Archives for category: Politics

One of the great public relations coups of all time has been to identify “the left” with goodness and “the right” with “wrong.”

This is especially droll, since, in olden times, “the left” was identified with “sinister.”

Defining “sinister”. . .

Further, and especially before the introduction of toilet paper, the left hand was not a hand you offered in public, especially in handshake or salute. Why? Because in private it was the hand one used to wipe one’s anus after defecation. The idea that “the left,” today, would be synonymous with good intentions and moral goodness and all other things pure and holy is almost hilarious.

But it is just the kind of thing you should expect to happen when the State comes to dominate society.

twv

There is a sort of progress to be identified in civilization, an incline that can be seen in the graded, increasing limits on the demands the state may be allowed to place upon us. It goes something like this:

  • Death
  • Slavery
  • Corvée labor
  • Property confiscation
  • Taxation

Generally, civilized societies emphasize taxation as preferable to confiscation — but naked confiscation exists in America: just look at the practice of civil asset forfeiture.

America’s founding fathers placed an important limit upon confiscatory practices: the Takings Clause of the Bill of Rights. Their idea was that there be allowed no confiscation of property without a valid public use, and not without “just compensation,” either. Unfortunately, state functionaries are not the only ones with designs on others property, and both limits have been repeatedly undermined over the years, indeed flouted. The Keto case being only the most famous. And we now must endure a president who has used the “public takings” procedures of “eminent domain” for his own quite private ends. Who knows where this limit upon state power will go because of Donald Trump?

It is a mark of civilization that intermittant required labor (corvée) is preferable to outright slavery . . . but note that military conscription is a form of corvée labor that looks an awful lot like slavery, and one that often leads to death.

The State often brings back that initial demand upon subjects: the cessation of their very lives.

It is also the case that taxation is yet another form of slavery, just removed from personal control to more alienable commandeering of property. And remember the tale of Genghis Khan, who wanted to raze Manchuria (in the process slaughtering all of the conquered Manchurians) to . . . raise horses. An advisor, the story goes, mentioned to him the principle of the Laffer Curve — though not of course by name — saying that a living population could provide wealth to the Khanate via taxation, while as The Dead they could provide nothing. So, the Great Khan allowed the Manchurians to live, taxing them, thereby enabling his Golden Horde to further spread death and slavery throughout the world, into Persia and the Arab world, through Russia and even as far as Vienna.

Who says government doesn’t work!

Yet I prefer to push back on all forms of conscript service — all the way back to taxation. And then cut taxes. The love of taxation, often expressed these days, is sometimes said to express “caring” for the less well off. I just think of Manchuria. And its people, seen by their Mongol rulers as a mere one small step up from the equine beast.

twv

From PJP’s most famous book.
This first one in this afternoon’s binge is probably the best, no?
Morning Oregonian, 1901

As proof of the degradation of literacy and journalism in America, compare any recent paper — or news website, for that matter — with these three articles from page six of a newspaper near me 118 years ago:



I share these not to argue with them. I could. No problem. But note the quality. Does journalism anything like this exist in America today?

I have not seen it.

twv

This just in my library — recently purchased.

I have in my hand a book about an important political figure I had either not heard of before, or had completely forgotten . . . that is, before I laid hand on this book.

Adolf A. Berle, Jr., was, apparently, a major figure in the “liberalism” in the epoch of FDR and JFK. According to the preface, which is all I have read so far, he was quite influential. Why had I not remembered his name, then? Well, it is not a period I have studied, so I am sure I can be forgiven for my ignorance or forgetfulness. But his was a time I am more than familiar with — my father’s time, so to speak, the time in which my father came of age and grew to maturity and, in fact, a time into which I was born, at the very end — one of my earliest memories is of the live TV coverage in the aftermath of the JFK assassination.

I have dozens of other books to read in my library before this, so I will probably just take away from this book acquisition, for now, my conjecture as to why Adolf Berle is not more often spoken about: it is that name, Adolf.

Hitler’s dark presence eclipsed Berle’s fame, and threatened him with infamy he almost certainly did not deserve. Why the man did not, in the 1940s, adapt to his time by styling himself as “A. Augustus Berle” I know not. Maybe Jordan A. Schwarz, the author of this biography, will explain.

But I can imagine rationales for not trying to solve the problem. Perhaps Berle preferred to stay somewhat behind the scenes. Maybe he hankered a bit for lathe biosas — to the extent anyone who aspired to be “the Marx of the shareholding class” and a “Machiavelli,” too, could manage that — and he simply accepted his fate.

Be that as it may, Berle helped architect the corporatist order of our age, designing and implementing a more durable analog of “national socialism,” slinging a new form of imperialism:

Liberal: Adolf A. Berle and the Vision of an American Era, p. viii
Liberal: Adolf A. Berle and the Vision of an American Era, p. ix

It is worth thinking about this man, for the political party he devoted himself to is now forsaking his mission, replacing it with an insane, moralistic form of statism, a frank socialism or at least quasi-socialism. Berle’s beloved “New Deal” vision is being replaced with an incoherent “Green New Deal,” as concocted by people who are both unlearned and confident, a bad combo, but all-too-familiar in this Trumpian Moment.

It seems apparent to me that Berle’s “American Era” is drawing to a close. I do not know if it will end with a bang or a whimper. I suspect both, in quick succession. Right now is just the time for whining.

My chief wonder, in this regard, is whether the end will come before I make time to read this book.

twv


A Facebook post.

I am glad I waited a few days to comment on the Christchurch shooting. It is apparent that one of the big takeaways from the atrocity is that center-left opinion makers are wildly mischaracterizing the opinons of the mass murderer. And, had I shot my mouth off early, I may have missed this, the biggest story.

John R. Lott, Jr., clarifies:

The shooter wrote: “The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.” And the political figure with whom he most closely identifies? England’s Sir Oswald Mosley, who self-identified as a member of the “left” and proponent of “European Socialism.”

Ever encountered a right-winger who pontificates about the need for minimum wage increases and “furthering the unionization of workers”? Or who denounces “the ever increasing wealth of the 1% that exploit the people for their own benefit.” He goes on to declare that “conservatism is dead” and “global capitalist markets are the enemy of racial autonomists.” He called himself an “Eco-fascist.”

Media Calls The New Zealand Shooter ‘Right-Wing,’” Townhall, March 18, 2019


The shooter was a self-declared leftist.

That being said, very few people are wholly left- or wholly right-wing in political bent. And I am very tempted to call murderous racism a rightist obsession. It is just inconvenient in this case, as in so many others, that the shooter was basically leftist . . . except in his racism.

But even that is not quite correct, for being against Islam and third-world immigration is not, in the shooter’s case, really racist: he opposed both because of population growth fears. Eminently a leftist canard.

He frequently uses the term invader, but his reason was an environmentalist one. “The environment is being destroyed by over population.” Did he hate minorities? He certainly did: “We Europeans are one of the groups that are not over populating the world. The invaders are the ones over populating the world. Kill the invaders, kill the overpopulation and by doing so save the environment.”

You certainly won’t find any of the media, including CNN, blaming environmentalists for the carnage at the mosques.

And it is worse: one reason for his rampage was to spur New Zealand and America to establish further degrees of gun control.

The media also conveniently ignores what the killer hoped to accomplish by his attack. He did it to help achieve “the removal of gun rights” for New Zealanders and Americans. And within a day, politicians in both countries were doing what he wanted. The New Zealand government has already promised a complete ban on semi-automatic guns. American gun control advocates such as Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, quickly applauded the move and suggested that it is a model for United States lawmakers. 

Of course, this isn’t the first time that mass public shooters have supported gun control. The Columbine school killers were also gun control advocates.

This armament regulation position is preëminently left-wing, in that socialism (and leftism in general) denies the individualist foundation of government legitimacy as expressed in Anglo-American liberalism, which rests on the very idea of self-defense. Government is said to gain its just powers from the rights and consent of the governed. To deny self-defense is to find a different source for government legitimacy. Which is far, far left — not liberal or conservative.

So, the murderous ideologue is a leftist, confessedly so. Anyone holding the leftist line that this massacre provides a good reason to confiscate guns is actually siding with the murderer in his own intent. Arguably, if you use this event to push for greater gun control, you have chosen a side: mass murder.

Propaganda by the deed, a century ago, was notoriously counter-productive. The anarchists who engaged in terrorism, way back then, miscalculated. They thought that by attacking the institutions of business and government — and, most specifically, the people who run them — that they would undermine general support for those institutions. But the opposite was the case. Anarchists, not surprisingly, did not understand human nature.

Nowadays, anyone with a lick of sense knows that committing acts of terrorism against individual persons will unite most people against either the murderer’s cause or the murderer’s weapons. Or both. Which is one reason why I expect to see more leftists engage in more shooting: they can count on leftist media and politicians to focus attention away from the cause and against the weaponry.

The only defense, really, is to arm ourselves with the weapons . . . and target the lies of the leftist media and political class, shooting them down one by one.

One of the odder works to bubble up out of the political landscape in the days of anarchist terrorism. More standard fare? Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent.
Don’t tread on . . .

Is an individual more important than a group, why or why not?

…as answered on Quora

I think the question frames the problem of the individual vis-à-vis the collective in a somewhat skewed way. We do not, in a theory of justice, weigh individuals against groups. Not really. Sure, it is a kind of short-hand heuristic to prevent tyranny and mob chaos, but the pertinent issue is this: by focusing on individuals’ specific actions rather than group membership we become able to regulate in-group/out-group antagonisms. And thus keep barbarism at bay.

That is, by applying the same standard to all individuals, up and down and in and out the institutional matrix, we prevent the worst abuses of collectivist thinking and behavior.

And what is collectivist thinking? Not just communism and socialism. It is far more common than that; it is ubiquitous.

Groups tend to form because they are extremely useful and because we are a social species, requiring others’ company just to retain our humanity. But once a group is formed, our biases take over and we tend to favor our in-groups over out-groups and independents (unaffiliated persons). To prevent war, witch hunts, railroading, mass exploitation, persecution, and so much more, we focus the standard provided by the rule of law on individuals, not organizations.

Of course, our current civilization has many exceptions to this liberal idea. But we are no longer a liberal society. Progressives today seem to be turning their back on individual liberty, in the cause of their “intersectionalist” rubric of group identification and positioning; conservatives . . . well, conservatives hate “liberals,” and when they discover themselves thinking liberally, they too often just slow down and question themselves. Both groups hate each other in a grand example of in-group/out-group antagonism.

So, to repeat, I do not think it is a matter of “individuals” being more or less “important” than “groups,” but that group behavior must be regulated along the same lines as independent individual behavior: applying a standard of justice evenly, regardless of group membership, and holding individuals within groups accountable — as much as possible — as individuals rather than as subjects to group privilege, given cover under the umbrella of some anointed collective.

What I have sketched, above, is standard liberalism, of course. It should seem familiar to both conservatives and progressives. But it is, in our time, something that libertarians apply the most rigorously.

Of course, libertarians do usually conceive of the problem as The Individual vs. the State and The Individual vs. the Group. But that is — I hazard — distracting. Because, though individuals are regularly ground down by groups, the greatest crimes of humanity go out of whack group by group. Individualism — the standard I discuss above — protects groups as well as individuals, and it does so by not making any single group’s values a standard, but applying, instead, a set of formal rules to individuals. It’s a way out of the collectivist trap.

And this trap is not a question of the Universal Humanity against other groups and against individuals. For there is no organizable “Univeral Humanity.” That’s an illusion. The universality of humanity may be conceived of as a category, but it cannot be organized. Any attempt to make an umbrella group and its values as the standard to regulate human behavior devolves quickly into smaller groups, and their conflicts.

Thus the need for individualism.

It’s not a question of which is more “important” — for, in a sense, groups are “more important,” for it is in groups that most work gets done. To repeat, by focusing on individual action — and transactions — we can make sure group antagonisms do not spin out of control. Individualism is not “against society” in any meaningful sense. Indeed, it is a theory of — and best practice for — sociality.

twv

Herbert Spencer, leading individualist philosopher of the 19th century.
TDS, the malady of the age, leading to questions like these . . .

Why hasn’t Donald Trump been impeached yet?

. . . as answered on Quora, June 2, 2018 . . .

Every president in my lifetime could have been impeached on some grounds or another. Only one was. And that was for something rather trivial and stupid. Besides, the Senate did not concur with the House impeachment. So it was all a rather pointless enterprise. (Sorry, Bob Barr.)

And, to repeat, every president can be found doing something illegal. Why? Because there are so many laws to break. Just as every American is said to break “three felonies per day,” there are enough regulations hemming in political life that one infraction or another could be found.

Impeachment is not a criminal justice matter, in which Congress must react as a hanging judge over every crime committed by a president. Impeachment is a political matter, and it is by politics alone that the decision to impeach should be made — once a plausible ground for impeachment (“high crimes and misdemeanors”) has been found.

It looks to me that the Trump campaign did break at least one campaign finance law. It is still a bit obscure, but if Congress really wanted to, it could probably impeach him. But since campaign finance laws do not usually end up in prison time — with the exception of the Obama Administration’s successful prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza — one would not expect a simple abridgment of a goofy regulation to end in impeachment and trial.

Other than for political reasons.

And the Republican House is not likely to impeach its own party’s inhabitant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Democrats need to regain the House to hope to do anything of this kind.

Which brings us back to pure politics: if Democrats keep up talking about impeaching Trump for minor points of law, and keep conjuring up wild, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the man, they are going to wind up increasing turnout for Trump in 2020. Americans do not take kindly to the witch-huntery involved in this.

That is, hinged Americans do not. The unhinged remain enthusiasts of impeachment.

But back to my main point: Presidents commit crimes. Just as you and I commit crimes. Because there are so many idiotic regulations defining often quite innocent or at least tolerable actions as crimes.

What bothers me are the worse and worst things that presidents do — like authorizing mass murder overseas and the torture of combatant prisoners, not to mention all the unconstitutional actions the three major branches of federal government routinely engage in. These get scant pushback from the American people, partisans in particular.

It was not for bombing an aspirin factory that Clinton was impeached.

As far as I’m concerned, George W. Bush and Barack Obama should both be in prison for their foreign policy “missteps.” (They were not just mistakes.) But almost no one talks about that, and if they do, then only in a partisan way: Democrats wanted Bush in chains; Republicans wanted Obama under lock and key.

Perhaps because all this oppositionalism is mere partisan hysteria, our political leaders are — to too great an extent — unrestrained by the Constitution. Or by political pressure. Because sensible people dismiss it as idiotic. And because the really bad stuff is tacitly and explicitly supported by both parties.

We should not be talking impeachment. We should be talking, instead, about placing actual, effective limits on the Imperial Presidency.

twv

The binary of belief/unbelief when it comes to the accounts that the military-industrial complex gives for itself is not between A and B.

Let A be anything said by this complex — the Deep State, the public face of which is the Pentagon — and B any particular theory advanced by skeptics of the Deep State.

I do not believe any particular B. And I certainly do not believe any A, not without evidence, extensive evidence. I hold to my distrust now with more conviction than ever.

When it comes to the Deep State, and what it is up to, I hold to Not-A.

I see no reason to believe what these people are saying.

Indeed, I am willing to contemplate just about any conspiracy theory, now.

The corruption of power centers appears to be almost uniform across all institutions. Recently I have come to be astounded at the readiness with which people accept or reject propositions by reason of social controls rather than by reason of . . . reason. If climate science, history, economics, sociology, astronomy and even diet science can become corrupted by the magic of “consensus,” and the social power inherent in hierarchical memeplex systems, then the American military establishment strikes me as not at all likely to be trustworthy.

Why should it? It lies secure, after all, behind very old walls of secrecy.

But members of the permanent state are not, perhaps, incompetent. Those in the Deepest corridors of the Deep State are unlikely to keep their power by their incompetence.

Though our incompetence sure helps.

Our trust. Our cultisms.

Insiders’ interests are almost certainly at variance with ours, especially to those of us who hold to old-fashioned republicanism or anything like liberty.

But I try not to get too excited by all this, in paranoid fashion; I try to maintain some dispassion. Besides, the subject does not lack for curiosity: intrigue intrigues. The agendas of Deep State actors may be hard to ken, but the duplicity of those agents is fascinating.

twv

“If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”

Over the last few decades, increasing numbers of leftists have come to believe that everybody-not-leftist is racist.

Over the past few years, everybody-not-leftist has begun to catch up, coming to understand that progressives are themselves, increasingly, astoundingly, and subtly — as well as not-so-subtly — racist.

The rejection
Of leftist projection
Is a correction
Of the direction
Of intersection-
alist nonsense.