Humor – Satire – Wry Commentary

Self-Made Victims

The author of Imlac’s Journal quotes Malcolm Muggeridge on George Bernard Shaw:

He wanted to make a lot of money without being considered rich.

Here is Theodore Dalrymple, writing in the same vein:

[D]uring the early years of the AIDS epidemic … it was demanded of us that we should believe incompatible things simultaneously, for example that it was simply a disease like any other and that it was a disease of unprecedented importance and unique significance; that it could strike anybody but that certain group were martyrs to it; that it must be normalized and yet treated differently….  It was a bit like living under a small version of a communist dictatorship, in which the law of noncontradiction had been abrogated in favor of dialectics, under which all contradictions were compatible, but which contradictions had to be accepted was a matter of the official policy of the moment….

The demand for recognition and nonrecognition at the same time is surely one of the reasons for the outbreak of mass self-mutilation in the Western world in an age of celebrity. A person who treats his face and body like an ironmongery store can hardly desire or expect that you fail to notice it, but at the same time demands that you make no comment about it, draw no conclusions from it, express no aversion toward it, and treat him no differently because of it. You must accept him as he is, however he is, because he has an inalienable right to such acceptance….

I think the same dynamic (if I may call it such) is at work in the current vogue for transsexualism: “You must recognize me and not recognize me at the same time.” In this way, people can simultaneously enjoy the fruits of being normal and very different. To be merely the same as others is a wound to the ego in an age of celebrity, and yet we are herd animals who do not want to wander too far from the herd. And in an age of powerlessness we want to exert power.

What will be the next attempted reconciliation of our incompatible desires? [“Everyday Snowflakes“, Taki’s Magazine, July 15, 2017]

Good question. I don’t have a ready answer, but I have some other examples of incompatible desiderata. Each entry in the list below has two parts: (on the left) an objective that most leftists would claim to support and (on the right) the left-wing policy that hinders attainment of the objective.

Ample employment opportunities for low-skill workers – Minimum wage

Vigorous economic growth – Regulation

Property rights* and freedom of association – Public-accommodation laws

Less crime – Strict gun control or confiscation of guns*

Peace – Less defense spending (and therefore lack of deterrence)

The result of each left-wing policy is to create victims, ranging from young black men to law-abiding citizens to most Americans. The left’s constant search for “victims” is evidently hindered by intellectual myopia.

Moreover, in many cases leftists are actual or potential victims of their own policy preferences. But their magical thinking (unconstrained vision) blinds them to the incompatibility of their desires.


* There are many hypocrites on the left (like Shaw) who would vigorously defend their property rights while proclaiming their attachment to socialism, and who employ guards (with guns) to protect their property.


More posts about the left and magical thinking:
The Left and Its Delusions
A Keynesian Fantasy Land
The Keynesian Fallacy and Regime Uncertainty
America: Past, Present, and Future
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
The Pretence of Knowledge
“The Science Is Settled”
The Harmful Myth of Inherent Equality
“And the Truth Shall Set You Free”
The Transgender Fad and Its Consequences

The Secret of a Happy Marriage

Most people marry young. Even though the average age at first marriage is creeping up, it is still below 30 as far as I know. And it was closer to 20 when I wed several decades ago.

A person who is in his early 20s has a lot of life and learning ahead. His political views are likely to change. Mine changed from idealistic “liberalism” to informed conservatism, with a few stops in between. (For more, go to “About” and scroll down to “Beliefs”.) If one’s political views are heritable, as this piece suggests, what happened to me is that nature — my parents’ innate conservatism — finally overcame nurture — the attitudes and ideas that I absorbed as a collegian.

I married my wife only two years after completing my undergraduate degree, still a naive “liberal” with simplistic views about such things as race (not a problem), markets (suspect), and government (more is better). Fast-forward more than 50 years to the conservative me, still wed to the “liberal” lass who views Donald Trump as unalloyed evil, daily expresses the hope that he will be shot (though that may stop after the shooting of Steve Scalise), cannot understand why Texas Republicans care about who uses which bathroom, favors abortion (in principle, not practice), supports gun control (though we have guns in the house), has swallowed the global-warming hoax, and bases most of her other views on the slants of NBC Nightly News and the Austin American-Statesman.

But she hates to pay taxes.

That, plus love, unites us despite our differences.

Another Case of Cultural Appropriation

Maverick Philosopher makes an excellent case for cultural appropriation. I am here to make a limited case against it.

There is an eons-old tradition that marriage is a union of man and woman, which was shared  by all religions and ethnicities until yesterday, on the time-scale of human existence. Then along came some homosexual “activists” and their enablers (mainly leftists, always in search of “victims”), to claim that homosexuals can marry.

This claim ignores the biological and deep social basis of marriage, which is the procreative pairing of male and female and the resulting formation of the basic social unit: the biologically bonded family.

Homosexual “marriage” is, by contrast, a wholly artificial conception. It is the ultimate act of cultural appropriation. Its artificiality is underscored by the fact that a homosexual “marriage” seems to consist of two “wives” or two “husbands”, in a rather risible bow to traditional usage. Why not “wusbands” or “hives”?


Related posts:
In Defense of Marriage
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
Getting “Equal Protection” Right
Equal Protection in Principle and Practice

Andrew Cuomo’s Fatuous Casuistry

Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, is quoted as saying that

[i]f there is a move to deport immigrants, then I say start with me. I am a son of immigrants. If we deport immigrants then I ask, ‘Who is safe and who will be left?’ Because we are all immigrants. If we deport immigrants then the only ones left will be the Iroquois, the Sioux and the Cherokee and the Apache.

What I want to know is what his lordship has against persons of the Sioux, Cherokee, and Apache persuasion. He makes it sound as if there’s something wrong with being such a person. In the parlance of the day, that’s r-a-a-a-cist!

Let’s parse the rest of his excellency’s statement. First, he’s not a son of immigrants. His father, the late, overrated Mario Cuomo, was born in New York City, as was his mother, Matilda Raffa Cuomo. It was their parents who were immigrants.

But Andrew is just exercising his poetic license, to which liberals are entitled by virtue of their self-defined moral superiority. By the same standard (poetic license, that is) I am the son of immigrants because my paternal grandparents were born in Canada, though they were of non-exotic English-Scots-Irish descent. But my maternal great-grandfathers and all of my maternal great-greats and beyond were born in exotic French Canada and France. Voilà.

It’s obvious that Andrew, like his parents, is a lawyer. His lawyerly mind slides over the word “illegal.” Thus he implies that Mr. Trump would deport all immigrants, even though Mr. Trump has said only that he would deport illegal immigrants.

In any event, Herr Governor Cuomo isn’t an immigrant (supra, as they say in legalese). So he wouldn’t be deported even if he were correct in his lawyerly casuistry regarding Mr. Trump’s stated intentions.

But if he would like to be deported to prove a point (whatever it is), I’ll gladly pack his bag.

Laugh of the Day

Facebook, for me, is a mildly amusing diversion. I have only 39 Facebook “friends,” and I follow only about a third of them. The rest are obligatory friends whose doings don’t interest me.

I strive to make Facebook as unintrusive as possible. To that end, I have long used the F.B. Purity extension for Firefox, which eliminates a lot of clutter and unwanted features. I also use Adblock Plus, though Facebook has found a way to work around it and plops an ad or two in my newsfeed every day.

I’ve just learned that Facebook categorizes the politics of its users. I was amused to find that I’m a Liberal. I guess it’s because of the postings of some of my friends — postings that I usually hide to avoid irritation.  It’s easy to delete the political preference setting, so I did.

And I’ve just come to understand the meaning of the popular abbreviation for Facebook: FB = For the Birds.

“Fairness”

“Fairness” usually is invoked when a person or group seeks special treatment — unfairness, in other words. Here’s what’s unfair:

Making Johnny share his toys with Billy when Johnny is having a perfectly good time playing by himself.

If Billy wants to be treated fairly, he should bring his own toys and refuse to share them with Johnny. Then they can bargain about which toys to play with jointly and which toys to trade, either temporarily or permanently.

Refusing to let Abby into college because a less-qualified candidate happens to have darker skin than Abby, and there aren’t “enough” darker-skinned students.

If only there were more darker-skinned students, college authorities say, they would feel more secure and mingle with white students, thus giving the white students a broader “life experience.” How many more darker-skinned students? Well, there’s no magic number, the college must continue to prefer less-qualified darker-skinned students over white ones until mingling magically occurs. In any event, mingling is unlikely to be fostered by raising the dark-to-white ratio, though when the ratio gets large enough a certain kind of mingling will occur: Mobs of dark students will start to give the white ones some “life experience” by attacking them.

Taking money from Jack and giving it to Joe because Joe doesn’t earn “enough.”

Joe doesn’t earn much money, relative to Jack, for one or more of several reasons: Joe is dumber, lazier, less well-educated, less well-connected, or less lucky. But Jack didn’t cause Joe’s dumbness, laziness, lack of education, lack of connections, or unluckiness. Why is it “fair” to penalize Jack for things that aren’t his fault? Because everyone “deserves” a certain minimum standard of living? Who says so, a bunch of politicians who know that there are a lot of votes to be gained by spreading Jack’s money around? Jesus Christ was big on charity, but when government takes money from Jack and gives it to Joe, it’s not charity — it’s legalized theft.

Changing the definition of marriage because homosexuals want to be “married.”

For thousands of years it has been understood that marriage is a bonding of male to female. This definition seldom was so well understood and accepted that it was unnecessary to make it explicit until it came under attack. The attackers then claimed that it was “hateful” to make the definition explicit, and that persons of the same sex ought to be able to wed each other. So it’s “hateful” to defend a principle? Isn’t it therefore hateful to call someone hateful in defense of the principle that same-sex couples should be able to wed, even though the idea is relatively new and defies an understood definition of marriage that’s thousands of years old? In fact, it’s fair to call the shrill proponents of same-sex marriage hateful.

Allowing anyone who claims to “be” a female to use restrooms designated for women.

Do you know how to tell a female from a male? You don’t? Then you’d better ask your Mommy or Daddy to explain it to you — again. Do you claim to believe that a person’s sex is what that person says it is, even if the outward evidence contradicts that person’s claim? Perhaps, then, you will believe me when I say that I am God and will smite you for being such a ninny. Oh, you don’t believe me? Then why should you believe the tall, bearded fellow with a deep voice who barges into the “ladies” room and insists that he’s really a woman? Why does your judgment fail you in such cases? Because it’s only “fair” to the bearded guy to believe his story? But what if it isn’t “fair” to the real females who want privacy from prying male-like persons when they go into the “ladies” room? You’re not being fair, you’re just sticking it to “the system” because it gives you a thrill. As fads go, swallowing the transgender line makes as much sense as swallowing goldfish.

Not advising the prosecution of Hillary Clinton because “no reasonable prosecutor” would purse the case, after describing clear violations by Mrs. Clinton of an unambiguous statute.

That is unfair because, as the Director of the FBI admitted, almost anyone other than Mrs. Clinton (or another highly placed politician) would be prosecuted.

Identity and Crime

“transgender” people aren’t: they’re just crazy.

Gregory Cochran, physicist and anthropological geneticist,
writing at West Hunter

*     *     *

The current craze for self-definition suggests a cure for crime: Deny its existence.

If a biological male (female) can claim to be a female (male), and his (her) claim can be upheld by a court and given credence by major corporations,* it follows that a criminal can simply deny that he is a criminal.

End of crime problem. Police forces and courts can be disbanded, and the savings passed on to taxpayers.

Oh wait, that won’t happen. The savings will be used to subsidize the purchase of gender-appropriate clothing, sex-change operations, hormone treatments, voice coaching, and other trappings of terminal gender confusion.

_________
* Recent examples are Target’s decision to allow self-declared transsexuals to enter the fitting rooms and restrooms of their choice, and ESPN’s firing of Curt Shilling for openly stating his opposition to such lunacy.

A Summing Up

I started blogging in the late 1990s with a home page that I dubbed Liberty Corner (reconstructed here). I maintained the home page until 2000. When the urge to resume blogging became irresistible in 2004, I created the Blogspot version of Liberty Corner, where I blogged until May 2008.

My weariness with “serious” blogging led to the creation of Americana, Etc., “A blog about baseball, history, humor, language, literature, movies, music, nature, nostalgia, philosophy, psychology, and other (mostly) apolitical subjects.” I began that blog in July 2008 and posted there sporadically until September 2013.

But I couldn’t resist commenting on political, economic, and social issues, so I established Politics & Prosperity in February 2009. My substantive outpourings ebbed and flowed, until August 2015, when I hit a wall.

Now, almost two decades and more than 3,000 posts since my blogging debut, I am taking another rest from blogging — perhaps a permanent rest.

Instead of writing a valedictory essay, I chose what I consider to be the best of my blogging, and assigned each of my choices to one of fifteen broad topics. (Many of the selections belong under more than one heading, but I avoided repetition for the sake of brevity.) You may jump directly to any of the fifteen topics by clicking on one of these links:

Posts are listed in chronological order under each heading. If you are looking for a post on a particular subject, begin with the more recent posts and work your way backward in time, by moving up the list or using the “related posts” links that are included in most of my posts.

Your explorations may lead you to posts that no longer represent my views. This is especially the case with respect to John Stuart Mill’s “harm principle,” which figures prominently in my early dissertations on libertarianism, but which I have come to see as shallow and lacking in prescriptive power. Thus my belief that true libertarianism is traditional conservatism. (For more, see “On Liberty and Libertarianism” in the sidebar and many of the posts under “X. Libertarianism and Other Political Philosophies.”)

The following list of “bests” comprises about 700 entries, which is less than a fourth of my blogging output. I also commend to you my “Not-So-Random Thoughts” series — I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, XIV, XV, and XVI — and “The Tenor of the Times.”

I. The Academy, Intellectuals, and the Left
Like a Fish in Water
Why So Few Free-Market Economists?
Academic Bias
Intellectuals and Capitalism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
We, the Children of the Enlightenment
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
The Culture War
Ruminations on the Left in America
The Euphemism Conquers All
Defending the Offensive

*****

II. Affirmative Action, Race, and Immigration
Affirmative Action: A Modest Proposal
After the Bell Curve
A Footnote . . .
Schelling and Segregation
Illogic from the Pro-Immigration Camp
Affirmative Action: Two Views from the Academy, Revisited
Race and Reason: The Victims of Affirmative Action
Race and Reason: The Achievement Gap — Causes and Implications
Evolution and Race
“Wading” into Race, Culture, and IQ
Evolution, Culture, and “Diversity”
The Harmful Myth of Inherent Equality
Nature, Nurture, and Inequality

*****

III. Americana, Etc.: Movies, Music, Nature, Nostalgia, Sports, and Trivia
Speaking of Modern Art
Making Sense about Classical Music
An Addendum about Classical Music
Reveries
My Views on Classical Music, Vindicated
But It’s Not Music
Mister Hockey
Testing for Steroids
Explaining a Team’s W-L Record
The American League’s Greatest Hitters
The American League’s Greatest Hitters: Part II
Conducting, Baseball, and Longevity
Who Shot JFK, and Why?
The Passing of Red Brick Schoolhouses and a Way of Life
Baseball: The King of Team Sports
May the Best Team Lose
All-Time Hitter-Friendly Ballparks (With Particular Attention to Tiger Stadium)
A Trip to the Movies
Another Trip to the Movies
The Hall of Fame Reconsidered
Facts about Presidents (a reference page)

*****

IV. The Constitution and the Rule of Law
Unintended Irony from a Few Framers
Social Security Is Unconstitutional
What Is the Living Constitution?
The Legality of Teaching Intelligent Design
The Legality of Teaching Intelligent Design: Part II
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
An Answer to Judicial Supremacy?
Final (?) Words about Preemption and the Constitution
More Final (?) Words about Preemption and the Constitution
Who Are the Parties to the Constitutional Contract?
The Slippery Slope of Constitutional Revisionism
The Ruinous Despotism of Democracy
How to Think about Secession
Secession
A New, New Constitution
Secession Redux
A Declaration of Independence
First Principles
The Constitution: Original Meaning, Corruption, and Restoration
The Unconstitutionality of the Individual Mandate
Does the Power to Tax Give Congress Unlimited Power?
Does Congress Have the Power to Regulate Inactivity?
Substantive Due Process and the Limits of Privacy
The Southern Secession Reconsidered
Abortion and the Fourteenth Amendment
Obamacare: Neither Necessary nor Proper
Privacy Is Not Sacred
Our Perfect, Perfect Constitution
Reclaiming Liberty throughout the Land
Obamacare, Slopes, Ratchets, and the Death-Spiral of Liberty
Another Thought or Two about the Obamacare Decision
Secession for All Seasons
Restoring Constitutional Government: The Way Ahead
“We the People” and Big Government
How Libertarians Ought to Think about the Constitution
Abortion Rights and Gun Rights
The States and the Constitution
Getting “Equal Protection” Right
How to Protect Property Rights and Freedom of Association and Expression
The Principles of Actionable Harm
Judicial Supremacy: Judicial Tyranny
Does the Power to Tax Give Congress Unlimited Power? (II)
The Beginning of the End of Liberty in America
Substantive Due Process, Liberty of Contract, and States’ “Police Power”
U.S. Supreme Court: Lines of Succession (a reference page)

*****

V. Economics: Principles and Issues
Economics: A Survey (a reference page that gives an organized tour of relevant posts, many of which are also listed below)
Fear of the Free Market — Part I
Fear of the Free Market — Part II
Fear of the Free Market — Part III
Trade Deficit Hysteria
Why We Deserve What We Earn
Who Decides Who’s Deserving?
The Main Causes of Prosperity
That Mythical, Magical Social Security Trust Fund
Social Security, Myth and Reality
Nonsense and Sense about Social Security
More about Social Security
Social Security Privatization and the Stock Market
Oh, That Mythical Trust Fund!
The Real Meaning of the National Debt
Socialist Calculation and the Turing Test
Social Security: The Permanent Solution
The Social Welfare Function
Libertarian Paternalism
A Libertarian Paternalist’s Dream World
Talk Is Cheap
Giving Back to the Community
The Short Answer to Libertarian Paternalism
Second-Guessing, Paternalism, Parentalism, and Choice
Another Thought about Libertarian Paternalism
Why Government Spending Is Inherently Inflationary
Ten Commandments of Economics
More Commandments of Economics
Capitalism, Liberty, and Christianity
Risk and Regulation
Back-Door Paternalism
Liberty, General Welfare, and the State
Another Voice Against the New Paternalism
Monopoly and the General Welfare
The Causes of Economic Growth
Slippery Paternalists
The Importance of Deficits
It’s the Spending, Stupid!
There’s More to Income than Money
Science, Axioms, and Economics
Mathematical Economics
The Last(?) Word about Income Inequality
Why “Net Neutrality” Is a Bad Idea
The Feds and “Libertarian Paternalism”
The Anti-Phillips Curve
Status, Spite, Envy, and Income Redistribution
Economics: The Dismal (Non) Science
A Further Note about “Libertarian” Paternalism
Apropos Paternalism
Where’s My Nobel?
Toward a Capital Theory of Value
The Laffer Curve, “Fiscal Responsibility,” and Economic Growth
Stability Isn’t Everything
Income and Diminishing Marginal Utility
What Happened to Personal Responsibility?
The Causes of Economic Growth
Economic Growth since WWII
A Short Course in Economics
Addendum to a Short Course in Economics
Monopoly: Private Is Better than Public
The “Big Five” and Economic Performance
Does the Minimum Wage Increase Unemployment?
Rationing and Health Care
The Perils of Nannyism: The Case of Obamacare
More about the Perils of Obamacare
Health-Care Reform: The Short of It
Trade
Toward a Risk-Free Economy
Enough of “Social Welfare”
A True Flat Tax
The Case of the Purblind Economist
How the Great Depression Ended
Why Outsourcing Is Good: A Simple Lesson for “Liberal” Yuppies
Microeconomics and Macroeconomics
The Illusion of Prosperity and Stability
The Deficit Commission’s Deficit of Understanding
“Buy Local”
“Net Neutrality”
The Bowles-Simpson Report
The Bowles-Simpson Band-Aid
Competition Shouldn’t Be a Dirty Word
Subjective Value: A Proof by Example
The Stagnation Thesis
Taxing the Rich
More about Taxing the Rich
Money, Credit, and Economic Fluctuations
A Keynesian Fantasy Land
“Tax Expenditures” Are Not Expenditures
The Keynesian Fallacy and Regime Uncertainty
Does “Pent Up” Demand Explain the Post-War Recovery?
Creative Destruction, Reification, and Social Welfare
What Free-Rider Problem?
Why the “Stimulus” Failed to Stimulate
The Arrogance of (Some) Economists
The “Jobs Speech” That Obama Should Have Given
Say’s Law, Government, and Unemployment
Regime Uncertainty and the Great Recession
Regulation as Wishful Thinking
Extreme Economism
We Owe It to Ourselves
In Defense of the 1%
Lay My (Regulatory) Burden Down
Irrational Rationality
The Burden of Government
Economic Growth Since World War II
The Rationing Fallacy
Government in Macroeconomic Perspective
Keynesianism: Upside-Down Economics in the Collectivist Cause
How High Should Taxes Be?
The 80-20 Rule, Illustrated
Economic Horror Stories: The Great “Demancipation” and Economic Stagnation
Baseball Statistics and the Consumer Price Index
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?
Vulgar Keynesianism and Capitalism
America’s Financial Crisis Is Now
“Ensuring America’s Freedom of Movement”: A Review
“Social Insurance” Isn’t Insurance — Nor Is Obamacare
The Keynesian Multiplier: Phony Math
The True Multiplier
Discounting in the Public Sector
Some Inconvenient Facts about Income Inequality
Mass (Economic) Hysteria: Income Inequality and Related Themes
Social Accounting: A Tool of Social Engineering
Alienation
Playing the Social Security Trust Fund Shell Game
Income Inequality and Economic Growth
A Case for Redistribution, Not Made
McCloskey on Piketty
The Rahn Curve Revisited
The Slow-Motion Collapse of the Economy
Nature, Nurture, and Inequality
Understanding Investment Bubbles
The Real Burden of Government
Diminishing Marginal Utility and the Redistributive Urge
Capitalism, Competition, Prosperity, and Happiness
Further Thoughts about the Keynesian Multiplier

*****

VI. Humor, Satire, and Wry Commentary
Political Parlance
Some Management Tips
Ten-Plus Commandments of Liberalism, er, Progressivism
To Pay or Not to Pay
The Ghost of Impeachments Past Presents “The Trials of William Jefferson Whatsit”
Getting It Perfect
His Life As a Victim
Bah, Humbug!
PC Madness
The Seven Faces of Blogging
DWI
Wordplay
Trans-Gendered Names
More Names
Stuff White (Liberal Yuppie) People Like
Driving and Politics
“Men’s Health”
I’ve Got a LIttle List
Driving and Politics (2)
A Sideways Glance at Military Strategy
A Sideways Glance at the Cabinet
A Sideways Glance at Politicians’ Memoirs
The Madness Continues

*****

VII. Infamous Thinkers and Political Correctness
Sunstein at the Volokh Conspiracy
More from Sunstein
Cass Sunstein’s Truly Dangerous Mind
An (Imaginary) Interview with Cass Sunstein
Professor Krugman Flunks Economics
Peter Singer’s Fallacy
Slippery Sunstein
Sunstein and Executive Power
Nock Reconsidered
In Defense of Ann Coulter
Goodbye, Mr. Pitts
Our Miss Brooks
How to Combat Beauty-ism
The Politically Correct Cancer: Another Weapon in the War on Straight White Males
Asymmetrical (Ideological) Warfare
Social Justice
Peter Presumes to Preach
More Social Justice
Luck-Egalitarianism and Moral Luck
Empathy Is Overrated
In Defense of Wal-Mart
An Economist’s Special Pleading: Affirmative Action for the Ugly
Another Entry in the Sunstein Saga
Obesity and Statism (Richard Posner)
Obama’s Big Lie
The Sunstein Effect Is Alive and Well in the White House
Political Correctness vs. Civility
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
Sorkin’s Left-Wing Propaganda Machine
Baseball or Soccer? David Brooks Misunderstands Life
Sunstein the Fatuous
Tolerance
Good Riddance
The Gaystapo at Work
The Gaystapo and Islam
The Perpetual Nudger

*****

VIII. Intelligence and Psychology
Conservatism, Libertarianism, and “The Authoritarian Personality”
The F Scale, Revisited
The Psychologist Who Played God
Intelligence, Personality, Politics, and Happiness
Intelligence as a Dirty Word
Intelligence and Intuition
Nonsense about Presidents, IQ, and War
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
Alienation
Greed, Conscience, and Big Government
Tolerance
Privilege, Power, and Hypocrisy

*****

IX. Justice
I’ll Never Understand the Insanity Defense
Does Capital Punishment Deter Homicide?
Libertarian Twaddle about the Death Penalty
A Crime Is a Crime
Crime and Punishment
Abortion and Crime
Saving the Innocent?
Saving the Innocent?: Part II
A Useful Precedent
More on Abortion and Crime
More Punishment Means Less Crime
More About Crime and Punishment
More Punishment Means Less Crime: A Footnote
Clear Thinking about the Death Penalty
Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
Cell Phones and Driving: Liberty vs. Life
Another Argument for the Death Penalty
Less Punishment Means More Crime
Crime, Explained
Clear Thinking about the Death Penalty
What Is Justice?
Myopic Moaning about the War on Drugs
Saving the Innocent
Why Stop at the Death Penalty?
A Case for Perpetual Copyrights and Patents
The Least Evil Option
Legislating Morality
Legislating Morality (II)
Round Up the Usual Suspects
Left-Libertarians, Obama, and the Zimmerman Case
Free Will, Crime, and Punishment
Stop, Frisk, and Save Lives
Poverty, Crime, and Big Government
Crime Revisited
A Cop-Free World?

*****

X. Libertarianism and Other Political Philosophies
The Roots of Statism in the United States
Libertarian-Conservatives Are from the Earth, Liberals Are from the Moon
Modern Utilitarianism
The State of Nature
Libertarianism and Conservatism
Judeo-Christian Values and Liberty
Redefining Altruism
Fundamentalist Libertarians, Anarcho-Capitalists, and Self-Defense
Where Do You Draw the Line?
Moral Issues
A Paradox for Libertarians
A Non-Paradox for Libertarians
Religion and Liberty
Science, Evolution, Religion, and Liberty
Whose Incompetence Do You Trust?
Enough of Altruism
Thoughts That Liberals Should Be Thinking
More Thoughts That Liberals Should Be Thinking
The Corporation and the State
Libertarianism and Preemptive War: Part II
Anarchy: An Empty Concept
The Paradox of Libertarianism
Privacy: Variations on the Theme of Liberty
The Fatal Naïveté of Anarcho-Libertarianism
Liberty as a Social Construct
This Is Objectivism?
Social Norms and Liberty (a reference page)
Social Norms and Liberty (a followup post)A Footnote about Liberty and the Social Compact
The Adolescent Rebellion Syndrome
Liberty and Federalism
Finding Liberty
Nock Reconsidered
The Harm Principle
Footnotes to “The Harm Principle”
The Harm Principle, Again
Rights and Cosmic Justice
Liberty, Human Nature, and the State
Idiotarian Libertarians and the Non-Aggression Principle
Slopes, Ratchets, and the Death Spiral of Liberty
Postive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part I
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part II
The Case against Genetic Engineering
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part III
A Critique of Extreme Libertarianism
Libertarian Whining about Cell Phones and Driving
The Golden Rule, for Libertarians
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice: Part IV
Anarchistic Balderdash
Compare and Contrast
Irrationality, Suboptimality, and Voting
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong
The Political Case for Traditional Morality
Compare and Contrast, Again
Pascal’s Wager, Morality, and the State
The Fear of Consequentialism
Optimality, Liberty, and the Golden Rule
The People’s Romance
Objectivism: Tautologies in Search of Reality
Morality and Consequentialism
On Liberty
Greed, Cosmic Justice, and Social Welfare
Positive Rights and Cosmic Justice
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
Democracy and Liberty
The Interest-Group Paradox
Inventing “Liberalism”
Civil Society and Homosexual “Marriage”
What Is Conservatism?
Utilitarianism vs. Liberty
Fascism and the Future of America
The Indivisibility of Economic and Social Liberty
Law and Liberty
Negative Rights
Negative Rights, Social Norms, and the Constitution
Tocqueville’s Prescience
Accountants of the Soul
Invoking Hitler
The Unreality of Objectivism
“Natural Rights” and Consequentialism
Rawls Meets Bentham
The Left
Our Enemy, the State
Pseudo-Libertarian Sophistry vs. True Libertarianism
What Are “Natural Rights”?
The Golden Rule and the State
Libertarian Conservative or Conservative Libertarian?
Bounded Liberty: A Thought Experiment
Evolution, Human Nature, and “Natural Rights”
More Pseudo-Libertarianism
The Meaning of Liberty
Positive Liberty vs. Liberty
On Self-Ownership and Desert
Understanding Hayek
Corporations, Unions, and the State
Facets of Liberty
Burkean Libertarianism
Rights: Source, Applicability, How Held
What Is Libertarianism?
Nature Is Unfair
True Libertarianism, One More Time
Human Nature, Liberty, and Rationalism
Utilitarianism and Psychopathy
A Declaration and Defense of My Prejudices about Governance
Libertarianism and Morality
Libertarianism and Morality: A Footnote
What Is Bleeding-Heart Libertarianism?
Liberty, Negative Rights, and Bleeding Hearts
Cato, the Kochs, and a Fluke
Why Conservatism Works
A Man for No Seasons
Bleeding-Heart Libertarians = Left-Statists
Not Guilty of Libertarian Purism
Liberty and Society
Tolerance on the Left
The Eclipse of “Old America”
Genetic Kinship and Society
Liberty as a Social Construct: Moral Relativism?
Defending Liberty against (Pseudo) Libertarians
The Fallacy of the Reverse-Mussolini Fallacy
Defining Liberty
Getting It Almost Right
The Social Animal and the “Social Contract”
The Futile Search for “Natural Rights”
The Pseudo-Libertarian Temperament
Parsing Political Philosophy (II)
Modern Liberalism as Wishful Thinking
Getting Liberty Wrong
Romanticizing the State
Libertarianism and the State
Egoism and Altruism
My View of Libertarianism
Sober Reflections on “Charlie Hebdo”
“The Great Debate”: Not So Great
No Wonder Liberty Is Disappearing
The Principles of Actionable Harm
More About Social Norms and Liberty

*****

XI. Politics, Politicians, and the Consequences of Government
Starving the Beast
Torture and Morality
Starving the Beast, Updated
Starving the Beast: Readings
Presidential Legacies
The Rational Voter?
FDR and Fascism
The “Southern Strategy”
An FDR Reader
The “Southern Strategy”: A Postscript
The Modern Presidency: A Tour of American History
Politicizing Economic Growth
The End of Slavery in the United States
I Want My Country Back
What Happened to the Permanent Democrat Majority?
More about the Permanent Democrat Majority
Undermining the Free Society
Government Failure: An Example
The Public-School Swindle
PolitiFact Whiffs on Social Security
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
About Democracy
Externalities and Statism
Taxes: Theft or Duty?
Society and the State
Don’t Use the “S” Word When the “F” Word Will Do
The Capitalist Paradox Meets the Interest-Group Paradox
Is Taxation Slavery?
A Contrarian View of Universal Suffrage
The Hidden Tragedy of the Assassination of Lincoln
America: Past, Present, and Future
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
Progressive Taxation Is Alive and Well in the U.S. of A.
“Social Insurance” Isn’t Insurance — Nor Is Obamacare
“We the People” and Big Government
The Culture War
The Fall and Rise of American Empire
O Tempora O Mores!
Presidential Treason
A Home of One’s Own
The Criminality and Psychopathy of Statism
Surrender? Hell No!
Social Accounting: A Tool of Social Engineering
Playing the Social Security Trust Fund Shell Game
Two-Percent Tyranny
A Sideways Glance at Public “Education”
Greed, Conscience, and Big Government
The Many-Sided Curse of Very Old Age
The Slow-Motion Collapse of the Economy
How to Eradicate the Welfare State, and How Not to Do It
“Blue Wall” Hype
Does Obama Love America?
Obamanomics in Action
Democracy, Human Nature, and the Future of America
1963: The Year Zero

*****

XII. Science, Religion, and Philosophy
Same Old Story, Same Old Song and Dance
Atheism, Religion, and Science
The Limits of Science
Beware of Irrational Atheism
The Creation Model
Free Will: A Proof by Example?
Science in Politics, Politics in Science
Evolution and Religion
Science, Evolution, Religion, and Liberty
What’s Wrong with Game Theory
Is “Nothing” Possible?
Pseudo-Science in the Service of Political Correctness
Science’s Anti-Scientific Bent
Flow
Science, Axioms, and Economics
The Purpose-Driven Life
The Tenth Dimension
The Universe . . . Four Possibilities
Atheism, Religion, and Science Redux
“Warmism”: The Myth of Anthropogenic Global Warming
More Evidence against Anthropogenic Global Warming
Yet More Evidence against Anthropogenic Global Warming
Pascal’s Wager, Morality, and the State
Achilles and the Tortoise: A False Paradox
The Greatest Mystery
Modeling Is Not Science
Freedom of Will and Political Action
Fooled by Non-Randomness
Randomness Is Over-Rated
Anthropogenic Global Warming Is Dead, Just Not Buried Yet
Beware the Rare Event
Landsburg Is Half-Right
What Is Truth?
The Improbability of Us
Wrong Again
More Thoughts about Evolutionary Teleology
A Digression about Probability and Existence
Evolution and the Golden Rule
A Digression about Special Relativity
More about Probability and Existence
Existence and Creation
Probability, Existence, and Creation
Temporal and Spatial Agreement
In Defense of Subjectivism
The Atheism of the Gaps
The Ideal as a False and Dangerous Standard
Demystifying Science
Religion on the Left
Analysis for Government Decision-Making: Hemi-Science, Hemi-Demi-Science, and Sophistry
Scientism, Evolution, and the Meaning of Life
Luck and Baseball, One More Time
Are the Natural Numbers Supernatural?
The Candle Problem: Balderdash Masquerading as Science
Mysteries: Sacred and Profane
More about Luck and Baseball
Combinatorial Play
Something from Nothing?
Pseudoscience, “Moneyball,” and Luck
Something or Nothing
Understanding the Monty Hall Problem
My Metaphysical Cosmology
Further Thoughts about Metaphysical Cosmology
The Fallacy of Human Progress
Nothingness
The Glory of the Human Mind
Pinker Commits Scientism
Spooky Numbers, Evolution, and Intelligent Design
AGW: The Death Knell
Mind, Cosmos, and Consciousness
The Limits of Science (II)
Not Over the Hill
The Pretence of Knowledge
“The Science Is Settled”
The Compleat Monty Hall Problem
“Settled Science” and the Monty Hall Problem
Evolution, Culture, and “Diversity”
Some Thoughts about Probability
Rationalism, Empiricism, and Scientific Knowledge
AGW in Austin?

*****

XIII. Self-Ownership (abortion, euthanasia, marriage, and other aspects of the human condition)
Feminist Balderdash
Libertarianism, Marriage, and the True Meaning of Family Values
Law, Liberty, and Abortion
Privacy, Autonomy, and Responsibility
Parenting, Religion, Culture, and Liberty
The Case against Genetic Engineering
A “Person” or a “Life”?
A Wrong-Headed Take on Abortion
In Defense of Marriage
Crimes against Humanity
Abortion and Logic
The Myth That Same-Sex “Marriage” Causes No Harm
Abortion, Doublethink, and Left-Wing Blather
Abortion, “Gay Rights,” and Liberty
Dan Quayle Was (Almost) Right
The Most Disgusting Thing I’ve Read Today
Posner the Fatuous
Marriage: Privatize It and Revitalize It

*****

XIV. War and Peace
Getting It Wrong: Civil Libertarians and the War on Terror (A Case Study)
Libertarian Nay-Saying on Foreign and Defense Policy, Revisited
Right On! For Libertarian Hawks Only
Understanding Libertarian Hawks
Defense, Anarcho-Capitalist Style
The Illogic of Knee-Jerk Civil Liberties Advocates
Getting It All Wrong about the Risk of Terrorism
Conservative Revisionism, Conservative Backlash, or Conservative Righteousness?
But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?
Sorting Out the Libertarian Hawks and Doves
Shall We All Hang Separately?
September 11: A Remembrance
September 11: A Postscript for “Peace Lovers”
Give Me Liberty or Give Me Non-Aggression?
NSA “Eavesdropping”: The Last Word (from Me)
Riots, Culture, and the Final Showdown
Thomas Woods and War
In Which I Reply to the Executive Editor of The New York Times
“Peace for Our Time”
Taking on Torture
Conspiracy Theorists’ Cousins
September 11: Five Years On
How to View Defense Spending
The Best Defense . . .
A Skewed Perspective on Terrorism
Not Enough Boots: The Why of It
Here We Go Again
“The War”: Final Grade
Torture, Revisited
Waterboarding, Torture, and Defense
Liberalism and Sovereignty
The Media, the Left, and War
Torture
Getting It Wrong and Right about Iran
The McNamara Legacy: A Personal Perspective
The “Predator War” and Self-Defense
The National Psyche and Foreign Wars
Inside-Outside
A Moralist’s Moral Blindness
A Grand Strategy for the United States
The Folly of Pacifism
Rating America’s Wars
Transnationalism and National Defense
The Next 9/11?
The Folly of Pacifism, Again
September 20, 2001: Hillary Clinton Signals the End of “Unity”
Patience as a Tool of Strategy
The War on Terror, As It Should Have Been Fought
The Cuban Missile Crisis, Revisited
Preemptive War
Preemptive War and Iran
Some Thoughts and Questions about Preemptive War
Defense as an Investment in Liberty and Prosperity
Riots, Culture, and the Final Showdown (revisited)
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
The World Turned Upside Down
Utilitarianism and Torture
Defense Spending: One More Time
Walking the Tightrope Reluctantly
The President’s Power to Kill Enemy Combatants

*****

XV. Writing and Language
Punctuation
“Hopefully” Arrives
Hopefully, This Post Will Be Widely Read
Why Prescriptivism?
A Guide to the Pronunciation of General American English
On Writing (a comprehensive essay about writing, which covers some of the material presented in other posts in this section)

–30–

A Sideways Glance at Politicians’ Memoirs

This is an edited version of a column that appeared in my long-defunct weekly newspaper on February 23, 1977. Gerald Ford had recently relinquished the presidency to Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon had fallen from grace less than three years earlier.

It’s expected that Richard Nixon will rake in millions for his printed and televised memoirs. Mr. Nixon wants the government to turn over the documents he compiled while an employee of the taxpayers, so that he can refer to them in writing his memoirs.

Henry Kissinger, another incipient memoirizer, wants the same deal. In fact, it’s reported that he removed from the State Department the stenographic records of thousands of phone conversations he had while Secretary of State. Dr. K. claims that those are personal documents. If that’s so, he should refund a good chunk of his government salary, to compensate taxpayers for the thousands of hours that he spent on personal phone calls.

There’s something to be said for allowing ex-presidents and other high officials access to their records so that they can tell us how great they were: Memoirs are a boon to insomniacs. Sleeping-pill manufacturers should have sued Truman, Eisenhower, and Johnson for unfair competition.

Many Americans are eager to read Nixon’s version of his presidency. I’m among them, mainly because I want to see if Nixon will say that he was Deep Throat*. I’m serious. Can you recall another politician who reveled in misery like Mr. Nixon? Remember the “Checkers speech“; the 1960 election that Nixon lost to JFK, but probably could have won by contesting the Illinois results (enough votes turned up in Chicago to swing the outcome)**; the lashing-out at the press after losing the California governor’s race in 1962; and the sweaty, lying performance during the Watergate affair. Why couldn’t the person who as a boy signed a letter to his mother “Your good dog, Richard” have become a man who satisfied his need to grovel by blowing the whistle on himself?

Whatever the truth about Nixon’s role in the Watergate affair—the cover-up, the cover-up of the cover-up, and the uncovering of the cover-ups—we are unlikely to learn it from Nixon’s memoirs, except by inference. Look for the parts where his innocence is most stridently protested, and assume that the opposite is true.

Will Gerald Ford also write his memoirs? The question doesn’t seem to be keeping book publishers awake at night. But, if he does, you can throw away your Sominex.

Jerry Ford would be a good guy to have a beer with. I even voted for him. But I draw the line at self-inflicted boredom. Rather than read Ford’s memoirs, I would watch grass grow.

As for Kissinger’s version of events, one should keep in mind Voltaire’s remark that “History is the lie agreed upon.”

_________
* In 2003, long after I published the original piece, Deep Throat was revealed as Mark Felt, then Deputy Director of the FBI. In 1972, following the break-in by White House operatives at Democrat headquarters in the Watergate Hotel and Office Building on Virginia Avenue in Washington, D.C. Felt fed inside information to Bob Woodward, who with Carl Bernstein wrote the series of articles in The Washington Post that led to congressional hearings into the Watergate affair, and Nixon’s eventual resignation on August 9, 1974. Felt’s secret meetings with Bob Woodward were held in the parking garage of an office building at 1401 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia. At the time, I worked at 1401 Wilson Boulevard.

** This is a common bit of folk-lore. In fact, even if Nixon had won Illinois, JFK would still have led Nixon in electoral votes: 276-246. Another 15 electoral votes were cast for Senator Harry Byrd by Virginia’s electors. Even if those electors had switched to Nixon, the tally would have been 276-261. It’s possible that if Nixon had won Illinois, enough Kennedy voters in the West would have stayed home to swing New Mexico or Nevada to Nixon. Kennedy won both States narrowly, and a Nixon victory in either State, coupled with a win in Illinois, would have made him the winner. Maybe.

A Sideways Glance at the Cabinet

This is a polished and updated version of a column that appeared in my long-defunct weekly newspaper on January 26, 1977, six days after Gerald Ford relinquished the presidency to Jimmy Carter.

President Ford, shortly before leaving office, urged Republican partypersons to form a “shadow” cabinet. (This is an old tradition in Britain, where the Loyal Opposition assigns certain of its members in Parliament the duty of keeping cabinet ministers honest.) But before proposing a shadow cabinet, Mr. Ford should have considered the need for a cabinet in the first place. I will venture to do so here.

Consider the Defense Department, which contains three military departments: Army, Navy, Air Force. Right away you can see the possibilities for confusion, if not riot, because there is no Secretary of the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is a separate military service—which is the first thing that any Marine with one day in boot camp will tell you. But the Marine Corps is administratively in the Department of the Navy. If for nothing else, the Secretary of the Navy is paid to referee the daily combat between the Navy and and the Marines Corps.

But. you may ask, why should the Navy and Marine Corps be in conflict if they belong to the same department? If you have to ask, you haven’t seen any movies made during World War II, wherein it was common to have a scene that included the following elements: a bar, some sailors, some jarheads (as Marines are often called), and a brawl. Those fraternal tiffs have not been forgotten. For many decades after World War II, the Chief of Naval Operations (the top sailor, who has nothing to do with operations) and the Commandant of the Marine Corps (the top Marine) were housed in different buildings.* (Who says that time heals all wounds?) I question the wisdom of the decision to house both of them in the Pentagon. It’s a huge place, so they can be kept well apart, but …

Before moving on, I must mention the Navy-Air Force relationship. The Air Force has an air force, as you might expect. The Navy, too. has an air force. The result is that the Navy and Air Force spend a lot of time quibbling about whose air force should have the biggest, fastest airplanes. Neither will admit that it has the most expensive ones, of course.

The fact that the Navy has an air force leads to another reason for having a Secretary of the Navy. It is he who must make the Navy’s case for its air force. Why couldn’t the Chief of Naval Operations do that? Well, the Marines have their own air force, too. If the Chief of Naval Operations were to go before Congress to plead his case, the Commandant would have to do the same. Imagine what would happen if they showed up on the same day!

If you think inter-service rivalry is a problem in the Department of the Navy, consider life in the Pentagon, which also houses the chiefs of staff of the Army and Air Force. There are not only four air forces to fight over (yes, the Army has one, too), there are two services with soldiers (but don’t call a Marine that), two with long-range missiles (the Air Force and Navy), four with air-defense missiles, and so on, into the night. Thus the need for a Secretary of Defense.

Therefore, as to the necessity of cabinet officers: it is dire — in the Pentagon, at least. If the Secretary of Defense didn’t get the troops pretty much in order before they marched to Congress with their demands, Congress would have to referee the fights among the services. This would leave Congressmen with no time to interview secretaries (the typing kind**).

Long live the cabinet, whoever they may be!
__________
* The Commandant’s office and other elements of Headquarters, Marine Corps, moved to the Pentagon in 1996.

**A reference to a scandal that broke in 1976. U.S. Representative Wayne Hays (D-Ohio) had hired one Elizabeth Ray as a member of his staff. Ms. Ray was nominally a secretary, but her real job description was “mistress.” She admitted that “I can’t type. I can’t file. I can’t even answer the phone.”

A Sideways Glance at Military Strategy

This is a column that appeared in my long-defunct weekly newspaper on January 12, 1977, eight days before the inauguration of Jimmy Carter, who succeeded Gerald Ford.

James (“just call me Jimmy”) Carter has filled his new Cabinet with “old” faces. Will the old
faces, and the old minds behind them, come up with the same old answers? It is likely.

Despite promises of efficiency–which means collecting our tax money faster–the Carter regime is likely to follow the pattern set by a certain former governor of Georgia: more government employees, more government spending, and more government debt.

Perhaps Mr. Carter can improve on the performance of the Ford flivver. There will be plenty of opportunities. Shortly before leaving office Mr. Ford apparently decided not to ask for an aircraft carrier in the new budget to be submitted to Congress. Not having the carrier (we already have a dozen or more, all in good shape) and the planes that would go on it, could save us over $4 billion during the next several years. This may seem sensible, but there’s more.

It is reported that during the past year, Mr. Ford-through his super-salesman. Mr. Kissinger, agreed to renew the leases on some of our bases in Spain. Turkey. Greece, and the Philippines. It is estimated that the right to have bases in those countries would cost over $4 billion during the next several years. (The bases themselves are optional extras.) Maybe the Navy should have its new carrier. Make that two!

But, politicians should not be accused of stupidity until all the returns are in. I, for one. can
plainly see the method to Mr. Ford’s machinations. First, he expects that Congress will agree that the Navy should not have a new nuclear aircraft carrier.

Second. Mr. Ford expects that Congress will not be foolish enough to pay $4 billion to our third-string allies for the privilege of parking military hardware on their property on the remote chance that it will be useful in a war.

Third, the Puerto Ricans will overwhelmingly endorse Statehood, and Congress will vote it.

What does Puerto Rico have to do with carriers and bases? Puerto Rico is a big island.
(Right!) It can hold a lot of airplanes, tanks, and missiles. (Right again!) It’s probably just
as strategically located as the Philippines, and less likely to be overrun than Spain, Greece, and Turkey. (Give that man a cigar!)

Therefore, we get a new State, new taxpayers, a well-located base bigger than a thousand
aircraft carriers, and save $8 billion in the bargain.

Who said that Mr. Ford couldn’t ski and chew gum* at the same time? Top that. Jimmy.

__________
* During his presidency, Ford became the brunt of jokes for a few well-publicized instances of clumsiness. One joke was that he couldn’t chew gum and walk at the same time. Ford was, in fact, an excellent athlete, who counted skiing among his abilities. Thus “ski and chew gum at the same time.”

Let’s Make a Deal

Let's make a deal

The last deal negates all of the concessions made in the other deals — for those of us who will choose to live in Free States.

Out with the Old, in with the Older

The punctilious say the century won’t end until midnight on the 31st of December 2000. Meanwhile, the other 99.99 percent of Earth’s denizens (or those who care about such things) prepares to celebrate the end of the decade, century, and millennium on December 31, 1999. Contrary to our custom, we bow here to the popular will, but just long enough to offer this paean to the Twentieth Century. After boldly diagnosing the last 100 years in a few hundred words, we also thrown in a prognosis for the next 100 years.

The American Century?

The Twentieth Century, like any other complex phenomenon, cannot be judged one-dimensionally. Let us begin by comparing it with the other centuries of our nationhood.

Yes, the Twentieth Century has been called the American Century, but that soubriquet reflects one of the least of our achievements as a nation, namely, our dominant role in world affairs. In any event, the American Century was the Eighteenth Century, when the greatest heroes of American history gave us liberty and framed the Constitution to assure liberty’s blessings unto their posterity. (Well, that’s how they talked in those days — you can look it up.)

The Nineteenth Century was decidely less stellar than the Eighteenth. The Nineteenth started well enough, with Mr. Jefferson in the White House, the purchase of Louisiana Territory, and the expedition of Lewis and Clark Then the British burned the Executive Mansion, causing it to be painted white (whence the White House). That was one of the first — but far from the last — whitewashings in Washington.

If the history of the presidency counts for anything in rating centuries, the Nineteenth weighs in with one great (Lincoln) and a whole flock of losers and nonentities: Van Buren, Harrison I (he of the 30-day term of office), Tyler (the “too” in “Tippecanoe and…”), Polk, Taylor, Fillmore (later an avowed Know-Nothing as that party’s candidate for President), Pierce (a New Hampshire dipsomaniac), Buchanan, Johnson I (he of the first impeachment trial), Grant (the bury-ee in Grant’s Tomb), Hayes, Garfield, Arthur (call me Chet), Cleveland (who, unlike Billy-boy, fessed up to his sins before he was caught lying about them), Harrison II, and McKinley.

In the Twentieth Century, there have been three honorable Presidents — Coolidge, Truman, and Reagan — surrounded by a sea of fools and scoundrels: Roosevelt I (a Napoleonic nut-case), Taft (the answer to two trivia questions: heaviest and only one to become Chief Justice), Harding (sex-Clinton I), Hoover and Carter (two humorless engineers), Roosevelt II (our first socialist President), Eisenhower (principle-Clinton I), Kennedy (sex-Clinton II), Johnson II (wager of disastrous wars on poverty and Vietnamese civilians), Nixon (truth-Clinton I), Ford (duh!), Bush (principle-Clinton II), and Clinton (combining the worst of Harding, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, and Bush — oversexed, unprincipled, and a congenital liar).

The Twentieth Century may have been the century of American power, but it has not been a century to be proud of if you still have any principles.

Major Themes of Century XX

The century’s dominant theme was established in its first decade: Capitalism became evil incarnate and — in the name of fighting evil — the federal government began to usurp the socializing roles of family, friends, neighborhood, and church. The second and third decades should have disillusioned the true believers in progress through government, as Wilson led us into the charnel-house called Europe and the sons and daughters of Carrie Nation led us into Prohibition. But prosperity casts a rosy glow on the sordid truth, as attests Clinton’s survival of l’affaire Lewinsky.

The fourth decade — specifically, the Great Depression — legitimated the federal government’s seizure of power in the name of “good.” The President and other elected officials became Santa Claus incarnate, doling largesse and special privileges to the masses in return for their votes, at the expense of the objects of the masses’ envy. Judges briefly and episodically resisted the power grab, then joined their executive and legislative brethren in the rape of the Constitution.

Succeeding decades saw more wars (perhaps only one of them was not a senseless exercise in presidential megalomania), more “social progress” (read aggrandizement of government), more “freedom” (read erosion of moral and ethical standards), more crime, and less civility. More crime and less civility being the direct result of moral and ethical erosion; moral and ethical erosion being a by-product of aggrandized government (the “nanny” state).

Other than that, it’s been a peachy 100 years. Somehow, our high standard of living (which would be even higher were it not for senseless wars and aggrandized government) doesn’t make up for all the rest. But perhaps the prospect of the “grand nanny” of them all — Ms. Rodham-Clinton — lecturing us from the well of the Senate is makes us just a bit peevish.

Inside and Outside

Each decade’s foreign adventures reflected the home front’s view of the world outside. In the 1900s, government could do no wrong: it busted trusts, stole Panama, and sailed the Great White Fleet — all to great acclaim from the masses. A decade later it was time to assuage national guilt and get into a serious war, but only after much vacillation about what side to join. As if in atonement for trust-busting days of the first decade, the Marines were enlisted to the aid of capitalism in the “Banana Republic” skirmishes of the 1920s.

In the 1930s, the hangover from the Great War and the cancer of the Great Depression sapped our willingness to confront the most potent (but nevertheless distant) threat to national sovereignty since 1812. But Roosevelt II, with the unwitting help of the foolhardy Nipponese, managed to drag us into another foreign war. The feat of vanquishing not one but two legitimate powerhouses, awakened the will to power that lurks just below the skin of every politician and policy wonk.

The poobahs on the Potomac — who reap vicarious ego gratification (and perhaps sexual gratification) from the very thought of being at the center of world power — demanded that we stay in the arena so that we could shape the world in the American image. (Well, in the self-image of an all-wise, all-powerful effete stratum of the Eastern establishment and its acolytes, who come from all regions and walks of life to sniff at the seat of power.) Whence the misbegotten Korean War, the utterly tragic Vietnam War, and the various travesties, gunboat diplomacies, and chest-thumpings known as the invasion of Grenada, “peacekeeping” in Lebanon, the bombing of Tripoli, the confrontation with Iran, the seemingly endless Persian Gulf War, the feckless “humanitarian” excursion into Somalia, and the “humanitarian” bombing of Kosovar civilians so that the “good” thugs of the country formerly known as Yugoslavia can take their turn at savagery.

Thus has self-interested isolationism — like constitutional government — given way to the self-indulgent whims of the “wizards” behind the curtain of the ominscient, omnipotent state.

Historical Determinism Revisited

Moralists would say that the Great Depression was the price we paid for the Roaring Twenties. If that is so, think what might lie beyond the turn of the millenium. In any event, there may be something to the theory that what we sow in one decade we reap in the next.

The “gay” 1890s gave way to the “uplifting” 1900s, when such moralists as Frank Norris, Ida Tarbell, and Roosevelt I strode the land. Their moral vigor gave way to the next decade’s Great War and the disillusionment it wrought. What could follow moral disillusionment but the amoral and “immoral” goings on the the materialistic 1920s? We paid for that holiday from reality with the plunge into the Great Depression and the rise of fascism.

Our indifference to fascism led to the next decade’s Greater War and thence to the Cold War. Fatigue set in, and the 1950s became the decade of “complacency,” featuring such entertainments as “Ozzie and Harriet,” “I Love Lucy,” and President Eisenhower’s studiedly incoherent ramblings at press conferences.

“Down with complacency,” said the children of the 1960s. “Up with the people (of all colors), down with imperialistic, paranoic foreign adventures, up with sex and drugs and rock and roll,” they chanted. And they were mostly right — but some of them became what they had hated and…but I digress.

If the 1960s began in hope and ended in despair, the 1970s began in despair and ended in despondency. It was a decade of unremitting bad news, from the presidency and resignation of Nixon to the “oil shock” to double-digit inflation to the seizure of American hostages by Iran. There was nowhere to go but up, and up we went, through most of the 1980s and — with a breather for another foreign adventure and a brief recession — on into the 1990s: ever more prosperous, ever more hopeful of the future — materially if not spiritually.

And so here we are in what should be called — for more than one reason — the “gay” 1990s: where “rights” flourish and responsibilities diminish; where more and more parents neglect their children and blame the schools (if not society) for the tragic results of that neglect; where gratuitous sex and violence pass for entertainment; where reading, writing, coherent speech, and good manners are practiced more in the breach than in the observance; where those who believe in and practice personal responsibility are simply sick and tired of giving a free ride to the indolent and self-indulgent (of all colors, genders, and political persuasions across all socio-economic strata).

Century XXI

Just when you think things can’t get worse, they do. It’s not hard to imagine a United States in which the following new “rights” have been legislated and/or adjudicated:

  • Animals may not be kept as pets without a license from the Department of Animal Rights & Welfare (DARW), whose inspectors may enter any home at any time in order to ensure that pets are being treated in accordance with the Animal Bill of Rights.
  • Animals and their produce (e.g., meat, eggs, feathers, manure) may be raised and processed only on “reservations” controlled by the DARW.
  • Guns may not be kept for any purpose — not for self-defense and (of course) not for hunting — by anyone other than law enforcement officers and members of the armed forces.
  • Because criminals are merely misguided or genetically defective products of society they may not be punished. Rather, society must be punished by turning criminals loose to exact their vengeance on it.
  • Because incessant media attention to every politician’s peccadilloes merely demoralizes the public — and because politicians are merely misguided or genetically defective products of society — the media may no longer report news about politics or politicians without a license from the Department of Happiness. Licenses are granted only to Hollywood producers who agree to produce uplifting “documentaries” of politicians in action (e.g., “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” with James Stewart but without Claude Rains and his cronies).
  • Health care is socialized — no more ifs, ands, or buts; no more half-baked efforts to screw up the world’s best system of health care. It’s socialized and screwed up for good because Republicans — weary of being called “meanies” — give in on the last issue on which they differ from Democrats.

“How,” you ask, “could all of that happen?” Simple…Al Gore is elected President in 2000 and re-elected in 2004, with Ms. Rodham-Clinton as his running mate the second time. Ms. R-C shoots Gore at his second swearing in. She pardons herself (as a misguided product of society) and the Chief Justice swears her in — at gunpoint. In case you’re wondering, Ms. R-C was authorized to carry a gun because, following her unsuccessful Senate race in 2000, she became Gore’s Attorney General. (That’s called “first the good news, then the bad news.”)

And it goes downhill from there…

The Trials of William Jefferson Whatsit

This is a farce in three acts. The first act takes place in the presidential study near the Oval Office — also known as the nookie nook. Act two is set in the presidential boudoir, where the air is definitely chilly. Act three takes place beyond the great divide, that is, when Willie Whatsit meets the Chief Justice of us all.

Act I: In the Nookie Nook

Willie Whatsit: Wow, Veronica, that was great!

Monica Crapinsky: It’s Monica, you schmuck. Get it right. That’s only the fourteenth time I’ve given you a back rub, lard butt.

WW: Well, as leader of the free world, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and first fund-raiser I’ve got too much on my mind to remember a detail like your first name.

MC: You’d better remember it, buster, because I’ve just been subpoenaed to testify against you in a wrongful discharge suit.

WW: But I haven’t fired anyone since I cleaned out the travel office to make room for the meetings of Hillary’s coven.

MC: Oh, I meant to say “paternity suit.” Paternity, wrongful discharge, same thing. Get it?

WW: Yuk-yuk-yuk. You’re as funny as Orrin Hatch eating a sour pickle. Anyway, if I’m the sue-ee, who’s the sue-er?

MC: You have to ask?

WW: Of course I have to ask. It could be almost anyone, couldn’t it?

Act II: In the Deep Freeze

WW enters the presidential boudoir to find Hillary Ramrod — his liberated, emancipated, and constipated spouse — writing his State of the Union speech.

HR: I heard a rumor that you’ve been cavorting with an intern in your private study.

WW: Who told you that? Come on, I need to know so I can figure out how to wiggle out of this one.

HR: Since you’re not going to be able to wiggle out of this one, I’ll tell you. It was our favorite flack, Sid “The Snake” Loveinbloom.

WW: You can’t believe anything Sid tells you. He’s got the hots for you and he’d say anything to tear me down.

HR: Well, you of all people know that he can have all the “hots” he wants, but it won’t get him anywhere with me. I’ve sworn off sex since I discovered witchcraft. Double, double, toil and trouble, send money to Washington, on the double.

WW: I’m glad you have such a laid-back — I mean relaxed — attitude. I was afraid you’d heard about the paternity suit.

HR: What paternity suit?

WW: What do you mean “What paternity suit?” How do you expect me to keep track of them? Do you think I do all that fund-raising, to help elect a bunch of yokels to Congress?

Scream of rage from HR. Blackout. Loud thwack (simulated by striking Arkansas watermelon with baseball bat).

Act III: Beyond the Blue Horizon

The Great Chief Justice in the Sky: How do you come to be here, Mr. Whatsit?

WW: That’s a trick question if I ever heard one. It depends on what you mean by “come.” Where am I, anyway?

CJ: You’re in the land of the final judgment — beyond civil suits, criminal prosecutions, and impeachment trials.

WW: I always thought you had a flowing white beard and wore a blinding white robe. Why are you wearing that silly black robe with gold stripes on the sleeves?

CJ: Shut up. I ask the questions here. And the robe’s not silly, Justice Sandy made it for me. Do you have anything to say for yourself before I pass sentence on you?

WW: I didn’t do it.

CJ: “It” what?

WW: It depends on what you mean by “it.”

CJ: Enough with the clever wordplay, already. Do you take me for some dumb Senator?

WW: You’re about the right age.

CJ: Before I get any older, I’m sentencing you, William Jefferson Whatsit, to eternal community service, in the “other place.”

WW: Is that the best you can do? The “other place” can’t be any hotter than an Arkansas summer, and I’ll be glad to service the community. There must be some hot babes down there.

CJ: Just for that, I’m changing the sentence. Earphones will be permanently affixed to your ears and you will be forced to listen to right-wing talk radio twenty-four hours a day for all eternity.

WW grins broadly.

CJ: How can that sentence cause you to smile?

WW: It could have been worse. You could have sentenced me to listen to Hillary.

CJ: Mmmm….

Lights dim. Drone of HR reading from It Takes A Village Idiot to Know One swells in volume.

Don’t Blame Me

Three years ago one Wendell Williamson wantonly gunned down two strangers in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Purportedly his paranoid schizophrenia bade him to kill in order to save the world.

Now another North Carolina jury has decided that the psychiatrist who had treated Williamson months before his shooting spree should pay Williamson $500,000. This eminent jury seems to have concluded that Williamson might have been cured had the psychiatrist done his job right.

It’s the O.J. defense with a twist. O.J.’s lawyers shifted the blame to the police who caught him. Williamson’s lawyers have shifted the blame to the psychiatrist who failed to cure the purported insanity that triggered the fatal shooting spree.

What happens to people when they become jurors? Does Lamont Cranston cloud their minds? Does confinement to a courtroom and jury room make them temporarily insane?

Whatever the case, consider the defenses that today’s lawyers could mount, successfully, for the villains of history:

Yes, Brutus struck the blow that killed Caesar, but there was a blood-lust in the air that day in Rome. Someone was bound to kill the power-crazed Caesar. Brutus was merely the pawn of fate, swept along in the force-field of hate that surrounded him. If you blame Brutus, you must blame all of Rome.

The South was within its rights to secede from the Union. Lincoln provoked an illicit war in his effort to preserve the Union. Therefore, John Wilkes Booth did not commit murder, he merely killed an enemy who was waging an unjust war against Booth’s homeland. Booth is a patriot warrior, not a murderer.

Aldolf Hitler and Josef Stalin cannot be blamed for the millions of lives they took. Clearly, they suffer from paranoia, delusions of grandeur, and sociopathy. These men are to be pitied, not punished, for they were driven by demons beyond their control to commit acts whose heinousness only normal human beings can comprehend.

Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, and Sirhan Sirhan are victims of unrealistic expectations. As males living in the United States of the mid-Twentieth Century they were expected to rise to the top, to become powerful and famous. When they were unable to fulfill society’s expectations, they could only strike out at those who were powerful and famous. Society must forgive Oswald, Ray, and Sirhan; society itself must shoulder the blame for their acts.

No one expects politicians to be truthful. Politicians are expected to lie and voters have come to rely on the fact that politicians lie. Bill Clinton merely acted in accordance with the ethics of his profession when he lied under oath and encouraged others to do the same. It would be grossly unfair to him and confusing to voters if we were to change the rules in the middle of the game. Leave Bill Clinton alone and go after real criminals like smokers.

Bill and Al’s Egregious Adventure

Once upon a time, as it usually is, there were two early-middle-aged politicians (we’ll call them Bill and Al), who — like many career politicians — had yearned for the presidency since they were in diapers. Bill and Al, like all career politicians, had never held real jobs and had no inkling of what they were doing to real people when they proposed policies, pushed legislation, and published regulations. But, boy, were they “getting things done.”

Bill and Al were of an age when you could get high and later rise to high office. And so they did. (Well, Bill tried to inhale but couldn’t, or “didn’t” as he slickly put it.) Bill was elected dog-catcher and Al was elected deputy dog-catcher.

The small town where they caught dogs — a town called DeeCee — didn’t need dog catchers because all the dogs were well behaved and healthy. But there had been dog catchers in the town since the days when dogs ran wild, and so the townspeople kept electing dog catchers.

Because Bill thought it was important to make a good impression on the citizenry of DeeCee, he began by proposing regulations about how dogs should be fed, how often they should be given their shots, how long they should be walked, and how they should be trained. The voters of DeeCee told Bill where to put his regulations and kept on keeping on with their well-behaved and healthy dogs.

Al had great ideas about how to make the town’s businesses more efficient, and he spent a lot of time pestering business owners with his loony ideas. They nodded politely when he launched into his boring speeches and laughed politely at his lame jokes, then went right back to running their businesses profitably.

Bill and Al grew bored and restless as their jobs proved unnecessary and their meddling in other matters fell flat. Bill began to make up stories about wild dogs so that he could get out of the office to chase young women. Al began dipping into his expense account for trips to luxurious resorts.

One day, Bill’s wife caught him in a compromising situation and shot him dead. Al returned to DeeCee to assume the post of chief dog-catcher, but was convicted of embezzlement as soon as set foot in town.

The moral of the story is this: The best career politician is one who doesn’t do anything, doesn’t say anything, and keeps his hands in his own pockets. If you can’t heed this moral, you shouldn’t run for dog-catcher.

Flunking Out of Electoral College

Oh, what would we do without a President to entertain us? Granted that the entertainment is usually grade-B if not triple-X, but it beats re-runs of “Leave It To Beaver.” Presidents nevertheless come and go (often going more quickly than they had planned to) while the body that elects them — known, appropriately enough as the Electoral College — lingers on.

The College, as I shall call it here, has been picked on for generations, like another persistent nuisance: the dandelion. And, like the dandelion, the College has its brief moment of glory and then fades away to be forgotten until the next time it trumpets its existence.

As an institution, the Electoral College is as useful as the British monarchy, but it doesn’t draw tourists. Perhaps we would not scoff at the College if we could turn a profit on it by selling the TV rights to its proceedings.

Let us consider its merits. How could anyone criticize the institution that twice unanimously elected George Washington to the presidency? And what about the foresighted elector who, in 1960, declined to vote for Richard Nixon, as he was supposed to do, and voted instead for Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr.? You would be convinced, were we to end the story here, to kneel nightly in thanks that the College has not been abolished. But there is more to the story.

One of the serious objections to the College is the fact that it thrice — in 1824, 1876, and 1888 — prevented the election of the presidential candidate who captured the greatest number of popular votes. That’s an entirely negative view of the situation. The College has chosen the winner of the most popular votes in 40 of the 43 elections where the popular vote was tallied. That’s an average of .930, which would be tops in any league. Let us scrutinize the three elections in question.

Andy Jackson got 43 percent of the minuscule number of popular votes cast in 1824, and he received a larger number of electoral votes than his chief rival, John Quincy Adams. But, because Jackson lacked a majority of electoral votes, the election was decided by the House of Representatives, which chose Adams. It was a good thing, too. If Old Hickory had been chosen in 1824, he probably would have won in 1828 and 1832 (as he did), which would have meant another four years of muddy boots on White House furnishings, to the dismay of Jackie Kennedy.

On the other hand, a string of three Jackson victories would have meant, as well, that FDR would not have set a precedent in seeking a third term. Thus the anti-Roosevelt amendment limiting Presidents to two terms would not have been adopted and Dwight Eisenhower might well have served as President until his death in 1969. In which case…the nation would have been spared the Viet Nam War, which Eisenhower kept the U.S. out of while he was President.

Preferring an honorable peace to polished furniture, I regret that Andy Jackson was not elected in 1824, as he would have been if the popular vote had prevailed.

The election of 1876 pitted Republican Rutherford B. Hayes against Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. Tilden won 51 percent of the popular vote, but there were doubts about the returns from several southern States. A special commission was set up to determine how the electoral votes of those States should be cast. By an odd coincidence — there being eight Republicans and seven Democrats on the commission — it voted eight to seven to give the votes to Hayes. And Hayes won the election of 1876 by one electoral vote.

President Hayes and his wife — known as “Lemonade Lucy” — were teetotalers. The air of sobriety emanating from the White House cast a pall over the Washington social scene and give rise to the long-held view of Republicans as party-poopers. Which is probably why the Republican Party was in the minority for so long. With more Republicans in Congress, tax rates would never have risen to the heights that they did under the Democrats, and would be even lower than they are today. Clearly, we would be better off today if the election of 1876 had been decided by the popular vote.

What about the election of 1888? The incumbent, Stephen (“call me Grover”) Cleveland received 90,000 more popular votes than did Benjamin Harrison. The vagaries of the electoral process nevertheless caused Harrison to beat Cleveland by 233 to 168 electoral votes. Not one to cry in his mustache cup, Mr. Cleveland came back to trounce Mr. Harrison in the election of 1892.

Suppose Cleveland had won in 1888, thereby ending Harrison’s political career. Think of the loss to posterity because these two trivia questions could not then be asked:

  • What President served two, non-consecutive terms of office? (Cleveland)
  • What President was the grandson of a President? (B. Harrison, of W.H. Harrison)

The 1888 case favors the College. Without it our store of trivia would be smaller.

The forgoing analysis argues, nevertheless, for the abolition of the Electoral College. Had the popular vote prevailed in 1824 and 1876, we would have been spared a disastrous war and an outrageous tax burden. The legacy of 1888 — the addition of two trivial facts to our abundant store of trivia — is, well, trivial recompense.

Through a Crystal Ball, Murkily

A capsule history of politics in the United States, from 1999 to 2021:

1999–Bill Clinton resigns, hoping that he will receive a Nixonesque pardon from President Al Gore. President Gore, now the target of his very own independent counsel, decides to let Clinton dangle in the wind with Hillary Clinton, Bruce Lindsey, Vernon Jordan, Webster Hubbell, Susan McDougal, and their many co-conspirators.

2000–Gore declines to run for re-election, citing the “vicious political climate of Washington.” (Meaning: unlike Clinton, he won’t be able to stiff the taxpayers for a big chunk of his legal bills, so why stick around?) The Democrats and Republicans rush to the center and jointly nominate Edward Dogooder for the presidency. Dogooder manages to squeak through in a tight, three-way race with Oprah Winfrey and Geraldo Rivera.

2001–Dogooder asks Congress to replace the Social Security Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Interior, and Veterans Affairs with a Commissariat for Public Welfare. Republicans go along with the gag on the assumption that it will be easier to abolish one agency than six of them (hah!). To ensure the success of their plan, Republicans also support the nomination of Ralph Nader as Commissioner of Public Welfare.

2004–Commissioner Nader receives the results of a three-year study of the causes of death from the Center for Cerebral Calculations, a new Washington think-tank whose board of directors includes former Senator Strom Thurmond and former President Gerald Ford. The study reveals that almost everyone who was ever born had died. The authors of the study recommend the banning of births to put a stop to deaths. Commissioner Nader, armed with powers inherited from the Food and Drug Administration, bans births in the United States and urges the United Nations to pass a resolution in support of a world-wide ban on births.

2009–A further five-year study by the Center for Cerebral Calculations reveals that deaths continue (though Strom Thurmond and Gerald Ford still seem to be breathing). A full-scale investigation shows that all deaths recorded since 2004 were among persons born before the ban on births. The Commissioner orders all persons still living to report to government health and oil-change clinics for genetic treatment to suspend the aging process. He also institutes a five-year plan for the perfection of all citizens: by 2014, every American over the age of two must be a full-time student in a government-approved educational institution run by the American Education Association.

2013–Nearly everyone in the U.S. is enrolled in AEA nursery schools, grade schools, colleges, and graduate schools. Most factories and stores are closed, trucks idled, trains on sidings, and airplanes grounded. Heat is supplied by wood stoves; the only air-conditioning is an occasional breeze. (Environmentalists hail the “return to nature.”) The most active citizens are gangs marauding through streets while police are earning advanced degrees in criminal psychology. (Police have no weapons, anyway, because Commissioner Nader had banned them in 2010. Gang members, unable to read, hadn’t bothered to surrender their weapons.)

2014–Organized crime takes over the street gangs. Mob leader and womens’ libber Bubbles Berlitz, noting that “crime wouldn’t pay if da government ran it,” announces sweeping reforms to make crime more efficient. She adds that “stolen money ain’t woith much any more because dere’s hardly anyt’ing to buy wid it.”

2019–The mob’s five-year plan to make crime pay by restoring the economy is successful. Mob-run hospitals do a booming business in baby delivery, and mob-run enterprises employ most of the nation’s clandestine school dropouts. Former President Dogooder — having appointed himself to the more powerful position of Commissioner of Public Welfare — orders the mob to cease and desist from its unlawful activities. He is found in the Potomac River, wearing concrete swimming trunks.

2020–The mob decides it could make more money if it were to allow its enterprises to compete with one another, on the strange assumption that the bosses of those operations which satisfy consumers’ wants efficiently will reap greater profits. The other bosses must shape up or, in the words of Bubbles Berlitz, “get a free, one-way ride into da countryside.” Having found success without any more violence or coercion than had prevailed in the days of John D. Rockefeller, the mob focuses on random crimes perpetrated by independent operators and resuscitates the criminal justice system to deal with them. Bubbles Berlitz basks in her newly found legitimacy and runs for President.

2021–President Berlitz asks Congress to abolish the Commissariat for Public Welfare, and not to replace it with anything because the nation has become so prosperous under the rejuvenated free-market system. Congress is swayed by Ms. Berlitz’s persuasive charm — and by the photos she has stashed in her safe. Life in Washington, D.C., returns to normal.

To Pay or Not to Pay

Was William Shakespeare a tax-protester? Think about the message hidden in the titles of several of his plays:

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is about a man who hopes soon to repay the money he borrowed to meet his tax bill. “Winter’s Tale” follows him through months of overtime work as he struggles to save money for his old age. In “Love’s Labor’s Lost” he confronts the ugly reality that his savings will go to the IRS. “A Comedy of Errors” depicts his travails with Form 1040 and its many schedules. In “Much Ado About Nothing” he discovers, alas, that he owes the IRS even more than he had feared. :

Stunned by the discovery, he decides in “Twelfth Night” (April 12) not to file a tax return and tears it into tiny pieces. He reconsiders, and “The Tempest” recounts his struggle to complete a new return by April 15. “As You Like It” celebrates his triumphal march to the Post Office on April 15, armed with a return that shows him even with the IRS. “All’s Well That Ends Well” is a fantasy in which the IRS finds no fault with our hero’s return.

Then there is the real text of Hamlet’s soliloquy:

To file or not to file — that is the question;

Whether ‘tis nobler in the pocketbook to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous taxes,

Or to take arms against a sea of instructions,

And by ignoring evade them. To file — to pay —

No more; and by not paying to say we end

The headache and the thousand-dollar debts

That Uncle Same is heir to — ‘tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d. To run — to hide —

To hide! Perchance in Bimini! Ay there’s the spot;

For in that sunny isle what dreams may come

When we have eluded the revenue agent

Must give us pause; there’s the reality

That makes mockery of such simple plans;

For who would bear the heat and hard bunks of Leavenworth;

The cell-block bully’s fist, the guard’s glare,

The bagginess of prison garb, the sad children’s tears,

The righteousness of neighbors, and the spurns

That the gray-faced ex-con takes

When he himself might his quietus make

With a simple check? Who would these taxes bear,

To grunt and sweat under a glaring desk lamp,

But that the dread of something after April 15,

The uncelebrated penitentiary from whose walls

No inmate leave, without parole,

And makes us rather bear those taxes we must

Than fly to Bimini or other exotic places?

Thus conscience does make taxpayers of us all….