Friday, February 24, 2017

When the judicial becomes the political

by Janet Albrechtsen

The bonfire of the vanities lit daily by left-liberals since Donald Trump became the US President eclipses Tom Wolfe’s novel about arrogance, sanctimony and ego in 1980s New York.

These 21st-century masters of the left-liberal universe are determined to raze Trump’s presidency and put down, like a lame dog, a revolution of deplorables. As if it’s for their own good.

There was more fuel for the fire this week with Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court. However, rather than immediately condemn all attacks against Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch as misguided left-liberal bile, this battle is both inevitable and legitimate. When the nation’s highest court enters politics, appointments become part of the political circus.

To understand the wild intersection of law and politics in the US, one needs only to recall that last July Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called for Trump to resign from the presidential race. “He’s a faker,” she said. “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Don­ald Trump as our president,” Ginsburg said in an interview with The New York Times.

The President’s pick is a 49-year-old whip-smart scholar, a deep thinker, well-educated, and a beautiful legal writer to boot. What’s not to like? He’s also a lawyer and judge who believes that judges distinguish themselves from politicians by taking an oath to uphold the law as it is, rather than reshaping it to be what they want the law to be.

Gorsuch is what legal scholars call a “textualist” who interprets the law to provide a stable, predictable set of rules according to the words of a statute and, more importantly, the words of the US Constitution.

Following in the footsteps of former Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year, Gorsuch rejects the arrogance of judges who discern the meaning of laws from the apparent brilliance of their own minds, guided by their personal social policy preferences.

For good reason, Gorsuch is favoured by constitutionalists at America’s leading think tanks such as the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. In a lecture last year, Gorsuch recognised Scalia as a legal lion whose career was a reminder of the differences between judges and legislators.

Writing in the National Review in 2005, Gorsuch admonished American liberals for their “overweening addiction to the courtroom” as the arena to settle social policy when such matters ought to be determined by legislators. It leads, he said, to the politicisation of the judiciary.

While Republicans and Democrats can argue over legal method, they can’t argue with the fact that the US Supreme Court is now a political institution.

That transformation makes Trump’s presidency even more troubling to left-liberals. Gorsuch’s nomination is just the beginning of Trump’s legacy that promises to alter the direction of the Supreme Court long after he has vacated the White House.

A single new conservative justice to replace the conservative Scalia may not immediately tilt the court towards conservativism on every issue. After all, last June the Supreme Court, in a 5-3 judgment with swing justice Anthony Kennedy siding with progressives, struck down abortion restrictions in Texas. What worries left-liberals is: what happens next?

Two liberal justices, Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, are aged 83 and 80 respectively, and Kennedy is 79. If Trump has the opportunity to replace Ginsburg, that will be her worst nightmare and his sweet revenge, delivering a majority of firm constitutionalists on the bench to determine everything from abortion to gun rights. Beyond the nation’s highest court, Trump is also set to fill 128 vacancies on lower federal courts, which hear more than 50,000 cases a year and decide influential matters that stand unless overturned by the Supreme Court.

No wonder Democrats are girding their loins for a fight in the 100-member Senate. While confirmation of Gorsuch’s nomination only requires a majority vote, Democrats can try to delay the vote with the American ploy of filibustering. A cloture motion to stop the filibuster requires 60 Senate votes, meaning some Democratic support will be needed.

Yet, for all the filibuster talk, after five days of debate during the controversial nomination of Clarence Thomas — accused of sexual harassment by law professor Anita Hill — the Senate confirmed Thomas 52-48.

To be sure, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer wants to fight Trump’s nomination “tooth and nail”. That’s easy for the senator from liberal New York to say. Those Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018 from states where Trump prevailed last year may be more cautious. Sniffing the new wind, Democratic senators didn’t follow the sore-loser House Democrats who sat out Trump’s inauguration. Already, conservative lobby group Judicial Crisis Network has said it will spend $US10 million to pressure the five or so very red-state Democratic senators to support Gorsuch’s appointment.

The choice of Supreme Court justice matters to millions of American voters in ways that don’t compute elsewhere. At the presidential election, exit polls revealed that one in five voters regarded the composition of the Supreme Court as the most important factor in their voting decision. Trump won over 56 per cent of these voters to Clinton’s 41 per cent. Can you imagine an Australian voter telling an exit pollster that he or she voted a certain way to ensure the High Court was stacked with the right kind of judges?

The polarised debate over the Supreme Court appointments is both new and inevitable. As Scalia explained to me in an interview in his chambers some years ago, he was confirmed by the US Senate 98 to 0. “I couldn’t get 60 votes today because of what has happened in the interim is that people have figured out what the name of the game is,” he laughed. “Once upon a time, presidents and senators said, ‘yeah we want to pick a good lawyer, someone who knows how to read a text, understands its history, is a fair person, you know, won’t lean to one side or the other, has a modicum of judicial demeanour’, blah, blah, blah,” Scalia said.

“But they have come to realise that basically what this court is doing is rewriting the constitution from term to term, putting in new rights, pulling out old ones. And if that’s what they’re doing, by God, the most important thing is; ‘I want someone who’s going to write the Constitution that I like.’ And that’s what’s going on.”

Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 abortion rights case, detonated the boundaries between law and politics. When a majority of the Supreme Court reworked the words of the due process clause in the 14th Amendment to the US constitution to discover a new abortion right for women, it wasn’t just anti-abortionists baulking at the blatant judicial activism.

Constitutionalists, be they lawyers or laypeople, believe that social policies should be legislated by democratically elected politicians, rather than meddling, unelected judges. More than 40 years later, abortion rights still rage as a political firestorm because a handful of judges supposed that they should legislate their preferred social policies from the bench.

What Scalia called the “big A” explains why the number of hours judicial nominees spend being grilled by the Senate’s judiciary committee shot up from single digits between 1925 and the 1970s to double digits since the 80s. Last year Republicans refused to even allow hearings to proceed to confirm Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland. “Delay, delay, delay,’’ Trump said, echoing Republican demands that the new president pick the new Supreme Court judge.

Hence, it’s reasonable for The New York Times columnist David Leonhardt to demand that Democrats block Trump’s nomination.

“Democrats simply cannot play by the old set of rules now that the Republicans are playing by a new one.” What is entirely illegitimate is the brazen attempt by the paper and Democrats to paint Gorsuch as a legal extremist. To put it in language that The New York Times sophisticates might understand, that’s faux news.

On Thursday, Trump told Senate Republicans to “go nuclear” if they have to. That means deploying an existing Senate rule that ­allows for a change to the numbers so that a simple majority suffices to bring on a vote to confirm Gorsuch.

Old rules, new rules, nuclear rules, broken rules. Who can keep up? The only certainty is that Trump’s nomination of an impeccable scholar will be another ghoulish political bunfight.



How does placing sanctions on Russia help America?

Ukraine, which has neither historical nor cultural links to Crimea, holds no valid title to this piece of real estate. Crimea was part of Russia from 1783, when Russia wrested it from the Ottoman Empire, until 1954, when Premier of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev, ina symbolic gesture, transferred Crimea from the Russian Republic to the Ukrainian Republic. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukrainians gained independence and Crimea became part of a new state called Ukraine. The Russian population of Crimea found itself trapped under Ukrainian rule. Pro-Russian sentiments - ranging from recognition of the official status of the Russian language to outright secession - had always been prevalent in Crimea.

Furthermore, Russians universally perceive Crimea as an inextricable part of their patrimony; every square inch of Sevastopol's land is soaked with Russian blood spilled in numerous wars for this vitally strategic gem of Russia.

An aloofness of history led the proponents of sanctions to treat the acquisition of Crimea as a moral issue. As a consequence, they fall prey to the illusion that the benefits of the removal of sanctions will eventually outweigh its cost. In contrast, the Russians see the acquisition of Crimea as a geopolitical issue paramount to their security as well as a fulfillment of nationalistic aspirations and are ready for sacrifices beyond the West's comprehension. In this manner, the outcome of sanctions is preordained; even if sanctions are kept in place for the next hundred years, they will not weaken Russian's resolve. As far as Moscow is concerned, Crimea is a fait accompli.  

Eastern Ukraine, populated predominantly by the Russians, has the same issue with the government in Kiev as does the population of Crimea, and aspired to independence and self-determination just as did the people of Cyprus, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, who were forced to tolerate a mélange of incompatibilities.

From every standpoint - political, economic and military - the imposition of sanctions on Russia was the greatest lunacy committed by American policy in the post-Second World War era. It profoundly affected the evolution of American foreign policy from harnessing American idealism toward policies inconsistent with Russian dignity and nationalistic passion. It transformed America from being loved and aspired to, to being widely hated; it inflamed militaristic tendencies and fostered Russian foreign policy in the direction of adversarial relations with the West.

Most importantly, the practical result of this ideological abdication had a devastating impact on the development of Russian democracy. Before the sanctions Russia was steadily advancing toward the club of democratic nations. While we can concede that Vladimir Putin is not Thomas Jefferson, we should also acknowledge that every subsequent Soviet/ Russian leader after Joseph Stalin was more benevolent than his predecessor, an evolution in which the moral authority of "the land of the free" has played such a decisive role.

But when President Obama joyfully announced that the sanctions were hurting the Russian economy, he confirmed Putin's narrative that the West was deliberately inflicting hardship on the Russian people. Russia against the West, a familiar chronicle of the Cold War, has consolidated Russians around their president to an extent we have not seen since the cult of Joseph Stalin. Putin's approval rating has skyrocketed, enabling him to accuse his political opponents of being in collaboration with the enemy, suppress dissent, prosecute his critics and in some instances eliminate them altogether.

The longer Crimea and Easter Ukraine stand in the way of Russian-American rapprochement, the more intransigent and authoritarian Russia becomes. In the international arena, just like during the Cold War, increased tensions will be accompanied by continued Russian attempts to achieve a strategic advantage causing upheavals in various parts of the world.

If a strategy does not accomplish its stated objectives, a reasonable observer may conclude that the strategy has failed. As Talleyrand said of the Bourbons after the French Revolution, "They had neither learned nor forgotten anything."



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mr Trump's manner of speaking

Mr Trump's language has been much criticized.  It is said to be disjointed, illogical and to ignore all rules of English grammar.  Against that, it has just won the man the Presidency of the United States.  What is going on?

Various people have noted some strengths in the way Trump communicates.  For instance, he uses very simple words and simple sentences.  He repeats himself a lot so that you will be sure to get his point.  But there is more to it than that.  For a start he uses concepts that have a lot of emotional power -- patriotism and safety from danger in particular.

Most important of all, however, he speaks not as a polished intellectual but as a man of the people.  He speaks like a welder or a farmer or a burger flipper.  Yet he has a degree in economics and has long moved in the most exalted circles.  How come he speaks in such a strange way for his background?

I think it is partly learned.  A couple of Australian examples are, I think, enlightening.  Bob Hawke was one of Australia's most popular Prime Ministers. He had been a Rhodes scholar and came from an educated family.  Yet in his speeches he always spoke with a broad Australian accent and used a lot of slang and colloquial expressions.  Like Trump, he sounded like a worker, though he was nowhere nearly as disjointed as Trump.

So it was very amusing when he retired.  When interviewed after his retirement, he would speak in an educated way -- both in accent and in vocabulary.  He had been "putting it on" as Australians say.  He had been pretending to be what he was not.

So where did he learn to do that?  He had long involved himself in the union movement.  And a lot of unionists were genuine working class people.  Over the years, Hawke had learned to model his speech on theirs so that he would seem "One of us".  It worked.  It got him the Prime ministership of Australia for eight years.

Another instructive example was a long-serving Premier of the Australian state of Queensland:  Sir Johannes Bjelke Petersen.  Sir Joh's speech was even closer to Trump's speech:  Very similar indeed.   He also had a messy speech delivery that the elite all dismissed as being beyond  comprehension.  Journalists and others claimed it was just impossible to understand what he was saying.  But Joh was a farmer and he spoke like a farmer, not like an educated man. And ordinary farmers and working people generally understood him just fine.  He kept getting their vote and ended up running Queensland for nearly 20 years -- from 1968 to 1987. So who was the fool?

The Honourable Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, KCMG

Trump comes from the opposite end of the socio-economic scale from Sir Joh so how come he talks in a working class manner?  He grew up in the Queens borough of NYC, which is a very diverse place so he would have heard working class speech there pretty often and it would have become part of normality for him.  He knew how to speak that way if he wanted to.

And he has always had a hands-on attitude to his building projects and has often been on site talking to the workers doing the building.  So it would seem that his conversations with them have reinforced a liking not only for them and their views but also for some of their speech patterns.  Their patterns became his patterns. And those speech patterns sound to large numbers of Americans as "like us".  Powerful stuff. He talks to the people in their own language. His accent is New York Queens and that too conveys an image of the blunt, no-nonsense New Yorker.

So on those two Australian precedents, Trump should easily get his second term in office.


Trump has the last laugh about Sweden

Riots have broken out in the Swedish suburb that Donald Trump referred to in his speech about immigration problems.

Police were forced to fire warning shots after a group of rioters began setting fire to cars, throwing stones at police and looting shops in the Rinkeby district of Stockholm on Monday night.

A police officer was injured during the clashes, Swedish public service broadcaster SVT reported.

Donald Trump made his confusing remarks about immigration in Sweden at his Florida rally on Saturday.

Trump was initially thought to be talking about terrorism when he warned of 'what's happening last night in Sweden'.

But he later claimed he was talking about an edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight about immigrant crime in the Scandinavian country.

Trump was mocked widely for his Florida speech, in which he said: 'You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden.

'Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible.'

He later clarified on Twitter that he was denying 'fake news' claims that 'large scale immigration in Sweden is working out just beautifully.'

Police said in a statement that at least seven or eight cars were burned in the district, which has one of the largest immigrant populations in Stockholm, during Monday's disorder.



Drunk on whine: Liberal boycott of Trump wine fails hilariously

A Virginia chapter of the National Organization for Women attempted to boycott Wegmans Food Markets in the state because they sell Trump Winery products. Instead, the protest backfired and the wine sold out within hours:

    A spokeswoman for Wegmans, a New York-based company, told Fox News on Monday that Trump wines flew off its shelves last week. Out of 10 locations, only its Charlottesville store did not completely sell out.

    Jo Natale, Wegmans‘ vice president of media relations, told the network that 100 bottles of Trump Winery Meritage and 20 bottles of the Cru remained at its Charlottesville location as of Friday evening.

Natale also had this to say about the failed protest:  “For various reasons, we are sometimes asked to stop selling a product. Our response is always the same, no matter the product: How a product performs is our single measure for what stays on our shelves and what goes,” Ms. Natale says.

It looks like Trump wine won’t be leaving Wegmans shelves any time soon.



Donald Trump and the Waterloo of the Protected Class

While critics call America “divided” and paint a hysteria-driven picture of a fraying democracy, the divide occurs less along political grounds than it does on “protected” and “unprotected” grounds.

Let me explain:

The two classes that separate America do not divide along the usual lines of socio-economic background, race or party affiliation. Rather, the two classes separate along the lines of the “Protected Class” and the “Unprotected Class.” The Protected Class represents an ideology. Those who opt-in to their ideology receive protection while those who opt-out find criticism and attack. This is why those who opted-out of the Protected Class voting habits were labeled as “deplorable,” “bigoted” and “racist.” Their change of voting habits removed them from the Protected Class and placed them into the Unprotected Class.

This also explains why Ivanka Trump has been met with scornful words and boycotts. Due to her support of her father’s presidency, the Protected Class terminated her membership as well as all rights and privileges to their club.

Bolstered by their key allies in the media, Hollywood, academia and government, the Protected Class operates to proliferate their ideas to the exclusion of any other opposing idea even if it means completely skewing, or in some cases fabricating, the news cycle.

For example, from the vantage point of the Protected Class media, it appears that the first month of Trump’s presidency has been tense and fraught with scandal, change and massive pushback. The Protected Class press wants you to believe this. They want you to believe that Trump’s presidency has been unable to make any changes, that his political appointments are incompetent and that the whole “Trump thing” was a mistake.

Yet, we must remember that what is happening is to be expected, and it all has to do with who is telling the story.

It has been said victors write the history. However, in this case, the vanquished are telling the story. Reeling from defeat, the Protected Class feels threatened, perhaps because people have begun to see inherent hypocrisy within their ideology. Donald Trump’s entire campaign put a spotlight on the Protected Class cartel (how the Protected Class exonerates their own criminals, how the Protected Class media reports what they want and omits what might hurt their agenda and how the Protected Class government officials fill the swamp and get fat off of citizens' tax dollars).

The elitist LA/DC/Manhattan Protected Class value system believes that every intelligent human being would have voted for Hillary. They cannot fathom that any reasonable person would have voted for Trump.

Several years ago, I worked with a guy from the UK. He described his U.S. travels to me in the in this manner: “I have been to New York, LA and DC, but not the bit in the middle. But that doesn’t really matter.”

The Protected Class elitists believe this as well. In their mind, there are three important places in the United States: New York, DC and LA. The rest is home to a bunch of unenlightened rabble residing in the “bit in the middle.”

I would remind those who believe such nonsense that the “bit in the middle” is America. The Protected Class media wants to paint a picture of America in which George Soros, Madonna and Chuck Schumer represent our interests. In reality, the Protected Class is more out of touch than they even know. Small business owners, teachers, moms, pest control technicians, coal miners and construction workers make up America. These people who work hard for their families and try to make a better life for their children stand as the foundation of this country.

The Protected Class is out of touch, because they keep using their old tricks: They report falsely and hope that the people buy it.

So why does it seem so messy?  It seems messy because the Protected Class is making it messy. They intend to focus upon Trump fail after Trump fail, conveniently omitting anything positive coming from DC. They have put a magnifying glass on everything, focusing on fear and failures while intentionally forgetting to tell the whole story.

The Protected Class media has failed to adequately report the results of President Trump’s first month, announced in Monday’s White House press release.

* Withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

* Renegotiating with Lockheed Martin and saving the American taxpayer $700 million on a new line of F-35 fighters

* Hosting the CEO of Intel who announced a plan to invest $7 billion dollars in a U.S. factory, which will create 10,000 American jobs

* Signing an executive order establishing a task force, headed by the new Attorney General, to decrease crime and restore public safety in American communities.

Ultimately, we must realize that the victory of Trump has been the Waterloo of the Protected Class, their tactics and their deceptive rhetoric. While the news cycle appears chaotic and terrifying, we must know that this is an attempt by the Protected Class to regain the ground they have lost. May we keep our eyes above the waves and remember that Big Lies often die a slow death.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trump’s support base sees no crisis, urges full speed ahead

MIAMI – With Donald Trump struggling to keep his presidency on an even keel in a cacophonous first month, die-hard supporters have a message for their champion: stay on offense, never modulate, never change.

Trump is under immense pressure as missteps have plagued his debut, with opposition lawmakers and observers lobbing one assault after another at the new commander-in-chief.

They say he lies, he lacks understanding of crucial issues, his White House is already riven with scandal and warring factions, and he’s dismissing the U.S. Constitution by attacking the media.

Even some fellow Republicans are expressing alarm.

On Saturday, Trump escaped the fiery cauldron of Washington to host a boisterous rally in Melbourne, Florida, where he was greeted with open arms by loyal supporters who insist his presidency is running smoothly.

And they sniffed at charges that Trump, now the world’s most powerful man, is refusing to moderate the aggression, impulsiveness and sniping that defined his 2016 campaign, which ended in shock victory.

“I want to see more of it,” Steven Migdalski, a 53-year-old unemployed computer technician from Titusville, Florida, told AFP during his seven-hour wait to enter the Trump rally.

He gave emphatic approval of Trump’s combative tone with the press and his hasty policy steps including his controversial executive order restricting immigration.

“I am totally ecstatic that a Republican president has the balls — the fight in him — to push back against not only fake news,” but the political establishment, said Migdalski, proudly displaying his red “Built Trump Tough” shirt.

Never mind that Trump’s debut has sent jitters across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with policy musings that contradict decades-old U.S. policy regarding the Western alliance and post-World War II order.

“He’s upsetting the globalists. And I hope they’re afraid,” Migdalski said.

Such is the damn-the-torpedoes support Trump enjoys with his core base — largely white and male, predominantly working class, and increasingly nationalistic.

In more than a dozen interviews with supporters, they said they are backing their man, despite — perhaps even because of — his controversial actions.

But supporters are aware that they too provide the energy, adulation and respect on which Trump feeds — a symbiotic relationship that was on full display in Melbourne.

Washington is not a friendly town for any occupant of the White House, and Trump appeared thrilled to return to a campaign-styled event, complete with a woman holding up a poster with the words “Hillary for Prison,” even though Hillary Clinton was defeated months ago.

“I think he needs this. Everyday he hears hatred and negativity each time he turns on the TV,” said Tammy Allen, a self-employed independent distributor in Melbourne who was in the rally crowd with three friends holding “Women For Trump” signs.

“He’s been ridiculed and put down. I mean everybody is against him. So he needs to see those Americans that support him, that love him,” she added.

“We’re the wind beneath his wings.'”

High school student Jacob Wyskoski turned 18 last year, and cast his first-ever vote in November, for Trump.

“We used to be the strongest, the biggest, the most powerful nation in all of the world. We need that back,” he said, echoing a common refrain among voters old enough to recall the U.S. power that ended the Cold War.

As for Trump appearing to live his presidency with boxing gloves on, Wyskoski said, “we need someone who’s willing to fight for this country, and I feel like he’s the guy who is going to get in the ring if we need him to.”

Several supporters brushed aside the ongoing congressional investigations about the role Russia may have played in influencing the presidential election, and potential connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials prior to the vote.

“Knock yourself out. Get all the people you want” to investigate Trump, said Mike Sikula, a retired aerospace engineer. “I love him to death.”

That Trump irks foreign leaders, antagonizes Democrats, and blasts the media while maintaining his combative campaign style is icing on the cake.

“I think it’s good,” Sikula said.  Trump “has to go out in public and counter it,” he said of the criticism.  “He has to go on TV and he has to tweet just to try and level the score a little bit. If he remained completely quiet, the lie would overwhelm him.”



I'm Not a Pessimist. I'm an Economist

By Abigail R. Hall Blanco    

I've been lucky, in my time as a graduate student and now as a professor, to give talks on a variety of subjects to many different groups. From business owners, to my undergraduate students, to MBA students, to high school students and more, I never get tired of talking about what I love.

Unfortunately for me, many topics I discuss tend to rain on people's parades. Informing my undergraduate freshman, for example, that things like a $15 minimum wage and free college would hurt them and others, is not something they like to hear. (They usually acknowledge, begrudgingly, that the economics makes sense.) In a similar way, explaining how arming "moderate" rebels will likely end in disaster, and that foreign aid may do more harm than good, tends to fly in the face of a lot of "conventional wisdom."

Other topics I discuss are downright depressing. In presenting talks on things like police militarization, torture, and the surveillance state, people often ask me, "What can be done to fix the problem?" I attempt to craft an answer, but ultimately admit I have no step-by-step solution. In a world where politicians, teachers, and others freely offer their supposed solutions as gospel, my inability and unwillingness to offer prescriptions for the world's problems often leaves people feeling as though I'm holding something back.

On more than one occasion, I've been called a pessimist.  Why are you so negative, Abby?! Geez!

 In reality, I'm a closeted optimist. I have more faith in humanity than I probably should. But when confronted with the accusation of pessimism, I always respond with the same thing.

"I'm not a pessimist. I'm an economist."

Allow me to explain:  It seems that many people today are focused on the world as they would like it to be, and not how it actually operates. I observe this all the time-and not just with students. Take, for example, the most recent election and Trump's new policies. People I follow on social media, who I would consider good acquaintances and friends, genuinely think Sanders', Clinton's, or Trump's patently insane economic ideas would be good for the economy and society. Free college, free healthcare, $15 minimum wages, mandated paid maternity leave, building walls around the border, making Mexico "pay for the wall," (and probably free unicorns for everyone,) have mass appeal.

Explaining that each of these policies would not only fail in their intentions, but would likely make many situations worse, is not a popular position. But it is not pessimistic.

I teach my students that the economic way of thinking requires us to engage in positive analysis. That is, we focus on what is. We look at how people respond to the incentives they face and how they make choices. We don't engage in normative analysis. We don't talk about how things ought to be or how they should be. We can talk about issues of "ought" and "should" all day long, but this does absolutely nothing in helping us determine what is actually possible.

We recognize that, as human beings living in a world of scarce resources, we face constraints. This leads to the fundamental question of economics: What do we produce? How should it be produced? Who should produce it? For whom should it be produced? Etc.

Good economists accept that we are limited in what we can achieve. We have to try and do the best we can, given all the constraints we face. We look at the goals of policymakers and others, and analyze if and how well particular actions achieve these goals. Unconstrained thinking, which dominates the political and social landscape, ignores that there are many things that, given the circumstances we face, are not possible, or will not work the way people wish they would. In many instances, the economist often plays the role of constant inquisitor, much to the chagrin of those in earshot.

In the coming weeks, months, and years, I image I'll have plenty of occasions to question people's ideas and policies. Last week, I wrote a piece examining the "danger" posed by refugees. Based on some of the responses I received, it looks like a lot of people weren't pleased with my analysis.



What President Trump Should Know about California's Bullet Train

In his State of the State address, California governor Jerry Brown went off on President Trump with unusual fury, but he also extended an olive branch of sorts. California has "roads, tunnels and railroads" that the president "could help us with," Brown said, and that will "create good-paying American jobs." Before he gets on board the president should take a hard look at this railroad the governor is touting.

It was pitched as a swift route from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, but construction began way out by Fresno. The land the rail project needs is still in the hands of the rightful owners, and the first 118 miles could cost $3.6 billion more than expected. The Federal Railroad Administration has already forked over grants of $3.5 billion for that very segment, supposedly the easiest to build. Other parts would require the most elaborate tunneling project in U.S. history, certain to incur massive cost overruns.

Few California commuters were panting for a 19th-century form of transportation both slower and more expensive than air travel. California's high-speed rail project is best viewed as a bait-and-switch ploy to get state voters to finance local transit projects they otherwise would not support. The state's High Speed Rail Authority has no experience building anything but has established a Sacramento headquarters and three regional offices. The Authority works well as a comfy sinecure for ruling-class retreads like board member Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman and chief of staff for former governor Gray Davis. As we noted, a convicted embezzler also found work with the rail authority, so criminals are also all aboard.

President Trump and Congress should weigh all that before loading any taxpayer dollars on the bullet train. The president should also take a hard look at the massive tunnels the governor wants to dig under the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, at a cost of $15 billion, certain to be higher. As for "good-paying American jobs," the president should note that California chose to use cheap Chinese steel on the new span of the Bay Bridge, which still came in $5 billion over budget, ten years late, and remains riddled with safety issues. Despite a whistleblower's call for a criminal investigation, nobody was held accountable for any of it.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Trump criticized for something he didn't say

More fake news. They said he referred to a terrorist attack in Sweden.  But he didn't.  He just referred to Swedish immigrant problems in general.  If they can't find anything to harp about in what he did say, they will make up stuff he did not say and report it as fact

SWEDEN is demanding an explanation from the White House after US President Donald Trump implied a major security incident had occurred.

Mr Trump was speaking at his Make America Great Again rally in Florida on Saturday, where he was promoting the message about keeping his country safe.

But it’s what he said next that left many puzzled, and prompted a please explain from the Swedish embassy in Washington.

“Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers,” he told the rally. “They’re having problems like they never thought possible.”

Mr Trump didn’t give any details over the reference to Sweden or what incident this could have been referring to, but many speculated he was implying a terror attack had taken place.

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt summed up the world’s confusion in one tweet, asking what the US President “was smoking”.

Mr Trump later tweeted that the comment was in reference to a story on Fox News about immigration in Sweden.



How different is the reaction to Trump?

It is tempting to see the huge rage against Trump currently emanating from the Left as the result of how radically Trump diverges from convention.  He may be the most radical President America has ever had, given the number of customs, precedents and assumptions that he has steamed right past.

But the extent of the rage may in fact not be unique to him.  I have an article here which gives a lot of quotes about the outpouring of rage and hate that flowed from the election of the very mild and compromising George W. Bush.  ANYTHING that undermines their delusions seems to push Leftists into foaming rage.


What Obamacare's drafters could have learned from a hairdresser

by Jeff Jacoby

LAST WEEK'S CNN debate between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders on the future of Obamacare was a first-rate political broadcast. It was substantive, focused, and illuminating — an absorbing clash between senators representing two very different ideological approaches. It was everything last year's shallow, bicker-filled presidential campaign "debates" were not: political programming that genuinely left viewers with more insight into a pressing question of public policy.

One segment of the two-hour encounter was particularly revealing.

The subject was the burden imposed by the Affordable Care Act on small businesses — especially those with fewer than 50 employees, the threshold at which the law's employer mandate kicks in. Audience member LaRonda Hunter, the owner of five hair salons in Forth Worth, posed a question:

"We employ between 45 and 48 employees," she began, explaining that she wanted to open more salons and employ more people. "However, under Obamacare, I am restricted, because it requires me to furnish health insurance if I employ more than 50 people. Unfortunately, the profit margin in my industry is very thin, and I'm not a wealthy person. . . . My question to you, Senator Sanders, is how do I grow my business? How do I employ more Americans without either raising the prices to my customers or lowering wages to my employees?"

Here was a real-world example of Obamacare's impact. By compelling companies with 50 or more workers to offer health insurance to everyone they employ, the law creates a powerful disincentive for business owners to expand beyond 49 employees. A business owner like Hunter faces an impossible dilemma: Either give up on growing her enterprise, or try to make ends meet by charging customers more and paying workers less.

The onerous employer mandate is one of the Affordable Care Act's worst defects. The Obama administration repeatedly delayed its effective date; Republicans want it repealed altogether. Sanders must know that Hunter's predicament is not uncommon, and the CNN debate gave him the chance to explain how Democrats propose to address it. But his explanation amounted to: Tough.

"Let me give you an answer you will not be happy with," Sanders said. "I think that for businesses that employ 50 people or more, given the nature of our dysfunctional health care system right now, where most people do get their health insurance through the places that they work, I'm sorry, I think that in America today, everybody should have health care. And if you have more than 50 people, you know what? I'm afraid to tell you, but I think you will have to provide health insurance."

Hunter tried again: "How do I do that without raising my prices to my customers or lowering wages to my employees?" Sanders: "I certainly don't know about hair salons in Fort Worth. But I do believe, to be honest with you, that if you have more than 50 people, yes, you should be providing health insurance."

The exchange could not have been more enlightening. For entrepreneurs like Hunter, a mandate to supply health insurance triggers inescapable, and unignorable, consequences. For Sanders and other defenders of Obamacare, those consequences are irrelevant. They believe in the employer mandate — a belief impervious to facts on the ground.

Lawmakers so often enact far-reaching rules with worthy intentions, but little awareness of how much harm government burdens can cause.

Sometimes, belatedly, they come to understand how clueless they had been. As a congressman, New York's Ed Koch routinely voted for liberal social and welfare proposals. Only much later, after leaving Congress and observing the practical impact of all those rules and programs, did the scales fall from his eyes. "I was dumb," Koch told an interviewer in 1980. "We all were. I voted for so much crap. Who knew? We got carried away with what the sociologists were telling us."

Years later, an even more liberal Democrat expressed similar regrets.

After a long career in Congress, former Senator George McGovern tried his hand a running a business — a small hotel in Connecticut. "In retrospect," McGovern wrote after the inn went bankrupt, "I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business. . . . I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day."

Government's power to do good is limited, and heavy-handed regulation habitually proves counterproductive. If Bernie Sanders had operated a few hair salons before going into politics, he would know that, and he'd be a better senator as a result.



The Price Is Right

The Senate voted 52-47 to confirm Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as the new secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Yet again the vote was along party lines. One wonders if Democrats are getting tired dragging out these hearings into the wee hours only to repeatedly lose the vote.

Now that Price has been confirmed, the expectation is that ObamaCare will be significantly impacted. Price led the fight against ObamaCare when he chaired the House Budget Committee, submitting budget proposals that called for a repeal of the law. He also offered an alternative. In any case, Republicans are still struggling to come to a consensus on exactly what that repeal and replace will look like - it could be repeal or it could be a series of (significant) amendments to the current law. Having Secretary Price lead HHS is a great first step, as the law was written granting broad provision for the secretary to issue regulations as "the Secretary shall determine." We expect what he determines won't make Democrats too happy.



Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says Donald Trump poses a greater threat to the left than Ronald Reagan did as president in 1981

President-elect Donald Trump poses a greater threat to the left than any other political leader in the last 100 years, Newt Gingrich proclaimed on the eve of Inauguration Day.

Speaking at The Heritage Foundation on Thursday, Gingrich predicted that the Trump administration will dismantle the Washington establishment, unlike anything America has ever seen.

"Trump is a direct moral threat to both the value system of the left-because he's so politically incorrect-and to the power structure of the left," the former House speaker said.

Trump will put an end to the liberal agenda pushed by the establishment since Franklin Roosevelt, Gingrich predicted.

"I believe it's an opportunity to end the 84-year dominance of the left starting with Roosevelt in 1932," Gingrich said. "[Ronald] Reagan didn't end it, I didn't end it. It has continued to be the dominant underlying force in American culture and government. We have a chance now to really do that."

As the media becomes increasingly terrified and the left's anticipation has risen, Gingrich said, it has become clear to me that there is no historical parallel to Trumpism.

Not even Reagan can serve as a model for a chief executive whose primary goal is to completely alter the current power structure, Gingrich noted.

"Reagan's goal was to defeat the Soviet empire and, within the context of the traditional system, to accelerate economic growth and rebuild a belief in America and American history," he said. "He didn't spend a lot of time trying to take on the core value system of the left."

Trump's tackling of the left's ideology is comparable to Margaret Thatcher's annihilation of socialism in Great Britain during her years as prime minister.

Thatcher assailed socialism, "which is exactly what Trump should do," Gingrich said. "Thatcher was a direct threat to both the value system and the power structure of the left in Great Britain."

Gingrich suggested that while Trump may not be an ideological, traditional conservative, he has the ability to not only create jobs and stimulate the economy, but also to overpower the left's agenda.

"He is not an ideological, traditional conservative, but he may be the most anti-left political leader of the last 100 years," Gingrich said. "If they come together as a team and if they really focus on large-scale change, this will in fact be a historic opportunity.

Gingrich urged Trump voters to be both "noisily supported" of the administration and heavily critical of the elite news media.

"Every time the news media does something wrong, scream at them," he said. "Just pound on them. Don't pretend that we should pay attention to them in a positive way."



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, February 20, 2017

Are there costs which outweigh the benefits of free trade?

Below is an argument from a prominent British libertarian -- Sean Gabb -- which argues for trade policies similar to those advocated by President Trump.  It is in a sense Trumpian economics -- though it does not make one mention of Trump and uses British  examples exclusively.

Gabb writes very simply but he does to a degree assume a knowledge of economics and its language.  Trump has a degree in economics too. Nonetheless, a careful reading should  make Gabb's arguments comprehensible.  In any case, I think I should highlight a few points.

For many years now, economists have pointed out that free trade increases wealth.  It does so by making everything cost less.  Older Wal-Mart customers will be acutely aware of that.  I remember when an electric fan cost around $100.  Now they can be had for around $10 -- because they are now made in China.

So the assumption on both sides of politics has long been that we should free up trade as much as possible. And it took the Donald to question that. He hasn't shattered the consensus yet but his  is a huge innovation in policy and a big sign of unconventional thinking.  Trump as innovator!  And now that Trump has challenged the consensus by talking of higher tariffs and other policies designed to increase the "Made in USA" label on goods sold in the USA, other people are beginning to say:  "Hey!  Maybe he has got a point".  And Sean Gabb below makes a very erudite argument in favour of broadly Trumpian policies.

So an argument now being made by many is that price is not the only test of how good or wise a policy is. There may be benefits of making a good in the USA that justfies a higher price for that good.  Money is not everything.

That is not an entirely new argument.  Economists have always allowed some exceptions to the benefits of free trade,  The infant industry argument and the defence industry argument are well known and there also the less known but equally cogent case known as the Australian case.  And Gabb gives further examples of potential non-price benefits from home manufacture.  I think he makes the best argument yet for that case, in fact.

Much more innovatively, he makes an argument that I have not seen before which downplays the price disadvantage from home manufacture.  He points to what is the undoubtedly high cost of transporting goods.  A farmer can get 10c for an apple he has  grown which retails in the shops for $1.00.  Why?  There are several reasons but a major one is the cost of transporting it to your local supermarket.  The transport industry can easily take a bite out of the $1.00 that you pay which is 2 or 3 times what the farmer gets.  And there is no escaping that.  Truck drivers are not usually highly paid unless they work very long hours and most of what could be done to make cheaper trucks has been done.

Gabb takes up that situation and notes something that is seldom mentioned but which is quite extraordinary when you think about it.  He says that transport costs are heavily subsidized by governments.  Almost all of the costs of freeways, railroads, local roads and defence against piracy at sea are borne by taxpayers, not the users of those facilities.  Trucking firms do pay road use levies of various sorts but such levies are tiny compared with the huge cost of building just one mile of freeway, for instance. So from that, Gabb argues that the high costs of transprt would be even higher without the extensive government provision of almost "free" transport infrastrucure.

So in an ideal world where everybody paid for what they used, high transport costs would encourage goods to be made at home. A  thing might be made cheaper in China but the costs of getting it to you might make its total final cost dearer. It is an innovative and clever argument and there is undoubtedly some truth in it -- but I don't fully buy it.  I am not in a position to do the numbers but I doubt that transport costs could account for the recent reduction in costs of electric fans (for instance).  Most of the transport of goods from China is seaborne and that is very cheap per cubic meter on today's huge container ships.  And containerization makes most of the remaining trip (on land) pretty cheap too.

But there is clearly SOME "unfair" advantage given to remote manufacturers by subsidized transport, so the remaining question is how do we account for or allow for that advantage given to those manufacturers?  It would take some sophisticated econometrics to find out but there is clearly no likelihood that national trade policy will be set by econometricians.  We may simply have to hope that whatever tariff Mr Trump and Congress decide on will not be too far wide of that mark.

From all the considerations given below, however, it is clear that Mr Trump's tariff proposals have substantial intellectual support. They are in no way the sheer ignorance that Leftists claim

Briefly stated, the claim is that, since about 1970, shifts in comparative advantage [under freeish trade] have brought about a swift and fundamental deindustrialisation of Britain; and that this has impoverished millions of working class people.

There is the separate claim that the globalisation of which free trade has been made a part has subjected us to a New World Order that is openly working for our destruction as a free people, or as any people at all. However, since I and many other libertarians accept this claim in full, there is no point in discussing it. I will only add that free trade has existed without a supranational government, and that opposition to the latter has no bearing on the desirability of the former. Free trade is the uncontrolled movement of goods and services across borders. It does not need treaties to harmonise the sale of Vitamin C, or armies of bureaucrats to enforce the treaties. I will move, then, to the primary claim, which is mostly in dispute – though for which there is an arguable case.

Until the 1970s, almost every manufactured good sold in this country was made in this country. In terms of price and quality, these goods were often inferior to those made abroad, and had a market only because of the trade barriers that had grown up since the 1930s. On the other hand, British manufacturing firms gave jobs, directly or indirectly, to millions. These jobs were reasonably well-paid and reasonably secure. They gave those holding them the confidence to speak their minds, and to combine in defence of their collective interests as they perceived them. No doubt, these perceived collective interests were often false, and often defended with an absence of forethought. If there was also bad management, strikes and restrictive practices had their part in the ruin of British manufacturing. But I am old enough to remember when doctors and architects did not earn incomparably more than working class people, and when it was common to believe that we were all part of one nation.

Freer trade since the late 1970s has given us manufactured goods about as good and cheap as they can presently be. Most of these are made abroad. If the extent of British deindustrialisation can be overstated – we remain one of the main manufacturing countries; and some of our manufacturing exports have no competition – mass-employment in manufacturing is a thing of the past. Unless they have the skills to make it as sole traders, working class people nowadays have three options. In the private sector, they can take jobs in which the main qualities required seem to be obedience and a pretence of enthusiasm for employers whose own sense of obligation is limited to the contractual. They can become petty functionaries in state and quasi-state bureaucracies that should not exist. They can sink into an underclass that is kept alive by a combination of welfare handouts and crime.

The progress of the past forty years has been so great, that everyone benefits to some extent. Holidays in the sun can be had for the price of a thousand cigarettes, as can 50 inch television sets. Property, though, is increasingly difficult to buy; and rents can take up half the average income after tax. Working class people are insecure in their jobs. They are usually in debt. They are easily tyrannised over. They know they cannot speak freely on a range of subjects they think important. Unless on welfare, they have fewer children than their grandparents had. They are credulous. They are superstitious. They are feared by those above them, but easily managed, and therefore despised.

The main beneficiaries of what has happened since the 1970s are those in the professions or the senior reaches of an expanded financial sector. Our incomes have risen most impressively. And far above us floats the new elite of the super rich. Men like Richard Branson and the Mittal Brothers and the hedge fund managers, and the Russian billionaires who have settled here, have been raised up by the growing importance of London as a financial centre. Whether or not they share our nationality, they live among us, but are in no sense with us. The policies they are able to buy from our rulers will have only an accidental congruence with our interests. They find Britain convenient as a trading platform and shopping centre. Unlike the rest of us, who may have little else, these rich have no country.

In part, these changes are an effect of mass-immigration. You need to be a ruling class intellectual to deny the laws of demand and supply in labour markets. But the main cause has been a shift in the pattern of comparative advantage. Even without the twenty or thirty million immigrants of the past half century, mass-employment in manufacturing would have declined. Without the newcomers, the fall in working class living standards would have been greatly moderated. But there would still be no cotton mills in Lancashire, and no computer factories to take their place. The centre of London would still be packed with rich aliens of every nationality, including our own. Free trade necessarily expands output. It does not necessarily produce benefits that are equally shared.

The depression of our working classes is a legitimate concern. These are our people. Any libertarian who rolls his eyes at the phrase “our people” is a fool. Any who starts parroting the self-righteous cant of our rulers is a villain. All else aside, free institutions are unworkable in a society where large numbers of people are going visibly down the toilet. Does this mean that free trade is no longer in our national interest? Does it mean that, if still undeniable as an abstract proposition, the Law of Comparative Advantage no longer applies in the interests of our nation as a whole?

The answer to the question may be yes. If so, I as a libertarian must choose to stand up as a wooden ideologue or as a man of sense. I have always tried to be the latter. I believe in a world where everyone has the right to do with himself and his own as he pleases – a right bounded only by the equal right of everyone else to do the same. I look forward to a world without governments, and therefore without national borders and border controls. This does not mean, however, that I believe in the immediate and unordered throwing off of the present restraints. I see no value in arguing for specific freedoms, the exercise of which would undermine the existence of liberty in general. A sensible libertarian should argue for the present enjoyment only of those liberties that can be sustained.

I give the example of a restraint that I have already gone out of my way to support. There are good reasons for letting people settle anywhere on this planet where they can, by free bargaining, find jobs and accommodation. And there are better reasons why most people should not be allowed to settle in Britain. To be blunt, I accept the need for strict immigration control, and for even stricter controls on citizenship and its resulting membership of the political nation. I am not impressed by any of the apologetics by which some libertarians claim that this acceptance is other than it is. It is a clear breach of the non-aggression principle, and should be seen as such. But not to breach it in this case strikes me as lunacy. Unlimited immigration would lead to the erasure of one of the few nations and political orders in which the non-aggression principle has been even partially accepted.

This being so, free trade cannot be immune from reconsideration. It suited us very well in the nineteenth century. We emerged as the first industrial nation in a world where we controlled the seas and much territory outside Europe. Despite claims that it did not, it continued to suit us down to the Great War; and it would have continued to suit us right into the 1980s. But times may now have altered. If they have, we must consider some form of protection. I repeat that I am not rejecting the Law of Comparative Advantage. Protection always involves costs. Even assuming better management and less obstructive trade unions, prices of manufactured good would be higher – sometimes much higher. The compensation must be higher median living standards in both the material and the immaterial sense.

Nevertheless, before throwing up the case for free trade, there are three further considerations to discuss. The first is a harder look at the costs of protection. For as long as I have known him, Robert Henderson has been arguing for a “judicious” home preference. The assumption behind this is a belief that trade policy can easily be set in the national interest. But politics is at best a dirty business. Politicians and officials are always for sale; and the acceptance of trade protection would bring a cataract of bribes from every manufacturing company with money to spend. Robert believes that protection should cover things like steel and aeroplanes and electronics – things in which we have no present comparative advantage, but which are otherwise suited to our national abilities. The reality might be the equivalent of growing grapes in Scotland. Protection might give us a trade policy not in any national interest, but in the interest of a cartel of skilled bribe-givers and experts in public relations. We may differ in regarding Imperial Germany with admiration or distaste. But the men who built up those great cartels in steel and machinery and chemicals before 1914 were broadly pro-German. In present circumstances, and for the foreseeable future, protection would add to the number of the powerful and unaccountable interest groups that are busily enslaving us.

Nor in a protected economy need there be the same incentives as under free trade to innovation and product development and the control of costs. Whatever we think of their industrial achievement, the Germans did lose the Great War; and they lost in part because their industry was less responsive and less innovative than our own. Or, for the main current example of what can happen under protection, there is India before the liberalisations of the 1990s. There is also our own example. British manufacturing suffered from the opening of trade in the late 1970s compelled by the EEC and the GATT treaties. One of the reasons it was so damaged was that it had enjoyed nearly half a century of protection in its home markets, and this had enabled the growth of bad management and bad union practices. Before it could be nearly destroyed, British manufacturing was already nearly ruined. Can we really be sure that the same would not happen again? Do we want to go to all the trouble of uncoupling ourselves from a system that brings some benefits to some people, and end up with a repeat of the British Leyland fiasco?

The second consideration is that comparative advantage is not something beyond our control. It is not like the climate, which heats and cools in time with changes inside the Sun, or with variations in our orbit about it. I have mentioned the unions and the quality of management. Luckier in both, the Germans have kept more of their manufacturing despite broad similarities of trading environment. Traditionalists and libertarians usually agree that business in this country is both over-taxed and over-regulated. Well, the health and safety laws alone may have cost us half a million jobs. Our environmental laws and energy policy may have done the same. When it was introduced in the 1960s, capital gains tax is said to have ended most non-institutional investment – that is, much investment into small manufacturing. The overall burden of tax, plus inflation, has diverted most saving and investment into the City casino banks.

Looking at opposite tendencies, comparatively free prospecting for oil and gas in the United States has brought down energy prices there; and this is bringing back manufacturing industry previously lost to China. If we were to cut taxes and regulations at least to American levels, we might have more factories and jobs in the north of England. We could do this without losing the benefits of free trade. It might mean breaking a few treaties, but would not require a siege economy.

The third consideration follows from the second, but takes a more radical path. I have argued so far on the assumption that the economic structure of this country as it emerged a couple of centuries ago is worth defending or restoring. I do not share the view taken by many traditionalists that this structure was an abusive breach with immemorial and better ways of life. The enclosures had already worked a destructive revolution in the countryside. Most people there, by about 1815, had been reduced to a rural proletariat. Industrial society, as it emerged during the nineteenth century, enabled a quadrupling of population by 1914 with a strong upward movement in living standards. But, though better than most of the alternatives, I do not think our country, as it came into the twentieth century, was living in the best of possible worlds. I believe that we, and every other country that has followed our path, took a wrong approach to the Industrial Revolution.

In every industrial country, there has been a tendency for large organisations to outcompete smaller on price, and for goods to emerge at competitive prices from supply chains that may begin on the far side of the world. For example, I live in Kent, which is one of the main apple growing areas in England. My local Sainsbury sells apples from China for less than the local farm shops can sell their own apples. Is this a triumph of free market capitalism, for libertarians to celebrate and traditionalists to deplore? Or is it the outcome of a thoroughly interventionist order, from which the big and the distant gain illegitimate advantages over the small and local?

I think the latter is the case. There are still many libertarians – and these determine how the movement as a whole is seen – for whom utopia is Tesco minus the State. They believe that doing away with taxes and regulations and privilege for the well-connected would bring into being a world recognisably similar to our own. It would be richer and more peaceful and more just. But it would have much the same structures of centralised production and widespread distribution, and of wage labour. There are other libertarians – Kevin Carson, for example – who take a fundamentally different view of what might emerge in the absence of distortions by the State. And, for all they denounce traditionalism, and see themselves as on the “left,” they are elaborating a version of libertarianism that few traditionalists might see as hostile to their own concerns.

During the past few hundred years, the British State, among others, has been subsidising road and rail and, more recently, air transport. These subsidies take the form of direct building, or of financial underwriting or other assistance, or of compulsory purchase and incorporation laws that externalise many of the private costs of construction and use and maintenance. Without subsidy, roads and railways would still have been built. But there would have been fewer of them, and full-cost charging for use would have directed a higher proportion of investment into local networks.

The subsidised infrastructure that we have is biased towards transport over long distances. It raises the maximum scale of production. Internal economies of scale in a factory are worthless if distribution costs make the price of output uncompetitive in all but very local markets. Centralised production for a national market may be worthwhile in a country where distribution costs must be reflected in price. It will be far more worthwhile in a country where distribution costs are partly met by the taxpayers.

What is true of national distribution networks is also true at the level of international trade. British and then American control of the seas has made shipping safe from piracy. British and American control of the Middle East has externalised many of the costs of oil drilling and movement. British and American armed interventions stabilised less powerful countries for the sale of our industrial output, and then for the development of manufacturing industry in places where the local ruling classes could be bribed and assisted into making labour both cheap and docile.

These facts go far to explaining why Chinese apples undercut Kentish apples in Kent, and why it is worth concentrating the manufacture of virtually all electronic goods in a few coastal regions of China, and why most of the clothes we buy are put together in Turkish and Bangladeshi sweatshops. It goes far to explaining why, when I drive home every summer from the family trip to Slovakia, I share fabulously expensive motorways with lorries that pay a pittance per mile, and burn diesel at prices – even allowing for taxes – far below the real cost of extraction and transport, and that are carrying goods to places like Manchester and Leeds where once whole armies were employed in their manufacture.

In short, the manufacturing side of the globalisation that traditionalists denounce proceeds from a pattern of comparative advantage that makes sense only on the basis of systematic externalisations of cost. This is not a natural order. It is not free market capitalism. It is instead a global mercantilism in which a cartel of ruling classes has decided that certain regions should specialise in certain activities. If notebook computers are not made in Basingstoke, it may be less because firms in Canton are better at making them than because their final prices all over the world do not take fully into account their costs of manufacture and distribution.

It may be that these interventions lead to positive externalities that outweigh the externalised costs. But this is to put a faith in the wisdom of politicians and bureaucrats that is not supported by our everyday experience. More likely, costs are not merely shifted from those incurring them, but also magnified before they are dispersed, if in ways that none of us can fully understand.

Let us try to imagine the shape of a world in which these interventions had not begun. It might now be a place of largely independent communities, with much production of food and energy and manufactured goods close to market. There would have been an industrial revolution. But it would have taken a different path. There would be advanced technology. But it would be different in its objects. There would be some centralised production, but only where its full distribution costs were reflected in price. There would be some international specialisation and trade on the basis of comparative advantage. But this would not be so omnipresent, nor so able to produce vast and sudden dislocations. There would be neither corrupt, free-floating elites nor an alienated proletariat. But there would be much freedom and much regard for tradition.

In the world as it is, the British working classes have been smashed not by free trade, but by systematic state interventions so longstanding that we are liable to take them as inevitable. The answer is not to call for the State to make up sliding scale tariffs or to set quotas on South Korean washing machines. Rather, it is for the initial interventions to be swept away. Two centuries of the world as it is cannot be undone at once. But we can hope that a root and branch attack on the enabler of that world will allow something more natural to take its place.

I have said that there are differences between libertarians and traditionalists over what constitutes the substance of the good society. Rightly considered, I increasingly wonder where the real differences need to be about the form of that society, and over how to get there.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Observations From the Back Row: NATO and Tomorrow Land

By Rich Kozlovich

I'm convinced NATO and the U.S. will part company by 2025 if not by 2020, and it may cease to exist entirely.  According to Stratfor news "U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Feb. 15 that the United States may moderate its commitment to NATO unless all of its member states boost their defense spending".

It appears there's only a few who are meeting that commitment - a "2% threshold" -including the U.S. United Kingdom, Poland, Estonia.....and believe it or not.....Greece.  The article, which I didn't link because it's a subscription site, and expensive, claims Trump is already calling for less funding for all these international organizations.  We're going to see all these NGOs start whining and wailing soon - with the help of their leftist friends in the main stream media - for being cut off the federal udder.

And just as we've seen how Planned Parenthood falsely claimed this would hurt the care they supply to women - care they didn't offer - we're going to see these NGOs start trying to claim the world can't survive without their support, because they believe the only support the world needs is for them to destroy capitalism, especially American style capitalism, the Constitution and their ultimate goal - Destruction of the United States as an independent entity, unbending, unrelenting in defense of individual liberty and unconquerable.

Unconquerable except by the rot and corruption from within by the media, academia, government agencies, politicians and most importantly - the judiciary.  The rot has even extended to the least the military elite.  The men have a different perspective.  Expect to see all those PC generals and admirals looking to retire soon, as I suspect the Trump crowd will not ask them to stay and play any longer.

Trump has called NATO "an obsolete bloc", and I agree.  It was formed to stop Soviet aggression against Eastern Europe.  Now it's been used to impose policy that has nothing to do with defence of Europe as was done in Serbia and even in Libya......all under the guise of "protecting" the Libyan people.

The NATO mission has been corrupted and needs to be dumped by the U.S. and if Europe thinks it's still necessary - let them fund it - but with the coming disorder that might not be possible, especially since I think Europe and Russia, which are both breeding themselves out of existence, will be facing a massive civil war between the ethnic Europeans with a nationalist bent, Muslim invaders, and multiculturalists.  That will bankrupt Europe and Russia.  They will survive, but they will never recover the economic security of the past under Bretton Woods, and Western Europe will have to appeal to their old colonies for trade agreements.  Trade agreements the old colonies may find much more favorable than in the past.

Let's try and understand what's going on in the world and why.  All we see today geo-politically was a direct result of the Bretton Woods agreement in the 1944,  What emerged was an unique U.S. imposed hegemony with the United States pretty much agreeing to defend the world after Germany and Japan were defeated, and in order to rebuild the allies economy they would open American markets to them.  The first hegemony imposed on anyone where those it was imposed upon benefited at the expense of the one doing the imposing.

This began the Bretton Woods era, even if the official agreement was over, the umbrella continued to exist as did the concept. China was allowed under the Bretton Woods economic umbrella because it was thought this would help stand against the Soviet Union.  We don't need China any longer, and forget their sabre rattling.  That's all show and little go.   They may perform some "object lesson" aggression as they did with India in the 60's, but China isn't capable of doing anything really big outside their immediate sphere, and that's mostly in their own land.

We're not able to continue this arrangement any longer financially - and quite frankly - we don't need any of them any longer.  Russia isn't in an economic position to attack anyone, although if they did advance into Eastern Europe they would win without the U.S. involvement, but they would ultimately destroy themselves because it would be the final stake in the heart of their economy.  And it's my belief Putin would face an open revolution in Russia because even if he defeated the west he would have to occupy it against underground resistance movements.  He can't sustain that.   Russia would be gone within ten years of that happening.

China is a corrupt economic basket that may collapse soon. That's why capital is flowing out of China - which is largely illegal in China - at a rate that clearly shows the elite in China don't believe it can last much longer.

And where are they taking all that money?  The United States!  It won't be long before we will see the world come begging to the U.S., the only country that's going to be able to stand against the coming disorder on it's own.  And the more successfully we stand against the world's coming disorder, the wail from all these leftist loons will reach a banshee pitch.  Make no mistake about it - we're going to take some bumps, but it will be nothing like the rest of the world  because we don't need them!!!!  We need to get that!!!!

With all the current and historical failures of the left you would think leftists - Democrats, socialists, radicals (I'm repeating myself) - would see the light and abandon their irrational views.  The more untenable their position becomes the more they scream and yell, violently demanding everyone to pay attention to them and bend to their will.

For leftists to continue to hold all their views against the disastrous history of leftism worldwide, and all the disastrous reality we seen going on right in front of us,  must mean they're insane.

Update:  Here's an excerpt from a speech by Nigel Farage warming the European Parliament: "You're In For A Bigger Shock In 2017"
I feel like I am attending a meeting of a religious sect here this morning. It’s as if the global revolution of 2016, Brexit, Trump, the Italian rejection of the referendum, has completely bypassed you.

You can’t face up to the fact that this bandwagon is going to roll across Europe in these elections in 2017. A lot of citizens now recognize this form of centralized government simply doesn’t work. … At the heart of it is a fundamental point: Mr. [name not recognized] this morning said, the people want more Europe.

They don’t. The people want less Europe. We see this again and again when people have referendums and they reject aspects of EU membership. But something more fundamental is going on out there. …. No doubt, many of you here will probably despise your own voters for what I am about to say because just last week, Chatham House, the reputable group, published a massive survey from 10 Europen states, and only 20% of people want immigration from Muslim countries to continue. Just 20%. … Which means your voters have a harder line position on this than Donald Trump, or myself, or frankly any party sitting in this Parliament. I simply cannot believe you are blind to the fact that even Mrs. Merkel has now made a u-turn and wants to send people back. Even Mr. Schulz thinks it is a good idea.

And the fact is, the European Union has no future at all in its current form. And I suspect you are in for as big a shock in 2017 as you were in 2016.



Donald hears the hatred

Leftist hate speech is rife.  Trump calls it for what it is

Here are Trump’s eight accusations of “hatred” from Thursday’s contentious press conference:

“And I’ll tell you what else I see. I see tone. You know the word “tone.” The tone is such hatred. I’m really not a bad person, by the way. No, but the tone is such — I do get good ratings, you have to admit that — the tone is such hatred."

"But the tone, Jim. If you look — the hatred.

"Well, you look at your show that goes on at 10 o’clock in the evening. You just take a look at that show. That is a constant hit. The panel is almost always exclusive anti-Trump. The good news is he doesn’t have good ratings. But the panel is almost exclusive anti-Trump. And the hatred and venom coming from his mouth; the hatred coming from other people on your network.”

“I don’t mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody as long as it’s true and, you know, over a course of time, I’ll make mistakes and you’ll write badly and I’m OK with that. But I’m not OK when it is fake. I mean, I watch CNN, it’s so much anger and hatred and just the hatred.”

I mean that. I would be your biggest fan in the world if you treated me right. I sort of understand there’s a certain bias maybe by Jeff or somebody, you know - you know, whatever reason. But - and I understand that. But you’ve got to be at least a little bit fair and that’s why the public sees it. They see it. They see it’s not fair. You take a look at some of your shows and you see the bias and the hatred."



Some data on voting by illegals

How many non-citizens illegally vote in U.S. elections? According to an extrapolation of a 2013 National Hispanic Survey, the number could be as high as 2 million:

    The little-noticed Hispanic survey was conducted in June 2013 by McLaughlin and Associates to gauge the opinions of U.S. resident Latinos on a wide range of issues.

    Inside the poll is a page devoted to voter profiles. Of the randomly selected sample of 800 Hispanics, 56 percent, or 448, said they were non-citizens, and of those, 13 percent said they were registered to vote. The 448 would presumedly be a mix of illegal immigrants and noncitizens who are in the U.S. legally, such as visa holders or permanent residents.

    A 1996 federal law, and other statues, makes it a felony for non-citizens to register. The poll did not ask if they voted.

    But James Agresti, who directs the research nonprofit “Just Facts,” applied the 13 percent figure to 2013 U.S. Census numbers for non-citizen Hispanic adults. In 2013, the Census reported that 11.8 million non-citizen Hispanic adults lived here, which would amount to 1.5 million illegally registered Latinos.

    Accounting for the margin of error based on the sample size of non-citizens, Mr. Agresti calculated that the number of illegally registered Hispanics could range from 1.0 million to 2.1 million.

Agresti’s findings align with those of a controversial 2014 analysis conducted by professors at Old Dominion University and George Mason University. Based on answers to citizenship questions in the biennial Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), the professors estimated that 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in the 2008 election, while between 14.5 percent and 15.6 percent of non-citizen adults were registered to vote, ranging from 38,000 at lowest to 2.8 million at highest.

Nevertheless, the liberal media dismissed the ODU study as unreliable and declared it debunked.

But if the data are true, then it means that several close House, Senate, and governors races may have been wrongly decided by fraud.



The black jellyfish in the White House

On February 1 NRA-ILA executive director Chris Cox told Breitbart News that President Obama lacked the "political backbone" to act and keep Chicago from becoming a "national disgrace."

Cox was being interviewed for the upcoming episode of Breitbart News podcast, Bullets with AWR Hawkins.

He said, "This is very simple, you prosecute the criminals who are breaking the law, you let law-abiding people have the ability to defend themselves, because in Chicago there's a lot more bars on windows than gates around communities." He added, "This is no longer funny, it's a national disgrace and a tragedy."

He then turned to Obama's inaction:

We had eight years where President Obama could have done something about his supposed hometown. He could have worked with Rahm Emanuel, the Mayor. But he certainly could have picked up the phone to the Justice Department and said, `Look, every one of these gang members; every one of these murderers and rapists and thugs in Chicago, when they get arrested on a gun charge or a drug charge, turn it over to the U.S. Attorney [and] prosecute [them] in federal court and put them in jail.' But he didn't do that. He didn't do that because he didn't [have] the political backbone and the will to do it.

We asked Cox about Representative Luis Gutierrez's (D-IL-4) attempts to blame Chicago gun violence on the NRA. Cox said, "Gutierrez and the rest of them are playing the people for fools. People are smarter than that. People understand that you can respect the rights of law-abiding people-and our inherent, preexisting right to defend ourselves-while at the same time, going after and prosecuting criminals who misuse firearms. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas despite the left's having such a hard time wrapping their head around it."



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