Looters tend to be ingrates

Taken from a review of Tyler Cowen’s Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero

“How is this tweet, from “Dina,” for showing lack of gratitude toward business? “If you think about it. People with glasses are literally paying to use their eyes. Capitalism is a bitch.” Shortly after it was posted, it had accumulated 257,000 likes, surely with more to come.”

It’s both more and less than a lack of gratitude. Big Rock Candy Mountain would not impress her.

I wonder about her reaction should she ever hear of Iron Lungs, or Polio vaccine. Or, for that matter, food stores.

“Dina, here’s a free, live sheep. It’s your food and clothing supplement for the next quarter. Otherwise, you just get subsistence quantities of basic protein paste and three yards of poor quality burlap salvaged from potato sacks.

Other people’s labor supplied the sheep (as well as the protein paste and burlap) so you can learn to how to butcher, preserve meat, tan hides, and sew. And to make your own knives, saws, sewing tools, refrigerator, and electricity. People are literally paying you to learn existentially valuable skills.

After you’ve acquired those skills, you’ll need to work on how to raise sheep. Society can’t afford this gift indefinitely.

After that, you could look into creating a global transportation system to ship any excess sheep to Venezuela. We hear people there would literally pay for them.”

Emperors undressed

The Rise of the Ungovernables

2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Francis Fukuyama’s seminal essay for the National Interest “The End of History?” Its central hypothesis was that we were witnessing “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” That looked plausible in 1989, particularly when the Berlin Wall fell just months after the essay’s release. Thirty years later—not so much.

To be fair to Fukuyama, he never suggested that the world had seen the end of geopolitical conflict or that democracies would experience no more of Macmillan’s “events.” Today, he continues to view liberal democracy as the best form of government, but he is less optimistic about its robustness. It’s hard to disagree with him. The Brexit chaos, the Trump presidency, the collapse of support for centrist parties across Europe, and the pervasive rise of populism and nationalism, all point to the growing fragility of liberal democracy.

Why is this happening now? The usual response is to blame it all on the politicians. Leaders like Orban and Trump are subverting the institutions at the heart of liberal democracy. Political parties like Alternative für Deutschland and the National Rally are promoting illiberal and xenophobic policies. If only we had better leaders, democracy would flourish—so goes the argument.

That last sentence is exactly the same excuse Socialists and Communists use for state failures in the Soviet Union, Cuba, Venezuela, Cambodia, North Korea, et. al.. A majority of voters in this country agree with it, even as they are split on policy.

That last sentence describes the danger of the Imperial Presidency – something that connects Obama and Trump (they’re hardly alone, but it became an art form under their tender care).

That last sentence describes voters’ aspirations.  It explains Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and Donald Trump.  Not that they all share policy ideas, but that a sufficient number of voters see them as saviors.  This is a terrible way to think about public employees.

The Obamaists and the Trumpists both revere the Man, not the Law.  Their Emperor’s ideas are fully clothed in their own narcissism.

Read the whole article, it presents some good ideas about cultural changes contributing to the problem and the related role of social media.

Compare and contrast

Yesterday, I mentioned Representative Ocasio-Cortez’ happy dance on the bridge she burned to prevent economic aid supplied by Amazon from reaching New York.

Consider parallels to recent activity on the Simon Bolivar International Bridge between Colombia and Venezuela, where Senor Maduro is burning humanitarian aid trucks to prevent starving Venezuelans from eating.

The differences?  Aside from burning figurative bridges instead of actual trucks, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is not in a position to enforce her Green New Deal on the nation.

If she were, the difference would be time.

Rationale to ration

Medical Welfare Programs Look To Price Another Year Of Life

Medicaid and other medical welfare entitlement programs have created expectations that are bigger than the resources available to meet them. As a result, some welfare bureaucracies are looking to ration expensive drugs through a controversial method designed to put a price on the value of a human life.

If a beneficiary of a social welfare program needs a particular drug whose price exceeds a predetermined value of a “quality-adjusted life year” for the individual, under this method, that person would not get the drug. It is already in use in Great Britain’s single-payer health care system and in other nations. Some in the U.S. think it should be used here, too.

When the government pays for something, it gives bureaucrats a taxpayer-based rationale to refuse to pay for it.

See the Green New Deal fantasy: It’s a list of things, including electricity, gasoline, home heating, land use, product design, hourly wages, preferred occupation, food choice, and, yes, health care; all of which will be rationed or regulated. Why? In order to implement their view of “social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality

Is it any wonder GND proponents support “some are more equal than others” thugs like Venezuela’s Maduro and Cuba’s Castro?

Which clueless totalitarian are you?

We need a Facebook quiz to find out which Atlas Shrugged character Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is like.

There might not be a match. Ayn Rand’s fiction has been criticized for unidimensional characterization, but even she would find AOC unbelievable.

Here Are The Most Shocking Proposals From Ocasio-Cortez’ “Green New Deal”

Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t provide any insight into how the trillions of dollars in spending will be paid for other than claiming, “The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments and new public banks can be created to extend credit”. But as Ocasio-Cortez says, “the question isn’t how will we pay for it, but what will we do with our new shared prosperity”.

Provide free, mandatory classes for every citizen in speaking ‘Venezuelan?’

(Update, 12:48PM here‘s one estimate of the cost.)

Here’s a snippet from an FAQ document, published by proponents, describing the wonders of the ‘Green New Deal:’

Yes, we are calling for a full transition off fossil fuels and zero greenhouse gases. Anyone who has read the resolution sees that we spell this out through a plan that calls for eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from every sector of the economy. Simply banning fossil fuels immediately won’t build the new economy to replace it – this is the plan to build that new economy and spells out how to do it technically. We do this through a huge mobilization to create the renewable energy economy as fast as possible. We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast, but we think we can ramp up renewable manufacturing and power production, retrofit every building in America, build the smart grid, overhaul transportation and agriculture, plant lots of trees and restore our ecosystem to get to net-zero.

Maybe “our new shared prosperity” will pay for little solar-powered methane suction devices attached to the rear of every cow.  “Methane Disposal,” you ask?  Well, we just inject it into the natural gas supply lines…  Oh wait, natural gas will be banned.

OK.  More likely, the cow problem solves itself when meat and milk are banned.

This manifesto attracted so much ridicule that they tried to disappear it from the internet. They forgot the internet is forever. It is humorous reading.

This great leap forward is on top of universal free college education and medicare for all. So, they desperately need the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, King Midas, and the Pope (for divine intervention).

What they’ve got is Modern Monetary Theory:

MMT Sounds Great In Theory, But…

If you haven’t heard about Modern Monetary Theory your IQ is higher than it would have been if you had. It is really neither modern, nor a theory (it’s not actually testable*); and it misapprehends the meaning of the word ‘monetary.’ However, it could be in your future as a general government policy.

This theory of infinite currency printing does not admit to being limited by inflation. Any excess currency is simply taxed back. Inflation is something that cannot happen with a proper implementation of MMT.

Proper. Implementation. By the ‘best and brightest.’ Like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.

MMT has an obvious attraction for politicians. We’ve been playing at the edges of it for quite some time.

Let’s close with a last word from Ocasio-Cortez on the “Green New Deal”:

“I think one way that the right does try to mischaracterize what we’re doing as though it’s like some kind of massive government takeover. Obviously it’s not that because what we’re trying to do is release the investments from the federal government to mobilize those resources across the country.”

Obviously! Release! Investments! Mobilize! That explains the whole thing: She’s hired a fluent Newspeak expert. ‘Obviously’ means, “If you don’t understand, it’s because you’re stupid.” ‘Release’ means, oh, I don’t know, “the vast Federal budget surplus being held hostage by Trump’s wall proposal?” ‘Investments’ means, “Impossible government spending.” ‘Mobilize’ means, “At gunpoint.”

*Proponents will say, “It is testable, but it’s never been tried.” Well, that’s what they say about Communism, too. But, let’s even ignore the actual workings of an economy and admit that MMT depends on the refined judgment of virtuous politicians zealously balancing currency flow. And if you imagine that can be accomplished, you run into an even bigger problem: To do their job, these paragons also have to possess instant, encyclopedic, perfectly accurate information about every aspect of that economy.

Note to Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria,

As a newly elected Congressional Representative, self-described democratic socialist, open borders advocate, Medicare for all proponent, free college education supporter, BDS enthusiast, and CAGW partisan you have your work cut out for you in your new job.

I think it’s possible you’re operating under a few misconceptions that will make that job more difficult. For example:

And so I do think that right now we have this no-holds-barred, Wild West hyper-capitalism. What that means is profit at any cost. Capitalism has not always existed in the world, and it will not always exist in the world. When this country started, we were not a capitalist [nation], we did not operate on a capitalist economy.

Not exactly. There hasn’t been anything resembling hyper-capitalism in world history, and certainly not in the United States since about the time of Woodrow Wilson. We are far from achieving a free market system.  “Profit at any cost” is, in any case, not a charge reasonably leveled at capitalists.  But, you know this, since you have a degree in economics.  Right?

You do seem confused about what socialism is:

When we talk about the word ‘socialism,’ I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity and our economic, social, and racial dignity. It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day.

To me, what socialism means is to guarantee a basic level of dignity. It’s asserting the value of saying that the America we want and the America that we are proud of is one in which all children can access a dignified education. It’s one in which no person is too poor to have the medicines they need to live.

Noble sentiments, with which few would disagree, but perhaps you should pay more attention to the current example being set in Venezuela, where they’re trying out actual socialism. They’ve run out of medicine and most citizens are on the verge of starvation.  I’m not sure how your concept of dignity squares with the desperation of eating zoo animals, or prostitution for food, or surgery without anesthesia, but it’s at odds with mine.

Venezuela, where you might profitably look for evidence regarding how your intentions translate into reality, is bucking this trend:

“In 1981, the year Ronald Reagan became America’s 40th President, 44.3 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty (i.e., less than $1.90 per person per day). Last year, it was 9.6 percent. That’s a decline of 78 percent.”

…which is causally associated with the capitalist idea of free markets.

Of course, that’s what we would term “current events.” So, a little history, in case you think that the Chavez/Maduro experiment has simply had a run of temporary “bad luck*”: In 2017 (60 years after the revolution) Cubans’ average monthly salary reached a post-revolutionary all time high of 767 pesos, or $28.94 a month. That’s half of the extreme poverty line. Dignity for Cubans might be more easily achieved if fewer of them were very poor, and fewer had been driven to emigrate.  This is hard to achieve, but your ideas make it harder.

*“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

― Robert Heinlein

As you say on your website merchandise page “There is nothing radical about moral clarity.” Perhaps you should check your clarity.  Your good intentions don’t make that clarity moral.

Justice among the socialists

A New York City high school which produces makers is under attack by looters.

No Ethnic Group Owns Stuyvesant. All New Yorkers Do.
-Boaz Weinstein

“Admission to Stuyvesant was and remains determined by a single test available to all middle school students in the city. There are no soft criteria for admission: no interviews, no favoritism for legacies, no strings to be pulled. It’s all about whether you do well on the test, which best determines whether or not you can do the academic work.

You would think that Mayor Bill de Blasio would celebrate Stuyvesant as the crown jewel of the city’s school system. Instead, he has announced a plan that will destroy it in all but name.

This month, the mayor said he would seek legislation that would eliminate the test completely. Instead, he’d guarantee automatic admission to Stuyvesant — and the seven other specialized high schools in the city — for the top students at every middle school, regardless of their abilities.

The mayor says he is trying to address what is undoubtedly a heartbreaking problem: the gross underrepresentation of black and Latino students at Stuyvesant and schools like it. In 2016 black and Latino students constituted 44 percent of the kids who took the test (and 65 percent of the New York City school population). Yet they make up just 4 percent of Stuyvesant students and 15 percent of students at the specialized high schools overall.

But the mayor’s solution is no solution at all.

For one thing, his plan seems purposely oblivious to his administration’s utter failure to prepare students across the city for the admissions test — and for a school as challenging as Stuyvesant. In nearly one quarter of the city’s public middle schools, zero seventh graders scored at the advanced level on the annual New York State Mathematics Exam in 2017. Mr. de Blasio would send the top 7 percent of students at every middle school to the specialized high schools, but at 80 middle schools — or one out of every six — not even 7 percent of seventh graders passed the state math exam.”

Mayor de Blasio is insisting on equal outcomes for Middle School students. Never mind if there aren’t 7% of a school’s graduates who are even competent (much less excellent) in math, he’s going to insist they be placed in a group where they will certainly struggle. If the school system for which the Mayor is responsible produces innumerate graduates, he’ll just lower the definition of numeracy.

I’ll bet vanishingly few of those 44% taking the entrance exam were students at the 80 schools where not even 7% can pass the state math exam. Graduating with no math competence is the problem, and throwing those kids into an advanced program is doing them no favor.

It’s not a numeracy problem to the Mayor, it’s a melanin content problem. The breakdown of the freshman admittees at Stuyvesant:

      Asian     — 613
      White     — 151
      Hispanic — 27
      Black      — 10

I wonder how the 37 black and brown students who passed the entrance exam feel about Mr. de Blasio’s proposal. They represent 4.62% of the freshman class. We know that 44% of the aspirants who took the test in 2016 were black and brown. That means over 10% of them passed. Will the 3% who made it based on a meritocratic exam be denied admittance in favor of the new “7% from all” social justice rules?

Before those 37 graduate from Stuyvesant, dozens of kids who don’t know what a square root is may be their classmates.

One consequence is that few, if any, outcome equal, square-rootless admittees will succeed. Another is that resources will be diverted from those who could do the work, and some of them will fail when they could have succeeded. So, how long do you think it will be before de Blasio’s Equal Outcome parameters will also be applied to Stuyvesant graduates? Stuyvesant diplomas will become certificates of participation. The equal outcome will be pre-ordained graduation, whether earned or not.

If de Blasio is successful, the vast benefit this school brings to us all – equal opportunity for everyone to become better, happier, and wealthier by standing on the shoulders of merit – will vanish.

The arc of equal outcomes bends toward the lowest common denominator. A term with which Mr. de Blasio’s new Stuyvesant students will be unfamiliar.

That’s what he wants. Any other result promotes the idea that people are not interchangable parts to be arranged in life by Government whim. De Blasio’s utopian project cannot tolerate that.

Feminist Business School

While Cathy Newman was giving Jordan Peterson the third degree, she suggested that the non-existent “pay gap” could be eliminated by enforcing more feminine traits in the workplace. Four minute snippet:

Well, Cathy’s got Evergreen State College graduate Jennifer Armbrust on-board. Armbrust’s degree is in Critical Theory.

Here’s the condensed syllabus of her Feminist Business School.

[C]apitalism is an “economy that values masculine traits” such as “meritocracy,” “competition,” and “individualism.”

Shunning the “profit seeking motive” of traditional commerce, the Feminist Business School advocates that businesswomen adopt more “feminine traits” such as “gratitude,” “intimacy,” and “connecting with nature.”

“The feminine economy proposes a new set of values and redistribution of money and power based on feminine principle…”

I think this qualifies under Peterson’s comment, “That doesn’t predict success in the workplace.”

Well, maybe in Venezuela. The bar’s pretty low there.