Archives for category: Personal Strategies
Ilhan Omar, Hottest of “the Squad”?

I am beginning to develop some sympathy for Rep. Ilhan Omar.

She seems like a dangerous Islamist, sure, and a likely socialist, too — so two big red checkmarks against her — but she does understand that the foreign policy of the United States towards the Islamic East has not been a matter of sweetness and light. It has, instead, consisted of a long string of interventions that too often look ominously like state terrorism against civilian populations. So when folks on the right express horror at the apparent moral equivalency she draws between the British and U.S. governments, on the one hand, and Al Qaida, on the other, I shrug. 

Just a bit, at least.

She is in many ways both the prettiest and most intelligent of the four “women of color”  U.S. Representatives now known as “the Squad.” But my sympathy for her is muted, for she does seem like an ingrate, unable to articulate an appreciation for what is good about these United States, and seemingly unwilling to repudiate what is bad among her own political allies, the aforementioned Al Qaida as well as the violent communist/anarchist/insurrectionist mob antifa.

Thinking primarily about Rep. Ilhan Omar, apparently, Donald Trump tweeted up a storm on Sunday: 

Trump got called a racist for this, of course. While he doesn’t mention race, progressives and other feeble-minded people made the connection that he must’ve been thinking of the four first-term Congresswomen who have cliqued up around Sandy Ocasio (known by her nom d’politique Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and even better by her initialism, AOC, the other contender for the Hottie award), all of partially non-European, non-Nordic descent. You know, “women of color.” But his remarks only made sense if directed against Rep. Omar alone, for she was the only one of the three born outside the country, in Somalia.

So how were these remarks not racist? Well, Trump provided the ideological/cross-cultural context: of coming “from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.” That is the context: political, ideological, focusing especially upon comparative institutions. 

Much has been made how the phrase “go back to X” is a “racist trope.” And while I will not deny that there is some racism involved in some usages, that was not its primary function. I remember the “trope.” I was alive in the Sixties. It was not primarily used against brown people. At least, I never heard it like that. It was used against communists. And comsymps. And anyone leftist to a perceived dangerous extent. The most oft-used formulation was, I kid you not, “go back to Russia!”

It was often — in fact usually — deployed against non-Russians.

It was an anti-commie, pro-American gambit.

So, for a variant of it to be directed against four socialists (forgive me, “democratic socialists”!), does not back up the whole racist charge. It seems to be what it was obviously intended to be: an attempt to make an ideological point and to criticize the four for ingratitude and a general anti-Americanism.

Oh, and also to force Speaker Nancy Pelosi to defend them, thus tarring the Democratic Party with the antics and immoral stance and rank unpopularity of The Squad. (His line about Pelosi and “free travel arrangements” is hilarious when you remember a specific moment when Trump cancelled a foreign junket of Nancy’s, during the government shutdown a few months back.) 

The general and specific reactions to the Trump versus the Squad twitterstorm was mostly idiotic, of course, including the elaborations made by the president himself, who while clarifying some things (stepping back a bit) botched up a few other facts, as well. As is his wont.

But how, you ask, does any of this account for my growing sympathy for the Somali-American jihadist-socialist pol? Well, telling her to “go back to Somalia” stirs my sympathy for I, too, have been razzed in such a manner: “why don’t you move to Somalia?”

By leftists.

Yes, this is particularly rich.

You see, until fairly recently, it was a game progressives liked to play, taunting libertarians with the Somalia Gambit. Their argument, such as it was, ran like this: libertarians don’t like government, and many of them talk about “anarchy”; Somalia (for a time) did not have a State; therefore, libertarians should move to their utopia, Somalia!

It is rather witless, as syllogisms go, but I tried to be tolerant of the benighted progressives who engaged in it. After all, many libertarians do not make clear enough what it is they oppose and what it is they support. And what are those opposed and promoted institutions? Well! Let me keep this short. Even the anarcho-capitalists, please remember, do not want any old stateless society, they want a society with institutions in place to defend rights. Somalia did not have that, therefore it is and could be no libertarian utopia. As Benjamin Tucker put it, Anarchy is freedom of libertarians defended by libertarians. It is not the statelessness of people without much interest in freedom as understood in terms of individual rights. (This is not to say that my brand of libertarianism is anarchist. Or that it is not. A long discussion would be required to make clear all that.) Of course, progressives generally know so little history and so little anthropology and so little legal theory and so little anything that they are largely unaware that rights can and have been defended by institutions not demanding territorial coercive monopoly, which Max Weber and Barack Obama informed us serve as the hallmark of the State.

The droll aspect to all this? Those witless leftists who taunted libertarians to “go to Somalia” were doing something not too dissimilar from what Trump was doing: defending their beloved government while expressing their umbrage at their targets’ ingratitude. The implicit message to the left’s Somalia Gambit being “you libertarians pretend to hate our State, but the State does so much for you! Go to somewhere where there is no such State and see how you like it!” Likewise, much of the oomph behind Trump’s taunt is to tweak the ingratitude and lack of perspective of the Somali-born Omar, who never seems to have a good thing to say about America.

So now you can see my emerging sympathy for the Hottest of the Squad. She was told to go back to her Somalian hellhole while I have been told to go to my Somalian utopia!

Six of one, half dozen of the other . . . intension/extension!

I am, of course, not nearly as anti-American as is the Somalian-American lady in the hijab.  I am not so much anti-American as Ameri-skeptic. Also, and unlike Rep. Omar, I feel it incumbent upon myself to try to convince nationalists and globalists of my sort of anti-nationalism — she seems uninterested in convincing anyone not already in her political tribe. Just like most leftists, today. It is all Them versus Us. The puritanically moralistic prigs versus The Racist Deplorables!

And I definitely do not want to subsidize more immigrants, legal or illegal, from anywhere.

But especially from Somalia.

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The latest Kaepernick/Nike kerfuffle over the early version of the U.S. flag strikes me as so filled with “ironies” as not allowing me to get worked up about it.

First off, Colin Kaepernick knows almost nothing about history. His past statements have been worse than wrong, they have been silly. Worse, anyone who makes a big deal about “America” in relation to local police misconduct strikes me as making a federal case out of a local matter — and local matters are the easiest ones to change through citizen activism. Like with most of today’s activists, what seems most important to him was not making good change but appearing to “demand” change. And “taking a knee” was oh-so-prayerful. In public. The whole thing was Pharisaic.

But the current issue is funny. He effectively stopped Nike from putting an old flag image on a shoe.

When I was young, I was told that it be improper to place images of the American flag on clothing. And, by law, that remains true — though the law is mostly ignored by everyone (says Jeff Deist).

So Mr. Kaepernick, in objecting to the placement of the Stars and Stripes, has technically honored the flag. Conservative flag-wavers should be jubilant and thank the man.

As for me, I am not much of a flag-waver. It has been used in too many unjust wars for me to be happy with it. I prefer the Don’t Tread on Me flag, and, better yet, the Moultrie (above). I would wear either on clothing and pretend it was patriotism, sure. And I would be breaking no laws.

I do not really care what Colin Kaepernick thinks about that.

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“I’m an intersex girl with right-leaning libertarian views. Is there any place for me in the conservative or libertarian spaces on Quora?”

as answered on Quora

So, let me try to break this down.

Though the term “intersex” is quite common in some circles, most people do not know what it means. My dictionary defines it as a person or animal with both male and female sex organs or characteristics. A very, very uncommon condition.* Which would lead most folks to ask questions, if they dared — questions like “how is ‘intersex’ different from ‘hermaphrodite’?”

I say “dared” because when one does not fall into a common category, any discussion of one’s status seems uncommonly personal, and so, well, prying. The issue becomes tricky in terms of manners.

Now, consider libertarians.

Though the term “libertarian” is common in some circles, most people do not know what it means. When I was young, it was a very, very uncommon social philosophy. Espousing its ideas led people to ask a lot of questions. And they still do.

Political divergence seems to anger people even more than sexual subjects do. Why? Maybe because while most people do not act with most others in a primarily sexual way — we interact in “spaces” like markets, communities, educational institutions and the like, and for production, spiritual support, learning — our interactions all materially intersect with the political. And to hold a divergent view is to challenge others. Cannot be helped.

Indeed, the reason questions of “gender” have become such hot topics recently is not primarily that they are especially challenging to others in normal interpersonal situations (though they certainly can be) but because they have been made political by demands that differently gendered people be treated in certain specified ways, under threat of state force and mob action.

And the reason that libertarians challenge conservatives and progressives and most other ideologies is that libertarians insist that the scope of coercion be severely limited. And folks do not like being told that they should not readily resort to coercion. People depend upon coercion, set much store in it. And, what with politics being largely a matter of directing the awesome coercive power of states to favor some and disfavor others in various ways and situations, it is not shocking that folks would tend to take challenges to their reliance upon coercion as an affront.

That is how the political becomes the personal.

Libertarians might be called “interpolitical” people, because they do not fit the main accepted categories of party and cultural group — or “tribe.”

Example? Well, are libertarians “on the right” or “on the left”? They themselves disagree on this. And non-libertarians disagree on the matter, too. I have often been called an evil leftist by conservatives, and an evil right-winger by progressives. The whole left/right issue is a matter of contention. So, to mimic current gender-identification trends, I might aptly describe myself in political terms as an “interpolitical trans liberal.”

Conservatives, on the other hand, are part of a major political group. As a political philosophy, conservatism is much less coherent than libertarianism, mainly because by a common definition it is more attitude and approach than program. Conservatives often do not know what they stand for as much as what they stand against — which is “progressivism.” But, as I have explained elsewhere, conservatives today are largely, on substantive policy matters, merely the progressives of a century ago. What we now witness in this tumultuous age of ideological turmoil is two branches of progressivism vying with each other for power.

It gets confusing in part because of this goofy popularity of the left/right political spectrum. To today’s leftists, they see everything that is “not left” as “right-wing.” But the political animal is not just two wings: there is a head and tail, torso and feet. You might guess, I do not think of libertarian ideas as either “right” or “left.” Indeed, I hazard that the core attitudes of both rightists and leftists are defensible and even praiseworthy, but because both sides leap to policies of mass coercion, demanding that states engage in extravagant displays of force, it seems to me that both conservatives and progressives are very dangerous to themselves and others.

So, I am neither a right-leaning libertarian nor a left-leaning one.

This puts me in an ideological situation not unlike many of today’s young people who identify themselves as intersex despite being, biologically, not really all that ambiguous. It has become a matter of how one “identifies.” I find this confusing in matters of sex. But I note the parallels with my philosophy. Outwardly, I look like a normal person. But once one asks me a few questions, my normality evaporates faster than a puddle on a hot August day.

As for “spaces,” I just ask and answer questions on Quora. I get very few upvotes, and I am prone to providing arguments that do not fit into standard categories, are perhaps quirky or challenging. I actually do not worry about “spaces.” I find myself interacting with a very few other Quorans. I guess a map of our interactions would define our “space,” but I do not worry about it much.

Because of this, I suggest making a space for yourself by honestly asking and answering questions on Quora, and, on occasion, rethinking your positions. Which is especially appropriate for young people. You call yourself a girl. That indicates youth. It is when you are young that you learn the most, and — rightly — change your mind most often.

It is the metaphorical space between your ears that matters most, here

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N. B. (*) As far as I know, every male has some female sex hormones and every female has male sex hormones, and surely we would say that most people have some traits that are regarded as “of the opposite sex.” But these facts surely are not what people are talking about when they talk about “intersex.” Surely?

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I have friends who are entirely dependent upon the State for their livelihood — and I am not just referring to elderly retirees. Most of these aid recipients have received disability retirement pensions from the Social Security system. These folks are not in any way anomalous in American life. You might be surprised to learn how many disability recipients there are.

More interesting, however, is this fact: no small number of these folks — indeed, most of my friends on state aid — are not die-hard Democrats demanding vast increases in the size and scope of the welfare state.

Not a few are conservatives — one of my closest friends is an authoritarian conservative of the Bill O’Reilly sort — and they rail against lazy people and welfare queens and all the rest.

Yes, they think and vote this way even though they are mostly or entirely dependent upon the taxpayers.

What is going on here? This strikes many people as paradoxical. Many are the Democrats who think that “being a Democrat” is precisely what these state aid recipients should be: grateful, die-hard supporters of the welfare state, devoted to its expansion.

After all, the Democratic Party is the party most enthusiastic about state aid programs like this. And Democrats expect fealty.

What is the matter with Kansas? asked one prominent leftist scrivener. So many Kansans would be so much better off if they voted Democratic and siphoned more special favors off the state — ultimately, off of producing Americans — and “as a matter of right.”

Vladimir Gimpelson and Daniel Treisman, writing in the Washington Post a few years ago, expressed their wonder as to why the very poorest of the poor in our country are so lax in their demands for more redistribution — for programs and handouts that (our querists think) would be “in their interest.” The two professors’ think piece (a summary of an allegedly scholarly study) is entitled “Why don’t democracies take from the rich and give to the poor?” and it presses the question, seeking answers:

Since the time of ancient Greece, political theorists and observers have feared that inequality leads to instability. The greater the income gap, the more the poor have to gain by taking from the rich. In democracies, the thinking goes, inequality should predispose voters to demand government redistribution. In dictatorships, the rich, fearing Robin Hood policies, should resist democratization. And the poor, locked out of power and wealth, should be more tempted by revolution.

Though these arguments have been around since Aristotle, it’s hard to find evidence for them in the real world.

And they cite some recent scholarship on this. Democracies do not turn revolutionary.

Why? Scholars have suggested a variety of things that might derail political unrest. Belief that the economic system is fair, or the hope of being rich someday, or even organized religion might reconcile people to the gap between rich and poor. Or it could be that, with their assets hidden in Swiss bank accounts, the rich these days have just become too hard to expropriate.

But there’s a simpler possibility: Maybe inequality fails to trigger the expected political consequences because most people just don’t know how large the gap is between the wealthy and the rest of us.

“If people don’t know how much they stand to gain and at what cost,“ they conjecture, “why would they take political action?”

Amusingly, that “if” premise is only half-interrogated:

We looked at eight cross-national surveys to see what people believe about inequality. Time and again, large numbers of respondents had no clue what the income distribution looked like in their country, how it had been changing recently, and where in that distribution they personally fit.

The authors conclude that while “Americans still seem relatively relaxed about income inequality,” that may very well “be changing.”

Right. But though the subject of the (in)elasticity of demand for redistribution is interesting for several reasons, my concern is different. Indeed, I wish to begin by interrogating the part of the premise the professors take for granted: do the poor really have anything to gain by increased redistribution of wealth?

As present, after all, the fifth and lowest quintile of market income earners in America do not pay federal income taxes. They are, in fact, net tax consumers. Maybe the poor do not demand more because they have an inkling about how much they get now.

Actually, I suspect that the poorest grossly underestimate the levels of their subsidy. Indeed, I suspect that Professors Gimpelson and Treisman — economist and political scientist, respectively — would underestimate the current levels of subsidy. You see, our professors at the Post are only interested in “income inequality” and how it is perceived, and how these two things stack up against the demand for further redistribution that they have somehow measured. (Maybe I will carefully read their paper, but I haven’t yet, and nothing they write suggests to me that they are onto something very important.)

So, what is the level of subsidy in America? Well, after-tax, after-subsidy incomes show that the lowest income quintile in these United States have an effective (net) negative tax rate of over 200 percent:

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That is, they do not pay taxes, net of the full panoply of state benefits (SNAP, SSI, Section 8 housing, etc.). They get subsidized to the tune of 213 percent.

This is a huge amount of handouts. Sure, too many businesses receive subsidies in America — far too many — and some rich folk make a lot of money off the government, but, evened out, it is the poor who right now do get the lions’ (or pigs’) share of redistributed wealth.

And it is rather astounding that our two professors of egalitarian studies (for that seems to be their real profession, here) nowhere indicate that the poor right now are living off of the rich. Our professors just assume that “the poor” should demand even more.

Now, I could spend many paragraphs explaining the complexities of income statistics, the slippery nature of the “increasing inequality” meme. Because it tracks statisticians’ artifacts — a five-fold division of society by incomes — and the amount of wealth that changes in these quintiles, and not the majority of individuals who do indeed move from one quintile to another and then back again as they navigate the arcs of their lives, all this inequality talk is mostly confusion and error. But I am going to let others handle those niceties. I am going back, doggedly, to that basic query: why don’t the poor demand more?

Yesterday, on the YouTube show Right Angle, Steve Green, Scott Ott, and Bill Whittle offered some possible answers — responding to the Post piece:

  1. “There aren’t enough poor people” in our country to actually vote themselves more — America is richer than you think, says Steve Green. While the professors think the poor overestimate their wealth levels, Green in effect says that the professors overestimate the number of the poor — and in a democracy, numbers count.
  2. And Green offers another reason for lack of egalitarian envy: “even our poor people are kick-ass Americans.”
  3. Bill Whittle suggests that our poor Americans have more than a hunch that, by world standards, they are rich — and yes, our poor are richer than many another country’s poor. It would be ungrateful to demand more. And perhaps (Whittle moves on quickly) our poor have a broader perspective — and more “moral fiber” — than our professors.
  4. Whittle also wanders into the point hinted at above: this talk of income quintiles obscures the truths of income mobility. The American system of merit “allows people to move up and allows people to move down.” Given this reality, it would be stupid for the poor to scuttle their best way out.
  5. Scott Ott notes that, as a general rule, the folks most exercised by income inequality are people far above the gutter. The suggestion here is that maybe talk of income inequality does not really serve the poor. Maybe it serves a class or classes of the better-off. Alas, Ott does not explore this latent idea in his answer, but goes on to speculate that America’s low-income earners just do not buy into the solution as a workable feature to rise out of their ruts.

To explore the notion that Ott skips over too quickly, you might best turn to netizen-philosopher Stefan Molyneux, who talks about “languasites.” In a world of Makers and Takers, these “language parasites” find tricky ways to assuage the fears (and other anxieties and insecurities) of the Makers and thus leech off of them. A grand example can be found in Lucian of Samosata’s Hermotimus, or The Rival Philosophies, in which we encounter an earnest student of Stoicism milked of his wealth and diverted from his youth in the vain pursuit of . . . enlightenment . . . which is translated as “Happiness” in the edition I own, Marcus Aurelius and His Times: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity (1945), Irwin Edman (introduction), p. 172.

This idea of the linguasite (“tongue parasite,” with some loose construction — but surely better than “languasite”) is awfully pregnant, and it might be useful to prod Molyneux further on just who does and does not fall into that category. But the idea is fairly clear. And in the context of the income inequality obsession, what we have here are the second-hand dealers in ideas who F. A. Hayek wrote about. More importantly, we have a class idea, here. Many members of the cognitive elite somehow find themselves ensconced in key positions in the welfare state. Might not they develop a natural class interest in promoting the idea no matter its effects on the poor themselves? College professors, for instance, are consulted by bureaucracies and legislators, and teach many future government functionaries, lobbyists, lawyers and journalists who make their livings transforming society away from the ugliness of consumer-determined merit and into “rationally-determined” social justice.

And here we come to the interesting aspect of the welfare state: the establishment of classes based on state redistribution.

Now, we have to forget Marxian analysis, for his simple oppression/exploitation theory of class was based on a misconstrued of the nature of trade and productivity in a market economy. And we can glide right over the classical liberal class theory (very interesting, and not entirely irrelevant) that Marx pilfered to concoct his grand farrago. We should turn to Joseph Schumpeter, instead.

imageClasses form around perceptions of success, wrote the great economist in an under-appreciated study. “What makes a subgroup of society,” I wrote in the Laissez Faire Books edition a few years ago, “‘organically’ related enough to qualify as special, as constituting a class?” The answer can be found in “social factors like honor, which was, after all, the basis of the first major governance system of civilization. And honor depends on — is, indeed, obsessive about — success. It is not failure but success that ‘exerts a continuing effect’” that forms a class. But let us turn to Schumpeter for a fuller picture:

[S]uccess brings in its wake important functional positions and other powers over material resources. The position of the physical individual becomes entrenched, and with it that of the family. This opens up further opportunities to the family, often to an even greater degree than to the successful individual himself, though these positive factors are to some extent offset by the deadening effect on the original impetus of exalted position and security, by the diversion and complication of interests, and perhaps also by the sheer exhaustion of energies which everyday experience shows to be not uncommon. Coordinate families then merge into a social class, welded together by a bond, the substance and effect of which we now understand. This relationship assumes a life of its own and is then able to grant protection and confer prestige.

I speculate that one of the great triumphs of the modern welfare state has been to reroute the mechanisms of class away from natural groupings like family and clan and into the artificial, state-bounded and -funded institutions like the Academy.

And maybe one reason professors promote redistribution, in their writings and lectures, more enthusiastically than the poor do, with their votes, is that the subsidized poor serve as trophies of the cognitive elites. Perhaps increasing state redistribution is not advocated by the elites because it really helps the poor, but because it is emblematic of class success, and thus class cohesion and prestige. The poor do not gain prestige by sucking up more taxpayer-funded resources. But boy, members of the cognitive elite do!

But is that all there is to it? Class interest?

I think not. I suspect, anyway, a bit of economic rationality going on here. I suspect that not a few normal people look at the demographics of redistribution and become alarmed. My wards-of-the-state friends are dependent upon continued support. Increasing the ranks of the recipients, or even the amounts generally redistributed, does not make the system they depend upon more secure.

Do you see the incentive here? No small number of state aid recipients oppose expansion of the programs that support them. And while socialist ideologues might think that these clients of the State are somehow naturally beholden to a robust welfare state ideology, and that by voting Republican (or worse, Libertarian) they are “voting against their interests,” this is simply not the case. People “on welfare” have a very compelling interest to not support the increase in the size and scope of the programs that supports them.

Let me restate why: increasing the number of recipients of such aid programs could very well jeopardize the financial stability of those very programs, endangering the livelihood of current recipients.

This is a very basic point. To not notice this point is to miss something about the nature of economic redistribution: that it depends on a larger population of contributors putting wealth into the system than taking out of it. The more recipients of taxed funds we add puts a strain on those taxed, especially if the ratio gets out of hand. On pure economic grounds, it makes sense to be a member of a small group gaining at the expense of the majority than a large group gaining at the expense of a minority.

We cannot all live at the non-reciprocal expense of others.

One might call this perspective common sense. But it is not “folk economics” — it is theoretically sound; the rationale works out in extended analysis. Indeed, one of the problems with the sustainability of Social Security in the United States — and of similar programs throughout the West — is that the ratio of contributors to recipients is getting smaller. The trend line is foreboding. It is the reason we are at last taking Social Security off the proverbial “third rail” and contemplating reforms such as raising the retirement age and raising the income ceiling for FICA contributions, er, taxes.*

What is astounding to me is that this elementary fact of redistribution — that it cannot be complete, that socialism itself is a fantasy never capable of delivering on its promises, for we cannot all be Takers. There must be Makers. And there should be a reasonable ratio between them to make the programs sustainable.

That this notion of redistribution has seemingly evaporated from the public conversation strikes me as odd. I do not even hear libertarians, the strongest critics of government redistribution of wealth, bring it up very often, and cannot now think of an instance where it became part of a general theory of redistribution. But the more I think about this, the more basic it seems.

Indeed, it applies to criminology, too: the more theft going on in society — and remember, theft is merely the illegal redistribution of wealth — the more crime would drag society down. It is in the interest even of criminals to discourage crime generally. Perhaps for this reason (if not this reason alone) criminals rarely oppose laws against theft and murder and the like. They realize social systems cannot be stable where everyone plays criminal. They simply make an exception for themselves. They try to bet against the house, hoping to squeak through the cracks of the system and gain “rents” that would evaporate if too many criminals tried to game the system. It is instructive to recognize the fact that criminals themselves rarely even try to take up the pretense that theft and murder are good ideas to spread around. It is as exceptions to the rule that criminals’ livelihoods make any sense at all.

That is perhaps one reason why, when crime becomes “organized,” territory and limitation of criminal acts according to “honor” and other codes, become common. It is also one reason why police often are deferential to organized crime: a monopoly of a service limits the supply of the service, and criminal monopoly is better than no such monopoly, which would mean more crime. And thus greater the threat of unsustainability. Yes, crime can serve as an excellent example of “market failure” — that is, for situations where the criminals, acting in their separate self-interests, yield themselves a net detriment, not benefit.

All of this reiterates one basic thesis: leftism is parasitic upon the system it despises. Nearly all leftists I have ever met abhor the idea of “profit.” They consider business activity necessarily “dirty.” They are distrustful of markets, and see in markets only internecine competition and, in fact, predation and parasitism.

This view of social life I regard as obviously and completely at odds with reality, the inverse of the truth. Redistribution is parasitism. Leftism is the philosophy that parasitism via State redistribution is good in and of itself — perhaps better than production in the market. And socialism is the bizarre notion that “we can all be parasites” — though of course socialists do not state their doctrine in such a bald, unvarnished way. Instead, socialists cook up shaky theories purporting to show that market distribution is not productive, that the rich who gain so much by trade are in fact “exploiters” of the poor, and that the poor would be better off without the rich . . . or at least better off were the rich sucked dry.

It used to be understood among old-fashioned Progressives and FDR/LBJ-style “liberals” that one could go too far in redistributing wealth. But by earnestly grinding through their rationales for taking from some to give to others, modern progressives have lost sight of the basic realities inherent in the system they propose. And so they cannot see — or at least countenance talking about at any length — any point in emphasizing those limits.

This can be clearly seen in the cultural divide between The Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. The Occupiers characteristically demanded more redistribution and more regulation and generally derided the evils of big business. The Tea Party, on the other hand, was concerned with curbing government spending and aiming to balance budgets. Democrats mocked those “tea baggers” who seemed to misunderstand basic realities, such as when signs were held aloft saying “Keep the Government Out of My Medicare.” And that sort of thing is indeed hilarious. But the idea still remains that adding people onto Medicare rolls and under-funding the system does not help people who have come to rely upon Medicare.

So the signs really meant “Keep Progressives Out of My Medicare.”

But Democrats — who now seem almost uniformly “progressive” — have missed the point. They cannot see sustainability as a legitimate issue. Politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren have gone so far as to call the conscientious Tea Party activists “anarchists.” It is hard to imagine a more absurd charge. But, when you hold to the crazy idea that more government is always better government, you will tend to say absurd things.

So we exist now at this strange point in history when the Democratic Party has lost its grip on power even though it is the party of special interest promises and Potlatch “generosity.” The last moment of possible turnaround for the Democrats was, I think, when they turned on the Tea Party. Had they embraced the Tea Party, and made a public effort to rein in spending, they would now be dominant and their hold on power unassailble. But that was not to be. They had become so blind to the realities of redistribution and its parasitism upon productive capitalism that they lost savvy people even amongst the recipient cohorts. Sure, leftism has always been parasitic on the system it hankers to destroy. But parasitism only works on a principle of hormesis. It is the hygiene theory of immunity as applied to the body politic. The hookworm is the parasitic drain. Too many, and the host dies.

The idea that progressives now regard contemplation and discussion of this principle utterly verboten says a lot about their divorce from reality. Their fantasy now runs their policy prescriptions. And it may very well be a function of class prestige that is one of the drivers for this. Sure, there are other factors — like the socialist soteriology, or the entelechy at the heart of the left’s other-obsession memeplex — but we should not overestimate the wisdom of the elites or the folly of the poorest among us.

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N.B.  There is, of course, another very basic reason for state aid recipients not to support increasing the register of aid recipients: they may want to think of themselves as deserving recipients, and fear that others placed on the rolls for laxer standards might be seen as unworthy, or as being dangerously discouraged from finding alternate means of support. And the more folks going onto the rolls for comparatively trivial reasons might poison the well politically, and tar all recipients as unworthy of help. To what extent this fear is a rational, moral or merely a petty rationalization, I will consider at another time.

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The problem with piling on against Trump, as so many people now do, is that the bulk of those who oppose Trump — and surely those who scream most loudly — did not and do not extend their criticisms to Trump’s predecessors.

Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama were each quite bad in extremely important ways. Those who think that Trump is particularly bad base most of their critiques on matters of style. And thus they excuse themselves from dealing with substance.

I want no part of this numskullery, so I rarely dump on Trump.

Sure, it would be easy. But it would be worse than no good. It would make matters worse. It promotes a backlash against a symptom of a deeper problem while inoculating the population from any genuine fix.

Yes, I regard the anti-Trump pile-on as perhaps even more indecent than Trump himself.

Of course, Americans (by and large) want to be fooled. They want to think most things are hunky dory just so long as the leaders of their party (whichever it is) get in power . . . and the opposition party be ousted. I have zero sympathy for this view. I think it delusional.

Which explains why I merely marshal the occasional criticism against the new presidency. Never go full anti-Trump.

Making much of opposing Trump is mere virtue signaling — without the virtue.

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Three decades ago, I was briefly involved in a campaign in Jefferson County, Washington State, to prevent nuclear warheads from being stored within its borders. I knew it was a hopeless endeavor — there seemed zero chance for local government, spurred by idealistic citizens, to prevent the U.S. Navy from using nearby Indian Island as a maximum security repository for missiles and warheads taken from submarines scheduled for maintenance at Bangor Trident Base — but it did introduce me to the leftist activists in the northern parts of the Olympic Peninsula.

The fit was not always comfortable. Among many interesting moments with these people, I remember most clearly my first encounter with an angry feminist. And with clueless feminists.

FD110687-98A7-4289-95AC-B972EE0200C6But the biggest difference may have regarded our different ethical approaches. I was not prone to the same sort of moralism that they were, for one thing. Or Utopianism. I also had become convinced that MAD was a successful policy, on the whole, and that the traitorous Rosenbergs may have inadvertently served as the saviors not only of America but also of humanity. So I occasionally said things more than a tad out of place amongst the activists.

One of the odder moments of mutual incomprehension concerned the reasons to oppose the bomb storage. I offered a NIMBY argument, and mention the threat of terrorism. “Indian Island is a target.” The activists looked at me blankly. They were uninterested in terrorism. Terrorism was not on their radar, except, I suppose, as a tactic that they could imagine themselves using, push come to shove.

I remember Bob the bookseller looking at me, puzzled, having caught the implication of my logic. “Where do you want the bombs stored?” he asked. “And how many do you think we need?”

“How many nuclear bombs would you like?” That last question was rather pointed.

I had no idea, of course, so I shrugged. I am generally not good at prescribing for an institution I am not in any way responsible for.

C431E517-A2BF-4990-A419-D3BF9FF48CFCHonestly, I thought terrorism was the wave of the future. A few years later, after Bush’s invasions of Panama and Iraq, I was more confident yet. Sure enough, my suspicion proved increasingly savvy over the years, constituting one of two sets of prophecies that showed me not a complete nutball. I felt satisfied, I confess: I understood some things about the way the world worked that most people did not seem to. At all.

Yup, terrorism and the price of gold. I was right, way back then.

Now, I have no idea what is going to happen next. My hunches are all over the place, between financial Armageddon and the Singularity!

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N.B. Pictured are three Google maps of the area in Jefferson County where I lived at the time. Circled in red are where the offices of Liberty magazine were listed with the Post Office (the Polk Street apartment building I lived in) and (at bottom) they were actually located, on top of the hill. One of my first jobs for Bill Bradford, Liberty’s publisher, in my first year or two working for him, was Community Plenipotentiary. That is, I would get involved in community activism so he would not have to! Yes, he paid me to do this sort of thing. Thankfully, it did not take up much of my time, and arguably I did it on my own time. I was not being paid by the hour.

Social Justice Lunatics

If ever we wondered how on earth a wide, once-learned culture could ever go whole hog for repression, tyranny, rage, murder, etc., we no longer need to. Just look at the faces of the young “activists” on college campuses. Cultism incarnate.

Smug self-righteousness in mob form.

These youngsters are worse than the traditionalists who scorned the hippies. The people who made me a “radical” when I was young. As if Hegel’s dialectic really were a thing, left has become right and right left; the cultural “radicals” (I hate to imply we take the same noösphere space) now exhibit the censorious traits of the cultural trads.

Yes, the new cultic leftism is really a form of conservatism (defending the institutionalized policies of the left, and then pushing for tyrannical advance of every last marginal gain through social controls like bullying, threats, mass boycott, shaming, and all the rest) combined with a self-image of radical chic “coolness.”

This is the age of the steely-eyed radical . . . with power.

One good thing about the Trump phenomenon is that these dangerous totalitarians have been dealt a firm kick in the pants.

They deserve many more.

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Nope Trump

 

 

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A. Sean Hannity is almost impossible for me to watch. His form of ideological “entertainment” is not only not my cup of tea, I often find it despicable. He seems to be iffy on principles — inconstant, anyway — and his support for Donald Trump was hard to take.

B. Media Matters lied and completely mischaracterized Hannity’s handling of the Roy Moore allegations. And pressured a coffee maker company to pull its ads from his show.

C. Media Matters — why would you want me to sympathize with Sean Hannity?

D. How is Media Matters not worse than what they say about Hannity?

E. If you approved of Media Matters’ action regarding Hannity and still do after you learn (you could listen to the interview, yourself, if you cared) that Media Matters was engaging in outrageous deception, how are you not worthy of boycott, too?

F. Do you see where this partisan bubble enforcement is a bad idea? Now? Or do you think complete culture war is a great thing, and should be embrace?

G. Just how far would you be willing to go?

H. A lot of Sean Hannity’s fans and defenders (I’m now the latter if still not the former) own guns.

I. You. It comes down to your standards. What will it be?

Stephen Willeford

On Sunday, Mr. Stephen Willeford, a late middle-aged Christian man with an AR-15 (the rifle most despised by gun control advocates, often called “an assault rifle”) stopped a mass murderer who was systematically executing those remaining alive after his initial horrific barrage of gunfire. Willeford brought a halt to the evil man’s executions just as the shooter was standing above a fearful victim on the floor. How did Willeford do this? By engaging him with gunfire. A pursuit followed, and before the chase was over, the Christian had shot the criminal twice, severely wounding him. Police picked the mass murderer off in the end, but there is no question that the AR-15-wielding citizen saved at least one life . . . and possibly many more.

img_0452He is precisely what many deny exist: a good man with a gun.

Among the many lessons?

  • It is useful to have a high-powered, easy-to-fire semi-automatic rifle at hand and know how to use it.
  • It is useful to have ammo pre-loaded in multiple magazines — our hero might have saved more lives had he possessed three or four magazines in full ready, since, after identifying the sounds he heard as gunfire, he took some time obtaining and loading one of the several magazines he used that day.
  • And yes, this turned out to be precisely one of those situations in which owning a lot of ammo and magazines that hold many rounds each was crucial for justice to be reëstablished.

Also, Willeford was not merely an NRA member, he was also an NRA-certified instructor in firearms use.

It is now well known that existing firearms regulations might have stopped the assailant from acquiring his arsenal, but government agencies failed to do their mandated jobs. “New regulation” does no good if government is (as it often is) incompetent. The killer bought his guns illegally according to current law.

Were it not for the creepy times we live in, I would be amazed to learn that a universal upswelling of praise of and honor to Mr. Willeford failed to develop.

Instead, much of the major media has engaged in really icky innuendo and defensiveness as well as denial of facts and misstatements of common knowledge about firearms.

Also, I have heard no small amount of anti-Christian snark.

Creepy America.

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N.B. Steven Crowder’s interview with Willeford, though cringeworthy in some respects, is must-see on this issue.

This synopsis first appeared on my Facebook page the other day. That is indeed where most of my blogging starts these days.

In the wake of the church shooting in which a Christian man, Stephen Willeford, shot a mass murderer after a car chase there has, of course, been much discussed on social media. I have tried not to get involved . . . directly.

So, “indirectly,” there is this: what I would have said on Facebook had I said anything on Facebook. . . .

img_0452Friend:

No matter what you might think on the subject, many Christians pray after a tragedy not because they are virtue signaling, but rather because they are praying for the repose of souls.

It is an act of mercy.

I can’t fathom why this would upset people.

Stranger:

What I’m seeing in this issue is on one hand, people sick and tired of seeing news of another mass shooting, and on the other hand, politicians and other “leaders” sending prayers and thoughts instead of doing their jobs. I understand that you don’t want to get involved in a political debate, but trying to redefine the problem as apolitical only muddies the issue further. You may as well be burying your head in the sand. I really don’t think anyone is bashing the average person of faith who is horrified and wants to help and can’t think of anything better. The criticisms are aimed squarely at theocrats who send thoughts and prayers instead of doing their jobs.

Me:

Politicians “doing their jobs” on this issue have, on a state-by-state and city-by-city basis, seemingly done more harm than good. So, the issue is political, sure, but not in a good way: “the job” to be done may be much harder than anyone thinks.

In politics, it all becomes religion pretty fast. The amount of faith in government as an institution that is shown by earnest people demanding that politicians “do something” or “their jobs” is contra-indicated by facts on the ground.

Reasonable people remain skeptical, and unimpressed with people who turn from prayer to promoting pointless and problematic action.

And as for “thoughts and prayers” — it is just something people say when there is nothing they can really do. Give people a break. Getting angry and expressing it politically is hardly the wisest social reaction — especially to grieving and distraught people. That is the reaction of dangerous fools.

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