Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Constitutional fetishism

Remember the great and glorious Third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
I am going out on a limb and saying that this Amendment has never been invoked against the US government since its founding, or maybe somebody can point me to some case from the extremely episodic War Between The States.

We forget that the Constitution, an admittedly cogent Enlightenment-era document, really was a creature of its times. Having a bunch of drunken soldiers sprawled in your living room, leering at your daughter and barking commands at your wife would loom large in a colonist's mind. In 2016, the notion seems very quaint. Besides, if the US military rolled into town to put down a tax protest, the government would just exercise its eminent domain powers to kick you out of your house, with the blessing of federal judges and the Constitution. Actually, the Amendment just means Congress has to pass a law to quarter soldiers in your house.

Remember Art. I, Sec. 8 under Congress's enumerated powers?

To establish Post Offices and post Roads;

Which, as we all know, gives businesses the right to hire the US Pension, er, Postal Service to distribute their corporate marketing materials at subsidized rates.

In a nation of 320 million with satellite communications and any number of competing delivery services the USPS could surely be shut down, and FedEx or UPS would tell the few households living away out in the sticks that they and not their more sensibly located neighbors will bear the cost of a 10-mile trek into town for their deliveries. The broke, busted USPS could be decommissioned by reading Sec. 8 as a list of permissive powers, not as a mandate, which was surely the original intent, but the men who wrote the document are no longer around to tell us that was the original intent. Therefore, the Constitution means whatever nine government lawyers say it means.

This odd dynamic turns elections into winner-take-all contests over existential issues. Once the winners can seize the levers of State power and install their own judges to say what the Constitution means, they can do whatever the hell they want, same as any old despot. The Constitution is just words on paper; it's not a talisman and doesn't actually conserve anything.

Conservatives need to get over their fetish with the Constitution. It's become a ghost shirt they put on and dance around in, hoping the old gods will come back and drive the evil Liberals back into the sea. They would be better served by just being honest and saying they want that old America that was 85% Anglo-European.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Moderated comments

I am moving to moderated comments going forward. My criteria at this point are, "No Spam" and "No Corvinus." Otherwise, based on the history of this blog, you should expect that your comment will be posted in full. Sorry to have to do this.

"Negative Rates, Plunging Yields and a 'Fix' for the Economy"

Good exposition from Mike Whitney:
On Tuesday, the 10-year German bund slipped into the bizarro-world of negative rates where lenders actually pay the government to borrow their money. Aside from turning capitalism on its head, negative rates illustrate the muddled thinking of central bankers who continue to believe they can spur growth by reducing the cost of cash. Regrettably, the evidence suggests otherwise. At present, there is more than $10 trillion of government sovereign debt with negative rates, but no sign of a credit expansion anywhere. Also, global GDP has slowed to a crawl indicating that negative rates are not having any meaningful impact on growth. So if negative rates are really as great as central bankers seem to think, it certainly doesn’t show up in the data.
There are a number of factors effecting bond yields: Fear, that a Brexit could lead to more market turbulence and perhaps another financial crisis. Pessimism, that the outlook for growth will stay dim for the foreseeable future keeping the demand for credit weak.. And lack of confidence, that policymakers will be able to reach their target inflation rate of 2 percent as long as wages and personal consumption remain flat. All of these have fueled the flight to safety that has put pressure on yields. But the primary cause of the droopy yields is central bank meddling, particularly QE, which has dramatically distorted prices by reducing the supply of USTs by more than $2.5 trillion in the US alone.
So far, so good. Then we get to this.
So what can be done? Is there a way to turn this train around and put the economy back on the road to recovery?

Sure. While the political issues are pretty thorny, the economic ones are fairly straightforward. What’s needed is more bigger deficits, more fiscal stimulus and more government spending. That’s the ticket.

[Ahem] Pardon, Lord Keynes. Your slip is showing.

Keynesians have been telling us that public deficits to stimulate consumption when consumers decide to pay down debt or save for their futures is the cure to what ails us since the 1930′s. The result has been a continuous cycle of booms and busts that is nearing its denouement.

The U.S. is getting older and less white. The economy is, perforce, going to contract. This would not be a problem but for the fact that we are leveraged so far into the future that any contraction spells disaster for large segments of the population (voters, which is why the problem never gets solved). The biggest Bubble right now is the one in public debt. That is what is starving the real economy of capital and why Mike looks in vain for signs of growth. I do think he is half-right, in that roads, bridges, nationwide wi-fi, etc., would probably generate positive ROI versus kerosene and diesel for military logistics.

The Japanese are further down this road than we are. They have no growth despite public debt measured in the quadrillions. By the Keynesians’ hysterical reasoning, public debt should be pushed into the quintillions lest the Japanese starve and their corpses pile up in the streets. The Japanese have not yet exhausted the asset side of their ledger, in the form of high human capital and savings.

There is more debt than can ever be repaid and this economic deadweight is increasingly patent. Can it just be rolled over into infinity? I think if it could, a lot of former governments would still be around. So history has not stopped and eventually this debt, like the mortgage-backed-securities in 2008, will be discounted to the ability of the debtors to repay. Again, like 2008, the Fed will blow up its balance sheet and paper over the drop in nominal values. I don’t think there will be enough left in the tank of the real economy at that point, evidenced by the fact that the economy has barely grown since 2008. Entire sectors will have to disappear for capital to be reallocated to productive uses. Many of us won’t make the cut and will sink into poverty. I wish I were younger.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Age of Evangelism Is Over, cont'd

Russell Moore makes Rod Dreher feel all tingly inside.

The premise is that religious liberty, perforce, includes the freedom to practice Islam as well, so therefore the 11th Commandment requires Christians to refrain from opposing the construction of mosques in the United States. If Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist immigrants are to be encouraged in their active religious practice, then U.S. Christian churches cannot, in good conscience, continue to insist that their congregations fund overseas missions.

This is how multicultural empires end: the electorate can no longer agree on the existential, ontological questions on which a society is based. We are seriously supposed to believe that a country consisting of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians and Atheists can function into perpetuity? Where has this ever been the case in all of human history? After Babel, Macedonia, Rome, Byzantium, Austro-Hungary, the USSR, Yugoslavia, tribal Africa, the Levant, it's the United States that finally got it right? It's the End of History!

Multiculturalism depends on a wealthy, intelligent market-dominant ethnicity who have most of the guns and money keeping the peace, like the hidalgo minorities who rule (and misrule) all the artificial countries of Central and South America, or the authoritarian Han majority who run the Singaporean city-state. When those market-dominant groups lose their grip, like the Alawites and Christians in Syria or the Sunnis in Iraq, that glorious multiculturalism blows away faster than you can say blood is thicker than water.

This is why Donald Trump paradoxically represents the last, best hope of propositional nationhood for the U.S. Either Trump wins and slams the gates shut, and the Anglo-Europeans get busy and start baby-making in order to preserve their super-majority status, or the U.S. continues its devolution along its ethno-cultural lines.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Two additions to the blogroll

The Z Man:
The Saudi domestic setup is unsustainable. There are about 30 million people in the Kingdom, but 10 million are foreign workers and many of those are basically slaves. The mean IQ of Saudi Arabia is tough to nail down, but the consensus puts it in the high 80’s at the optimistic end. Some old data suggest the mean is somewhere just north of 80, which is what you see in sub-Saharan Africa and American prisons. Add in the fact that most young Saudis don’t work and you have a dearth of human capital. The general rule is you need a mean IQ of 95 to have a modern economy.

This is important because the Saudis recognize that they are running out of cheap oil to sell at huge profits. They are not going to run out of oil in our lifetime, but the cost of getting their crude out of the ground is going up and technology is allowing producers in the US to compete further up the price curve. That’s why they have this ambitious plan to restructure their economy to move away from simply being a giant oil company. They plan to open up the economy, diversify the tax base and shift work from foreign workers to Saudi workers.

Plans are great, but they rarely survive contact with reality. A country full of low-IQ nitwits, as the result of a culture of cousin marriage, is not going to turn into Silicon Valley overnight. Throw in the repressive Saudi religious culture and any attempt to open up the economy is going to run into trouble. Westerners working in the Kingdom live in compounds because the Wahhabi religious authorities demand it. Osama bin Laden was set off on his war with the West because Americans were stationed in the Kingdom during the Gulf War. Imagine what happens when Westerners are given easy access to the country.

That returns us to the central problem and why things will get much worse in the Middle East over the next decade. About 70% of the native Saudi population is under 30. They don’t work and they grew up in Wahhabi schools. The Saudis tended to export the fanatics to places like Afghanistan so they could go on jihad and never return. The more useful ones get pulled into the Saudi security services.

Imagine this process reversing and outside groups like ISIS recruiting these fanatics to make jihad on the House of Saud. Suddenly, ISIS or something similar is operating in Riyadh. There are plenty of signs this is happening now, but information is suppressed by the Kingdom for good reason. Still, smart people think this is a more of a now problem than a future problem.

And The Rat-Faced Man:
What can we learn from this? Well, basically, work produces value, but for you, the capture of value is much harder than its production. Your work probably produces positive externalities that aren’t returning to you in any significant way. (If nothing else, you’re paying into social supports for Boomers that you’ll never enjoy yourself.) It’s not so different from company scrip or other similar scams—those were about capturing the employee’s produced value.

What’s more, the system is designed to keep you from noticing how the issues are framed. We’re encouraged to believe that “the system works” when in fact non-clueless people milk the system shamelessly. Just being close to power can be higher value than the entire productive capacity of a square state full of highly productive but na├»ve and square-headed people still living in a mental world of public-spiritedness, small-town honesty and quiet, humble, good deeds. (Notice that “higher value” need not have anything to do with “more productive”).

The key term to Everyman’s dream all over the world, whether he’s Joe Lunchpail or Sarawut Ricebowlpipatpong, is value capture, not merely value production. If you aren’t capturing your value, odds are it’s going to some rat-faced man. Better figure out how to become your own.

Both smart, successful men who see a good deal wrong with how things are going. Like Porter, Malcolm, Julian, Curt, and Bob.

Ignore them at your peril.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What is neo-reaction?

Tyler Cowen has a look, and is not altogether repulsed:
1. “Culturism” is in general correct, namely that some cultures are better than others. You want to make sure you are ruled by one of the better cultures. In any case, one is operating with a matrix of rule.

2. The historical ruling cultures for America and Western Europe — two very successful regions — have largely consisted of white men and have reflected the perspectives of white men. This rule and influence continues to work, however, because it is not based on either whiteness or maleness per se. There is a nominal openness to the current version of the system, which fosters competitive balance, yet at the end of the day it is still mostly about the perspectives of white men and one hopes this will continue. By the way, groups which “become white” in their outlooks can be allowed into the ruling circle.

3. Today there is a growing coalition against the power and influence of (some) white men, designed in part to lower their status and also to redistribute their wealth. This movement may not be directed against whiteness or maleness per se (in fact some of it can be interpreted as an internal coup d’etat within the world of white men), but still it is based on a kind of puking on what made the West successful. And part and parcel of this process is an ongoing increase in immigration to further build up and cement in the new coalition. Furthermore a cult of political correctness makes it very difficult to defend the nature of the old coalition without fear of being called racist; in today’s world the actual underlying principles of that coalition cannot be articulated too explicitly. Most of all, if this war against the previous ruling coalition is not stopped, it will do us in.

4. It is necessary to deconstruct and break down the current dialogue on these issues, and to defeat the cult of political correctness, so that a) traditional rule can be restored, and/or b) a new and more successful form of that rule can be introduced and extended. Along the way, we must realize that calls for egalitarianism, or for that matter democracy, are typically a power play of one potential ruling coalition against another.

5. Neo-reaction is not in love with Christianity in the abstract, and in fact it fears its radical, redistributive, and egalitarian elements. Neo-reaction is often Darwinian at heart. Nonetheless Christianity-as-we-find-it-in-the-world often has been an important part of traditional ruling coalitions, and thus the thinkers of neo-reaction are often suspicious of the move toward a more secular America, which they view as a kind of phony tolerance.

6. If you are analyzing political discourse, ask the simple question: is this person puking on the West, the history of the West, and those groups — productive white males — who did so much to make the West successful? The answer to that question is very often more important than anything else which might be said about the contributions under consideration.
Tyler's summary critique:
Already I can see (at least) four problems with this point of view. First, white men in percentage terms have become a weaker influence in America over time, yet America still is becoming a better nation overall.
It's not. It now takes two incomes for a household to afford the lifestyle formerly enjoyed on one income. We are more crowded, more indebted, more regulated, and more dysfunctional. This is masked/distorted by cheap entertainment, cheap calories, and cheap credit.
Second, some of America’s worst traits, such as the obsession with guns, the excess militarism, or the tendency toward drunkenness, not to mention rape and the history of slavery, seem to come largely from white men.
Americans have the most guns of any country on Earth, but an intentional homicide rate of 5 per 100,000, well below a number of countries with far lower rates of gun ownership. Even so, if we disaggregate by the 60% of crime committed by African-Americans, white Americans still kill at the rate of 2 per 100,000, twice the rate of most European countries. We are definitely a more truculent group. (Google "murder rate by 100,000" for source documents.)

We drink a lot, but so does everybody else. Tyler is a Scots-Irish teetotaller by the way. And yes, he's Scots-Irish, hence his joke about his more contrarian posts being authored by "Tyrone," which is an Irish name. His surname, "Cowen," is a Scottish name. Tyler Cowen, despite some furious accusations to the contrary, is not (((one of them))).

Ascribing "rape and the history of slavery" as "largely from white men" is ahistorical.
Third, it seems highly unlikely that “white men” is in fact the best way of disambiguating the dominant interest groups that have helped make the West so successful.
The map of human achievement is pretty stark. The people within the the Hajnal lines invented just about everything in the modern era. Undoubtedly, there were contributions from Classical Greeks who got the whole ball rolling (and who probably no longer exist, genetically), the Han Dynasty in China, and Islam's Golden Age.
Fourth, America is global policeman and also the center of world innovation, so it cannot afford the luxury of a declining population, and thus we must find a way to make immigration work.
Invade the world, invite the world indeed. Wouldn't it be cheaper to just colonize a lot of these pretend-countries that we're constantly accepting immigrants from or constantly shoveling foreign aid into?

Let me add that I very much admire Professor Cowen. He works hard, he disseminates ideas for free, and he lets the comments fly. (The OP's current tally is 483.)

I put together some bullet points, from back when we were talking about "the Dark Enlightenment", which I think summarize the more patent tenets of "neo-reaction":
1. Not everything unleashed by the Enlightenment was good, hence the "Dark Enlightenment" as a reaction to same.

2. The Cathedral exists as an institutional alliance of Government, Academia and Business to further politically correct dogma and punish heretics. It is, in a real sense, religious and not just ideological.

3. Reality is not what the Cathedral tells us it is.

4. All men are not created equal; people are different in a variety of ways.

5. Democracy is a disaster. When Classical-era Greeks, Gilbert K. Chesterton and the American state's founders praise "democracy," what they are really praising is rule by property-owning men. The universal franchise is a farce and a slow-motion train wreck.

Also, some operational and foundational rules for neo-reaction, somewhat duplicative of the above:
1. Patriarchy and families are the foundation of society.

2. The natural and unmolested course of selection and elimination must be allowed to occur in economics and society.

3. Hierarchy is the natural and right way for people to cooperate.

4. Different people are different. Equality is a lie.

5. Progressivism is an insane religion advanced by a hostile media/academic machine.

6. It’s not just “The Jews”.

7. Democracy isn’t going to fix these problems.

8. Merely denouncing those to the right creates a deadly signalling spiral, so no enemies to the right.

Politically, Brett Stevens at has put together a manifesto of moderate extremism which I find compelling.
What they are seeing is much simpler: the rise of the moderate extremist. This is the oldest category of people, and they recognize that a job is either done or un-done. If you have not actually fixed a problem, but deferred it, calling your acts a “solution” is a lie and a waste of time. This is a practical, can-do outlook that is common to people in the country everywhere, because in such places you need to make sure your knots will hold or you could end up injured, dead or starving.

Moderate extremists are not ideologues in the classic sense. They do not want to save the world, nor are they motivated by the type of ideological thinking that seeks to purify the world of the other. They want society to function well and they have a distrust of parasitic individuals. Their approach tends to be to use authority in as minimal a method as possible, but to reward good behavior and punish bad, recognizing the common sense awareness that whatever is tolerated is encouraged and we will get more of it, so it makes sense to tolerate only the good.

Unlike the ideological extremists, the moderate extremists tend toward middle-of-the-road policy that is enacted clearly and forcefully to remove doubt. They dislike laws that set traps for people by making it unclear what is expected of them and what will be punished. They are as a result not driven by symbolic issues. A moderate extremist may dislike abortion, but not see the point in an outright ban so much as refusing to support what they understand as an evil institution. They may think homosexuality is a sin, or at least a path to places they do not want their children to go, but will not support excluding someone from society for homosexuality, so long as he keeps private matters private, as the saying goes.

Unlike both garden variety extremists and moderates, moderate extremists are Nationalistic, which means they believe that every nation is formed of one ethnic group. This can be as simple as folk wisdom — “birds of a feather flock together” is the observation, in part, that people like to live, work, marry, befriend and interact with those of similar background — or as complex as a reading of history that shows homogeneous societies are happiest and most functional. To the moderate extremist, diversity was always a pipe dream, but because they are not ideologically motivated, they grudgingly accepted it so long as it did not disrupt their lives.

That is the weakness of the moderate extremist: they respond only when conditions impinge on their own hopes and plans. To them, society does many things, most of which fail, and they trust nature (and/or God and Darwin) to sweep up the broken pieces and let something more functional take their place. This outlook fails to take into account the nature of society, which is that the rules it make like tolerance encourage the growth of certain practices by subsidizing them. Diversity for example was causing problems long before those became visible, but the moderate extremist combines realism with pragmatism and self-reliance, and so remains unconcerned for too long.

In other news, Antioch has joined Bulgaria in declaring that she will not participate in the Patriarchal Synod. Of course, your Anti-Gnostic was on record predicting the unlikelihood of a pan-Orthodox Synod back in January 2014 (this is too easy!).

In reviewing my prior posts on the Great Council, I discovered that I had actually prefigured my Age-Of-Ideology-is-over thesis:
...The Patriarchates are autocephalous, which means they govern themselves. +Bartholomew can talk about a Great Council all he wants. He can declare that the other Patriarchs are no longer in communion, but he can't make anybody march onto a plane and meet with him. He can rent the conference center, write up the agenda, and hire the caterers, but if nobody else shows up, it's not a Great Council. That's how conciliarity works.

Nations are sovereign as well. There's no higher temporal authority to make them knuckle under. There is an economy to this which the great English Catholic G.K. Chesterton recognized.
The internationalist and the imperialist are not only similar men, but even the same men. There is no country which the Imperialist may not claim to conquer in order to convert. There is no country which the Internationalist may not claim to convert in order to conquer. Whether it is called international law or imperial law, it is the very soul and essence of all lawlessness. Against all such amorphous anarchy stands that great and positive creation of Christendom, the nation, with its standards of liberty and loyalty, with its limits of reason and proportion.
States can condemn other states' autonomous decisions. They can drop bombs on each other, but there's no executive authority to 'arrest' a sovereign and execute a judgment. Sovereigns can be conquered in war, but in a juridical sense, they can't be made to do anything they don't actually agree to do. The moment they concede, they're no longer sovereign and somebody else is the actual sovereign. Obviously, sovereign status is something the State's agents take very seriously. So do Patriarchs.

The principle of sovereignty isn't limited to Christian Patriarchs and the world's States. Individuals can acquire sovereign power as well. If there's some natural or economic disaster and all the police leave and go home to protect their families, then anybody with enough firepower is a sovereign.

The idea that civil, theological and other orders are, practically speaking, just constructs we think up and defend against opposing viewpoints is really unsettling to people. They like to think this is all carved in stone somewhere and all those bad people who disagree with them will be made to toe the line some day. It's actually all very fluid and fragile, and we won't know until the great and final Judgment how it was all supposed to work out.

This is reductionist, and I concede that human affairs have all sorts of subtleties, but Sovereignty really seems to be what it's all about: who gets to live where and make the rules.

The foregoing, I humbly submit, may be a starting point for a synthesis that meets Tyler Cowen's objection that neo-reaction presently lacks a "coherent analytic framework."