Thursday, February 27, 2014

Odds and ends 2/27/2014

Terrific stuff from Marcel Guarnizo:

Communism starts not with an economic error but an anthropological one. The economic and political effects of the communist system are but a symptom of a previous error, an error about the nature of man.

The French 19th century political economist and writer Frédéric Bastiat clearly makes the point. Socialism, Bastiat argued, sees man as mere raw material, to be disposed of, to be molded by the “all knowing,” state. In his book, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, economist Friedrich von Hayek launches a similar attack on the socialists and their “omniscient state.” Hayek demonstrated the impotence of the socialist to run an economy

Man is just matter: This materialist vision of man is the first and most profound error of the socialist revolution. The materialist vision of man is what justifies the communists’ insistence that they may legitimately do whatever it takes to achieve their utopia. We must be transformed by the state, into its image and likeness.

This materialist view disregards therefore the true dignity of man and the true nature of the human person—his rationality and free will. The artificial social orders engineered by socialists are completely devoid of a proper understanding of man and the kind of being that he is.

Meanwhile, Adam Booth extols Marxism. In some contexts this could pass for comedy.

Capitalism, due to its anarchic nature, based on competition and the individual pursuit of profit, is inherently unable to introduce new technologies and innovative methods except in an unplanned, chaotic, and destructive way, in which new conditions of production and life are imposed upon society, as if by a force from above. Under socialism, a system based on a rational and democratic plan of production, society can make a harmonious and smooth transition to new technologies and techniques, with lifelong education and training available to everyone, and with the latest labour-saving methods used to create not forced idleness, but voluntary leisure.

Gary North explains inflation. This is a good companion to the ZeroHedge piece on quantitative easing I linked to 2 weeks ago.

The new money does not appear simultaneously and in equal amounts, through some miraculous decree, in all men’s pockets, any more than equal molecules of the drug appear simultaneously in every cell of the addict’s body. Each individual’s bank account is not increased by $5 more than it was yesterday. Certain individuals and firms, those closest to the State’s treasury or the banks’ vaults, receive the new money before others do, either in payment for services rendered or in money loaned to them. Inflation enters the economy at a point or points and spreads out; the drug enters an addict’s vein, and this foreign matter is carried through his system. In both cases, the “junk” enters at a point and takes time to spread.

There are several differences, though, which cannot be ignored. The spread of inflation is far more uneven than is the spread of the drug. The first individuals’ incomes are immediately swelled, and they find themselves able to purchase goods at yesterday’s less inflated prices. They can therefore buy more than those who have not yet received quantities of the new, unbacked currency, and this latter group is no longer able to compete so well as the possessors of the counterfeits. Since yesterday’s prices were designed by the sellers to enable them to sell the entire stock of each commodity at the maximum profit, the firms or individuals with the new money will either help deplete the stock of goods first, leaving warehouses empty for their competitors who desire to purchase goods at the given price, or the new money owners will be in a favorable position to bid up the prices so that the competitors will have to bow out. The first group gains, undoubtedly, but only at the expense of the second group—the group which can no longer compete successfully through no fault of its own. The latter group bears the costs, costs which are hidden, but which are nonetheless there. This latter group is made up of those individuals who have relatively fixed incomes (pensioners, civil servants, small businessmen), and who are forced to restrict purchases due to the now inflated prices.

Spending $800 billion, or 5 percent of GDP, the demand-siders say they effected a 2-3 percent increase in GDP. By their own inflated metrics, they threw half the “stimulus” down the drain.

Robert Samuelson thinks economists don’t know anything. Matt Purple jumps to his defense:

Over at the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson analyzes the OECD’s findings and concludes that it’s time to stop treating economists as technocratic soothsayers who can gaze into the data and predict the future. The problem is, there’s an entire cottage industry of pundits—many of whom used to work at the Post under Ezra Klein—who think charts, graphs, and studies can light the way into a great, big, beautiful tomorrow of government-guided prosperity. Naturally, Dean Baker, a progressive economist, yelps at Samuelson’s conclusion: “Yes, well we have to keep Robert Samuelson away from the really big numbers, he might hurt himself.” And they say economists can’t be clever!

Baker’s only real objection, laid out in a comically unsubstantial blog post, is that Samuelson doesn’t mention the reduction in demand that resulted from the housing bubble collapse. Of course weak demand unquestionably played a role. But the point of the OECD evaluation is that, with regards to Europe, the economic establishment was in total error because it spent too much time on a simplistic demand-side scale (“Austerity!”) and not enough time accounting for other factors.

In demand-siders’ view, there is no new knowledge to be gained, no new wealth to create. They share that belief with Marxists.

Some writers want their betters to just go away so they can loot their market share. John C. Wright rebukes them:

Of the seven deadly sins, six give or promise to give some sort of short term pleasure to the sinner: for with pride we are inflated, with gluttony we are fattened, with lust we slake selfish passions; wrath promises pain to enemies, avarice promises lucre in many glittering forms; sloth lures us with the promise of sleepy indifference to all high things.

Envy is sorrow at the good enjoyed by another. Only envy, of all the filthy and demeaning things one can do to oneself to damage the mind and damn the soul, only envy gives nothing whatever to the sinner. It is like swallowing a porcupine.

I cannot generate an atom of envy for the success of better writers than I. As my very wise friend David B. Coe once observed when he overheard snobs mocking Robert Jordon: that writer makes enough money for my publisher so that my publisher can pay me.

To which I must add: that writer, along with a long line of writers from Howard to Burroughs to Tolkien to Morris, that all the right-thinking snobs disdain and mock, that writer also created my audience, yea, created my field. For writers like me, to feel envy of my betters is use the well in the dry wasteland as a latrine. If I befoul it, wherefrom shall I drink?

If there is a cultural hill to die on, it is the definition of marriage. The madness is irreversible at this point. There’s no point in wasting my breath on it any longer.

It’s bad enough when federal judges, like Orlando Garcia, overturn the will of the people of a state. It’s even worse when pusillanimous state officials, like Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, wimp out.

Sandoval has joined Chris Christie “on the right side of history.” Some say this is what it takes to win. Defeat is victory.

ABC News (dead link) reports:

Based upon the advice of the attorney general’s office and their interpretation of relevant case law, it has become clear that this case is no longer defensible in court,” Sandoval said in an email to The Associated Press.

While it won’t mean the ban will be lifted immediately, the state’s move was hailed by gay rights advocates and civil libertarians.

Where the Reagan coalition would be without libertarians!

Providing comic relief, “WalkingHorse” comments on Brian S. Brown’s (dumb) editorial on the definition of marriage and the activist judiciary:

How about we define the transcendental number pi to be 3.0? Pi as it is currently understood discriminates against the innumerate. It is no less absurd to redefine a concept that predates recorded history.

I was mostly critical of Pat Buchanan’s piece on Arizona’s SB1062, but we agree on this crucial point:

“Religious freedom,” said Daniel Mach of the ACLU to the Times, is “not a blank check to ... impose our faith on our neighbors.” True. But who is imposing whose beliefs here? The baker who says he’s not making your wedding cake? Or those who want Arizona law to declare that either he provides that wedding cake and those flowers for that same-sex ceremony, or we see to it that he is arrested, prosecuted and put out of business? Who is imposing his views and values here?

What we are seeing in Arizona in microcosm is what we have witnessed in America for half a century: the growing intolerance of those who preach tolerance and the corruption of the concept of civil rights.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill, which is fine. It was a bad bill. But she vetoed it for the wrong reasons.

National Review supported the bill for the right reasons:

Organized homosexuality, a phenomenon that is more about progressive pieties than gay rights per se, remains on the permanent offensive in the culture wars. Live-and-let-live is a creed that the gay lobby specifically rejects: The owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado was threatened with a year in jail for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. New Mexico photographer Elaine Huguenin was similarly threatened for declining to photograph a same-sex wedding. It is worth noting that neither the baker nor the photographer categorically refuses services to homosexuals; birthday cakes and portrait photography were both on the menu. The business owners specifically objected to participating in a civic/religious ceremony that violated their own consciences.

At the Federalist, David Harsanyi reacts to Dahlia Lithwick’s attempt to “reclaim God” from the Republicans. Excerpt:

These days one of the biggest differences between the modern social conservative and progressive movements is that one of these groups, despite what you may have heard, is far more inclined to believe in free will and back public policy measures that offer choice. And that group also happens to believe that someone other than government is watching over them.

In the American Spectator, Ross Kaminsky reacts to the hysterical Ta-Nehesi Coates. He quotes Coates in the first excerpted graf below:

I insist that the irrelevance of black life has been drilled into this country since its infancy, and shall not be extricated through the latest innovations in Negro Finishing School. I insist that racism is our heritage, that Thomas Jefferson’s genius is no more important than his plundering of the body of Sally Hemmings [sic], that George Washington’s abdication is no more significant than his wild pursuit of Oney Judge. I insist that the G.I. Bill’s accolades are inseparable from its racist heritage. I will not respect the lie. I insist that racism must be properly understood as an Intelligence, as a sentience, as a default setting to which, likely until the end of our days, we unerringly return.

Coates’ criticisms of George Washington and the GI Bill are equally scurrilous yet are precisely the fodder that those mushy minds gorge on to fill their never-ending guilt (if white) or anger and finger-pointing (if black), leading to a refusal to admit that some amount of the lack of success of so many American blacks is due to a refusal to take personal responsibility — because people like Coates tell them that others are to blame for their failures.

This is not to say that everyone in America truly has equal opportunity, or that public schools in poor black neighborhoods do not often serve primarily to keep them poor. But those things do not excuse the abandonment of parenting responsibilities by the majority of black fathers, or the self-predation of black gangs on each other in pursuit of drug profits, or the glorification of these soul- and society-destroying behaviors by the preferred music of many young men in the black community. To the extent that black life is undervalued in this country, it is at least as much by blacks as by anyone else.

Coates’ views are not just wrong. They’re dangerous, bordering on evil. They are a prescription not only for a permanent victim class, demanding anything from money to blood of those defined as racist oppressors, but for arguing that a historic wrong can never be made right and that all people who share a particular trait must be forever guilty of the nation’s past sin.

“The strain of democratic self-governance that has defined the West for several centuries may one day give way to autocratic despotism, if only because human institutions are largely fleeting and to establish and preserve a certain way of life requires a conscious act of will and the foresight to understand that what is, may not always be.” –Daniel Payne

Rachel Lu succinctly states the point I tried to make in “Liberal scrooges”:

Americans are certainly wealthy enough to worry about the corrupting influence of mammon. As an argument for more redistribution, though, it’s pretty weak tea. Taking people’s goods through taxation does little to reshape their priorities. It certainly doesn’t teach them generosity or good stewardship. If anything, liberal policies may increase our attachment to wealth, insofar as they teach us to defer to government as the agent responsible for helping the poor.

When I realized I didn’t have to live up to expectations to help my girlfriend like and respect me, it was one of the most liberating feelings of my life. Matt Walsh writes:

Society tells our daughters that men are boorish dolts who need to be herded like goats and lectured like school boys. Then they grow up and enter into marriage wholly unprepared and unwilling to accept the Biblical notion that “wives should submit to their husbands” because “the husband is the head of the wife.” [Ephesians 5]

It is a fatal problem, because the one thing that is consistently withheld from men and husbands — respect — is the one thing we need the most.

Yes, need. We need respect, and that need is so deeply ingrained that a marriage cannot possibly survive if the man is deprived of it.

Often, people will say that a husband should only be respected if he “earns” it. This attitude is precisely the problem. A wife ought to respect her husband because he is her husband, just as he ought to love and honor her because she is his wife. Your husband might “deserve” it when you mock him, berate him, belittle him, and nag him, but you don’t marry someone in order to give them what they deserve. In marriage, you give them what you’ve promised them, even when they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

This doesn’t mean that a man has a license to be lazy, or abusive, or uncaring. He is challenged to live up to the respect his wife affords him. If his wife parcels out her respect on some sort of reward system basis, the husband has nothing for which to strive. As the respect diminishes, so too does his motivation to behave respectably. Respect is wielded like a ransom against him, and he grows more isolated and distant all the while.

In closing...

“Marriage and childbearing are so central to the ongoing human prospect that they cannot be reduced to one more option in the vast smorgasbord of choices that our postmodern world has laid before us.” –David T. Koyzis

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