Archive for the ‘Beadledom’ Category.

You Didn’t Build That

Detroit did not need a Thomas Jefferson or a Mohandas Gandhi or another great political philosopher with a world-changing idea — it needed someone to fix the potholes, balance the books, keep order on the streets, see to the schools, and keep the city agencies orderly and honest and effective. Without that, all of Detroit’s productive capital — physical, financial, and human — was devalued and ultimately dispersed.

A nation as rich as ours can afford a great deal of stupidity, but hubris is expensive.

Detroit’s success was a very complicated story. Its failure is a simpler one.

How did Detroit become the “Motor City” at the center of the U.S. automotive business? It wasn’t obvious that it would be: At the end of the 19th century, more than 100 automobile companies were organized in the United States, most of them in New England and Ohio. But Michigan won out because it had a hugely important advantage in one natural resource: smart people.

Ask a half-dozen car guys why Detroit beat out the rest, and you’ll get a half-dozen answers: Maybe because Henry Ford and Ransom Olds lived in Michigan, or maybe because Standard Oil helped to lift the gasoline-powered Michigan manufacturers over competitors in Cleveland and Boston, which leaned toward steam and electric power. (Electric cars — imagine that.) But one of the main reasons Detroit became the Motor City is that it already was a motor city: Before it was a powerhouse in the automobile business, it was an important center for manufacturing marine engines (as was Cleveland), and as such was home to a work force with skills relevant to building automobiles — metalworkers, mechanics, engineers, machinists, experienced laborers. The most useful kind of intelligence resides in particular people and in particular intellectual communities, whether those are theoretical physicists or construction workers. That kind of intelligence cannot be boxed up and redistributed like surplus cheese. It is where it is, and it is there because of organic developments that cannot be managed.

Henry Ford offered good wages and an intelligently organized production process, but he didn’t exnihilate those skilled workers into existence; he just hired them. The larger and more complex the intellectual ecosystem of Detroit became, the greater the advantage provided by its workforce was — and the more it became a magnet for the best workers.

And Henry Ford wouldn’t have got very far without them.

. . .

(I will here offer the obligatory periodic reminder that the story about Henry Ford’s bootstrapping the automobile market into existence by paying his workers enough to afford his products is a myth, pure folk economics.)

Henry Ford’s problems are our problems still. North Carolina is the Detroit of the American upholstered-furniture industry, and its biggest problem right now is finding skilled workers to man the industry’s factories. A program set up by furniture manufacturers and a local community college is training up new workers as fast as it can, but that is not fast enough: “The good news is we can graduate 150 people a year,” one furniture executive told the Wall Street Journal. “The bad news is that the industry needs 800 to 1,000 people.” Another recruiter described hiring an upholsterer through a temp agency as “winning the lottery.”

And yet millions of Americans somehow manage to languish in persistent joblessness.

The story is familiar, with businesses ranging from the literally old-timey (mechanical-watch manufacturers) to the high-tech (chemical companies) complaining loud and long that they cannot fill their openings, that highly skilled, reliable labor is impossible to find. Old-fashioned business strategies such as (radical idea!) substantially raising wages are not always effective. (Keep trying, guys; it worked for Henry Ford — eventually.) Industry groups have put together training and apprenticeship programs such as the one for furniture-makers in North Carolina, where a $600, eleven-month course prepares workers for jobs that can pay in excess of $75,000 a year. The Institute of Swiss Watchmaking operates training programs in Fort Worth, Texas, along with Hong Kong and Shanghai. For those on shorter timelines, there are still a bunch of oil-and-gas companies that will pay you to get a commercial driver’s license and then hire you when you do.

If the demand-side story is familiar, then so are the excuses from the potential supply side. If you’ve followed the intramural debate on the right between the classical free-market conservatives and the new right-wing anti-capitalists, then you’ve heard this before: “I want a good job, but I don’t want to move to one of those awful, expensive, godless coastal metros to get it.” “Okay, but there are lots of jobs to be had in lots of other places that aren’t Palo Alto.” “But I don’t want to invest four years in college and go into debt to do it.” “Okay, there are jobs to be had in West Texas gas fields and North Carolina furniture factories and all sorts of other places that don’t require a four-year degree.” “But. . . .”

There’s always another “but.”

Furniture-factory recruiters tell the Wall Street Journal that potential workers sometimes turn their noses up at their training programs because there is no guarantee that demand for workers will be as strong years in the future as it is today. Factories trying to recruit Millennials also have discovered that starting the workday at 6:30 a.m. is an obstacle. The usual thumbsuckers offer the usual thumbsucking excuses. A cynical man might wonder what exactly would get these folks to take the job — an iron rice bowl?

There’s a reason so many of the complaints we hear about China are characterized not by horror at the brutality of the Chinese regime but by frank envy of its command-and-control powers.

Tom Friedman calls it being “China for a day.” Marco Rubio calls it “industrial policy.”

. . .

If you are willing to consider the full, mind-bending complexity of the U.S. economy, then Elizabeth Warren’s “You Didn’t Build That!” argument becomes, in a sense, Leonard Read’s argument in “I, Pencil.” Everything touches everything else, and burdens are shared in complicated ways. Senator Warren’s story is an attempt to create a compelling moral narrative for managerial progressivism, the dusty intellectual antique installed firmly in the center of her brain. But while her political conclusions do not necessarily follow from the facts, she isn’t wrong about the facts themselves. Entrepreneurship does not happen in a vacuum, and nobody seriously thinks it does.

(Senator Warren leans heavily on an old politician’s trick: Arguing with positions that nobody really supports; in this, she is a lot like our friends on the new anti-capitalist right, who believe they have a patent on the idea that there is life beyond the market.)

Consider the early days of the automotive industry: When Alexander Winton drove from Cleveland to New York City to promote his new automobile, the trip took nine days and was thought to be such a feat that he was greeted by a million people upon arriving in Manhattan. The roads were, as Winton put it, “outrageous.” A few years later, an enthusiast in another Winton automobile made the first coast-to-coast automobile road trip in the United States, from San Francisco to New York.

. . .

The complexity of real-world economic relationships is the point of “I, Pencil,” Read’s famous essay, which illustrates that even something as straightforward, ubiquitous, and cheap as a No. 2 pencil relies on a vast network of industrial processes, specialized knowledge, trade, etc. so vast as to be well beyond the comprehension of any single organization, much less any individual. That’s the miracle: Nobody knows how to make a pencil, but we have plenty of them, anyway. Read took this as an argument against central planning, and he might be reasonably criticized for minimizing the role of the public sector; Senator Warren takes the same entangling relationships as an argument for more central planning, even though she occasionally remembers to make a rhetorical gesture in the direction of capitalism. Read was basically right and Warren is basically wrong, but Warren’s distortion of the underlying principle does not diminish the importance of public-sector and non-market institutions in the ecosystem of Readian economic complexity.

The complicated truth is that Henry Ford (and every other entrepreneur) drafted behind both public-sector and private-sector investments that preceded him and his own innovations. The marine-engine business helped lay the foundations for the subsequent success of Detroit’s automotive industry, but so did roads and schools and the like. There’s a word for that: civilization. Isaac Newton was not the only one who stood on the shoulders of giants. All of us do. (And not just giants: Nobody invented the automobile or the internal-combustion engine. There were thousands and thousands of contributors to that subtle and spectacular evolution.)

If it seems like we have drifted a long way from the original point about the role of the work force in the entrepreneurial process, we haven’t.

. . .

The current argument about the future of capitalism is about a lot of different things, some of which are only tangentially related to one another. Some of these considerations are matters of narrow political self-interest: Senator Rubio et al. have discovered that there is some juice in Trumpian neo-mercantilism and believe, with good reason, that there is even a little cross-partisan appeal to it. They have failed to articulate a set of policies or meaningful principles to go along with that hunch, but if President Trump has shown Republicans anything, it is that policies and principles are optional for a working majority of right-leaning voters, who can be had at the price of some vague grumbling about the national interest and intellectually dishonest claptrap about how “market fundamentalists on the right want more record-setting days in the stock market above all else,” as Senator Rubio put it.

I will reiterate here two things: The first is that Senator Rubio is engaged in a political fight to the death with a straw man, and that so far the fullest expression of his conception of the national interest in economic policy is subsidies for politically connected sugar producers in Florida. In politics, vague principles rarely stand up to specific demands from specific constituents.

On the wider cultural front, the fight about the future of capitalism is in no small part a matter of status competition, less a question of economic development than of how we talk about economic issues. Practitioners of resentment politics wish to reduce the prestige of cultural rivals, and so we have the strange spectacle of our so-called nationalists abominating the actual centers of American power, prestige, and influence: Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the Ivy League, Hollywood, etc.

Both Warren-style progressives and right-wing critics such as my friend Michael Brendan Dougherty seek to undermine the heroic account of entrepreneurship and corporate success traditionally put forward by apologists for capitalism. For these critics, the professional and financial elites represent a morally corrupt class that needs to be taken down a peg — those of you who have followed this conversation for a while will remember that Dougherty’s famous thought experiment about Garbutt, N.Y., had conservatives advancing the interests of “a typical coke-sniffer in Westport” and his in-laws down the road in Darien. Their argument is at heart about social status, holding that the finance workers in Fairfield County and the multinational firms that employ them deserve less admiration, as do the start-up founders and venture capitalists on the opposite coast, which is why it is important that they be cocaine enthusiasts or sexual deviants or whatever for purposes of political narrative if not in real life, where the coastal elites practice the bourgeois values (stable marriages and thrift and relative sobriety and all that) to a remarkable extent.

At the same time, the same critics argue that we should have more sympathy for those who are stuck in economically stagnant and socially backward communities and who do not wish to leave them. Dougherty presents this explicitly as a sympathy deficit on the part of the capitalism camp: “Any investments he made in himself previously are for naught. People rooted in their home towns? That sentimentalism is for effete readers of Edmund Burke. Join the hyper-mobile world.”

Though the protectionism put forward by the likes of Trump and Rubio is couched in the language of national interest, it is the opposite of that: Americans as a whole would be better off with lower food prices, but a small handful of Americans is much better off with higher prices secured by the policies supported by Rubio and other like-minded politicians. Americans as a whole are much better off when markets are allowed to allocate resources efficiently, but there is a vast and politically significant archipelago of communities that would prefer that certain inefficiencies be preserved, because their livings are tied to those inefficiencies and their communities have been built atop them. Detroit in 1960 was on top of the world — it was the highest-income city in the United States. Detroit would have been very comfortable if it could have been frozen in time, economically, in that moment. And a very wide array of politicians and activists, from local union leaders to President Ronald Reagan, took extraordinary steps to try to preserve the position of the U.S. automotive industry, with the disastrous consequences that you can see in front of you in Detroit today.

The things that gave Detroit its critical advantages in the early 20th century were not things that could be planned out in advance by super-intelligent philosopher-kings in the bureaucracies. Creating a marine-engine industry that would help to prepare the workforce for an automotive industry that would not exist until decades in the future is not the kind of plan that mere mortals can conceptualize or execute. If you had tried to explain to the best and most forward-looking thinkers of Detroit’s golden years that China and India would soon enough be significant high-tech competitors, they would have laughed at you. Also, if you’d told them that one of the biggest and most valuable U.S. companies in 2019 would be an electronic bulletin board where you can go to denounce your aunt as a hate-monger, they would have been perplexed, as, indeed, some of us are. Remember that many of the best minds of the time believed that the automobile would be a passing fad.

Conservatives like to laugh at Paul Krugman, revisiting his long-ago prediction that the Internet would prove no more economically significant than the fax machine, but nobody is really very good at predicting the future of economic developments at any meaningful level of detail. Go spend some time around private-equity investors and see how they come by their billions: They are smart, but they are not superhuman, and they do not have any special insight into long-term economic trends — they do a tremendous amount of grunt-work discovering and creating value in ordinary companies and complex deals, inch-worming their way through. That’s how a lot of wealth gets built. That’s the real world. And Senator Rubio scoffs at it as fiddling with “financial flows detached from real production,” as though factories just built themselves.

. . .

You couldn’t have planned Detroit’s success. But you could have avoided its catastrophic failure. Detroit was not done in by lack of clever industrial policy or by shortage of some other species of cleverness. It was done in by corrupt and ineffective government and a local political culture that went from bad to worse to much worse to Coleman Young. They tried to save Detroit with tariffs and failed. They could have saved it with safe streets and functional schools and the hundred thousand other tiny needful things that good governments do well.

Good government — including a steady, stable, predictable policy environment — multiplies the value of labor, just as training and capital do. That is why investment capital around the world for years has flowed largely to well-governed countries, most of them liberal democracies, with the largest recipients of foreign direct investment being the United States and the European Union. (China, the important exception to that rule, is not well-governed; it is governed brutally but predictably, an ugly but useful reminder that stability has economic value, too.) There are many places that businesses could go in search of low wages and a loose regulatory environment, but you aren’t driving a car made in Haiti or using a computer built in Burundi. Investors aren’t putting a lot of money into factories in Yemen or Afghanistan.

. . .

The U.S. government is in many cases a force for instability and non-confidence in our national economic life. Peter Navarro’s position as Trump’s China hand is as ridiculously implausible as Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma, but there he is, whispering into the president’s ear. Senator Rubio is no less implausible in his belief that he has eagle eyes to detect subtle national interests in complex economic affairs of which he has no substantial first-hand knowledge. His problem isn’t stupidity — it’s hubris.

A nation as rich as ours can afford a great deal of stupidity, but hubris is expensive.

Senator Rubio represents a government that has shown little competence in the small and ordinary things. It cannot even manage to follow its own ordinary processes for creating budgets or appropriating funds, instead lurching from season to season with a series of “emergency” measures in a state of never-ending crisis. You might think that that would be the cause of some modesty and circumspection in Washington. You would be wrong.

Rather than monkeying around with things that are beyond his ken and outside of the credible operating capacity of the U.S. government, Senator Rubio should be seeing to some of the things that might actually make a difference. The U.S. government is on a catastrophic fiscal course that will, without reform, eventually result in a ruinous debt crisis the likes of which the world has never seen. (We’ve seen fiscal crises in Canada and Argentina, but the U.S. economy represents nearly a quarter of the world’s economic output.) We have entitlement programs that are in need of reform, decaying and archaic infrastructure under federal purview, serious K–12 educational problems entangled with federal policy, a tax code in great need of simplification, a series of worldwide military engagements that have failed or are on the verge of failing, enormous deficits, an out-of-control presidency and administrative state, etc., all of it under the responsibility of a federal apparatus that cannot even produce an accurate count of how many programs it administers. Senator Rubio and his colleagues are like fast-food workers who haven’t yet mastered the drive-thru but demand a seat on the board of the company: They are not doing a very good job with the responsibilities they already have.

And many of those are responsibilities that cannot be taken on by anybody else: If the United States is to have an immigration system characterized by intelligence and decency, or a federal criminal-justice system characterized by justice, then the federal government is the instrument that is going to bring that about. These tasks cannot be delegated to the Chamber of Commerce or the Rotary Club. But rather than see to these, and other authentic federal responsibilities, Senator Rubio would spend his days micromanaging the world’s mining markets lest the sneaky Chi-Comms hoard all the ytterbium.

(Seriously.)

What was true for Detroit is true for the United States as a whole. The first step toward success in government is avoiding failure, and what emerges from the complicated story of Detroit’s success and the relatively simple story of its failure is not that government must master economic complexity and put it in harness but rather that government must do a lot of relatively simple things well. Detroit did not need a Thomas Jefferson or a Mohandas Gandhi or another great political philosopher with a world-changing idea — it needed someone to fix the potholes, balance the books, keep order on the streets, see to the schools, and keep the city agencies orderly and honest and effective. Without that, all of Detroit’s productive capital — physical, financial, and human — was devalued and ultimately dispersed.

Detroit’s fall happened hard and fast. As the poet said, Goin’ down slow ain’t the only way to go. Deride “financial flows detached from real production” all you like, but if you want workers to have jobs, then you need enterprises to employ them. If you want enterprises to employ them, then you need investment. And if you want investment, then you need good government and a stable, predictable policy environment, not Senator Rubio freelancing around the economy like a kid trying to play chess without even knowing how the horsey-thingies move.
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The U.S. economy is a vastly complex system with countless variables. Here’s a puzzle with only three variables: 1. There are about 5.7 million unemployed people in the United States right now. 2. We have thousands and thousands of jobs going unfilled because employers cannot find workers to fill them. 3. We spend about $10 billion a week on unemployment benefits.

Sort that out and the ytterbium will take care of itself.

You Didn’t Build That, by Kevin Williamson

Statolatry, Ozymandias

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The noble lie of self-reliance

 


Working-class agony: Who is to blame?

 

In faith, as in work and in family, the working-class men of Philly, Chicago, Boston, and Charleston sought autonomy and self-fulfillment but rejected institutions, structure, and tradition.

“Spiritual but not religious” is a growing portion of our working-class as Americans fall away from belonging to any particular religion. One subject rejected the idea of “a God with strings telling us how to live.” Such strings constrain our autonomy.

Of course, the traditional family also constrains our autonomy. Being bound to a community with all of its rules and norms constrains our autonomy. Working for a boss constrains our autonomy.

All of these constraints, most of us believe, help make us happier people, because they foster virtues and build bonds of reciprocity and even love. But this knowledge is almost a secret among those who hold it. Because our media and political megaphones blare the message of secularization, new modern families formed with individualism in mind, a robust “gig economy,” and the need to buck “the man.”

There are virtues to this myth. But look at the record number of suicides in the U.S. Look at the rising portion of babies born outside of marriage. Look at the stagnation of the working-class male.

Then, you see the danger when folks who were told they could fly come crashing down to earth.

When the noble lie of self-reliance becomes the dangerous myth of ‘autonomy’,” by Timothy Carney, Washington Examiner, May 29, 2019

Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse

Statolatry

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AMAZON, den of thieves

AMAZON, den of thieves

Many alternatives to Amazon, including BandH Photo, WalMart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Home Depot, Lowes, HayNeedle, WayFair, Etsy, Your local hardware store, etc., etc. Use product name, SKU, ISBN, model number to search for alternatives.

amazon scammers – Google search

Amazon hit by extensive fraud with hackers siphoning merchant funds,” by Bloomberg, The Mercury News, May 8, 2019

When Your Amazon Purchase Explodes,” by Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, April 30, 2019

5-star phonies: Inside the fake Amazon review complex,” by Zachary Crockett, The Hustle, April 13, 2019

Don’t Just ‘Buy Now’! When Shopping on Amazon, You Need to Pay Attention,” by Katherine Bindley, The Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2019

What is Amazon?,” by Zack Kanter, March 13, 2019

Amazon Lobbied More Government Entities Than Any Other Public U.S. Company Last Year,” by Renae Reints, Fortune, March 13, 2019

Where does a tip to an Amazon driver go? In some cases, toward the driver’s base pay,” by Johana Bhuiyan, LA Times, Feb. 7, 2019

Amazon has finally admitted to investors that it has a counterfeit problem,” by Marc Bain, Quartz, February 5, 2019

How to Lose Tens of Thousands of Dollars on Amazon,” by Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, Jan. 2, 2019

Is It Really Five Stars? How to Spot Fake Amazon Reviews,” by Joanna Stern, WSJ, Dec. 20, 2018

Amazon Prime is getting worse, and it’s making me question the nature of reality,” by Mark Wilson, FastCompany, Dec. 19, 2018

Prime and Punishment: Dirty Dealing in the $175 Billion Amazon Marketplace,” by Josh Dzieza, The Verge, Dec. 19, 2018

Amazon Announces 2019 Fee Changes for Sellers,” by Ina Steiner, eCommerce Bytes, December 19, 2018

VIDEO: “How Scammers in China Manipulate Amazon,” by Jon Emont, WSJ, December 17, 2018

Amazon Targets Unprofitable Items, With a Sharper Focus on the Bottom Line,” by By Laura Stevens, Sharon Terlep and Annie Gasparro, WSJ, December 16, 2018

Amazon ran a sting to root out counterfeit textbooks, but some small sellers say they were unfairly targeted,” by Ari Levy, CNBC, December 13, 2018

An Amazon revolt could be brewing as the tech giant exerts more control over brands,” by Jason Del Rey, ReCode, November 29, 2018

New Parents Complain Amazon Baby-Registry Ads Are Deceptive,” by By Rolfe Winkler and Laura Stevens, WSJ, Nov. 28, 2018

The Caesar Of The Amazon Jungle,” by Rod Dreher, TAC, November 15, 2018

Amazon’s Golden Fleecing,” by The WSJ Editorial Board, Nov. 14, 2018

Amazon’s Great HQ2 Swindle,” by Daniel Kishi, TAC, November 13, 2018

Amazon’s HQ2 was a con, not a contest,” by Eric Johnson, ReCode, November 9, 2018

Amazon’s own published books are quietly taking over the site,” by Thu-Huong Ha, Quartz, October 26, 2018

Amazon Investigates Employees Leaking Data for Bribes – Employees, through intermediaries, are offering internal data to help merchants increase their sales on the website, WSJ, September 16, 2018

Amazon is investigating claims that employees deleted reviews and sold sales data to sellers, by Andrew Liptak, The Verge, September 16, 2018

Markets in everything, Marginal Revolution, September 17, 2018

Amazon’s Antitrust Antagonist Has a Breakthrough Idea,” by David Streitfeld, NYT, September 7, 2018

Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it. – Duluth News, Dec. 17, 2017

Amazon demonetizes conservative website (us), Legal Insurrection, May 23, 2018

IBPA’s Fall 2017 Update on the Amazon Buy Button Policy ChangeIBPA, Oct. 5, 2017

How Sellers Trick Amazon to Boost Sales, WSJ July 28, 2018 (On MorningStar)

On Amazon, Fake Products Plague Smaller Brands, WSJ, July 19, 2018

To cash in on Kindle Unlimited, a cabal of authors gamed Amazon’s algorithm, July 16, 2018, The Verge

Just How Bad Is the Fake Reviews Issue on Amazon? Here’s an In Depth Example, reddit, June 2018

FakeSpot – Tired of fake reviews?

Amazon Says More Than a Million U.S. Small Businesses Sell on Its Site, WSJ, May 3, 2018

Update On My Stolen Book (and Job) on Amazon, ExtremeTech, April 25, 2018

Why All My Books Are Now Free (aka A Lesson in Amazon Scams and Money Laundering), Meb Faber Research, April 18, 2018

Someone Stole My Entire Book (and My Job) and Is Selling It On Amazon, ExtremeTech, April 13, 2018

The Book Thief, Amazon Edition, WSJ, Feb 26, 2018

How an Amazon Self-Published Book May Be the Latest Money Laundering Scam, Fortune, Feb 23, 2018

Amazon warning: Beware of deliveries you didn’t order, Clark Howard, Feb 23, 2018

Going Off-Topic – Amazon made me a victim of tax fraud & potential money laundering and I want answers!, CTRMCenter, Feb. 23, 2018

Money Laundering Via Author Impersonation on Amazon? Brian Krebs, Feb. 20, 2018

Why Amazon Is Raising Third Party Seller Fees for Apparel & Select Categories,” by Tara Johnson, CPCStrategy, January 23, 2018

Amazon tries to snuff out a bunch of Kindle publishing scams, CNet, Sept. 7, 2017

Amazon Scams On The Rise As Fraudulent Sellers Run Amok And Profit Big, Forbes, Jan. 2, 2017

Amazon – Amazon report listing abuse or violation

Amazon- Claim Copyright Infringement

email: copyright@amazon.com

Amazon den of thieves

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Freedom versus security

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Politicians love spending other people’s money and seeing themselves as heroes


P.J. O’Rourke: The Funniest Man in America

Friends, our governments are broke. We’ve made more promises than we can keep. Neighborhoods are falling apart, even in cities experiencing robust growth, and that’s only going to get worse. It’s the epitome of reckless arrogance for any planner (note: I’m a planner) to project increases in future demand as a way to justify large, public transportation investments when our existing systems are starved for funds, even for their own basic maintenance.

Fix what you have. Make it work incrementally better each day. Squeeze more and more productivity out of your ridiculously unproductive city. That needs to be our obsession, and transit can be part of that, but not the tip of the spear. And certainly not the tip of a ballistic missile.

TRANSIT’S CHICKEN & EGG FALLACY

Also seeBribing People to Move to Your City

“It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.” G.K. Chesterton

“Politics is unalloyed idiocy” Don Boudreaux

“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.” H. L. Mencken

“The whole point of a free society is to reduce the number of things that are political, particularly at the national level. When everything is considered political, the totality of life is politicized. And that’s just a clunky way of describing totalitarianism.” Jonah Goldberg

“I respect ordinary thieves much more than I respect politicians.” Walter Williams

“The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments.” Ludwig von Mises

Statolatry and Ozymandias

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I’m Outraged! LOL!

Is it alright to express outrage against excessive displays of outrage? I ask this more in curiosity than in anger.

. . .

“I am outraged by your outrage, sir,” is a line I have tried in several situations. Or, “ma’am,” as the case may be — spoken in the voice of unturbulent irony. It worked once, as anything might, calculated to make one’s assailant laugh. The trick is to undermine his self-importance, and this is easier to perform while it is over-exposed. Mere escalation will not have this effect, nor any other form of competition in which spectators are left to vote on which party is the greater lunatic.

For God, in His infinite foresight, has so arranged the human condition that reason has at least a chance. The Christian yoga of self-containment puts anger to its proper uses. Or, should gentle reader prefer: the principles of balance and leverage in judo.

. . .

[I]t is well to remember that outrage never works for long. It makes a dramatic opening for conflict, but can only be sustained with the sort of acting which, as we are beginning to see in Natted States Merica and elsewhere, soon wears on any audience. “Yes,” one might reflect to oneself, “it is quite outrageous that they are crazy and we are sane.”

But it is important that we manifest sanity.

A puzzlement

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Anti-Christian

Your President (I’m Canadian, I get to say “your”) has a Twitter account that sometimes comes to my attention. And this, although I try to ignore all the world’s tweeted expostulations. But they make news, sometimes; in Mr. Trump’s case, as a matter of course. And as I have confessed before, I’m still reading news.

I understand why he does it. Which is to say, I understand that Mr. Trump wouldn’t be president today if he had not availed himself of every opportunity to end-run the media gatekeepers. Contrary to the received view, I think he is very good at it; often brilliant. I’m not commenting yet on the morality of the operation, only on its efficacy. He knows how to “troll,” and to the audience of his supporters, trolls deliciously.

He has a vulgar but adept satirical sense, and can expose the hypocrisy of his opponents in ways that will “make their heads explode.” And since many of his enemies also happen to be mine, I have often giggled – in a mean-spirited, “gotcha” kind of way.

. . .

We are told free speech doesn’t extend to gratuitously yelling “Fire!” in a cinema, or uttering plausible physical threats. But in a self-described “free society” it is assumed that, short of such acts of criminal mischief, those who disagree must cope. Extreme sensibilities will have to be abraded.

I have been coping myself, for as long as I can remember. It comes with the territory Christians have occupied these two thousand years; and those with any sort of opinions, since time out of mind. One learns to ignore the goad, or deflect it. Why let another decide whether I should forfeit my good humor? Better to reply with something droll.

Alas, this doesn’t work as it used to. Rather than matching wits, or just laughing, one’s opponent may burst into hysteria. (Never be droll with a feminist, I advise.)

“Never complain, never explain,” is the counsel of the seasoned professionals. But this hardly works anymore, either. Your opponents then mount smear upon smear. As Mr. Trump learned – partly, I suspect, from the experience of Mr. Bush Junior – the refusal to “dignify that with an answer” requires a milieu from which gentlemen haven’t been extracted.

In our rat-pack world of social media, suavity is impossible, let alone gentlemanly behavior. Alas, Mr. Trump understands this. Our Lord was accused of consorting with sinners, but He did not “accompany” them into sin. Will the returning Christ have a Twitter account? I seriously doubt this.

Nor do I think He would be carrying a gun, though I would not make this ground for banning firearms. He never proposed to disarm soldiers. He accepted the claim of Rome to be Rome. He gave no political advice at all, even on marginal rates of taxation.

On the other hand, He said things most provoking. Even the Beatitudes were an (obviously intended) surprise for the comfortable. Each was the reverse of long-received opinion. At no point in the Gospels do we find Our Lord “going along to get along” with the gatekeepers of those days.

A rule to prohibit provocation would, as a consequence probably quite intended, prohibit Christianity in every day and age. It would also prohibit the telling of truth, with or without religious connotations. It would finally achieve a deathly silence; for anything said is potentially controversial. There is no statement so soft that someone could not take offense at it, if only for being too soft.

Therefore let us affirm some things, starting plainly with our Faith in Christ. Let us follow this up with every Christian teaching, as those ancestors did who converted the heathen.

We know at least the Devil will be offended, though he may be clever enough to conceal it and work with the persisting vanities of those who now believe.

Provocations

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“The Dictator Pope”

The title above is the name of a book that appeared Monday in English (after earlier publication in Italian) by a writer who has assumed a grand Renaissance pseudonym: Marcantonio Colonna (an admiral at Lepanto). He evidently could not publish under his real name, for fear of reprisals. But the case he lays out is largely convincing: that Pope Francis has carefully cultivated an image in public as the apostle of mercy, kindness, and openness; in private, he’s authoritarian, given to profanity-laced outbursts of anger, and manipulative in pursuing his agenda.

This is hardly news, least of all in Rome. This volume, however, is far more probing and detailed than anything that has previously appeared. It sometimes stretches evidence, but the sheer amount of evidence it provides is stunning. About 90 percent of it is simply incontrovertible, and cannot help but clarify who Francis is and what he’s about.

The parts of this story I know best – the Synods on the family that I reported on daily from Rome for TCT – are absolutely reliable. We know, for example, that Pope Francis was quite willing to openly manipulate the Synods by personally appointing supporters of the Kasper Proposal and that he even intervened personally at key points, changing procedures and instructing the bishops about where their deliberations should start – and end.

. . .

Despite a few lapses, the most disturbing element remains: the abundant evidence – confirmed by many particular instances now over years of this papacy – that the pope has little use for established procedures, precedents, even legal structures within the Church. These are not mere trivial rules, Pharisaic legalism, resistance to the Holy Spirit, etc. They are the means by which the Church seeks to be clear, fair, and orderly – and to address unjust actions or abuses by those in power.

When the head of the Church himself does not much feel bound by the tradition or impartial laws he has inherited, what then? That the question even has to be asked is disturbing. Any answer will have to reckon with the eye-opening material in this compelling book.

“The Dictator Pope”, by Robert Royal

The book: “The Dictator Pope”

Ozymandias

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The Administrative State

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Your Birth Control

It’s Democrats who oppose over-the-counter sale of contraceptives.

There are many horrifying things about President Donald Trump that I am prepared to believe, but the claim put forward by Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times — that he has loosened up the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate out of sexual traditionalism — is not one of them.

The Trump administration has, to its credit, issued a more liberal version of the employer-provided birth-control mandate, one that offers conscience protections to institutions beyond churches and closely held business concerns, and that expands the exemption beyond narrowly religious objections to include moral objections that are not necessarily religious in nature. A free society makes a lot of room for moral and religious disagreement, which is why the original mandate was thrown out by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires that government use the least onerous means when burdening religious exercise and that it do so only in the pursuit of a legitimate public interest.

For context, consider the fact that during World War II — an existential crisis not only for the United States but for the entire free world — the United States routinely offered exemptions from military service to members of pacifistic religious sects such as Quakers and Brethren. The federal government went so far as to establish alternatives to war bonds for those who objected to supporting the war through financial instruments. Perhaps you believe that a federal law mandating employer-provided no-copay birth-control pills is very important — it isn’t as important as whipping Hitler.

Greenhouse argues that the move represents a step toward transforming the United States into something more like Saudi Arabia, a bit of hyperbole that is risible even by the basement-dwelling standards of the New York Times op-ed pages. That the Times’ generally excellent reporting remains institutionally shackled to its insipid and second-rate opinion pages must be a source of frustration for its reporters, even — especially? — the ones who share that plain-Democrat-vanilla viewpoint.

. . .

Republicans have, on the matter of contraception at least, adopted a live-and-let-live attitude, one that would make birth control available to women on the same basis as any other consumer good and that would — let’s not forget — still oblige most employers to include it, free of copay, in their health-insurance plans, unless they have strong religious or moral objections to doing so. Democrats have opposed efforts to make birth control available over-the-counter. Why?

Neither Trump nor the GOP Wants to Take Away Your Birth Control

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