A Parable of Sheep and Wolves

Sheep are of two kinds. There are those (dumb sheep) who wish for peace but are unwilling to do what it takes to attain and maintain it. And there are those (smart sheep) who understand what follows.

Wolves are of two kinds. There are those (dumb wolves) who don’t care about peace, and whose natural inclination is to dominate and savage others; sheep are their natural prey. There are those (smart wolves) who understand that they can lead better lives if they cooperate with sheep.

Smart sheep understand that they can keep dumb wolves at bay if they retain the services of smart wolves. This is possible because, as peaceable creatures, sheep are good at cooperating for their mutual benefit and therefore enriching themselves. Smart sheep are discerning enough to hire smart wolves who understand that what harms the sheep harms them (through loss of lucrative employment). Thus a bargain may be struck that keeps the bad wolves at bay, while the smart sheep and their smart wolf hirelings enjoy the fruits of mutually beneficial cooperation.

There are, however, a lot of dumb sheep who don’t understand that their peace and prosperity depends on (a) keeping bad wolves at bay and (b) hiring smart wolves for that purpose. Some dumb sheep, despite the hard lessons of experience, cannot believe that there are bad wolves, or that the bad wolves will harm them. Other dumb sheep, despite the lessons of history, cannot bring themselves to hire smart wolves because they are wolves. (Those dumb sheep are the kind who believe that a drawing of a gun is somehow an act of violence, that a man can bear children, etc., etc.).

When dumb sheep dominate, all sheep suffer. When smart sheep dominate, dumb sheep call them “nazis” for hiring wolves and keeping the peace.

He Said What?

From National Review:

“At a Pentagon briefing Wednesday [August 18], when Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was asked about the U.S. military’s capability to get its citizens out of Afghanistan, his answer was jaw-dropping: “We don’t have the capability to go out and collect large numbers of people. You have to watch Austin deliver this line to grasp its full air of defeatism about a place where our military has moved about with some impunity for two decades….

The best Austin could offer was a promise to try, at least for a while: “We’re gonna get everyone that we can possibly evacuate evacuated, and I’ll do that as long as we possibly can, until the clock runs out, or we run out of capability. . . . I don’t have the capability to go out and extend operations currently into Kabul.”

Of course he has the capability. He has the whole frigging military might of the U.S. to call upon. If he can’t call upon it, it’s because he doesn’t want to or because his “commander-in-chief” won’t let him.

If it’s the former, he should be keelhauled. If it’s the latter, he (and every general and flag officer) should resign in protest. And Biden should be impeached, convicted, drawn, and quartered.

This is right up there with the worst foreign policy/defense failures that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime of 80 years, which is saying a lot because there have been plenty of them. It may not be on the scale of the surrenders in Korea and Vietnam, but — beyond the abandonment of Americans (and Afghans who aided the U.S.) — the debacle in Afghanistan gives aid and comfort to every enemy and potential enemy of the U.S. And it does so at a crucial moment, when those enemies are building their own forces while ours are shrinking — though not as fast as the cojones of U.S. “leaders”.

The Way Ahead?

Afghanistan is the latest is a string of American military failures since World War II: Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq I (Saddam could have been removed but wasn’t), Somalia, 9/11 (a failure in itself), Iraq II, and Afghanistan. (Have I missed any?)

Why the failures? A combination of impetuousness and lack of resolve. Both go with the U.S. system of governance, which (except for World War II) results in frequent shifts of direction and is unduly beholden to “popular” (i.e., media-driven) opinion.

This will not change. It will only get worse. Unless there arises an immediate, existential threat (as in 1941). It must be a threat that is clearly dangerous enough to stiffen the resolve of U.S. (and Western) leaders and to overcome the anti-war, anti-defense bias of the media. But, even then, a sudden burst of resolve by U.S. (and Western) leaders may not be enough. Given technological advances since 1941, an enemy could probably cripple the West (e.g., see EMP) before U.S. and NATO forces and countermeasures can be mobilized.

In sum, monolithic regimes (e.g., China) can play the long game. The West cannot because of its “democratic” politics. Even a Churchill, if one were to arise, probably couldn’t salvage “democracy”.

But by the time that China (or an alliance of convenience led by China) is ready to bring the West to its knees, an outright attack of some kind won’t be necessary. The cultural and political rot will have burrowed so deeply into the the West’s psyche that World War III will be a walkover. A sniveling, hand-wringing affair presaged by Biden’s performance in withdrawing from Afghanistan and blaming others for his own failure.

And it won’t be a walkover for the West.

The Coronavirus: A Case Study in the Destructiveness of Government Action?

There is a long list of things that government does to make life worse for people, even in nominally free countries. Leading that list is the strongly negative economic effects of government spending and regulation.

But government, by and large, gets a pass because it is assumed to be acting in the best interest of the citizenry, and with the consent of the citizenry. That assumption is wrong because government acts in its own interest — or, rather, in the interests of its principal actors and agents. (There’s a massive literature about this, called public-choice economics.)

Even when politician and bureaucrats believe that they are serving the interests of the citizenry, they must do so by penalizing many for the benefit of some. The benefits bestowed on favored citizens (and, increasingly, non-citizens) are paid for not only by the disfavored but also by many of favored. (There’s no such thing as a free lunch.)

In fact, politicians and bureaucrats advance those interests which are congruent with their own. And they do so in order to retain power, which is arguably their overarching interest.

To seem to be effective, and thus to retain power, it is the instinct of most politicians (and bureaucrats) to do something. And doing something, as noted above, can have worse consequences than doing nothing and letting free people strive together in the service of their own interests.

Which brings me to the coronavirus, or the string of coronaviruses that has developed through mutation and survival of the fittest (i.e., strains that are increasingly resistant to vaccines). It has been assumed that the citizenry would be best served through governmental edicts such as mask-wearing, social distancing, lockdowns, and, ultimately, involuntary vaccinations.

But there is an alternative hypothesis: Such measures have merely delayed the inevitable and made it worse by creating the conditions for the evolution of more contagious and perhaps deadlier strains of the coronavirus. Under that hypothesis, if the first stage of the coronavirus had been allowed to run rampant, herd immunity would have been achieved. The most vulnerable among us would have died or suffered at length before recovering (and then, perhaps, only partially). But that would have happened in any case.

Widespread exposure to the disease would have meant the natural immunization of most of the populace through exposure to the coronavirus and the development of antibodies through that exposure — which, for most of the populace, isn’t lethal or debilitating.

Natural immunization (and thus herd immunity) didn’t happen because of mask-wearing, social distancing, lockdowns, and forced vaccinations (governmentally encouraged, even if nominally private). And so, the coronavirus is becoming deadlier instead of dying out on its own.

In the end, millions of people will suffer and die needlessly because politicians and bureaucrats couldn’t (and can’t) resist the urge to do something — and because they have the power to make something happen.


Related reading: Brian McGlinchey, “Lockdowns, Masks and The Illusion of Government Control Over Covid“, Stark Realities, August 13, 2021

Why Should I Worry about Inflation?

What inflation? The spike on the right in this graph:

There are many reasons why inflation (except in moderation) is a bad thing. You can find those reasons by consulting Wikipedia or doing a web search. But there’s one reason that isn’t getting much press right now: Inflation hinders economic growth. Again, I won’t spell out the reasons, but you will find them if you research the ill effects of inflation.

You should be worried about the effect of inflation on economic growth because the effect is negative. Therefore, persistently high inflation means slower economic growth, which means less employment, less lucrative employment, less real output of products and services and — of course — a standard of living that’s lower than it would otherwise be. The top 10 percent won’t have anything to worry about because (a) they probably won’t be affected and (b) even if they are, the effects will be trivial (for them). The other 90 percent will suffer, and the suffering will hit the middle class (hard), the working class (harder), and the truly poor (hardest of all).

How do I know that inflation has an adverse effect on economic growth. Well, it’s among several things that, taken together, have an adverse effect on economic growth: an increase in the fraction of GDP that is commanded by government spending; a decrease in the rate of private, nonresidential investment spending; an increase in regulatory activity (as measured by Federal Register pages), and an increase in the rate of inflation as measured by the CPI-U. (See this for details.) As a result, there has been a steady down-trend in the rate of GDP growth since the end of World War II. (See Figure 2 here; it is slightly out of date but the trend has continued its decline in the two years that have passed.)

The equation presented at the first link above indicates that a persistent rise the rate of inflation by 1 percentage point will cause the rate of real GDP growth to decline by about 0.13 percentage point. That may not seem like much, but it becomes a lot over time because of compounding. Thus, for example, an increase in the rate of inflation from 3 to 4 percent, if sustained over 10 years, will result in a rate of growth that is 88 percent of what it would have the rate of inflation not increased.

But that estimate may be too low. GDP growth, as discussed, has been falling steadily for several decades, with occasional reversals during periods when onerous government policies have been relaxed. Abstracting from the downward trend, I obtained a statistically significant relationship between the year-over-year change in CPI-U and the year-over-year change in the de-trended rate of real GDP growth — with a four-quarter lag between the change in CPI-U and the change in the rate of GDP growth. What this amounts to is a rough estimate of the effect of the change in the rate of inflation on the rate of GDP growth when trend-related factors (government spending and Federal Register pages) are held constant.

Here’s the relationship:

The r-squared may not seem impressive, but it is statistically significant at  the 0.01 level (for those of you who care about such things).

What does the equation mean? It means that an annual rate of inflation above 2 percent generally drives the rate of GDP growth into negative territory. It means, specifically, that a 1 percentage point increase in the rate of inflation will cause the rate of growth to decline by 0.23 percentage point in a year — almost double the effect that I had derived earlier. Yes, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the accuracy of the estimate, but the negative relationship between inflation and GDP growth isn’t in doubt.

A little bit of inflation is a necessary thing in a growing economy because increases in outlays on investments must precede the resulting increases in quantity and quality of economic goods. But a sudden and persistent increase in the price of goods, fueled by government money-printing, is a bad thing. It creates uncertainty, and uncertainty is an enemy of sound economic decision-making.

What we are now experiencing may prove to be a very bad thing.

More Thoughts about the “Marketplace of Ideas”

In “The ‘Marketplace’ of Ideas” I observe that

[u]nlike true markets, where competition usually eliminates sellers whose products and services are found wanting, the competition of ideas often leads to the broad acceptance of superstitions, crackpot notions, and plausible but mistaken theories. These often find their way into government policy, where they are imposed on citizens and taxpayers for the psychic benefit of politicians and bureaucrats and the monetary benefit of their cronies.

The “marketplace” of ideas is replete with vendors who are crackpots, charlatans, and petty tyrants. They run rampant in the media, academia, and government.

Caveat emptor.

 
I have more to say in “Revisiting the ‘Marketplace of Ideas’“.
 
Now comes Tom Smith of The Right Coast:
 
Think [about] Nazism, Communism, various religions, Rastafarianism, and other -isms without number. Millions of people actually believe these things, often without reservation. The marketplace of ideas at best works only, ah, imperfectly, you might say. You also might say it’s always just a half-step away from disaster.
 
I would say that it often leads to disaster. Bringing the U.S. economy to its knees in the name of combating climate change is today’s Exhibit A. (Though it has stiff competition from Critical Race Theory, the transgender fad, abortion-on-demand, and a bunch of other things.
 
Equilibrium in the “marketplace of ideas”, were it ever to be realized, would be a consensus about “truth” of some kind or other. The problem is that even if such an equilibrium could be attained, a lot of damage (often irredeemable) would occur before nirvana arrives.
 
There are many historical parallels he tortuous and often futile search for “truth”, and to the damage that is wrought during that search.. One parallel that springs to mind — and which ought to horrify you — 100,000,000 human beings in the years between Hitler’s rise to power and the defeat of his regime.

Liberty vs. Security

An esteemed correspondent makes some good points in the following message (which I have edited lightly):

Our country is in more dire straits than it has been at any time in my lifetime [he is 85]. Maybe not as bad as when a Vice-President shot and killed a former Secretary of the Treasury or when there was an armed insurrection and each faction tried to take the other’s seat-of-government by force. I think our current divisions and divisiveness are detrimental to the continuation of the “greatest nation the world has ever known”; and I don’t think they can be fixed.

Liberty and security pull in opposite directions. More of one, less of the other. History and common-sense tells us that is so.

I’d like to start with Benjamin Franklin’s saying that is often misinterpreted. He said that our form of government is a republic, if you can keep it. That has been misinterpreted, repeatedly and emphatically by the current speaker-of-the-house to mean that Franklin was warning against a strong executive emulating a monarch. I think he was warning against the opposite, which he had witnessed in France. He also was fearful of our becoming a pure democracy with a people’s parliament becoming a law unto itself. This is similar to the tradeoffs between liberty and security. Either extreme is undesirable.

The geniuses who designed our government provided a number of checks and balances to try to keep things sort of in the middle. We are a federated democratic republic, not a democracy as is so often misstated. The Framers of the Constitution designed a government, but they neglected to explain the relationship of the government to those that were being governed. It took the first ten amendments to the Constitution to make that explicit. Those ten amendments delineate the limits that the federal government has over individuals. The 14th amendment essentially extends that to state governments. I especially like the tenth amendment. It is simply worded and says in plain English, any rights and authorities not specifically given to the federal government in this document belong to the people and/or the states.

Two constitutional issues were settled by the Civil War: slavery was no longer legal anywhere; and secondly, it was not permissible for states to secede from the union. It took later amendments to confirm that Blacks were not property; they are human beings with all rights of other human beings. Unfortunately that didn’t sit well with many Americans and we are still trying to sort out that issue in practice.

I don’t think that our current problems can be solved by appealing to the consent of the governed to be governed, namely by voting. Nor do I think secession (breakup) is feasible.

Voting: A significant fraction of those that voted in the November 2020 election think the the “results” are not honest. You can dismiss that view, but it is necessary to have a buy-in to the results of an election to have an election that conveys the consent of the governed. To me it is beside the point whether there is any evidence of “stealing an election” or not. There were enough irregularities that a demagogue can and did stir up doubts. Elections need to appear incorruptible, and today they are not. Could that be fixed? Not in our polarized society.

Furthermore, and this is more important, there isn’t balanced news coverage leading up to our elections or in analyzing the results. When there is overwhelming bias in the media, or there is no fair representation of both sides of the coin, we don’t have an environment for fair elections. Today one political party and the media are indistinguishable. The “media” is totally biased and deceitful in reporting “facts”. Remember Hamilton and Jefferson, who were arch political enemies. Each funded media that parroted his version of “truth”. But there were two sides. Add to the mix today’s “social media”, controlled by those favoring security over liberty. So the voices of liberty over security are relegated to fringe “nuts”. [The last bit is a gross error on the writer’s part, unless the millions who take my position on the matter are all on the fringe.]

Maybe even more importantly and indicative of a long-term fundamental change in America is the influence of “educators”. Uniformly, from those teaching young minds to the teachers of those teachers, in the formulators of “correct” history they favor security at the expense of liberty and are militant about spreading the “gospel”. They are children of the 1970s. Many grew up at a college their parents paid for and they didn’t have to work when they got out of college. They didn’t have any useful skills and of course the remedy for that is the old saying, “Those who can’t do, teach”.

So I don’t think there is any chance of “voting” to obtain the consent of the governed for their government is achievable. The influences wielded by the media and the educational system can’t be alleviated. There is only one perspective instead of a balance between liberty and security. I have avoided using the words liberal or conservative, or republican or democrat. I think that liberty and security are the two concepts that should be discussed more often as the heart of the country’s differences.

Secession: The possibility of secession, peaceful of not, was foreclosed by the Civil War. Since then the entanglements between the federal entity, the state entities, and the states themselves rule out out any practical solution those bindings.

Bottom Line: We’ll muck around for quite some time until it is realized that our system with all its faults is better than any feasible alternative. If and when it happens, I’ll be long gone.

I responded at length, in two epistles. Here’s the first one:

Your analysis of the present situation in the U.S. is spot-on. And, as you say, it’s not going to get any better on its own. There really are two Americas and they are irreconcilable. There are a lot of Americans — me included — who will not stand for “mucking around” that legitimates the present state of affairs or its ultimate destination: an imperial central government that is beholden to and effectively run by ultra-rich oligarchs and their lackeys and enablers in the bureaucracies, public schools, universities, information-technology companies, and media.

As for secession, the Civil War settled nothing — Justice Scalia to the contrary notwithstanding — except to underscore the fact that the North was able to muster superior forces thanks to its larger (free) population and industrial strength. If you have the time, read my analysis of the Court’s infamous ruling in Texas v. White, on which Scalia founded his baseless dictum: https://politicsandprosperity.com/constitution-myths-and-realities/. Scroll down to Section VI.F. for the bottom line about the legality of secession.

I also discuss in another section the practicality of secession or, rather, its impracticality. But there is another way to skin the cat. It is the nullification of federal edicts by the States. I refer to a new kind of nullification, which — unlike the kind attempted by South Carolina in the early 1830s — doesn’t involve formal declarations by State legislatures and governors. Rather, it involves non-compliance, acts of defiance, and foot-dragging. We saw some of that during Trump’s years, as States and cities declared themselves “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants and refused to cooperate with ICE. We are beginning to see it from the other side as GOP-controlled States bring suit after suit against various federal actions (e.g., Keystone pipeline, Biden’s immigration fiasco), and GOP-controlled cities and counties declare themselves pro-life and gun-rights “sanctuaries”. This could be the wave of the future, with effective diminution of the central government through non-compliance with federal edicts. Federal courts have no power to enforce the edicts, and must rely on the federal government for enforcement. How many brushfires can the federal government put out? Would it resort to force against a state? I don’t know the answers, but it’s not clear that the federal government will come out on top, especially if it tries to enforce things that are wildly unpopular in some States and regions, such as abortion, strict gun-control measures, vaccine passports, or (the coming big thing) climate lockdowns.

So, unlike the earlier secession and its violent conclusion, there could be a non-violent kind of secession. It wouldn’t involve the formal breakup of the U.S., just a new modus vivendi between the States and the central government. Or, rather, a return to the modus vivendi that was intended by the Framers, enshrined in the 10th amendment, and then frittered away by the central government’s “mission creep”.

There is another, complementary, possibility. It is that Americans in the center turn their backs on the radical direction the country seems to be taking. (Resistance to CRT is a good case in point.) If enough of them do it, the GOP will retake Congress. And if in 2024 the GOP were to nominate someone more like Reagan than Trump, the Democrats could be kept out of power for a while — at least until they come to their senses. In the meantime, the Supreme Court could, without fear of being packed, make some libertarian rulings. A key one would be to find that Big Tech is s state actor (because of its immunity under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act), and therefore acts illegally when it censors views on the pretext that they are “hate speech” or “anti-science”, etc. In the way of the world, such an electoral and judicial turn of events could trigger a “cascade” in the direction opposite the one in which the country has been heading. And so, the “mucking around” might come to a better end than the one foreseen by you.

Here’s the second one:

A further thought about the tension between liberty and security.

It is really a tension between left and right, which is a deep psychological divide, as I discuss here: https://politicsandprosperity.com/2018/05/03/can-left-and-right-be-reconciled/. (The missing figure, which I will have to reconstruct, is derived from polling results that support the point made in the text.)

A point that I don’t make explicitly, but which should be obvious, is that compromise invites further compromise, to the detriment of liberty. The ransomware attacks, for instance, wouldn’t be happening if the U.S. hadn’t long ago abandoned the principle of unconditional surrender by the enemy. The track record of the U.S. government since the Korean War invites aggression. China and Russia know that and are playing the long game while Biden is tilting at global-warming windmills and (overtly and tacitly) endorsing a leftist agenda that will drive the U.S. economy to its knees while ensuring that the U.S. remains irreconcilably divided.

The end result of “mucking around” may well be not the kind of “social democracy” that keeps Eurpeoans fat, dumb, and happy. It may well be something far worse than that. You have been warned.

And I have been among the warning voices for many years.


Related reading on polarization: John Sexton, “The CRT Backlash and Progressives’ Big Lie about the Culture War“, Hot Air, July 8, 2021

Images from the Past

I mentioned the hardier Americans of more than a century ago in the preceding post. I had in mind my own grandparents and the members of their generation and socioeconomic class. They grew up in hard-scrabble times and never rose far above them. But they were a tough lot who would be appalled by the whiny Boomers and later generations who are ashamed of their own race and cringe in fear at the sight of a maskless person.

Here are my maternal grandparents in 1935, as the Great Depression dragged on. He was a caretaker at a resort in Michigan; she raised 10 children and lived to the age of 96. His body gave out at age 64, and he was buried on the day of my birth.

They were 59 and 55 when the photograph was taken. I inherited his hairline and nose and their hair pigmentation. (At the age of 80, my hair still isn’t completely gray.)

Here is my maternal grandfather with six of his seven sons, also in 1935. (All seven served in the armed forces, six of them during World War II.) All of his and my grandmother’s children lived to adulthood, with an aunt making it to 96 and my mother to 99.

Below is my paternal grandfather in 1917, with my father in his arms. My grandfather was a laborer all of his life and died at the age of 57 in a construction accident. His two wives bore him 13 children, of whom 12 survived to adulthood and three are still living. The house is typical of what he could afford on a laborer’s wages. The front door is probably open to provide “air conditioning” because the photo was taken in late August — a hot and humid time in the part of Michigan where he lived.

Despite my grandfather’s meager income and the cost of supporting a large family, thrift and hard work enabled him to buy farm property on which his second wife (and mother of 10 of his children) lived to the age of 97. The property is still in the family, and some of his children and their descendants have homes there.

Below is my paternal grandmother (left) with her younger sister, about 1919. The unpainted house in the background is probably the same shabby one glimpsed in the preceding photo. Grandmother died at the age of 25, leaving my grandfather with two surviving children; their youngest child having died at the age of 13 months. (Her grave went unmarked for 90 years until my sister and I had a headstone erected in 2015.)

I didn’t know my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother, both of whom died before I was born. But I remember well my paternal grandfather, and especially well my maternal grandmother who lived until I was 36 years old. It is her house that is the centerpiece of one of my earliest posts: “Reveries“.

“Tough” doesn’t begin to describe the generation of my grandparents or that of their children, who became known as the “greatest generation”.

For the departed:

Time, you old gipsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?….

Last week in Babylon,
Last night in Rome,
Morning and in the crush
Under Paul’s dome;
Under Paul’s dial
You tighten your rein —
Only a moment, and off once again;
Off to some city
Now blind in the womb,
Off to another
Ere that’s in the tomb.

From Time, You Old Gipsy Man, by Ralph Hodgson (1871-1962)

Are the Vaccines Making a Difference?

Maybe, but they’re not game changers. It’s more likely that (a) the most vulnerable citizens were picked off in the first three waves of the pandemic, and (b) herd immunity has been mainly responsible for the recent declines in the rates of new cases and deaths.

In graph below I have plotted 7-day moving averages of the daily numbers of new COVID-19 cases and deaths. (The plot of deaths is moved to the right by 24 days because the highest correlation between cases and deaths occurs with a 24-day lag from cases to deaths.) Although the case rate began to decline in mid-January 2021, the death rate held steady through mid-March, and then began to drop only after about 10 percent of the populace had been fully vaccinated. It seems unlikely that 10 percent would have been a game-changer.

In any event, the COVID pandemic is not nearly as lethal as the Spanish flu, which the hardier Americans of more than a century ago managed to survive without the benefit of vaccines:

With deaths at less than 0.2 percent of the population, it is unsurprising that most Americans don’t know (or know of) anyone who died from COVID. How is it that such an inconsequential disease brought a country to its knees and enabled petty tyrants to deprive Americans of their liberty?

The answer: Decade upon decade of indoctrination by the media and public-school “educators” in the belief that the nanny state knows best.


Related reading: “PA”, “‘No Substantial Outbreaks’ From Large Events Pilot Scheme, Says Report“, The Epoch Times, June 25, 2021

Where It All Went Wrong

When the usual suspects were rioting, looting, and destroying their own habitat last summer (and many previous summers), did you wonder what happened to the Riot Act? Said act, in its original (British) form, provides that

if any persons to the number of twelve or more, being unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously assembled together, to the disturbance of the publick peace, at any time after the last day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and fifteen, and being required or commanded by any one or more justice or justices of the peace, or by the sheriff of the county, or his under-sheriff, or by the mayor, bailiff or bailiffs, or other head-officer, or justice of the peace of any city or town corporate, where such assembly shall be, by proclamation to be made in the King’s name, in the form herin after directed, to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, shall, to the number of twelve or more (notwithstanding such proclamation made) unlawfully, riotously, and tumultuously remain or continue together by the space of one hour after such command or request made by proclamation, that then such continuing together to the number of twelve or more, after such command or request made by proclamation, shall be adjudged felony without benefit of clergy, and the offenders therein shall be adjudged felons, and shall suffer death as in a case of felony without benefit of clergy.

Would that it were so in these times.

But it isn’t so because the sob-sisters, bleeding-hearts and weeping-willies — who have always been with us — have for centuries (if not millennia) chipped away at the protections that keep the bad guys more or less in line. They have likewise chipped away at standards of performance.

The effective abolition of the death penalty in this country is just the tip of the melting iceberg of punishment.

Awards for showing up are symptomatic of the erosion of standards.

The two phenomena have been conjoined in the left’s treatment of law-enforcement. There are too many felons running loose because pre-felonious crimes aren’t punished harshly enough (a failure that is often justified by the demographic characteristics of offenders); felonies aren’t punished harshly enough; paroles are too easily granted; police (those who are still on the force) are increasingly edgy about “mistreating” suspects who resist arrest; and affirmative action has ensured that law-enforcers are no longer as strong or quick-witted as they were in the past.

What did happen to the Riot Act (British version)? This:

The death penalty created by sections one, four and five of the act was reduced to transportation for life by section one of the Punishment of Offences Act 1837.

The Riot Act eventually drifted into disuse. The last time it was definitely read in England was in Birkenhead, Cheshire, on 3 August 1919, during the second police strike, when large numbers of police officers from Birkenhead, Liverpool and Bootle joined the strike. Troops were called in to deal with the rioting and looting that had begun, and a magistrate read out the Riot Act. None of the rioters subsequently faced the charge of a statutory felony. Earlier in the same year, at the battle of George Square on 31 January, in Glasgow, the city’s sheriff was in the process of reading the Riot Act to a crowd of 20-25,000 – when the sheet of paper he was reading from was ripped out of his hands by one of the rioters.

The last time it was read in the Scotland was by the deputy town clerk James Gildea in Airdrie in 1971

The act was repealed on 18 July 1973 for the United Kingdom by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1973, by which time riot was no longer punishable by death.

There is still a riot act in the United States, and it is sometimes used. Its use by President Trump during the Antifa-BLM riots of 2020 provoked the usual reactions: “Trump is a racist.” “Trump is Hitler.” And the left’s allies in the media simply refused to acknowledge the riots or, when they couldn’t be tossed down the memory hole, insisted on referring to them as “protests” (“mostly peaceful”, of course).

But the history of the Riot Act in Britain, which died from disuse long before it died officially, tells the sad tale of how sob-sisters, bleeding-hearts, and weeping-willies — and leftists — have undermined the rule of law and made the world a less-civilized and less-safe place for the vast majority of its denizens.

None of this would have happened if God had smitten Adam and Eve for their transgression. Perhaps that’s where it all went wrong.

Seriously, though, it all went wrong in the way that most good things go bad. Just a little tweak here to make someone happier and a little tweak there to make someone else happier, and the next thing you know: the think is all tweaked out of shape. It’s like making a mountain out of a molehill: a shovelful at a time over a long period of time will do the trick.


Related posts: Most of the posts listed here.

The Poison of Ideology

Ideology, which drives political and social discourse these days, is

a set of doctrines or beliefs shared by the members of a social group or that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system.

Get that? An ideology comprises doctrines or beliefs, not hard-won knowledge or social and economic norms that have been tested in the acid of use. An ideology leads its believers down the primrose path of a “system” — a way of viewing and organizing the world that flows from a priori reasoning.

An ideology, because of its basis in doctrines or beliefs, puts something at its center — a kind of golden calf that is the ideology’s raison d’être. The something may be the dominance of an Aryan Third Reich; the dictatorship of the proletariat; the destruction of infidels; big government as the solution to social and economic ills; free markets at all costs regardless of the immorality that they may spawn; “social democracy” in which all matters of social and economic importance are to be decided by a majority of the elected representatives of an electorate that has been enfranchised for the purpose of arriving at the “right” decisions; stateless societies that (contrary to human nature) would be livable because disputes would be settled through contractual arrangements and private defense agencies; etc., etc., etc.

You might expect that the bankruptcy of ideological thinking would be obvious, given that there are so many mutually contradictory ideologies (see above). But that isn’t the way of the world. Human beings seem to be wired to want to believe in something. And even to suffer and die for that something.

That can be a good thing if the something is personal and benign; for example, the satisfaction of raising a child to be mannerly and conscientious; sustaining one’s marriage through trials and tribulations for the love, companionship, and contentment it affords; getting through personal suffering and sorrow without resort to behavior that is destructive of self or relations with others; believing in God and the tenets of a religion for one’s own sake and not for their use as weapons of judgement or vengeance; taking pride in work that is “real” and of direct and obvious benefit to others, however humdrum it may seem and how little skill it may require. In other words, living life as if it has meaning and isn’t just an existential morass to be tolerated until one dies or an occasion for wreaking vengeance on the world because of one’s own anxieties and failings.

What I have just sketched are the yearnings and tensions that modern man has acquired, bit by bit, as old certainties and norms have been undermined. Is it any wonder that so many people since the dawn of the Enlightenment — where modernity really began — have wanted to quit the “rat race” for a meaningful life? Not creating an empire, leading a conquering army, or founding a dynasty. Just doing something self-satisfying, like farming, owning a small business in a small town, or teaching children to play the piano.

Ironically, Voltaire, an icon of the Enlightenment, sums it up:

“I know also,” said Candide, “that we must cultivate our garden.”

“You are right,” said Pangloss, “for when man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there ut operaretur eum, that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle.”

“Let us work,” said Martin, “without disputing; it is the only way to render life tolerable.”

The whole little society entered into this laudable design, according to their different abilities. Their little plot of land produced plentiful crops. Cunegonde was, indeed, very ugly, but she became an excellent pastry cook; Paquette worked at embroidery; the old woman looked after the[Pg 168] linen. They were all, not excepting Friar Giroflée, of some service or other; for he made a good joiner, and became a very honest man.

Pangloss sometimes said to Candide:

“There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds: for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde: if you had not been put into the Inquisition: if you had not walked over America: if you had not stabbed the Baron: if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado: you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts.”

“All that is very well,” answered Candide, “but let us cultivate our garden.”

That is to say,

the main virtue of Candide’s garden is that it forces the characters to do hard, simple labor. In the world outside the garden, people suffer and are rewarded for no discernible cause. In the garden, however, cause and effect are easy to determine—careful planting and cultivation yield good produce. Finally, the garden represents the cultivation and propagation of life, which, despite all their misery, the characters choose to embrace.

And so should we all.


Related posts:

Alienation
Another Angle on Alienation
An Antidote to Alienation

The False Promise of the Fiscal Multiplier

With a bit of trickery that is hard to spot, it is possible to “prove” that 1 + 1 = 3. (Watch this video and look carefully at the fourth and fifth lines of the “proof”, neither of which follows from the preceding line.)

Building on the logical and empirical analyses of some notable economists, I (and many others) have found the trickery in the “proof” that there is a fiscal multiplier: an additional dollar of government spending, not financed by borrowing or taxes) generates more than a dollar’s worth of additional GDP. The multiplier is both logically unsound and empirically invalid.

I urge you to read my page, “Keynesian Multiplier: Fiction vs. Fact“, for the details of my disproof. (For a recent discussion of the empirical invalidity of the multiplier, see this post by Veronique de Rugy.) I won’t repeat the details here, but I will focus on a particular aspect of the disproof. It exposes the logical trickery that underlies belief in the multiplier.

It used to be (and perhaps still is) the case that courses in the principles of macroeconomics began with a circular-flow model of a static economy. If everyone did the same thing, year after year, the same economic units would produce the same things. Each economic unit’s output would be valued in the marketplace, and that value would give the economic unit a claim on a slice of the total production of goods and services. The division of output between consumption (goods and services enjoyed here and now) and investment (replacement of the stock of capital as it deteriorates) would be determined by the willingness of producers (earners of income) to forgo consumption in favor of saving. (It is saving, non-consumption, that allows the diversion of resources to the production of capital goods.) The rate of investment would be just enough to sustain the output of goods and services at constant rates.

The circular flow could be perturbed for many reasons (e.g., population growth, a natural disaster, technological innovation). But what would happen to the circular flow in the event of such a perturbation? The output of goods and services would be increased or decreased by the immediate effect of the perturbation and by its secondary effects on the economy.

Take a simple two-producer economy, for example, where Joan makes guns and Ralph makes butter. Joan and Ralph exchange some of their output of guns and butter, so that during the year each of them earns a combination of guns and butter. If Ralph dies, and Joan is unable to make guns, the only output will be butter. And if Joan doesn’t need as much butter as she used to produce (some of which she traded to Ralph for guns), she will produce less butter — just enough for her own consumption. So there is the immediate effect of Ralph’s death (no guns) and the secondary effect of Ralph’s death (Joan produces less butter but consumes the same amount as before).

The multiplier doesn’t work that way. According to the multiplier, the reduction in Ralph’s spending on butter would affect Joan’s spending according to her marginal propensity to consume (the rate at which each increment of her income is translated into more or less spending on consumption goods). But it doesn’t. Joan, quite sensibly, simply consumes as much butter as before, though she produces less of it. There is no multiplier effect. There is just a reduction in the economy’s total output: no guns, and just enough butter for Joan’s needs.

A defender of the multiplier would respond that my economy doesn’t represent an advanced economy like that of the United States, in which most transactions don’t take place at arms length (through barter) but, rather, through a medium of exchange (U.S. dollars). In such an economy, the defenders would argue, an exogenous reduction or increase in the demand for goods and services would cascade through the economy. Less demand for A would reduce the income of the producer of A, who would spend less on B through Z; the producer of B would spend less on A and C through Z; etc. In the end, the economy would shrink by the sum of each producer’s reduced spending — the multiplier effect. Here is the standard derivation of that effect, which I explain here:

Derivation of investment-govt spending multiplier

Y is GDP, C is consumption spending, I is investment spending, G is government spending (all in “real” terms), and b (as stated) is the marginal propensity to consume.)

Because b is less than 1, the expression 1/(1-b) must be greater than 1 — thus the “multiplier” on an exogenous change in spending. And despite the heading, the multiplier effect, in theory, applies to any exogenous change in the amount or rate of spending or saving. It could be a consumption or saving multiplier, for example. That is one of the tricks of the multiplier: If it exists, it isn’t just a government-spending multiplier, much as the proponents of bigger government would like you to believe.

Another trick is the mysterious mechanism by which an exogenous change in the rate of spending results in even more spending. It’s time to expose the mechanism.

What is Y but the sum of the dollar values (adjusted for inflation) of the output of all “final” goods and services (including changes in inventory) during a given period? What does Y therefore represent? As long as we’re using the terminology of macroeconomics, in which everything is implicitly homogeneous, Y represents the familiar (to some) equation of exchange:

MV = PQ, where, for a given period,

M is the total nominal amount of money supply in circulation on average in an economy.

V is the velocity of money, that is the average frequency with which a unit of money is spent.

P is the price level.

Q is an index of real expenditures (on newly produced goods and services).

The multiplier implies that, everything else being the same, a change in Q will result in proportional changes in PQ and MV. If there are unemployed resources and an exogenous increase in government spending employs them (and does nothing to prices), an increase in M (deficit spending) is exactly matched by an increase in Q (real output), so that the equation MV = PQ isn’t violated.

But how does an increase in Q (the initial burst of additional output) result in further additions to Q, as the multiplier implies? If P doesn’t increase (and it shouldn’t if the multiplier is “real”), then MV must rise. There is an increase in M — the jolt of exogenous government spending. But there is no further increase in M. So MV must rise because V increases as a result of the initial jolt of government spending. The multiplier, however, says nothing about V, unless increases in spending that result from the initial jolt in Q can be construed as increases in V and Q.

Let’s step back from this conundrum and consider the situation of a static economy with unemployed resources. An increase in M (deficit spending), of targeted perfectly, resulting in a proportional increase in Q. The persons who earn income from that increase spend some of it (that is, their rate of spending rises temporarily). There is no new M, but V rises (that is, the rate of spending rises) in proportion to the rise Q. So, temporarily, MV’ = PQ’.

This is the only sensible way of explaining the multiplier. But look at how many things must happen if an exogenous increase in government spending is to result in an actual increase real output:

The additional spending must be targeted so that it elicits additional production from unemployed resources.

The addition production must, somehow, be delivered to persons who actually benefit from it.

The recipients of additional spending must at least some of their new income into spending that results in the employment of hitherto unemployed resources, and the result must be the production of additional things that are delivered to persons who benefit from the production.

And so on and so forth.

What happens in practice, of course, is that deficit spending results in the production of things that politicians and bureaucrats favor (e.g., economically useless bullet trains and bridges to nowhere). but which have little or no economic value. And the spending often crowds out the production of other things because many (most?) of the resources involved are already in use (e.g., engineers and trained mechanics, not unemployed high-school dropouts from inner cities). Those are among that many things that are skipped over in the “proof” that the multiplier is real and positive. (See my page about the multiplier for much more.)

The bottom line is that the multiplier might well be positive, in nominal terms. That is, GDP might seem to rise, at least temporarily, but real GDP — the actual output of things valued by consumers — is another matter entirely. As I suggest here — and as is pointed out in my page about the multiplier and the article by Veronique de Rugy — the actual output of things valued by consumers may not rise at all, and probably will be crowded out by additional government spending.

Things valued by consumers certainly will be crowded out by additional government spending, because — in the long run — temporary additions usually become permanent ones. Which is just what the proponents of the multiplier want to happen. The multiplier isn’t just phony, it’s an excuse to boost government spending, that is, the share of the economy that is directly controlled by government.

Have you noticed lately what a great job government is doing for the citizenry, especially in Blue States and cities?

The Four Americas

Arnold Kling’s latest post is somewhat related to the one on which I commented yesterday. The new post recaps and assesses George Packer’s thesis that there are four American mindsets:

Free America, Smart America, Real America, and Just America. Free America means the libertarians who favor limited government. Smart America means the management elites who favor economic and technological progress. Real America means the blue-collar Americans who favor dignity and patriotism. Just America means the progressive “woke” who favor economic equality and moral rectitude.

Kling, toward the end of his post, writes: “Real America takes distrust of elites too far. It resists hard truths (about the pandemic, for example). It puts too much faith in Donald Trump.”

I object. The distrust of elites and faith in Trump are reactions to the egregious overstepping by the elites who populate the other three Americas. The overstepping dates back to the anti-war (anti-American) antics of collegians, academics, media types, and politicians in the 1960s (and since). If the elites were somehow tamed or made irrelevant, the passions stirred in Real Americans would subside and they would revert to the kind of moderate behavior that they exhibited in the 1950s.

A reversion to the 1950s would be a welcome relief. The main accomplishment of the libertarians who later came on the scene has been to encourage and abet the breakdown of civilizing moral codes (think abortion-on-demand and homosexual “marriage”). The main accomplishment of Smart America has been to pursue economic growth for its own sake, regardless of the effect on Real America (think off-shoring and globalization). And the main accomplishment of Just America has been to foment discord and discontent for the sake of virtue-signaling. A pox on their houses (think urban riots, the encouragement of homelessness by subsidizing in, and the demonization of straight white males of European descent).


Related post: 1963: The Year Zero

Is Optimism Possible?

I have been, for many years, pessimistic about the future of liberty and prosperity in America (e.g., here). I am not alone, of course. The estimable Arnold Kling isn’t as openly pessimistic, but it isn’t hard to read between the lines of his many posts about the present state of affairs. Take this one, for example, in which he writes about

some possible outcomes for the future:

1. The “good left” ([Jonathan] Rauch and others) overpowers the illiberal Woke left. p = .05

2. The illiberal Woke left suffers a catastrophic electoral defeat at the hands of a non-populist right. p = .05

3. The illiberal Woke left and the populist right continue to dominate political dynamics, with today’s level of discomfort or more. p = .40

4. The U.S. experiences an era of Woke totalitarianism that lasts for a couple of decades, but which eventually collapses into something else (not necessarily good) p = .25

5. Academia, journalism, traditional media, and government become empty battlegrounds, as technological change results in very different forms of social organization (call this the Balaji scenario, if you will). p = .25

There is a sixth possibility, or perhaps it’s a combination of Kling’s #1, #2, and #5, with a higher probability that Kling assigns to them.

People, except for a small but loud minority, will simply quit caring about ideology and just get on with living their lives and engaging personally with people who matter to them. This turn of events won’t be obvious at first, but it will begin to show in such ways as the declining use of social media. Astute politicians who have been too quick to embrace “wokeness” will sense the turning tide and begin to moderate their positions in the hope of appealing to a broader electoral base. As things go in politics, this new moderation will catch on. The illiberal left won’t shrink in numbers or volume, but the moderate (i.e., more liberal) left will grow in influence. And there will be much more common ground for the empowered moderate left to share with the sane liberal right (i.e., actual conservatives as opposed to attitudinal zealots). A new center will form around deeply shared values (defense of life, liberty, and property) as opposed to fatuous slogans (defund the police, all whites are racist, etc.). The media, in turn, will embrace this new zeitgeist and quit antagonizing viewers with daily injections of wokeness. And so it will go, until something line the zeitgeist of the 1950s has been restored.

A lot of history would have to be overcome, including (but far from limited to) decades of leftist indoctrination in public schools and universities, massive dependency on big government, political and bureaucratic inertia, and the degree to which key institutions (e.g., schools and media) have become locked in to wokeness. But if history teaches us anything, it is that the tides of human affairs do turn.

I don’t expect to see the tide turn (by very much) in what remains of my lifetime. But I still hold out hope that it will, for the sake of my children and grandchildren and on down the line.

Biden in the Land of Oz

Joel Kotkin spells it out in “Joe Biden’s Imaginary America“:

Joe Biden’s ballyhooed “infrastructure” plan, coupled with unprecedented stimulus spending, is cast by the obliging media as being about the middle class but seems oddly detached from how the overwhelming majority of the middle class lives, which is in lower-density, automobile-dependent neighborhoods. This dynamic was intensifying even before the pandemic. But Biden’s plan seems mostly about serving the relatively small sliver of transit-riding apartment dwellers living in denser neighborhoods. Overall, dense residential areas accommodate no more than 10 percent of the nation’s population….

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the Biden administration’s myopic sense of geography than its transportation priorities. Take urban transit. Biden has proposed a policy that, by some estimates, would allocate $165 billion for public transit (including urban rail — subways, light rail, and commuter rail) against only $115 billion to fix and modernize roads and bridges. Transit, which accounts for about 1 percent of overall urban and rural ground transportation, would receive nearly 60 percent of the money….

Transit thrives in only a few municipalities (not entire metro areas) with extensive downtown-oriented urban rail systems such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington. These municipalities, with the nation’s largest downtowns, accommodate nearly 60 percent of transit work-trip destinations but only about 6 percent of the country’s jobs. New York City by itself accounts for 36 percent.

Attempts to boost transit’s share of urban travel have been plagued by a basic problem: In the nation’s major metropolitan areas (those with a population over 1 million), cars can reach almost 55 times as many potential jobs as transit in less than 30 minutes, according to University of Minnesota research. In the New York metro, with by far the largest transit system in the nation, cars can reach six times as many jobs as transit. But demand for both forms of commuting may be lower now, as the pandemic has seen millions of people working at home grow used to a commute time of zero.

A principal purpose of federal subsidies to build urban rail systems was to lure drivers from their cars. But a review of 23 completed rail systems shows that no such thing occurred: Overall, where the new systems have opened, the percentage of commuters driving alone has increased….

The greatest absurdity is high-speed rail, which proponents such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez say can replace planes for long-distance trips. But this has never happened — not in France, not in Spain, and not in China, which instead has emerged as the world’s aviation leader in passenger volume. President Biden also has imagined a world where people can go coast to coast as quickly by train as by plane. The fastest high-speed trains in the world average about 200 miles per hour — compared with the nearly 500-mph average speed of transcontinental flights.

The cost of building high-speed-rail systems in the highly regulated and litigious U.S. also would be prohibitive. World Bank research has estimated the costs of U.S. high-speed-rail construction to be a third more per mile than in Europe and nearly 150 percent higher than in China.

California, cited as the inspiration for many of Biden’s least practical ideas, should stand as a cautionary tale. The California High-Speed Rail Authority in 2008 estimated the cost of building the San Francisco–to–Los Angeles/Anaheim route to be $32.8 billion to $33.6 billion. In November of that year, voters approved nearly $10 billion in bonds for the system. But by 2012, costs had escalated to between $98.5 billion and $117.6 billion. Facing a political backlash over this inflation-adjusted tripling of costs, the authority adopted a revised proposal that would reduce the cost of the system by about $30 billion by not building high-speed infrastructure in parts of the Bay Area and Los Angeles. In these segments, high-speed trains would operate mixed with conventional commuter trains — a so-called blended system….

The Left’s embrace of forced density reveals a serious misreading of demographic and geographic trends. Despite what you might read in the New York Times, Americans on the whole never went “back to the city.” In fact, in not one year since 2000 have more people moved into the urban-core counties than moved into suburban and exurban counties. Between 2010 and 2020, some of the largest metro areas — including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Miami, Boston, and San Francisco — lost domestic migrants, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates. Critically, as new research shows, the people most likely to move are the educated young, previously thought to be permanently urbanistas.

Last year, as even a New York Times analysis indicates, most urban counties lost population as people moved to suburbs and smaller towns….

Harvard’s Michael Porter has identified the rise in U.S. oil and gas production as “perhaps the single largest opportunity to improve the trajectory of the U.S. economy.” But the impact of “decarbonization,” particularly a full ban on fracking as envisioned by Vice President Harris, for example, would cost more jobs than those lost in the Great Recession, according to a U.S. Chamber of Commerce report. It’s often suggested that these lost jobs would be replaced by “green jobs.” But that is something of a fairy tale. An analysis of the hypothesized green positions by North America’s Building Trades Unions shows them to pay far less and last far less long than the positions they would replace. Or as Terry O’Sullivan, general presi­dent of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, summarized this situation for Politico: “It’s pie-in-the-sky bullsh** about these green jobs being good middle-class jobs, because they’re not.”…

Kotkin’s litany addresses only a small part of Biden’s lunatic “leadership”. In addition (to name only three things), there is his vastly expensive and completely wrong-headed “war” on “climate change”, his plan to tax the rich even more (so that they will invest even less in job-creating economic growth), and his feckless and probably suicidal foreign and defense policies (see yesterday’s post).

All in all, Biden’s performance reminds me of The Wizard of Oz.  Biden is playing the Scarecrow (no brain), the Cowardly Lion (no courage), and — rhetoric aside — the Tin Man (no heart), given his demonstrated willingness to sacrifice the livelihoods of American workers while promoting the interests of foreigners and coastal elites.

The Not-So-Distant Future of the U.S. and Israel

Putin must be laughing up his sleeve at Biden’s upcoming lecture on human rights, Biden’s demilitarization program, and Biden’s ongoing demolition of the U.S. economy in the name of “climate change. In the meantime, Putin will continue to test Biden’s resolve with costly and disruptive cyber-attacks on the U.S.

Xi is watching closely, and probably will make a bold move against U.S. interests if Biden blinks in his confrontation with Putin.

Biden will blink in the confrontation with Putin. And Xi will make a bold move. Not the boldest possible move, like an attack on Taiwan, but something clearly provocative, such as a naval deployment to reinforce China’s territorial claims in and around the South China Sea.

Biden will blink again. It’s not only in Biden’s nature to blink, but there is also the matter of Hunter’s China and Ukraine ventures. Putin and Xi must have all the inside dope about those deals, including the depth of Papa Joe’s involvement. And I’m not just talking about Joe’s role in setting up the deals. Joe must have made quite a haul from the deals, which he has kept well-hidden thanks in part to his media collaborators.

All of this blinking will bring Russia and China close to the end of the long game that Putin and the CCP have been playing for decades. The end game is to knock the U.S. from its superpower perch and have their own way (economically) with Europe and the Pacific. It won’t come to war because neither the U.S. nor Europe has the stomach for it. Russia and China will simply make demands, and Europe and the U.S. will accede to them. In the case of the U.S., the sniveling will continue until a Churchill rises to replace the Obamacrats. But, even then, it may be too late to do any good.

In the meantime, the Ayatollahs are watching with glee as they prepare to build nuclear weapons and stronger conventional forces with the money that Papa Joe is bent on sending them. The Ayatollahs are as excited as virgin newlyweds about the prospect of hegemony in the Middle East under the aegis of Russia and China.

The Israelis are watching all of this with foreboding. With a weak and eager-to-compromise U.S. president up against Putin and Xi, the handwriting is on the wall for Israel’s continued survival. Thus Netanyahu’s massive (and warranted) retaliation for the rocket attacks aimed at Israel. And thus (in all likelihood) the sabotage by Israel operatives of a major Iranian warship and refinery. Netanyahu’s prospective successor may be to the right of Netanyahu, but he must placate Arab-Israelis and left-wing Israelis to stay in power. All of which bodes ill for Israel’s resolve in the face of coming trials that will make the recent one seem mild.

And so the last two bastions of liberty will, for all intents and purposes, vanish from Earth. The U.S. will simply rot away. Israel will be annihilated.

Unless a man on horseback arrives soon.


Related posts:

A Grand Strategy for the United States
Patience as a Tool of Strategy (Dictatorships have it; fickle “democracies” don’t.)
American Foreign Policy: Feckless No More? (A premature paean to America’s foreign-policy future under Trump.)
The Second Coming of Who? (About the man on horseback.)

Why I “Heart” My HOA Neighborhood

Yesterday I came across one of the dumbest pieces that I have encountered in more than 20 years of blogging — and that’s saying a lot about the dumbness of the piece. I’m referring specifically to this post, in which the author cites and quotes from an attack on homeowners’ associations (HOAs). He appends this comment:

They [HOAs] give you a very good look at America under Communism, with Karens in charge. You don’t want that.

Until 2003 I hadn’t owned a home in an HOA neighborhood. I have now lived in an HOA neighborhood for the past 18 years. I’m here to tell you that I’d rather live in an HOA neighborhood than not — at least the kind of HOA that I’ve experienced.

First, living in an HOA neighborhood is nothing like living under Communism. It’s voluntary; Communism isn’t. If you don’t like the idea of living in an HOA neighborhood, you shouldn’t, but you’ll be giving up a lot of things:

A neighborhood where homeowners take pride in their homes, keep attractive yards, and spend what it takes to keep their homes well-maintained.

A quiet neighborhood where homeowners respect each others’ privacy and do not bombard their neighbors with loud music or inflict drunken parties on them.

A neighborhood where homeowners can band together under the aegis of the HOA when the peace of the neighborhood or property values are threatened by bad actors.

A neighborhood whose residents are predominantly white-collar professionals whose wide-ranging tastes overlap considerably (to the benefit of social comity) but which aren’t in lockstep.

In sum, a neighborhood that is much like a loose-knit social club where members pay dues to enjoy the amenities of the club but without forced socialization.

What about those Karens? (overbearing scolds). I have yet to meet one or hear of one in my neighborhood. Why not? Probably because the people who live here do so because they like the neighborhood the way it is and wouldn’t do anything to change its character. And if they did, and a Karen swooped down on them, good for the Karen. Most peple who live in HOAs do so for the reasons listed above. Renegades who create eyesores and cause property values to drop aren’t welcome.

And there’s nothing wrong with protecting the value of one’s property, as long as one’s neighbors are of the same mind about how to protect it. An HOA makes that possible.

If you don’t like an.HOA neighborhood, sell and move out. And reap the handsome profit that accrues to a well-maintained home in a pleasant, attractive neughborhood.

All of which seems rather American and pro-liberty to me.

Natural Experiments in the Effect of Party Politics on Economic Performance

As “Tyler Durden” puts it at ZeroHedge, “US Set For Epic Labor Market Experiment: Red States Vs Blue States“. The experiment has to do with the effect of the cessation of extended unemployment benefits on unemployment rates:

According to JPMorgan’s Daniel Silver, as of this moment some 23 – all republican – states have announced at least some form of early reduction in pandemic-related unemployment insurance benefits ahead of the September expiration at the federal level. These programs, he suggests, are likely limiting labor supply, generating a potential economic argument for ending these programs early….

So, while the left are desperately gaslighting that this is a skills or geographic mismatch, the chart above makes it clear that paying people to stay home is not good for growth (or social stability).

Which is why 23 (Republican) states have listened to their business owners and started to cut those benefits. In fact, as Mike Shedlock notes, that means around 3.5 million Americans will come off Pandemic emergency benefits in the next few weeks….

And since Democrats will likely not end UI benefits any time soon – or ever, if they could –  this sets up the US economy to become an epic real-time economic experiment, one where everyone can keep track of the unemployment across in Red states (most of which have ended their UI benefits), and blue states where claims will keep potential workers at home, pressuring unemployment rates….

By way of early confirmation of our thesis that government handouts are repressing the recovery by encouraging people not to work, according to an analysis published this week … job searches jumped by 5% the day each state announced its intent to pull out of the federal programs.

I have compiled some statistics from another natural experiment. They support the thesis that Republican-controlled States outperform Democrat-controlled ones economically.

Although the central government’s tentacles reach deep into every State’s economy, there is still latitude for State and local action — or lack thereof. Republican-controlled States should have somewhat freer economies than Democrat-controlled ones. (See, for example, the Tax Foundation’s 2020 Business Climate Tax Index.) Republican-controlled States should therefore be more growth-prone than Democrat-controlled ones. Regional statistics support this hypothesis:


Constructed from the regional data tool of the Bureau of Economic Analysis, starting here.

The red lines represent regions that are dominated by Republican-controlled States; the blue lines, regions dominated by Democrat-controlled States. The constituent States of each region are as follows:

Far West — Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Washington

Southwest — Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas

Rocky Mountain — Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming

Southeast — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia

New England — Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont

Plains — Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota

Mideast — Delaware, DC, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania

Great Lakes — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin

Despite the Far West’s slight lead over the Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions, it is obvious that, on the whole, Republican-dominated regions have enjoyed much higher rates of growth than Democrat-dominated ones.

Critical Race Theory: Where It Really Leads

Blacks, on average, lag whites in income and wealth, and are disproportionately targeted by law-enforcement.

All of this is due to white racism.

White culture — including the tenet of racial equality under the law and the importance of dispassionate, scientific inquire — must be rejected because it is all tainted with racism.

Rejection means the suppression of whites and white culture so that blacks may reach their true potential.

Their true potential is determined by their intelligence and culture.

Blacks, on average, are less intelligent than whites, and black culture (in America) fosters violence, disdain for education, and family dysfunction to a greater degree than is true for whites, on average. (But that, somehow, is whitey’s fault.)

Where will this lead? Right where Dov Fischer predicts it will lead:

[T]he same disadvantaged groups who today rely on blaming instead of self-help will then be at the same exact rung on the social order that they are today, just as 50 years of racism-free society and Great Society “entitlements” have not accomplished equality of results today, even as newcomers from Asia entered this country these past 50 and 60 years and leap-frogged those already here.

The fault lies not in our stars but in our genes and culture.

What Do Wokesters Want?

I am using “wokesters” as a convenient handle for persons who subscribe to a range of closely related movements, which include but are not limited to wokeness, racial justice, equity, gender equality, transgenderism, social justice, cancel culture, environmental justice, and climate-change activism. It is fair to say that the following views, which might be associated with one or another of the movements, are held widely by members of all the movements (despite the truths noted parenthetically):

Race is a social construct. (Despite strong scientific evidence to the contrary.)

Racism is a foundational and systemic aspect of American history. (Which is a convenient excuse for much of what follows.)

Racism explains every bad thing that has befallen people of color in America. (Ditto.)

America’s history must be repudiated by eradicating all vestiges of it that glorify straight white males of European descent. (Because wokesters are intolerant of brilliance and success of it comes from straight white males of European descent.)

The central government (when it is run by wokesters and their political pawns) should be the sole arbiter of human relations. (Replacing smaller units of government, voluntary contractual arrangements, families, churches, clubs, and other elements of civil society through which essential services are provided, economic wants are satisfied efficiently, and civilizing norms are inculcated and enforced), except for those institutions that are dominated by wokesters or their proteges, of course.)

[You name it] is a human right. (Which — unlike true rights, which all can enjoy without cost to others — must be provided at cost to others.)

Economics is a zero-sum game; the rich get rich at the expense of the poor. (Though the economic history of the United States — and the Western world — says otherwise. The rich get rich — often rising from poverty and middling circumstances — by dint of effort risk-taking, and in the process produce things of value for others while also enabling them to advance economically.)

Profit is a dirty word. (But I — the elite lefty who makes seven figures a year, thank you, deserve every penny of my hard-earned income.)

Sex gender is assigned arbitrarily at birth. (Ludicrous).

Men can bear children. (Ditto.)

Women can have penises. (Ditto.)

Gender dysphoria in some children proves the preceding poiXXXX

Children can have two mommies, two daddies, or any combination of parents in any number and any gender. And, no, they won’t grow up anti-social for lack of traditional father (male) and mother (female) parents. (Just ask blacks who are unemployed for lack of education and serving prison time after having been raised without bread-winning fathers.)

Blacks, on average, are at the bottom of income and wealth distributions and at the top of the incarceration distribution — despite affirmative action, subsidized housing, welfare payments, etc. — because of racism. (Not because blacks, on average, are at the bottom of the intelligence distribution and have in many black communities adopted and enforced a culture the promotes violence and denigrates education?)

Black lives matter. (More than other lives? Despite the facts adduced above?)

Police are racist Nazis and ought to be de-funded. (So that law abiding blacks and other Americans can become easier targets for rape, murder, and theft.)

Grades, advanced placement courses, aptitude tests, and intelligence tests are racist devices. (Which happen to enable the best and brightest — regardless of race, sex, or socioeconomic class — to lead the country forward scientifically and economically, to the benefit of all.)

The warming of the planet by a couple of degrees in the past half-century (for reasons that aren’t well understood but which are attributed by latter-day Puritans to human activity) is a sign of things to come: Earth will warm to the point that it becomes almost uninhabitable. (Which is a case of undue extrapolation from demonstrably erroneous models and a failure to credit the ability of capitalism — gasp! — to adapt successfully to truly significant climatic changes.)

Science is real. (Though we don’t know what science is, and believe things that are labeled scientific if we agree with them. We don’t understand, or care, that science is a process that sometimes yields useful knowledge, or that the “knowledge” is always provisional, always in doubt, and sometimes wrong. We support the movement of recent decades to label some things as scientific that are really driven by a puritanical, anti-humanistic agenda, and which don’t hold up against rigorous, scientific examination, such as the debunked “science” of “climate change”; the essential equality of the races and sexes, despite their scientifically demonstrable differences; and the belief that a man can become a woman, and vice versa.)

Illegal immigrants migrants are just seeking a better life and should be allowed free entry into the United States. (Because borders are arbitrary — except when it comes to my property — and it doesn’t matter if the unfettered enty ro illegal immigrants burdens tax-paying Americans and takes jobs from working-class Americans.)

The United States spends too much on national defense because (a) borders are arbitrary (except when they delineate my property), (b) there’s no real threat to this country (except for cyberattacks and terrorism sponsored by other states, and growing Chinese and Russian aggression that imperils the economic interests of Americans), (c) America is the aggressor (except in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Gulf War I, the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and in the future if America significantly reduces its defense forces), and (d) peace is preferable to war (except that it is preparedness for war that ensures peace, either through deterrence or victory).

What wokesters want is to see that these views, and many others of their ilk, are enforced by the central government. To that end, steps will be taken to ensure that the Democrat Party is permanently in control of the central government and is able to control most State governments. Accordingly, voting laws will be “reformed” to enable everyone, regardless of citizenship status or other qualification (perhaps excepting age, or perhaps not) to receive a mail-in ballot that will be harvested and cast for Democrat candidates; the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (with their iron-clad Democrat super-majorities) will be added to the Union; the filibuster will be abolished; the Supreme Court and lower courts will be expanded and new seats will be filled by Democrat nominees; and on, and on.

Why do wokesters want what they want? Here’s my take:

  • They reject personal responsibility.
  • They don’t like the sense of real community that is represented in the traditional institutions of civil society.
  • They don’t like the truth if it contradicts their view of what the world should be like.
  • They are devoid of true compassion.
  • They are — in sum — alienated, hate-filled nihilists, the produce of decades of left-wing indoctrination by public schools, universities, and the media.

What will wokesters (and all of us) get?

At best, what they will get is a European Union on steroids, a Kafka-esque existence in a world run by bureaucratic whims from which entrepreneurial initiative and deeply rooted, socially binding cultures have been erased.

Somewhere between best and worst, they will get an impoverished, violent, drug-addled dystopia which is effectively a police state run for the benefit of cosseted political-media-corprate-academic elites.

At worst (as if it could get worse), what they will get is life under the hob-nailed boots of Russia and China:; for example:

Russians are building a military focused on killing people and breaking things. We’re apparently building a military focused on being capable of explaining microaggressions and critical race theory to Afghan Tribesmen.

A country whose political leaders oppose the execution of murderers, support riots and looting by BLM, will not back Israel in it’s life-or-death struggle with Islamic terrorists, and use the military to advance “wokeism” isn’t a country that you can count on to face down Russia and China.

Wokesters are nothing but useful idiots to the Russians and Chinese. And if wokesterst succeed in weakening the U.S. to the point that it becomes a Sino-Soviet vassal, they will be among the first to learn what life under an all-powerful central government is really like. Though, useful idiots that they are, they won’t survive long enough to savor the biter fruits of their labors.