All posts by daner

It’s almost over.

“In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible to any public office of trust or profit in the Republic. But I do not repine, for I am a subject of it only by force of arms.”
– H.L. Mencken

“Like all well-brought-up youngsters, I had been told that it was the duty of every citizen to vote — reasons not stated.”
– Albert Jay Nock

“The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.”
― Frédéric Bastiat

Brexit Reaction

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the comically unhinged reaction to #Brexit by the progressive left on both sides of the Atlantic.

Perhaps the anxiety is rooted in a fear of seeing their worldview successfully challenged. Despite most Americans having no idea how the EU operates or why it is such an anti-democratic sham that Europeans across party lines loathe, progressive leftists are hell bent on making sure their audience know that Brexit was nothing more than a bunch of elderly white racists succumbing to “fear” and “hate.”

The EU immiserates its citizens via the euro and flagrantly rejected Irish, French and Dutch “no” votes to the Lisbon Treaty. It’s unelected commission has absolute authority to propose continent-wide legislation and regulation, while the EU Parliament serves as a mere rubber stamp to the Commission with up or down votes. An overwhelming number of Europeans don’t know or care who their MEPs (Member of European Parliament) are. The Eurocrats are fanatics with one aim: ever-closer union. That they never deny and in fact frequently boast of their zeal to politically integrate all of Europe no matter the costs should be an own-goal of sorts, a gaffe that undermines EU credibility. Instead, Eurocrats get away with it because our progressive internationalist media and elite fully agree with this aim, and therefore never challenge them or question the merits of unaccountable supranational technocracies.

Why? Because the left despises the self-governing nation state. Better to have a remote, unelected harem of experts and technocrats “nudging” and guiding the helpless masses through an international bureaucracy. It’s the same ethos that informs partisans of an ever-growing federal bureaucracy in America, a sea of acronyms and faceless agencies doing the real work of regulating and red-tape that Congress just can’t be depended on to do (because if they were, they’d be voted out for contemplating even a smidgen of the rule-making we get from the administrative state embedded within the Executive branch).

But, as George Will writes today, “the revival of nationhood is a prerequisite for the reinvigoration of self-government through reclaimed national sovereignty. Hence June 23, 2016, is now among the most important dates in postwar European history.”

Exactly. And that is why the left is so mad, and why all you hear about Brexit from lefties is the “false consciousness” that infected Leave voters in the form of hate, xenophobia and racism. The whole issue is democratic legitimacy and the question of who governs Britain: Parliament, as it had for centuries, or Brussels? Is this really such an abstract concern that it deserves to be ignored in the coverage? Because that is how progressive media is treating it, opting to focus – yet again – on divining the hearts of men and women they’ve never met and conclude that they are all foul, unenlightened racists.

George Will: “By breaking the leftward-clicking ratchet that moves steadily, and only, toward more “pooled” sovereignty and centralization of power, Brexit refutes the progressive narrative that history has an inexorable trajectory that “experts” discern and before which all must bow. The E.U.’s contribution to this fable is its vow to pursue “ever-closer union.””

The “arc of history” doesn’t exist.

One Year Later

On the one year anniversary of Donald Trump entering the presidential race, it is worth looking back. Before Trump, it was possible for right-leaning Americans to take comfort in the principles that inform conservatism. Ours was the side of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and ordered liberty. Theirs was the side of state central planning, coercive mandates and regulations, and identity politics. Our team was lining up a deep bench of accomplished and impressive presidential candidates, while they were talking themselves into a robotic, uninspiring and corrupt Hillary Clinton.

On June 16th, 2015 Donald Trump entered the arena and proceeded to destroy every illusion conservatives held about the Republican Party. GOP voters nominated a candidate who they believe speaks for them, someone who says out loud and in public the things they are too cowed by political correctness to say. Were this the sole explanation for Trump’s support, it would be easier to dissect: backlash against political correctness is indeed warranted and worthwhile.

Alas, the Trump movement is more than rage against the establishment machine; embedded within the celebrity-fueled movement is an identifiably left-of-center policy agenda causing consternation among conservatives. The most visible aspect of this agenda (because it is what Trump talks about on the stump more than anything else) is protectionism, the belief that free trade and the global economy have been net negatives for Americans, a view that until Trump was associated almost entirely with the anticapitalist left. Opposition to free trade is rooted in Bastiat’s timeless counsel concerning the “seen and the unseen.” As a 2013 Mercatus study declares: “The benefits of free international trade are often diffuse and hard to see, while the benefits of shielding specific groups from foreign competition are often immediate and visible.” Efficient supply chains resulting in broader access to cheaper goods are not as readily apparent as decaying towns and rotting factories. It requires only a rudimentary understanding of economics or, failing that, minimal imaginative capability, to grasp Bastiat’s meaning and thus shed the adolescent belief in government’s capacity to manage society’s problems. 

Trump is suspect on his commitment to the first two amendments in the Bill of Rights (he likely doesn’t know what is contained in the rest), which should be disqualifying for any Republican candidate for President. He advocates for higher minimum wage laws, possesses no understanding of religious liberty or pro-life sentiments, believes “the rich” ought to pay more taxes, is the definition of a crony capitalist, and is indistinguishable from Bernie Sanders on trade. His army of followers include a toxic minority of vile racists and white nationalists who have drunk so deeply the left’s cultural messaging that they proudly adopt skin-deep identity politics, clamoring not for smaller government but for a redistribution of government spoils to the white working class.

This amounts to a final capitulation to another of Bastiat’s warnings: a free society’s descent into a will-to-power fight between factions, each using an ever-expanding law to obtain spoils, applying the force of the state to expropriate from its opposition. The Trump movement is a giant white flag surrender to Big Government that effectively substitutes the Tea Party/libertarian-infused brief against Leviathan with factional populism demanding its share from “Daddy” Government.   

These painful realizations confronting conservatives and right-libertarians since Trump’s emergence lead to the depressing conclusion that the American right is not the principled defender of small government that we wanted to believe. Instead it is an angry, frustrated mob reaching for the shiniest object it can as a salve to feelings of impotence, futility and betrayal. The early Tea Party represented a return to principle, a call to reduce spending, to halt the expansion of government, and to restore the Constitutional order and separation of powers gradually deteriorating under both parties. It is a shame that such an opportunity was squandered.

And yet… while I will not vote for Trump, neither will I vote for Hillary. The progressive ethos animating the Democratic Party is orders of magnitude worse than Trumpism. Riddled with contradictions and confusion, progressivism is about deception. Secular preachers of social justice insist they have “the facts” and “science,” but actually they are nothing more than a fashionable clique of Sneetches, preening and strutting and signaling, all to convey their tolerance. Ironically, the highest virtue in the cult of diversity is conformity.

And that conformity begets a unified worldview based on lies.

The left lies routinely about guns, abortion, Islam, the minimum wage, climate change, rape culture, unemployment, healthcare, the effects of the welfare state, and much besides. I’ve no doubt that a significant chunk of Trump’s support is fueled by angry reaction to these lies. I am sympathetic. I only wish we had the good sense to hold in our minds competing truths: political correctness and progressivism are a scourge on society, and Donald Trump is unfit to be the avatar of our opposition against it.

All that remains is to enlist in our little platoons.

The Progressive Delusion

Anyone looking for an explanation as to why the left went all in on identity politics and matters of conscience need only look at their record where they have long held political sway.

“Blue America,” defined as states that have not voted Republican in presidential elections since the eighties, is lagging “Red America” in virtually every economic category, and the gap is widening. Net migration from blue states to red over the past decade is staggering and the progressive planners are feeling the pain of losing so many taxpayers to fund their social democracy.  And much as activists might salivate over the prospect of “turning Texas blue” or of flooding red states with progressive migrants, the truth is that the blue state diaspora has not effected any real shift in states’ partisan affiliations. People motivated to “vote with their feet” typically do so out of raw economic self-interest and therefore are less inclined to factor politics into the decision to relocate. But even if many of these domestic migrants are motivated by progressive politics and seek to transform states, the aggregate effect of people looking for work and then finding it is generally not one of antipathy toward their new home; quite the opposite. Democrats who move to places like Austin, Orlando, Raleigh or Phoenix to find work and come to appreciate the policy agenda that facilitates vibrant economies are growing in number. Writ large, this phenomenon explains Reagan Democrats. After the malaise of the seventies, the Reagan revolution ushered in growth and opportunity nationwide. Blue collar workers and those without degrees saw with their own eyes how deregulation and lower taxes lead to broad prosperity. Most were Democrats frustrated with high gas prices, high unemployment and higher inflation, yet they were ready to dump partisan affiliation in favor of economic growth and when they got what they were promised, they registered their appreciation by giving Reagan forty-nine states (may Minnesota forever live in shame) in 1984. Ultimately, paychecks trump partisanship.

A similar thing is happening today, only it is the states instead of the federal government leading the way. Federalism – the system of decentralized power and state autonomy championed by Madison for its facility to cater competing experiments within the republic – is ascendant.

One reason to cheer the decline of Democrats’ political fortunes is that it will accelerate the left’s budding flirtation with federalism. As Matt Welch reminds us, in the wake of George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004, desperate Democrats looked to states’ rights as a panacea. “On gay marriage, marijuana, even environmental regulation, progressives were getting in touch with their inner decentralist.” Today the left has won genuine victories on same-sex marriage, gun restrictions, minimum wage and tax increases and, most notably, straight legalization of marijuana. All were achieved at the state level while federal policy lagged behind. Of course, being progressives, the embedded intent in state initiatives is always to lay the groundwork for federal extension. But the fact that the left is working to advance their agenda at the state level at all is encouraging. It is the way things are supposed to work.

Experience can be a hell of a teacher and as the drug war and police state escalate in proportion to the growth of government, progressives are starting to realize government’s inherent dangers. The rising tension between federal prohibition and state legalization of marijuana is instructive. How will they react when the feds bust pot dispensaries in Boulder or Spokane? I doubt it will be to say “well, it’s the law, and we progressives must bow to the benevolent will of our federal government.” Or is it more likely that such an experience would likely nudge a few leftists ever so slightly towards the view that politics and legislation should be conducted as locally as possible? Baby steps to federalism are better than the road to serfdom.

If there is hope yet for grass roots lefties to see the light as a result of government’s expanding reach, the same cannot be said for the leading lights of progressivism. Three celebrity stooges for an unabashed progressive agenda, Elizabeth Warren, Bill DeBlasio and Bernie Sanders believe that cronyism and inequality can be cured by adding more cronyism and bureaucratic oversight to an already straitjacketed economy. Like Occupy Wall Street, their answer to the genuine problem of corporatism and crony privilege is not to fix the underlying incentives that create corruption but to make sure that they are the ones in charge. They have no problem with the federal reserve or quantitative easing, the true culprits of widening income inequality. All are whole hog supporters of the Ex-Im Bank, an almost comical embodiment of special interest and regulatory capture that privileges large corporations over the interests of smaller competitors. Economist Veronique de Rugy’s extensive research “show[s] that the Export-Import Bank’s top beneficiaries constitute a large portion of total financial assistance—and therefore have plenty of reasons to support the upcoming reauthorization.” Elizabeth Warren wants to keep the Ex-Im Bank because to a progressive, eliminating any part of Leviathan is tantamount to admitting failure. So what if the only people in favor of keeping the bank are its direct beneficiaries, Boeing and GE? It is simply more important to the progressive identity that the benighted government they consider theirs be forever guarded. Denying the bureaucracy its ability to meddle in everyday Americans’ lives would be tantamount to stripping however many championships Alabama football claims and make Charlton Heston’s position on gun rights look tame by comparison. What truly vexes is the lack of any question from Warren’s rabid supporters about whether her support for the bank of cronyism is a good idea. The silence speaks volumes and suggests that OWS was never about tackling cronyism. Only the most confused socialist could rail against the injustice of rigged games and corrupt power and call in the next breath for further consolidation of power in the form of more rules and regulations. The farce that passes for leftwing “populism” is in reality just another primal scream against capitalism and a call for mass redistribution of wealth for the sake of fairness. To echo Milton Friedman, “I don’t believe in fairness. I believe in freedom.”

As progressive-led cities across America suffer under terrible policies and worse corruption, it is the poorer citizens who suffer most, from education to crime to jobs. If Democrats held even an ounce of compassion for poor people as they claim, wholesale changes to the public union, tax-and-spend model would have been undertaken long ago. No such changes were made of course, let alone contemplated, since it is the only model they know. As Bill McGurn attests in the Wall Street Journal, progressivism “can claim its victories, here making it more expensive for employees to hire workers, there enshrining some race or gender grievance into law, here again imposing some new tax on millionaires. As a governing philosophy, however, progressive cures tend to leave the people the movement claims to want to help most – the poor and the working class – in worse shape.”

The poor are starting to notice how progressive policy “works” in practice. Black community leaders and Hispanic conservatives are pointing to different approaches to poverty and education because if one thing is clear, it is that America’s urban environments are in crisis and conservatives have not been at the helm of this sinking ship.

Because “progressive leaders [have] few examples of thriving progressive states and cities to point to,” they delude themselves into believing that Americans place matters of petty cultural disagreement above kitchen table concerns. The left is thoroughly convinced of their moral superiority, on everything from compassion, empathy and tolerance to women’s issues and sexuality. In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking the whole Democratic platform is about sex. Or race. Or “science!” Not a lot of particulars or specifics or even slight departures from the status quo regarding opportunity or upward mobility. It is like they believe that denial and obfuscation are enough to keep them in power, and once in power, prior transgressions will just fade away, especially as they work their will on the agenda that the American people really want, even if they don’t know it yet.

The progressive delusion is twofold: delusion about the reality of their economic and political stewardship of urban America and further delusion that economic performance is secondary to cultural considerations. Essentially, the Democrats are betting that cultural grievance and contempt for the “other side” will be enough to neutralize whatever fallout they suffer from being routinely exposed as incompetent inner city stewards. Ready for Hillary should be inspiring. If nothing else, it will be delusional.

 

Correct the Record

“It’s a measure of the left’s cultural victory that even to recite that fact these days is jarring.”
– Daniel Hannan

What is he on about? Watch:

In under five minutes Hannan puts the lie to a widespread belief that fascists and communists were on opposite ends of the spectrum. The following quotations are from the video.

“The reason it jars today is because a strange political calculus has come about whereby we define compassionate as left wing and nasty as right wing.”

This calculus was the result of an existential dilemma for the western left: how to continue in politics when your ideology and principles are laid bare for the world to see? Rather than accept responsibility for the folly of collectivism, the left spent the latter half of the twentieth century methodically rewriting history so that henceforth all study of European fascism could be conveniently pitted against European communism and the conclusion would thus be “well they were all bad.” Today it would indeed be jarring to say in polite company that fascism and communism were one and the same. The rewrite worked as today’s conventional wisdom places the fascists and socialists on opposite sides.

“But as a matter of observed historical fact, it couldn’t be further from the truth. These were parties that had emerged from the revolutionary tradition; first in Italy and then in the rest of Europe. They marched on May Day under red flags. They were anti-property, anti-monarchy, they wanted state control of industry, they wanted to remove the powers of the church, they believed in raising the working man over the old order, as their heirs do to this day.”

This should play on loop in Times Square. It could be like in The Lego Movie when Wyldstyle rallies the masses against Lord Business on Taco Tuesday, only instead of fighting one man in thrall to central planning and totalitarian control we fight the ideology itself. It is not a new fight. Unfortunately, Marxism is a resilient and seductive ideology that stubbornly refuses to die. Because it was founded explicitly as a rejection of capitalism and owing to the emotions inherent in that rejection, it becomes clear why it survived once understood as a timeless refuge for the aggrieved and emotional. Today’s popular socialism goes by any other name: progressivism, environmentalism, feminism, anti-trade populism, or most harmfully, bureaucratic administration, which is nothing if not the apotheosis of rule-by-expert that would have made Bismarck blush. Besides Bernie Sanders (and kudos to him for honesty) the socialist label is applied to nobody when there is socialism all around us. 1930’s Europe did not consist of such socialist movements in disguise as we have today.

“As a matter of straight record, in the words of the historian George Watson, there is no question that the Nazis regarded themselves as socialists, and were regarded as such by socialist contemporaries, including social democrats.”

As Hannan points out, leftists typically counter that Hitler purged communists and interned trade unionists, QED.  As if like-minded organizations never erupt in bitter conflict over means to the same end. Disagreement between Nazis and Bolsheviks over the best route to the workers paradise did not separate them from their revolutionary ideals nor from their shared disdain for the true enemy.

“The one kind of ideology that both kinds of socialists regarded as beyond redemption, not as heretical but as utterly evil was free market capitalism.”