Posts tagged ‘Ozymandias’

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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Plastic Recycling Scam

 


Dirty Business: what really happens to your recycling

 

Millions of Americans dutifully fill their recycling bins each week, motivated by the knowledge that they’re doing something good for the environment. But little do they know, there’s a recycling crisis unfolding.

Starting as early as 2017, municipalities across the country, from Douglas County, Oregon to Nogales, Arizona to Broadway, Virginia, to Franklin, New Hampshire, began landfilling many recyclables or simply canceling their recycling programs altogether. The impetus for this disconcerting change? China.

For decades, the country was content to accept, process, and transform recycled materials from across the globe, but no longer. In July 2017, the government announced new policies that would effectively ban imports of most recyclables, particularly plastics. They went into effect last March. Considering that China has imported a cumulative 45% of plastic waste since 1992, this is a huge deal.

Where once China offered a market for the world’s plastic bottles, tubs, and other packaging to be turned into – for example – polyester clothing, now, that market is gone. This means that recycling costs have skyrocketed. A few years ago, Franklin, New Hampsire could sell recyclables for $6 per ton. Now, it costs the town $125 per ton to recycle that same stuff!

Municipalities across the country are facing this startling arithmetic, so hundreds are choosing the drastically cheaper option: throw most traditionally recycled materials in the trash, instead.

While that might sound horrifying, Thomas Kinnaman, an environmental economist from Bucknell University, says it’s actually a blessing in disguise.

“China’s ban may actually reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans,” he told NPR’s Planet Money podcast. “China was not very careful about what got into their oceans for a long period of time, and if some of the plastic piles were just too corrupted they could do whatever they wanted with it.”

Moreover, landfilling waste is not the evil many assume it to be. Modern landfills in the developed world are highly regulated, with sophisticated systems to protect groundwater, methods of compacting trash as tightly as possible, and even ways of siphoning off methane gas and burning it to produce electricity. Despite the myth that we’re running out of landfill space, current estimates indicate that the U.S. has about 58 years until we need to build additional facilities.

. . .

While plastic and glass should probably be crushed and buried in a landfill, aluminum, tin, and paper – especially cardboard – should absolutely be recycled.

Why It’s Probably Better for the Planet to Throw Plastic in the Trash,” by Ross Pomeroy, Real Clear Investigations, July 15, 2019

 


Why your recyclables might have no place to go

 

See also “China’s Recycling Ban: Surprisingly Helpful for the Environment

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What Anti-Semites and Pro-Abortionists Have in Common

One of the problems with modern politics is that everything is expressed in terms of right and left, and everyone seems to have forgotten about right and wrong. Thus, for instance, white supremacists are considered to be on the far right, whereas Antifa activists are considered to be on the far left. You’d think, therefore, that they couldn’t be further apart in terms of their respective beliefs. And yet if love of one’s neighbor is considered good and hatred of one’s neighbor is considered bad, the white supremacists and the Antifa activists are both equally bad. They are full of hatred for those whom they consider to be their enemies and are not averse to using violence to get their way.

Looking at the lessons of the past, which the white supremacists and Antifa activists seem intent on ignoring, we might think of Hitlerite Nazis as being on the far right and Stalinist communists as being on the far left. And yet both sets of extremists ruled their respective peoples with an iron fist and incarcerated millions of dissidents in concentrations camps. If one is a victim of political tyranny, it matters little if the jackboot that crushes you is on the left foot or the right foot. It is, therefore, not about right and left but about right and wrong.
. . .
No, it’s not about right and left, whatever that really means. It’s about right and wrong. Those who kill innocent people, refusing to see them as human persons, are wrong, whether they are anti-Semites or pro-abortionists. We should all be sickened by the contempt for human life shown by the man who gunned down worshippers at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, but we should be equally sickened by those who kill babies in abortion mills in every city across the nation.

What Anti-Semites and Pro-Abortionists Have in Common,” by Joseph Pearce

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Freedom versus security

[F]or the most part we accept a life in which none of our anxieties are real.

Freedom versus security

Ozymandias

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Enforcing the Law Is Inherently Violent

Yep.

Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter believes that the United States would benefit if the debate about what laws ought to be passed acknowledged the violence inherent in enforcing them.

Enforcing the Law Is Inherently Violent

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The tyranny of the mad

When a social order collapses, and “conventional” ideas are overturned — of what is right and wrong, of what is reasonable and unreasonable, of what is true and false, of what is sane and insane — we do not promptly get an alternative social order. Instead we get a world turned upside down: the tyranny of the mad, under the direction of those drunk on power.

The loss

Ozymandias

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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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Give me that new time religion…

It was foolish for anyone to believe that a less Christian America would be a less religious America. As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, God “put eternity in man’s heart.” Traditional Christianity and Judaism aren’t just being removed from American life; they’re being replaced. The more passive person often fills his heart with the saccharine sweetness of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The angry activist often stokes the burning fires of intersectionality. And when commitment collides with confusion, commitment tends to win.

America’s traditional Christian and Jewish communities need to understand this reality. Intersectionality steamrolls right over the lukewarm, leaving them converted or cowed. The answer, of course, isn’t to steamroll back — after all, our faith is supposed to be full of grace — but rather to respond with calm conviction. Christianity has survived ancient heresies. It can prevail against modern fads. But don’t for one moment underestimate the depth of the zeal that drives our latest religious divide.

Intersectionality, the Dangerous Faith

Intersectionality is a new fascism.

Statolatry

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Our “Modern” Pagan World

If you could effectively make adoption safer and easier to effect than a chemical abortion or “emergency contraception,” you could reduce the overall demand for abortions. But it is very likely there would still be some abortions, and abortion would still have its apologists.

Because in many cases, the point of abortion isn’t just to end the inconvenience, embarrassment, or danger of a pregnancy; it’s not just to avoid the grave responsibilities of parenting a child. Instead, the purpose of the abortion is to completely extinguish the child’s moral claims on her parents.

The Claims of the Unborn

But I think we are seeing something much larger than pushback against male predation. What we are seeing in the broader culture now is something that has been evident on college campuses for some time: Women are unhappy about the state of sex and romance. They feel pressured, they feel disrespected, and they are fighting back. Sadly, our culture has so exalted sexual license that the only form of sexual conduct women are permitted to protest is coercion. It should not be surprising, then, that the terms “assault” and “rape” have been expanded beyond reasonable bounds.

. . .

Feminists hate to seem to pine for love and romance, yet their responses to Grace seem to hint at the disappointment the sexual revolution has delivered.

. . .

Or is it the sexual free-for-all they hate? Perhaps the new feminist slogan should be “Down with the sexual revolution!”

What Is the Real Message of #MeToo?

We’ve seen it happen: A new assault on the sanctity of human life appears—say, infanticide being promoted in a major bioethics journal, or officials in Iceland bragging that no children with Down syndrome are born there, thanks to prenatal genetic screening—and some horrified opponents respond in horror, “That’s what the Nazis did!” It’s an easy accusation to wield, but rarely a wise one. Often, these proposals and policies have little to do with the crimes of Hitler and his minions—and a great deal to do with the eugenicist movement that preceded them.

Take the euthanasia killings of people with disabilities in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Canada. Certain analogies to Nazi horrors spring to mind: German doctors killed disabled babies between 1939 and 1945—as is happening today in the Netherlands, despite being technically illegal. And German doctors terminated disabled adults in hospitals. In the latter example, however, there are some crucial differences. Unlike legal voluntary euthanasia of disabled people in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada, the disabled victims of the Nazis were part of mass killing experiments at the start of the Holocaust. And since people who are accused of Nazi thinking don’t appear threatening—they don’t wear “SS” insignia on tailored black leather coats or boast funny mustaches, and they haven’t swallowed the poisonous ideology of fascism—the Nazi epithet is more likely to undermine the accuser’s credibility than persuade his audience.

So, what are we supposed to do, Wesley? Ignore history? Not at all. In fact, I think a more apt thought connection to the culture-of-death practices and proposals of today can be made to the invidious beliefs that animated eugenics—a movement still disdained by most people. This analogy is less likely to be rejected out of hand.

The Deadly Legacy of Eugenics

China was supposed to have its Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962, under the leadership of Chairman Mao. That didn’t work out — Mao’s policies ended up killing about 50 million people instead. China later had its genuine Great Leap Forward after the market-oriented reforms implemented by Deng Xiaoping. “To get rich is glorious,” he declared. “It doesn’t matter if it is a white cat or a black cat, as long as it catches mice.” (He was a prolific aphorist.) Deng’s program was “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” which turned out not to be socialism at all. But beginning in the late 1970s, China experienced an economic boom for the ages, with economic growth averaging 9.5 percent from 1978 to 2013. In purely material terms, life got substantially better for the average Chinese and radically better for the upper middle class and elites.

China isn’t the only country that has had a period of growth like that. The old Soviet Union had one, too, beginning in the late 1920s and lasting about 15 years. Both the Soviet experience and the Chinese experience are examples of the fact that a sufficiently brutal police state can, if it implements the right policies, transform a backward agrarian economy into a modern industrial economy, generating tremendous economic growth — once. But brutal police states get it wrong as often as they get it right, hence the sorry state of Cuba, North Vietnam, Venezuela, etc.

The Great Leap Forward

What really happens when you couple [John] Dewey’s pragmatic and collectivist ideas with the value neutrality that grew out of Mann’s non-sectarianism? The product is a philosophy that sees the student as merely an animal who functions in a kind of stimulus/response/adaptation cycle. Education is tedious because its utilitarian nature subverts development of the ability to see the beauty that underlies much literature, history, and the natural sciences. At the same time, its collective nature devalues them as individuals. Their souls deadened, students see only an ugly world—one which they do not care to understand.

Progressive education has ultimately failed because its premises are anti-human. Mann’s and Dewey’s ideologies must bear much of the responsibility for the deplorable state of American public education.

How John Dewey Destroyed the Souls of Our Children

The sexual revolution has a well-known masculine bias. Though feminists have won real battles, the outcome of the war has never been in doubt. Unmooring sexuality from the home, from marriage, and from religion has benefited nobody more than lecherous, grasping men.

The two most consequential gains of the sexual revolution in my lifetime have been birth control and pornography, both of which have radically shaped the public square in the image of male desire. Both oral contraceptives and abortion have been cast as victories for female liberation, and to the degree that “liberation” means the weaponizing of our bodies against nature, this is true. But it is the men who have reaped the richest rewards (sex without children), without any of the tradeoff. Men, after all, need not concern themselves with the physiological effects of the pill, or with the surgeon’s knife, or with the risks of darkness and depression. It is the liberated women, not the men, who are asked to sacrifice their bodies for equality.

Likewise, pornography has been pitched as empowerment, the public affirmation of woman as a self-sufficient sexual being. If this is so, why are the kings of the mammoth porn industry so male? Why is Hugh Hefner lionized and eulogized as a social revolutionary, while the women in his sweatshops toil away, often at the cost of great social shaming and self-loathing? We haven’t even mentioned the porn industry’s influence on mainstream entertainment, expressed violently in the testimonies of women like Salma Hayek, coerced by Harvey Weinstein into filming a sexually explicit scene. And we could spend much time contemplating porn’s influence on the modern, Tinderized dating scene. Does the age of swipe-right sound like an egalitarian age to you? Or does it sound like a horny frat boy’s dreamland, a sex factory designed by a grown-up, amorous Augustus Gloop?

Purity and Prejudice

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Decadence

Anyone who has a large family—and I say this as someone who only has three kids, so I’m not holding myself up as an example—is in a certain way working against decadence. Anyone who takes up a religious vocation is working against decadence.

Then in the secular realm, I think you can imagine out of the currents of right-wing populism in the West a more communitarian conservative politics that might get us out of the “Reagan versus McGovern” trap we’re stuck in. I’m pretty pessimistic about that coming to fruition, but it’s certainly not impossible. And the fact that people are willing to vote for Trump suggests that they are willing to consider very strange alternatives to the status quo. You have to find at least slivers of optimism in that.

Then on the technological front, my basic view is if Silicon Valley succeeds in extending our lifespans by twenty years and we spend those lifespans wearing a VR headset, then Silicon Valley is plunging us deeper into decadence. But if Elon Musk actually succeeds in kickstarting a transportation revolution or putting human beings on Mars, then Silicon Valley will have been the place that started us on the path out of decadence.

The Fare Forward Interview with Ross Douthat

The doctor paused. She checked for a heartbeat. The injection hadn’t worked. He should have died, but instead his heart raced. A twitch of the leg confirmed that life still ran through his veins—innocent blood. He hadn’t tortured or raped Alicia Elmore. He hadn’t killed Delores Wells. He was innocent. But the law didn’t care. He received all the due process the law required. He must die.

First a leg. He recoiled from the doctor’s sterile grasp. But like Benefiel’s victims, he had no escape. The forceps closed. Pulled. Twisted. Relaxed. Next, an arm. Another arm. The torso stuck. Pop. The neck had snapped. Death came with one of the passes. The unborn boy, 21 weeks old, bled to death.

Every year approximately 10,000 unborn babies in the United States die this way, innocent blood spilled in the name of reproductive freedom. Of these victims, the press remains silent. Instead, on New Year’s Eve, The New York Times editorial board condemned capital punishment, calling for its abolition.

The editorial board supported its case with prose more fitting a Wallace Stegner novel, describing the impending death of a more sympathetic murderer, Alva Campbell, as “pathetic,” “vile,” “macabre,” “savage,” “racially biased,” and “pointless punishment.” Of Campbell’s victim, we learn only that Campbell killed the teenager named Charles Dials during a carjacking—because to The New York Times, Campbell is the true victim.

It’s Campbell who needs comforting. Campbell, a 69-year-old, who struggles to breathe. Campbell, who suffered for 80 minutes while doctors attempted to find a vein in which to administer the lethal injection. This portrait serves The New York Times’ goal of demonstrating “[c]apital punishment deserves a quick death.” While Campbell would have only been the 24th person executed last year, “The number should be zero,” according to the editorial board.

. . .

Now for the innocent victims of abortion. According to both pro-life and pro-choice organizations, only seven nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, about the time children can survive outside the womb. These countries that still allow abortion after that time include: Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam.

Also, while the number of executions in the United States consistently remain below 100 per year, statistics from 2016 from the Guttmacher Institute indicate doctors killed more than 10,000 unborn babies who were 21 weeks old or older. Dismemberment abortions are the physicians’ preferred method.

If international norms should tell, the United States should join the rest of the developed world and agree to reject this cruel and pointless practice. But no. Not long ago, The New York Times editorial board condemned the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy, writing: “Of course, the bill is not really about scientific findings of any sort. It is simply another attempt by conservative Republicans to undercut women’s constitutionally protected reproductive rights.”

The New York Times’ Selective Outrage About Murder Victims Will Sicken You

They should hand out awards for hypocrisy, preening, and lack of self-awareness.

On Golden Globes night, Hollywood preened in front of its black mirror as usual, but the degree to which it was blind to what was obvious to all observers was stranger than ever. It was like that time the pear-shaped Homer Simpson looked at his reflection and saw a torso rippling with musculature.

. . .

In short, when caught up in its most disturbing scandal since (at least) the Communist era, Hollywood’s rebuttal is exactly what Weinstein’s was: But we’re liberal! It may not be the case that liberalism and sexual abuse are linked — though nearly all of the men caught up in the pervnado in the last 90 days are strongly identified with the Left. But it is certainly the case that impeccable liberal and Democratic-party credentials did nothing to save Hollywood from a decades-long regime of sexual tyranny. What’s wrong with the entertainment industry won’t be cured by the quack remedies of Oprah Winfrey.

About That Golden Globes Fiasco

Abortion is a Holocaust

Ozymandias

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