‘The enemy of my enemy is my ally’
Human monkey behavior is often an under-explored element in articles about group dynamics in politics. That’s why we’re pleased to find National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg liberally including quotations from evolutionary psychologist John Tooby. This is from Jonah’s weekly column in the LATimes:
Jonah Goldberg writes:
…From the outset, many on the right who do not consider themselves part of the Cult of Milo opposed his invitation. The disturbing thing is that, absent these videos, we would have lost the fight.
“John Tooby, the evolutionary psychologist, recently wrote that if he could explain one scientific concept to the public it would be the ‘coalitional instinct.’ In our natural habitat, to be alone was to be vulnerable. If ‘you had no coalition, you were nakedly at the mercy of everyone else, so the instinct to belong to a coalition has urgency, pre-existing and superseding any policy-driven basis for membership … This is why group beliefs are free to be so weird’.”
Even now, Schlapp defends the initial decision to invite Yiannopoulis. On Monday’s ”Morning Joe,” he insisted: “The fact is, he’s got a voice that a lot of young people listen to.” A lot of young conservative people, he should have added, precisely because he enrages so many young liberals.
“If ‘you had no coalition, you were nakedly at the mercy of everyone else, so the instinct to belong to a coalition has urgency, pre-existing and superseding any policy-driven basis for membership,’ Tooby wrote on Edge.org. ‘This is why group beliefs are free to be so weird.’”
John Tooby, the evolutionary psychologist, recently wrote that if he could explain one scientific concept to the public it would be the “coalitional instinct.” In our natural habitat, to be alone was to be vulnerable. If “you had no coalition, you were nakedly at the mercy of everyone else, so the instinct to belong to a coalition has urgency, pre-existing and superseding any policy-driven basis for membership,” Tooby wrote on Edge.org. “This is why group beliefs are free to be so weird.”
We overlook the hypocrisies and shortcomings within our coalition out of a desire to protect ourselves from our enemies.
Today, the right sees the left as enemies — and, I should say, vice versa. Read the rest of this entry »
Gender scholars like bell hooks argue that American is an imperialist, white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. Is she right? The Factual Feminist responds. Read the rest of this entry »
Mr. Grant confronts the subjectivity of economic measurement head-on in his book in an enlightening discussion of whether the 1921 depression was, in fact, a depression at all.
The Forgotten Depression: 1921 — The Crash That Cured Itself, by James Grant, Simon & Schuster, 2014.
Joseph Calandro Jr. writes: To better understand the current economic environment, financial analyst, historian, journalist, and value investor James Grant, who is informed by both Austrian economics and the value investing theory of the late Benjamin Graham, analyzes the Depression of 1920–1921 in his latest work, The Forgotten Depression: 1921 — The Crash That Cured Itself.
Grant understands that despite the pseudo-natural science veneer of mainstream economics the fact remains that economic value is inherently subjective and thus economic measurement is also subjective. Mr. Grant confronts the subjectivity of economic measurement head-on in his book in an enlightening discussion of whether the 1921 depression was, in fact, a depression at all.
Was It a Depression?
Grant concludes it was a depression, but mainstream economist Christine Romer, for example, concludes it was not a depression. As Grant observes, Ms. “Romer, a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, presented her research, titled ‘World War I and the Postwar Depression,’ in a 1988 essay in the Journal of Monetary Economics. The case she made for discarding one set of GNP estimates for another is highly technical. But the lay reader may be struck by the fact that neither the GNP data she rejected, nor the ones she preferred, were compiled in the moment. Rather, each set was constructed some 30 to 40 years after the events it was intended to document” (p. 68).
In contrast, Mr. Grant surveys economic activity as it existed prior to and during 1920–21 and as it was evaluated during those times. Therefore, five pages into chapter 5 of his book, which is titled “A Depression in Fact,” we read that:
A 1920 recession turned into a 1921 depression, according to [Wesley Clair] Mitchell, whose judgment, as a historian, business-cycle theorist and contemporary observer, is probably as reliable as anyone’s. This was no mere American dislocation but a global depression ensnaring nearly all the former Allied Powers (the defeated Central Powers suffered a slump of their own in 1919). “Though the boom of 1919, the crisis of 1920 and the depression of 1921 followed the patterns of earlier cycles,” wrote Mitchell, “we have seen how much this cycle was influenced by economic conditions resulting from the war and its sudden ending. … If American business men were betrayed by postwar demands into unwise courses, so were all business men in all countries similarly situated.”
So depression it was … (p. 71)
- War finance (the currency debasement and credit expansion associated with funding war) has long been associated with economic distortion including World War I, which preceded “The Forgotten Depression.” Such distortions unfortunately continue to the present day.
- Scandal is also associated with booms and busts; for example, the boom preceding “The Forgotten Depression” had Charles Ponzi while the boom preceding “The Great Recession” had Bernie Madoff.
- The booms preceding both financial disruptions also saw governmental banking regulators not doing a very good job of regulating the banks under their supervision.
- Citibank famously fell under significant distress in both events.
- Both eras had former professors of Princeton University in high-ranking governmental positions: Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States at the beginning of “The Forgotten Depression” while Ben Bernanke was chairman of the Fed during “The Great Recession.”
- On the practitioner-side, value investor Benjamin Graham profited handsomely from the distressed investments that he made during “The Forgotten Depression” while his best known student, Warren Buffett, profited from the distressed investments that he made during “The Great Recession.”
The Crash That Cured Itself
Despite similarities, there are noteworthy differences between these two financial events. Foremost among the differences is the reason why “The Forgotten Depression” has, in fact, been forgotten: the government did nothing to stop it. Not only were interest rates not lowered and public money not spent, but interest rates were actually raised and debt paid down. The context behind these actions is fascinating and superbly told and analyzed by Mr. Grant. Read the rest of this entry »
Peter J. Wallison writes: One jarring note in Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was her statement that she would press for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.
“The New York Times is a corporation, so this language would prohibit the Times from editorializing in favor of or against either Ms. Clinton or Donald Trump. Moreover, it might shut down blogs, or firms like Facebook or Twitter, that are corporate vehicles for the expression of opinions about candidates by others.”
This 2009 Supreme Court case held that corporations had the same rights as individuals to make statements for or against the election of a candidate for public office. Particularly difficult to understand was her linking Citizens United to the fact that our economy is not functioning well for many Americans.
“Clearly, closing down newspapers that publish editorials wouldn’t be satisfactory to many Americans, and if extended to other corporate opinion forums would be highly unpopular among the American people. How, then, could the language be modified to allow the New York Times and other corporations to express their views and still overturn Citizens United?”
Taking the last point first, what could be the link between Citizens United and a poorly functioning economy? It’s likely that Ms. Clinton wanted her listeners to infer that corporate power, expressed through independent expenditures—presumably contributions to superpacs or other hidden sources—had distorted the public’s will for the benefit of powerful private parties.
This is a peculiar claim to make after almost eight years of the Obama presidency, in which the most significant government actions—the Dodd-Frank Act, ObamaCare, and various tax increases on corporations and wealthy individuals—could hardly be said to favor corporations or business interests generally. It is also peculiar in light of a recent Wall Street Journal report that hedge fund contributions to Clinton superpacs have outraised those to Trump superpacs by a ratio of more than 2000-to-1 ($46.5 million to $19,000).
But leaving aside these anomalies, what is it about Citizens United that has stirred Ms. Clinton to propose something as drastic as a constitutional amendment, especially one affecting the First Amendment’s right to free speech?
Many of Ms. Clinton’s listeners who cheered her idea probably believe that their right to free speech would not be affected by overturning Citizens United. Of course, the language of the amendment would be determinative, but let’s assume it is as simple as adding new language at the end of the First Amendment as it now reads. Read the rest of this entry »
Narcissist-in-Chief Honors Himself in Hiroshima, Japan
John Bolton writes: An American president’s highest moral, constitutional and political duty is protecting his fellow citizens from foreign threats. Presidents should adhere to our values and the Constitution, and not treat America’s enemies as morally equivalent to us.
If they do, they need not apologize to anyone.
The White House says that President Obama won’t apologize as he visits Hiroshima Friday. But who believes his press flacks?
“Obama’s narcissism, his zeal for photo opportunities with him at the center, whether in Havana or Hiroshima, too often overcomes lesser concerns — like the best interests of the country.”
His penchant for apologizing is central to his legacy. He may not often say “I apologize” explicitly, but his meaning is always clear, especially since he often bends his knee overseas, where he knows the foreign audiences will get his meaning. It is, in fact, Obama’s subtlety that makes his effort to reduce America’s influence in the world so dangerous.
He started in Cairo in 2009, referring to the “fear and anger” that the 9/11 attacks provoked in Americans, saying that, “in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals.” He later said, “Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions . . . based on fear rather than foresight” — a characterization Americans overwhelmingly reject.
In Europe, saved three times by America in the last century, Obama apologized because “there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” And in this hemisphere, Obama said, “We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms,” culminating in his recent fawning visits with the Castros in Cuba.
The list goes on and on.
Then there’s his penchant for bowing to foreign leaders. He has bowed to the king of Saudi Arabia. He bowed to the emperor of Japan on a previous visit. He has bowed to China’s leader, Xi Jinping. And these are not casual nods of the head, but unmistakable gestures of obeisance. Read the rest of this entry »
The unparalleled increase in regulatory burdens spells a decline in economic freedom and individual liberty, with a concomitant increase in political gamesmanship and cronyism—all of which inhibits innovation, investment and job creation, increases prices, and curtails consumer choice.
James Gattuso and Diane Katz report: The tide of red tape that threatens to drown U.S. consumers and businesses surged yet again in 2015, according to a Heritage Foundation study we released on Monday.
More than $22 billion per year in new regulatory costs were imposed on Americans last year, pushing the total burden for the Obama years to exceed $100 billion annually.
That’s a dollar for every star in the galaxy, or one for every second in 32 years.
The consequences of this rampant rulemaking are widespread:
- Restricted access to credit under the hundreds of rules unleashed by the Dodd–Frank financial regulation statute
- Fewer health care choices and higher medical costs from the Affordable Care Act
- Reduced Internet investment and innovation under the network neutrality rules dictated by the Federal Communications Commission
These are just a few of the 2,353 regulations of 2015—and there have been 20,642 since Obama took office in 2009.
The worst of last year’s wave—in terms of cost, at least—was the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan.”
The rule represents the first direct regulation of so-called greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, at a cost of $7.2 billion a year (and far more according to critics). Despite the huge costs, the plan will do nothing to mitigate global warming.
America’s problem with excessive regulation did not start with the Obama administration, of course. Read the rest of this entry »
Koji Murata was dismissed Friday as president of a prestigious Japanese university for supporting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policies. Photo: Kyodo
“Japan’s academics are known to be a largely liberal lot, but the concerns over free speech in the Murata case reflect Japan’s larger problems. At root, it’s about how the country will face both its past and its future.”
A favorite claim of liberal academics and activists is that Japan remains one of the most conservative societies. In recent years, their invective has been directed toward Mr. Abe, who is charged with repressing and intimidating liberal views. Media outlets argue that they have been pressured, and academics warn that government forces are trying to stifle debate about the country’s wartime past.
Yet punishing free speech in Japan is no prerogative of the right. Last week, the president of the prestigious liberal-arts college Doshisha failed to be re-elected due to his support earlier this year of Mr. Abe’s controversial security legislation to relax post-World War II restrictions on the use of the military.
Koji Murata is a well-known and respected academic and public intellectual in Japan. A fixture on news shows, the nattily dressed Mr. Murata is also an expert on foreign policy and security. In July, he was one of several experts testifying in front of Japan’s Parliament in favor of Mr. Abe’s security bills, which would modestly expand Japan’s ability to conduct military operations abroad. Read the rest of this entry »
The More You Politicize Guns, The Weaker Your Case Becomes.
David Harsanyi writes: After the horrific mass shooting at a community college in Oregon, President Obama made an impassioned case that gun violence is “something we should politicize”—and why should this be any different:
“This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction.”
Everything in that statement is wrong. What happened in Oregon is tragic, and the nation should comfort families and look for reasonable and practical ways to stem violence, but there is only one murderer. Now, if government somehow bolstered, endorsed, or “allowed” the actions of Chris Harper-Mercer—as they might, say, the death of 10,000-plus viable babies each year or the civilian deaths that occur during an American drone action—a person could plausibly argue that we are collectively answerable as a nation.
“For the liberal, every societal problem has a state-issued remedy waiting to be administered over the objections of a reactionary Republican. But just because you have a tremendous amount of emotion and frustration built up around a certain cause doesn’t make your favored legislation any more practical, effective or realistic.”
Then again, when the president asserts Americans are collectively answerable, what he really suggests—according to his own broader argument—is that conservatives who’ve blocked his gun-control legislation are wholly responsible. The problem with that contention, outside of the obvious fact that Republicans never condone the use of guns for illegal violence (in fact, these rampages hurt their cause more than anything) is that Democrats haven’t offered a single bill or idea (short of confiscation) that would impede any of the mass shootings, or overall gun violence. This is not a political choice, because it’s likely there is no available political answer.
For the liberal, every societal problem has a state-issued remedy waiting to be administered over the objections of a reactionary Republican. But just because you have a tremendous amount of emotion and frustration built up around a certain cause doesn’t make your favored legislation any more practical, effective or realistic. It doesn’t change the fact that owning a gun is a civil right, that the preponderance of owners are not criminals, or that there are 300 million guns out there.
And if it’s a political argument you’re offering—and when hasn’t it been?—you’ll need more than the vacuousness of the “this is bad and so we have to do something.” That’s because anti-gun types are never able to answer a simple question: what law would you pass that could stop these shootings?
Women White House staffers still earn 15.8 percent less on average than their male counterparts, according to an analysis from the conservative American Enterprise Institute of the latest disclosure reports. But the 25 highest-earning aides are evenly split – with 13 men and 12 women each earning between $165,300 and $173,922 a year.
The real discrepancy is at the bottom, where the 100 staffers on the bottom rung – those earning between $41,000 and $47,631 – are 57 percent female to 43 percent male. Read the rest of this entry »
To become a majority again, conservatives need to reassert the moral case for free markets
It’s not the standard route to the top job at a Beltway think tank. Then again, not much about Mr. Brooks is standard. From dropping out of college to go to Spain to play for the Barcelona City Orchestra, to earning his B.A. degree via correspondence courses from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey, his life makes for an eclectic résumé.
“Our side has all the right policies. But without the music, the public hears just numbers and we have no resonance.”
Today he boasts a Ph.D. from the RAND Graduate School and enjoys an honored spot in the capital’s intellectual firmament. But the horn still defines how he sees the world.
“We don’t need to write an opera about free enterprise to reach people. But it’s not a bad idea.”
“The French horn is the harmonic backbone of the orchestra,” Mr. Brooks says. “The physics are tricky. It’s as long as a tuba but with a mouthpiece as small as a trumpet’s. This gives the French horn its characteristic mellow sound but also makes it easy to miss notes. The metaphors here form themselves.”
Indeed they do. Not least because think tanks have distinct personalities in addition to their politics.
“The liberation of hundreds of millions from desperate poverty ranks among the greatest success stories in history. But it’s a story that remains largely untold and mostly unheralded.”
The libertarian Cato Institute, for example, looks as though it had been designed by Howard Roark, the hero architect of Ayn Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead.” The Liberty Bell on the Heritage Foundation logo evokes a classic conservatism rooted in the American founding. The clean modernist lines of the Brookings Institution suggest its faith in good, rational government.
“Capitalism has saved a couple of billion people and we have treated this miracle like a state secret.”
In Mr. Brooks’s hands, AEI has beome an orchestra. Sure, it is sometimes labeled “neocon” (almost always deployed as a pejorative) because of the home it provides for former George W. Bush administration officials such as John Bolton and
Paul Wolfowitz, not to mention scholars such as Fred Kagan who write on military matters. These people are all vital to AEI, but they are only part of a larger ensemble.
“Our side has all the right policies,” Mr. Brooks says. “But without the music, the public hears just numbers and we have no resonance.”
“We need to know Adam Smith who wrote ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ as well as we do the Adam Smith who wrote ‘The Wealth of Nations,’ Because when you do, you begin to understand we are hard-wired for freedom by the same Creator who gave us our unalienable rights.”
He is speaking over lunch in his corner office overlooking 17th and M streets in northwest Washington, D.C. The office isn’t standard-issue, either.
[Read the full text here, at WSJ]
The walls are bereft of the signed photos and tributes from presidents, senators and other pooh-bahs that are de riguer for the capital’s movers and shakers. The largest piece in the room is a poster featuring José Tomás, Spain’s greatest bullfighter. Mr. Brooks once saw him in the ring. “A true master artist,” he says.
The other poster is from the Soviet Union circa 1964. It features two workers. One is a drunk scratching his head as he looks at the one-ruble note in his hand. The other is a hale-and-hearty type proudly looking at the 10 rubles he has earned. The caption: “Work more, earn more.”
“It was part of a public-information campaign to raise productivity by paying people more,” Mr. Brooks says. It’s the sort of irony he loves, a confirmation of basic market wisdom—courtesy of communist propaganda. Read the rest of this entry »
‘The First Rule of Economic Fight Club is…’ Stephen Moore, Paul Krugman Meet for ‘Economic Fight Club’ at Freedom FestPosted: July 10, 2015
I was fortunate to catch the majority of this debate live, via Periscope, watching it live on my phone’s screen (mostly just listening to the audio) and I agree with this description: “All in all this was a very interesting discussion. Of course I was not convinced by anything Krugman had to say but I did think it was a good-faith conversation on a variety of topics.” I’ve not found the video online yet, but stay tuned, when we find it, we’ll post it. In the meantime, enjoy a sample of this account by PJ Tatler‘s Liz Sheld,
“I have to give some props to Krugman for showing up, as he had to know this was going to be a tough crowd. And this panel was one of the best I’ve seen at a conference — it was thoughtful and did not get hostile at all, while both Moore and Krugman addressed each other’s points.”
Liz Sheld writes:
One of the big spectacles at Freedom Fest was the showdown between Stephen Moore and Paul Krugman that took place this morning. Moore founded the Club for Growth and was formerly on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. The former chief economist at the Heritage Foundation was billed as the “supply-sider.” On the other side of the debate was Krugman – New York Times columnist, professor of economics at Princeton, and Nobel prize winner. He was billed as the “Keynesian.”
The topic was “What happened to the American Dream?” or “How can we best restore the American Dream?”
“I wish we had more of this and less grandstanding at our center-right conclaves.”
I have to give some props to Krugman for showing up, as he had to know this was going to be a tough crowd. And this panel was one of the best I’ve seen at a conference — it was thoughtful and did not get hostile at all, while both Moore and Krugman addressed each other’s points. I wish we had more of this and less grandstanding at our center-right conclaves.
Since this was an hour-long debate, I’ll sum up some of the most interesting exchanges between the two economists. It didn’t take long before each was urging the moderator to pull up one of their charts. Charts really add some gravitas to the discussion. As they say on the streets, sh!t got real when the charts started coming out.
Moore pointed out that everything done by the Obama administration has thwarted recovery from the economic disaster of 2007-8. But to be fair, he included Bush along with examples of Obama’s mistakes: cash for clunkers, stimulus, bailouts, and tax increases, for starters. He said that Reagan also inherited a bad economy but did the right things for a much faster turnaround. Moore said that we have 8 million fewer jobs under Obama than we would have had if Obama had taken Reagan-esque action.
Read the rest of this entry »
Kyle Smith writes: What’s the deal with young people today? “They just want to use these words: ‘That’s racist,’ ‘That’s sexist,’ ‘That’s prejudice,’” Jerry Seinfeld told ESPN’s Colin Cowherd this week. “They don’t know what the f—k they’re talking about.”
“I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.”
— Chris Rock
Comics are afraid to work on college campuses, Seinfeld said. To give an idea of how young people think, he cited a bizarre response his 14-year-old daughter made when his wife noted that the girl might want to go to New York City from the suburbs more often “So you can see boys.” The girl replied that the remark was “sexist,” her father said.
“There is a word…That word is illiberal; there is nothing ‘conservative’ about it.”
— Kyle Smith
The determination of the identity-politics obsessed to shut down speech on campus inspired a couple of hilarious one-liners in the past year. One was from The Onion: “College Encourages Lively Exchange of Idea: Students, Faculty Invited to Freely Express Single Viewpoint.” The other, though unintentionally funny, was equally amusing, and came from Chris Rock: “I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.”
There is a word for the move to ban a screening of 2014’s most popular movie, American Sniper (and replace it with Paddington), to hound a major university into rescinding its honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to punish someone with a Title IX investigation for the crime of questioning the wisdom of certain Title IX investigations, and designating a “safe space” to which to flee after failing to prevent a speech by Christina Hoff Sommers from taking place. Read the rest of this entry »
Watch this representative from gun-control group “Everytown for Gun Safety” explain on C-SPAN why he won’t debate anybody who disagrees with him:
Here’s transcript of the relevant part of his answer:
Everytown is committed to an evidence-based approach. We speak with criminologists, legislators across the country and we welcome debate. In fact, we’re thrilled that there is an increased amount of research in this area, and an increased amount of conversation about what laws are effective to keeping guns out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers. So, when there’s a credible scientist — somebody who wants to have a real constructive conversation about this — we’re going to be there. But folks who seek to minimize the grave issue of gun violence in this country – or to draw attention away from the real issues to themselves – that’s not a conversation I think it’s productive to be a part of.
[Check out Charles C. W. Cooke‘s new book: “The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s Future” at Amazon.com]
Obviously, the speaker is doing little more than begging the question. “Sure we’ll talk to people who disagree” he appears to be saying, “but only if they agree. Because to disagree with the claims that we are making is to take attention away from the claims that we are making, which are true by virtue of their having been made.”
Oddly enough, this is also exactly how critics of, say, Christina Hoff Sommerstend to explain away their unwillingness to engage. Read the rest of this entry »
The National Review made mention of what it called Gabbard’s “exotic background,” using the fact that she was born in American Samoa and is Hindu. It also strongly focused on her looks with a headline that read: “Meet the Beautiful, Tough Young Democrat Who’s Turning Heads by Challenging Obama’s Foreign Policy.”
“She’s young, she’s hip, and she’s beautiful,” the article said. “She’s also a combat veteran and a Democrat.” Read the rest of this entry »
“Ask yourself, what did she achieve as secretary of state? Nothing. What was her signature achievement as senator? I can’t remember. What did she achieve as first lady? Hillarycare, which went down in flames.”
“She is running on two things: gender and her name. And her name evokes the ’90s, and until these recent scandals, it would evoke the good stuff in the ’90s: peace and prosperity, her association with it. It is really a tremendous asset…”
“…What we are getting right now, is early-onset Clinton fatigue…”
“…But what has happened now is people are now re-remembering the other side of the ’90s and the Clintons, and that was a sort of low-level corruption, above-the-law Clintonisms, and that is what hurts you…(read more)
Surrounded by fans and protected from criticism, it’s no wonder Brian Williams became a serial fabulist
Jonah Goldberg writes: By now everyone knows about his transgressions. If even only some of the reports are true, Brian Williams is a serial embellisher, a self-aggrandizing fabulist.
No doubt everyone knows somebody like this, and if you don’t it’s probably because you’re that guy. But Williams’ case is special. This isn’t some sad Willy Loman at the end of the bar who needs to invent impressive stories about himself. If anything, he needed to not tell such stories, given that he reportedly makes more than $10 million a year to be a trusted name in news.
Yet he couldn’t stop himself.
“To walk down a street with an anchor is to be stunned both by how many people recognize them and how many viewers call out to them about specific stories. There’s a respectful familiarity different from the awe displayed to Hollywood celebrities. The anchor is treated as the citizen’s trusted guide to the news. As a result, they can feel expected to dominate discussions, to tell war stories, to play God.”
— Ken Auletta, The New Yorker’s media critic
If Kathy Griffin is the quintessential D-list celebrity, then I’m probably somewhere south of Z. But I do get recognized at airports and restaurants from time to time, mostly because of my stints on Fox News. A couple dozen times a year, someone will come up and compliment me. (Or, they’ll compliment The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, thinking I’m him.)
But you know what virtually never happens? Someone coming up to me to tell me how much they hated my column, my comments, my book, my face, or my existence. Read the rest of this entry »
Jennifer Maloney writes: Ayn Rand fans, here’s something to whet your appetites: New American Libraryhas released the cover image for “Ideal,” the first Ayn Rand novel to be published in more than 50 years.
“I’ve heard wishful comments over many years from readers wondering if there were other novels in Ayn Rand’s papers.”
— Richard Ralston, publishing manager at the Ayn Rand Institute
“Ideal” tells the story of a screen actress who is accused of murder and visits six of her most devoted fans to ask for help. In 1934, when she was in her late 20s, Rand first wrote “Ideal” as a work of fiction.
But Rand was dissatisfied with it and set it aside. The same year, she rewrote it as a play. The play didn’t have its New York premiere until 2010 – 66 years after she wrote it. Read the rest of this entry »
Why, then, is Government Enforcement Suddenly Necessary to Maintain the Status Quo?
At The Corner, Ian Tuttle writes:
….Writing at National Review Online in July, Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn and FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly noted that “on the issue of net neutrality, the [FCC] has already conceded that there is no current harm to consumers . . . [and] bragged that the rules would be ‘prophylactic.’”
I am all for planning ahead, but basing sweeping government action on the argument that “while there is no problem currently, there could be in the future” is hardly persuasive. What couldn’t one justify by that logic?
Now, it may eventually be the case that the complex Internet economy falls prey to quasi-monopolistic forces who abuse consumers, requiring some 21st-century trust-busting. But what is certainly the case is that the Internet has thrived in no small part because of the lack of regulation. A comparatively uninhibited market has tempered the excesses to which large companies may be inclined. Net-neutrality rules would substitute bureaucratic rigmarole for market forces, making those innovators about which the president is so enthusiastic beholden not to consumers, but to a five-person board of commissioners (and its bureaucratic labyrinth) and to the courts. Moreover, there is ample reason to believe that net-neutrality rules — like so much other government regulation — would have sprawling unforeseen consequences. What reason is there at this point to risk that?
Moreover, what government regulation of the Internet does exist is already proving to be a stranglehold on innovation. Writing in the July 15, 2013, issue of National Review, Hudson Institute scholar Christopher DeMuth pointed out the ill effects of the FCC’s allocation of wireless broadband:
The shortage of wireless broadband spectrum is certainly a severe problem. It is needlessly raising the costs and retarding the speed and quality of personal communications (Onionheadline: “Internet Collapses Under Sheer Weight of Baby Pictures”). Wireless providers such as Verizon and AT&T have been obliged to raise prices and reduce speeds selectively for heavy users of video and data applications, leading to charges of “discrimination” that the FCC has taken seriously. Read the rest of this entry »
It ended a long time ago, and women won
Last Friday, the White House announced its “It’s On Us” initiative aimed at combating sexual assaults on college campuses. I’m all in favor of combating sexual assault, but the first priority in combating a problem is understanding it.
That’s not the White House’s first priority. Roughly six weeks before Election Day, its chief concern is to translate an exciting social-media campaign into a get-out-the-vote operation.
“Obviously, this isn’t all about elections. There’s a vast feminist-industrial complex that is addicted to institutionalized panic. “
Accurate statistics are of limited use in that regard because rape and sexual assault have been declining for decades. So the Obama administration and its allied activist groups trot out the claim that there is a rape epidemic victimizing 1 in 5 women on college campuses.
This conveniently horrifying number is a classic example of being too terrible to check. If it were true, it would mean that rape would be more prevalent on elite campuses than in many of the most impoverished and crime-ridden communities.
“To listen to pretty much anyone in the Democratic party these days, you’d think these are dark days for women. But by any objective measure, things have been going great for women for a long time, under Republicans and Democrats alike.”
It comes from tendentious Department of Justice surveys that count “attempted forced kissing” and other potentially caddish acts that even the DOJ admits “are not criminal.” Read the rest of this entry »
Resenting the Republic
You wouldn’t think, five years into the Obama presidency, that so many liberal Americans wouldn’t like America.
A new Pew survey found that 44 percent of Americans don’t often feel pride in being an American, and only 28 percent said that America is the greatest country in the world. Respondents who “often feel proud to be American” were overwhelmingly conservative (from 72 percent to 81 percent, depending on the kind of conservative). A majority (60 percent) of “solid liberals” said they don’t often feel proud to be an American.
“To listen to some of the hysterical responses to the court’s decision, you’d think the government in Washington is the only thing thwarting the desire of millions of businessmen to drape their female employees in burqas.”
The polling data only prove what has been obvious for a while.
Georgia representative John Lewis recently said that “if the Civil Rights Act was before the Congress today, it would not pass, it would probably never make it to the floor for a vote.”
Lewis is right. If it came before the Congress today, it wouldn’t pass. You know why? Because we passed it 50 years ago. The GI Bill wouldn’t pass today either, because that was enacted in 1944. If, somehow, we had Jim Crow today, the American people — and Congress — would vote to abolish it in a landslide.
In fairness, Lewis was primarily condemning congressional gridlock, not GOP racism.
Primarily. Read the rest of this entry »
Of the Bureaucrats, by the Bureaucrats, for the Bureaucrats
If anyone’s gonna find a text written by an obscure, largely forgotten Communist author, it’s NRO’s Jonah Goldberg. The statistics he cites, too, are telling: I knew Federal employee job security and unaccountability has gotten deeper and more entrenched in recent years, but I didn’t know it was this secure. Example: “In 2010, the 168,000 federal workers in Washington, D.C. — who are quite well compensated — had a job-security rate of 99.74 percent.” Read the whole thing here.
For understandable reasons, the IRS scandal has largely focused on the political question of whether the White House deliberately targeted its opponents. To date there’s no evidence that it did. That’s good for the president, but it may not be good for the country, because if the administration didn’t target opponents, that would mean the IRS has become corrupt all on its own.
In 1939, Bruno Rizzi, a largely forgotten Communist intellectual, wrote a hugely controversial book, The Bureaucratization of the World. Rizzi argued that the Soviet Union wasn’t Communist. Rather, it represented a new kind of system, what Rizzi called “bureaucratic collectivism.” What the Soviets had done was get rid of the capitalist and aristocratic ruling classes and replace them with a new, equally self-interested ruling class: bureaucrats.
“School-choice programs and even public charter schools are under vicious attack, not because they are bad at educating children but because they’re good at it.”
The book wasn’t widely read, but it did reach Bolshevik theoretician Leon Trotsky, who attacked it passionately. Trotsky’s response, in turn, inspired James Burnham, who used many of Rizzi’s ideas in his own 1941 book The Managerial Revolution, in which Burnham argued that something similar was happening in the West. A new class of bureaucrats, educators, technicians, regulators, social workers, and corporate directors who worked in tandem with government were reengineering society for their own benefit. The Managerial Revolution was a major influence on George Orwell’s 1984.
“Specifically, they are good at it because they don’t have to abide by rules aimed at protecting government workers at the expense of students.”
Now, I don’t believe we are becoming anything like 1930s Russia, never mind a real-life 1984. But this idea that bureaucrats — very broadly defined — can become their own class bent on protecting their interests at the expense of the public seems not only plausible but obviously true.
Read the rest of this entry »
“Yes, of course it’s not true. Yes…I know. It’s fiction. It’s complete bullshit, I know. It’s a wedge issue. It’s all we got. Give it time. If we keep repeating the lie, it will….yes, exactly…It’s perfect…”
The wage gap myth, most recently used by President Obama during the State of the Union Address, states that women make only 77 cents to every dollar that men earn. AEI resident scholar Christina Hoff Sommers debunks the bogus statistic…
A prominent liberal economist contends capitalism will inevitably increase inequality.
‘Karl Marx wasn’t wrong, just early. Pretty much. Sorry, capitalism. #inequalityforevah”
James Pethokoukis writes: When trying to condense a sweeping, 700-page analysis of the past, present, and possible future of capitalism into an 85-character tweet, you’re bound to miss a few things. But the above Twitter-fication of economist Thomas Piketty’s much-awaited Capital in the Twenty-First Century captures the gist of the author’s argument.
“Piketty, a left-wing Frenchman who teaches at the Paris School of Economics, is hardly the only economist arguing inequality is headed inexorably higher…”
Piketty thinks the German progenitor of Communism basically got it right. It’s only that his essential insight — private capital accumulation inevitably leads to the concentration of wealth into ever-fewer hands — took a hiatus during the middle part of the last century thanks to depression and war hurting the fortunes of the well-to-do. But now Marxism’s fundamental truth is reasserting itself with a vengeance, a reality borne out in both Piketty’s own meticulously gathered data and in business pages replete with stories of skyrocketing wealth for the 0.001 percent and decades of flat wages for everyone else.
“John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek famously squared off in the 1930s, Left versus Right. But when Keynes published his revolutionary General Theory in 1936, Hayek went silent….Who will make the intellectual case for economic freedom today?”
And it’s only going to get worse, Piketty concludes. Sure, the productive and innovative capacity of market capitalism will generate enough income growth for the masses to prevent revolution. He concedes Marx got that bit of apocalypticism wrong. But an “endless inegalitarian spiral” will create such wealth bifurcation that “the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based” will be undermined. The political process will be hopelessly captured by a tiny elite of rent seekers and trust-fund kids. America (and then the other advanced economies) will become what Occupy Wall Street types and Elizabeth Warren think it already is.
Over at NRO‘s The Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez writes: There is a tendency in certain parts to eye-roll when the word “dialogue” is raised. And I’ve certainly sat through some dialogues now and again that didn’t seem to get anywhere. But today in Washington, D.C., Arthur Brooks, it seems to me, did a very good thing. The president of the American Enterprise Institute hosted the Dalai Lama for a conversation about morality and economics. During the course of private and public interactions with Brooks and the people he gathered at the American Enterprise Institute, the Dalai Lama announced that he had a new respect for capitalists, who, he had previously assumed took people’s money and exploited them.
An affirmative answer to the question posed in the title of this post would be a step too far, but at AEI today, the spiritual leader of Tibetans wasn’t playing economist or politician, but reminding people of our common humanity and responsibilities to one another. And it seemed pretty clear to me that the hedge-fund billionaire on the main panel, Daniel Loeb, talking about how contemplation and meditation enhances decision-making and his work with an inner-city Brooklyn charter school, was not at all the caricature of capitalists the Dalai Lama is used to hearing from his admirers on the Left.
[Amazon has Jonah Goldberg‘s fine book: The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas]
Can Christina Hoff Sommers Save Feminism?
Freedom Feminism: Its Surprising History and Why It Matters Today, by Christina Hoff Sommers, AEI Press, 127 pages, $3.95.
Sharon Presley writes: Some libertarians look askance at feminism, seeing it only as a leftist push to use the state to benefit women. Many conservatives see it something as far worse. But Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute wants to change all that. In Freedom Feminism, Sommers sets out to provide a manifesto for moderate and conservative women (and, some say, for libertarians) because they “must be at the helm” if they are to raise broad support for the kind of feminism that she thinks is worthwhile. Sommers asserts that her “freedom feminism” is a synthesis of 19th century “radical egalitarianism” and a conservative “maternal school,” and that the results avoid the problems of leftist feminism.
This raises two questions for libertarians: Is feminism salvageable? And if so, is Sommers’ new blend the right mix?
In addressing the first question, it is useful to recognize that leftists didn’t invent feminism. Mary Wollstonecraft, the leading influence on First Wave feminism, was an individualist. So were such 19th-century American feminists as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who believed that “nothing adds such dignity to character as the recognition of one’s self-sovereignty; the right to an equal place, everywhere conceded—a place earned by personal merit.” In addition to working for the vote, 19th-century feminists struggled to undo unjust and unfair laws that made women the property of their husbands. They sought equal rights, not governmental privilege.
After Dean predicted that the controversial law would be “running a lot more smoothly” by March, Scott Gottlieb of the American Enterprise Institute countered by pointing to enrollment data, which suggests an older, less healthy population is signing up for coverage, a dynamic many experts predict could put pressure on the health-insurance marketplace.
Jennifer Rubin writes: The high-profile winners in politics don’t let you forget they won. But organizations and individuals do some of the most important work out of the limelight to defend, sustain and enrich our political system and society as a whole. There were a number of these that made a difference in 2013.
• The American Enterprise Institute: Under president Arthur Brooks AEI has hit its stride, becoming the premiere right-leaning think tank. Unlike Heritage, it has stayed out of politics and stuck to the realm of political philosophy and policy. It has been a major mover on the right to create a more people-centric, positive vision of conservatism. And to top it off, Brooks is doing some fascinating work on happiness — who is happy, what makes us happy. AEI has and continues to provide intellectual sustenance and encouragement to conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).
• Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee: He started 2013 with a controversial report that began a year of rebuilding and positive debate about the party’s future. He recognized immigration as an issue that had to be addressed. And most important, he began work on a new primary system that will be shorter and less self-destructive. The extent of his work won’t be fully known until 2016, but he is making critical strides in modernizing the party.