Political Economy & Civil Society

Another Obama Lie, and a Rant

From a CBS News story about the latest Obamacare fiasco:

President Obama on Thursday announced an administrative policy change that will let people keep their existing health insurance for another year, but the plan is already facing pushback from Republicans, some Democrats and the insurance industry….

…Mr. Obama predicted Thursday, “There’s gonna be some state-by-state evaluation on how this is handled.”

He added, however, that the “key point” is that it’s no longer the Affordable Care Act that’s responsible for plans being dropped….

What a whopper. Of course the ACA is responsible. Insurance companies were diligently complying with the ACA. And that didn’t happen overnight; they began to gear up for compliance as soon as ACA became law.

Now, one of Obama’s minions issues — by unconstitutional fiat — a “fix” that can’t easily be implemented, even if allowed by the insurance commissioners of some States. It’s a blatant and cynical PR move.

Here’s the rant — mine, not Obama’s (he can rant on his own time):

Left-wing amateur hour has dragged on 4-10/12 years too long. As the bumper sticker says, don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for him.

Did I foresee this particular fiasco? Of course not, but I foresaw that Obama would try to use government in ways that would harm most hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding Americans. Well, thanks to Obamacare, tax increases, racial politics, and various regulatory edicts he’s met my expectations. He’s also doing a good job of turning the U.S. into a second-rate power, unable to defend Americans’ far-flung overseas interests against the Russian and Chinese power grabs that are almost certainly in the works.

Even if Obama had succeeded in “bringing the country together” (or something to that effect), it would be a country that millions of us want no part of. On Thursday, November 28, if I give thanks for anything, it will be for a divided nation in which there is still principled and vigorous resistance to the likes of Barack Obama.
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Related posts: Just about everything here.

The View from Here

You know what happens when a law is enacted to protect a “minority,” don’t you? The minority acquires privileged status in the eyes of the law. Any action that is claimed to deprive the “minority” of its rights brings the wrath of the state down on the purported offender. And the same law enables members of the “minority” to attain jobs, promotions, and university admissions for which they are otherwise unqualified.

My opening paragraph is prompted by the likely passage of a “gay rights in workplace” bill by the U.S. Senate. The bill is unlikely to be approved soon by the U.S. House of Representatives, but I won’t say “never.” Many members of the GOP are eager to seem “nice,” and enough of them might vote with Democrats to pass the bill and send it to B.O. for signature. Such an act of appeasement will, of course, go unrewarded by voters of the left. But panicked lawmakers are immune to logic, and devoid of principles.

The “gay rights” issue is only a symptom of America’s decay. The official elevation of gays to privileged status is of a piece with several other developments: the very possible failure of efforts to derail death-dealing Obamacare, the equally likely failure of efforts to curb murderous abortion (the gateway to involuntary euthanasia), the ever-growing dependence of Americans on an unaffordable welfare state, an unchecked regulatory apparatus, feminized and gutted defenses, groveling before enemies, and the suppression of dissent in the name of “rights,” “social justice,” “equal protection,” and other Orwellian catch-phrases.

It is altogether evident that America soon will be an irreversibly effete, statist, inhumane, and appeasing realm. In it, every truly beneficial impulse — like those that energized America’s revolution against Britain, the framing of a Constitution that promised the preservation of liberty, the defeat of oppressive regimes in wars hot and cold, and the creation of the world’s most dynamic and productive economy — will be squelched.

The barbarians within, and their willing dupes, are in the saddle. It can happen here, and it is happening here. America is about to become the land of the unfree and the home of the weak-kneed.

*     *     *

Related reading: Joe Herring, “I Am Now a Dissident (and You Should Be Too!),” American Thinker, November 6, 2013

Related posts:
Putting Hate Crimes in Perspective
The Cost of Affirmative Action
Why Not Just Use SAT Scores?
The Face of America
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
Race, Intelligence, and Affirmative Action
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy
Affirmative Action, One More Time
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Same-Sex Marriage
“Equal Protection” and Homosexual Marriage
The Course of the Mainstream
A Contrarian View of Segregation
Much Food for Thought
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Black Terrorists and “White Flight”
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part IV (with links to earlier parts of the series)
Timely Material
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited
It’s the Little Things That Count
A Footnote to a Footnote
Let Me Be Perfectly Clear…
FDR and Fascism
An FDR Reader
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Is There Such a Thing as Society
The People’s Romance
Intellectuals and Capitalism
Conspicuous Consumption and Race
An Honest Woman Speaks Out
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
The Interest-Group Paradox
Parsing Political Philosophy
Is Statism Inevitable?
Inventing “Liberalism”
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
A New, New Constitution
Fascism and the Future of America
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Perils of Nannyism: The Case of Obamacare
More about the Perils of Obamacare
Health-Care Reform: The Short of It
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
The Near-Victory of Communism
Tocqueville’s Prescience
First Principles
The Shape of Things to Come
Accountants of the Soul
Invoking Hitler
Is Liberty Possible?
The Left
Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Due Process, and Equal Protection
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
Rationalism, Social Norms, and Same-Sex “Marriage”
A Moral Dilemma
A Conversation with Uncle Sam
Society and the State
I Want My Country Back
The “Forthcoming Financial Collapse”
Undermining the Free Society
Our Enemy, the State
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
Government vs. Community
The Evil That Is Done with Good Intentions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
About Democracy
Externalities and Statism
Taxes: Theft or Duty?
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
The Left’s Agenda
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
In Defense of Marriage
The Left and Its Delusions
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
A Declaration of Civil Disobedience
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Society and the State
Are You in the Bubble?
Defense as an Investment in Liberty and Prosperity
Our Perfect, Perfect Constitution
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Race and Reason: The Derbyshire Debacle
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Not-So-Random Thoughts (III)
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
Don’t Use the “S” Word When the “F” Word Will Do
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
The Capitalist Paradox Meets the Interest-Group Paradox
Genetic Kinship and Society
How Not to Cope with Government Failure
Riots, Culture, and the Final Showdown (revisited)
Where We Are, Economically
The Economic Outlook in Brief
Is Taxation Slavery?
Obamanomics: A Report Card
Well-Founded Pessimism
A Declaration of Independence
The 80-20 Rule, Illustrated
America: Past, Present, and Future
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
America: Past, Present, and Future
Restoring Constitutional Government: The Way Ahead
Economic Horror Stories: The Great “Demancipation” and Economic Stagnation
The Fallacy of the Reverse-Mussolini Fallacy
“Conversing” about Race
Economics: A Survey
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Spending Inhibits Economic Growth
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now
The World Turned Upside Down
“We the People” and Big Government: Part I
“We the People” and Big Government: Part I (continued)
“We the People” and Big Government: Part II (first installment)

The Most Disgusting Thing I’ve Read Today

UPDATED 07/01/14 (below)

It’s a post at a blog called Lion of the Blogosphere, the proprietor of which evidently has delusions of grandeur. The post is “Abortion and the just-world fallacy.” (No, I won’t link to the blog or the post.) The author, one Mr. Lion (of the Blogosphere), seems to be an unabashed proponent of abortion for the “underclass.”

Mr. Lion’s latest abomination begins with this:

To quote Wikipedia, “the just-world hypothesis or just-world fallacy is the cognitive bias (or assumption) that a person’s actions always bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person, so that all noble actions are eventually rewarded and all evil actions are eventually punished. “

I see this cognitive bias in many of the comments to anything I post about abortion. Anti-abortion people have this bias that they believe that banning abortion (which is supposed to be evil) will bring better outcomes. But the reality, as I keep pointing out, is that abortion is effective at reducing the birthrate of poor women.

Until I was enlightened by Mr. Lion, I had no idea that opposition to abortion arises from the just-world fallacy. I had thought, all along, that those of us who oppose abortion do so because it is a eugenic practice that involves the state-condoned taking of innocent lives. Or, because it is a sin — as some opponents prefer to say.

Superior beings like Mr. Lion (and Mr. Hitler) have no qualms about eugenic practices. Well, they don’t if they’re not on the receiving end of those practices. I wonder how Mr. Lion will enjoy the eugenic program known as Obamacare, with its inevitable death panels (though they won’t be called that) — a program that he implores Republicans to accept as the law of the land.

Mr. Lion justifies his pro-abortion position on cost-effectiveness grounds:

[A]ccording to the Guttmacher Institute “Forty-two percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level ($10,830 for a single woman with no children)” and another “twenty-seven percent of women obtaining abortions have incomes between 100–199% of the federal poverty level.

So we see that the women most likely to have abortions are those who should be having abortions, women who have no way to support their children except by collecting welfare, and children raised by welfare moms are many times more likely to be criminals….

I already said “disgusting,” didn’t I? Why not just take the women out and shoot them? That would be cheaper than giving them abortions, wouldn’t it?

Mr. Lion would make a good technocrat, given his readiness to treat human beings like numbers and erase them at will. But “good” isn’t excellent; excellent technocrats are able to feign compassion and disguise their viciousness.

What about crime and abortion? I cut Mr. Lion off just as he was about to add this:

[S]o it’s not surprising at all that Steven D. Levitt, author of Freakonomics, found that abortion reduced crime. (And Levitt rigorously rebuts Steve Sailer who tried to argue that it didn’t.)

Oh, really? Well, as it happens, Levitt’s “rigorous rebuttal” isn’t very rigorous. As I point out here,

Levitt’s findings are built on statistical quicksand. From the abstract of a paper by Christopher L. Foote and Christopher F. Goetz of the Boston Fed:

[A] fascinating paper by Donohue and Levitt (2001, henceforth DL) . . . purports to show that hypothetical individuals resulting from aborted fetuses, had they been born and developed into youths, would have been more likely to commit crimes than youths resulting from fetuses carried to term. We revisit that paper, showing that the actual implementation of DL’s statistical test in their paper differed from what was described. . . .We show that when DL’s key test is run as described and augmented with state‐level population data, evidence for higher per capita criminal propensities among the youths who would have developed, had they not been aborted as fetuses, vanishes.

There’s a lot more about the Levitt-Sailer controversy here; the bottom line, in my view, favors Sailer. My own analysis (here) also refutes Levitt.

The moral of the story: If you’re going to be an excellent technocrat in the United States, you must (a) take care to disguise your viciousness, and (b) quote unimpeachable sources (i.e., not Steven Levitt).

UPDATE 07/01/14 – for readers coming here via a link in a comment at Mr. Lion’s blog

Here’s the comment:

If you haven’t read this guy’s blog, he’s disgusted with Lion’s position on pro-abortion for prole and NAM women.


He seems to think Lion’s take on it is about eugenics, but it’s more about IQ leading to poor outcomes. One needs to understand that perpetual proledom and NAMdom is a good measure of IQ. Multigenerational poverty, dysfunctionality and underachievement are a result of low IQs.

The commenter seems to think that “Lion’s take” isn’t about eugenics. A state-sponsored effort to reduce the numbers of low-IQ “proles” and “NAMs” is nothing but an exercise in eugenics.

Values and Geography

The World Values Survey is

a worldwide investigation of sociocultural and political change….

… carried out by an international network of social scientists, with local funding for each survey (though in some cases, it has been possible to raise supplementary funds from outside sources). In exchange for providing the data from interviews with a representative national sample of at least 1,000 people in their own society, each participating group gets immediate access to the data from all of the other participating societies. Thus, they are able to compare the basic values and beliefs of the people of their own society with those of more than 60 other societies…..

“Society” here means “nation,” not “society” properly understood. Nevertheless, the cross-national comparisons yielded by the survey are revealing, and generally ring true.

Let’s begin with a graph from an analysis of recent survey results, presented in Ronald Inglehart and Christian Wenzel’s “Changing Mass Priorities: The Link between Modernization and Democracy“:

Locations of 53 societies on global cultural map in 2005-2007

What does it mean? Here are excerpts of the authors’ observations:

… The World Values Survey and EuropeanValues Study (hereafter referred to as the WVS/EVS) provide evidence that the transition from agrarian to industrial society produces one set of changes, and the rise of postindustrial societies produces another set of changes in peoples’ values and motivations. Analyses of WVS/EVS data reveal two major dimensions of cross-cultural variation: a traditional versus secular-rational values dimension and a survival versus self-expression values dimension.These two dimensions tap scores of attitudinal variables, and are robust enough that researchers obtain similar results using various combinations of these variables….

Factor analysis of data from the 43 societies in the 1990 WVS/EVS found that these two dimensions accounted for over half of the cross-national variance in scores of variables. When this analysis was replicated with data from the 1995–1998 surveys, the same two dimensions emerged—although the new analysis included 23 additional countries.12 The same two dimensions also emerged in analysis of data from the 2000–2001 surveys.
Figure 1 shows the locations of 52 countries on these two dimensions, using the data from the 2005–2007 WVS…. Relative scores on these two dimensions have been stable attributes of most countries throughout the period from 1981 to 2007.

Our revised version of modernization theory holds that rising levels of existential security are conducive to a shift from traditional values to secular-rational values, and from survival values to self-expression values. Accordingly, all of the high-income countries rank high on both dimensions, falling into the upper-right region of the chart—while all of the low and lower-middle-income countries rank low on both dimensions, falling into the lower-left region of the chart.

But the evidence also supports the Weberian view that a society’s religious values leave a lasting imprint. The publics of protestant Europe show relatively similar values across scores of questions—as do the publics of Catholic Europe, the Confucian-influenced societies, the Orthodox societies, the English-speaking countries, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. The cross-national differences found in the large-N surveys reflect each society’s economic and socio-cultural history.

Cross-national differences are huge. Thus, the proportion saying that God is very important in their lives ranges from 98 percent in relatively traditional countries to 3 percent in secular-rational countries. Cross-national differences dwarf the differences within given societies….

… Thus, Italy is at the center of Figure 1, near Spain but a substantial distance from most other societies. Although individual Italians can fall anywhere on the map, there is surprisingly little overlap between the prevailing orientations of large groups of Italians and their peers in other countries: most nationalities are at least one or two standard deviations away from the Italians. The same holds true of Slovenians, Norwegians, Mexicans, Americans, Russians, British and other nationalities….

All of that is well and good, but the groupings drawn in Figure 1 are often tenuous.*  To take a few examples:

  • Japan is placed in the Confucian group, but it is closer to the Germanys than it is to other members of the Confucian group.
  • China and South Korea are placed in the Confucian group, but they are sandwiched between members of the Orthodox group.
  • Romania (Orthodox) is closer to Iraq (South Asia) than it is to other members of its assigned group.
  • The conjunction of the South Asia, Latin America, and Africa groups is replete with countries that are closer to each other than they are to other members of their respective groups.
  • The U.S. is lumped with other English-speaking countries. but on the vertical dimension there is a signficant distance (about 3 standard deviations) between the U.S. and Britain.

Further, Figure 1 covers a limited time span. Robustness and completeness would be served by showing comparisons over a longer span, and by showing trends (to the extent that there are any).

Accordingly, using data for 1981-2006 (“National-Level Value Scores on the Two Major Values Dimensions, for All Nations and Waves“), I constructed the graphs below. The first graph is a plot of the means for each country, where a country is included only if it appears in at least three of the five surveys (1981, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2006). The second graph is a plot of the difference between each country’s mean and its predicted position in 2013, as estimated by using the LINEST function of Excel. Although the two graphs are drawn to different scales, because of differences in the spread of plot points, the gridlines in both graphs are 0.25 standard deviations apart. Therefore, a vertical or horizontal distance of 4 gridlines represents 1 standard deviation.

Values - distribution of means, 1981-2006

Values - differences between means and trends

In the first graph, the distance between points indicates degree of significance. Thus, for example, the vertical distance between Japan and Colombia is about 14 gridlines, or 2.5 standard deviations. That is, indeed, a significant difference. Similarly, Sweden is about 13 gridlines (2.25 standard deviations) from Russia in the horizontal dimension; another separation that I would consider significant. Make what you will of it; there are some unsurprising clusters; for example:

  • Several formerly Communist countries are grouped in the northwest quadrant.
  • Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Norway) are grouped in the upper part of the northeast quadrant.
  • Britain, Australia, and Canada form a fairly tight grouping.

On the other hand, here are some other examples:

  • The Britain-Australia-Canada cluster is close to the point for Iceland, which (surprisingly) is fairly far from the the Sweden-Denmark-Norway cluster.
  • Japan — perhaps unsurprisingly, as the most Westernized of Asian nations — stands well apart from China and South Korea, which are in a cluster with former Communist countries.
  • Italy and Spain aren’t significantly far from France and Belgium, nor are the latter significantly far from Finland and Iceland.

The best that I can make of the first graph is a rough east-west split along the horizontal axis, and, of course, a rough less-religious to more-religious split along the vertical axis.

What about the trends that are indicated in the second graph? There, the relevant distance is from the 0,0 intersection of the axes. That is so because the graph depicts the predicted change (in 2013) from each country’s mean for 1981-2006. Only Lithuania is on a course to move vertically by 4 or more gridlines (1 or more standard deviations). Further, there’s a lot of downward movement.

The preceding observations suggest that, in general, there isn’t strong movement away from traditional values toward secular ones. That’s consistent with the Weberian view: religious values have a lasting effect. I would add that they have a lasting effect where they’re not suppressed — as they were in the former Communist countries, and as they are by the “thought police” of many Western European countries and Canada.

There is, however, a definite rightward movement, away from survival values. In fact, several countries are on a course to move horizontally by 4 or more gridlines: Spain, Hungary, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Norway, Northern Ireland, Belgium, and Nigeria. The movement away from survival values toward what the authors call self-expression values is consistent with the general rise of living standards in much of the world.

In sum, the groupings drawn by the authors in their Figure 1 are strained and uninformative. If you believe that the “values” surveys yield meaningful aggregations, look beyond the authors’ groupings to the data presented in my two graphs. And draw your own conclusions.
* A similar but later mapping is found here. Similar criticisms apply to it.

Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Inhibits Economic Growth

UPDATED 12/28/11 — This update incorporates GDP and government spending statistics for 2010 and corrects a minor discrepancy in the estimation of government spending. Also, there are new, easier-to-read graphs. The bottom line is the same as before: Government spending and everything that goes with it (including regulation) is destructive of economic growth.

UPDATED 09/19/13 — This version incorporates two later posts “Estimating the Rahn Curve: A Sequel” (01/24/12) and “More Evidence for the Rahn Curve” (05/27/12).

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The theory behind the Rahn Curve is simple — but not simplistic. A relatively small government with powers limited mainly to the protection of citizens and their property is worth more than its cost to taxpayers because it fosters productive economic activity (not to mention liberty). But additional government spending hinders productive activity in many ways, which are discussed in Daniel Mitchell’s paper, “The Impact of Government Spending on Economic Growth.” (I would add to Mitchell’s list the burden of regulatory activity, which accumulates with the size of government.)

What does the Rahn Curve look like? Daniel Mitchell estimates this relationship between government spending and economic growth:

Rahn curve (2)

The curve is dashed rather than solid at low values of government spending because it has been decades since the governments of developed nations have spent as little as 20 percent of GDP. But as Mitchell and others note, the combined spending of governments in the U.S. was 10 percent (and less) until the eve of the Great Depression. And it was in the low-spending, laissez-faire era from the end of the Civil War to the early 1900s that the U.S. enjoyed its highest sustained rate of economic growth.

Here is a graphic look at the historical relationship between government spending and GDP growth:

(Source notes for this graph and those that follow are at the bottom of this post.)

The regression lines are there simply to emphasize the long-term trends. The relationship between government spending as a percentage of GDP (G/GDP) and real GDP growth will emerge from the following graphs. There are chronological gaps because the Civil War, WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII distorted the relationship between G/GDP and economic growth. Large wars inflate government spending and GDP. The Great Depression saw a large rise in G/GDP, by pre-Depression standards, even as the economy shrank and then sputtered to a less-than-full recovery before the onset of WWII.

Est Rahn curve 1792 1861

Est Rahn curve 1866 1917

Est Rahn curve 1792 1917

Est Rahn curve 1946-2010

The graphs paint a consistent picture: Higher G/GDP means lower growth. There is one inconsistency, however, and that is the persistence of growth in the range of 2 to 4 percent during the post-WWII era, despite G/GDP in the range of 25-45 percent. That is not the kind of growth one would expect, given the relationships that obtain in the earlier eras. (The extrapolated trend line for 1946-2009 comes into use below.)

There are at least five plausible — and not mutually exclusive — explanations for the discrepancy. First, there is the difficulty of estimating GDP for years long past. Second, it is almost impossible to generate a consistent estimate of real GDP spanning two centuries; current economic output is vastly greater in volume and variety than it was in the early days of the Republic. Third, productivity gains (advances in technology, management techniques, and workers’ skills) may offset the growth-inhibiting effects of government spending, to some extent. Fourth, government regulations and active interventions (e.g., antitrust activity, the income tax) have a cumulative effect that operates independently of G/GDP. Regulations and interventions may have had an especially strong effect in the early 1900s (see the second graph in this post). The effects of regulations and interventions may diminish with time because of  adaptive behavior (e.g., “capture” of regulatory bodies).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the shifting composition of government spending. At relatively low levels of G/GDP, G consists largely of government programs that usurp and interfere with private-sector functions by diverting resources from productive uses to uses favored by politicians, bureaucrats, and their patrons. Higher levels of G/GDP — such as those we in the United States have known since the end of WWII — are reached by the expansion of the welfare state. Government spending (at all levels) on so-called social benefits accounted for only 7 percent of G and 0.8 percent of GDP in 1929; in 2009, it accounted for 36 percent of G and 15 percent of GDP. The provision of “social benefits” brings government into the business of redistributing income, which discourages work, saving, and capital formation to some extent, but doesn’t impinge directly on commerce. Therefore, I would expect G to be less damaging to GDP growth at higher levels of G/GDP — which is the message to be found in the contrast between the experience of 1946-2009 and the experience of earlier periods.

With those thoughts in mind, I present this empirical picture of the relationship between G/GDP and GDP growth in the United States:

Est Rahn curve 1792-2010

The intermediate points, unfortunately, are missing because of the chronological gaps mentioned above. But, as indicated by the five earlier graphs, it is entirely reasonable to infer from the preceding graph a strong relationship between GDP growth and changes in G/GDP throughout the history of the Republic.

It is possible to obtain a rough estimate of the downward sloping portion of the Rahn curve by focusing on two eras: the post-Civil War years 1866-1890 — before the onset of “progressivism,” with its immediate and strong negative effects — and the post-WWII years 1946-2009. Thus:

Est Rahn curve rough sketch

My rough estimate is appropriately “fuzzy” and somewhat more generous than Daniel Mitchell’s, which is indicated by the heavy black line. In light of my discussion of the shifting composition of G as G/GDP becomes relatively large, I  have followed the slope of the trend line for 1792-2010; that is, every 1 percentage-point increase in G/GDP yields a decrease in the growth rate of about 0.07 percent. That seemingly small effect becomes a huge one when G/GDP rises over a long period of time (as has been the case for more than a century, with no end in sight).

For the record, the best fit through the “fuzzy” area is:

Annual rate of growth = -0.066(G/GDP) + 0.054.

Maximum GDP growth seems to occur when G/GDP is 2-4  percent. That is somewhat less than the 7-percent share of GDP that was spent on national defense, public order, and safety in 2010. The excess represents additional “insurance” against predators, foreign and domestic. (The effectiveness of the additional “insurance” is a separate question, though I am inclined to err on the side of caution when it comes to defense and law enforcement. Those functions are not responsible for the economic woes facing America’s taxpayers.)

If G/GDP reaches 55 percent — which it will if present entitlement “commitments” are not curtailed — the “baseline” rate of growth will shrink further: probably to less than 2 percent. And thus America will remain mired in its Mega-Depression.

*     *     *

Source notes:

Estimates of real and nominal GDP, back to 1790, come from the feature “What Was the U.S GDP Then?” at MeasuringWorth.com.

Estimates of government spending (federal, State, and local) come from USgovernmentspending.com; Statistical Abstracts of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970: Part 2. Series Y 533-566. Federal, State, and Local Government Expenditures, by Function; and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Table 3.1. Government Current Receipts and Expenditures (lines 34, 35).

I found the amount spent by governments (federal, State, and local) on national defense and public order and safety by consulting BEA Table 3.17. Selected Government Current and Capital Expenditures by Function.

The BEA tables cited above are available here.

*     *     *


In the original post (above) I note that maximum GDP growth occurs when government spends two to four percent of GDP. The two-to-four percent range represents the share of GDP claimed by American governments (federal, State, and local) throughout most of the 19th century, when government spending exceeded five percent of GDP only during the Civil War.

Of course, until the early part of the 20th century, when Progressivism began to make itself felt in Americans’ tax bills, governments restricted themselves (in the main) to the functions of national defense, public order, and safety — the terms used in national-income accounting. It is those functions — hereinafter called defense and justice — that foster liberty and economic growth because they protect peaceful, voluntary activity. Effective protection probably would cost more than four percent of GDP in these parlous times. But an adequate figure, except in the rare event of a major war, is probably no more than seven percent of GDP — the value for 2010, which includes the cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In any event, government spending — even on defense and justice — is impossible without private economic activity. It is that activity which yields the wherewithal for the provision of defense and justice. Once those things have been provided, the further diversion of resources by government is economically destructive. Specifically, from “Estimating the Rahn Curve” (above):

It is possible to obtain a rough estimate of the downward sloping portion of the Rahn curve by focusing on two eras: the post-Civil War years 1866-1890 — before the onset of “progressivism,” with its immediate and strong negative effects — and the post-WWII years 1946-2009. Thus:

Est Rahn curve rough sketch

My rough estimate is appropriately “fuzzy” and somewhat more generous than Daniel Mitchell’s [in “The Impact of Government Spending on Economic Growth”], which is indicated by the heavy black line. In light of my discussion of the shifting composition of G as G/GDP becomes relatively large, I  have followed the slope of the trend line for 1792-2010; that is, every 1 percentage-point increase in G/GDP yields a decrease in the growth rate of about 0.06 percent. That seemingly small effect becomes a huge one when G/GDP rises over a long period of time (as has been the case for more than a century, with no end in sight).

The following graphs offer another view of the devastation wrought by the growth of government spending — and regulation. (Sources are given in “Estimating the Rahn Curve.”) I begin with the share of GDP which is not spent by government:

Est Rahn curve sequel_priv GDP as pct total GDP

A note about my measure of government spending is in order. National-income accounting purists would insist that transfer payments (mainly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) should not count as spending, even though I count them as such. But what does it matter whether money is taken from taxpayers and given to retired persons (as Social Security) or to government employees (as salary and benefits) or contractors (as reimbursement for products and services delivered to government)? All government spending represents the transfer of claims on resources from persons who earned those claims to other persons, who either did something of questionable value for the money (government employees and contractors) or nothing (e.g., retirees).

In any event, it is obvious that Americans enjoyed minimal government until the early 1900s, and have since “enjoyed” a vast expansion of government. Here is a closer look at the trend from 1900 onward:

Est Rahn curve sequel_private GDP pct total GDP since 1900

This is a good point at which to note that the expansion of government is understated by the growth of government spending, which only imperfectly captures the effects of the rapidly growing regulatory burden on America’s economy. The combined effects of government spending and regulation can be seen in this “before” and “after” depiction of growth rates:

Est Rahn curve sequel_growth rate of private GDP

(I omitted the major wars and the Great Depression because their inclusion would give an exaggerated view of economic growth in the aftermath of abnormally suppressed private economic activity.)

The marked diminution of growth  after 1900 has led to what I call America’s Mega-Depression. Note the similarity between the downward path of private sector GDP (two graphs earlier) and the downward path of the Mega-Depression in the following graph:

Est Rahn curve sequel_mega-depression

What is the Mega-Depression? It is a measure of the degree to which real GDP has fallen below what it would have been had economic growth continued at its post-Civil War pace. As I explain here, the Mega-Depression began in the early 1900s, when the economy began to sag under the weight of Progressivism (e.g., trust-busting, regulation, the income tax, the Fed). Then came the New Deal, whose interventions provoked and prolonged the Great Depression (see, for example, this, and this). From the New Deal and the Great Society arose the massive anti-market/initiative-draining/dependency-promoting schemes known as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The extension and expansion of those and other intrusive government programs has continued unto the present day (e.g., Obamacare), with the result that our lives and livelihoods are hemmed in by mountains of regulatory restrictions.

Regulation aside, government spending — except for defense and justice — is counterproductive. Not only does it fail to stimulate the economy in the short run, but it also robs the economy of the investments that are needed for long-run growth.

*     *     *



[W]e have some new research from the United Kingdom. The Centre for Policy Studies has released a new study, authored by Ryan Bourne and Thomas Oechsle, examining the relationship between economic growth and the size of the public sector.

The chart above compares growth rates for nations with big governments and small governments over the past two decades. The difference is significant, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The most important findings of the report are the estimates showing how more spending and more taxes are associated with weaker performance.

Here are some key passages from the study.

Using tax to GDP and spending to GDP ratios as a proxy for size of government, regression analysis can be used to estimate the effect of government size on GDP growth in a set of countries defined as advanced by the IMF between 1965 and 2010. …As supply-side economists would expect, the coefficients on the tax revenue to GDP and government spending to GDP ratios are negative and statistically significant. This suggests that, ceteris paribus, a larger tax burden results in a slower annual growth of real GDP per capita. Though it is unlikely that this effect would be linear (we might expect the effect to be larger for countries with huge tax burdens), the regressions suggest that an increase in the tax revenue to GDP ratio by 10 percentage points will, if the other variables do not change, lead to a decrease in the rate of economic growth per capita by 1.2 percentage points. The result is very similar for government outlays to GDP, where an increase by 10 percentage points is associated with a fall in the economic growth rate of 1.1 percentage points. This is in line with other findings in the academic literature. …The two small government economies with the lowest marginal tax rates, Singapore and Hong Kong, were also those which experienced the fastest average real GDP growth.

My own estimate (see above) for the United States, is that

every 1 percentage-point increase in G/GDP yields a decrease in the growth rate of about 0.07 percent. That seemingly small effect becomes a huge one when G/GDP rises over a long period of time (as has been the case for more than a century, with no end in sight).

In other words, every 10 percentage-point increase in the ratio of government spending to GDP causes a not-insignificant drop of 0.7 percentage points in the rate of growth. That is somewhat below the estimate quoted above (1.1 percentage points), but surely it is within the range of uncertainty that surrounds the estimate.

Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians

(Pseudo) libertarians like to demonstrate their bogus commitment to liberty by proclaiming loudly their support for unfettered immigration, unfettered speech, unfettered abortion, unfettered same-sex coupling (and legal recognition thereof as “marriage’), and unfettered you-name-it.. In the minds of these moral relativists, liberty is a dream world where anything goes — anything of which they approve, that is.

The aim of today’s sermon is to embellish what I’ve said previously in many of the posts listed at the bottom of this one on the subject of (pseudo) libertarians and (pseudo) libertarianism. I begin with Bryan Caplan.

My disdain for Caplan’s (pseudo) libertarian, pacifistic, one-worldishness is amply documented: here, here, here, here, here, and here (second item). Caplan has been at it again, in recent posts about immigration (as in opening the floodgates thereto).

Consider this post, for example, where Caplan tries (in vain) to employ Swiftian hyperbole in defense of unfettered immigration. In the following block quotation, each of Caplan’s “witty” proposals is followed by my observations (in brackets and bold type):

Libertarians’ odd openness to using immigration restrictions to protect American freedom has me thinking.  There are many statist policies that could indirectly lead to more libertarian policy.  If you’re open to one, you should logically be open to all.

Here are just a few candidates:

1. Make public schools teach libertarianism.  Sure, public education should be abolished.  But as long as public education exists, wouldn’t it be better if the schools taught children about the value of freedom and the wonder of markets?

[Well, yes, our course it would. But public schools don't do that -- and won't do that -- because they were long ago taken over by leftist "educators." Next stupid idea...]

2. Discourage fertility of less libertarian groups.  If you really think that Muslims or Hispanics are unusually statist, their high birth rates should worry you.  Indeed, any birth rate above zero should worry you.  A moderate step would be to offer members of these groups extra subsidies for birth control.  From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to subsidized sterilization, tax penalties, or a selective One Child Policy.

[But why allow the immigration of statist-leaning groups in the first place? In fact, it would be a good idea to encourage them -- and others -- to leave. If the encouragement were financial, it would be a good investment.]

3. Censor statist ideas.  Sure, Paul Krugman has a right to free speech.  But the rest of us have a right to not be ruled by people swayed by Krugman.  It’s childish to deny the trade-off, no?

[It is childish to deny the trade-off. That's why idiots like Caplan deny it. They believe that theft is wrong, but they don't believe in preventing (or reducing) the amount of theft committed by government because statist ideas have been and are allowed to flourish. See below for more on this point.]

4. Subsidize vacations for less libertarian groups on election day.  Suppose the government gave members of unlibertarian groups free trips to Cancun that conveniently coincided with election day.  While some of the eligible would file an absentee ballot, there is little doubt that this would heavily depress turnout.  So why not?

[Better yet -- and far less expensive -- establish meaningful eligibility standards for voting; for example, being at least 30 years of age, owning one's home, and being able to read and write at the 12th-grade level. This might empower more "liberals" than conservatives, give the tendency of educated persons to adhere to statism. But their power would be constrained by the sensible prohibition of speech that advocates theft in the name of the state.]

The first link in the block quotation is to an earlier post by Caplan, in which, for practical purposes, he joins with Don Boudreaux in proclaiming (psuedo) libertarian absolutism on such other matters as freedom of speech. As Boudreaux puts it,

Freedom may well destroy itself.  That’s a risk I’m willing to take, especially if the proposed means of saving freedom is to restrict it.

This reminds me of “it was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” It’s a position that defies logic; thus:

  1. Freedom is not merely literal freedom from captivity; it is the enjoyment of that freedom through the peaceful pursuit of happiness. (Freedom, as a general condition, is possible only if everyone’s pursuit of happiness is peaceful with respect to other persons and their property.)
  2. It is wrong to deny any person his freedom, regardless of his demonstrated enmity toward freedom as defined in 1. (This is Boudreaux’s stated position, which — taken literally — precludes the imprisonment of convicted murderers, rapists, thieves, and others whose acts deny to others the peaceful pursuit of happiness.)
  3. Freedom, therefore, consists only of literal freedom. (This conclusion, which contradicts the full definition of freedom given in 1, is the logical consequence of Boudreaux’s position. And yet, Boudreaux would be the last person to accept this limited definition of freedom.)

It doesn’t matter whether the person whose demonstrated hostility toward freedom (properly defined) is a thief or a socialist. One is the same as the other when it comes to the defense of freedom (properly defined). Boudreaux and his ilk would be consistent (though wrong) if they were to say that thieves shouldn’t be imprisoned, but I doubt that they would say such a thing because they are staunch defenders of property rights. Why then, do they defend the right of statists to spread the gospel of government control over our lives and livelihoods, which is nothing but government-sponsored theft and demonstrably more damaging than garden-variety theft?

As I say at the end of this post,

Liberty is lost when the law allows “freedom of speech, and of the press” to undermine the civil and state institutions that enable liberty.

There is a very good case for the view that the First Amendment sought to protect only those liberties necessary for the preservation of republican government. The present statist regime is a long way from the kind of republican government envisioned by the Framers.

Another staple of (pseudo) libertarian thought is a slavish devotion to privacy — when that devotion supports a (pseudo) libertarian position. Economists like Caplan and Boudreaux are cagy about abortion. But other (pseudo) libertarians are less so; for example:

I got into a long conversation yesterday with a [Ron] Paul supporter who took me to task for my criticisms of Paul’s positions. For one thing, he insisted, Paul’s position on abortion wasn’t as bad as I made it out, because Paul just thinks abortion is a matter for the states. I pointed out that in my book, saying that states can violate the rights of women [emphasis added] is no more libertarian than saying that the federal government can violate the rights of women.

Whence the “right” to abort an unborn child? Here, according to the same writer:

I do believe that abortion is a liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment….

This train of “logic” is in accord with the U.S. Supreme Court’s manufactured “right” to an abortion under the Fourteenth (or was it the Ninth?) Amendment, which I have discussed in various places, including here. All in the name of “privacy.”

Here, again, we see devotion to a value for its own sake, regardless of the implications for liberty. As I say here,

if privacy were an absolute right, it would be possible to get away with murder in one’s home simply by committing murder there. In fact, if there are any absolute rights, privacy certainly isn’t one of them.

(Psuedo) libertarians choose not to characterize abortion as murder. They prefer to think of it as a form of control over one’s own body. But an unborn child is not “one’s own body” — it is its own body, created (in the overwhelming majority of cases) by consensual sex between the mother and a male person. Abortion is nothing more than a murderous flight from personal responsibility, which is a trait highly praised (in the abstract) by (pseudo) libertarians. And it is a long step down a very slippery eugenic slope.

It is no wonder that many (pseudo) libertarians like to call themselves liberaltarians. It is hard to distinguish (pseudo) libertarians from “liberals,” given their shared penchant for decrying and destroying freedom of association and evolved social norms. It is these which underlie the conditions of mutual respect, mutual trust, and forbearance that enable human beings to coexist peacefully and cooperatively. That is to say, in liberty.

Related posts:
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Abortion and the Slippery Slope
Privacy: Variations on the Theme of Liberty
An Immigration Roundup
Illogic from the Pro-Immigration Camp
On Liberty
Illegal Immigration: A Note to Libertarian Purists
A Moralist’s Moral Blindness
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
The Folly of Pacifism
Positivism, “Natural Rights,” and Libertarianism
What Are “Natural Rights”?
The Golden Rule and the State
Libertarian Conservative or Conservative Libertarian?
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
Evolution, Human Nature, and “Natural Rights”
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
More about Conservative Governance
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
On Self-Ownership and Desert
In Defense of Marriage
Understanding Hayek
Rethinking the Constitution: Freedom of Speech and of the Press
The Golden Rule as Beneficial Learning
Why I Am Not an Extreme Libertarian
Facets of Liberty
Burkean Libertarianism
Rights: Source, Applicability, How Held
The Folly of Pacifism, Again
What Is Libertarianism?
True Libertarianism, One More Time
Human Nature, Liberty, and Rationalism
Utilitarianism and Psychopathy
Privacy Is Not Sacred
A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance
The Libertarian-Conservative Fusion Is Alive and Well
Libertarianism and Morality
Libertarianism and Morality: A Footnote
Merit Goods, Positive Rights, and Cosmic Justice
More about Merit Goods
What Is Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism?
Prohibition, Abortion, and “Progressivism”
Liberty, Negative Rights, and Bleeding Hearts
Cato, the Kochs, and a Fluke
Conservatives vs. “Liberals”
Not-So-Random Thoughts (II)
Why Conservatism Works
The Pool of Liberty and “Me” Libertarianism
Bleeding-Heart Libertarians = Left-Statists
Enough with the Bleeding Hearts, Already
Not Guilty of Libertarian Purism
Liberty and Society
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?

Restoring Constitutional Government: The Way Ahead

Despite the narrowness of Barack Obama’s victory last November, there is much cause for despair by the remnant of liberty-loving Americans. Given the broad and bipartisan dependency of Americans on the welfare state, the overthrow of that state by an electoral revolution seems unlikely.

The entrenchment of the welfare state also means the entrenchment of the regulatory state. The two go hand-in-hand; both are born of economic illiteracy by way of power-lust. To put it another way, both are tools of “scientific” governance, which has no place for liberty, which is voluntary — and mutually beneficial — social and economic intercourse.

With that preamble in mind, let us consider the options (not all of which are mutually exclusive):

1. Business as usual — This will lead to more and more government control of our lives and livelihoods, that is, to less and less freedom and prosperity (except for our technocratic masters, of course).

2. Rear-guard action — This option is exemplified by the refusal of some States to expand Medicaid and to establish insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. This bit of foot-dragging doesn’t cure the underlying problem, which is accretion of illegitimate power by the central government. Further, it can be undone by fickle voters and fickle legislatures, as they succumb to the siren-call of “free” federal funds.

3. Geographic sorting — The tendency of “Blue” States to become “bluer” and “Red” States to become “redder” suggests that Americans are sorting themselves along ideological lines. As with rear-guard action, however, this tendency — natural and laudable as it is — doesn’t cure the underlying problem: the accretion of illegitimate power by the central government. Lives and livelihoods in every State, “Red” as well as “Blue,” are controlled by the edicts of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the central government. There is little room for State and local discretion. Moreover, much of the population shift toward “Red” must be understood as opportunistic (e.g., warmer climates, right-to-work laws) and not as an endorsement of “Red” politics. (There is a refinement of this option that I call “Zones of Liberty,” which also holds limited promise. Another variation, the Free State Project, is similarly unpromising.)

4. Civil disobedience — Certainly called for, but see option 5.

5. Underground society and economy — Think “EPA-DOL-FBI-IRS-NSA,” and then dismiss this as a serious option for most Americans.

6. A negotiated partition of the country — An unlikely option (discussed in this post and in some of the posted linked to therein) because “Blue” will not countenance the loss of control over millions of lives and livelihoods.

7. Secession — This is legal and desirable — as long as the New Republic of free states is truly free — but (a) it is likely to be met with force and therefore (b) unlikely to attract a critical mass of States.

8. Coup — Suggested several years ago by Thomas Sowell:

When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup.

Military personnel (careerists, in particular) are disciplined, have direct access to the tools of power, and many of them are trained in clandestine operations. Therefore, a cadre of properly motivated careerists might possess the wherewithal necessary to seize power. But a plot to undertake a coup is easily betrayed. (Among other things, significant numbers of high-ranking officers are shills for the regulatory-welfare state.) And a coup, if successful, might deliver us from a relatively benign despotism into a decidedly malign despotism. But given the nation’s present trajectory, a coup is our best bet for the restoration of liberty and prosperity under a government that is true to the Constitution.

Related reading:
Mark Thiessen, “The People Have Spoken … and They Must Be Punished,” AEIdeas, November 7, 2012
Jeffrey Lord, “Twinkicide: Death by Liberalism,” The American Spectator, November 20, 2012
Bill Vallicella, “A Case for Voluntary Segregation,” Maverick Philosopher, November 20, 2012
Patrick J. Buchanan, “Stirrings of Secession,” Taki’s Magazine, November 30, 2012
Gary Genelin, “On Secession: An Analysis of Texas v. White,” American Thinker, January 10, 2013

Related posts (listed chronologically):
How to Think about Secession
Greed, Cosmic Justice, and Social Welfare
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice
The Interest-Group Paradox
Is Statism Inevitable?
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
Fascism and the Future of America
Secession Redux
Negative Rights, Social Norms, and the Constitution
A New Cold War or Secession?
Rights, Liberty, the Golden Rule, and the Legitimate State
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
The Census of 2010: Bring It On
The Near-Victory of Communism
A Declaration of Independence
Tocqueville’s Prescience
First Principles
The Shape of Things to Come
The Real Burden of Government
Zones of Liberty
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
A Conversation with Uncle Sam
The Illusion of Prosperity and Stability
Estimating the Rahn Curve: Or, How Government Inhibits Economic Growth
The Deficit Commission’s Deficit of Understanding
The Bowles-Simpson Report
The Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate
The Bowles-Simpson Band-Aid
Does the Power to Tax Give Congress Unlimited Power?
Does Congress Have the Power to Regulate Inactivity?
Re-Forming the United States
The Southern Secession Reconsidered
A Declaration of Civil Disobedience
The Repealer
Estimating the Rahn Curve: A Sequel
Constitutional Confusion
Reclaiming Liberty throughout the Land
More Evidence for the Rahn Curve
Secession, Anyone?
Obamacare, Slopes, Ratchets, and the Death-Spiral of Liberty
Another Thought or Two about the Obamacare Decision
Obamacare and Zones of Liberty
Keynesianism: Upside-Down Economics in the Collectivist Cause
Secession for All Seasons
A New Constitution for a New Republic
A Zone of Liberty in the Making?
The Price of Government, Once More
America: Past, Present, and Future

America: Past, Present, and Future

This post (promised here) is my assessment of the past 50 years of life in America. I have opted for brevity instead of essaying a detailed analysis of cultural, political, and economic changes of the past 50 years. There is, after all, nothing fundamentally unique about the events of the past 50 years, which — in most respects — merely extend and amplify trends that began earlier.

The present condition of America owes much, for example, to the struggle between the proponents of limited government and the proponents of statism — a struggle that began in earnest with the onset of the “progressive” movement in the latter part of the 19th century. The Great Depression and World War II solidified the devotion of most Americans — and especially over-educated elites — to the cult of the state. Relief from the privations of the Great Depression, when it finally came after World War II, fostered the cult of the child and financed the growth of institutions whose denizens (politicians, bureaucrats, professors, and purveyors of entertainment) grew increasingly detached from the vicissitudes of daily life and increasingly attached to utopian schemes for the betterment of the unwashed masses from who they eagerly distance themselves.

I could go on (and on) in that vein, but I promised to be brief, and I shall be. The America of the past 50 years was shaped largely by the following, interwoven trends:

  • state-sponsored and state-imposed abandonment of personal responsibility (with special dispensations for criminals, incompetents, and “protected” groups, accompanied by penalties for private initiative and success)
  • usurpation and negation of private social and economic arrangements by the state (from charity to marriage, and much in between, most notably free markets)
  • state sponsorship of socially and economically subversive institutions, and the related growth of the “technocratic” class (unions, “educators,” and bureaucracies, for a start)
  • technocratic control of the state, in the service of “progressivism” (from the ICC in 1887 to today’s plethora of regulatory agencies and their hired guns)
  • denial of human nature and the limits it imposes on the effectiveness of technocratic “solutions” (magical thinking about the perfectibility of humans and the wonderfulness of government action)
  • growing gap between “real people” and their technocratic masters (third item in “Related Reading,” below)
  • cult of the child and prolongation of childhood (too little discipline, too much dependency — poor lessons for living with others)
  • decline of decorum and civility (as mirrored in and encouraged by “entertainment” that is loud, lewd, and crude in the nth degree).

If America was ever close to being a nation united and free, it has drifted far from that condition — arguably, almost as far as it  had by 1861. And America’s condition will only worsen unless leaders emerge who will set the nation (or a large, independent portion of it) back on course. Barring the emergence of such leaders, America will continue to slide into baseness, divisiveness, and servitude.

That is my view of America’s past 50 years, its present condition, and its future — barring drastic remedial action.

*     *     *

Related reading:
Arnold Kling, “Our New Technocratic Masters,” Askblog, February 3, 2013
Victor Davis Hanson, “The Glue Holding America Together,” RealClearPolitics, June 28, 2013
Victor Davis Hanson,”Liberal Apartheid,” RealClearPolitics, July 8, 2013

*     *     *

Related posts:
The Shape of Things to Come
Intellectuals and Capitalism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
A New, New Constitution
Secession Redux
A New Cold War or Secession?
The Real Constitution and Civil Disobedience
A Declaration of Independence
First Principles
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
Reclaiming Liberty throughout the Land
Secession for All Seasons
Government in Macroeconomic Perspective
Where We Are, Economically
Keynesianism: Upside-Down Economics in the Collectivist Cause
The Economic Outlook in Brief
Obamanomics: A Report Card
The 80-20 Rule, Illustrated
Lock ‘Em Up
Legislating Morality
Legislating Morality (II)
Free Will, Crime, and Punishment
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
A Contrarian View of Universal Suffrage
Well-Founded Pessimism
The Hidden Tragedy of the Assassination of Lincoln
A Wrong-Headed Take on Abortion
“Family Values,” Liberty, and the State
Is There Such a Thing as Society
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty
Dan Quayle Was (Almost) Right
Defense as an Investment in Liberty and Prosperity

The Price of Civilization

The price of civilization isn’t the taxes extorted from you and me to support bread, circuses, and other foolishness. Nay, the price of civilization is the taxes that sensible citizens pay to enjoy (no-longer) swift and sure enforcement of criminal codes and the (increasingly unsure) defense of Americans’ interests abroad.

It is the second of these lacunae that I here address:

1. If government exists for any legitimate purpose, it is to defend citizens against aggression at home and abroad.

2. Thanks to foreign trade and investments overseas, Americans are much better off than they would otherwise be. (Note to labor unions, other protectionists, and the Weeping Willies who cry “exploitation” — get stuffed.)

3. If  the federal government doesn’t afford American armed forces the wherewithal and political support necessary to defend Americans’ overseas interests, that government is illegitimate. (See #1.)

4. It follows that a price of civilization is not only the taxes required to mount a vigorous and effective defense of American’s overseas interests, but also the elimination (by peaceful means, of course) of any American government that refuses to mount such a defense.

5. It also follows that anyone — “liberal” or “libertarian” — who clamors for lower defense spending is a borderline traitor. (BHO has already crossed the line with his crass embrace of internationalism and willingness to abandon Americans’ overseas interests.)

The Circularity of “Racism”


Wherever blacks fail to attain a “fair” outcome, as defined by a leftist, the leftist immediately blames the failure on “racism.” The “logic” runs like this:


The failure of blacks to do as well as whites in any endeavor is evidence of racism.


Blacks do not fare as well as whites in ________.


Therefore, the failure of blacks in ________ arises from racism.


The second premise is superfluous to the “argument,” and fails to address causes of failure (e.g., the generally lower intelligence of blacks). The conclusion simply restates the first premise. The “argument” is circular; that is, it begs the question of why blacks do not fare as well as whites in a particular endeavor.

Life in Austin (3)

To fully appreciate this post, you should read “Life in Austin (1)” and “Life in Austin (2).”

A combination of leftist whites, blacks, and Hispanics is in charge of Austin. That is not about to change, although leftist whites may find themselves coaching their protégés from the sidelines.

Why and how? Last November, Austin’s voters approved a change in the composition of the city council. The current scheme provides for 6 at-large members (plus an at-large mayor). The new scheme (which takes effect with the election of November 2014) calls for 10 members, each representing a particular geographic district. The 10 districts are to be decided by a 14-member commission consisting of volunteers from the electorate. The initial response to the call for volunteers was insufficiently “diverse,” so there was a great effort to enlist “minorities.”

From the expanded and suitably “diverse” pool of applicants emerged a leftist white’s dream team. The present council chose the first 8 members of the commission (allegedly by random draw): 6 Hispanics, 1 black, and 1 Asian. (It should be noted here that Austin is 48-percent white.) Further, not one of the 8 is from the west (more affluent) side of Austin. These unrepresentative 8 commissioners will select the other 6 commissioners from the applicant pool. What this means, of course, is that Austin’s council districts will be drawn by a completely unrepresentative commission.

I fully expect that those of us who pay most of Austin’s taxes will have no more than token representation on the new city council.

That’s “diversity” in Austin, folks.

Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion — Updated

The Reverend Dr. Samuel Burchard, a supporter of James G. Blaine, Republican candidate for president in 1884, characterized the Democrat Party as “the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion.” There is no record that, contrary to current practice, the Reverend Dr. turned weasel and retracted his accurate characterization with fulsome apologies.

Nor will I apologize for calling today’s Democrat Party the party of butchery, buggery, and blasphemy.

“Butchery” refers to the party’s vigorous advocacy of abortion, which barbarous practice is an article of faith (pun) among many prominent (but nominal) Catholics of the Democrat persuasion.

“Buggery” refers to the party’s wholehearted embrace (pun) of the mockery of true marriage that is known as “same-sex marriage. A salient aspect of “same-sex marriage” is … buggery.

Blasphemy” might refer to the anti-religious stance that dominates the Democrat Party: “impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.” But the greater blasphemy is the party’s presumption to god-like power in its zeal to dictate the terms of every citizen’s existence through legislation, regulation, and judicial fiat.


As I say in “Americanism … from the Left,”

the left holds an unbounded view of Americanism: Everyone who wants to be an American, and to enjoy the privileges attaching thereto, should be considered one. How else could leftists — the enemies of the Constitution, the common defense, justice, and private property — claim to be my fellow citizens?

What a laughable claim. Leftists are no more American than their heroes, from Stalin and Mao to Castro and Chavez.

Now comes Olen Steinhauer, a novelist who is associated with Austin, Texas — a.k.a., the San Francisco of Texas — to affirm my observation. In a review of John le Carré’s latest outpouring, A Delicate Truth, Steinhauer writes about a character whose

appearance among the sophisticates of the Foreign Ministry is like a slap in the face, and while she’s ushered offstage quickly, you’d be forgiven for seeing in her caricature evidence of the accusation leveled at le Carré regularly these days: anti-Americanism.

Having lived in Europe for the last decade, I’m particular about how to use that label. To me, “anti-American” means just that: to be contemptuous of Americans, one and all. I’ve met those people. Blinded by their ignorance, they’re to be scorned. But then there is John le Carré, whose January 2003 argument against the Iraq war, printed in The Times of London, was called “The United States of America Has Gone Mad.” He made his ire plain: he was against the foreign policy of an American administration he despised. If this is what qualifies him, then half of our own population is anti-American.

This passage reveals Steinhauer as a sophist of the first order. Anyone who has read very much of le Carré’s oeuvre (as I have) knows that there is much more to his anti-Americanism than his dislike of a particular administration’s foreign policy. Anyone who knows American politics (as I do) knows that much of the opposition to G.W. Bush’s foreign policy was reflexive opposition to a president who was perceived as a defender of traditional American values. To be blunt about it, Bush’s greatest sin (in the left’s view of things) was to attack America’s enemies instead of “understanding” them and “respecting” their (twisted) values.

Based on the evidence of the last presidential election, it is not unreasonable to say that half of our own population is anti-American.

The Hidden Tragedy of the Assassination of Lincoln


Left out in Steven Spielberg’s cinematic work of hagiography, Lincoln, is the fact that, as scholar Phil Magness continues to show us, the sixteenth president was devoted until his dying day to a program of African colonization as a component of any scheme of black emancipation. In this, of course, Lincoln was hardly alone. Most of those nineteenth-century Americans–North and South–who condemned slavery believed in white superiority and the inability of the black race to co-exist with the white race in America. Lincoln believed this, as did Thomas Jefferson, as did many lesser known Americans…. (Stephen M. Klugewicz, “Emancipate But Colonize: Abe Lincoln, Matthew Carey, Robert Walsh, and the Antislavery Consensus,” The Imaginative Conservative, April 28, 2013)

In June of 1863 Abraham Lincoln entered into an agreement with the government of Great Britain to colonize recently freed African Americans in its West Indian colonies of Guiana and British Honduras (modern day Belize). [A document discovered in Belize] bears Lincoln’s endorsement of the project and was produced for Frederick Seymour, the colonial governor of British Honduras. It is one of four known first-generation copies. (From an entry at “Current Scholarship by Phillip W. Magness“; see also “New Revelations as the Emancipation Proclamation Turns 150“)

Imagine life in America had Lincoln lived to finish his second term. A Republican Party less zealous to wreak vengeance on the South might have turned its attention to the colonization project, with these results:

  • Southern blacks would have been spared the cruelty, indignity, and privation that was their lot for a century after the end of the Civil War.
  • The black ghettos of the North — and all that goes with them — probably wouldn’t have been formed.
  • There would be far less crime; far less money spent on police, prosecutors, and courts; and far less money spent on prisons.
  • There would be far fewer illegitimate children and welfare mothers dependent on the dole.
  • Whites and Asians wouldn’t be punished for their non-existent sins by being deprived of jobs, promotions, and college admissions in favor of less-qualified blacks.
  • Honest, hard-working taxpayers wouldn’t be burdened with nearly as much “affordable” housing.
  • The kinds of low-down-payment, low-initial-interest loans that triggered the Great Recession probably wouldn’t have been pushed by members of Congress and federal agencies.
  • There wouldn’t be a powerful voting bloc that supports big government and the welfare state.
  • Congress and State legislatures wouldn’t be cluttered by big-government-pro-welfare-state black lawmakers who owe their seats to the dictates of the Voting Rights Act.
  • “Racism” wouldn’t be an issue; thus, Americans wouldn’t waste their time in “conversations” about race, and “white guilt” would be a nullity — as it should be.

Americanism … from the Left

The surviving Boston Marathon bomber is not an enemy combatant, according to the White House, because he is an American citizen. Ah so! All that a terrorist must do to be accorded his Miranda rights is to slip behind the veil of citizenship. He will then be treated like a common criminal (murderers being no more than common criminals in the left’s taxonomy of crime) and afforded the luxury of years of trials and appeals before he receives anything remotely resembling justice. He certainly will not be subjected to interrogation of the kind that could reveal other terrorists and terrorist plots.

This is of a piece with the left’s embrace of illegal (oops!) undocumented immigrants, who — in the left’s view — are just Americans who happen to be citizens of other countries. Not to mention that they are also prospective voters who will help the left to sustain and expand the welfare state upon which illegal immigrants feed.

It seems that the left holds an unbounded view of Americanism: Everyone who wants to be an American, and to enjoy the privileges attaching thereto, should be considered one. How else could leftists — the enemies of the Constitution, the common defense, justice, and private property — claim to be my fellow citizens?

What a laughable claim. Leftists are no more American than their heroes, from Stalin and Mao to Castro and Chavez.

Buy Loco

It is loco to buy local, as so-called local merchants urge us to do.

What is the point of buying local? More to the point: How does one decide whether a business is local?

The ultimate in local buying is to buy from oneself, that is, to make with one’s own brain and hands everything that one consumes and uses, and to do so by drawing only on the resources that are available on one’s property. Absurd, you say? Of course.

But if we admit the absurdity of self-sufficiency (except for the rare bird who is willing to dress in animal skins, live in a lean-to without electricity, and subsist on a limited diet), we must admit that trade is necessary. And once we admit the necessity of trade, we are hard-pressed to say how far it can reach.

In terms of the buy-local movement (if it may be called that), are we to boycott a locally owned hardware store because most of what it sells is made elsewhere — and most of that in far-flung places, even including Asia? What makes the locally owned hardware store any more local than a Lowe’s or Home Depot? Certainly not the source of its goods. Certainly not the source of its labor.

Ah, but, there are all those employees (some of them extremely well-paid) who work and live elsewhere. And there are of those shareholders and bondholders, who live as far away as China. How dare they “suck” money out of the local economy.

But they are not “sucking” money out of the local economy. They, along with local employees and suppliers far and wide, are providing items of value to the local economy, in return for which they are paid in dollars that they often spend on products and services of local origin.

The moral of this tale: If you are not willing and able to be truly self-sufficient, you cannot in good conscience subscribe to the buy-local movement.

Life in Austin (2)

Life in Austin (1)” introduces some of the themes on which I will here elaborate. But there is more to say about Austin than greenness for its own sake, growth to stoke the egos of elected officials and other smug Austinites, the horrendous traffic that ensues, and the diversion of precious road space to Austin’s powerful (though minuscule) cadre of bicyclists.

The last-mentioned are not content to stay in their lanes. When they are not riding abreast and riding the white line to force drivers to swerve around them, they are waiting for lights to change (when they do wait, that is) by parking themselves square in the middle of traffic. The purpose of this maneuver, of course, is an ill-advised attempt to irritate drivers. Ill-advised because many drivers, who have a distinct weight advantage, make it a point to harass cyclists. I would not be surprised to learn that the occasional cyclist who is picked off by a never-discovered driver was a casualty of a poorly calculated near miss.

Austin’s self-designated status as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” to which I adverted in part one, is a matter of misguided opinion. How does one determine the “most musical” city and, more fundamentally, what counts as music? My idea of music isn’t a lot of twenty-somethings making a lot of noise that is heard mostly by other twenty-somethings. (Nor is it the corny trash for thirty-to-ninety somethings that seems to be Nashville’s staple.) Give me a first-rate symphony orchestra that plays (mostly) music composed before 1900 and a bevy of chamber ensembles that do the same. By that (correct) standard, there are dozens of cities that could claim the title of “Live Music Capital of the World,” but Austin wouldn’t be among them.

You may also have heard that Austin is a “beautiful” city. And that would be true, if only its parks and tonier residential areas are considered. But most of Austin — that part of it which hasn’t been paved over in a vain attempt to move traffic — is flat, brown much of the year (because of a continuing drought), and occupied by ugly houses and commercial buildings. Austin’s downtown area, which once was dominated by the beautiful Capitol of Texas, is now dominated by the random and graceless spires of high-rise buildings, to which the more affluent denizens of Austin have fled so that they have a place to park when they are conducting business in downtown Austin.

Getting back to Austin’s drivers, I can only say that they are, on the whole, the worst that I have encountered in my 56 years behind the wheel. Without further ado, I give you my essay on “Driving in Austin”:

It begins with (1) driving in the middle of unstriped, residential streets, even as other vehicles approache. This practice might be excused as a precautionary because (2) Austinites often exit parked cars by opening doors and stepping out, heedless of traffic. But middle-of-the-road driving occurs spontaneously and is of a piece with the following self-centered habits.

(3) Waiting until the last split-second to turn onto a street.  This practice — which prevails along Florida’s Gulf Coast because of the age of the population there — is indulged in by drivers of all ages in Austin. It is closely related to (4) the habit of ignoring stop signs, not just by failing to stop at them but also (and quite typically) failing to look before not stopping. Ditto — and more dangerously — (5) red lights.

Not quite as dangerous, but mightily annoying, is the Austin habit of (6) turning abruptly without giving a signal. And when the turn is to the right, it often is accompanied by (7) a loop to the left, which thoroughly confuses the driver of the following vehicle and can cause him to veer into danger.

Loopy driving reaches new heights when an Austiner (8) changes lanes or crosses lanes of traffic without looking. A signal, rarely given, occurs after the driver has made his or her move, and it means “I’m changing/crossing lanes because it’s my God-given right to do so whenever I feel like it, and it’s up to other drivers to avoid hitting my vehicle.”

The imperial prerogative — I drive where I please — also manifests itself in the form of (9) crossing the center line while taking a curve. That this is done by drivers of all types of vehicle, from itsy-bitsy cars to hulking SUVs, indicates that the problem is sloppy driving habits, not unresponsive steering mechanisms. Other, closely related practices are (10) taking a corner by cutting across the oncoming lane of traffic and (11) zipping through a parking lot as if no child, other pedestrian, or vehicle might suddenly appear in the driving lane.

At the other end of the spectrum, but just as indicative of thoughtlessness is the practice of (12) yielding the right of way when it’s yours. This perverse courtesy only confuses the driver who doesn’t have the right of way and causes traffic to back up (needlessly) behind the yielding driver.

Then there is (13) the seeming inability of most Austiners to park approximately in the middle of a head-in parking space and parallel to the stripes that delineate it.  The ranks of the parking-challenged seem to be filled with yuppie women in small BMWs, Infinitis, and Lexi; older women in almost any kind of vehicle; and (worst of all) drivers of SUVs –(14) of which “green” Austin has far more than its share on its antiquated street grid. It should go without saying that most of Austin’s SUV drivers are (15) obnoxious, tail-gating jerks when they are on the road.

Contributing to the preceding practices — and compounding the dangers of the many dangerous ones — is (16) the evidently inalienable right of an Austinite to talk on a cell phone while driving, everywhere and (it seems) always. Yuppie women in SUVs are the worst offenders, and the most dangerous of the lot because of their self-absorption and the number of tons they wield with consummate lack of skill. Austin, it should also go without saying, has more than its share of yuppie women.

None of the above is unique to Austin. But inconsiderate and dangerous driving habits seem much more prevalent in Austin than in other places where I have driven — even including the D.C. area, where I spent 37 years.

My theory is that the prevalence of bad-driving behavior in Austin — where liberalism dominates — reflects the essentially anti-social character of liberalism Despite the lip-service that liberals give to such things as compassion, community, and society, they worship the state and use its power to do their will — without thought or care for the lives and livelihoods thus twisted and damaged.

It should be unnecessary to add that the 16 egregious practices described above are especially prevalent among Austin’s self-important, SUV-driving, guilt-trip-Democrat-voting yuppies.

What is the cost of living in Austin’s smug, raucous, clogged, irritating, and (mostly) ugly environs? It isn’t cheap, because Austin levies the highest sales-tax rate permitted by Texas (8.25%), and routinely raises property assessments by 10% a year (the maximum allowable by law), while also raising property-tax rates (just enough to evade approval at the ballot box).

So, if you’re thinking of living in (or near) Austin, consider yourself warned.

As for me, I’m out of here as soon as my 90-something in-laws see fit to quit their earthly abode.