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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Libertarianism vs. conservatism, again

This comment over at Nick Steves' Reactivity Place got me thinking again about the conservative-libertarian debate. The linked entry is actually concerned with the far more prominent conservative-progressive debate. But on our side of the conflict, there is a lot of internal division between 'conservatives' and 'libertarians.' Neither side really understands each other, and there is also a lot of argument over definitions. I don't consider neo- and, for lack of a better term, "mainstream" conservatives conservative at all, for example. And I think libertarians are mostly mental 12-year olds who don't want anybody telling them what to do.

I’m not a ‘conservative’ because frankly I don’t see much deserving or capable of being conserved in the public sphere or in the institutions, so ‘reactionary’ seems appropriate. Paleo-conservatives, traditionalists or however they label themselves should get familiar with libertarianism or more properly anarcho-capitalism, because that is where we are headed. There is no reforming the State at this point; this thing will just have to play itself out. So the better way forward to me seems to be in rolling back the 20th century Progressivist State which consolidated its power after World War Two.

In light of current conditions, I don’t really understand the hate for libertarianism, properly understood. Think about life under a government (or warlord) that does not much more than coordinate mutual defense and maintain property rights in exchange for the fees it extracts:
1. No immigrants, only owners, tenants and trespassers, who are shot by ranchers or die in the high desert.

2. No commie city councils issuing Pride parade permits. Deviants are driven out of town, not lionized and given police escorts.

3. Individuals, not taxpayers, pay for their own due process. Sociopaths live short, unhappy lives under bridges or in wilderness areas, assuming they manage to avoid being shot or lynched in flagrante delicto.

4. The welfare state ends, and with it the multi-billion dollar flow of transfer payments from the K-selected to the r-selected. Bums work or starve. Women select for husbandry and fatherhood instead of glibness and peacocking. Families stay intact and develop patronage networks.

5. Children are freed from the State’s public indoctrination system. Schooling ends at 16, if not 14, or 12. Teenaged men really do “man up,” and the disturbing neoteny exhibited by males often into their early 20′s begins to reverse.
I can generate a much longer list of toxic phenomena which would not exist but for the State. There is a current of thought, especially prominent among Catholic intellectuals, that if we can just get access to the levers of power we can right the ship. The Catholic hierarchy in particular are doubling down on ingratiating themselves with the modernist, democratic-managerial State, stuck in their dream of the Church back in its old role as advisor and counselor to the State.

Nobody seems to be thinking too hard about the apparently unthinkable, where the centralized State loses much of its funding and has to cede territory to competitors, and we all have to start things over from scratch.* An example on my mind a lot these days is the former nation-state of Syria, where 4 million Shia and Christians in the professional-entrepreneur classes thought things would just rock along forever with 20 million Sunni peasants. The Alawites and Christians, like the establishment-conservatives in the US, banked (are banking) on the central State always being there. The Kurds in Syria hedged their bets with their ethnic nation-state. Now that Syria's central State has collapsed, the Kurds have a national structure to fall back on. The Alawites and Christians do not, and now some Christians are so desperate they are trying to get Russian citizenship, in the apparent hope that the Russian army will intervene on their behalf.

* - Conservatives seem to think the Progressivist tsunami is really just a tide, and will recede naturally leaving the structures intact. Lifestyle-libertarians and other Marxists hope for Year Zero, in order to install a permanent, perpetually-leveling revolutionary regime.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hallowe'en

Not a pagan day, says Mystagogy.
If we were to trace the origins of Halloween to one specific event in history, it would be when Pope Gregory III (731-741) dedicated an oratory in the original Saint Peter's Basilica of Rome in honor of all the Saints on November 1st, which initiated a local Roman custom to celebrate the feast of All Saints on November 1st. Before this time the feast of All Saints, also known as All Hallows, was celebrated throughout the Christian world since the 4th century to mainly commemorate all the Martyrs either in April or May, including Ireland. The Franks then the English were the first to follow Rome in celebrating the feast of All Saints on November 1st, and this became official under Pope Gregory VII in the early ninth century. The word Halloween merely refers to October 31st being the day of All Hallows Eve, and later November 2nd also became part of the Triduum with the commemoration of All Souls Day on which prayers and philanthropic acts were done on behalf of the dead, which was also part of established Christian tradition since the early centuries.

This may come as a shock to some who believe the myth that Halloween has its origins or is associated with paganism or satanism. The truth is that Halloween never was and never has been associated with paganism or satanism, though some pagans and satanists may embrace it as part of the melting pot we call America. Instead what we find is that the Church established Hallowmas as original holy days, not to sanctify an old pagan celebration among the Celts as has been popularly believed, but to celebrate an already well-established feast dedicated to all the Saints.

Up until the 19th century, Halloween in Western Europe and America was a firmly Roman Catholic feast day that acquired and developed various cultural traditions, as all major holidays did at the time and still do. The mythology that Halloween had pagan origins prior to Christian times arose for the first time in the 19th century among Celtic scholars, who had their own personal agendas in falsifying history. They came up with the idea that October 31-November 2 were days when pagan Celtic peoples celebrated a feast of the dead known as Samhain, even though there is no historical record of such a feast among the ancient Celts. How did they come up with this? It was believed at the time that Christian feast days, such as Christmas and Easter, had pagan origins, and that the Church merely Christianized established pagan celebrations to win over converts. The way the Celtic scholars explained the origins for the feast of All Saints, which was popular among the Irish of the 19th century, was by tracing it back to the ancient Celts, without historical precedence. Though these false ideas are still popularly believed today, any honest historian can easily spot the agenda in these falsifications of history, and they have been firmly discredited.
Mystagogy (John Sanidopolous) really warms to the theme of Halloween monsters in their classical sense of monstrum, warnings or portents, which Bob Wallace likes to reference as well.
What about the macabre element of Halloween today? The macabre element of Halloween, like many apparently disagreeable and dark elements of all holidays, is really just a matter of perspective and attitude. First of all, the macabre is a natural element of the autumn season. Not only are the nights getting longer, but the weather is getting colder and the trees are stripped bare of their leaves. The colors and fragrances of death surround the atmosphere, and all we tend to see are cloudy days with lots of oranges, browns and blacks. Secondly, Gothic fiction arose in the 18th and 19th century based on the stories surrounding medieval architecture and art, as well as old superstitions and tales. Horror stories from that time on have always had an atmospheric element that appeals to one's artistic sensibilities combined with imaginative fears. For people who enjoy horror stories and movies, this artistic and atmospheric element is realized tangibly at Halloween time not only through costumes, but in popular culture and especially the ever-popular haunted houses. These things are not created primarily to scare people, but are more like museums of the macabre imagination based on old tales and fears. If these things are only created to scare without the artistic element, then they usually fail their purpose. Modern Halloween is basically defined by these two natural and fictional elements.

St. Photios the Great, in his Myriobiblion, reviews a fiction story he read, in which he concludes the following regarding fiction stories: "In the story, particularly, as in fabulous fictions of the same kind, there are two considerations most useful to notice. The first is that they show that evildoers, even if they seem to escape a thousand times, always get their punishment; the second, that they show many innocents placed in great danger often saved against all hope." The fictional stories told around Halloween, the great majority of the time, contain these same elements St. Photios praises in his review. This is most especially evident in old Gothic tales, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Bram Stoker's Dracula and Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and even found quite often in modern horror fiction and movies...

The famous horror director Guillermo del Toro says: "Monsters are living, breathing metaphors." Horror stories, like most fiction, are usually metaphors for something deeper that teaches us about ourselves, our environment or our situations of either the past, present or future. Noted horror author Stephen King has famously written: "Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote to a friend something similar about his story that is full of metaphors: "Jekyll is a dreadful thing, I own, but the only thing I feel dreadful about is this damned old business of the war in the members. This time it came out; I hope it will stay in, in future." George Romero, the director of the highly metaphorical Night of the Living Dead and the creator of the modern Zombie phenomenon, has commented: "I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters." The great silent horror actor Lon Chaney once said of the roles he played: "I wanted to remind people that the lowest types of humanity may have within them the capacity for supreme self-sacrifice. The dwarfed, misshapen beggar of the streets may have the noblest ideals. Most of my roles since The Hunchback of Notre Dame, such as The Phantom of the Opera, He Who Gets Slapped, The Unholy Three, etc., have carried the theme of self-sacrifice or renunciation. These are the stories which I wish to do." Tragedy often gives birth to horror, but it cannot be denied that the most horrible elements are what we carry within ourselves. As Oscar Wilde wrote in his tale The Picture of Dorian Gray: "The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.”
When my daughter was very young, I told her that the witches, ghosts, goblins and other evil characters of Halloween have no more power in the world, according to our saviour Jesus Christ:
17And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. 18And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. 19Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

21In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. 22All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.

23And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
(Luke 10)
In strict theological terms I don't think my interpretation is accurate, but that's how this Gospel passage has always struck me, and I like to think about it this way. And my daughter has never been afraid of ghosts or goblins or witches since.

Obamacare

Chateau Heartiste resurrected a post of mine from April 2011, most of which was actually written by an anonymous commenter on iSteve.

Over two years after my original post, I am very sorry to report that there is still no such thing as free medical care. Canadian acquaintances never tire of telling me about their great and glorious "free" system. When you press them on the details, it turns out in addition to the higher taxes they pay for all the "free" medicine everybody also buys supplemental policies so they don't have to worry about a tumor metastasizing while they're in the queue for an MRI. Switzerland has a modified insurance model. Singapore has high deductibles. Most countries, your doctor is going to be a middle class professional, not a genius whiz-kid making well into the six figures. Few if any hospitals will be qualified for things like organ transplants. Few if any patients will ever get organ transplants.

The dynamics of the welfare state cannot be superseded. If you pay for people to be poor and sick, more of them will be poor and sick. Net consumption increases, and the State must resort to mass immigration and sheer money-printing to make the books balance. The newer, r-selected population is unable and unwilling to pay the taxes necessary to fund entitlements for ethnic strangers, and the productive sector shrinks as the State's deficit financing soaks up capital. At some point, the State must either cut off entitlements or default outright.

I know few details about Obamacare; nobody I know can provide a comprehensive explanation. So far, it appears to be the worst of all worlds. Socialized insurance, since there aren't enough tax dollars, and since the insurers can't price risk, then everybody has to pay for everything. Therefore, costs and premiums will continue to spiral upwards.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Eloi tax

Lion of the Blogosphere wishes Lawrence Auster were still around to comment on the fourteen-year old youth who slashed his 24-year old math teacher's throat and dumped her body in the woods.

Lion doesn't exactly recall how Lawrence Auster used to refer to these sorts of crimes but I do. He called these cases the Eloi tax, a tax "paid by liberals living under liberal rule who are so naive (or so deeply ideologically committed) as to take their liberalism straight. Meaning that they neglect to make unprincipled exceptions for themselves in order to protect themselves from the dreadful personal consequences of liberalism consistently applied." ("Eloi" were the hapless human prey from H.G. Wells's novella The Time Machine).

Thus, devout, idealistic Colleen Ritzer asks her hulking fourteen-year old student to stay after class for remedial help. After all, what harm could possibly result from being alone in a large, empty building with a bigger, stronger Dominican* male--how dare you even think such thoughts, you evil racist.

Pattern recognition evolved as a skill set over thousands of years to enable humans and other animals to assess and avoid threats based on limited information. A woman should have all sorts of alarm bells going off inside her head about being alone with a much bigger and stronger male with demonstrably low IQ and high T (fourteen and 6' 2"?).

Unfortunately, pattern recognition was educated right out of Miss Ritzer's head so she won't be passing on her genes.

* - Phillip Chism appears to be of mixed white-Dominican parentage.

Peak Cowen


George Mason economics professor Tyler Cowen blogs at the excellent Marginal Revolution. He says things lots of smart, wealthy people like to hear, such as that we need to import more Third Worlders with fungible skills while offshoring millions of factory jobs and automating others to the fullest extent possible. That means intense competition between workers in non-tradeable sectors and the newer, cheaper proletariat. Tyler Cowen is working very hard to replicate this Third World model in the United States, which has traditionally relied on high inputs per worker to fuel rising living standards.

Cowen is remarkably untroubled by this growing Third-Worldization of the US economy:
To sum up, Mr. Cowen believes that America is dividing itself in two. At the top will be 10% to 15% of high achievers, the “Tiger Mother” kids if you like, whose self-motivation and mastery of technology will allow them to roar away into the future. Then there will be everyone else, slouching into an underfunded future of lower economic expectations, shantytowns and an endless diet of beans.

I’m not kidding about the beans.

Poor Americans, writes Mr. Cowen, will have to “reshape their tastes” and live more like Mexicans. “Don’t scoff at the beans,” he says. “With an income above the national average, I receive more pleasure from the beans, which I cook with freshly ground cumin and rehydrated, pureed chilies. Good tacos and quesadillas and tamales are cheap too, and that is one reason why they are eaten so frequently in low-income countries.”

(Via Mangan's.)
Cowen really does say those things, and even got his own article in Time magazine to tell us all about our glorious bean-filled future.

From Mangan's:
Porter said...
Cowen says: With an income above the national average, I receive more pleasure from the beans...

More pleasure from the beans than what? Wearing a gimp suit? Having a sigmoidoscopy? And do the epicurean delights of bean consumption occur with or despite a higher than the national average income?

Does this Maria Antoinette actually believe his imported oompa loompas will forever docilely dine on discarded legumes while he devours caviar, truffles, and quail eggs? More importantly, does he have any subsidiary labor units...what pre-beaners called "children?" What are his hopes for their future? A warm grate in the winter? A cozy 300sqft favela? A hale old age of 35? Perhaps he assumes his higher than the national average income will purchase for them the best electrified concertina money can buy. Or perhaps he simply doesn't give a damn. After all, The Economy is a jealous master.

10/23/2013 2:11 PM
Mangan said...
Another great one, Porter. No, Cowen thinks only in terms of money (and beans), and doesn't venture into the realms of thought where revolutions break out and people are strangled in their beds.

10/23/2013 2:19 PM
These fundamental, even existential debates about the national interest need to be aired in more places than Blogger vanity sites. Isn't the issue of the composition of the American nation kind of important? I'm not so sure Americans, who are pretty good at dealing out organized violence when the mood strikes, are going to march so docilely into the shabby, crowded future that Cowen has planned for them. Nor am I so sure that Cowen's newer, cheaper proles will be satisfied with their all-bean diet in such close quarters with millionaire IT executives. The Alawites and Christians in Syria seemed to think things would rock along forever with them at the top. Then everybody realized they were outnumbered five to one.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The policy rationale behind government handouts:


To enable women to have sex with men who make terrible husbands and fathers.

From Uncle Bob.

Not surprisingly, single women put Obama in office. This is why we formerly did not let them vote.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ten objections to monarchy and responses


Here, via Chateau Heartiste (Roissy).

My two favorites:

7) Traditional societies harm outsiders by being exclusionary and not letting them play too.

Comment: Too bad. The point of a traditional society is to serve the people who are a part of it. If foreigners want to have a good society, they can make their own. It is not possible to make functional societies for everyone on Earth overnight. It’s better for 50 million people to live in a flourishing society and the rest of the planet to be stuck with democracy than it is for everyone to be stuck with it. If people had good societies themselves, they wouldn’t be so hung up on trying to raid the societies of others. The reason they complain about exclusion is because their societies are broken and they want to escape them. This is all the more reason to build the border walls taller and thicker.

10) Wealth is unequally distributed and it’s unfair.

Comment: It is unfair. The primary reason why it’s unfair is that the current rich are hoarding their wealth offshore rather than putting it to work for the populace, as they are traditionally supposed to. The role of a monarch is to use force and intimidation to ensure that the nobility does what it rightfully should — run projects that constructively generate wealth for the country and its inhabitants. The traditional wealth of the nobility is in land, not the accumulation of trinkets such as cars. Nobles that abdicate their responsibilities and focus only on themselves will be punished by the State. Over time, feelings of realistic mutual expectation will develop, and the nobility will understand what is expected of them. It’s quite simple, and worked perfectly well for many hundreds of years. The problem today is that the wealthy consider themselves atomized, cosmopolitan individuals with no allegiance to any state or the other classes. The solution is not to grab their capital and tear it apart into a million pieces so it can be handed to peasants who will squander it (how many times does this have to fail horribly until people get it?), but to cultivate a nobility that understands its responsibilities to the nation. Since the present-day rich are mostly conceited and selfish, they will have to be whipped into shape by a strong monarch. It’s only a matter of time until this happens, since the alternatives — state redistribution or lower class rebellion — don’t work in the long term and lead to economic collapse.

Of course, getting to there from here is another matter entirely, as I've observed previously.

Countdown To Armageddon


Da-Dummm!

Felix Salmon: The Default Has Already Begun.

North Carolina Suspends Welfare For Duration Of Federal Shutdown.

(Via Ad Orientem).

Actually, with $2.7 trillion in annual tax receipts and a huge private economy, I think us plebes will still have to show up for work and pay our bills [sadly places popcorn back in cupboard, puts rifle on 'safe'].

Talk of blame is not really constructive. Voters elect legislators who promise something for nothing, nobody wants to pay for it. A Democratic Senate wants to fund Obamacare, a Republican House does not. There are enormous structural problems which will never be debated, like the direct election of Senators which upends the state-federal balance and gives us huge, leveraged monstrosities like Obamacare, Homeland Security and others in a very long list. There is redistricting to create majority-minority districts, so the neighboring districts become super-majority and Congress populates with representatives holding antithetical views.

I will grant the Republicans' critics this: if you believe in government, shutdowns are uneconomic and unjust. A parliamentary system would be better so voters really could change the government when they wanted to. The root problem is that Americans are fundamentally divided on important, even ontological issues that cannot be settled by a vote. (Historically, they are settled by violence.) Democracy is the town council voting on road repairs, not on how to confiscate 40% of a citizen's earnings and run his life for him. The US is just too big and too diverse to govern effectively. We should scale it back now or future events will scale it back for us. Perhaps that is happening now.

Felix Salmon talks about broken promises but this too is misplaced. Current taxpayers have no obligation to honor promises made by past legislatures, no more than a father can pledge his child's future labor. Bondholders should bear that risk and charge interest rates accordingly. For the past 20 years, the Fed and its primary dealers network have used financial legedermain to keep interest rates low, hiding non-systemic risk to the point it converts to systemic risk, manifested in a thirty-year cycle of booms and busts: M&A in the 80's, dot-com in the 90's and real estate in the double-oughts. The whole shebang would have finally, mercifully ended in 2008, but Democrats and Republicans united to protect the duopoly over the massive opposition of society's net payors. If we weren't coasting on so much accrued capital, at any other time in history the nooses and pitchforks would have come out. Now here we are in the 10's and facing the Mother Of All Bubbles, the one in sovereign debt.

We keep reaching these impasses which are eventually broken by incurring more debt. People think this can go on forever because it has so far.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The blame game


The federal government's newspaper blames America for sending 'whackos' to Congress. (Via Ad Orientem). That piddling $2.7 trillion in annual tax receipts is just not enough, so we must incur more debt.

As a commenter at the linked thread notes, most Americans don't bother voting anymore. Elected officials are unresponsive and contemptuous of their own constituents. An arrogant, heavy-handed bureaucracy spies on citizens and kills them whenever its flak-jacketed, heavily armed LEO's feel the slightest discomfort. The government's military patrols the globe and intervenes in fights among people I don't know and don't care about, then the government invites them here.

And it occurs to me, when the property bubble burst in 2008, the American people wisely told the government to let the chips fall. Our democratic government of course did not listen, and the Fed proceeded to print money and hand it out, thereby enabling the Bubble to end all bubbles: the one in sovereign debt.

Blame? More like, we told you so.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Book review: Price Is Elastic To Supply


Actually, the book's title is The XX Factor: How Working Women Are Creating A New Society, and I don't actually review it.

From Vox Popoli:

Ms Wolf could have saved herself considerable trouble had she simply titled her book: Supply and Demand: How Seventy Million Working Women Created a Lower-Paid Society. With a few simple graphs, she probably could have wrapped the whole thing up in less than 10 pages.

I always find it remarkable, and perhaps even a little depressing, how few people are able to grasp that the primary consequence of the addition of 70 million working women, all of whom were already consumers, to the labor force, could never have been anything else but to lower wages.

One can debate whether female workers are more or less productive than male workers, and one can certainly debate whether the societal effects were beneficial or negative, but the one thing that cannot be denied, on logical, theoretical, historical, or empirical grounds, is that the post-1950 doubling of the female labor force has had a severely depressing effect on American wages.

In 1967, the median household income in inflation-adjusted dollars was $42,934. In 2007, it was a little over $51,000 despite the fact that worker productivity since around 1970 has approximately doubled. In other words, the U.S. middle class hasn't gotten a raise in four decades.

 
 What happened? I'll put it as succinctly as Vox did:  women and immigrants.

The lost opportunity cost of women entering the workforce as wage-slaves as opposed to staying home to nurture their children is substantial. We can measure at least some of it financially: around $9,000 to $14,000 per child per year.

Here's a rather harrowing account of what it's like to grow up in the household of a mother devoted to her career. (Via The Spearhead).