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.

Centrism: The Path to Dystopia

Centrism is the habit of seeking compromise between opposing positions. It is the expression of the centrist’s personality, not a political philosophy. (I speak from personal experience with a self-proclaimed centrist who is chameleon-like in his willingness to adapt to his political environment — integrity be damned.)

Centrism fails because it doesn’t offer a concrete position to which one might adhere. Centrism is nothing but a reluctance or refusal to choose between concrete positions. A centrist has no principles to offer, unless you think of indecision and conflict avoidance as principles. But they are in fact the personality traits that underlie centrism.

Conflict is unavoidable — at least when it comes to political conflict that involves the foundational principles of governance. There are only two foundational principles that are viable in the long run: conservatism of temperament and left-statism (see this). Conservatism of temperament underlies ideological conservatism, which propounds government that is limited to the defense of life, liberty, and property — where liberty is negative liberty, the right to be left alone.

Left-statism is also a matter of temperament. As I say here,

If there is a distinction between “liberalism”, “progressivism”, and left-statism, it is one of attitude rather than aims. Many a “liberal” and “progressive” wants things that require oppressive state control, but is loath to admit the truth that oppressive state control is required to have such things. These naifs want to believe the impossible: that the accomplishment of the “progressive” agenda is compatible with the preservation of liberty. The left-statist simply doesn’t care about liberty; the accomplishment of the left-statist agenda is the end that justifies any and all means. Those “liberals” and “progressives” who aren’t left-statists by attitude are merely useful idiots to hard-core, Lenin-like left-statists.

So in the battle between conservatism and left-statism, the centrist abets left-statism by encouraging compromises that allow it to creep into governance step by step. As the Chinese proverb says, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. All it takes to achieve left-statist aims is to keep moving toward them as centrists clear the way by giving in, a foot at a time.

Political centrists include any Republican who has or would collaborate with Democrats on any matter that led or will lead to the further empowerment and aggrandizement of the central government. Religious centrists include any Catholic cleric who would or does administer Holy Communion to a “pro-choice” politician. Judicial centrists include any justice of the U.S. Supreme Court who rescues a statist policy (e.g., John Roberts’s rescue of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate by calling a penalty a tax). I am sure that you can add to that list.

There is plenty of centrism around. But the only excusable centrism is the kind that is practiced out of politeness, to avoid pointless conflicts (e.g., Thanksgiving dinner arguments about politics and football). The rest of it is just weakness in the face of left-statism, weakness that is not and will not be rewarded by favors from left-statists when they prevail.

To quote Karl Popper:

If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

The defense of toleration may well require something that centrists cannot contemplate: a violent showdown with leftists.


Related reading:

Roger L. Simon, “How ‘Woke’ May Be Leading Us to Civil War“, The Epoch Times, May 9, 2011

“Tyler Durden”, “The American Cyber Stasi Will Suppress All Digital Dissent in Biden’s Dystopia“, ZeroHedge, May 11, 2011

Is Scientific Skepticism Irrational?

I am revisiting David Stove‘s Popper and Beyond: Four Modern Irrationalists. There is something “off” about it, which is captured in a review at Amazon:

Stove’s primary target was the idea that there might be a problem about inductive inferences, one dating to Hume who was the first to notice it and try to solve it. His secondary target was Popper, whose solution to Hume’s problem was to develop a deductivist account of scientific rationality (critical rationalism, as an alternative to logical empiricism)–naively attempting to change the philosophy of science to address a problem which, in Stove’s opinion, doesn’t exist. His tertiary targets were “historicist” philosophers of science such as Kuhn and Feyerabend….

One does not learn the actual positions of any of these folks from Stove’s book, unfortunately, much less any of their actual errors or excesses. Stove’s own position seems to be a kind of “naive realism” about scientific change and progress: almost as if there were no questions worth asking on the subject. I’ve encountered secondary literature on Kuhn and Feyerabend before that utterly failed to understand them, but Stove doesn’t even make the attempt.

Here is Stove’s argument, reduced to its essence:

  • Scientific knowledge has progressed.
  • Some philosophers of science hold the view that scientific knowledge is provisional because what is believed to be true can always be falsified by new knowledge.
  • Saying that scientific knowledge is provisional is tantamount to saying that scientific knowledge has not progressed.
  • The philosophers of science who hold that scientific knowledge is provisional are therefore irrational because they effectively deny that scientific knowledge has progressed.

Stove assumes that which he seeks to prove. His reasoning is therefore circular. His book is a waste of ink, paper, and pixels (depending on the format in which it is published).

Stove, nevertheless (unwittingly) poses a question that demands an answer: If scientific knowledge is provisional (as it always is), is it possible to say that scientific knowledge has progressed; that is, more is known about the universe and its contents than was known in the past?

The provisional answer is “yes”. Human knowledge of the universe progresses, in general, but it is never certain knowledge and some of it is false knowledge (error). Witness the not-so-settled science of cosmology, which has been in flux for eons.

There is broad but not universal agreement that the universe (or at least the part of the universe which is observable to human beings) originated in a Big Bang. Expansion followed. But the rate of expansion of the universe and the cause(s) of that expansion remain beyond the ken of science. The knowledge that the universe is expanding — and expanding at an ever-increasing rate — is an advance on prior knowledge (or belief), which held that the universe is contracting or that it is neither contracting nor expanding. But the knowledge of an accelerating expansion must be provisional because new observations may yield a different description of the universe.

That example brings us to the essential dichotomy of science: observation vs. explanation. What is observed is observed with varying degrees of certainty. The variations depend on the limitations of our instruments, sensory organs, and brains (which may be conditioned to misperceive some phenomena). Where things often go awry is in explaining that which is perceived, especially if the perception is wrong.

A classic case of misperception is the once-dominant belief that the Sun circles Earth. It’s easy to see how that misperception arose. But having arisen, it led to erroneous explanations. One erroneous explanation was that the Sun is embedded in a “sky dome” that surrounds Earth at some distance and rotates around it.

A current case of misperception is the deliberately inculcated belief that the general rise in observed temperatures on Earth from the late 1970s to late 1990s is due almost entirely to an increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 caused by human activity. The dominance of that theory — which objective observers know to be incomplete and unsubstantiated — may well lead to the impoverishment of vast numbers of persons in North America and Western Europe because the leaders of those countries seem to be virtue-signaling CO2-reduction race to limit and eventually ban the use of fossil fuels.

If David Stove were still with us, he would probably say what I have just said about the current misperception, given his penchant for iconoclasm. But where would that leave his “naive realism” about scientific progress? He would have to reject it. In fact, knowing (as he undoubtedly did) of the erroneous belief in and explanation a geocentric universe, he should have rejected his “naive realism” about scientific progress before taking Popper et al. to task for their skepticism about the validity of new scientific knowledge.

Yes, scientific knowledge accrues. It accrues because knowledge (to a scientist) is ineluctably incomplete; there is always a deeper or more detailed explanation of phenomena to be found. The search for the deeper or more detailed explanation usually turns up new facts (or surmises) about physical existence.

But scientific knowledge actually accrues only when new “knowledge” is treated as provisional and tested rigorously. Even then, it may still prove to be wrong. That which isn’t disproved (falsified) adds to the store of (provisional) scientific knowledge. But, as Stove fails to acknowledge, much old “knowledge” hasn’t survived, and some current “knowledge” shouldn’t survive (e.g., the CO2-driven theory of “climate change”).

Here is the argument that Stove should have made:

  • Scientific knowledge has progressed on many fronts, but not to the exclusion of error.
  • Some philosophers of science hold the view that scientific knowledge is provisional because what is believed to be true can always be falsified by new knowledge.
  • Given the track record of science, those philosophers are correct to say that scientific knowledge is provisional.
  • It is possible for scientific knowledge to accrue, and to be provisional at the same time.

Think of all of the ink, paper, and pixels that could been saved if Stove had thought more carefully about science and issued a PowerPoint slide instead of a book.


Related post: Deduction, Induction, and Knowledge

The Vatican Goes All-Out Democrat

Politico has the story:

The head of the Vatican’s doctrine office is warning U.S. bishops to deliberate carefully and minimize divisions before proceeding with a possible plan to rebuke Roman Catholic politicians such as President Joe Biden for receiving Communion even though they support abortion rights.

The strong words of caution came in a letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, addressed to Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The USCCB will convene for a national meeting June 16, with plans to vote on drafting a document on the Communion issue….

Ladaria, in his letter, said any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

Even then, Ladaria advised, the bishops should seek unanimous support within their ranks for any national policy, lest it become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

Ladaria made several other points that could complicate the plans of bishops pressing for tough action: — He said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.

— He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the preeminent” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document “were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”

— He said that if the U.S. bishops pursue a new policy, they should confer with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church.”

— He said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

In other words, don’t embarrass Joe Biden (or Nancy Pelosi or any other nominally Catholic but pro-abortion politician). Doing so would upset the Pope, who has fully embraced their leftist views on abortion, “climate change”, income redistribution, etc., etc., etc. Cardinal Gregory obviously shares the Pope’s willingness to shape his religion to fit his political views.

And Cardinal Ladaria, a Jesuit, has given us a master class in Jesuitical casuistry.

Trump: Symbol of Resentment?

Thomas Edsall of The New York Times (unsurprisingly) endorses an essay by William Galston, “The Bitter Heartland”. Galston, according to Edsall,

captures the forces at work in the lives of many of Trump’s most loyal backers:

Resentment is one of the most powerful forces in human life. Unleashing it is like splitting the atom; it creates enormous energy, which can lead to more honest discussions and long-delayed redress of grievances. It can also undermine personal relationships — and political regimes. Because its destructive potential is so great, it must be faced.

Recent decades, Galston continues, “have witnessed the growth of a potent new locus of right-wing resentment at the intersection of race, culture, class, and geography” — difficult for “those outside its orbit to understand.”

They — “social conservatives and white Christians” — have what Galston calls a “bill of particulars” against political and cultural liberalism. I am going to quote from it at length because Galston’s rendering of this bill of particulars is on target.

  • “They have a sense of displacement in a country they once dominated. Immigrants, minorities, non-Christians, even atheists have taken center stage, forcing them to the margins of American life.”

  • “They believe we have a powerful desire for moral coercion. We tell them how to behave — and, worse, how to think. When they complain, we accuse them of racism and xenophobia. How, they ask, did standing up for the traditional family become racism? When did transgender bathrooms become a civil right?”

  • “They believe we hold them in contempt.”

  • “Finally, they think we are hypocrites. We claim to support free speech — until someone says something we don’t like. We claim to oppose violence — unless it serves a cause we approve of. We claim to defend the Constitution — except for the Second Amendment. We support tolerance, inclusion, and social justice — except for people like them.”

So far, so good. The four bullet points are right on; that is, they are not only true of “social conservatives and white Christians”, but they are also true of the proponents of what Edsall calls “political and cultural liberalism”. But, as the characterizations of the latter reveal, they are not liberal in the true meaning of the word. It is therefore meet and just for “social conservatives and white Christians” to resent political and cultural fascists — for that is what they are.

But there’s a lot more to it. Our home-grown fascisti are not just resented, but also rightly feared and vehemently opposed by conservatives, regardless of their socioeconomic status or religious views. And that is why Trump still has a grip on hordes of Americans.

Despite Trump’s lack of fiscal and rhetorical discipline, he was more than talk when it came to restoring conservative governance to America.

  • Exhibit A is his record of judicial appointments — in sheer numbers and in conservative judicial philosophy. (Why else would the Democrats have been so fierce in their opposition, not only to Supreme Courts picks but also to many lower-court picks?)
  • Exhibit B: Trump did more than any president since World War II to roll back the administrative state (See “Presidents as Regulators: From Ike to the Donald“. Truman isn’t included because the database is incomplete, but his regime was heavy-handed.)
  • Exhibit C: Defense spending, which was on the decline under Obama, turned around under Trump. (Many conservatives oppose “endless war”, but most conservatives prefer preparedness and the ability to defend the nation in case a “real war” comes along.)
  • Exhibit D: Trump’s pro-life agenda.

I could add a lot to that list, but it seems like more than enough to make the case that allegiance to Trump signals more than mere resentment. It signals alignment with his deeply conservative agenda.

There is also the not insignificant fact that Trump — unlike the Bushes, McCain, and Romney — wasn’t an “establishment” Republican who cozies up to Democrats or a “maverick” prone to betraying those who voted for him.

Trump was true to his base and true to his campaign promises. That’s integrity — a rare commodity in electoral politics. Trump’s supporters are discerning enough to recognize it when they see it, and to reject faux conservatives like Romney.

Is the Vaccine Making a Difference?

Perhaps. 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 early March, and then began to drop only after about 10 percent of the populace had been fully vaccinated.

However, the leveling-off of death rate suggests that the vaccination rate is too low given (a) the more infectious nature of new strains of COVID-19 and (b) the rate at which personal interactions are rising.

But the COVID pandemic is not nearly as lethal as the Spanish flu, regardless of what the hand-wringing, lockdowining governors, mayors, and epidemiologists say.


Related reading:

PF Whalen, “Top 10 Absurdities of the COVID Pandemic“, Blue State Conservative, May 3, 2021

Philip W. Magness, “Imperial College Predicted Catastrophe in Every Country on Earth. Then the Models Failed.”, AIER, May 5, 2021

The Real Unemployment Rate

It’s bad. How bad? Here is the newly updated Part VI of “Economic Growth Since World War II“.

The real unemployment rate is several percentage points above the nominal rate. Officially, the unemployment rate stood at 6.1 percent as of April 2021. Unofficially — but in reality — the unemployment rate was 13.8 percent.

How can I say that the real unemployment rate was 13.8 percent, even though the official rate was 6.1 percent? Easily. Just follow this trail of definitions, provided by the official purveyor of unemployment statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Unemployed persons (Current Population Survey)
Persons aged 16 years and older who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.

Unemployment rate
The unemployment rate represents the number unemployed as a percent of the labor force.

Labor force (Current Population Survey)
The labor force includes all persons classified as employed or unemployed in accordance with the definitions contained in this glossary.

Labor force participation rate
The labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population.

Civilian noninstitutional population (Current Population Survey)
Included are persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities, homes for the aged), and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.

In short, if you are 16 years of age and older, not confined to an institution or on active duty in the armed forces, but have not recently made specific efforts to find employment, you are not (officially) a member of the labor force. And if you are not (officially) a member of the labor force because you have given up looking for work, you are not (officially) unemployed — according to the BLS. Of course, you are really unemployed, but your unemployment is well disguised by the BLS’s contorted definition of unemployment.

What has happened is this: Since the first four months of 2000, when the labor-force participation rate peaked at 67.3 percent, it declined to 62.3 percent in 2015 before rising to 63.4 percent just before the pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy. Then, the participation rate dropped to 60.2 percent before recovering to 61.7 percent in April 2021:

FIGURE 9

Source: See figure 10.

The decline that began in 2000 came to a halt in 2005, but resumed in late 2008. The economic slowdown in 2001 (which followed the bursting of the dot-com bubble) can account for the decline through 2005, as workers chose to withdraw from the labor force when faced with dimmer employment prospects. But what about the sharper decline that began near the end of Bush’s second term?

There we see not only the demoralizing effects of the Great Recession but also the growing allure of incentives to refrain from work, namely, disability payments, extended unemployment benefits, the relaxation of welfare rules, the aggressive distribution of food stamps, and “free” healthcare” for an expanded Medicaid enrollment base and 20-somethings who live in their parents’ basements*. That’s on the supply side. On the demand side, there are the phony and even negative effects of “stimulus” spending; the chilling effects of regime uncertainty, persisted beyond the official end of the Great Recession; and the expansion of government spending and regulation (e.g., Dodd-Frank), as discussed in Part III.

More recently, COVID caused many workers to withdraw from the labor force out of an abundance of caution or because they couldn’t work from home. The recovery has stalled, in large part because of “free” money and extended unemployment benefits. The effects are being felt by employers who are unable to fill job openings, thus refueling a resurgence of inflation.

Another factor, though of less significance, is a decline in the percentage of employed persons who are working full-time. It dropped from 83.3 percent in 2000 — its highest level since 1989 — to 79.9 percent in 2010 before rising jaggedly to 83.5 percent in April 2021. A shift from full-time to part-time work is really a form of disemployment, and ought to be reflected in the unemployment rate.

I constructed the actual unemployment rate by adjusting the nominal rate for (a) the change in the labor-force participation rate and (b) the change in the percentage of workers in full-time status. The disparity between the actual and nominal unemployment rates is evident in this graph:

FIGURE 10

Derived from SeriesLNS12000000, Seasonally Adjusted Employment Level; SeriesLNS11000000, Seasonally Adjusted Civilian Labor Force Level; Series LNS11300000, Seasonally Adjusted Civilian labor force participation rate; and Series LNS12500000, Employed, Usually Work Full Time. All are available at BLS, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.

The bad news — which the stock market has chosen to ignore (as of 05/07/2 1)  — is that the real unemployment rate is where it was in the darkest days of the Great Recession.
_________
* Contrary to some speculation, the labor-force participation rate is not declining because older workers are retiring earlier. The participation rate among workers 55 and older rose between 2002 and 2012. The decline is concentrated among workers under the age of 55, and especially workers in the 16-24 age bracket. (See this table at BLS.gov.) Why? My conjecture: The Great Recession caused a shakeout of marginal (low-skill) workers, many of whom simply dropped out of the labor market. And it became easier for them to drop out because, under Obamacare, many of them became eligible for Medicaid and many others enjoy prolonged coverage (until age 26) under their parents’ health plans. For more on this point, see Salim Furth’s “In the Obama Economy, a Decline in Teen Workers” (The Daily Signal, April 11, 2015), and Stephen Moore’s “Why Are So Many Employers Unable to Fill Jobs?” (The Daily Signal, April 6, 2015). On the general issue of declining participation among males aged 25-54, see Timothy Taylor’s “Why Are Men Detaching from the Labor Force?“, (The Conversible Economist, January 16, 2020), and follow the links therein. See also Scott Winship’s “Declining Prime-Age Male Labor Force Participation” (The Bridge, Mercatus Center, September 26, 2017).

The Great Breakup?

I end “The Great Breakup (I Hope)” with this:

The nation is almost certainly broken, and broken irrevocably. That leaves the question of what is to be done about it. I have offered options in the past. The only one that can deliver (a lot of us) from the evil that bears down is a concerted secession effort by many States, perhaps leading to a negotiated partition of the country. The choice is stark: either a breakup or a complete takeover by America’s domestic enemies.

(Do read the whole thing. It is replete with keen observations and bons mots.)

Victor Davis Hanson rehearses the many reasons for a breakup in “How Much Ruin Do We Have Left?” (American Greatness, April 21, 2021); for example:

The military—after costly strategic stagnation in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya—is now turning on its own. Some of the politicized top brass seem more worried about the politics of their own soldiers than the dangers of foreign militaries.

Our public schools and colleges are systematically downplaying meritocratic curricula and substituting in their places ideological, racial, and cultural litmus tests. Admissions now often hinge as much on race, gender, and ethnicity than quantifiable achievement. The First and Fifth Amendments—free speech and due process—have vanished from most college campuses.

2020 saw the most destructive riots in American history. Yet very few of the looters, arsonists, and rioters were ever indicted. Most were never arrested….

Private monopolies that control most written communications of Americans censor expression entirely on the basis of politics….

Our officials at the Justice Department and the United Nations either will not or cannot defend the history and reputation of their own homeland.

Record natural gas and oil production had formerly given the public affordable heating, cooling, and transportation. Self-sufficiency in energy made the United States exempt from worries over Mideast wars or foreign oil embargoes. The more we produced our own natural gas, the cleaner became our air and the smaller our collective carbon footprint.

Yet in just 100 days, energy prices have soared. The Left has canceled pipelines and limited energy leasing on federal lands—with promises to all but end our own gas and oil independence in just a few years.

In the drought-stricken West, key irrigation water is still being diverted from farms to the ocean. Billions of dollars in farm aid are doled out on the basis of race. And promised new regulations and estate taxes may well kill off what’s left of family farms.

Not to mention higher taxes and more regulations, which penalize success and deter business formation and expansion. Not to mention the murderous anti-life stance of “devout Catholic” Biden and his henchpersons. And on and on it goes.

All of which leads Oliver Wiseman (“Disunited States“, The Critic, May 2021) to recall that more than 180 years ago

John Quincy Adams gave a speech to mark 50 years since the presidential inauguration of George Washington. “If the day should ever come, (may Heaven avert it) when the affections of the people of these states shall be alienated from each other; when the fraternal spirit shall give away to cold indifference, or collisions of interest shall fester into hatred,” he told a New York audience, “far better will it be for the people of the disunited states, to part in friendship from each other, than to be held together by constraint.” Collisions of interest festering into hatred? That sounds familiar. The Trump years were famously light on fraternal spirit and, as the divisions deepened, “parting in friendship” started to look awfully attractive to a growing number of Americans.

After reciting many reasons for a breakup, and offering some reasons why it may not come to pass, Wiseman ends with this:

For now, secession threats are still mostly part of a bigger fight for the future of the country as a whole: a nuclear option in a cold civil war. America may lurch forwards having loud arguments that belie an underlying stability. But if divides grow wider and differences on fundamental constitutional questions start to look irreconcilable, more and more Americans might agree with John Quincy Adams: better to part in friendship rather than being held together in constraint.

It can’t happen soon enough for me, even though I may end up on the wrong side of the divide because of my impending move from Texas to Virginia.


Related page: Constitution: Myths and Realities, Part VI

Playing with Numbers

Stephen Moore asks a rhetorical question in “Why Did Biden’s Census Bureau Add 2.5 Million Residents to Blue-State Population Count?”. The obvious answer is: To reduce the loss of House seats to Red States, as Moore says:

The original projections for Census reapportionment had New York losing two seats, Rhode Island losing a seat, and Illinois perhaps losing two seats. Instead, New York and Illinois only lost one seat, and Rhode Island lost no seats. Meanwhile, Texas was expected to gain three seats, Florida two seats, and Arizona one seat. Instead, Texas gained only two seats, Florida only one, and Arizona none.

Was the Census Bureau count rigged? Was it manipulated by the Biden team to hand more seats to the Democrats and to get more money—federal spending is often allocated based on population—for the blue states?

The evidence is now only circumstantial, but when errors or revisions are almost all only in one direction, the alarm bells appropriately go off.

The same was true of Election 2020. There is ample evidence that the election was stolen from Trump and handed to Biden by chicanery in at least five States: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

But did the courts give a hoot? No, they looked the other way. And the same thing will happen when the Census Bureau’s fudged figures are challenged.

Democrats have a near-lock on electoral fraud. And (to change the metaphor) they need it because their “wokeness” is  is swimming against the tide of popular opinion.

Racial Profiling?

A point that I — and many fact-driven observers — have made over the years: Blacks are disproportionately “targeted” for arrest and incarceration because blacks are disproportionately prone to commit crimes, especially crimes of violence.

The cold facts are corroborated by the preponderance of blacks in the mugshots that have become a too-frequent feature of Austin’s local newscasts.

I am, praise be, leaving Austin for a somewhat less-populous city in a considerably less-populous metropolitan area. I have already begun to subscribe to that city’s newspaper. I was struck by the photos of the suspects in all of the murders covered on the front page of that newspaper. Here they are:

I wonder how much longer it will be before Biden’s Department of Injustice enjoins the media from displaying mugshots of black persons (or is it Black Persons)?