowed to use the legislative process to try to derail the commission. Last month, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York compared the commission to the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, and said he would try to eliminate the panel as part of a must-pass bill," The Times noted.

Why so afraid, Chuck?

The issue of voter fraud must be addressed so every voter can be sure that their right as a citizen is not being erased by a fraudulent vote. Last year, this newspaper reported on a variety of fraudulent situations demanding reviews, including dead people voting in Colorado, illegals voting in Virginia, some Pennsylvania citizens voting twice, underage voters voting in the Wisconsin primary, and vote rigging in Texas.

Meanwhile, "[A] Heritage Foundation database tracking documented voter fraud now contains 492 cases and 773 criminal convictions, with untold other cases unreported and unprosecuted," the National Review reported.

"Across the country, as Heritage's database shows, voter-fraud convictions include everything from impersonation fraud and false registrations to ineligible voting by felons and noncitizens. American voter fraud continues apace, and the United States remains one of the only democracies in the world without a uniform requirement for voter identification," the magazine continued.

Democrats and their allies are afraid of something - an end to a scheme that they have relied on for far too long. And now, with the president's voter fraud commission and the tenacity of people like Mr. Kobach, perhaps they're also afraid of losing a Senate seat and an increase of Mr. Trump's 2016 electoral college victory.



Deputy Attorney General Says Rule of Law Is About `Character of the People' Enforcing the Law

As judge Learned Hand once put it: "Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it."

The Constitution's 230th anniversary is  Sept. 17, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein says it is incumbent on the American people to help preserve the rule of law as the Founders intended.

"On Constitution Day, it is appropriate to keep in mind that although the power of the federal government is vast, it is expressly limited, and those who are entrusted with the exercise of federal authority must be energetic in enforcing the law," Rosenstein said at an event at The Heritage Foundation Thursday.

The challenge, nearly two centuries later, Rosenstein said, is to stay within the confines the Constitution dictates.

"We must restrain ourselves from assuming authority beyond our lawful [place]," Rosenstein said. "Our power is limited by law, and we are obligated to respect those limits, even when no one objects."

Another challenge, Rosenstein said, is communicating to society the importance of the Constitution.

"Unfortunately, too few American citizens know the details of our Constitution," Rosenstein said. "And some discount the rule of law. If you ask whether a particular legal decision is right, most of the citizens focus on whether they favor the policy outcome."

Rosenstein, who assumed office as the 37th United States deputy attorney general on April 26, recounted a story about how Benjamin Franklin, a signer of the Constitution, warned about the struggle future Americans would have staying true to the Founders' vision.

As the story is told, Franklin was walking home from the Constitutional Convention when he encountered a woman named Mrs. Powell who asked Franklin what kind of government the Founders had created.

"And Franklin replied with these words, `A republic, madam, if you can keep it,'"  Rosenstein said. "Mrs. Powell's question illustrates that it was not inevitable that our nation would begin as a democratic republic."

Ordinary citizens play a significant role in preserving the role of the Constitution as the Founders saw it.

"The rule of law is not just about words on paper. The rule of law is about the character of the people who are charged with enforcing the law," Rosenstein said. "If they uphold it faithfully, the result will be a high degree of consistency and uniformity. Those features are among the primary reasons why our nation has flourished."

The Justice Department has a unique role in upholding the Constitution and the rule of law, Rosenstein said.

"The Department of Justice does not choose sides because of the identity of a party," the deputy attorney general said, adding:

We do not enforce the law among some people, and ignore others based on our own biases, or any other inappropriate considerations. We follow mutual principles. The point of the rule of law is to maintain a fair and rational system, characterized by impartiality and universality. That is, it applies equally to each person.

The task sounds simple, Rosenstein said, yet it remains a detailed process.

"To say that we enforce the law impartially does not mean that we enforce it mechanically," Rosenstein said. "It means that we enforce it rationally, and the results must be based on different facts, and the differences need to be objective."

The task of a good prosecutor is "to select cases for prosecution, and to select those for which the offense is the most flagrant, the public harm the greatest, and the proof almost certain."

He added:

Such power calls for the exercise of discretion and the wise use of that discretion. So when asked, `Why did you prosecute this case?' it will not do for the prosecutor to respond, `Because I can' or `Because I must.' The right answer is, `Because I should.' The task of enforcing the law is not devoid of discretion.

The event, "A Constitution Day Address," was hosted by Edwin Meese III, who served as the nation's 75th attorney general and is The Heritage Foundation's Ronald Reagan distinguished fellow emeritus.

Rosenstein praised Meese's role in upholding the Constitution during his service in the Reagan administration.

"General Meese famously told the American Bar Association in 1985, `We will peruse our agenda within the context of our written Constitution of limited and energetic powers,'" Rosenstein said, adding:

`Our guide in every case will the the sanctity of the rule of law and the proper limits of government power.' Those words resonate today. The rule of law is not merely a feature in America. The rule of law is the foundation of America.


New online

I have just put online the last article I ever had published in a learned journal.  It was published in 2004 but I had lost my copy of it.  But I recently did a big clean-out of my library and found then that which was lost. It is Ray, J.J. (2004) "Explaining the Left/Right divide". Social science and modern society.  41(4), 70-78 .

The first half of the article does a brief survey of the last 1500 years of history and shows that a concern for individual liberty and a distrust of government has always been central to conservatism.

The second half looks at the various theories about the psychological underpinnings of conservatism.  I think all the theories discussed there do reduce to my more recent formulation that conservatives are the dispositionally contented people. For more on that formulation, see here, here and here


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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, September 18, 2017

Ms Zuckerberg regrets

There is a rather strange article here by Mark Zuckerberg's Leftist sister under the title "How to Be a Good Classicist Under a Bad Emperor". In it, she claims to have the "right" ideas about classical literature but never says what they are.

She rightly recognizes that serious conservative thinkers tend to be impressed by the classics of ancient Greece and Rome and find some inspiration in them. Some of us even study the classical languages -- as Sean Gabb does. And VD Hanson's references to antiquity are both frequent and well-known.

But she deplores the ideas that conservatives take from antiquity and refers to a group of Leftists classicists -- of whom she is one. I presume she refers to what is taught these days in the classics departments of major universities. How the poor souls in those departments manage to reconcile modern Leftist victim culture with the robust values of antiquity must be quite a challenge but Ms Zuckerberg clearly likes what she hears there. So she is saying: "The classics are ours. Hands off!".

The curious thing is that Leftist classicists exist. History for most members of the Green/Left seems to start yesterday. Learning from the past is not their scene. Green/Left writers, for instance, treated the recent hurricanes as if there had never been such things before, when it is perfectly easy to document even more severe storms in the past. And how come anybody believes in any form of socialism these days? From Robespierre, through Stalin, through Hitler, through Mao through PolPot and many others, the lesson of history is that socialism rapidly degenerates in to ghastly tyrannies once they gain full power. Leftists can't afford to know history.

But against all logic there are apparently some Leftists who do study history. And I have seen something of what they say. Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" typifies the approach. In accord with the great Leftist tradition of cherrypicking, they find all the disreputable bits in the history of a time or place and ignore the admirable bits. Leftists never even attempt balance. They don't think they have to. Just to show bad bits gives them a glow and the glow is what they seek.

So Ms Zuckerberg is trying to defend an intellectually disreputable Leftist tradition from those who really want to learn from the classics. And she is right in seeing lots of such people on the political Right. I had read most of the Greek canon by the time I was 18 and greatly enjoyed my Thucydides. And all the other writers I have encountered who quote Thucydides have been conservatives. The twisted little tales told by Ms Zuckerberg and her clique will simply never interest us, if we note them at all.

And it seems that she regrets that. The subtext of her article seems to be that she is not getting enough recognition and support: A very Leftist preoccupation. Maybe she just wants to get laid.


I have been restored!

On 10th, I put up an amused post reporting that had blocked me from commenting when I mentioned that the ferociously Leftist game designer Ernest Adams was probably born that way.  I sent quora a link to the post.  I heard nothing further from them but, Lo and behold, the block has gone and I can comment once more.  I guess they must have learned something.


Boris Johnson wants to make Britain great again

Boris Johnson today sets out a grand vision of Britain’s “glorious” post-Brexit future as a low-tax, low regulation economy paying nothing to the EU for access to the single market.

In a 4,000-word article for the Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary restates the key demand of the Leave campaign - that £350m a week currently sent to Brussels should be redirected to fund the NHS.

He says that Britain should not continue to make payments to the EU after Brexit and that ongoing membership of the European single market and customs union would make a "complete mockery" of the referendum.

Mr Johnson, who has said virtually nothing about Brexit in the wake of the election, makes no reference to any transition period after 2019 and makes repeated reference to how EU bureaucracy is a drag on economic performance.

The blueprint and vision he sets out today differs markedly from the plan set out by Philip Hammond and other Cabinet ministers - who have stressed the need to remain close to the single market and pay money to maintain access.

It comes less than a week before Theresa May delivers a pivotal Brexit speech in Florence, and effectively amounts to an ultimatum to the Prime Minister on what she is expected to say.

It is understood that the Foreign Secretary wished to make a speech about Brexit but has not had the opportunity. Whitehall sources suggested that the Prime Minister and Chancellor were unaware of Mr Johnson's article.

His Brexit blueprint will send shockwaves through the Tory ranks and will inevitably spark speculation that Mr Johnson - who sources say supports the Prime Minister and her agenda - may still harbour leadership ambitions, as the Conservative Party prepares to meet at its annual conference next month.

In his passionately patriotic article he insists that Britain can be “the greatest country on earth” and rounds on so-called Remoaners “who think we are going to bottle it”.

He also accuses Labour of “chickening out” of Brexit.

The most striking inclusion in his article is the repetition of his claim that Britain will be £350 million per week better off after leaving the EU and that the money could be spent on the NHS. The controversial claim appeared on the side of the Leave campaign bus during last year’s referendum campaign and has been bitterly disputed by Remainers ever since.

However, Mr Johnson says: “Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week.

“It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS, provided we use that cash injection to modernise and make the most of new technology.”

Mr Johnson is also dismissive of the suggestion that Britain should pay to access the single market during the transition period or beyond, saying: “We would not expect to pay for access to their markets any more than they would expect to pay for access to ours.”

He deploys soaring rhetoric in the tub-thumping article to insist that Britain “will succeed in our new national enterprise, and will succeed mightily” while slapping down opponents of Brexit who are “woefully underestimating this country” and who think Brexit “isn’t going to happen”.

The Foreign Secretary also settles old scores by attacking those who tried to prevent the Leave vote, such as “the government, the BBC, Barack Obama, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the CBI [Confederation of British Industry], every major political party and much of the media”.

Under Mr Johnson’s blueprint for Brexit, leaving the EU must “logically entail” leaving the single market, the customs union and the European Court of Justice.

He says Britain will “keep environmental and social protections that are fair and wise”, but will ditch EU regulations that he says cost anything between 4 and 7 per cent of GDP.

Treading heavily on Mr Hammond’s toes, Mr Johnson says: “We should seize the opportunity of Brexit to reform our tax system,” pointing out that the Bank of England’s chief economist said in 2015 that the system is “skewed” and discourages investment.

He adds: “Outside the EU there are obvious opportunities… in the setting of indirect taxation. At the stroke of a pen, the Chancellor will be able to cut VAT on tampons; often demanded by parliament but – absurdly – legally impossible to deliver.”

Boris Johnson and Rex Tillerson photo call Boris Johnson and Rex Tillerson photo call
He also suggests that Britain should think about taxing foreign buyers of British property to prevent them forcing house prices up.

Another way of tackling the housing crisis, he says, would be to simplify planning laws and environmental impact assessments.

He singles out the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for praise, but makes no mention of the Brexit Secretary David Davis or the Chancellor Philip Hammond.

On immigration, he says that businesses should be able to access the skills they need but “will no longer be able to use immigration as an excuse not to invest in the young people of this country”. He also wants a Britain where “fat cat” bosses are no longer rewarded for failure.

On trade, Britain will be able to “get on and do free trade deals” around the world, particularly with Commonwealth countries, rather than looking to the EU for ways to expand.

His view directly challenges Mr Hammond’s preference for a lengthy transition period leading to a “jobs first” agreement with the EU.

Mr Johnson sees Brexit as a “chance to catch the wave of new technology, and to put Britain in the lead”. As automated vehicles take over the car market, the car industry will transform itself in Britain, while the protectionist EU will try to hold back the revolution.

He also accuses Jeremy Corbyn of “chickening out” of Brexit with his party’s preference for remaining in the single market and customs union, or nearest equivalent.

“He would make a complete mockery of Brexit,” he writes, “and turn an opportunity into a national humiliation.”




An obituary for Chris Brand is now online here.  It is in a journal he often wrote for and is by a former student of his plus his wife and his son


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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, September 17, 2017


In 1974 I had a book published under the title "Conservatism as Heresy". It is now online here. The very title was a challenge to the dictionary definition of conservatism, which refers to support for the status quo or opposition to change. And it was obvious that the definition had problems. It was before the era of either Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher but there were already rumblings from conservatives of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire for change. And not long afterwards Thatcher and Reagan upset the status quo comprehensively -- to cheers from conservatives.

So what, then, IS conservatism? There has not been much discussion of that. In their usual deaf and blind way, the Left insist on sticking to the dictionary definition despite all the evidence to the contrary. So they don't debate what conservatism is.

Roger Scruton wrote a book in 1980 called "The meaning of conservatism" and he summasrizes his thinking here. He has many valuable insights but he is more a reactionary than a conservative. Is there ANY American -- conservative or not -- who would agree that "the future is the past"? That is Scruton's summary of a core conservative outlook.

And there have of course been a variety of conservative philosophers and intellectuals who have offered their definitions. I summarize them one by one here. Of them all I like Ronald Reagan's comment best: "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.... The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom" And that definition is by now mainstream among conservatives themselves.

But Trump has come along and upset that applecart. Trump is no libertarian. Restrictions on trade and immigration are the antithesis of libertarianism. And a concentration on national greatness is unknown to libertarians.

But we should not have been be surprised at Trump's irruption onto the scene. The libertarian party has been standing in American elections for many years and getting nowhere. It is a outrider in American politics, not a main player. Libertarian ideas do help conservative thinking but they are not the whole of it.

And yet Trump has gained wholehearted support from a majority of conservative voters, first in the primaries and then in the presidential election. And despite his ups and downs most of those voters still support him. People who had found their only refuge in the wishy washy Republican party suddenly found a new champion who was much more after their own hearts. The previous GOP offering to Trump in a presidential election was Mitt Romney. Need I say more?

So I think the GOP old hands will have to accept it sooner or later that Trump has taken conservatism back from the siren of libertarian and Leftist ideas and given it new heart. Trump has redefined conservatism. And non-establishment conservatives love him for it. I do.

But after such an upheaval someone is going to have to pick up the pieces and define the new core of conservatism. And I want to add a few thoughts in that direction. And I hope in what I say that I can point to an underlying core theme that explains all the ideas that have been and are described as conservatism. That is a big ask but I think I can get most of the way there.

For a start, there can be little doubt that conservatism is NOT a selection of political policies. The policies that conservatives have espoused over the last 200 years or so have been all over the shop. Finding a common theme among them could only give something impossibly vague. No. We have to go down to the psychological level to explain conservatism. And Scruton and many other conservatives over the years have been agreed on that. I am not being at all innovative is saying that. What I hope to do is to zero in on exactly WHAT psychological trait separates conservatives from others. And I obviously have to explain Leftism too. The great opponents of Left and Right obviously cannot be understood by themselves

And my proposal for the psychological trait that ties all conservatives together is in the heading of this essay. I believe that conservatives are dispositionally contented. They are not contented with everything nor are they contented at all times but contentment is their natural state.

And that contentment leads to some obvious policy preferences. They like their traditional religion and don't like to be told it is wrong (about homosexuality, for instance) and they don't like new laws that might upset arrangements they are content with. They are for instance comfortable with the age-old division of labor between the sexes so don't at all see the point of setting quotas for the proportion of women in business management or politics. And they see no reason why their normal descriptions of people as "fat", "short", "retarded" etc. have to be changed.

And, in the normal human way, they like best people of their own kind and that extends to groups of people as well as individuals. They are proud of their ancestors and proud of their country. They are happy to be what they are and happy about how they got there. The constant Leftist need to denigrate their ancestors and their fellow countrymen as "racists" just does not feel right to them and makes no sense. They like their country and want to make it great again.

My own 1974 claim that conservatism was heresy reflected the fact that, already at that time, the political consensus had settled around policies that tended to disturb conservative contentment. In particular, Australia had just come out of a long reign (1949 to 1972) of somnolent conservative governments into an era governed by a Leftist Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, who seemed determined to upset everything he could.

I could go on from there with more examples of the role of contentment but I think other examples of conservative policies springing from a contented disposition are pretty easy to think of.

So what is Leftism? Leftists are the discontented people. They dislike heaps in the society around them and want to tear down as much of that as they can.  And there is more to it than mere discontentment. They are also angry and hostile most of the time. Their natural inclination is to be angry with everything. They probably are never really content. They are always looking for ways to destroy anything that provokes their anger. They often achieve their policy aims but that does not content them for a moment. There are always new "injustices" to attack. They are insatiable. They never reach a state that they are remotely happy with. They somehow think that there is a new Eden around the corner but they can never seem to get anywhere near it.

For example, they think homosexuality should not be illegal. They get that. Then they want homosexuals to be broadly accepted socially. They get that. Then they want homosexuals to be able to enter into a form of marriage, They get that. Then they want all criticism of homosexuals, including Bible criticisms, to be stigmatized as "homophobia". And they are mostly there with that. And just around the corner "homophobia" will be illegal.

So we see why there will always be a fierce political polarity. Leftists have had many triumphs in destroying existing arrangements and they want more. Although conservatives would rather be left alone to enjoy their friends, their families, their church, their sports or their national identity, they will always have to gird up their loins and try to block Leftist destructiveness. Though sometimes the Left sabotages itself, with the implosion of Obamacare being a good example of that. Leftists are so angry that they usually can't think straight. They overlook important realities and thus generate "unexpected" outcomes that destroy what they set out to achieve.

It may be noted that the account I have given of conservatism is not a million miles from the old claim that conservatives oppose change and support the status quo. Where my account differs is that it takes note of what conservatives have to face. The idea that conservatives oppose ALL change is absurd. They oppose destructive change. There is always a torrent of actual and proposed Leftist changes that have to be opposed to prevent chaos and preserve order. Leftists think their changes are so obviously right that conservatives could only oppose them through an ornery disposition to oppose ALL change. The idea that conservatives might have good reason to oppose their changes they just cannot consider. The idea that conservatives oppose all changes whatsoever is just Leftist propaganda.

My claim that contentment is an enduring psychological disposition does imply that it is hereditary. And the evidence that the level of happiness/contentment in us is substantially pre-set is strong. See here.

And all the general population surveys show conservatives to be happier. Pew, for instance, reports that: "Some 45% of all Republicans report being very happy, compared with just 30% of Democrats and 29% of independents. This finding has also been around a long time; Republicans have been happier than Democrats every year since the General Social Survey began taking its measurements in 1972"

Leftists hate that finding. In their usual projective way, they think conservatives should be miserable.  So there have been innumerable attempts to explain it away -- even going to to the lengths of measuring the crinkles around the eyes of congresscritters!  You couldn't make it up.

I put up an earlier version of this essay a year ago.  It has some points additional to those above  -- JR


Trump is a limited government president

Because of his emphasis on broader aspects of conservatism, some fear that Trump may have lost focus on the importance of individual liberty and limited government but Printus LeBlanc below shows that not to be so

Recently, the Competitive Enterprise Institute issued a report comparing the number of rules issued by President Obama between Jan. 20 through June 7, 2016, and the same time period for President Trump in 2017. Trump issued 7 percent fewer rules and regulations, with many of the President’s rules rolling back Obama era regulations.

Most important is the difference in the number of “significant” rules. These are rules that have an economic impact of $100 million or more. President Trump has issued 44 percent fewer significant rules than Obama, and once again, many of Trump’s rules are rollbacks of Obama era rules.

It gets even better, the American Action Forum estimates President Trump’s rollback of regulations have saved the taxpayers and private businesses over $86 billion in his first three months in office. Reducing regulatory costs by tens of billions of dollars in only a few months hardly sounds like the work of an anti-limited government president.

Not since President Ronald Reagan has any President taken such an aggressive approach to deregulation, and been so committed to private sector growth in the economy.

The size of government has always been a thorn in the side of conservative and libertarian groups. The government never seems to shrink. Agencies get added and additional employees are hired regardless of who is power. President Trump is changing that.

Already the federal workforce has shrunk by an astounding 11,000 workers since President Trump’s inauguration. By this time in President Obama’s first term, the federal government added 60,000 new workers. The President’s budget proposal indicated he would like further cuts to the federal workforce by 200,000 employees.

Many former Presidents have promised to reduce the size of government, but few have delivered. For once, a President is reducing the size of the federal government and he is being labeled anti-limited government for his efforts.

President Trump announced to the world that the U.S. would be withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on June 1, earlier this year. The Paris Agreement had nothing to do with climate change and was nothing more than a U.N. scheme to redistribute U.S. wealth to more “needy” nations.

Trump understood two things about the agreement. Number one, it was meant to hurt the U.S. economy, and number two, President Obama implemented the agreement without sending it to the Senate, as all treaties are supposed to. President Trump once again showed his fidelity to the Constitution, limited government, and the American worker.

Another globalist agenda item ended by President Trump was the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). It was pitched as a trade deal between nations around the Pacific Ocean, but don’t be fooled. TPP was a massive extra governmental bureaucracy designed to circumvent U.S. sovereignty. President Trump believed the deal would hurt American workers and damage U.S. competitiveness, hardly the actions of an anti-limited government President.

Whenever anyone mentions the words “limited government” the Constitution comes to mind. President Trump’s recent decision on DACA proved his loyalty to the Constitution. President Obama had issued the unconstitutional edict without going through Congress, as Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution states. Despite enormous pressure from both sides of the aisle, the President put the issue where it belongs, in Congress.

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning recently stated, “Trump’s hands-off legislative approach where he sets broad goals while expecting Congress to do its job without micromanagement is a recognition of Congress’ Article I responsibilities under the Constitution. For those who are still stuck in year-old campaign rhetoric, it’s time for them to update their hard drives, because Donald Trump is proving to be the most surprising limited government president in America’s history.”

This is only scratching the surface of the limited government agenda being pursued by the President. As we speak, Trump is making a big push to get tax reform through Congress. The President has signed legislation and initiated reforms at the Department of Veterans Affairs that no one thought possible, and the list goes on and on.

It is time to get over petty jealousy because you or your candidate didn’t win and admit the once in a generation limited government opportunity the President is presenting us with.



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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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