January 05, 2015
A Stunning New Insight
How about a "Marxist view of liberalism as a single-minded defense of capitalism." Now there's a stunning new theory. It comes to us from Edmund Fawcett's new book, Liberalism: The Life of an Idea as reviewed by Katrina Forrester.
It must be something about the start of a new year that has the left is scrambling to explain six years of horrendous policy failure. Had these last six years not culminated in the resounding rejection of liberalism in the November midterms I'm sure there would be no such soul searching. As it turned out, even on the left the failures can't be ignored, so liberals, or progressives, as they so like to be called, are out with the explanations. This latest is a doozy, though. Marxism was really all about rescuing capitalism. Who knew!
Naturally, the basis of this new interpretation is an untruth.
For the defenders of Lockean liberalism, why liberals accommodated empire is a central puzzle: How could defenders of liberty defend colonial exploitation? ...Fawcett dissolves the puzzle. Exploiting the riches of empire abroad was one way for states to resolve political conflict and economic turmoil at home. Much of the time, debates about empire were just an extension of the question of how to pay for liberal capitalism.
It's not just that progressives are still talking about colonialism, long after colonial empires have ceased to exist. There is also the deliberate misrepresentation, about the nature of wealth. Progressives insist that economics is a zero-sum game. They reason that somebody, somewhere, has to have gotten poorer in order for anyone, like, oh let's say Warren Buffett, to get richer. It's a lie, really. But it's a crucial principle, without which this wonderful new theory makes absolutely no sense. Here's Ms. Forrester explaining Fawcett's supposed epiphany about who "pays for" capitalism.
It was in the 1930s that the question of how to rescue capitalism from itself was brought into sharpest relief. Fawcett looks to three economists who had different ideas about who would pay for the rescue: John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek and Irving Fisher. Each provided answers that would shape the future of economic thought and practice. Keynes’s focus on high wages was equivalent to earlier liberals’ concessions to demands for universal suffrage; his economic program was an example of liberalism’s economic compromise with democracy. Hayek’s willingness to belittle politics and look to the market for solutions harked back to an imaginary nineteenth-century laissez-faire liberalism and set the stage for the neoliberalism that followed. Fisher stressed the dangers of falling prices and the role of government monetary policy in preventing booms and busts. Though their recommendations were different, Fawcett emphasizes their similarities: all wanted to “limit capitalism’s disruptive instabilities” while protecting liberal principles. For Hayek (who worried least about capitalism’s disruptive potential), labor would bear the costs of saving capitalism. For Keynes and Fisher, because government paid for the rescue, in effect everyone played their part.
It's BS, of course. It really doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that capitalism, or the fruits of it to be more precise, pays for everything else. What Forrester and perhaps Fawcett don't get is that it isn't capitalism that needs to be paid for, it's those grubby little politicians who line their own pockets with taxpayer money by promising to fix the supposed problems of capitalism. Here's one: "the gap between the rich and the poor." It's a non-existent problem really. Nervertheless, taxing "the rich" and regulating everything else was supposed to fix it. But six years of such disastrous progressive policy under Obama have made the rich richer (those connected to the Democrats and Obama), the poor poorer, and progressives a bit desparate. And so the explanations come.
Or maybe sales pitch would be a better way to describe the progressive philosophy. In actuality, progressives are the new entrepreneurs. Their product is "fairness" which they deliver through expanded government, which at this point can fairly be described as bloated. Under Obama progressives have realized massive profits through government delivered fairness. Take Jonathan Gruber, one of ObamaCare's key architects. He pulled in an estimated $4 million by helping to fashion a deliberately misleading and complex piece of federal legislation that depended upon, in his words, the “stupidity of the American voter” for passage.
The beauty of making your money through government sponsored fairness is that you're not constrained by the same rules that might apply to car dealer, or a loan officer, or anybody else who might be involved in the unpardonable sin of making a profit. No. Champions of "social justice" can say whatever they like. "You can keep your doctor, period," comes to mind.
We know how that worked out. In spite of that there are still legions who favor centrally planned solutions like ObamaCare, who can disregard the actual fruits of it, who can pardon the lies that sold it. And in case you're wondering why, just remember this. There's a huge amount of money to be made in central planning. It's a wonderful thing — for everybody except the ones in whose names the wonderful plans are made.
Progressive policies don't work very well in the real world, and after a while people get it, and they push back against it. The 2014 midterms for instance. When that happens progressives fight for market share with new strategies, new messages, and brilliant new insights. Like how Marxism is really all about defending capitalism.
December 30, 2014
The Progressive Case for Fracking?
Progressives may be starting a painful march back toward the political center, if an editorial in the Wall Street Journal by James Bloodworth is any indication. In it Mr. Bloodworth makes The Progressive Case for Fracking. It's quite an inventive work of fiction, implying that there could be such a thing as progressive support for fracking.
Christmas came early for the world’s liberal democracies this year, with news in mid-December that repressive regimes from Russia to Venezuela and from Iran to Belarus are tumbling down an economic spiral. Who or what should we thank for this geopolitical yuletide? The neocons? Pro-democracy protesters? George W. Bush and Tony Blair ?
No. Thank instead American shale producers. The shale-gas and hydraulic-fracking revolution is lighting a figurative bonfire under the world’s petrocracies. Dictatorships that for years blackmailed the West in the knowledge that we would come crawling back for the black stuff are now catching a glimpse of a bleak future.
This ought to put a smile not only on the faces of free-market economists, but liberals and progressives, too. As America becomes a net exporter of energy, shale could help topple some of the world’s worst regimes.
Alas. Progressives have never demonstrated any interest in toppling the world's worst regimes. On the contrary, progressives are really envious of the world's worst regimes for the control they have over their peoples. It's a degree of control that progressives wish they could have. Then there would be "social justice" — once and for all.
Could Mr. Bloodworth be rewriting progressive history in hopes of rescuing the progressive brand? It now suffers the cumulative effects of decades of policy failure, both domestic and international. Good luck with that. The increase in shale oil production in the face of progressive opposition is yet another progressive defeat. Progressives do not applaud.
Instead we can expect them to rework their talking points so as to explain how this boost in oil production is really due to their own visionary policy preferences. It has begun. Mr. Bloodworth's editorial might represent the first salvo in a progressive counter-attack in their war to regain credibility.
James Bloodworth is the editor for the blog Left Foot Forward.
December 05, 2014
America's Suicide -- A Misdiagnosis
By Michael H. Davison
246 pages. Dapa Publishing, LLC
In his introduction to America's Suicide, Michael H. Davison discloses that the title for his original manuscript was The American Neurosis. He explains:
“One of the more salient features of neurosis is a wholesale flight from responsibility. The neurotic faults inner compulsions, spouse, government, society or whatever for his unhappiness.”
He goes on to explain that he was told by a respected clinical psychologist that the word “neurosis” is “fading from professional use,” so he changed his title “to the more attention grabbing,” America's Suicide. In any case, it is the flight from responsibility that has America on what Michael H. Davison believes is an inescapable path to suicide.
“The overarching theme of this book suggests that we do not know ourselves very well. Most political, social and personal conflicts to a major degree arise from this single fact and are not resolvable with methods that we commonly rely on to resolve them.
We must for the first time in history find ourselves before we permanently lose ourselves. We do not know who or what we are or what motivates us to dream, create, build, destroy or kill.”
In the end he offers a prescription of sorts. To America's citizens he says, grow up! Sound advice to be sure, and if more Americans would take it to heart the country will be the richer for it. But Mr. Davison is quite pessimistic about that actually ever happening.
“Americans are losing their freedom in part for failing to identify their enemy. When the United States finally reaches the dictatorship toward which we plunge, a great part of that tragedy will be the public's denial that they brought that catastrophe upon themselves.”
Mr. Davison concedes that setting more people onto the path of individual responsibility is not something that will happen automatically, yet he offers no concrete steps to encourage it.
He argues that the central conflict on the American political landscape is the tension between the collectivists and the individualists. Or to put it another way, it is the tension between those who favor more government and those who favor less. While the divide generally puts Democrats on the collectivist side and Republicans on the individualist side, Mr. Davison notes that Republicans can be collectivists, too.
Mr. Davison pronounces America's problem as psychological in nature, but the side one takes, collectivist vs. individualist, is ultimately decided based on what one thinks is in one's best interest. It is not neurosis for leftist politicians in the Democratic party, who also happen to be proponents of big government, to find that their interests are served by encouraging dependence upon government. And when, as a result, Americans at the bottom of the economic ladder are faced with the decision to accept government assistance and the dependency that goes with it, or to endure added hardship for the sake of their pride in independence, the choice is a rationale decision, not neurotic behavior. It is one in which differences are weighed and a choice is made that reflects what one believes is in his or her best interest insofar as he or she is able to tell.
We have now come to the point where many of today's “entrepreneurs” see big government as the vehicle for making their fortunes. Recently Jonathan Gruber, one of ObamaCare's key architects, made his own small fortune in this way. First, he helped to fashion a deliberately misleading and complex piece of federal legislation that depended upon, in his words, the “stupidity of the American voter” for passage. Then he raked in the consulting fees from several blue states as they implemented their state run health care exchanges. All to the tune of about $4 million.
So while self interest seems to be part of our problem, it is also the solution. Our American system of government was designed around the central fact that people do what they believe is in their best interest. Ours is a system of Checks and Balances in which the pursuit of self interest in one branch of government acts as a deterrent to it in the other branches. In that way government power is intended to be limited. What I would hope for in a book about America's dire circumstances, are some ideas about how we can re-stack the incentives in such a way that it is not in anybody's best interest to claim the mantle of public service while in reality soaking the taxpayer for millions.
While America's Suicide offers countless valid examples of where America is going off track, it never touches on the heart of it: how it works out that a select group of governing and connected elites can profit at the expense of America. It offers no specifics for averting the inevitable disaster that is predicted in its title, perhaps because Mr. Davison has thrown up his hands in despair. The best he offers are what I consider some rather dubious principles of a Rational and Responsible American Party. For example, Mr. Davison believes that Supreme Court decisions on the constitutionality of legislation should be subject to override by two thirds vote of both houses of congress. Third parties are rarely successful and one that offers that as a principle is unlikely to gain much support in my view.
I do not share Mr. Davison's pessimism, and I find America's Suicide something of a misdiagnosis.
November 06, 2014
An Agile Legislative Process?
Mike Lee, U.S. Senator from Utah, has a plan for the Republican Congress that convenes in January.
Republican leaders should embrace a more open-source strategy development model that includes everyone on the front end to avoid confusion, suspicion, and division on the back end. The last four years have repeatedly shown the folly of excluding anti-establishment conservatives from strategy formation—bills pulled from the floor, intra-Conference chaos, and back-biting in the press.
Inclusive legislative and strategy processes will come with tradeoffs, of course. Leaders will have to surrender some of their institutional power. Conservatives will have to be prepared to accept defeat, fair and square, if our ideas cannot carry the day. Members will have to expose themselves to inconvenient amendment votes. The results of some votes and the fates of certain bills may prove unpredictable. But the costs of an open-source, transparent process are worth it for the benefits of greater inclusion of more diverse voices and views, and for the opportunity such a process would offer to rebuild the internal and external trust necessary to govern.
Senator Lee's approach has some elements of the Agile Development Process, also known as Scrum. Agile is a software development process that relies on diverse, self-organizing teams. Development occurs in sprints of two or three weeks in duration. The team decides at the start of each sprint how many and which required features it can finish by the end of the sprint. Finish means that feature is ready for production.
If Republicans can find a way to apply Agile principles to the legislative process — a tall order — they can get some impressive and worthwhile results. Read all of Senator Lee's column. It's a good plan, and I think they can do it. But like Agile, it will require discipline.
Note: The author is a certified Agile Scrum Master.
November 03, 2014
Vote New Hampshire
Something to think about on your way to the polls:
Vote the Republican ticket!
Despair at Duke
A sure sign that the Democrats are in for a really rough day tomorrow is when stalwart lefties say we ought to cancel the election.
There was a time when midterm elections made sense — at our nation’s founding, the Constitution represented a new form of republican government, and it was important for at least one body of Congress to be closely accountable to the people. But especially at a time when Americans’ confidence in the ability of their government to address pressing concerns is at a record low, two-year House terms no longer make any sense. We should get rid of federal midterm elections entirely.
The excerpt above comes from a New York Times column, Cancel the Midterms, penned by Duke Professor David Schanzer and Duke junior, Jay Sullivan — presumably one of the professor's students. Curious combination, to say the least, a professor and a junior. Maybe Jay Sullivan is really connected, politically speaking.
But I digress. Up to now our friends on the left have been harping non-stop about the importance of the vote. Anything that might remotely be construed as an impediment to voting, such as having to show an ID to prove who you are when you vote, is a civil rights violation. Everybody ought to vote. On the left they even want people who are not U.S. citizens to vote. Actually, I think they especially want non-citizens to be able vote, and the less they know about America, its freedoms, and its issues, the better.
When it comes to voting, more is better. Except for now? Here we are down to the wire, but the polls continue to show that Republicans are probably going to win control of the Senate from Obama's Democrats. So, now lefties are saying never mind all that stuff about voting. Why do we have to have all these elections anyway? It's just way too much.
Peter Ingemi, a pro-life Massachusetts blogger, has sound advice for New Hampshire Republicans of all persuasions: Get out and vote for Scott Brown.
So I urge you , if you are a New Hampshire Tea Party voter, a second amendment defender or even like me, a strong pro-life voter and considered staying home or even voting 3rd party reconsider, because choosing to elect Scott Brown may do more for your cause than you can possibly imagine.
Imagine the depressing effect a Brown victory will have as left wing voters consider heading out to the polls in western states.
This year I plan to vote the Republican ticket, top to bottom. I urge all undecided voters to do the same.
October 24, 2014
The Florida Voucher Fight
Denisha Merriweather and the Florida Education Association have very different viewpoints on Florida's Tax Credit Scholarships Program. On the one hand the program got a ringing endorsement from Ms. Merriweather recently in the Wall Street Journal. She was one of Florida's low-income minority students who were able to take advantage of it. To say that the FTC Scholarship Program made a difference in her life would be quite an understatement. In her own words,
By the time I was in the fourth grade, I had been held back twice, disliked school, and honestly believed I’d end up a high-school dropout. Instead, three months ago, I earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of West Florida in interdisciplinary social science with a minor in juvenile justice. I am the first member of my family to go to college, let alone graduate. But this didn’t happen by chance, or by hard work alone. It happened because I was given an opportunity.
The difference maker was a scholarship that allowed me to go to a secondary school that was the right fit for me. I was lucky to be raised in Florida, home to the nation’s largest tax-credit scholarship program, a “voucher” program that helps parents pay for private schools. Here’s the cool part: The scholarships are financed entirely by charitable contributions, which are offset by tax credits.
The Florida Department of Education concurs: It's "Good news for choice!"
Good news for choice! To encourage private, voluntary contributions, to expand educational opportunities for children of families that have limited financial resources and to enable children in this state to achieve a greater level of excellence in their education, the 2001 Florida Legislature created s. 220.187, Florida Statutes, establishing the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. In 2010, the FTC Scholarship Program was expanded and renumbered as Section 1002.395, Florida Statutes.
The law provides for state tax credits for contributions to nonprofit scholarship funding organizations, called SFOs. The SFO's then award scholarships to eligible children of families that have limited financial resources.
As uplifting as Ms. Merriweather's story truly is, somehow the Florida Education Association wants to kill the program that made it possible. The tax-credit scholarship program has been around since 2001, created under Republican Governor Jeb Bush, but recently the FEA has filed a lawsuit that seeks to end it altogether. Says the FEA:
"Florida's voucher programs are a risky experiment that gambles taxpayers' money and children's lives," Florida Education Association Vice President Joanne McCall said in a statement sent out in conjunction with a press conference in Tallahassee. "Florida's voucher schools are largely unregulated, don't have to follow the state's academic standards, don't have to hire qualified teachers and don't have to prove to the state that they are using public money wisely."
You might think that ten-plus years of positive results would allay FEA fears of the risk to children. In fact, Florida comes in first in the nation for developing reading proficiency among low-income fourth-graders. Still, the teachers union wants it gone. Sorry, but the pretended concern about some nebulous risk to Florida's children doesn't ring true.
As ususal, we can follow the money.
Education and advocacy groups are targeting a Florida voucher program that this year will draw $357.8 million in taxpayer money to help send 69,000 low-income students to private schools. The groups filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging that the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, begun in 2001 under former Gov. Jeb Bush, violates the state constitution by diverting tax dollars from public schools.
The tax credit cap, currently 357.8 million, will increase to $447.3 million for next year. Education and advocacy groups (advocates for the Democratic party, no doubt) want that money in public schools where it can feed union dues which will ultimately find their way into Democratic campaign coffers. For their part Democrats are great champions of public education rather than school choice. They know where the money is.
There is another much more insidious aim. Think about who Denisha Merriweather might have become without the FTC Scholarship that paved her way to a college degree. Ms. Merriweather describes that Denisha as a child.
I grew up with my biological mother and we moved around constantly. This really took a toll on my grades—Ds and Fs were the norm. My poor grades and the fact that I was two years older than most of my classmates angered and embarrassed me. I was “disruptive” and fought with other students. Teachers tried to help, but nothing they did seemed to work. I felt no matter how hard I tried, the results would be the same. Learning became a nightmare—a punishment for being a child.
That is the Denisha Merriweather that Democrats would prefer to have as a voting citizen. Without a course correction Ms. Merriweather fully expected to be a high school dropout. Angry, embarrassed, resentful. Think how much more easily she could be persuaded by the Democratic message. You know the one: Her lot in life, low skill, low education, low income, all of that, is because she's caught in a racist trap. A system rigged against her. Yes, it's almost certain that she'd buy into that message.
The funny thing is, had she been stuck in that boat, she would have been right to believe that racism put her there. It's a racist trap, alright, but it's not the doings of a Republican party that Democrats endlessly accuse of racism. (If you disagree with Barack Obama what else could you be but racist?) No, the racist trap is the doing of a Democratic party that takes deliberate, concrete actions to deny opportunity to disadvantaged school children. That's the racist trap. That's what the Democrats are doing in Florida.
October 23, 2014
Obama Is Way Too Cool
With no letup in sight the Obama administration blunders through crisis after crisis. The mid-term elections are just weeks away, so Joshua Green of Bloomberg tries his best to chalk up the blundering to public misunderstanding of Obama's crisis management "style." Oh, and Republican obstuctionism, too. On that count Exhibit A is this bit of red meat for the lefty partisans. (All emphasis below is mine)
It’s true that Obama’s task is made considerably more difficult by the antipathy that has marked the Republicans’ response to Ebola. Most seem more intent on stopping Democrats than on stopping the contagion. Their ads politicizing the virus have only added to the climate of fear. And their filibuster of Obama’s surgeon general nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has also silenced an authoritative voice on public health, for reasons as small-minded as those dictating the party’s line on Ebola: They’re carrying water for the National Rifle Association, which objects to classifying gun violence as a public-health issue.
The Boston Globe, not your everyday right-wing rag, reports a different take on the Murthy "filibuster."
Republicans, however, noted that Democrats who control the Senate could have confirmed Murthy without any help from Republicans under rule changes enacted last year that allow confirmation with a simple majority.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid has declined to put the nomination up for a vote, with a leadership aide telling the Globe in March that there was uncertainty over whether some Democrats would support it.
Turns out it was the all too typical Harry Reid filibuster. Just never bring it up.
But anyway, on to the analysis of Obama's crisis management process. It's cerebral. Really. It is. At least according to Joshua Green, it is. He seems to think "Obama’s crisis-management process as akin to a high-level graduate seminar." Yeah.
Six years in, it’s clear that Obama’s presidency is largely about adhering to intellectual rigor—regardless of the public’s emotional needs. The virtues of this approach are often obscured in a crisis, because Obama disdains the performative aspects of his job.
Hmmm. Maybe Green should have left off that last part. Suppose we think of "the performative aspects" in the way you might think of your annual performative review. You know, where your'e hoping you might be in for a pay raise? So Obama, he "disdains" doing his job? How's that supposed to work?
Well that's not exactly news, and we've seen how it works, which is: not. Obama can never bring himself to do anything except campaign and play gotcha games with Republicans. And everybody else for that matter. From blowing up budget negotiations with John Boehner to blowing up the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraqi President al Maliki, Obama is always into politial maneuvering so that the inevitable failure is somebody elses fault.
And journalists like Joshua Green go along with that. Consider the BS about the Republican filibuster. But Green wants to have it both ways. He wants to appear to be critical of President Obama to give the rest of his nonsense some weight.
Even so, the failure is mostly Obama’s. It didn’t require extraordinary foresight to anticipate the public freakout once the infection spread beyond Duncan. Obama, who’s better acquainted with Washington dysfunction than anybody, should have anticipated the partisan acrimony.
Right. Obama should have anticipated that Republicans would be partisan. And of course, he should have realized that the public are just not as cool as he is. Tripped up by his own glorious brilliance. Tragic.
October 22, 2014
Jeanne Shaheen Ducks The Question
In last night's debate between Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Shaheen was confronted with this (apparently very difficult) question: "Imagine you are at home wearing your New Hampshire citizen hat and you get a call from pollster asking the following question: Do you approve of the job President Obama is doing? Now there'll be a chance to follow up but this is a yes or no answer. Do you approve, yes or no?"
What a great question, and it put Senator Shaheen in a tough spot. If she answered yes, it would be an admission that she hasn't really been at all in tune with her constituents. If she said no, she would have to explain why she voted with Obama 99% of the time.
The question we need to have answered is this. Does Senator Shaheen support the perpetuation of President Obama's policies? By ducking the moderator's question the Senator let her voting record speak for itself, and the answer it gives is yes. She supports continuing President Obama's policies. And it will be impossible for New Hampshire citizens to escape the detrimental impact of those policies if Democrats hold the Senate.