Archives for category: Reform and Revolution

What should we do about Washington?

I am not talking about the state I live in, the Evergreen State. I’ll talk about that by-and-by (al-ki). I refer, of course, to the hapless buffoons who live in the federal government’s District of Columbia.

They say they want a bigger vote in federal elections.

OK. They can. Right now. No legislation; no constitutional amendment required.

They could move.

One of the costs of choosing to live in the imperial central district is not having complete representation by the means designed for the states.

This still being a nominally free country: pick up stakes and head across the border. Why, it might take you a few miles — or mere blocks — away.

Many people move from Illinois to escape the poisonous Chicago politics; hordes exit New York State to escape the politics of the Big Apple; scads leave the failed state of California for Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, and elsewhere.

Paul Jacob, with whom I usually agree, suggests something a little more political:

“I was born without representation, but I swear,” Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed last week, “I will not die without representation.”
She has a point: 700,000 D.C. residents lack a voting representative in Congress. 
On Friday, the U.S. House passed legislation — 232 to 180 with 19 members hiding in the cloakroom and refusing to vote — to make the nation’s capital city the 51st state. Not merely garnering a U.S. Representative, but also a lifetime guarantee of two U.S. Senators. 
“D.C. will never be a state,” counters President Trump, explaining that Senate Republicans would be “very, very stupid” to allow two new U.S. Senators who are nearly certain to be Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly announced the Senate would not take up the bill.
But Republicans are not the only ones blocking representation. 
As Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) pointed out, Maryland had originally ceded some of the land to create the federal District of Columbia, and could now take back the residential areas. Those citizens would add their own House rep for Maryland and be represented by Maryland’s two U.S. Senators.
Democrats refuse. Why? Because it is not about representation. The city must be turned into a state so that two new Democratic U.S. Senators can be pulled out of a hat.
There is yet another path to representation. Make a bi-partisan deal to add two states. In addition to the State of Columbia (51), add the State of Jefferson (52) — comprised of 21 northern counties trying to secede from the rest of California. 
Better representation. No partisan advantage. Problem solved.
If anyone were interested in that.

Paul Jacob, “The State of X and Y,” June 29, 2020.

While I think it important to break up California — into several pieces, not just splitting off Jefferson — this plan sounds too complicated for the idiots Americans have become.

But my alternate plan is . . . less complicated?

Take the residential/commercial area of Washington. Split it into two, north and south. Give back the north half to Maryland and the bottom half to Virginia (I know, it would bulge out the border: deal with it). Call the two new cities North Washington, Maryland, and South Washington, Virginia. The remaining area of federal government parks and buildings would still be the District of Columbia. It would NOT be called Washington. Just the District of Columbia. It would be run completely by Congress and the President.

As Pat writes in a comment to Paul Jacob’s piece, this would require a bit of finagling, constitutionally:

[T]he Constitution would need to be amended to repeal the 23rd Amendment, which gives DC three electoral votes, since they would get their representation from Maryland. One benefit is the Electoral College would be reduced to 535 and so you would never have a tie in the presidential race. Given that only Delaware has a smaller population than DC, it’s likely that the DC residents will find themselves part of a much larger district and might even be split up when new district maps are drawn.
Even if DC became a state, the EC would go down to 537 after reapportionment, since Congress has limited the House to 435 members. Columbia’s House representative (only Delaware has a smaller population than DC) would be taken away from one of the other states, unless Congress also modified the reapportionment act that was passed early in the last century. The additional representative would be a temporary measure.

I am with commenter 2WarAbnVet on Paul’s page: I really do not want the District to become a state, no matter how named. Statehood for the imperial capitol city seems a horrendous idea.

Why?

For the same reason as allowing federal government workers the vote in federal elections is a bad idea: corruption. Bad incentives. And, considering the small size of the district, too much voting power. The federal government does not need more influence by insiders. Though most of the people there are not exactly influential, they live in and around the federal government.

Corruption, like paranoia, strikes deep, and into your tent it will creep.

I’m no barn-burner. But I am a tent-burner!

twv

Why are many libertarians not marching in the BLM protests?

…as answered on Quora….

Many?

Any?

I cannot speak for others. I know why I regard the movement with deep suspicion. 

And would not join their marches, sit-ins and riots.

I am very concerned about the police abuse of citizens. I made most of my family members deeply uncomfortable with my views on the subject for the past ten years. But I am against unlawful killings regardless of the races of the victims or the perpetrators. Black Lives Matter activists seem only interested when the victim is black. So, we are not simpatico.

But mainly I despise initiated violence, disruptions of the peace — whether done by the police or by mobs. These protests have turned to riot all over the United States. Burnings, looting, assaults — despicable actions, largely against innocents. I am against all this. “Categorically,” as we used to say, we who lived through the Nixon Era.

Now, for one thing, the evidence from social and political science is that rioting reduces support for the cause over the long haul. Rioting in the late Sixties led to Nixon’s two wins, which was surely not what the rioters wanted.

Or was it?

But it is more basic than that. Rioting is evil, and a protest is OK only if it is lawful and obeys the rule of law. In America, we make much of the right to PEACEABLY assemble, and rightly so. Well, rioting is not peaceable assembly, and the protesters’ commandeering of private and public property without permission (license) is not covered in the right we know and love. And think about it, earnest protestors: you may not throw a brick, a punch, or a Molotov cocktail, but if after nearly every one of your protests others horn in and wreak havoc, committing mayhem, then you are doing it wrong.

Libertarians are smart enough not to get caught up in this mess.

Why aren’t the protesters?

Well, they get caught up in a mania. And they follow cues: from the corporate media, from a few politicians, from race hustlers, and from the madness of crowds.

Libertarians have many faults. Sometimes I wonder how a group of people with the highest average IQs among all the major political cohorts can be so uniformly ineffective. How dumb can smart people be?

Well, not dumb enough to fall for the major media push for a race war.

twv

This is not the motto, today, of very many people who call themselves “democrats.”

…as answered on Quora…

The question should be formed in the past tense: when was democracy overthrown?

OK, that’s a bit snarky. And not at all accurate, since the United States was neither designed to be nor ever became a democracy.

Unless, as I have written elsewhere on Quora, one starts fiddling with the meaning of the term “democracy.” Which is fair game, I guess, and is part of a long tradition. Alexis de Tocqueville meant something different by the word in the Jacksonian era than did the founding fathers of these benighted states.

It is pointless for me to repeat all I have written on this in the past. So, for the remainder of my answer, I will accept arguendo that democracy is a good thing, that we once had it, and that it either no longer exists or is in peril.

So who is responsible for the anti-democratic influences? People in power.

I find it weird that Democrats think Republicans are democracy’s threat, and Republicans deem Democrats the threat. Both are threats. Obviously.

Take the big marker: initiative and referendum rights. Those are democratic, after all. No controversy about that. So, all around the country, in state after state, Democratic Party political machines work to squelch the ability of voters to check legislatures — which are, after all, concentrations of political power, especially when incumbency accrues advantages on sitting politicians by seniority and sheer persistence — using the ballot box on an issue-by-issue creation and repeal of constitutional amendments and statutes.

Except in Florida. In Florida it is the Republicans who work to squelch initiative activity, through the usual sneaky political means, by regulating the petition process for ballot access.

Usually, it depends upon who is in and out of power. Truth is, politicians out of power tend to favor democracy, for their best hope into power is to ride a groundswell of citizen unrest. Where, once in power, they tend to lust to squelch the competition.

Democracy is a means to manage competition for political power. That’s one definition anyway. And any group in power tends to be against democracy.

It is one of the basic rules of politics.

But let us look more broadly at the institutions of citizen control of the government. Are we really sure we have it? Are we sure we do not live in a mixed system with heavy elements of plutocracy, oligarchy, and mobocracy as well as star-chamber Deep State machinations?

After all, way back in the late 1930s, Garet Garrett understood that revolutions need not be overt:

There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.

There are those who have never ceased to say very earnestly, “Something is going to happen to the American form of government if we don’t watch out.”

These were the innocent disarmers. Their trust was in words. They had forgotten their Aristotle. More than 2,000 years ago he wrote of what can happen within the form, when “one thing takes the place of another, so that the ancient laws will remain, while the power will be in the hands of those who have brought about revolution in the state.”

The key thing about citizen control of government is that government must be small enough, limited enough, for citizens to practically control. At the time of the founding, the ratio of Representatives to citizens was comparatively balanced — a normal person was apt to know his Rep. Today, to keep up anything like that ratio, our House of Representatives would have to number not 435 but in the many thousands. This means that the federal union that is supposedly the United States may be less democratic today than it was two centuries ago . . . when it was explicitly not democratic!

But Americans, when they hear this, usually just shrug.

I think it is pretty obvious that people do not want democracy. Government is something we get activated about when we fret about a particular issue. But most people have the sense to shove most questions of governance off their proverbial front burners and onto that of experts. Who have their own special interests.

The consequences of this, of course, is not democracy but rule by the most vociferous and greedy factions. The revolution of the 20th century — away from constitutional constraints and a decent balance between “the people” and “the government” and to the establishment of a vast administrative state with its bureaucracy and vast transfer programs and regulations placing unequal burdens upon society, for the benefit of some and not others — is the result of the activism of some and the “inactivism” of the many.

Is that democracy? Hardly. But the metamorphosis did not require much bloodshed, as Garrett explained:

Revolution in the modern case is no longer an uncouth business. The ancient demagogic art, like every other art, has, as we say, advanced. It has become in fact a science — the science of political dynamics. And your scientific revolutionary in spectacles regards force in a cold, impartial manner. It may or may not be necessary. If not, so much the better; to employ it wantonly, or for the love of it, when it is not necessary, is vulgar, unintelligent and wasteful. Destruction is not the aim. The more you destroy the less there is to take over. Always the single end in view is a transfer of power.

I find it funny that there are people who think they are “for democracy” but really just demand more power for their faction.

My laughter is not exactly mirthful, I admit.

twv

as answered on Quora:

What prevents countries from attempting libertarian policies?

Not enough libertarians.

That is the main reason. All other reasons are speculative.

But there is, I think, a baseline reason for why there are so few libertarians, and I am not referring to genetic predisposition or the current early stage of libertarianism’s development. What is that reason?

Statism is a trap.

The dirigiste state — the robust modern state, as well as the various states of limited-access societies in the past — presents people with a set of incentive traps that embroil them in self-defeating behavior.

Think of statism as a hole, and all we have are shovels — and, further, that the loosest loam is under our feet, not on the sides. It takes longer digging steps for an upward ascent. So people — mostly distracted, living their lives — convince themselves that digging further downward is the obvious response. It sure seems easier.

They forget that the first rule to apply when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging downward.

The social sciences provide some familiar and not-familiar-enough terms that help define and explain aspects of our predicament: rational ignorance, preference falsification, the Thomas Theorem, the prisoner’s dilemma, public goods, rent-seeking, market failure, and the like. But people get confused by the situations identified by these terms, and are tempted to see in further state-control and -interference solutions to the problems state-control itself causes.

Example? Take that term “market failure.” It is a term of art that economists use, but it often confuses even economists. It is not, like it sounds, about the failures of markets. It refers to the failure to establish the groundwork for markets. The most common market failures are in government.

It sounds paradoxical.

But it isn’t.

It is just a bit complicated.

Smart people are supposed to be able to unravel such convolutions, untangle these puzzles. But the dirigiste state presents smart people with a huge temptation: to live at others’ expense — gain unfair advantage — all the while feeling self-righteous in advancing “the public good.”

But what if the public good can only be achieved through the establishment of the limits that liberty provides? What if it is only by limiting coercion so that people have to get ahead by serving others through trade and other forms of voluntary coöperation that redounds to the general benefit?

Well, smart people would have to work a bit harder, in such a system, and might have to live with dumber people getting ahead of them. So smart people just naturally find the statist modes of the ancient world’s limited-access societies and revive them through licensing, regulations, taxation, even subsidies. And, in the process, “just so happen” to set up their class as dominant. Technocracies don’t run themselves!

It “just so happens” that the biggest winners in a modern dirigiste state are members of what we call the cognitive elite.

It is almost as if intellectuals — good students, remember, great test-takers and essay writers and bright young scholars — saw the world of market capitalism at the end of the 19th century, where anyone, regardless of IQ or credentials, could advance by leaps and bounds so long as they provided services to others on a contractual, voluntary basis, and said “fuck that shit.” It is almost as if they set up a system of massive coercion all built around the guidance of “trained professionals” wherein said professionals would achieve the security that markets do not readily provide, at least for so little real work.

It is almost that!

That, my friends, is Progressivism.

And, with the smart people — er, the good students and dutiful drones of the collegiate crowd — almost all on board with statism, and in control of the commanding heights of the culture — public schools, higher ed, major media and the entertainment industry, not to mention the many bureaucracies and government contractors — it is very hard to make much headway against the trap that they have fully set.

Amusingly, these geniuses routinely set up systems that self-destruct. At least, after entangling increasing numbers of the population into servility or exploitation or both. So, we run headlong into crisis . . . and move from crisis to crisis. There may be some hope in a growing realization that these long-term cycles of the dirigiste state are not All to the Good. But my hopes are not very high.

And, lastly, at the basis of the trap, at least in terms of democratic action, is this: government programs are routinely judged not on the merits of their ostensible and original purposes, but on whether they establish beneficiaries. That is — constituencies. But all programs establish that. So all government programs tend to grow, and kludge must become the rule.

While retreats from such kludge can be made, and have been made, historically, they are politically costly, difficult to negotiate.

Statism is the “it” of our situation:

Is complete revolution possible in modern day democracies, where the passion of a person matters none as they are limited to one vote, and a militaristic overthrow is unimaginable?

…………………………………………………………………..as answered on Quora

Revolution is always a longshot. For game theoretic reasons, leadership in revolution is almost always severely punished by the State, so such extreme endeavors that require leaders also require them to risk their lives, which in turn requires tremendous self-sacrifice. Spontaneous mass uprisings (which can be nearly leaderless) are super-unlikely because the first to step up in revolt are also likely to be treated as leaders. And people — especially contemporary serviles — are basically a cowardly lot, so it is only the most desperate who would do so.

Further, the incentive of the desperate to revolt depends on gaining the sympathy of the masses. The most pathetic populations in the U.S. right now are pissing away most of their pitiable cachet, so we would need to find a new group of desperate people. Illegal immigrants, inner-city blacks, trans-folk, and young collegians have burnt almost all their bridges, so any revolt they might attempt would be put down by the State with the enthusiastic backing of the masses.

But note: we do not live in democracies. Democracy is merely the pietistic term for the kludge mess of republican-plutocratic-imperial churning states.

The utility of holding democracy more as a piety than as a reality lies in getting distracted, easy-to-fool marks, I mean, citizens, to misidentify the State as “theirs.” This helps maintain the authority of its leaders and functionaries. Making revolution less likely.

Modern states do, of course, have democratic elements. But the inherently least effectively democratic parts, the national governments, steal the limelight, further distracting citizens from taking control of the potentially most effectively democratic parts, the state and local governments. This allows those institutions to shore themselves up as de facto anti-democracies. City governments are typically interest-group dominated one-party states. The citizens do not realize this, of course, because they are completely fooled or uninterested. So if they revolted, they would do much more harm than good. A military dictatorship would undoubtedly set up a better government than anything today’s citizen-fools could possibly concoct.

But passions of individuals do matter. Passions and a plausible narrative with rationale makes them leaders. And leaders matter. Rank-and-file voters, on the other hand, matter only in the mass.

Militaristic overthrow is the most likely form of revolution in contemporary states. But since military men seem the most pietistic elements in our societies — the patriotic piety being the urge that nudges them to defend the State — they are likely to take charge only in the case of deep financial panic and social chaos, and after legal governments have proven worse than useless: disutile.

So, give it a few years and the next crisis, then we will see.