I am working on a new "Elevator Talk" for Climate Change (or DAWG, as it 's known around these parts). The issue is still politically fraught with peril -- every day, my Facebook includes Sen. Mark Udall's asking Rep. Cory Gardner to "sign his petition affirming climate change." It is a crude distraction from ObamaCare®, but don't think crude does not work [insert random Mencken quote here...]
My position has evolved somewhat over the years: not enough to effect policy, but I have softened pari passu with that big Antarctic sheet of ice.
"So, jk, on a scale from 0-10 where zero is 'it's a hoax' and ten is 'metaphysical certitude: we're all gonna die!' where do you stand on Climate Change?"
Does it have to be an integer? I'd say about 4.5 [Who is unreasonable now, baby? I'm a moderate!] Hoax requires mens rea and I will accept that a preponderance of the scientists are genuinely concerned. Politicians probably run the spectrum from following along to "yes, this'll meet my needs," but I'll accept the scientific concern as legitimate.
That gets me to two.
The science of Physics suggests a 1.3° C temperature rise to accompany a doubling in atmospheric CO2. I'm a big fan of Physics -- I have all their albums [pause for laughter as needed here...] Seriously, that is well founded and experimentally reproducible. I accept, therefore, a projected 1.3 degrees of man made warming over the next 50 years.
I think that gets me to four.
Now, the practitioners of climate science take that 1.3 degrees and multiply like a Keynesian at an all-you-can-eat buffet. They show, through computer modeling, that as it gets warmer, there will be more barbecues, and people will eat more meat, and that increased bovine flatulence will raise the temperature 300 degrees and we'll all broil. Okay, it is not that bad, but they are taking fundamentally good science and taking some liberties with it.
The climate science, unlike the physics, is not reproducible or empirically provable.. In fact, the experiment we call the real world diverges substantively from their models.
This puts all the numbers >= five off limits.
But there is a beta, if I can borrow from finance. There is a non-zero chance that they are right. The introduction of more heat to a complex, chaotic system could start a cycle of warming. I multiply the very small beta of probability by the very large coefficient of suckage should this transpire and get 0.5: ergo 4.5.
SecState Kerry suggests that there is no great cost to overreaction and great costs to under reaction. I purport the exact opposite.
If I -- and Physics -- am right, there is a 1.3 rise, which is well within normal fluctuations. Nobody would have noticed had VP Gore won Florida in 2000 and had other things to spend his time on than movies. If I am wrong, don't we want to be richer and smarter? If we waste our time and innovation on government-directed green boondoggles, we will not have the technology or resources to really tackle it if it is bad.
Well, that's it. I've had this in my head for a few days, but was inspired to try it reading the Guest essay by Steven Burnett on the WattsUpWithThat.com site. Burnett has a degree in Psychology and one in Chemistry. He compares the rigor of soft and hard science.
If I may wax poetic for a moment, the hard sciences are like a rock while the soft sciences are like sand. They are fundamentally composed of the same stuff, but it's the structure that makes them different. You must find a comfortable spot to rest on the rock but sand conforms around you. An uncomfortable rock must be dealt with, sand can simply be brushed away. Rock climbing requires training and equipment, a walk on the beach does not. I have had the opportunity to do both, and from personal experience, rock climbing is both harder and more fulfilling.
UPDATE: In case this post wasn't long enough for you... But I had to share the WSJ Ed Page's answer to Sec. Kerry:
The "worst that can happen" is that we spend trillions of dollars trying to solve a problem that we can't do anything to stop; that we misallocate scarce resources in a way that slows economic growth; that slower growth leads to less economic opportunity for Boston College grads and especially the world's poor, and that America and the world become much less wealthy and technologically advanced than we would otherwise. All of which would make the world less able to cope with the costs of climate change if Mr. Kerry is right.
Having read your thoughtful response concerning MMGW wherein you begin with a "0" to"10" what if, and end with a coolly (warmly?) calculated "4.5", I wish to perhaps precipitate a thaw in your math.
There are three distinct areas of focus, however blurred, for a consciousness. They are ideas, things, and people.
The hallmark of the first is the imagination. It is preoccupied with, in addition to whatever may arise to temporarily occupy its focus, envisioned (visionary?) manifestations of "what ifs."
The second area of focus are "things." The hallmark of this consciousness is curiosity. What, how, and why, are perpetual questions to which such a consciousness endlessly seeks answers.
The third area is people. The hallmark of this consciousness, when whatever imagination (ideas) or curiosity (things) might have initially been at play is/are determined to be of relatively little value, it invariably chooses people as the objects of its focus. The hallmark of such a consciousness is politics.
Of course we each are, in differing proportions, amalgamations of all three. On one end of the spectrum lies the occasional Einstein, exploring the intergalactic vortex while working as a clerk in the patent office, never losing sight of his reverence for science and the requirement that his imagination can only become validated when confirmed by reality.
Representing the other extreme, the likes of Barrack Obama, who, apparently never having had an original thought in his life, merely adapted to playing the political game in which he found himself at birth, consistently through to its current manifestations.
The rise of the idea of man-caused destruction of the Earth is the product of politics. It has no basis in actual science itself, and little in its relatively new and larger arena of science, Climatology.
However, since its political postulation, first as MMGC in the early seventies, then as MMGW, recently MMCC, to now, where I indicated at the last LOTR meeting I heard the first snippets of MMCD (disruption replacing change - the boring and virtually imperceptible pace of change giving way to the far more dramatic and dire term, DISRUPTION ((film at eleven!)), the proponents have been joined by sincere and credible consciousnesses who are honestly trying to investigate said claims. To the extent these additional voices remain credible, and are not shown to be seeking renewed funding or new Grant money, they tend to provide a veneer of respectability to what was/is, on its face, a "modern" vehicle for the destruction of individual freedom and Capitalism.
Now, I do not wish to be what I am arguing against. I always remain open to the possibility that the claim of MMCI (influence replacing whatever might be the latest fashion) is in fact occurring. One of the nasty traits of we humans is that certainty stops inquiry. However, I insist that the motivation for inquiry be imagination or curiosity, not arising from the sewer of politics!
The high priests of the "settled science" of MMCI are certain of their inquiry, and denounce, demean, or discredit, any heresy to the contrary. I therefore am resting comfortably at a .0014, awaiting further demonstrable, repeatable, evidence - not simply the computer modeling of premises.
Dave, the denounced, demeaned, "discredited" denier, Walden
Whoa. David Brooks is right. I was readying the stopped-clock gags, but the NYTimes's political-trouser-pressing critic has a superb column which introduces a topic I wanted to discuss. Spoiler alert -- I want to share the end but recommend the entire piece:
The liberal pluralistic system is not a spontaneous natural thing. Preserving that hard-earned ecosystem requires an ever-advancing fabric of alliances, clear lines about what behavior is unacceptably system-disrupting, and the credible threat of political, financial and hard power enforcement.
Deepak Lal -- call your office. But the point I hoped to make was the comparison of anarcho-capitalism and socialism. A great friend of this blog riffs that the proponents of both build their premises on prelapsarian man. "If men were Angels..." James Madison intoned.
My contribution, besides sharing the awesome word, prelapsarian, with you, is this. The Rule of jk:
Neither liberty nor prosperity is a natural state.
We, of the liberty ilk, chide the left for their half. They see the land of milk of honey, with happy people hunting plentiful buffalo and enjoying organic carrots -- until the mean old corporations and greedy Wall Street bankers ruined everything. Deirdre McCloskey is turned on her head to my lefty friends.
But I appeal to my righty friends to eschew not only anarcho-capitalism, but also isolationism. Surely Rep. Ron Paul isolationism -- we'll negotiate with Paul the Younger. These Righty Facebook Friends (RFFs) are increasingly contemptuous of "consent of the governed." Even accepting the Constitution, one can make a perfect case for Ron Paulism -- more easily than for the Deepak Lal side.
I learned on these very pages that Thomas Hobbes translated Thucydides to English. Now we know where he "got his mellow harshed." Just as the natural economic state is poverty and privation, digging for roots with a stick to try and ingest enough calories -- the natural political state is for some person or group to come take those roots and your stick away from you.
Brooks is dead right -- maintaining a Lal-ian Liberal International Economic Order is difficult and we lack the stomach for it. Make your choices, but do not pretend that everything will be fine. That the terrorists just want us to leave them alone and that Putin just wants us to stop giving them stupid props. China just wants a couple of rocks in the ocean.
UPDATE: Heh. Insty links to the same column, importunely pointing out "This a direct consequence of who we elected in 2008. You, David, were a part of that."
Aside from these personal fixes, there is a solution to put the country (including any wayward stragglers or stunted post-adolescents) back on the path of prosperity. Americans could stop supporting anti-growth politicians pushing agendas that strangle the economy, weaken the dollar, and surreptitiously erode civil liberties, but let’s be serious. 60% of those ages 18-29 reelected President Obama. So, what’s left? Keep checking feeds, going on pointless dates, and buying more gadgets? Frankl would tell the lost ones to find a will to meaning in this world, but finding purpose can be put off, even if the abyss persists and they pester the rest of the world as impotently self-involved non-starters, for lack of ever finding a self or a start.
You'd have to get stuck on an elevator to complete Randy Barnett's 20 page Chapman Law Review article. Still, download a PDF for nothin' and email it to your Kindle.
I find it to be the most complete, brief description of what I believe. I think I will float a link on Facebook. A taste:
What happens in a social democracy when 51% of the voters
discover it can vote to "redistribute" the wealth of--or impose
their moral vision upon--the other 49%? Or more likely, what
happens when political entrepreneurs inspire, say, 80% of the
electorate to confiscate the income or wealth of the 20%? When
this happens, how will social democracy preserve the individual
sovereignty that the Third Way approach concedes is needed as a
baseline? What realistic mechanisms are proposed by advocates
of the Third Way superimposition of social justice or legal
moralism on the libertarian rights of property and contract to
ensure against this outcome?
I have been teaching law and writing about liberty for over
thirty years now, and I have yet to hear any such proposal from
any of my colleagues. It would be genuinely enlightening to hear
how advocates of supplanting or overriding the libertarian rights
that define individual sovereignty propose to limit the coercive
powers they seek to the particular vision of social justice or
morality that they offer to justify this claim of power. It would be
equally enlightening to hear proponents of social democracy tell
us how it will not eventually devour the individual rights that
provide the foundation for their additional schemes of
redistribution or morals regulation. Is this not a reasonable
Been way too long since this category was hit. It's a short ride today, but while we wait for the delivery guy to get in I have a short digression.
At the last "Liberty on the Rocks -- Flatirons" I was asked to describe ThreeSources. Here I was in a friendly setting, describing something I love to a sympathetic party and... Sadly, blog friend Terri was there to hear the ensuing abortion. Memo to self: create elevator talk for blog (suggestions gleefully accepted). It was sad.
Today's elevator talk is a suggested term for what I am. To the cognoscenti, I call myself a "classical liberal" for those I'm unsure will get that, I love Milton Friedman's "I'm a little-l libertarian and big-R Republican." That's what I say on my Facebook profile.
But try this out: "I'm a Constitutional Libertarian." I recognize it is difficult to organize society. I hold that anarcho-capitalism is no more viable than full-tilt communism. "Both," blog friend Sugarchuck would gravely intone, "assume a pre-lapsarian human perfection." And then he'd make you read Michael Novak.
Once we admit that some structure is desirable, we have to draw the line. I suggest the American founders did as good a job at that task as we are likely to encounter. I therefore champion the freedoms protected in United States Constitution as amended (Article V is no less valid than the others). I'll accept that with which I disagree -- if others will honor the limits on government with which I concur.
This is my floor, but I'll give you this pre-printed handout with quotes:
...although certain contradictions in the Constitution did leave a loophole for the growth of statism, the incomparable achievement was the concept of a constitution as a means of limiting and restricting the power of the government.
Today, when a concerted effort is made to obliterate this point, it cannot be repeated too often that the Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals--that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government--that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizens' protection against the government. -- Ayn Rand
It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what is will be tomorrow. -- James Madison
It is a well travelled Republican talking point that the gay marriage issue is a distraction from President Obama's economic record. It's true of course, but the Republicans are as much to blame for said distraction as the Democrats.
A friend from suburban Wichita, Kansas emails a link to this story about a public school teacher posting his views against gay marriage on his Facebook page. He has every right to his beliefs, of course, and to speak them publicly. But by continuing to oppose legal recognition of same-sex marriage we allow him to become the face of our conservative party. I will not stand silently by. How many of us have wished we could have been present in the face of an incident of racial discrimination in the segregated south and that we would have had the courage to say, "No, that is wrong?" Same story, different age.
My Kansas friend sent the link with the note "Need your comments here" to both me and my brother. What follows is my response, which rebutted my brother's.
[Brother] writes that it is "nonsense" that established law denies a right for same-sex marriage, then declares there is "no defined right for same sex couples to "marry." Which is it?
[Brother] writes that "The majority of the country does not care what people do in their own bedrooms or whom they decide to 'love'" but then proclaims homosexuality "abnormal" and that he doesn't support homosexual weddings because that would "redefine something that has been a pillar of communities for 5000+ years" and "the more we break down the institution of marriage to simply be a whim, the more our society will continue to degrade." So you, and "the majority of the country" are fine with homosexuality, you just don't want to acknowledge it in law?
[Brother] faults Conkling, the Hutchinson teacher, for "taking the cause backwards" and "fuel[ing] the opposition" by opposing gay marriage on religious grounds. I say [brother] is no different by attempting to oppose this individual liberty on non-religious grounds, whatever those might be. Until he clarifies his contradictions there's no way to know what objective basis he claims.
Conkling's "logic" is even more fallacious: Homosexuality is wrong because it is a sin, equal in God's eyes to all other sins, and we are ALL sinners. He says all sins are equal in God's eyes so homosexuality is equal to murder, but it's also equal to lying. Do you agree that lying is as wrong as murder? I don't. Conkling says he condemns gay marriage "because those who embrace it will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven." First of all, doesn't the bible teach man to "judge not?" Secondly, there are other beliefs about heaven and sin and for one man to impose his own upon all other men is just as wrong as Sharia law.
Would it not be better to simply allow civil unions, conferring all the legal rights of marriage while witholding the term "marriage" than to continue to allow this issue to divide Americans and distract from issues that actually matter to all of us, like whether or not America will be a socialist country? And even if they aren't satisfied with civil unions and come back next year demanding "marriage" who cares? Whatever it is called it will still be a minority behavior. Unlike drug legalization nobody makes a legitimate case that legal homosexual marriage will cause more homosexuality. (But so what if it did? Will that affect you? Your children? Anyone who is not "abnormal?")
The cause of western laissez-faire capitalism is a cause of individual liberty. Individual liberty in commerce is a human birthright, as is individual liberty in social relations. Individuals are, by their nature, free to join a commune or establish a nuclear family; free to love another of the same gender or of the opposite gender. If you want to live free of oppressive taxation and wealth redistribution your only argument is individual liberty as a human birthright. But you weaken that argument by denying others a liberty of which you disapprove. Stop it. Admit your mistake and strengthen your position in the debate that really matters - that really affects you and your family's lives - by abandoning a debate that doesn't matter. Don't insist that your beliefs hold dominion over the beliefs of others lest they turn your logic back on you and insist that you are your brother's keeper.
Not all of you, just the supporters of Rep. Ron Paul who have joined forcers with the #occupywallstreet movement. I see "End the Fed" signs during news coverage and I have read about your presence in Reason and CATO.
I fear you have made a mistake in your choice of solidarity. You have found those who share your temperament and emotions, rather than those who share your ideas, philosophy and values. Why does Doctor Paul want to end the Fed? Because he considers it an assault on property rights. He makes an eloquent and substantive case that to devalue the currency is to steal the loss in value to currency holders. I don't agree with every facet, but it is a serious argument and well worthy of discussion.
Hans Hermann-Hoppe says of Ludwig von Mises: "Mises condensed the definition of liberalism into a single term: private property" and I surmise that Paul considers this both a foundation of our liberty and cornerstone of his philosophy.
Your newfound friends at the protests share your distrust of government, bailouts, too-big-too-fail banks, and Corporatism in general. But they do not share your belief in property rights. Quite the contrary, their demands seem to center on loan forgiveness. Ordinary Americans borrowed money in a legal market with all protections of contract law for housing or education, and have now decided that the lenders have zero right to the contracted repayment.
This turns Ron Paul's beliefs on their head. He worries about 2 or 3% annual theft of the value to a saver's cash holdings -- your fellow travelers advocate a 100% immediate theft of the property of legitimate debt and bond holders. They are not your friends.
Blog brother jk appealed for Randian elevator speeches to answer the latest liberal female candidate for Ted Kennedy's senate seat who said, "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own - nobody."
My first temptation was to say, "Please read Craig Biddle's (not Bill Whittle) essay on Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society. It is superb. But it is far more than an elevator ride. And that is the trouble. Americans have been taught for generations that it is unconscionable for "the richest nation in the world" to let any of our neighbors go hungry or be denied the latest medical treatments. How does anyone counter this belief in even the world's longest elevator ride? Perhaps like this...
A human is a living thing that cannot survive without using his or her mind to identify values and act to achieve them. Values begin with those things which a human needs for survival. They begin with food, shelter, clothing. They then progress on a scale from necessities to comforts and then luxuries.
Civilization and prosperity have made luxuries into comforts and comforts into necessities. But civilization also tries to make leisure into work. Our prosperity has convinced many of us that there is enough wealth to go around to everybody, so nobody needs to work any longer. This fiction is extended even beyond the realm of materials and into services, such as medical treatment and disaster assistance. But there is no free lunch. Without production and commerce there is no prosperity, and production is not automatic. No man will work to create something unless he will profit. No man will learn medicine and care for others unless he receives a comparable value in return.
Businessmen, of all people, recognize the value of a polite society. Why do you think they always tried to hire Clint Eastwood to protect their two-bit town from the local gang? This is why most people are happy to pay a nominal tax to support basic government services, or even a higher tax for some extra-special services. But still more taxes to transfer his wealth to the less industrious are another matter. Take away a man's profit without his consent and he will either stop producing things you used to get from him or he'll leave your civilization and start his own somewhere beyond your reach. Either way, you are worse off than when you worked for your own earnings and traded with him fairly.
Of course, all of this presumes that your goal is to be happy and prosperous in your own life. Some men aspire to nothing more than to harm others. Don't be that guy, and don't demand what you haven't earned.
JK gave me the bountiful gift of a link to Bastiat's "The Law." A principal theme therein is the immorality of plunder, whether by individuals or by the government. Why? Because man, liberty and property existed before law.
What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.
He explains how law becomes immoral when it becomes an instrument of plunder, on the part of the group against individuals. So it may be said that Democrats and Progressives are willing to engage in group plunder despite, on the whole, opposing it on principle when exercised by individuals. Many contemporary Republicans have also taken this stance.
The TEA Party is the nation's last, strongest bullwark against that tendency. Quoting from "The Law:"
Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property.
But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.
Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain -- and since labor is pain in itself -- it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.
When, then, does plunder stop? It stops when it becomes more painful and more dangerous than labor.
"The TEA Party - Making plunder more painful than work since 2010."
Hundreds of years of arguing, and it strikes me that the key philosophical/political difference is devilishly simple. I think I can describe it fairly and succinctly:
Progressives envision the good that government can do, and see no reason to limit its effectiveness. ThreeSourcers see the evil that government can do and see no reason to allow it to encroach unless necessary.
Two hundred twenty four years, billions of dollars and shed blood for elections -- is it really more than that? This not particularly original insight was focused by Damon Root's piece in Reason: "The Never-Ending 'Business of Centralization.'"
Root opens with Schechter Poultry Corp v United States, the "sick chicken case" Amity Schlaes discusses in "The Forgotten Man."
But the Supreme Court wasn't having it. The NIRA must fall, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote for the majority, otherwise there would "be virtually no limit to the federal power, and, for all practical purposes, we should have a completely centralized government." Progressive Justice Louis Brandeis, usually a hero to the New Deal set, was equally blunt, informing White House lawyers Tommy Corcoran and Ben Cohen, "This is the end of this business of centralization, and I want you to go back and tell the president that we're not going to let this government centralize everything."
The Four Horsemen fell to the Three Musketeers, Hughes was replaced by Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, and the absolute brake on centralization fell to Wickard v Filburn...and y'all know the rest.
But there is a chance in the ObamaCare fight that the raw question will come out and that there might be a discussion of limiting federal power. Maybe.
Well, except to always play a flat ninth when the charts call for a dominant seventh...
The rest of what I believe is that prosperity begets labor satisfaction. My great friend Silence likes to talk about "unfettered capitalism" and claim that government action took us from the American-Dickensian 19th Century to the middle-class distribution of the 20th.
A U of Maryland Professor was on Stossel's show last night, bravely taking the anti-Milton Friedman argument in front of a hostile studio audience. He had the same pitch: "Do you want to return to the nineteenth century?" (I hear the ThreeSources Cognoscenti yelling "Heck Yeah!") "Children working for a dollar a day?"
But the problem with the world of the Vanderbilts and Goulds and Rockyfellas was not the distribution. There just was not enough wealth to go around. Evenly dividing all the so called robber barons' money among the populace would not have made everyone rich.
What got kids out of sweatshops in Dickensian England and post-bellum America was a growth in prosperity, not a growth in government power. And now the Milton Magic is spreading into China:
The supply of Chinese migrant workers from the countryside, once thought to be endless, is running dry, and that is giving workers leverage to demand bigger pay packets. The brief drop-off in orders brought on by the global financial crisis provided a respite, as did a recent drought in southwest China that spurred extra migration to the coastal factory zones. But shoe manufacturers are the canary in the coal mine. An American industry association recently polled its members and found that 88% saw a labor shortage in China, and almost as many had experienced late deliveries as a result.
As these workers turn into consumers, that will lift free societies in Vietnam and Bangladesh.
'Getting the government's hands off our money, our guns, our lives.' The 2008 Grover Norquist book by this name posited a future politics driven by the "Leave Us Alone Coalition" on one side and the "Takings Coalition" on the other. This dovetails nicely with our recent discussion and Norquist apparently addresses the social values schizm toward the end of the book [Craig Matteson review]:
If I disagree with Norquist on anything it is his rough dismissal of social conservative issues towards the end of the book. However, I understand his emphasis on economic issues and their rough correlation with social conservative issues. That is, if you look at all economic conservatives in the Republican party, they will also include almost all of the social conservatives and some of those who are more liberal on social issues. So, we get more voters to help us win our issues with economics. This ignores the reality that for social conservatives, some issues are so vital that sitting home or creating a new party would be better alternatives than letting them slip out of the public debate.
If there is anything that religious leaders can do to help save America and the American way of life it is to disabuse their flocks from keeping social issues in the public political debate. Take them back to the public moral debate where they rightly belong.
In a family email dialog about healthcare reform my brother asked a first cousin once removed: "I can't believe that you would be supportive of socialized medicine - are you?"
The cousin replied,
"Generally speaking yes I am. Although I don't think any of the proposals on the table are perfect.
But you shouldn't be worried. Even if a perfect bill was drafted, it won't pass. Politicians are incapable of getting tough things done."
What follows is my contribution to the thread. It's important to first note that the cousin and his wife (the first cousin not-removed) both happen to work in the airline industry.
You know, it's interesting that you say that. I happen to support socialized air travel. I think that everyone should be able to get the same access to free jet trips whenever they need them, regardless of their ability to pay. I believe that air travel is a right and that people who provide it should not make such an obscene profit! I am sure that airfares would be much lower if there was a single payer system so that efficiencies and economies of scale could come into play. In addition, it is absolutely unconscionable that the super rich can fly in first-class comfort simply because they happen to have so much more money than anyone else. I think that first-class service should be abolished so that coach will be available for more flyers at the same total cost. And who on earth thinks that the elderly should be flying? Those people have lived full and rich lives already. We need to leave the thrill and growth opportunities that flying offers for younger people who will get more “adventure memory years” from each flight than those geriatrics would.
And before you ask, no, I don't support socialized engineering services. Engineers are highly trained professionals who have taken the individual initiative to learn the specialized skills and principles that they apply to important needs of society. By taking away the right of individual engineers to offer their services on a free market at the highest price that any customer is willing to pay him the excellent engineers will have no incentive to work harder and more ingeniously than the sad-sack chair-warming engineers do. The result would be that the engineering profession as a whole, and all of the productive enterprises that depend on engineering excellence would be crippled with mediocrity and malaise.
Fortunately I am quite certain that the politicians in Washington, responding to the clear and complete understanding of the distinctions between air travel and engineering, would never dream of applying the same centralized government control over the wages and careers of engineers that I am advocating for airline corporations and their money grubbing employees. Yeah, just them ... and the doctors. Leave us engineers - and the lawyers - alone.
My On a New Conservatism post elicited concern from JK that kicking the big government conservatives out of the Republican Party would be an electoral mistake. I think we've discussed that quite a bit around here with no consensus opinion, but consider this historic quote that Hayek placed at the very top of his 'Why I am Not a Conservative' essay:
"At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare, and its triumphs have been due to minorities, that have prevailed by associating themselves with auxiliaries whose objects often differed from their own; and this association, which is always dangerous, has sometimes been disastrous, by giving to opponents just grounds of opposition." - Lord Acton
Is this not an accurate description of what happens when big government conservatives are running the party?
Brother Russ sent me 'A growing disconnect?' by Frank Wilson, retired editor of books for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The author notes the surge in popularity of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and F.A. Hayek’s ‘The Road to Serfdom’ in the wake of last year’s election. Wilson also refers to Hayek’s 1960 essay ‘Why I Am Not a Conservative.’ Though many around here surely have, I'd never read it and I encourage everyone to do so. Wilson refers to Hayek's argument that "the liberal today must more positively oppose some of the basic conceptions which most conservatives share with the socialists" and draws this conclusion:
"Of course, Hayek uses liberal in its classic sense, referring to someone whose aim is "to free the process of spontaneous growth from the obstacles and encumbrances that human folly has erected." (John Galt couldn't have put it better.)"
While the American electorate clearly tired of the dominant form of conservatism over the past 8 years it's developing the same regard for progressivism at a far greater rate. The climate is nearly ripe for a resurgence of classic liberalism. That is what I lobbied for in 'Defending (and Counseling) Sarah Palin' where I wrote that "I would like to see Sarah Palin campaign for President on the platform that "abortion is abominable, but government prohibition of it is worse." And it was the theme behind a comment on 'Ayn Rand's Revenge' where I said, "Defend capitalism and liberty in secular terms and watch the healthy growth of a new political movement: Americanism."
"Americanism" was my attempt at a modern name for classic liberalism. Hayek also thought it important to rename the movement that started in seventeenth century England and came to be known as the Whig Party, of which Lord Acton wrote "...the notion of a higher law above municipal codes, with which Whiggism began, is the supreme achievement of Englishmen and their bequest to the nation" and, Hayek adds, "to the world." The best he could come up with was "Old Whigs" but I don't see that gaining traction with the iPod generation, nor do I think a reincarnation of it would be more lasting than the original. But Hayek also explains that liberalism did not begin or even thrive exclusively in America - my patriotism was clearly showing. Nor is "republican" really the answer, as Hayek also explained that unlimited government, not democracy, is the enemy of freedom.
I continue to find liberty's best defense in the Constitution and its explicit limitations on government, to the extent that those limitations are observed. The U.S. Constitution with its liberal foundation best represents the ideals of Hayek and Rand as interpreted by James Madison. Ronald Reagan knew all of this and his efforts to limit governmental power suggest the renaming of George Orwell's novel '1984' to '2009'. But the Old Whig tradition needs more than what Reagan gave us if it is to succeed in practice for more than a generation.
Speaking of wealth, the subject of government stimulus came up in a conversation with my twenty-something sister-in-law:
"Does Keynsian economics say that government spending will stimulate the economy?"
Well, in effect it does because it claims all spending stimulates economic growth and that is music to the ears of a politician who will fall all over himself to outspend his opponents. But how is it supposed to do any good to inject a bunch of worthless paper currency into our economy? They borrow it or print it and then throw it out there but it doesn't actually have any intrinsic value. What has intrinsic value? Resources like agricultural products, mining products, oil and coal and nuclear fuel, or forest products.
"Wow, I've never looked at it that way," says my dear sis-in-law.
And while the government makes a big deal out of "stimulating" the economy with all of this ink-still-drying paper money what have they been doing for the past forty years with all those things that have real intrinsic value? They've been doing everything they can think of to control or outlaw their production and use! In a world like that what use is all of that paper money? Well, I guess paper money does have some intrinsic value. We can put it in our fireplaces and use it to heat our homes.
A good friend of this blog (rhymes with violence-slew-wood) sends a link to a NYTimes magazine story by Russell Shorto.
The magazine length article is a thoughtful and well written look at the social model of Holland. I don't want to give away the ending, but Shorto is an ex-pat from the Keystone State who has gone native and enjoys the European safety net. My response is not well sructured -- it's a quick email to a friend with details to be sorted out over BBQ at The Old Man on 120th Avenue some day.
But I present the article and my weak response as a challenge. For all the benefits of First Principles and liberty, life in Europe can be pretty enthralling. It is not too well suited for digesting and responding when you're busy, but I think it will be important to "elevator talk" against this -- as this is clearly the model that our current majority political class has in mind. The best written response gets a free lunch at the Old Man. I said:
My first thought is to object on First Principles. Sure, people can be happy without being free, and people can have a certain level of prosperity for a certain time without being free. That may be fine for some. It strikes that all the happy folks quoted use an awful lot of government services. Me the writer, my friend the potter, he doesn't quote a childless hedge-fund manager who has to pay for everybody's schoolbooks.
But these people are more subjects than citizens. Who chooses what schoolbooks qualify for reimbursement? Which procedures or medications are offered at the hospital? Who can stay in public housing? Do you get kicked out for assault? Thievery? Insulting King Gustav V? Insulting Allah? I associate that with the torpor he feels. At the very least, it is not what I would choose -- and why must I let my Dutch countrymen choose for me?
I have been thinking about your aversion to "unfettered Capitalism." Watching some BBC costume drama about just-barely-post-Dickensian mills in the North of England. I was struck by the "abundance of poverty." One can look back on Scrooge and Rockefeller as a failure of wealth distribution, but it is really just the complete absence of enough wealth to go around.
Yet Rockefeller brought heat and light to the masses. And the WSJ Ed Page loves to point out that Scrooge's non-fictional counterparts brought capital to the Industrial Revolution. Economies got to walk before they can run and the wealth was generated in the US, UK -- and The Netherlands -- through liberalism.
I think the Dutch are stealing future wealth from the next generations. If the progressive era had kicked off 20 years earlier and handed Rockefeller's, Gould's, and Vanderbilt's money to less productive citizens, we would be much poorer today. By the same token, I imagine what we might have had today had the TR-Wilson-FDR-LBJ axis not succeeded. It is a form of intergenerational theft to take growth from our children to make ourselves cushy today.
Then bla, bla, bla, let's go to lunch, bla, bla, bla...
I have received a few nice pieces of mail from Obama supporting relatives "HAHA! LOOOOSER!!!" No, no actually some nice things. The cartoons I shared, and a WaPo story of a black White House butler's pride that after 34 years employment an African-American will be moving in upstairs.
I don't want to rain on their parade, and I'll admit that a modicum of pride is called for. I'll even go all honeymoon and say that I appreciate President-elect Obama's character and intelligence. He seems a decent chap and I hope for the best.
But there is more to a President than how he or she makes us feel. I prefer a stodgy old, Federalist #10 version of the Executive that we haven't seen since President Coolidge and likely won't see again. But why can't I celebrate this historic election? I think Holman Jenkins captures it pretty well on the WSJ Ed Page.
You have in GM's Volt a perfect car of the Age of Obama -- or at least the Honeymoon of Obama, before the reality principle kicks in.
Even as GM teeters toward bankruptcy and wheedles for billions in public aid, its forthcoming plug-in hybrid continues to absorb a big chunk of the company's product development budget. This is a car that, by GM's own admission, won't make money. It's a car that can't possibly provide a buyer with value commensurate with the resources and labor needed to build it. It's a car that will be unsalable without multiple handouts from government.
The first subsidy has already been written into law, with a $7,500 tax handout for every buyer. Another subsidy is in the works, in the form of a mileage rating of 100 mpg -- allowing GM to make and sell that many more low-mileage SUVs under the cockamamie "fleet average" mileage rules.
Even so, the Volt will still lose money for GM, which expects to price the car at up to $40,000.
General Motors stock sits at a 60-something year low and the company begs Washington for help to avoid bankruptcy or liquidation. Yet the company banks most of its future on a car that will lose money, cost far more than a similar combustion vehicle, and present the user with a bunch of new problems from where to charge to handling stale gas if it is not used.
The Volt is very attractive and will generate a lot of buzz. But Jenkins is right that when the profit motive is completely discarded in favor of government subsidies, we are entering some scary places. The Volt will have to compete around the world with buyers who will not be getting paid $7,500 to buy an impractical car.
This is not where government belongs and I do not trust our 535 Automotive-engineers-in-chief to make the right decisions. Yet this is where we're headed with cars, energy, and heath care. I hope for the best and will give him every opportunity, but this is the wrong direction to take the country. So my pride is severely tempered.
The pursuit, defense, and propagation of liberty qua liberty is a superb endeavor. This blog is named for a Natan Sharansky quote that still gives me chills. Sharansky -- who faced evil -- said "During my long journey through the world of evil, I had discovered three sources of power: the power of an individual's inner freedom, the power of a free society, and the power of the solidarity of the free world."
I have long identified with "the libertarian wing" of the Republican Party -- more so after reading Ryan Sager's superb Elephant in the Room. That's me: a Mountain West fiscal conservative. I always stole Milton Friedman’s line "I'm a little-l libertarian and a big-R Republican." Hayek concludes his superb Constitution of Liberty with a chapter titled "Why I Am Not a Conservative." I agree with every word.
I’m comfortable calling myself a "classical liberal" but that means something to about eleven people.
Watching the Republican Candidate's Forum last night (poor man's group therapy), I finally realized what I am. I am a Prosperitarian. An innovation-slut. A growth whore. A political Paris Hilton who hopes the party never ends. Following "The Kudlow Creed" (I believe that free market capitalism is the best path to prosperity), all my positions can be predicted by their effect on global economic growth.
I like law and order (it's good for business and property right protection), yet I argue on these pages for leniency for illegal immigrants. I'm the last guy to endorse a boycott. I support free trade with sometimes despotic regimes. I support the Iraq War and the war on terrorism because I believe in the importance of Deepak Lal's Liberal International Economic Orders (think Pax Americana).
Perhaps Rep. Ron Paul is correct that it is an abrogation of liberty to tax John Q. Citizen to fund the Iraqi liberation. In a strict view of American liberty (qua liberty again) it is a defensible position. I disagree because I see it as a gift to the region -- and a key component in the continuation of global growth.
Likewise, Paul has a point that the 100 year old man who has been putting 20s in an old sock for fifty years is hurt by Fed-induced inflation. Yet I think that supplying the liquidity to support growth and (less controversially) prevent deflationary shocks is more conducive to prosperity.
Being a Prosperitarian is less cool than being a libertarian (though I would consider us yet another faction of the already splintered nine per cent). It’s more fun to rail against The Patriot Act and FISA. This month’s Reason Magazine has a cartoon taking Walgreen's Drug Stores to task for its handling of the "morning after pill" called "The War on Reproduction." But I contend that growth, innovation, modernity and prosperity has brought more individual freedom to the world than a thousand ACLU suits.
CNBC's Jim Cramer is sui generis. I highly recommend his book, I fondly remember the days when Kudlow & Company was Kudlow & Cramer, and I was glad to witness his success as his own show, "Mad Money" took off.
He's a heavy hitting fundraiser in the Democratic Party and was college buddies with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Kudlow & Cramer respected each other greatly, that was one of the best aspects of their show but the one thing that was beyond discussion was serious criticism of Spitzer.
In this video Cramer has some less than kind words for the current NYAG, Andrew Cuomo:
A progressive brother-in-law encountered a conservative brother-in-law at a party (they are not related except through me). Prog asks Conz "If you could change one thing, enact one law to make things the way you wish they would be, what would you do?"
Conz answers Prog with a call for consumption based taxation. "That's a good one," thinks I. When the question is asked back, Prog tells Conz "I would investigate every provider of insurance: health, car, fire -- all of them are cheating us."
It's pretty easy for me to choose sides on that one, but it got me thinking of my response. Consumption tax may be the best answer. Education money following students and/or dismantling the teacher's unions would be up there (Prog is a teacher and proud union member, the time would have to be right for me to float that).
After all my bellyaching on Berkeley Square Blog and ThreeSources, I guess I'll have to choose the replacement of the FDA with private counterparts, based on the model of Underwriter's Laboratories, CSA, and VDE. Like the whiners at town hall meetings, that would affect me directly; that would be the difference between MS being cured in my lifetime or not.
It's Sunday, you're granted one legislative wish from jk's brother-in-law. What's your pleasure?
Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you've ever journeyed to some far off place where people don't know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn't have a clue what accent it was they heard.
"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.
UPDATE: Sorry to bust in on another's post but this is a particular interest of mine. Pretty impressive that the quiz seems to nail us both. Reckon it's my western accent, but I'd think "The Midlands" is somewhere in England.
You know the rules. You have a brief elevator ride to explain your politics to a total stranger. (A Denver elevator, Boulder's aren’t big enough and Philadelphia’s are too big.) The door is closing, go!
I believe in personal freedom and individual empowerment. Both of these flourish in a bottom-up structure rather than top-down, command-and-control.
Right wing economists have long embraced this, calling it free markets, Adam Smith's invisible hand, or Hayek's distributed decision-making. But I am now seeing heightened interest on the left. Craig's list founder Craig Newark calls it "community," and New Yorker Magazine writer James Surowecki has written "The Wisdom of Crowds." Little-l libertarian blogger and UT law school professor Glenn Reynolds has highlighted the underlying technological advances in his "An Army of Davids." All these converge to expose the benefits of empowering individuals to make decisions with the facts they know.
I understand the temptation of the left to seek government solutions. The Federal government especially has massive resources and could wire every home for Internet or make us all buy hybrids or buy us all health care. All these solutions create and require centralized command-and-control, managed by some government bureaucrat who may or may not be competent, may or may not think like I do, and may or may not have my best interests at heart. I'd rather trust the 300 million consumers to try, find, and select the best programs than to have bright, educated people in Denver, Washington DC, or Turtle Bay dictate the answer.
The world laboratory of history has proven we Hayekians right. What I call "Classical Liberalism" after Ludwig von Mises's 1927 book, Liberalism, has raised nations out of poverty, empowered their citizens, and created massive wealth and innovation. Command and control societies, based on Marxism have sent affluent nations into poverty; stripped their people of rights, empowerment and personal freedom; and killed more than 100 million in the brutal police states that these societies require.
To achieve these goals, I vote Republican. While GOP politicians have disappointed me many times, they have consistently shown themselves to be better stewards of classical liberalism than the Democrats. I remain devoted to ideas and not party. Should some realignment or new movement create a Democrat party that espouses my ideals, I will join them. In my adult life, however, I have seen few examples of Democratic superiority on personal freedom. I tell my friends that "Republicans promise more freedom and frequently disappoint; Democrats promise less freedom and frequently succeed.”
In comments, I pointed out that while I tend to think of European economies as basket cases, the reality is that a Norwegian business person with a good position leads a good life. Social services are high, job security is guaranteed, the coffee is very good, the fjords look beautiful in the late spring... I look at demographic and economic trends and say "Yo, Jan, this is not gonna last!"
Yet another advantage of classic liberalism is sustainability. Ludwig von Mises noted this in his 1927 masterpiece, Liberalism, from which I proudly call my beliefs classical liberalism. Mises predicted the Second World War, fascism, communism AND their eventual defeat by free people. One wonders if he did as well on stock picks or the final four office pool.
Free markets are self correcting and the mechanisms for sustainability are all built in. Marxism has shown it can survive in limited amounts for a limited time, but it is not sustainable. Great Britain and the United States seem to be doing pretty well with classical liberalism, provided they can stay the course.
Discussing Britain's National Health Service (NHS) with a friend who was employed in the UK for three years, he blew my mind with a great line. He said "Americans would never tolerate the poor health care in the UK for a second; Britons would never tolerate our broken payment system."
I've thought about that for months (the sagacious friend surely forgot it in minutes). Was there some equivalence? Both systems are broken in a way. Yet it was clear to me that my wife's stroke would have killed her anywhere else but the US and that my MS treatment and diagnosis options would have been reduced under socialist health care.
The answer ("Mike, I've got a response to that thing you said five months ago!") is that in five years, the NHS will still, if I may use a medical term, suck. They will throw more money at it and technology will help a little, and they will reform it, but it will not be world class, befitting the stature of Great Britain.
In the US in five years, health care will still be expensive, but the procedures that are expensive today will be cheap. If Health Savings Accounts (A Hayekian-not-Marxist idea) are allowed and take hold, most health care will be cheaper. The classic liberal solution is self sustaining, the Marxist solution will require constant tinkering and additional resources to continue.
In my elevator talk, I purposely avoided the "mixed economies" of Europe. These economies, and increasingly Canada and the United States, do not disprove my claims about the efficacy of classical liberalism.
Michael Barone points out in "Hard America, Soft America" that the softer (more Marxlike) side of the US economy relies on the prosperity of Hard America to keep it afloat. Western Europe built prosperity through freedom, innovation, and a work ethic that valued achievement. The mixed economies are consuming those gains at different rates in different countries.
France makes the news today with riots as a response to allow more liberalism in hiring and firing of young workers. Three points can be taken away:
1) The ability of an entitled class to politically protect itself should never be underestimated;
2) The US with a more liberal economy, has the best job market for college grads in five years, while the French have double-digit unemployment;
3) The Wall Street Journal points out the lack of enlightenment in the cradle of enlightenment. There is no voter recourse there as we know it. Politics is settled in the street (Robespierre would be proud). With strikes and marches instead of ballots and campaigns. I now read that there is a counter-protest. I agree with the counter, but question the tactics. I also think about Jose Bove, the folk hero who trashes the French McDonalds franchises. Nobody elected him, yet he tells his countrymen what to eat.
The mixed economies assume that the healthy, Mises-Hayekian economies can tolerate a little Marxism. For a time they can. I grew up hearing how swell Sweden was. Then France. And, for a generation or two, they are pretty swell places to call home -- not that either has the economy to welcome a skilled immigrant. But a friend who sold into those markets reminds me that life is pretty good for the ones who are there and have a position.
I prove my point by claiming that the more Marxism shown by a mixed economy, the worse shape it is in; the more Hayek, the better the economy. A trend here?
I am creating a new category for this and invite everybody to participate.
The phrase is a business cliche`. Your elevator talk is your answer to the question ":What does your company do?" It must be short and understandable enough to be shared on an elevator. I think our last company failed because we could never come up with the elevator talk, but that's another tale.
I have complained that my beliefs take long explanations and counter-intuitive understanding. But it is time for me to stop complaining and start writing. I want to craft an elevator speech for free market liberalism. When somebody gives me 2 minutes to explain where I stand, I am going to have a good pitch.
The classical liberal ideas of Ludwig von Mises and FA Hayek have been tried several times in the last couple of centuries. These ideas have led whole continents out of poverty and created powerful economic engines of free, happy, and prosperous people. The nations created on these ideas have not attacked or subjugated their neighbors and have generally been good members of the world community.
The economic ideas of Karl Marx have been tried several times in the 20th Century as well. It is estimated that no fewer than 100 million people have died at the hands of these brutal regimes. Rich lands have been sent to poverty and good people have been given up to misery. These nations have made war with neighbors and the amount of state control required to enforce what is clearly not human nature has bred incredibly cruel police states.
In short, I believe in the empowerment of the individual to direct his or her life, and a society structured to allow personal freedom. Even though these societies have a clearly better record, our political leaders face every new problem with the first question being: "Should we employ a Marxist solution here or a Hayekian one?" Though there is a clear winner, we seem to have to have the argument every time.