Friday, September 16, 2011

UK MP Hannan Gets It Right

Daniel Hannan of the UK tells the House of Commons the truth about the EU - that it's a failure because the ideas on which it is based are false.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stanford Scientists Create the Future

Largely out of the public eye, scientists continue to create the future. In this instance, a team at Stanford has discovered some novel and unexpected properties of superconducting materials.

If only we had such an innovative political culture. Imagine the hundreds of new applications for protecting individual rights, voluntary trade, and property in novel ways.

By the way, I'm in Bogota for a few months so anyone one interested in what life is like in Colombia let me know…

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Credit Downgrade That Didn't Happen

Following is a post by Dr. Burt Folsom, author of New Deal or Raw Deal?* and professor of history at Hillsdale College. It is reprinted in its entirety from Prof. Folsom's blog by his kind permission.

The Credit Downgrade That Didn’t Happen
by Dr. Burt Folsom

Ninety years ago, in 1921, the U. S. was poised for a recession, high unemployment, and a possible credit downgrade.


Because World War I had ended, the troops had come home, but 11.7% unemployment darkened the country. Our veterans could not find work. To solve these problems, some leaders recommended, in effect, a stimulus package–give the veterans jobs to build roads, bridges, and some buildings.

But President Harding (who died in office) and President Coolidge said no. Instead, these two presidents recommended cutting federal spending and cutting tax rates.

The cutting of federal spending was critical because the U. S. national debt had increased from $1.2 billion to $24.3 billion from 1916 to 1920.

We complain today about 9.1% unemployment and a doubling of our national debt in the last eight years; from 1916 to 1920, however, we had a 20-fold increase in the national debt and 11.7% unemployment.

But in early 1920s, the U.S. never had a credit downgrade or a prolonged recession because the cutting of federal spending and of tax rates jump-started the economy and produced budget surpluses every year during the 1920s.

During that decade we slashed more than one-fourth of our entire national debt, and increased GDP by almost 25%. American entrepreneurs eagerly began producing radios, talking movies, and air conditioning–three inventions, among others, that changed our nation and the world.

What is encouraging here is that Americans can still chart their own future. We did that in 1921, and we can do so today. We are not pre-destined to be a declining nation–we have a choice in that and we will help make that choice as a nation when we vote next year for the leaders who will shape public policy.

If we select someone with Coolidge’s free-market philosophy, then the freedom that comes with that will allow Americans to invent and create more goods and services to provide the jobs and prosperity to get America moving again.

Woodrow Wilson, the president who Harding and Coolidge replaced, promoted the first income tax and under Wilson the top rates went from 7% to 15% to 65%, and finally to 73%.

Under those rates, we were making the decision to chase wealth out of the country and stagnate as a nation. Harding and Coolidge reversed that decision and sent tax rates tumbling to 25% on top incomes.

American entrepreneurs arose and dominated the world. Revenue actually increased and budget surpluses became the hallmark of the 1920s. What choices will we make ninety years later?
*Dr. Folsom is also the author of The Myth of the Robber Barons. He has a new book on FDR during WWII coming out in October!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Obama Once Embraced Fiscal Sanity?

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government can not pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies.

Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.'

Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

-- Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006
Of course, it's almost a given now that everything Obama says has an expiration date, and this statement was no doubt made then only for the purpose of opposing Republicans. Still, it was true then and it's even more true now.

With 'plans' on the table that actually cut no spending at all - they're all just reductions in projected (i.e. fantasy) spending increases in the future - we'll continue with the status quo... until the whole house of cards collapses in about 10 years.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Coal Mine Owner Shrugs

A coal mine owner in Alabama has decided to go Galt. He's had enough.
“Nearly every day without fail…men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance.

And as I stand here today, I just…you know…what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people.

They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home.

What’s the use? I see these guys—I see them with tears in their eyes—looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them.

So…basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you.”
I applaud his decision. After thinking it over for two years, I've reluctantly concluded that it's time for the entire country to do that. I honestly can not see any other way, short of actual civil war, to get the state and Federal governments to back off.

The latest round of ridiculous 'negotiations' in D.C. was one of the last tumblers to fall into place. I applaud the Republicans for trying, but even the most 'extreme' plans represent at best 1/10th of what needs to happen, economically.

The regulatory burden, many times greater, isn't even being discussed. While I fully expect things to get a whole lot better for a while after January 2013 - if Obama, Reid, and crew haven't completely destroyed any chance of recovery by then - it won't be nearly enough.

No one hopes more than I that I'm wrong, that this is just (temporary) and unfounded pessimism. But I genuinely can not see how you pay down several trillion dollars of debt without serious changes to entitlement programs and even the Republicans are only nibbling at the edges. I can't see how you prevent a continued economic slide without removing vast swaths of irrational regulations. I can't fathom how any of this will even begin without a moral and cultural revolution, which doesn't appear to be in the offing. Even the Tea Party is a very weak brew.

Still, I've been wrong before. Maybe I will be again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guest Post - Entitlement Mess: Who's Responsible?

Following is a guest post by Brad Puryear.

Recently, I received an email from a friend which said, in part:
Isn't Congress just wonderful! Entitlement? I paid cash for my social security insurance!!!! Just because they borrowed the money, doesn't make my benefits some kind of charity or handout!!

Congressional benefits, aka. free healthcare, outrageous retirement packages, 67 paid holidays, three weeks paid vacation, unlimited paid sick days, now that's welfare, and they have the nerve to call my retirement, an "entitlement" !!!!!!.....
The outrage is well placed and understandable, but the situation is ENTIRELY the fault of the electorate.

Where was the outrage when Congress voted to adopt baseline budgeting, which had the following effects.
    1. All taxes, regardless of what they are called, regardless what their original intent and regardless of any promises past, present or future congresses have made or will make, are simply revenue streams to the government. These taxes all go into one pool and are spent as Congress and the President sees fit to fund any and all programs, including Social Security and Medicare.
    2. There is no Social Security Trust Fund. Politicians talk about the trust fund all the time, but it is empty rhetoric devoid of meaning which is designed purely to appeal to the electorate’s base emotions. The Social Security IOU’s are also a joke! They have no meaning in a baseline budgeting system. It has as much meaning as would you were you to over spend the funds in your checking account, writing yourself an IOU to pay yourself back. Silly!
    3. Ditto Medicare!
    4. If you have failed to plan for your own retirement, both income and medical care, the best you can hope for is politicians who will chose fund these programs before they fund other programs. This will especially become important when the crap hits the proverbial fan and our government is forced to only spend what it takes in.
    5. For points 1, 2 and 3 above, before you get all morally outraged and say what I wrote is a lie, know this. The Supreme Court of the US has already ruled that the Social Security and Medicare taxes that all of us pay are simply revenue generators for the Federal Government.

    Worse, they ruled that any and all past promises with regard to these two programs carry no legal weight. In essence, none of us who have paid in to these two funds our entire working lives have a "legal" right to benefit from them at any point in our life. In fact, both programs have been entitlements since the day the Feds adopted baseline budgeting.

Those of you who think/thought privatizing the portion of the Social Security tax employees pay is/was a bad idea, what say you now? Would you rather have an account worth half a million dollars at retirement that is in your name and out of the reach of politicians, or an entitlement transfer of wealth payment from the biggest Ponzi scheme ever perpetrated on mankind? (The problem with Ponzi schemes and, yes, Social Security is that eventually you run out of money from rube A to pay rube B!)

What our politicians have done is a moral outrage and were they private citizens doing same, would have found their butts in jail. There is, however, a difference between what is moral and what is legal. I'm sorry to tell you that Congress could vote to stop paying Social Security benefits tomorrow and your only two recourses would be to vote the bastards out of office or pick up arms, march on DC and by force, take back control and hold a Constitutional Convention. Sadly, the courts are not on our side and offer no justice on this front!

Finally, a word about the mentality that brought this about.

In my opinion, anyone who thinks they have a right to someone else’s production is to blame for the mess we are in. If you think the rich don't pay their fair share, you're part of the problem. If you think we are morally obligated to administer welfare programs, you're part of the problem. If you think we are entitled to own homes regardless of our ability to pay for them, you're part of the problem. If you think we are obligated to send money to other governments, you're part of the problem. If you think we are entitled to public education, you're part of the problem. If you think the government should fund research in to anything, regardless what it is, you are part of the problem.

Now that I've likely gored at least one of your sacred cows, let me explain.

It is pretty universally accepted in Western Democracies that slavery is an immoral and unjust system for engaging in commerce. One definition of slavery is person A owning the production of person B’s labor without person B’s consent or agreement. In most cases, especially with state sponsored slavery, slavery leaves the victims virtually defenseless and helpless to do anything about it that wouldn’t likely lead to their death. When person A owns person B’s labor, they in fact own person B’s life energy!

I think we can all agree that this is an immoral system that should not be tolerated?

When you enter into a contract with an employer, you agree to give up some percent of your time for some level of compensation, usually in the form of cash. Your time is an investment of your life energy, which as noted above, no person other you has a right to without your consent. Therefore, the cash you earn is a proxy for your life energy.

When the government takes your cash and transfers it to another, they have in fact transferred some portion of your life energy to another human being without your consent! No matter how uncomfortable you might be feeling right now; this immoral system of transfer of your life energy makes you a slave.

Since we have already established the fact that slavery is immoral and unethical, all of the programs listed above, and most of everything else our government currently engages in is immoral as it is, in fact, slavery.

I know this position won't be popular; if it were we wouldn't be in the mess we're in. That being said, I would gladly entertain any serious challenges to my reasoning.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Comte on Altruism

Anyone still muddled over the actual nature of altruism would do well to read the man who coined the term.

Here, August Comte makes it completely clear that when he talks about the duty to sacrifice self for the sake of others, he really means it. It's also clear, even from this brief passage, that it is incompatible with liberty.
“[The] social point of view . . . cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries.

After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service. . . .

This [to live for others], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] humanity, whose we are entirely.”
[Catéchisme Positivist, 1852]

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Obama Gets It: It's the Morality, Stupid

One reason Obama, like most shrewd Democrats, usually wipes the floors with Republicans is that he unashamedly defends his positions from a moral point of view.

In another biased editorial masquerading as a news report, the LA Times lays out this gem:
"This is not just a numbers debate," Obama said Thursday in Philadelphia. "This is a values debate."
Would that the Republican leadership understood that – and had the courage to fight back the right way.

Instead of endlessly talking about jobs, haggling over deficit reduction numbers and the like, Republicans should be talking about what the Federal government should and should not be doing.

They'll only make substantial progress when they're willing to declare, as even the generally head-and-shoulders above Rep. Ryan does not, an important moral truth: Social Security and Medicare aren't just absurdly expensive, they're morally wrong.

No rational moral argument could justify taking from some citizens to support others, particularly at the Federal level. No taxpayer in Illinois has the moral obligation to support another in Idaho, no matter how much I might need it.

While they sometimes lose debates over economics, Progressives have been winning the culture war for a long time, and will continue to because of this. Only if — and it's a very big if — Republicans will confidently come out in favor of self-reliance as a moral imperative and charity as a marginal and personal matter, will the welfare state get significantly shrunk.

No, I'm not holding my breath, either.

Monday, June 27, 2011

More Lies From the LA Times

The headline on Google News reads:
Michele Bachmann confuses John Wayne Gacy with The Duke
I don't even need to read the story to know this is a lie. It's possible, I speculate, that Rep. Bachmann forgot the murderer's real last name. She may have any number of details wrong. But I'd bet the Managing Editor of the LAT dinner at his favorite restaurant that Michelle Bachmann absolutely knows who is the film actor John Wayne and that he is not the infamous murderer.

Which leads me to wonder, as I have so often in the past: Why can't Progressives any longer make up even semi-plausible lies when they try to smear a conservative?

P.S. Ok, I just scanned it. Here's what she said: "Well what I want them to know is just like John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That's the kind of spirit that I have, too," Bachmann told a Fox News reporter.

Here's the LA Times making hay out of the smallest of errors:
One small detail: John Wayne Gacy, the infamous mass murderer is from Waterloo. The Duke, although his parents met in Waterloo, is from Iowa, but from Winterset, nearly three hours away by car.

I'll best she doesn't know the difference between Guiana and Guyana, either. Clearly unfit to be President!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Don Boudreax's Open Letter to Paul Krugman

Don Boudreaux of Cafe Hayek gives an excellent smackdown of Paul Krugman (albeit far more polite than he deserves). Krugman writes:
if you ask a liberal or a saltwater economist, “What would somebody on the other side of this divide say here? What would their version of it be?” A liberal can do that. A liberal can talk coherently about what the conservative view is because people like me actually do listen. We don’t think it’s right, but we pay enough attention to see what the other person is trying to get at.

The reverse is not true. You try to get someone who is fiercely anti-Keynesian to even explain what a Keynesian economic argument is, they can’t do it. They can’t get it remotely right. Or if you ask a conservative,”What do liberals want?”

You get this bizarre stuff – for example, that liberals want everybody to ride trains, because it makes people more susceptible to collectivism. You just have to look at the realities of the way each side talks and what they know. One side of the picture is open-minded and sceptical. We have views that are different, but they’re arrived at through paying attention. The other side has dogmatic views.

To which Dr. Bordeaux replies:
I’d be obliged to conclude that you in fact, contrary your claim, do not carefully engage the works of non-”liberal” scholars if you insist that “liberal” scholarship is ignored by conservative and libertarian thinkers such as James Buchanan, Gordon Tullock, Ronald Coase, Armen Alchian, Harold Demsetz, Anna Schwartz, Gary Becker, Vernon Smith, Leland Yeager, Henry Manne, Deirdre McCloskey, Allan Meltzer, Richard Epstein, Tyler Cowen, Arnold Kling, George Selgin, Lawrence H. White, and James Q. Wilson, to name only a few.
The whole thing, while short, is well worth reading in its entirety, as are many of the comments.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Odious Dr. Liu

I'm late commenting on it — for reasons I'll explain soon — but we really dodged a bullet when Republicans blocked the nomination of Dr. Gordon Liu for the Ninth Circuit of Appeals. Apart from the damage he would have done there, that job is often considered a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. If you wonder just how big the bullet was, this 2006 quote of his from the Yale Law Journal is enough:
On my account of the Constitution’s citizenship guarantee, federal responsibility logically extends to areas beyond education. Importantly, however, the duty of government cannot be reduced to simply providing the basic necessities of life…

Beyond a minimal safety net, the legislative agenda of equal citizenship should extend to systems of support and opportunity that, like education, provide a foundation for political and economic autonomy and participation. The main pillars of the agenda would include basic employment supports such as expanded health insurance, child care, transportation subsidies, job training, and a robust earned income tax credit.
It's a pity, actually, that Dr. Liu is allowed to teach at U.C. Berkeley's law school, where he may be doing more long-term damage than if he were on the Ninth Circuit.

If we're to reclaim this country from Progressives two things must happen: (1) the State-sponsored educational system must be privatized and returned to reason, and (2) all Progressive judges must be expunged from the courts.

We're still in considerable danger from both those influences, but at least we can claim this one (temporary) victory.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Obama Ignores Inconvenient Laws

Several pundits have commented recently on Obama's soup-thin rationalization for his illegal war in Libya. I share their disgust but I have to say it's utterly unsurprising.

Time after time, the Rationalizer-in-Chief has shown he's completely comfortable ignoring the law when it opposes his wishes.

Early on there was the violation of the GM bondholder's legal rights, a matter of long-established priority in bankruptcy cases. Then there was Holder's racially-motivated refusal to pursue the thugs of the New Black Panther Party. The HHS has issued hundreds of ObamaCare waivers based chiefly on political payback or the Secretary's whims. Recently, the NRLB — itself an illegitimate agency founded on the basis of an unconstitutional labor law — has tried to dictate where Boeing can locate a plant.

The list goes on and on, in every case showing Obama has exactly zero respect for the law when it would constrain what he wants to do. His actions go far beyond pursuing harmful policy with which a rational person might disagree. The man is a plain criminal with nice manners, and nothing in this country is going to go right again until he and his gang are removed from power.

Chilean Volcano Eruption Photos

I don't want to post them out of respect for the copyright owner, but check out these amazing photos of the recent (June 4) Puyehue volcano eruption in Chile.

Even more spectacular than the ones of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland last year. The ash cloud from the one in Chile spread south so far and so thick that flights from Australia to New Zealand were grounded, stranding the renowned Peter Cresswell of Not PC fame. (Serves him right for going all that way for a mere sporting event. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Introducing the Center for Individual Freedom

CFIF has some superb writers.

Ashton Ellis has penned a number of fine essays in the past couple of months, and his latest on Rick Perry is in that vein.

But Quin Hillyer's recent discussion of Tim Pawlenty's misstep in not pressing Romney during the recent GOP debates is - to use a word I rarely write - awesome.

And, for a final incentive, I offer CFIF's Question of the Week:

"How many Members of Congress have been expelled from office?"

Sadly, the options from which to choose (9, 20, 52, 103) does not contain the correct answer: Too damn few!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mill on Personal Freedom

"The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it." J.S. Mill
I have many objections to Mill's philosophy, and even the quote above is problematic. But one could do worse than brand this view on one's soul. If this aphorism were our current society's watchword, virtually none of the fascism we're currently fighting would even be considered.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cass Sunstein Outdoes Orwell

Cass Sunstein unveiled the Federal government's plans for (cough) 'regulatory overhaul'.
Sunstein said that the reform proposals, which are now available for public review as they head to become final rules in roughly 80 days, “underline and italicize the words freedom of choice.” [emphasis added]
Coming from this Administration - and Sunstein in particular - that is a statement I regard as roughly equivalent to the Nazi slogan Arbeit Macht Frei [Work Makes You Free] used at the entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp.

By the way, as of two days ago, none of those sections allegedly designed for public feedback were operational and there were no comments.

P.S. If the partial list provided at AEI is any indication, none of these changes touch anything serious. (Yes, I'm not surprised, either.) For example,
- Creating a system of hazard labels that conforms to “international harmonization.”

- Making sure federal regulatory code doesn’t refer to nations that no longer exist.
Color me underwhelmed.

[Update] IBD does a good job of showing why, even if Sunstein and crew were sincere, this would still be a drop in a leaky bucket.

Caving to the Left

Since the publication of William Voegeli's book, Never Enough a few conservatives have signed on to the idea that the welfare state is ineradicable. They propose that we 'accept reality', compromise, and call a truce with Progressives (or at least moderates). They suggest, in essence, that we lie back and enjoy it, hoping for at least a little petroleum jelly to ease the pain.

What they are suggesting is not a truce but a suicide pact.

Every aspect of the welfare state is immoral, impractical, and unconstitutional, and therefore completely illegitimate. It violates everyone's rights, including the recipients, to steal from Peter to pay Paul. Calling it "charity" or "good citizenship" or any other pleasant sounding description only adds insult to injury.

It's hardly a metaphysical given that welfare programs - along with every other Progressive policy - can not be eliminated. Progressives are influential - because of their outsized representation in education and the media - but they still number only about 20% of the population.

Persuade the other 50%+ not yet clear on the issue, those who don't yet realize how destructive to their own long-term interests the welfare state is, and we'll have won the intellectual battle, and therefore avoided any necessity for a physical one.

Now is no time to preemptively surrender. Progressives are on the ropes. Keep up the blows for another 10 years and this country might actually survive in some recognizable form.

Alternatively, accept an Obama-like return to America's '1967 borders' as the best you can do and you have agreed to jump off the cliff into a full European social democracy. Become Denmark circa 1990? No thanks. Even the Danes have backed away from that precipice. That road leads to Spain circa 2010.

The welfare state can not be saved by compromise, nor should it. Whether it will fade or consume us, time will tell. One thing is for sure; we should never cease to oppose it with vigor.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

David Brooks, Liberal Fascist

The following was quoted by Ed Crane of Cato, talking about David Brooks:
Neoconservative superstar David Brooks wrote in the New York Times just this past March, "Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise.

Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation. I wonder if Americans are unwilling to support the sacrifices that will be required to avert fiscal catastrophe in part because they are less conscious of themselves as components of a national project."
I long ago took the measure of David Brooks, but this revolting statement surprised even me.

If Brooks believes one's life gains meaning only through service to the nation, he should make clear he speaks for himself. Thankfully, there are still a fair number of individualist Americans for whom that idea is anathema.

Clearly, the man is a thoroughgoing collectivist of the Nationalist variety. There's a term for that but Godwin's Law forbids me to use it.

Small wonder the Times keeps him on.

Heading to London

I'm off to London for a long-overdue vacation starting in early June. I'll be there about a week. Anyone know of a superior used book store in the city?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Conversations with Progressives, Part 36

Most of the time I refrain from engaging Progressives. They're so dishonest, not just in content but in method, that I judge it a waste of time to try to reason with them. However, from time to time, I respond if I think the audience might find what I have to say useful.

This is one example.
Progressive: Any attempts at repeal [of ObamaCare] with [sic] negatively affect almost 50 million Americans and I'm sure a good number of these citizens do vote. Repeal is a no go and that is a good thing. Denying care to clients because of lack of money and/or insurance is never a good thing or haven't any of you figured this out or do you even care?
Me: You can't back up those numbers, but that's a side issue.

Denying care to clients because of lack of money or insurance is both moral and practical. Most businesses deny service to clients for lack of money. It's called voluntary trade. Nothing in life is free. Forcing you to pay for my health care is immoral and impractical.

Attempting to do so only distorts price signals even further and undermines the market system that makes supplying health care services possible. Not least, it's unconstitutional from start to finish. It violates the rights of free trade and individual sovereignty as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

If you wish to engage in private charity, by all means devote your resources to supplying health care to anyone you wish. Coercing others to do so is wrong in every way.

I'm a middle-aged self-employed writer with less than stellar health who makes an absurdly low annual income. I choose not to pay for health insurance and accept the responsibility if my health goes south.

But whether I suffer through my choices or through no fault of my own, you have no moral or Constitutional obligation to pay for my health care or to provide me health insurance. Your money does not belong to me.

As to the question "how do you handle that problem?" it's no one's problem to handle but mine. I don't owe you any support and you do not owe me any.

Life is not free. It costs money to sustain. Those who can not afford it must rely on voluntary charity.

Even if one granted that government had a role to play in that charity, there's no valid argument whatever for the Federal government to play that role. All American citizens live in some state (or territory). What justification can there be for the taxpayers of Illinois to pay for the health insurance of a resident of Idaho?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Goldberg Chastises Krugman

... but for the wrong thing.

Jonah Goldberg joins the chorus of those chastising some liberal for his 'elitism'.

Populist conservatives should give the 'elite' charge a rest. There's nothing wrong with being a "member of the elite" if you actually are superior at something worthwhile.

Einstein was near the top of the elite in physics. James Madison was a superior political philosopher. Admiral McRaven is an elite military man.

The problem in Krugman's case is (a) the Nobel Prize for Economics is a joke, nowhere near as worthwhile as the one in, say, Chemistry; (b) Krugman's economic theories are all completely false and even a modestly well-educated person can know this; (c) Krugman himself has no superior personal attributes, morally or intellectually and; (d) he works for a company - the New York Times - that is itself laughable in every way: as a business, in its political point of view, and even on the basic scale of honesty and competence.

If Krugman were anything remotely like, say, Peter Ferrara, I would have no trouble whatever applauding him for being 'elite', because he would have earned that description.

To be opposed to anything 'elite' is at best to misuse language and at worst to oppose excellence and invite another French Revolution among the mob.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cartoon Character to Become Defense Secretary

Oy vey!
Obama is expected this week to name Leon E. Panetta, the director of central intelligence, as defense secretary.
Why not Mickey Mouse? Or, Daffy Duck? Or, if you insist on someone metaphysically real, how about the editor of Al Jazeera TV? Any of them will do as much to safeguard Americans.

Gates was bad enough, but as usual Obama will always find a way to make things worse. I'm just surprised it took him two years to get around to it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Atlas Shrugged, the Movie - A Review by Michael Moeller

Atlas Shrugged: The Movie -- Draining the Motive Power from the Novel


Michael Moeller

Over fifty years after Atlas Shrugged was published, and more then thirty years since work began on the first film script, I felt Etta James’ song “At Last” playing in my head as I drove to the theater. I was abuzz with excitement at the possibility of finding a “thrill to press my cheek to.” But alas, as the movie unfolded, my cheek felt an icy touch as the lifeblood drained from its dramatic body.

On the philosophical level, the moral outlook of the book was not comprised in any significant way. Hank Rearden states, unapologetically, that his “only goal is to make money”. The filmmakers did not turn the movie into a utilitarian apologia that self-interest also serves the common good. Or worse, with Oliver Stone once-rumored as expressing interest in making the film, one could imagine the protagonists serving up paeans to the “public welfare”. I came away satisfied that the philosophy was not corrupted.

On the artistic level, however, the film fails substantially as a drama. As Rand wrote in The Art of Fiction, a plot is a “purposeful progression of events” where each event is logically connected to the preceding event leading up to the climax. The events are not mere exposition, but ideas dramatized in action where the actions leave the reader wondering what will happen next. I.e., they create suspense.

Unfortunately, the movie’s progression of events lacks purpose and a coherent direction. The choice of scenes appears scattershot, thus draining the drama and suspense from the novel.

For instance, the screenwriters decided to include the subplot involving John Galt’s motor. Here, though, Rearden discovers the mysterious motor through (off-screen) investigation, in advance of his car trip with Dagny. Later in the film Rearden and Dagny examine the factory and the motor in-person. This is followed by scenes of them meeting with Ivy Starnes, Eugene Lawson, and William Hastings’ wife, which include multiple superfluous scenes of car traveling back-and-forth on desolate valley roads.

Not only has the fortuitous discovery of the motor been preempted by Rearden’s preliminary investigation, but the scenes tracking down the motor’s owner add nothing to the back-story of the motor. The viewer knows as much about the motor at the end of their trip as he does after Rearden’s initial investigation. Those scenes simply fill precious screen time.

Instead, those scenes could have been cut. The dramatic struggle to get the John Galt Line built could have been given more emphasis, which was purportedly the focus of this movie. Instead, the effects of the looters’ polices on the John Galt Line, and the protagonists’ struggles to overcome them, are imbibed along with exposition while critical scenes to the main storyline are cut.

For instance, as Rearden and Dagny are standing before the tattered old bridge, Dagny states she could use a new one, but doesn’t have the time to build one with only six months left. Rearden responds that she could build a new one with Rearden Metal in only 3 months, and she responds: “Let me check my budget.” She needed it, Rearden says he can do it, and then it appears during the run of the John Galt Line. That’s it.

This is merely one example of including superfluous scenes while shortchanging the supposed focus of the film: the struggle to build the John Galt Line. We have the Reardens’ anniversary party with no clue as to why it is important, and the bracelet exchange was drained of emotive impact. The viewer gets a brief glimpse of characters before they disappear, such as Owen Kellogg and Robert McNamara, with no background (besides brief narrative) as to why they are important, nor does one see the impact their loss has on the operations of Taggart Transcontinental.

No Dan Conway and his refusal to sell the rail to James Taggart. No dramatization of Dagny’s struggles to find signals, railroad spikes, locomotives, her work crew abandoning her, etc. No effect of Ben Nealy replacing Robert McNamara. No Eureka! moment from Rearden when he makes the bridge feasible with a radical new innovation – right when his business is being destroyed by the passage of the Equalization of Opportunity Bill, and yet still able to provide a beacon of strength for Dagny. Just to name of few.

Thus, the prudence, foresight, and ingenuity of Rearden and Dagny are sucked dry from the building of the John Galt Line, and from their characters.

Many have probably seen the trailer of Dagny’s confrontation with the union boss who refuses to let his members work on the John Galt Line. After this scene, the movie then cuts to Rearden and Dagny boarding the train and the running of the John Galt Line. The emotive impact of Dagny’s success is lessened by not showing her small triumph when all the Taggart workers volunteer against the wishes of the union boss, so much so that they need a lottery to pick the train crew.

Imagine signing up for a sightseeing tour of New York City, and being sped through the city on a train running at two hundred miles an hour while the window shades move up-and-down at random. That’s the feel of the pace and one’s grasp of what is happening and why. In this excellent review, the author provides a much more logical and cogent progression of events that develops the main plot and subplots within a reasonable timeframe, and in a manner that adds drama and suspense.

In The Art of Fiction, Rand also emphasizes bringing the abstraction that is a character to life via concrete actions and dialogue. The characters motives are teased out by these means. And, since art is selectivity, everything said and done denotes something significant about that character that the author thinks is important to convey.

Now consider the first brush with Ellis Wyatt in the movie, which shows him in Dagny’s office with his feet up on the desk while reading a newspaper. As Dagny enters, he throws the newspaper aside, waves his arms awkwardly as if trying to balance himself on a beam, and then begins to rail against the demise of Dan Conway and this “Anti-dog-eat-dog bullshit.”

Is this dynamic entrepreneur from the novel — who had a look of “violence” and such a ruthless integrity that he would rather burn down his empire than let it be taken over by the looters? No, his mannerisms and dialogue have all the attributes of a petulant middle-manager who has not gotten his way and feels the need to ream out an underling — right after his coffee break.

Or consider the filmmakers’ portrayal of James Taggart. He appears in the movie as young, handsome, and well-dressed. In the novel, we first see Taggart with a contorted posture, balding, and the look of middle-age while in his mid-thirties. Miscasting a character based on physical appearance is not a game-breaker and can be redeemed if the essence of the character is skillfully concretized in words and action.

In the novel, however, Rand portrays Taggart as fundamentally weak, constantly evading the necessity to think, and helpless in the face of looming crises, especially when confronted by Dagny. In the movie, the viewer sees a rather poised Taggart that often overshadows a soft-spoken Dagny, played by Taylor Schilling. Dagny’s lack of onscreen presence, of gravitas, does not help the contrast. (If there's a doubt about Schilling’s performance, I urge the viewer to consider whether this Dagny would say as a young woman at a ball: “What men? There wasn’t a man there I couldn’t squash ten of.”)

But more so than the actor’s onscreen presence, the depth of Taggart’s character is victimized by scene selection. The movie shows the boardroom scene where Taggart takes credit for Dagny pulling all assets from the San Sebastian Line before the Mexican government nationalizes it. However, the movie cut the prior scene with Taggart and his girlfriend, Betty Pope. In that scene, Taggart and Pope express mutual contempt for each other after just having had sex. Taggart begins that scene lethargic and mentally unfocused, but comes to life at the prospect of undermining his sister before the Board. His self-satisfaction is quickly deflated when he receives a phone call telling him the San Sebastian Railroad has been nationalized, and then we next see him praising his own foresight before the Board.

This scene also provides a stark contrast to the sex scene with Rearden and Dagny after the John Galt Line run. Sex expressing the celebration of life, as opposed to mutual contempt and futility.

Instead of the Betty Pope scene, the movie depicts the nationalization of the San Sebastian Railroad in a news clip stating that the line has been nationalized and showing soldiers marching under some building with a Mexican flag on top of it. A scene that powerfully conveys Taggart’s motives and goals is replaced with cheap narrative. The net effect on the character of James Taggart is that he is transformed from metaphysically impotent man into a simple Hollywood cutout of a conniving backroom dealer.

By the same methods, the movie trims down the depth of each character, including the two protagonists. The greatest loss, perhaps, is to Francisco d’Anconia, whom I regard as one of the most compelling characters in all literature.

The viewer first catches glimpses of Francisco appearing at bars/parties surrounded by an entourage of beautiful women, sometimes with cameras flashing. He has a scruffy three-day beard and semi-shaggy hair down to his eyebrows — the “cool” look one sees displayed on the cover of GQ. In his first encounter with Dagny after the nationalization of the San Sebastian mines, Dagny begins the scene by throwing a drink in his face. Francisco chuckles and flippantly says: “That’s refreshing”.

This is how the audience is introduced to the aristocratic-looking character described as “the climax of the d’Anconia’s” who’s talents had been “sifted through a fine mesh” from generations of mastery of production. Does this properly capture the man to whom it is impossible “to stand still or move aimlessly?” Is this the man who, as a twelve year old boy, used rudimentary calculus to erect a system of pulleys to hoist an elevator to the top of a rock? Or the man who began as a furnace boy at the age of sixteen and ended owning the factory by age twenty, while educating himself on the stock market to finance the venture?

Without any of Francisco’s back-story in the movie, nor any display of his unmatched ability, the viewer doesn't experience the disconnect between the productive genius and the playboy now throwing extravagant parties for the brain dead. The air of mystery surrounding his conversion has vanquished. The movie version of Francisco really could be a pop star from the cover of GQ. He certainly looks the part.

When Francisco confronts Rearden at his anniversary party, one gets the impression he was transported from another film. Not only is the dialogue awkward and stilted, as if parts were pieced together with Scotch tape after the novel’s conversation was put through a paper shredder, but his character appears jarring and incongruous because there has been no buildup illustrating his intellectual perspicacity.

Amateurism permeates even small touches of detail. The car crisscrossing the country in search of the motor’s mystery is a…Toyota Camry? In the book, it's a sleek Hammond coupe. The producers couldn't rent something like a Bentley Azure or Maserati Gran Tourismo to illustrate the heights Dagny and Rearden have reached?

Sadly, this encapsulates the movie versus the book. Under Rand’s artistic guidance, one feels the dramatic motor roar to life on each page, yet the progression is expertly controlled. Hairpin plot turns on the cliff’s edge are skillfully navigated, yet invite challenge, thrill, and a suspenseful outcome. In the hands of the filmmakers, the viewer is taken on an ordinary ride from point A to point B, often getting lost along the way.

My song had changed on the ride home from the theater. Resonating in my soul were B.B. King’s words: “The thrill is gone, the thrill is gone away.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Obama's Approval Dips... Finally!

In the utterly dismal environment that constitutes contemporary politics, there is one small crumb of good: Obama's approval ratings are falling.
The latest Gallup Daily tracking three-day average shows 41% of Americans approving of the job Barack Obama is doing. That ties his low as president, which he registered three times previously -- twice in August 2010 and once in October 2010.
Apparently, even the Democrats are miffed at the atrocious CR budget compromise.

It's far too little – his approval should be in the 20% range, about equal to the number of immovable Progressives — and who knows if it's too late. And, it's shocking that there are still a large percentage of Americans who do NOT yet believe that Obama is even worse than Wilson and only slightly better than Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Though not for lack of trying to be both. (So, far as I know Wilson never committed treason). But, in the present circumstances, it's healthy to be grateful for even small favors.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Andrew McCarthy on Libya, All You Need to Know

Andrew McCarthy, nearly alone among conservatives, vehemently opposes the war time-and-scope-limited kinetic action in Libya for all the right reasons.

It was too tough to pull a useful delimited quote from his extremely well reasoned essay, so I recommend reading it in full. You'll get more education on Libya in ten minutes than you would reading a hundred news stories or blog posts from lesser men.

[On a side note, it's a real pity that McCarthy isn't the head of the DoJ, or Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or even just the Secretary of Defense. The U.S. would look very different if he were.]

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In Honor of Madison's Birthday

James Madison's birthday is always a good occasion to offer yet another quote from the country's greatest political philosopher.
"If Congress can employ money indefinitely to the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their Own hands.

They may appoint teachers in every state, county, and parish, and pay them out of their public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may assume the provision for the poor; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post-roads.

In short, every thing, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress; for every object I have mentioned would admit of the application of money, and might be called, if Congress pleased, provisions for the general welfare."

On the Cod Fishery Bill, granting Bounties. 2/3/1792
When we once again have politicians who will stand up in Congress and say this, our major troubles will be at an end.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Glass Stronger Than Steel

Doubly amazing.
"What we did here is find a very, very tough marginal glass made of palladium with small fractions of metalloids like phosphorus, silicon, and germanium, which yielded one-millimeter-thick samples. And we just said, let's add very little of something that will make it bulk without making it brittle," says Demetriou.

By adding 3.5 percent silver to this marginal glass, Demetriou was able to increase the thickness to six millimeters while maintaining its toughness.
Bravo, Dr. Demetriou of Cal Tech.

Eye-Controlled Laptop Debuts

"A Swedish technology company unveiled the world's first laptop computer controlled by the human eye, Swedish news website The Local reported Wednesday.

The laptop was developed by Stockholm-based Tobii Technology, whose CEO, Henrick Eskilsson, said it marked an important step in bringing eye-tracking gadgets to consumer products."
Bravo, Mr. Eskilsson (and the engineers who designed it)!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rearden Koch Speaks Out

Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries, tells it like it is.
In spite of looming bankruptcy, President Obama and many in Congress have tiptoed around the issue of overspending by suggesting relatively minor cuts in mostly discretionary items. There have been few serious proposals for necessary cuts in military and entitlement programs, even though these account for about three-fourths of all federal spending.

Yes, some House leaders have suggested cutting spending to 2008 levels. But getting back to a balanced budget would mean a return to at least 2003 spending levels—and would still leave us with the problem of paying off our enormous debts.

Federal data indicate how urgently we need reform: The unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid already exceed $106 trillion. That's well over $300,000 for every man, woman and child in America (and exceeds the combined value of every U.S. bank account, stock certificate, building and piece of personal or public property).

The Congressional Budget Office has warned that the interest on our federal debt is "poised to skyrocket." Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is sounding alarms. Yet the White House insists that substantial spending cuts would hurt the economy and increase unemployment.

Plenty of compelling examples indicate just the opposite. When Canada recently reduced its federal spending to 11.3% of GDP from 17.5% eight years earlier, the economy rebounded and unemployment dropped. By comparison, our federal spending is 25% of GDP.

Government spending on business only aggravates the problem. Too many businesses have successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment by seeking mandates for their products, subsidies (in the form of cash payments from the government), and regulations or tariffs to keep more efficient competitors at bay.

Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.

The purpose of business is to efficiently convert resources into products and services that make people's lives better. Businesses that fail to do so should be allowed to go bankrupt rather than be bailed out.
If you want to read as close to Henry Rearden as you're likely to find today, read the whole thing.

Bravo, Mr. Koch!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Obama Ignores Inconvenient Laws

Unsurprisingly, the gangster government Administration continues to ignore legal rulings contrary to its policies.

The DoJ abandoning a slam dunk case against the New Black Panther Party's voter intimidation is well known. The Interior Department continues to refuse to grant drilling permits* in the Gulf, despite two court orders knocking down their precipitous moratoria.

Now we find that, even after Judge Vinson's ruling against ObamaCare, Sebelius, et al plan to plow ahead. What's worse, if it could be worse, is the selective enforcement. The waiver count is over 700. Not to worry, though. They're only "temporary."

Well, that's a relief.

Also, according to an HHS spokesman, who said after the the granting of 500 new ones, "It's more than a handful, but not a big number." Of course, 500 counts of conspiracy would be considered a big number in criminal proceedings, but it's nothing when you're above the law.

[Update:] Looks like the bastards finally gave in to reality political pressure. One company has received a permit. Others are expected in "the coming weeks and months."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pestritto Reviews Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism"

It's three years old, but this review of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism by Dr. Ronald J. Pestritto is well worth reading. It is reprinted here in full by kind permission of Kathleen Arn, Associate Editor of the superb Claremont Review of Books.
A Nicer Form of Tyranny

A review of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, by Jonah Goldberg

By Ronald J. Pestritto
Posted May 19, 2008

(This article appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of the Claremont Review of Books.)

When she was asked in one of last fall's presidential debates whether she still considered herself a liberal, Hillary Clinton sidestepped the question. She called herself, instead, a "proud, modern, American progressive," and boasted that her "progressive vision" for the country had roots going all the way back to "the Progressive Era, at the beginning of the twentieth century."

Modern, big-government liberalism has come home. The Progressives were the first generation of Americans to criticize the United States Constitution, especially for its limits on government's scope and ambition. They rejected the American Founders' classical or natural rights liberalism, offering instead a vision of the modern state as a kind of god with almost limitless power to achieve "social justice."

When modern liberals like Senator Clinton call themselves progressives, therefore, they are telling the truth, even if their audiences don't fully understand the implications.

How gratifying it is then to have Jonah Goldberg's new book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, to pursue these half-forgotten, if not exactly secret, implications.

Although liberals throw around the term "fascist" to abuse conservatives (just as they do "racist"), Goldberg, the editor-at-large for National Review Online, persuasively shows that today's progressives are fascism's true descendents, embracing the statism at the heart of the 20th-century's most notorious outlaw regimes.

What's more, for all the past century's liberal hand-wringing over the supposedly impending right-wing takeover of America, Goldberg maintains that the country has already suffered a quasi-dictator or two, but historians have looked the other way because these strongmen — Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt — are certified heroes of the Left.

No wonder that liberals often have such a blinkered interest in their own intellectual heritage. Reviewing this book, for example, Michael Mann in the Washington Post, Michael Tomasky in the New Republic, and David Neiwert in the American Prospect so badly confuse classical liberalism and modern liberalism (by equating them!) that they can make little sense of Goldberg's account, dismissing it as "Bizarro history," "ignorant nonsense," and an attempt to shock readers and sell books. Neiwert even writes, missing the irony, that it is "the consensus of historical understanding that anti-intellectualism is an essential trait of fascism."

But Goldberg's charge is no mere exercise in name-calling. He takes his title from H.G. Wells, the eminent liberal essayist and science fiction writer who coined the term "liberal fascism," or as he also called it, "enlightened Nazism." It was common at the time for progressive intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic to see Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler as kindred reforming spirits, struggling to find a third way forward between the extremes of capitalist individualism and Communist collectivism.

Mann believes this connection merely proves that "fascism contained elements that were in the mainstream of 20th-century politics," as much for Democrats and Republicans at home as for fascists and social democrats abroad. But Goldberg is getting at something deeper: he is trying to trace the quiet revolution that took place throughout modern thought when politicians of all stripes, led by the Progressives, were wooed by the power of a limitless State.

To his credit, he stresses right from the start that he is not accusing American progressives, past or present, of being the kind of moral monsters associated with European fascism. Still, at some level the family resemblance asserts itself. As Goldberg aptly puts it, Progressivism "may have replaced the fist with the hug, but an unwanted embrace from which you cannot escape is just a nicer form of tyranny." (Hence the book's stark cover featuring a smiley face with the Hitler mustache.)

In his account of fascism, Goldberg even shows how some fairly prominent American liberals expressed real admiration for Mussolini, whom they saw in the 1920s as a kind of hero sticking up for "the little guy."

Indeed, the Italian fascist movement, far from being a mere appendage to German Nazism, actually predated it and had a serious course of development all its own. Goldberg does well to set the record straight on this score, contending that fascism grew out of il Duce's left-wing statism. The first World War seems to have been decisive in this respect, teaching him that his radical socialist inclinations could profitably tap into both populism and nationalism as a means of becoming a major force in Italy.

Goldberg moves from his account of European fascism to the origins of modern liberalism in America, and suggests that the two movements, for a time at least, tracked one another in their development.

* * *

In America, the origins of modern liberalism lie at the end of the 19th century, when Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, John Dewey, Herbert Croly, and a host of others argued that the Constitution was outdated, that it was incompetent to deal with contemporary economic and social ills, and that, if applied at all, it ought to be applied as a "living" document.

This notion of a "living" constitution — a pillar of modern liberalism — comes out of the doctrine of progress and, as the more honest Progressives admitted, the historicism of German political philosophy. Almost all of the leading Progressive intellectuals had been educated in Germany or had teachers who were. A sea change had taken place in American higher education in the second half of the 19th century. Most Americans at that time who wanted an advanced degree went to Europe for it, and by 1900 the faculties of America's colleges and universities were teeming with European Ph.D.s. Johns Hopkins University, founded in 1876, was established for the express purpose of bringing German education to the United States, and produced several prominent Progressives, including Wilson, Dewey, and Frederick Jackson Turner.

Like their European counterparts, American Progressives championed der Staat over the individual, seeking to redistribute wealth and use the national government to superintend the economy and society. This agenda was at odds with the founders' natural rights principles and the Constitution's limited government, but as Teddy Roosevelt is said to have quipped when challenged about his intrusion on private property rights during the 1902 coal strike: "To hell with the Constitution when the people want coal!" Even if the remark is apocryphal, it captures Roosevelt's animus.

The best example may be his 1910 speech on the New Nationalism, which subsequently became the foundation for his insurgent run for the presidency. Private property rights, which had been serving as a brake on the more aggressive Progressive policy proposals, were to be respected, T.R. argued, only insofar as the government approved of the property's social utility:

"We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary."

Although the Progressives differed among themselves on the means of achieving reform, there was little disagreement on the fundamental questions of state power and the place of individual liberty. As Frank Goodnow, the American Political Science Association's founding president and one of the modern administrative state's chief architects, put it, natural rights simply could not be allowed to stand in the way of the state's attempt to remedy any perceived social ill:

"The rights which he possesses are...conferred upon [the individual], not by his Creator, but rather by the society to which he belongs. What they are is to be determined by the legislative authority in view of the needs of that society. Social expediency, rather than natural right, is thus to determine the sphere of individual freedom of action."

The young Woodrow Wilson, writing in 1889, put this view of state power even more concisely: "Government does now whatever experience permits or the times demand."

It is good to see Goldberg single out Wilson for a special dose of blame in Liberal Fascism, lamenting that "[i]n America we've chosen not to discuss the madness our Republic endured at Wilson's hands."

Goldberg also appreciates the important role religion played for many (although not all) Progressives, who saw in history's supposed advance the will of God at work. For the Social Gospel movement, "the state was the right arm of God and was the means by which the whole nation and world would be redeemed." In fact, "Onward, Christian Soldiers" was the unofficial anthem of the Progressive Party convention in 1912, sung until the rafters shook.

European-style statism took greater hold over the country through FDR's New Deal. Roosevelt was no intellectual but he relied on his progressive and fascist predecessors for the model of state power that animated his programs. And Goldberg observes that although today's liberals may be in love with Jack Kennedy, they govern like Lyndon Johnson, whose Great Society further expanded progressive liberalism's influence. "[I]t's telling," writes Goldberg, "that Democrats wish to preserve the substance of the Great Society while maintaining the mythology of Camelot." The Great Society provides the framework for programmatic liberalism right down to the present day.

Goldberg is certainly right when he says that most academics have willfully ignored modern liberalism's progressive-fascist roots, although scholars such as James Ceaser, John Marini, and others (including me) have in fact been calling attention to the progressive origins of modern liberalism for the past 20 years.

Liberal Fascism clearly draws from these works but makes surprisingly little reference to them, even in a few instances when the book's observations sound awfully familiar. Yet if Goldberg proceeds, in some respects, down a path blazed by others, he does so with the kind of terrific writing and energy that is certain to make the connection between modern liberalism and its statist ancestors a more prominent factor in America's political battles and debates.

* * *

In making his case, Goldberg does tend to conflate fascism and socialism. He wants to show that fascism, far from having been a "right-wing" ideology, actually was a movement of the Left (he calls Hitler a "man of the Left") and that its main characteristics were socialist. This point — perfectly valid — helps make the case that today's liberals are fascism's true inheritors.

Goldberg has a deep, thoughtful chapter on Mussolini and another on Hitler to bolster this argument. And he is right that both fascism and socialism are statist — they rest on what he calls "statolatry" or "state worship," the principle that, in Wilson's words, "all idea of a limitation of public authority by individual rights [should] be put out of view," and "that no line can be drawn between private and public affairs which the State may not cross at will."

But at least two distinct forms of statism came out of the 19th century.

Nazism in particular owed much to Friedrich Nietzsche's disdain for egalitarian, mass-based movements (e.g., Progressivism) that celebrated human fraternity and dignity. Although he was a great advocate of state power and thought individual rights a joke, Nietzsche's passion was for the rule of the strong over the weak — a love of inequality, enforced by the will to power.

From Nietzsche's point of view, both the Soviet and the Anglo-American versions of egalitarianism were abhorrent. Nietzsche's disciple, Martin Heidegger, described the Soviets and the Americans as metaphysically the same, and Heidegger himself was sympathetic to the Nazi cause.

Goldberg tries to show that Nazism was a mass-based movement of the Left, and he is persuasive that it attracted the lower classes in Germany more than it did the middle class. But he underplays the extent to which Nazism fed off a desire to reassert the perceived greatness and power of a particular people or race, as over against everyone else, in a manner that, say, American liberalism never did.

Goldberg's argument might have been clearer if he focused less on specific fascist regimes from the 1930s, and more on the roots of fascism itself (and Progressivism, and modern liberalism) in 19th-century German state theory. This is the common thread that would help Goldberg tie together fascism and socialism: both come from the historicism of philosophers like Hegel, both are antithetical to the natural rights-based liberalism of the American Founding, and both show why true constitutionalists ought to resist modern liberalism.

By the 1930s, this 19th-century statism has evolved in many different directions — e.g., fascism, Nazism, several flavors of democratic socialism, the Communist International, and America's own welfare state liberalism. Tying these together becomes a tough and unnecessarily complicated chore. Instead of highlighting liberal "fascism," Goldberg's case might have been stronger, or at least sharper, if he had concentrated on liberal "statism."

After all, if fascism and modern liberalism are joined together by all-powerful government as the potential solution to every human problem, aren't there many self-styled conservatives who might fall under the same indictment?

Far from thinking "fascism is strictly a Democratic disease," as David Oshinsky charged in his review for the New York Times, Goldberg tackles this question head-on in a superb Afterword in which he criticizes right-wing American statism as "me-too conservatism," identifying it squarely with the Progressive movement.

For example, he describes George W. Bush as "strongly sympathetic to progressive-style intrusions into civil society" and spies the "ghost of the Social Gospel" in his big-government conservatism. Goldberg bolsters his case with some choice quotations from former Bush advisor Michael Gerson, an architect of "compassionate conservatism" and as his own recent book, Heroic Conservatism, makes plain, no fan of limited, constitutional government.

Goldberg's Afterword is so good, in fact, that one hopes for a book on the problem of conservative statism from this excellent writer. In order to defeat liberal fascism, American conservatives will need to awaken their own ranks from the progressive spell. With his new book, Jonah Goldberg has renewed for them, and for all friends of constitutional government, a vital argument for the political battles ahead.

About the Author

Ronald Pestritto holds the Charles and Lucia Shipley Chair in the American Constitution at Hillsdale College and is a senior fellow of the College's Kirby Center. He teaches political philosophy, American political thought, and American politics.

Copyright © 2002-2009 The Claremont Institute.
Dr. Pestritto is also the author of Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism, as well as the highly useful sourcebook American Progressivism: A Reader. Both are highly recommended for anyone wanting to know how we got where we are today.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Suddenly, Obama Cares About Constitution

Obama, Holder Call 1996 Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional

BusinessWeek - Joel Rosenblatt

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration said it will no longer oppose court challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes of taxes, ...
Now, NOW they're worried about the Constitution?

Sheesh. Frankly, I don't care who marries whom. It's none of my business, nor anyone else's but the parties involved. My amateur opinion is that all the voter referenda restricting marriage between consenting adults are illegal. Individual rights are not up for a vote. But this is un-effing-believable. These guys - Holder and Obama - have more chutzpah than Qaddafi and Achmed-squiggle.

Worried about BP Oil Spill? Don't Be

Bacteria eat Gulf Oil methane.
"According to the new study, bacteria took fewer than four months to finish off the methane, and it appears that at no time did oxygen levels in the area the team studied fall to levels dangerous to marine organisms there."
According to the report, some scientists dispute the finding. And, in other news, water is wet.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Court Jester Same as the Old

In his debut as Obama's new Press Secretary, Jim Carney maintains the standard by magnificently lying his head off.
“We need to get to a place — and [Obama’s] budget absolutely does this — where we are no longer spending more than we’re taking in,” he said.
Too harsh? See my previous post.

Federal Budget Follies

Once again Peter Ferrara does yeoman's work in shredding Obama's pretenses, this time on the ludicrous budget.
"Obama's budget projects that this deficit will be cut in half by 2013. But in last year's budget, Obama projected that this year's deficit would be $1.227 trillion, more than $400 billion less than Obama says it will be today.
[H]is actual deficit for this year of $1.645 trillion is again the highest in world history! The deficit for 2008, by the way, was $458 billion.
Even with these tax increases and phantom budget savings, the national debt held by the public will soar to $19 trillion by 2021, more than triple that national debt total of $5.8 trillion in 2008"
And Obama promises, before the ink has even been applied, to veto the proposed GOP budget that makes a modest start on cutting Federal spending. Centrist, my ass.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lying Muslims and Useful Idiots

Some Muslim Brotherhood spokesman named Abdel Moneim Abou el-Fotouh has been given a megaphone by The Washington Post to lie magnificently declare:
"For Muslims, ideological differences with others are taught not to be the root cause of violence and bloodshed because a human being's freedom to decide how to lead his or her personal life is an inviolable right found in basic Islamic tenets."
Uh, huh. Tell that to the relatives of the dead 14-year old in Bangladesh who was whipped to death by authorities for the crime of being raped. Oh, wait. They won't care, because it was one of their own who perpetrated the crime, then informed the authorities about her 'sin'.

The heroic Andrew C. McCarthy tells the story as an example of how sharia operates in the real world, no matter what its apologists might say.
In Bangladesh a 14-year-old girl named Hena was raped by a 40-year-old man, Mahbub, who is described in a report as her “relative.” Apparently — the report is not clear on how this happened — the matter was brought to the attention of the sharia authorities in her village of Shariatpur.

You’d think this was a good thing … except, in Islam, rape cannot be proved absent four witnesses — i.e., it’s virtually impossible to establish that what happened happened. That’s a dangerous thing for the victim — deadly dangerous in this instance — because if she has had sexual relations outside marriage but cannot prove she has been raped, she is deemed to have committed a grave sin.

In Hena’s case, the sharia authorities ordered that she be given 100 lashes. The young girl never made it through 80; she fell unconscious and died from the whipping.
Sure, it would be easy to dismiss this incident as just another savage act by the savages who occupy an unfortunate amount of land in the world. That's not the point, at least not the main one. The point is that there is a deep – but by now very obvious — connection between those acts and their ideology.

So long as useful idiots like those at the Washington Post continue to provide a neutral platform for these thugs, and for both parties to be allowed to pretend we all just have reasonable differences of opinion, this sort of thing will continue to plague those far outside Bangladesh.

Monday, January 31, 2011

On Egypt

My explanation for all the brouhaha: it's just a slow news week and the major dailies have nothing better to talk about just now. (See, I got sucked into it, too.)

If there's an op-ed explaining why we should care what happens in Egypt I haven't seen it yet, and I read 12 major publications daily.

They have little oil and no nuclear weapons. They haven't been a friend of the U.S. when it counts for many years, if ever. (Even granting the dubious proposition that countries can have 'friends' rather than just strategic, and ever-shifting, alliances.)

What's the worst that could happen? Are they going to export still more jihad to the U.S. or Afghanistan or Iraq? As if Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan don't already have that covered? Could even an Islamic theocracy block the Suez Canal for more than a day, without the government being blasted to rubble?

(Aside: by international treaty the Canal is open to all in peace and war and the other thugs in the region use it, too. And if they did block it, wouldn't that be a great excuse to blast an Islamic theocracy away? Not that we would do it, but the Russkies would, without hesitation.)

Sincere best of luck to those in Egypt who want freedom, all five of them. The rest are no concern of ours.

[Update 2/2/2011]

Daniel Pipes, who knows a thing or two about the Middle East, offers some helpful background and perspective.

P.S. Kind of interesting how Obama did nothing whatever to support the clear call for freedom in Iran when the moment came. Now, when no one knows what the hell the Egyptian people want, but an Islamic theocracy is the odds on favorite, he's all over it. The guy is a true Anti.

P.P.S. Happy to eat my words if someone can clue me in why all this is important.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thomas Sowell Shreds Frances Piven in 1980

Statist Frances Fox Piven, much in the news lately for recent foolish remarks drawn straight out of Marxist revolutionary anno 1968, is given her comeuppance by the incomparable Thomas Sowell.

Having watched the clip, though, I'm reminded once again how useless it is to debate Progressives. There might be some value in the discussion, since it might help tip others to one side or the other. But Progressives, in my view, are simply beyond redemption. When you are as committed to egalitarianism, Comtean altruism, and statism as is this creature, there's just no reaching her.

The clip is interesting for another reason. See how many of the standard Progressive cliches, countless times disproved, you can count. Some examples as hints (paraphrasing slightly): "Capitalism enslaves the poor," "Capitalists use government force to rob them," "We must use government to guarantee minimum sustenance and services or equality of opportunity becomes a sham..." and so forth.

When you're counting, keep in mind this was 1980. Progressives had already learned well by then how to use the language of capitalism to destroy it.

I keep wondering when those who defend capitalism are going to learn to use morality to defend capitalism. I wonder if they'll ever come out and say, unapologetically: "Individual freedom is a sacred value no matter what happens to the old, the sick, the poor, or any other favored Progressive needy group du jour." In other words, defending freedom chiefly on utilitarian grounds is a losing proposition.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Virtues Required for Freedom

I'm not in general a fan of Friedrich Hayek. I think he surrenders far too much to Progressives. But he had some things of value to say. In particular, this gem from The Road to Serfdom:
There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought. It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which the British people justly prided themselves and in which they were generally agreed to excel.

The virtues possessed by Anglo-Saxons in a higher degree than most other people, excepting only a few of the smaller nations, like the Swiss and the Dutch, were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one’s neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.
The cultural decay represented by the withering of those virtues is almost as true of America today as it was of Britain in the 1950s. (That latter makes it all the more remarkable that Hayek saw this in 1944.)

We won't come back unless those virtues again become dominant and are as celebrated as they were a hundred years ago.

Still, I'm not completely pessimistic. If anyone can restore them to popularity, it would be the American people. After all, Progressives may currently dominate all but two of the major cultural transmission belts, but are in fact a small percentage of the population. So was the aristocracy of Britain (and their sycophants) in the 18th century and we managed to rid ourselves of them. Maybe we'll do so again with the current crop who believe themselves anointed to rule us.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Progressive Racist

“We feel we have much to learn from Scandinavia’s democratic socialist tradition . . .”
[Martin Luther King, Jr. during his visit to Sweden to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.]

This and many similar comments demonstrate that King favored Progressivism - both in economics and as social policy.

It's for this reason that he deserves exactly none of the praise he has received over the years and this latest round of conservative gushing is particularly galling.

To be opposed to racism is the bare minimum to expect of any civilized person. It is not some great achievement. But King did more - and worse - than that. He explicitly viewed all American blacks as "brothers and sisters." In short, he was a standard (reverse) racist, judging individuals not by their character but by the color of their skin, contrary to his high-flown rhetoric.

He was not a great man, nor a great thinker. He was just another Progressive leader, and therefore wholly undeserving of praise.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Eliminate "Inflammatory Right-Wing Rhetoric"

At Breitbart's Big Government, I offer a few words on the Left's attempt to connect the shootings in Arizona with 'right-wing' political activism.

It begins:
Many commentators almost as mad as Loughner have attempted to connect this lunatic’s actions to “inflammatory right-wing rhetoric.” I won’t go into here the long list of inflammatory left-wing rhetoric (and actions) that spill over into open violence. (Michelle Malkin has a good summary — with detailed proof — if you’re interested.)

Instead, I’ll make a suggestion.

If the Left wants to eliminate at a stroke the vast majority of heated, hated right-wing rhetoric there’s a very simple way to do that: give up. ...
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The History of the Yo-Yo

One of my favorite pastimes is reading about inventions. has a good, short article on the surprisingly long and colorful history of the Yo-Yo. Enjoy!

They have been around for over twenty-five hundred years... Around 1800, the yoyo moved into Europe from the Orient.


It is a Tagalog word, the native language of the Philippines, and means "come back". In the Philippines, the yoyo was used as a weapon for over 400 hundred years. Their version was large with sharp edges and studs and attached to thick twenty-foot ropes for flinging at enemies or prey.


[Modern inventor Donald] Duncan's first contribution to yo-yo technology was the slip string, consisting of a sliding loop around the axle instead of a knot. With this revolutionary improvement, the yo-yo could do a trick called "sleep" for the first time.