FDR and Fascism

A blogger (to whom I will not link) once tried to disparage me by referring to my position that (in his words) “Franklin Roosevelt, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin were all essentially dictators.” I suppose that the blogger in question believes Hitler and Stalin to have been dictators. His poorly expressed complaint, therefore, is my lumping of FDR with Hitler and Stalin.

I doubt that the not-to-be-named blogger considers FDR a saint, or even a praiseworthy president. Such a view would be inconsistent with the blogger’s (rather murky) paleo-conservative/libertarian views. The blogger’s apparent aim was not to defend FDR but to discredit me by suggesting that my view of FDR is beyond the pale.*

To the contrary, however, the perception of FDR as a dictator (or dictator manqué) with a fascistic agenda is of long standing and arises from respectable sources. Albert Jay Nock, an early and outspoken opponent of the New Deal — and a paleo-libertarian of the sort admired by the blogger in question — certainly saw Roosevelt’s fascistic agenda for what it was. Many mainstream politicians also attacked Roosevelt’s aims; for example:

While the First New Deal of 1933 had broad support from most sectors, the Second New Deal challenged the business community. Conservative Democrats, led by Al Smith, fought back with the American Liberty League, savagely attacking Roosevelt and equating him with Marx and Lenin.[21]

That Smith and others were unsuccessful in their opposition to FDR’s agenda does not alter the essentially fascistic nature of that agenda.

Now comes David Boaz’s “Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt: What FDR had in common with the other charismatic collectivists of the 30s,” a review of Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933–1939. Toward the end of the review, Boaz writes:

Why isn’t this book called Four New Deals? Schivelbusch does mention Moscow repeatedly…. But Stalin seized power within an already totalitarian system; he was the victor in a coup. Hitler, Mussolini, and Roosevelt, each in a different way, came to power as strong leaders in a political process. They thus share the “charismatic leadership” that Schivelbusch finds so important.

…B.C. Forbes, the founder of the eponymous magazine, denounced “rampant Fascism” in 1933. In 1935 former President Herbert Hoover was using phrases like “Fascist regimentation” in discussing the New Deal. A decade later, he wrote in his memoirs that “the New Deal introduced to Americans the spectacle of Fascist dictation to business, labor and agriculture,” and that measures such as the Agricultural Adjustment Act, “in their consequences of control of products and markets, set up an uncanny Americanized parallel with the agricultural regime of Mussolini and Hitler.” In 1944, in The Road to Serfdom, the economist F.A. Hayek warned that economic planning could lead to totalitarianism. He cautioned Americans and Britons not to think that there was something uniquely evil about the German soul. National Socialism, he said, drew on collectivist ideas that had permeated the Western world for a generation or more.

In 1973 one of the most distinguished American historians, John A. Garraty of Columbia University, created a stir with his article “The New Deal, National Socialism, and the Great Depression.” Garraty was an admirer of Roosevelt but couldn’t help noticing, for instance, the parallels between the Civilian Conservation Corps and similar programs in Germany. Both, he wrote, “were essentially designed to keep young men out of the labor market. Roosevelt described work camps as a means for getting youth ‘off the city street corners,’ Hitler as a way of keeping them from ‘rotting helplessly in the streets.’ In both countries much was made of the beneficial social results of mixing thousands of young people from different walks of life in the camps. Furthermore, both were organized on semimilitary lines with the subsidiary purposes of improving the physical fitness of potential soldiers and stimulating public commitment to national service in an emergency.”

And in 1976, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan incurred the ire of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), pro-Roosevelt historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., and The New York Times when he told reporters that “fascism was really the basis of the New Deal.”

You get the idea by now, I hope. The correlation of FDR’s regime with those of Hitler and Mussolini (not to mention Stalin’s) is hardly discredited or beyond the pale.

Boaz writes, also, about the ends and means of the New Deal:

On May 7, 1933, just two months after the inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the New York Times reporter Anne O’Hare McCormick wrote that the atmosphere in Washington was “strangely reminiscent of Rome in the first weeks after the march of the Blackshirts, of Moscow at the beginning of the Five-Year Plan.…America today literally asks for orders.” The Roosevelt administration, she added, “envisages a federation of industry, labor and government after the fashion of the corporative State as it exists in Italy.”

That article isn’t quoted in Three New Deals, a fascinating study by the German cultural historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch. But it underscores his central argument: that there are surprising similarities between the programs of Roosevelt, Mussolini, and Hitler….

The dream of a planned society infected both right and left. Ernst Jünger, an influential right-wing militarist in Germany, reported his reaction to the Soviet Union: “I told myself: granted, they have no constitution, but they do have a plan. This may be an excellent thing.” As early as 1912, FDR himself praised the Prussian-German model: “They passed beyond the liberty of the individual to do as he pleased with his own property and found it necessary to check this liberty for the benefit of the freedom of the whole people,” he said in an address to the People’s Forum of Troy, New York.

American Progressives studied at German universities, Schivelbusch writes, and “came to appreciate the Hegelian theory of a strong state and Prussian militarism as the most efficient way of organizing modern societies that could no longer be ruled by anarchic liberal principles.” The pragmatist philosopher William James’ influential 1910 essay “The Moral Equivalent of War” stressed the importance of order, discipline, and planning….

In the North American Review in 1934, the progressive writer Roger Shaw described the New Deal as “Fascist means to gain liberal ends.” He wasn’t hallucinating. FDR’s adviser Rexford Tugwell wrote in his diary that Mussolini had done “many of the things which seem to me necessary.” Lorena Hickok, a close confidante of Eleanor Roosevelt who lived in the White House for a spell, wrote approvingly of a local official who had said, “If [President] Roosevelt were actually a dictator, we might get somewhere.” She added that if she were younger, she’d like to lead “the Fascist Movement in the United States.” At the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the cartel-creating agency at the heart of the early New Deal, one report declared forthrightly, “The Fascist Principles are very similar to those we have been evolving here in America.

Roosevelt himself called Mussolini “admirable” and professed that he was “deeply impressed by what he has accomplished.”…

Schivelbusch argues that “Hitler and Roosevelt were both charismatic leaders who held the masses in their sway—and without this sort of leadership, neither National Socialism nor the New Deal would have been possible.” This plebiscitary style established a direct connection between the leader and the masses. Schivelbusch argues that the dictators of the 1930s differed from “old-style despots, whose rule was based largely on the coercive force of their praetorian guards.” Mass rallies, fireside radio chats—and in our own time—television can bring the ruler directly to the people in a way that was never possible before.

To that end, all the new regimes of the ’30s undertook unprecedented propaganda efforts. “Propaganda,” Schivelbusch writes “is the means by which charismatic leadership, circumventing intermediary social and political institutions like parliaments, parties, and interest groups, gains direct hold upon the masses.” The NRA’s Blue Eagle campaign, in which businesses that complied with the agency’s code were allowed to display a “Blue Eagle” symbol, was a way to rally the masses and call on everyone to display a visible symbol of support. NRA head Hugh Johnson made its purpose clear: “Those who are not with us are against us.”…

Program and propaganda merged in the public works of all three systems. The Tennessee Valley Authority, the autobahn, and the reclamation of the Pontine marshes outside Rome were all showcase projects, another aspect of the “architecture of power” that displayed the vigor and vitality of the regime.

If FDR’s aims were fascistic — and clearly they were — why didn’t the U.S. become a police state, in the mold of Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union? Boaz concludes:

To compare is not to equate, as Schivelbusch says. It’s sobering to note the real parallels among these systems. But it’s even more important to remember that the U.S. did not succumb to dictatorship. Roosevelt may have stretched the Constitution beyond recognition, and he had a taste for planning and power previously unknown in the White House. But he was not a murderous thug. And despite a population that “literally waited for orders,” as McCormick put it, American institutions did not collapse. The Supreme Court declared some New Deal measures unconstitutional. Some business leaders resisted it. Intellectuals on both the right and the left, some of whom ended up in the early libertarian movement, railed against Roosevelt. Republican politicians (those were the days!) tended to oppose both the flow of power to Washington and the shift to executive authority.

Germany had a parliament and political parties and business leaders, and they collapsed in the face of Hitler’s movement. Something was different in the United States. Perhaps it was the fact that the country was formed by people who had left the despots of the Old World to find freedom in the new, and who then made a libertarian revolution. Americans tend to think of themselves as individuals, with equal rights and equal freedom. A nation whose fundamental ideology is, in the words of the recently deceased sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, “antistatism, laissez-faire, individualism, populism, and egalitarianism” will be far more resistant to illiberal ideologies.

In other words, Americans eluded fascism not because of FDR’s intentions but (in part) because FDR wasn’t “a murderous thug” and (in the main) because of the strength of our “national character.”

Will our character enable us to resist the next FDR? Given the changes in our character since the end of World War II, I very much doubt it.

(For more about FDR’s regime, its objectives, and its destructive consequences, see this, this, and this.)
* That the blogger was trying to discredit me in order to discredit someone related to me is only one bit of evidence of the blogger’s intellectual ineptitude. Further evidence is found in his resort to name calling and logical inconsistency. For example, I am, in one sentence, guilty of “extreme libertarianism” and, in another, an attacker of extreme libertarians, that is, those who “adhere[] to the [non-aggression] principle with deranged fervor” (my words).

As for my so-called extreme libertarianism, if the blogger had bothered to read my blog carefully he would have found plenty of evidence that I am far from being an extreme, individualistic, anti-state libertarian. See, for example, this post and the compilation of posts referenced therein, both of which I published more than a month before the blogger attacked me and my views about FDR.

I could say much more about the blogger’s rabid irrationality, but the main point of this post is FDR’s barely contained fascistic agenda, so I will stop here. Happily for the blogosphere, the blogger-not-to-be-named-here seems to have suspended his blogging operation.

Election 2008

Your best “bet” for forecasting the outcome of election 2008 is to follow the Iowa Electronic Markets, in particular, the IEM odds for the presidential nominations and election. I have placed three important IEM links at the bottom of the sidebar. I go there daily.

Now, It’s Over

The Red Sox have clinched the AL East title, thanks largely to another blown save by the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera in tonight’s 9-10, 10-inning loss to the Orioles.

It was over, effectively, when the Yankees failed to hold a 5-1 lead against the Devil Rays, and lost 6-7 in 10 innings on September 25. That loss put the Yankees 3 games behind the Red Sox, with only 5 games to play.

Contrary to the mindless mathematical manipulations of a blogger who shall remain nameless here, it was not over following the games of July 4, when the Yankees trailed the Red Sox by 11.5 games (not 12 games as asserted by said blogger).

But the Yankees rallied to come within 1.5 games of the Red Sox on September 19 and again on September 24. Which just goes to show you: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” *

Now, it’s over.

Related posts:
Overcoming Adversity
Are the Yankees in Meltdown?
Yankees vs. Red Sox: The End Games
Yankees vs. Red Sox: The End Games (2)
As I Was Saying…
* Said byYogi Berra in 1973 when his New York Mets were, on August 7, 9.5 games behind the leader of the NL Eastern division. The Mets rallied to win the division title by 1.5 games, and went on to take the NL title before losing the World Series to the Oakland A’s. The Mets took the A’s to the seventh game of the Series. It was over for the Mets only when they lost that seventh game.

The 2007 Mets, by contrast, led their division from May 16 through September 26. As of this morning, the Mets trail the Phillies by 1 game, with 2 games left to play. To wrest the division title from the Phillies, the Mets must win both of their final games while the Phillies lose both of theirs. There will be a one-game playoff if the teams finish in a tie.

Moreover, even if the Mets win both of their final games they can be eliminated from post-season play, as follows. First, the Phillies win both of their final games to take the NL East title outright. Then, both the Diamondbacks and Padres win at least one of their two final games, which gives the wild-card slot to the Padres.

The best the Mets can do is tie the Padres and/or the Rockies in the W-L department. (That outcome requires the Padres to lose both of their final games.) The Mets and Padres and/or Rockies would then have a playoff game (or games) to determine the NL’s wild-card team for 2007.

It’s almost over for the Mets. But it ain’t over ’til it’s over — ain’t it?

P.S. (09/30/07): Now, it’s over for the Mets. Amazing.

On the morning of September 13 the Mets had a .572 record and led the Phillies by 7 games with only 17 games remaining. A mindless prognosticator might then have opined that the Mets would have to play only .500 ball the rest of the season in order to win the NL East title — as if that would be a cinch.

Well, the Mets could have won the title by playing .412 ball the rest of the way, even had they lost their 3 remaining games with the Phillies (as the Mets did). But the Mets played only .294 ball the rest of the way. In the process, their 7-game lead became a 1-game deficit, as the Phillies won 13 of 17 while the Mets were dropping 12 of 17. Thus the Mets fell 2 games short of taking the NL East title outright, and 1 game short of entering a playoff (with the Padres and Rockies) for the NL wild-card slot.

C’est la vie en baseball.

Compare and Contrast, Again

In praise of Kay S. Hymowitz’s realism about the limits of libertarianism, I say in “Compare and Contrast” that

Good things don’t just happen, they must be made to happen. If they are not, bad things will prevail because the anti-social aspects of human nature — dominance, enviousness, and aggressiveness — outweigh the pro-social ones.

Hymowitz’s “libertarian” critics (e.g., Ilya Somin), just don’t get it. Somin thusly ends a post about Hymowitz’s response to his critique of her stance on libertarianism:

Hymowitz concludes her response by criticizing what she calls the libertarian “tendency to view individual personal liberty as The Good that should swallow up all others.” In reply, I can only reiterate a point I made in my critique of her original essay: believing that protecting liberty is the highest or even the sole legitimate purpose of government does not require libertarians to conclude that it is the highest good for all institutions. Still less does it commit us to believing that it is a good that “swallows up all others.” To the contrary, libertarians have long contended that liberty actually facilitates the achievement of other important values and does so far more effectively than government coercion.

What Somin (and other so-called libertarians) fail to understand is this: Liberty doesn’t just happen; it is not innate in human nature.

The true choice is not between liberty and government coercion, it is between ordered liberty, in which government does not (by omission or commission) undermine morality, and social dissolution, in which it does precisely that.

It is quite clear that we have been, for quite some time, in a state of government-condoned and government-sponsored social dissolution. As civil society dissolves, government takes over its functions, in ways that no self-styled libertarian could possibly endorse.

The key defect of libertarian absolutism (of the kind preached by Somin et al.) is its adherents’ blindness to its consequences. They cannot seem to grasp the fact that wanting liberty and having it are two different things. They are fixated on “what ought to be” and blind to “what is possible,” given human nature.

Related posts:
A Century of Progress?
The Case against Genetic Engineering
Social Norms, State Action, and Liberty
A Critique of Extreme Libertarianism
Anarchistic Balderdash
The Meaning of Liberty

Collegiate Crap-ola

When I was a freshman in college, Voltaire was held up as an exemplar of wit and clear thinking. This is Voltaire, at (perhaps) his best, that is to say, his worst:

“The Bible,” sighed Voltaire. “That is what fools have written, what imbeciles command, what rogues teach, and young children are made to learn by heart.”

This nonsensical generalization bears scant resemblance to the truth. (It does not, for instance, credit the civilizing influence of the Bible, as it is conveyed through Judaism and Christianity.) Voltaire’s statement is nothing more than propaganda for anti-religionism.

It is no wonder that so many young minds were irretrievably corrupted by their exposure to the “heroes” of collegiate “open-mindedness.” I was corrupted for a while, but I began to see the world as it is, not as Voltaire and his ilk would have it seem.

Katie Couric: Post-American

What is a post-American? From Mark Krikorian of NRO, via an earlier post:

Let me be clear [as to] what I mean by a post-American. He’s not an enemy of America — not Alger Hiss or Jane Fonda or Louis Farrakhan. He’s not necessarily even a Michael Moore or Ted Kennedy. A post-American may actually still like America, but the emotion resembles the attachment one might feel to, say, suburban New Jersey — it can be a pleasant place to live, but you’re always open to a better offer. The post-American has a casual relationship with his native country, unlike the patriot, “who more than self his country loves,” as Katharine Lee Bates wrote. Put differently, the patriot is married to America; the post-American is just shacking up.

What makes Katie Couric a post-American? This:

“The whole culture of wearing flags on our lapel and saying ‘we’ when referring to the United States and, even the ‘shock and awe’ of the initial stages, it was just too jubilant and just a little uncomfortable. And I remember feeling, when I was anchoring the ‘Today’ show, this inevitable march towards war and kind of feeling like, ‘Will anybody put the brakes on this?’ And is this really being properly challenged by the right people? And I think, at the time, anyone who questioned the administration was considered unpatriotic and it was a very difficult position to be in.” (Quotation from Jonah Goldberg of NRO, via many bloggers.)

Katie, Katie, Katie, how could anyone possibly question your patriotism after reading that?

Actually, one cannot fault the patriotism of a person who questions how the administration pursues the enemy, as long as that person offers a reasonable alternative in good faith. But the loony Left and whacky Right simply assert that “we” are the enemy and “we” had it coming to “us,” when they are not peddling the notion that “we” did it to ourselves — as in “inside job.”

But Couric is, by her own admission, unpatriotic. She is more than unpatriotic, however. She is, at best, a dupe for the loony Left and whacky Right. She is, at worst (I think), a witting dupe (to coin an oxymoron).

Related post: Depressing But True (and the links at the end)

More Evidence Against Anthropogenic Global Warming

Add “Scientists Counter AP Article Promoting Computer Model Climate Fears” and “Questioning 20th Century Warmth” to what I say in “Warmism: The Myth of Anthropogenic Global Warming.” The second item is especially damaging to warmist hysteria.

P.S. See also “A Whole New World: Climate Change Debate Could Be Changing,” here.

Let Me Be Perfectly Clear…

…about “black redneck culture,” which I have addressed in earlier posts (e.g., here and here). It is a possible explanation for the persistent black-white achievement gap. (There is also IQ.) But blacks certainly do not dominate the boisterous, live-for-today, take-what-you-can-from-the-man, in-your-face, quick-to-take-offense, often-violent “lifestyle” that is summarized in the term “black redneck culture.” White redneck culture is all too prevalent.

White redneck culture is not, as depicted in the following passage, restricted to the rural poor:

Rednecks typically are more libertine, especially in their personal lives, than other country brethren who tend towards social conservatism. In contrast to country people, stereotypical rednecks tend not to attend church, or do so infrequently. They also tend to use alcohol and gamble more than their church-going neighbors.

Redneck culture is no longer dominated by “rural poor to working-class people of rural extraction.” It is alive and flourishing among whites of all socio-economic classes and in all locales: from small towns to large metropolitan areas.

The prevalence of redneck culture — black, white, and tan — is evident in popular culture. Look at what’s offered and imbibed avidly via TV (both network and cable), movie theaters, CDs and DVDs, video games (or whatever they’re called now), shopping malls, and professional sporting events (most notably basketball). Noise, violence, vulgarity, profanity, and prurience prevail, usually all at the same time.

Redneck culture has these essential — and socially destructive — characteristics: disregard for other persons and their property, indolence, a sense of entitlement (as if in compensation for the effects of indolence), a ready acceptance of myths and prejudices in place of facts and reason, a sneering attitude toward education and hard work, and (thus) a tendency to “live for today and let tomorrow take care of itself.”

Liberty, which depends upon mutual restraint, cannot survive in a redneck milieu: a culture of moral anarchy which invites totalitarianism. The spread of redneck culture further encourages the emergence of totalitarianism because rednecks (of whatever race, class, and clime) are seduced easily by “bread and circuses” — and perhaps by the promise of “freehealth care.

(I am indebted to my son for a crystallizing conversation on this topic.)

The Political Case for Traditional Morality

Lee Harris makes it, in “Drug Addiction and the Open Society,” at The New Atlantis. Here is one of many telling passages:

Herein may well lie one of the great advantages that highly authoritarian forms of government have over open and liberal society. They are in a position to crack down on social epidemics, like drugs, in ways that are far more effective, because far more brutal, than any option available to societies like Dalrymple’s England or DeGrandpre’s America. If so, what a fascinating paradox to present to Mr. Mill—those societies that most closely followed his “simple universal principle” could eventually be undone by their excess of liberty; in which case, the epitaph of the open society might well be taken from Dalrymple’s assessment of the addicts he dealt with in the British slum: “Freedom was bad for them, because they did not know what to do with it.”

Moral anarchy is fertile ground for totalitarianism.

Related posts:
The Meaning of Liberty
Social Norms, State Action, and Liberty

Depressing But True

From Mark Steyn’s post of Monday last:

In his pugnacious new book [World War IV: The Long Struggle against Islamofascism: LC], Norman Podhoretz calls for redesignating this conflict as World War IV.* Certainly, it would have been easier politically to frame the Iraq campaign as being a front in a fourth world war than as a necessary measure in an anti-terrorist campaign. Yet who knows? Perhaps we would still have mired ourselves in legalisms and conspiracies and the dismal curdled relativism of the Flight 93 memorial’s “crescent of embrace.” In the end, as Podhoretz says, if the war is to be fought at all, it will “have to be fought by the kind of people Americans now are.” On this sixth anniversary, as 9/11 retreats into history, many Americans see no war at all.

Depressing but true.

In a related essay at OpinionJournal, Podhoretz writes this:

It is impossible at this point to predict how and when the battle of Iraq will end. But from the vitriolic debates it has unleashed we can already say for certain that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did not do to the Vietnam syndrome what Pearl Harbor did to the old isolationism. The Vietnam syndrome is back and it means to have its way. But is it strong enough in its present incarnation to do what it did to the honor of this country in 1975? Well acquainted though I am with its malignant power, I still believe that it will ultimately be overcome by the forces opposed to it in the war at home. Even so, I cannot deny that this question still hangs ominously in the air and will not be answered before more damage is done to the long struggle against Islamofascism into which we were blasted six years ago and that I persist in calling World War IV.

We have, I fear, gone beyond the “Vietnam syndrome” — the simplistic view that war is always bad — to something much worse: Many Americans — far too many — simply think of America as the enemy. Thus these posts:
Shall We All Hang Separately?
Foxhole Rats
Foxhole Rats, Redux
The Faces of Appeasement
We Have Met the Enemy . . .
Whose Liberties Are We Fighting For?
Words for the Unwise
More Foxhole Rats
Post-Americans and Their Progeny
Anti-Bush or Pro-Treason?
Com-Patriotism and Anti-Patriotic Acts

As I Was Saying…

here, “past performance is no indication of future returns,” especially when it comes to this year’s Yankees.

I have been all over the lot on the fate of the 2007 Yankees (here, here, here, and here). I should follow my own advice and quit trying to make predictions, even if they are informed ones and not mindless arithmetic games.

I had effectively written the Yankees off for failing to sweep their recent series with the Red Sox, which left the Yankees 4.5 games in arrears. But three days later, the Yankees are only 1.5 games behind the Red Sox.

What happens now? I dunno. I hereby swear that I will not make another prediction about baseball — until I make another one.

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Michael Cannon of Cato-at-Liberty writes:

In response to Andrew Sullivan: all liberals understand free markets.

It’s the leftists that are the problem.

Cannon assumes that modern “liberals” — you know the kind: LBJ, Hubert Humphrey, Ted Kennedy — actually understand free markets. It’s true that LBJ, HHH, EMK, and their ilk are not really “liberals” by the classic definition of the word “liberal,” but they long ago absconded with the word and corrupted it.

That “liberals” now call themselves “progressives” is evidence of the corruption of the word “liberal.” The use of “progressive” is an obvious semantic dodge, an effort to avoid association with what “liberal” has come to mean: a proponent of the nanny state.

As far as I can tell, all “liberals” (and “progressives”) are Leftists: anti-libertarian statists extraordinaire.

P.S. A Cato-type libertarian probably thinks that such “rights” as abortion-on-demand and same-sex marriage are manifestations of liberality, in the old-fashioned meaning of the word (see Noun 1. here). In fact, abortion-on-demand and same-sex marriage are not manifestations of liberality, they are manifestations of statism because they are (or would be) state-imposed — which is what “liberals” want.

If abortion-on-demand and same-sex marriage were manifestations of liberality, they would have arisen from voluntarily evolved social norms. That they have not done so means that they are destructive of the social order — of civil society — upon which liberty depends.

By the way, segregation in the South was state-imposed.

Some related posts:
Why I’m Not a Democrat or a Liberal
Left, Right, What’s the Difference?
The Liberal Mindset
The Meaning of Liberty
Social Norms, State Action, and Liberty

For much more, click on Leftism – Statism – Democracy

Re: Climate "Science"

There’s this (via John Ray):

The authors compared, for the overlapping time frame 1962-2000, “the estimate of the northern hemisphere mid-latitude winter atmospheric variability within the available 20th century simulations of 19 global climate models included in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] 4th Assessment Report” with “the NCEP-NCAR and ECMWF reanalyses,” i.e., compilations of real-world observations produced by the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), in collaboration with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and by the European Center for Mid-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF)….

Quoting…the scientists who performed the model tests, “this study suggests caveats with respect to the ability of most of the presently available climate models in representing the statistical properties of the global scale atmospheric dynamics of the present [our italics] climate and, a fortiori [“all the more,” as per Webster’s Dictionary], in the perspective of modeling [future] climate change.” Indeed, it gives one pause to question most everything the models might suggest about the future.

And this:

It is difficult to understand how scientific forecasting could be conducted without reference to the research literature on how to make forecasts. One would expect to see empirical justification for the forecasting methods that were used. To provide forecasts of climate change that are useful for policy-making, one would need to prepare forecasts of (1) temperature changes, (2) the effects of any temperature changes, and (3) the effects of feasible proposed policy changes. To justify policy changes based on climate change, policy makers need scientific forecasts for all three forecasting problems and they need those forecasts to show net benefits flowing from proposed policies. If governments implement policy changes without such justification, they are likely to cause harm to many people….

Based on our literature searches, those forecasting long-term climate change have no apparent knowledge of evidence-based forecasting methods….

P.S. See also this post at World Climate Report.

Related post: “Warmism”: The Myth of Anthropogenic Global Warming

Irrationality, Suboptimality, and Voting

In “The Rational Voter?” I define rationality as the application of “sound reasoning and pertinent facts to the pursuit of a realistic objective (one that does not contradict the laws of nature or human nature).” I later say that

[m]any (a majority of? most?) voters are guilty of voting irrationally because they believe in such claptrap as peace through diplomacy, “social justice” through high marginal tax rates, or better health care through government regulation. To be perfectly clear, the irrationality lies not in favoring peace, “social justice” (whatever that is), health care, and the like. The irrationality lies in knee-jerk beliefs in such contradictions as peace through unpreparedness for war, “social justice” through soak-the-rich schemes, better health care through complete government control of medicine, etc., etc., etc. Voters whose objectives incorporate such beliefs simply haven’t taken the relatively little time it requires to process what they already know or have experienced about history, human nature, and social and economic realities….

Another way to put it is this: Voters too often are rationally irrational. They make their voting decisions “rationally,” in a formal sense (i.e., [not “wasting” time in order to make correct judgments]). But those decisions are irrational because they are intended to advance perverse objectives (e.g., peace through unpreparedness for war).

Voters of the kind I describe are guilty of suboptimization, which is “optimizing some chosen objective which is an integral part of a broader objective; usually the broad objective and lower-level objective are different.”

I will come back to suboptimal voting. But, first, this about optimization: If you aren’t familiar with the concept, here’s good non-technical definition: “to do things best under the given circumstances.” To optimize, then, is to achieve the best result one can, given a constraint or constraints. On a personal level, for example, a rational person tries to be as happy as he can be, given his present income and prospects for future income. (Note that I do not define happiness as the maximization of wealth.) A person is not rational who allows, say, his alchololism to destroy his happiness (if not also the income that contributes to it). He is suboptimizing on his addiction instead of optimizing on his happiness.

By the same token, a person who votes irrationally also suboptimizes. A vote may “make sense” at the moment (just as another drink “makes sense” to an alcoholic), but it is an irrational vote if the voter does not (a) vote as if he were willing to live by the consequences if his vote were decisive and/or (b) take the time to understand those consequences.

In some cases, a voter’s irrationality is signaled by the voter’s (inner) reason for voting; for example: to feel smug about having voted, to “protest” or to “send a message” (without being able to explain coherently the purpose of the protest or message), or simply to reinforce unexamined biases by voting for someone who seems to share them. More common (I suspect) are the irrational votes that are cast deliberately for candidates who espouse the kinds of perverse objectives that I cite above (e.g., peace without preparedness for war).

Why is voter irrationality important? Does voting really matter? Well, it’s easy to say that an individual’s vote makes very little difference. But that just isn’t true. Consider the presidential election of 2000, for example, where the outcome of the election depended on about five hundred votes out of the almost six million cast in Florida. I recall that Florida was thought to be safely in Bush’s column, until after all the votes had been cast.

If you are certain that your vote won’t make a difference (as in Massachusetts, for example), don’t bother to vote — unless the act of voting, itself, gives you satisfaction. Otherwise, always vote as if your vote will make a difference to you and those about whom you care. Vote as if your vote will be decisive. To vote otherwise is irrational, in and of itself.

The next (necessary) step is to vote correctly. Short-sighted voters (i.e., irrational ones) vastly underestimate the importance of voting correctly. As Glen Whitman points out, there is a tendency to

give[] too little attention to the political dynamics of…a mandate, instead naively assuming that the mandate could be crafted once-and-for-all in a wise and lobbying-resistant fashion.

That is to say, voters (not to mention those who profess to understand voters) overlook the slippery slope effects of voting for those who promise to “deliver” certain benefits. It is true that the benefits, if delivered, would temporarily increase the well-being of certain voters. But if one group of voters reaps benefits, then another group of voters also must reap them. Why? Because votes are not won, nor offices held, by placating a particular class of voter; many other classes of them must be placated as well.

The “benefits” sought by voters (and delivered by politicians) are regulatory as well as monetary. Many voters (especially wealthy, paternalistic ones) are more interested in controlling others than they are in reaping government handouts (though they don’t object to that either). And if one group of voters reaps certain regulatory benefits, it follows (as night from day) that other groups also will seek (and reap) regulatory benefits. (Must one be a trained economist to understand this? Obviously not, because most trained economists don’t seem to understand it.)

And then there is the “peaceat-any-priceone-worldcrowd, which is hard to distinguish from the crowd that demands (and delivers) monetary and regulatory “benefits.”

So, here we are:

  • Many particular benefits are bestowed and many regulations are imposed, to the detriment of investors, entrepreneurs, innovators, inventors, and people who simply are willing to work hard to advance themselves. And it is they who are responsible for the economic growth that bestows (or would bestow) more jobs and higher incomes on everyone, from the poorest to the richest.
  • A generation from now, the average American will “enjoy” about one-fourth the real output that would be his absent the advent of the regulatory-welfare state about a century ago.

Conclusion: Voters who have favored the New Deal, the Square Deal, the Great Society, or almost any Democrat who has run for national office in the past seventy-five years have been supremely irrational. They have voted against their own economic and security interests, and the economic and security interests of their progeny.

This isn’t rocket science or advanced economics or clinical psychology. It’s common sense, a quality that seems to be lacking in too many voters — and in the politicians who prey on them. What else can you expect after seven decades in which creeping socialism and “internationalism” have been inculcated through public “education” and ratified by the courts.

Tonight’s Wisdom

Be pleasant toward persons whom you dislike or mistrust. They might be nice to you because they mistake your pleasantness for amicability.

In any event, being pleasant can help you avoid conflict. And with less conflict in your life, you will have more time for the things that you enjoy.

HillaryCare Returns

It’s all over the blogosphere. Glen Whitman has the best take on it because he ackn0wledges the slippery-slope, camel’s nose-in-the-tent factor.

What’s next after mandating health insurance for all? How about: the kind of health care we must have, who must deliver it, how it must be delivered, at what price, and on and on into the night. It’s a poisonous prescription for America’s still-excellent — if already somewhat socialized — health-care industry.

And there’s nowhere left to turn. Canada’s out because it already has fully socialized medicine. (Canadians in search of better medical attention are coming here, for crying out loud.) Mexico’s out because it’s a third-world country with fourth-rate health care and quacks who cater to desperate, terminally ill Americans with more money than sense. Medicine on the Moon, anyone?

P.S. A good post here.

P.P.S. More about health care in Canada here.

Blood for Oil

Jules Crittenden reminds us that “oil is worth fighting for”; specifically:

If the world’s single most important stragetic resource isn’t worth fighting for, in addition to peace, truth, justice, the American way, and slightly less abstract threats to U.S. national interests and security, then what is?

My take (on September 19, 2006):

The war on terror should be guided by three strategic objectives: searching out and destroying or capturing terrorists until they are truly a “law enforcement” problem, neutralizing the state sponsors of terrorism, and securing the oil reserves of the Middle East against terrorism and economic extortion.

That’s still my take.

P.S. From John Ray:

Greenspan clarifies Iraq war, oil link: “Clarifying a controversial comment in his new memoir, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he told the White House before the Iraq war that removing Saddam Hussein was “essential” to secure world oil supplies, according to an interview published on Monday. Greenspan, who wrote in his memoir that “the Iraq War is largely about oil,” said in a Washington Post interview that while securing global oil supplies was “not the administration’s motive,” he had presented the White House before the 2003 invasion with the case for why removing the then-Iraqi leader was important for the global economy. “I was not saying that that’s the administration’s motive,” Greenspan said in the interview conducted on Saturday. “I’m just saying that if somebody asked me, ‘Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?’ I would say it was essential.”