Caracas on the Thames

Sunset near Trafalgar Square, London, UK

So there sits Britain, a bit more than half of the population bestirred themselves to extricate themselves from the EU to a fair amount of excitement on both sides of the pond. An excellent move, but now what? Theodore Dalrymple has a view, and it is a bleak one. It’s one I don’t completely agree with, but I see the same signs. I merely hope and pray that the Britain that has been preserved through the centuries will manage to bestir itself one more time. Whether that will happen is very problematical.

And the economic auguries for Britain are indeed poor, though not only, or even principally, because of the European Union’s hostility. The fact is that Britain is unlikely to be able to take any advantage of life outside the European straitjacket because its own political class is itself in favour of straitjackets that are no better, and quite possibly worse than, the European ones. The present Prime Minister, Theresa May, is very much a statist, indistinguishable from European social democrats, and the leader of the opposition, Mr Corbyn, who might well be the next Prime Minister, is an unapologetic admirer of Hugo Chavez. It is hardly to be expected that foreign investors will place much trust or confidence in an isolated country whose next government might very well weaken property rights, impose capital controls and increase corporate taxation in favour of supposed social justice. It would not take very long to turn Britain into a northern Venezuela: a Venezuela without the oil or the tropical climate.

Here lies the crux of the current problem, in my mind. Mrs. May was an abysmal choice, although she may have been the best on offer, rather like like choosing Hillary because she was the least worst candidate. But that is just how bad the Tories are, and Labour tends to make Stalin look right wing. She’s all that is said here and more, but the worst is that she seems to have no convictions of her own, simply an empty vessel to be filled by whoever last spoke to her. Well except the Vicar’s daughter has absolute faith in the State, God not so much. Sad.

And the power that the parties have is remarkable, our primaries are often more or less corrupt, but the British have no say whatsoever in who is running to ‘represent’ them. And their bureaucracy puts our deep state to shame, that is who really rules Britain. Long ago they stripped the one voice who could speak for the nation, the Queen, of all power. If they had the guts to fight, it would become Thomas Hobbe’s nightmare come to life – “A war of all on all.”

Just a word of warning, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, a UKIP peer, asked the government recently in the House of Lords if talking about Christianity was a ‘hate crime’.

The government refused to answer.

And it is not only Britain, we have the same disease here, although not as markedly. The other day, J.J. Sefton in Ace’s Morning Report said this.

We’ll start of this Thursday with the continuing, and hopefully soon to end, autopsy of Tuesday’s debacle in Alabama. As we all know, Roy Moore was a flawed candidate for a number of reasons. That doesn’t mean I and most of you did not support him; we all wanted him to win. It’s just that our wish-casting and transposing our logic on to the voters vis a vis allowing the alternative to win (which they did) was illusory. Now all that said, much of the blame can be laid squarely on the drooping shoulders of Mitch McConnell. He wanted an Establishment lackey, like Thad Cochran only with a marginally higher brain stem function, and NOT a member of the House Freedom Caucus, represented by Mo Brooks. And so from the get-go he supported Luther Strange, but for whatever reason (I am uninformed about Alabama local politics) Moore threw his Stetson into the ring and the voters chose him in the runoff. And the rest as we all know is history. Now, yes, while Moore as stated was flawed, the combination of the smear campaign against him, his own idiosyncrasies, and the abandonment by the GOP-e until it was essentially too late gave away what should have been a lock to a Democrat.

Yep, that whole mess was flawed, mostly by Mitch McConnel, another Theresa May type, much more concerned about party than country, not to mention preserving their rice bowls, no matter what.

Back to Britain

This explains why Britain has persistently imported labour from Eastern Europe to perform tasks in its service industries that ordinarily one might have expected its large fund of indigenous non-employed people to perform. The fact is, however, that though these tasks require no special skills, they did require certain personal qualities such as reliability, politeness, and willingness to adapt: and these the eligible local population lack entirely. No hotel-keeper, for example, would consider using British labour if he could get foreign.

Perhaps nothing captures the levels of personal incompetence and lack of self-respect in Britain than the fact that young men of the lowest social class are about half as likely to die in prison as they are if left at liberty. In prison, though adult, they are looked after, at least in a basic way, and told what to do. They are no longer free to pursue their dangerous and crudely self-indulgent lifestyle, in which distraction is the main occupation. In prison they receive the health care that, though it is free to them under the National Health Service, they are not responsible enough to seek when at liberty. In short, they do not know, because they have never been taught, how to live in a minimally constructive fashion, though they were certainly not born ineducable.

No doubt other comparable countries have similar problems, but none (at least, none known to me) has them to anything like the same extent. These problems do not originate from Britain’s membership of the European Union, nor will they be solved by exit from the Union. They can be solved only by something more resembling a religious revival than by any likely government action. But expecting a population to bethink itself while simultaneously being offered political solutions that require no effortful cultural change is unreasonably optimistic. And politicians are unlikely to be frank about the problem for two reasons: first because alluding to the deficiencies of their electorate is probably not the best way to get elected, and second because it downgrades the providential role of politics, which politicians are understandable reluctant to do.

As if this were not quite enough, the hold on the country’s intelligentsia of statist solutions to practically all problems is still immensely strong. Nowhere is this more evident than in its attitude to the National Health Service, the establishment of which it almost universally regards as having been a great achievement, perhaps Britain’s only great achievement of the twentieth century.

Yep, if you talk to Brits, even educated ones, nearly every one of them sees the NHS as the ‘one true god’, even though they get crappy service at best, and are probably more likely to die if treated than not. It can only be religious because the facts are easily available.

But that speaks to what I see in my interactions with what is admittedly a sliver of them, and one that is well right of (their) center. Here we quote our founders often and well, almost all American conservatives do because while they were writing over 200 years ago, the principles they bequeathed us are truly timeless, if we are stalwart enough to apply them even close to properly. It is why we have prospered so mightily.

Most of those principles derived from British sources, Locke, Smith, Burke, Blackstone, and others, not all British, of course, but a majority probably were. Our founders took a clear look at the weaknesses of British government and liberty and wrote a constitution to minimize them. It works pretty well still, even with so many trying to subvert it. But we have that firm foundation, written in ink on parchment, the Declaration, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, The Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, and so much more.

The Brits have none of that, the core principles were developed there. But there is nothing comparable to our supreme constitution, they have some scrap of paper they refer to as a constitution, but in our sense, it isn’t. All is always in flux. One Parliament cannot bind another. Magna Charta, that we Americans revere so much, was repealed long ago, so was the English Bill of Rights, as was the right to self-defense.

From my seat, what they never developed, either personally or in the Conservative Party is the principled outlook we have. When something comes up, we know almost instinctively whether it accords with the principles the founders gave us. None of that amongst the Tories, it is all pragmatic, tactics to win the next vote in Parliament or election, never a thought as to principle. It is their great weakness, I think, and why spoke a bit of Judge Moore here. While he has priciples, many of them conflict with our history. he is right on many issues, but often for the wrong reasons. That why he was a very imperfect candidate. It’s also why the British government is broken, perhaps beyond repair.

Impositions that in America would have led to a war in the streets, pass with a shrug “What can you do?” The government says jump, most Britons don’t ask “Why should I?” They merely ask, “How high, ma’am?”

Where is Britain going? Unless they figure out something, I think Dalrymple may well be correct. Caracas without the nice weather.

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Reforging American Greatness

We’ve spoken of the things we do here many times, and it’s nice to have another voice. David L. Hunter raises his voice in The American Spectator. He makes his case well, and I agree with his diagnoses. While I see merit in his remedies, they are indeed far better than what we are doing, they are, to me at least, much too government-centric. In my opinion, we need to unleash the beast that built this country, devil take the hindmost, not simply give it a longer leash. The leash itself is a large part of the root problem. Still, this is very worthwhile.

Politically, what’s the definition of insanity? Electing the same types of people doing the same things, but expecting a different outcome.  (Thus, perhaps the main reason Donald Trump was elected president, in 2016, is neatly explained.)  More to the point, on an economic level, what’s the definition of insanity—other than doubling-down on what has been done previously? Thanks to President Trump, and the promise of Republican tax cuts, the tide—superficially—has started to turn. However, a record-setting Wall Street is not the same thing as a booming Main Street. After all, Wall Street is based upon the return on investment by stockholders. That’s rather far removed from real-life factors like creating homegrown American businesses, generating highly skilled domestic jobs or providing Americans opportunities to advance up the socioeconomic ladder. So, the true test of a strong economy is an expanding, upwardly mobile middle class. Yet, this all-important demographic has been declining for more than 40 years:

“After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number [read: statistically equivalent to] by those in the economic tiers above and below it. In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined, a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.”

It’s true, we have many more so-called upper class (based on income) people about, and many more what we call working class, as well. The middle has been hollowed out, and it works to our detriment. Why?

 

[…] What’s also apparent is that generally speaking, American companies are being outcompeted by their international counterparts for the world’s largest market share.
How is that happening?  It’s because U.S. businesses rely upon financial shell games designed to generate profits on their balance sheets. This has the superficially positive effect of artificially buoying the stock price (benefiting executives’ salaries and stockholders’ investments), while inversely gutting the real-world ability of a company to compete in the global marketplace. If that is not the case, why do American corporations widely participate in cost-slashing measures like corporate inversion, using inferior components in U.S. products (read: bailed out GM’sIgnition Switch Scandal) and outsourcing jobs?
Contrast that mindset with fundamentally producing products and services that excel at satisfying one or more customer needs for a true competitive advantage in the worldwide market. Instead, U.S. companies engage in modern-day finance-based parasitic behavior: absorbing weaker firms, often stripping them of their employees and selling off divisions for quick infusions of cash to elevate the “almighty” stock price. In popular culture, this dynamic was immortalized by the contentious exchange between corporate raider Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), and embattled “old-time” business owner Jim Morse (Ralph Bellamy) in “Pretty Woman” (1990):
Morse: “Mr. Lewis, if you were to get control—and I don’t think you will—but if you did, what do you plan to do with the company?”
Lewis: “Break it up and sell off the pieces.”
Morse: “I’m sure you’ll understand I’m not thrilled at the idea of your turning years of my work into your garage sale.”
Lewis: “At the price I’m paying for this stock, Mr. Morse, you are going to be a very rich man.”
Morse: “I’m rich enough. I just want to head my shipyard.”
We’ve touched often on this before, from the viewpoint of one inside the machine. Many are, and can see what needs to be done, but can’t because it might impact the quarterly bottom line. Eventually, it’s going to kill any business with the infection, and almost all big businesses, and many mid-size and small ones have it. What to do about it? Mr. Hunter thinks this is the answer.
How does one achieve this elusive key to lasting success? For that answer, one must look to Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, circa 1985. Remarkably, this forward-thinking president was troubled by the overt financialization of the U.S. economy, and specifically, its adverse impact on American competitiveness. In response, Reagan launched a then-classified initiative known as the Socrates Project with the mission of transitioning the U.S. back to technology-based planning—and away from the type of financial shenanigans mentioned above.  It was so astonishingly effective that it far surpassed what countries like Russia, Japan and China were executing or could execute in the foreseeable future.
In turn, the Socrates Project developed the Automated Innovation System. Today, it can map global technology—high-tech, low-tech, “no”-tech –in real time. In function, it operates like a digital four-dimensional chessboard showing foreign organizations’ and countries’ plans for exploiting worldwide technology.  Specifically, it details the full range of present and future technology opportunities, and constraints, that can be exploited by U.S. public and private organizations for the essential competitive advantage to bring true and lasting economic prosperity back to America.
He may be right, at least to a point but I’m as always leery of panaceas, and this rather smells like one. More expert systems telling experts what to do strikes me as mostly more elite bullshit. Better than what we do now, but hardly the answer.
In truth, I do not think there is an answer. In the singular, that is. This a big diverse country, it works best when it has a goal and everybody leaves it alone and lets it see what it can accomplish.
Bigness is often an advantage, but just as often a disadvantage, the ability to marshal large amounts of money and groups of people offset by the elephantine measures necessary to manage such a group, rather than lead it.
And that is the answer, and where we are failing, leadership. The kind of leadership that can see an opportunity, and come hell or high water or even Washington bureaucrats and Wall Street idiots, drive on to success. Where are they? I don’t know, maybe school and college drove that spirit out of them, but I doubt it, they’re out there, thinking of better ways to do better things, and wondering how they can get from here to there.
A  good start would be to simply get the government back in its place, you know what Jemmy Madison said,
[…] to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
That’s government’s job, and nothing else, anything else the government does is done to the detriment of some citizen, usually many citizens. Prosperity is something we are required to do for ourselves.

The Week: This Year in Jerusalem Edition

Welp, that time again, lots going on so let’s dive into the swamp.

Al Franken thinks we need to have a ‘National Conversation’ about sexual harrassment, I don’t see why, as far as I can see it only needs a short statement from such vermin’s employers. For instance, “You’re fired.” Perhaps followed with the suggestion that they don’t use us as a reference, ever. Sorry, but I’ve found that only the incompetent make excuses.

Will the second edition be titled, “Giant Jerk of the Senate”?

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The Colossus of Freedom

Real Socialism

I need one of these!

Then there is this guy

My kind of lawn mower

And, of course

As usual, most (but not all) from PowerLine and Bookworm.

Handcarts to Hell

today horiz.2

Kurt Schlichter was on a roll this week, even for him. On the fourth, he had a few comments on the news media and its lack of anything approaching morals in anything. That’s here.

Behold another banner week for the heroes of our intrepid mainstream media, that motley collection of pompous and obnoxious incompetents, perverts and – at the risk of repeating myself – liberals. In just the last few days we’ve seen how a major media personality got his network to build him a creepy sex lair in his office and watched as a flat-out lie tanked the stock market – well, not really “tanked,” since the Trump Boom is still booming, though the media is loath to report that fact since prosperity wrecks the official Trumpocalypse narrative. And next week, if (when) the guy the liberal media tried to paint as Judge Jailbait beats the guy the liberal media tried to cover for by not reporting how he thinks abortions are cool up until a kid gets his learner’s permit, the liberal media will take yet another well-deserved failure lap.

The mainstream liberal media is primarily composed of stumblebum leftist jerks who want all the glory and respect due a caste of objective, moral truth-seekers, yet who don’t want to do the hard work of actually being objective or moral or seeking the truth. “I can’t pass, and I can’t tackle, and practice is really a hassle, but I’m wearing a sportsball jersey so I want your adulation and a Super Bowl ring!

My only real complaint with anything in that column is that the Colonel has this tendency to understate how bad the media really is. Well, who would believe the truth? Bookworm would, that’s who. You’ve heard about that roast of Matt Lauer, well Book went where most of us won’t -The Village Voice and got the filth, and told us about it. Good on her, but I’m not going to copy any of it, I don’t really do anything that obscene here, but I’ll link her post, and thank her for it. Note: Obscene material and very not suitable for work, unless you work for NBC in which case it is the workplace environment you have allowed to be your normal. The article is here: The infamous Matt Lauer roast reveals who Proggies are (NSFW).

Yuck!

But the Colonel latest is even better to my mind. Here he takes on the current (and former) leadership of the FBI and marks the desecration of an institution thereby.

Add this infamy to all the other crimes of the liberal establishment – its poisonous influence has converted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in the eyes of the American people, from a proud institution dedicated to upholding the law into just another suppurating bureaucratic pustule. Where once we saw FBI agents as heroes – many of us ancients grew up watching Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., every Sunday night – now we see careerist hacks looking to suck-up to the Democrat elite while bending the law and subverting justice to do it. Truly, everything liberals touch dies.

[…] didn’t even fire Strozk though intermural adultery is allegedly against the rules at the FBI. Nope, nothing builds confidence in a law enforcement agency’s organizational integrity like bending the rules to protect your bigwig buddies.

Oh, wait – outright payoffs do too! Don’t even start on Andrew McCabe and his wife’s Democrat contributions – to her. Yeah, the wife of the FBI second-in-command got money from the Democrat Party and he’s still not recused from this fake investigation. Are you kidding?

By the way, have we got even a single iota of information on what the unholy hell happened since Special Agent Johnson and Special Agent Johnson took over the investigation of the Las Vegas shooting?

It’s long past time to lance this boil. It’s sad when you have to accept that you can’t talk to the FBI, that they can’t be trusted to do justice, that you must protect yourself from being railroaded like LTG Flynn was and always – always always always – demand to speak to your attorney and demand that the FBI not question you if they come sniffing around. LTG Flynn trusted them not to have an agenda. Look what happened, and learn.

It’s heartbreaking, because the FBI’s real legacy – a legacy field agents largely live today – is a legacy of heroes.

Flashback to Miami, April 11, 1986. Eight agents make a felony stop on a car with two suspected bank robbers, igniting a firefight that demonstrated the bravery and devotion that shouldbe what first comes to mind when any American thinks of the FBI.

William Russell Matix and Michael Lee Platt were ex-military and had killed before – and they packed an arsenal that ensured they were not going quietly. The FBI agents, lightly armed with under-powered handguns and a couple 12 gauges – came under intense rifle fire that the light vests some wore could not stop. In the end, seven of the eight agents were hit – and Special Agent Benjamin Grogan and Special Agent Jerry Dove died fighting.

Yes, while we ‘Normals’ don’t necessarily expect that level of heroism from every agent, although we’ve seen enough of it over our lifetimes to know it is not uncommon, we do expect common decency, honesty, and dare I say it, a sense of honor, from our law enforcement people, Federal, state, and local. Well, it used to be that way, anyway. In our Brave New World, not so much.

The System IS the Scam

I grew up watching Chicago television, and the obvious and ongoing corruption was not so much normal as a cost of doing business, like the flames shooting out of the blast furnaces at US Steel. It just was, always had been, and likely always would. As somebody at Second City Cop said recently, the last time Chicago Aldercreatures were honest was sometime before early 1837. But it was honest corruption, in a sense. You could get things done, it just cost a ridiculous amount, and often wasn’t done all that well. But not too many people died, and the pols got rich, so…

But, this, even by that standard is ridiculous. From The American Spectator.

The best rackets are legitimate.

A century ago, the people accepted flagrant public corruption. Dim cynicism the popular spirit, it’s likely they’d still be so disposed today. But the politicians and their swarms of supplicants have acquired subtlety and subterfuge. Why press their luck?

We still have the graft and boodle that Lincoln Steffens chronicled in The Shame of the Cities, but now it’s all above-board. The best schemes are almost indistinguishable from the regular function of government. Almost. In the back rooms, somebody puts in a word for somebody, somebody threatens somebody, but that’s the part we don’t hear about.

It’s the bad luck of Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton barnacle-turned-Democratic governor of Virginia and a rumored presidential candidate in 2020, that his wheedling and arm-twisting inside the federal bureaucracy is now a matter of public record. He got sued last week, along with Hillary Clinton’s brother Anthony Rodham, accused of running “a $120 million scam” to defraud Chinese immigrants.

Did McAuliffe break the law? That’s almost beside the point. The essence of modern graft is crony capitalism — you don’t break the law, you make the law work for you.

The game: set up an obstacle, then offer a way past it for a price. We usually think of crony capitalism as tilting the field in favor of one company or one industry through preferential regulation, but McAuliffe’s arrangement was an even purer form. After all, what is the nature of government? It is to forbid, to restrict, to alter affairs from their natural course. Government creates problems and then pretends to offer a solution.

The EB-5 investor visa program is one long chain of government-created problems and solutions.

Foreign direct investment is of course an unalloyed good for the U.S. economy, but immigration law stands in the way of many potential investors. The laissez-faire thing to do would be to make visas freely available and get out of the way, but that would be too simple.

Much better to complicate it with all sorts of rules and red tape, that can’t all be complied with so the only solution is to buy yourself some interest (otherwise known as pull).

McAuliffe was one of the guys who ran GreenTech, a company whose business model was designed to fit even more government regulations and incentives: GreenTech made electric cars, little Neighborhood Electric Vehicles that go 25 mph, and cost $16,000. You’ll notice I said “made,” and not “sold,” as there has been zero consumer interest in a pricey golf cart that can’t even hold golf clubs. […]

That had a lot to do with why the state of Virginia had refused to get involved with the project, despite McAuliffe’s pull there. In 2009, the state’s veteran economic development director told colleagues, “(I) still can’t get my head around this being anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications.”

When an economic development official, whose business is crony capitalism, finds your model suspect, I think you’re due some congratulations. That’s like making Louis C.K. blush.

Eventually, McAuliffe set up shop in Mississippi, thanks to $8 million in land, grants, and other incentives. The state is now in litigation to claw back $6.4 million from the company.

It’s true when the influence peddlers think your scheme is too blatant a fraud, well maybe your scheme is, uh fraudulent.

The real problem, the more general problem, is that the government is in any position to be assessing the viability of a commercial venture, one that’s bent out of shape from the start thanks to political dictates.

If we’re going to do investor visas, they ought to be straightforward, and useful for any type of legitimate investment in American business. Allowing unapproved start-ups, of course, could open the door to different sorts of scams — a fake business goes belly-up and slips the cash back to its “investors.”

But that is a different problem, one with reasonably straightforward solutions, if one wants to solve problems, rather than create new ones to solve, for a price. Usually a very high price.

A Taxing Subject

So we have a tax cut, at long last, I guess. I haven’t read into it deeply, to me, tax language is about the fifth circle of Hell, and that day is coming soon enough, so why volunteer. But from what I’ve read there is some pretty good stuff in it, and some bad, no doubt. Well, that’s how legislating goes, and frankly, what we are trying to undo would have better never been started. Bookworm at Watchers of Weasels has some thoughts about some of the good stuff in it.

I’m not an economist, but I was blessed with a fair amount of common sense. Despite Democrat hysteria, it’s obvious that “the little people” will fare better under the proposed tax bill than they do now — and for a reason the Republicans ought to be speaking about a lot but, because they’re bozos, they are not.

That last sentence may be the most self-evident piece of truth ever written. They are indeed bozos, who wouldn’t know a good policy if it bit them on the ass. But we both digress.

Currently, America ostensibly does not have a “Regressive” tax system. This is a lie. America’s tax code is highly regressive. This is because we have the highest corporate tax rate in the Western world. Yay, say Lefties. Let’s stick it to the corporations. That sentiment proves that Lefties are either stupid or uninformed.

The reality is that corporations don’t pay taxes. This is because the buck doesn’t stop with the corporation, meaning that corporate shareholders will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that their return on investment is not affected by the tax. After all, once that money goes into their pockets, it will again be subject to a tax.

To avoid double taxation on corporate dollars, corporations do two things: they place a cap on employee wages and — here comes the regressive part — they pass the costs on to the consumers. The higher the tax imposed on corporations, the higher the cost of consumer goods and services.

A widget that would sell for $10 under a lower tax code is priced at $20 to offset taxes while still showing a profit. This kind of price mark-up is bad all around. It makes the product less desirable, which can hurt corporate sales and, potentially, drive the corporation out of business. It also places on poor people a disproportionate burden connected to buying the item. For Jeff Bezos, that extra $10 is as insignificant as a microscopic speck of dust falling on a $100 bill when he opens his wallet to pay. For the guy who mows my lawn, that $10 means that he cannot buy the product, even if he needs it, or that, if he must buy the product, his available money is substantially decreased.

That is why this article is here, she just gave the best description I’ve read of why the corporate income tax is not only counterproductive but downright evil. It disproportionately hurts the poor, by raising the price of literally everything you buy, even if you buy things that allow you to make the things you need yourself. Literally, everything you use or buy from birth to death is subject to this hidden tax, and that doesn’t even mention the (perhaps many) things you simply cannot buy (indeed that you may never have dreamed could exist) because the corporations could not make enough on them to market them.

It’s pretty obvious that it also increases unemployment. Why? Because while to employ somebody, they have to make enough to cover the costs involved in employing them, and that includes the overhead of the tax one pays on their labor. Actually to be accurate the amount of tax that the customer is willing to underwrite for whatever they do, which is a different, higher number.

And yes, the corporate tax rate really should be 0.00%. It is an iniquitous fraud perpetrated by the government on those not paying enough attention to what the government is doing. Sadly, that’s us, almost all of us.

 

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