Sunday, June 24, 2012

A trenchant quote from Foseti

From the comments to this thread:

It’s pretty strange that mainstream libertarians believe that companies exist but nations do not.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Electing A New People

From midwest conservative journal, via Serge:

The Obama administration announced Friday it will stop deporting illegal immigrants who come to the country at a young age.

The politically charged decision comes as Obama faces a tough reelection fight against Republican Mitt Romney, with Hispanic voters in swing states seen as a key bloc.

The change in policy could allow as many as 800,000 immigrants who came to the United States illegally not only to remain in the country without fear of being deported, but to work legally, according to a senior administration official speaking to reporters Friday.

The new policy will not grant citizenship to children who came to the United States as illegal immigrants, but will remove the threat of deportation and grant them the right to work in the United States...

Some interesting things about the "key bloc" of Hispanic voters:

1. Actually, lots of them don't vote, notwithstanding Democratic and Republican politicians alike will do backflips for them.

2. Mexican elites in the US will go to ridiculous lengths to embrace the Meso-American brand, like Xochitl Hinojosa:

(She's on the left.)

3. "Hispanic" is a linguistic label applied to everybody from Barcelona to Santo Domingo and from Fidel Castro to Jennifer Lopez. Probably, Augusto Pinochet and George Zimmerman have had their Hispanic cards revoked, and most people don't seem to know where Brazilians came from.

4. Judging from Univision and Hispanic illegitimacy rates, I'm not holding my breath waiting for this Key Hispanic Voting Bloc to urge the repeal of Roe v. Wade and call out gay marriage as an obscene sham. I'm also not betting on them writing their elected officials in Mexico about how state-owned enterprise crowds out the private investment which might otherwise employ them.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

An Interesting Statistic

As in, holy shit, that's quite a statistic.

Pop Quiz! Without recourse to your text, your notes or a Google search, what line item is the largest asset on Uncle Sam's balance sheet?

A) U.S. Official Reserve Assets
B) Total Mortgages
C) Taxes Receivable
D) Student Loans

The correct answer, as of the latest Flow of Funds report for Q1 2012, is ... Student Loans.

(continued at link)

A chart from the linked article:

The timing suggests millions of the suddenly unemployed grabbed up student loans and headed to school. I'm sure there will be plenty of high-paying jobs waiting for them so they can pay off all that debt. It's not like US companies can just ship the work overseas or import more labor or anything.

The Fed's assets:

So in essence, the "recovery" amounts to trillions of dollars in toilet paper, ahem, assets (student loans, Treasury instruments, mortgage derivatives) "purchased" by the Fed with money it literally gins up out of nothing. (The Fed doesn't have a couple of trillion in cash just sitting around). These assets are worth nowhere near what Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Sallie Mae, Wall Street, Bank of America, and many other institutions and funds paid for them. That was the crisis in 2008: everybody realised the several trillion in credit and speculative paper that had been advanced was not worth nearly its book value. In very simple terms, it's as if you loaned $100,000 to a professional athlete, leveraged the asset or simply sold it on a secondary market, and then a week later you learn the athlete has been horribly injured in a car crash. In this case, the central bank just bought the assets at or near book value instead of the substantially less market value. Again, this was done with what economists call "liquidity" or "Quantitative Easing" and others would call whole cloth.

The only reason even larger numbers of us weren't suddenly out of work was the giant hole of vanished nominal wealth was quickly filled by the Fed. But no new wealth has been created. Producers will eventually realize that the interest rates and pricing structure in the economy do not reflect actual supply and demand. Prices will rise and creditors will start demanding higher interest. The Fed will have no choice but to continue to suppress interest rates and monetize bad assets to keep economic reality at bay.

Does the fact that the Fed has all these actually near-worthless assets holed up in its vault, so to speak, mean that all of it doesn't matter? I don't think so, because if it did we'd just print up money whenever we needed it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Republican Orthodoxy

This column by Rod Dreher at The American Conservative has been making the rounds. To be fair to Dreher, he's more reporting than editorializing, but he does write for a magazine which styles itself "The American Conservative" and Dreher's agenda is pretty clear: conservative, free-market Republicans, welcome home.

As a reactionary bigot myself, I find Orthodoxy quite amenable, as do several Marxists and gays in my parish. Q.E.D., the idea of the Church as the great scouring brush to cleanse secular, democratic America of Roe v. Wade, gay marriage and confiscatory taxation looks like a non-starter. Simultaneously, socialists looking to exchange ideas with people whose grandparents fled socialism for their lives do not generally discuss economics at coffee hour.

Opus Publicum has some trenchant criticism. Samn! summarizes things nicely in the TAC comments: "Which is all to say, Orthodox political tendencies do not line up well with any American political orientation. Those American conservatives who are trying to make it do so are really in danger of creating their own kind of thing…."

This seems to be Professor Siewers' point as well:

Alfred Kentigern Siewers, a literature and environmental studies professor at a mid-Atlantic college, says the social teachings of the church fathers, as adapted by modern Russian Orthodox theologians, taught him to think of society “more as an extended household, and less as an impersonal economy, whether free market or socialist.”

“Orthodoxy taught me how Christian notions of human dignity are more central to being authentically human than impersonal notion of rights by themselves alone,” says Siewers. “I think Orthodoxy encourages an awareness of the importance of living tradition and community and the need for caution in embracing either free market or socialist economic models as social models.”

Strong stuff, actually. Because a few generations of this "extended household" sort of thinking, and you've got a society based on kinship and soil, not some gnostic proposition. The poor have a claim on us, not because the Marxists are right about the labor theory of value (they're not) but because they are ours, and you take care of Family. And we have a duty of environmental stewardship and economic favoritism for this land above all others, because this is where the Family lives.

Dreher has to remain gainfully employed course, so he steers the reader safely away from any notions of traditional nationhood and a national Church.

In part because Orthodox countries did not undergo the Enlightenment, the Orthodox way of thinking about social and political life is so far outside the Western experience that it can sometimes seem barely relevant to American challenges. On the other hand, Orthodoxy’s pre-modern traditionalism can be a rich new source of spiritual and cultural renewal.

Obviously, Orthodoxy appeals to Dreher's crunchy-con sentiment but he can't think too hard about this because he still believes in the American republic. American culture is individualistic, democratic, highly mobile, and extremely modern. The Church as an institution and in Her mother countries is the complete opposite of all that. Politically involved conservatives answering Dreher's call will (I hope and pray) be ultimately disappointed. For the same reason, social democrats who think the Church can embrace democratic social policy without being co-opted are naive fools as well: witness the American Catholics' "Women Religious" and the USCCB.

Friday, June 8, 2012

God Save The Queen

Thoughts On The Queen's Diamond Jubilee: Sixty Years A Rubber Stamp

... Once the politicians make themselves, as a class, irremovable, and once they begin to abolish the rights of the people, it is the duty of the Monarch to step in and rebalance the Constitution. It is then that she must resume her legal powers and exercise them of her own motion.

The need for this duty to be performed has been apparent since at least 1972, when we were lied into the European Union. The Conservatives did not fight the 1970 general election on any promise that they would take us in. When they did take us in, and when Labour kept us in, we were told that it was nothing more than a trade agreement. It turned out very soon to be a device for the politicians to exercise unaccountable power. The Queen should have acted then. Indeed, she should have acted – if not in the extreme sense, of standing forth as a royal dictator – before 1972. She should have resisted the Offensive Weapons Bill and the Firearms Bill, that effectively abolished our right to keep and bear arms for defence. She should have resisted the Bills that abolished most civil juries and that allowed majority verdicts in criminal trials. She should have resisted the numerous private agreements that made our country into an American satrapy. She should have insisted, every time she met her Prime Minister, on keeping the spirit of our old Constitution. There have been many times since 1972 when she should have acted.

At all times, she could have acted – all the way to sacking the Government and dissolving Parliament – without provoking riots in the street. So far as I can tell, she has acted only twice in my lifetime to force changes of policy. In 1979, she bullied Margaret Thatcher to go back on her election promise not to hand Rhodesia over to a bunch of black Marxists. In 1987, she bullied Margaret Thatcher again to give in to calls for sanctions against South Africa.
And that was it. She is somewhere on record as having said that she regards herself more as Head of the Commonwealth than as Queen of England. Certainly, she has never paid any regard to the rights of her English subjects.

The Queen has not sustained our national identity. It is actually worse than this. By expressing that identity, she has allowed many people to overlook the structures of absolute and unaccountable power that have grown up during her reign. She has fronted a revolution to dispossess us of our country and of our rights within it. How many of the people who turn out on Jubilee Day, with their union flags and street parties, will fully realise that the forms they are celebrating now contain an alien and utterly malign substance?

This does not, in itself, justify a republic. Doubtless, if a Government of National Recovery ever found itself opposed by the Monarch, it might be necessary to consider some change. Such a government would have only one chance to save the country, and nothing could be allowed to stand in its way. But this should only be an extreme last resort.

Symbolic functions aside, the practical advantage of having a monarchy is that the head of state is chosen by the accident of birth and not by some corrupted system of election; and that such a head of state is likely to take a longer term, more proprietorial, interest in the country than someone who has lied his way into an opportunity to make five lifetimes of income in four years. We got Elizabeth II by a most unhappy accident of birth. But we may be luckier next time. Sooner or later, the luck of the draw may give us a Patriot King.

As for Her Present Majesty, she may be remembered in the history books as Elizabeth the Useless. Even so, she is our Queen, and has been that for a very long time. I suppose this should count for something come Jubilee Day.

From Sean Gabb, an Englishman, at