Progressive Authoritarianism

responsibility-42This is quite interesting, and a fair read of where our society/government is trying to go, and why. It also goes into some detail as to why if we are wise, we probably don’t want to go there. By Joel Kotkin writing in The Orange County Register.

Left-leaning authors often maintain that conservatives “hate democracy,” and, historically, this is somewhat true. “The political Right,” maintains the progressive economist and columnist Paul Krugman, “has always been uncomfortable with democracy.”
But today it’s progressives themselves who, increasingly, are losing faith in democracy. Indeed, as the Obama era rushes to a less-than-glorious end, important left-of-center voices, like Matt Yglesias, now suggest that “democracy is doomed.”

Yglesias correctly blames “the breakdown of American constitutional democracy” on both Republicans and Democrats; George W. Bush expanded federal power in the field of national defense while Barack Obama has done it mostly on domestic issues. Other prominent progressives such as American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner have made similar points, even quoting Italian wartime fascist leader Benito Mussolini about the inadequacy of democracy.

Like some progressives, Kuttner sees the more authoritarian model of China as ascendant; in comparison, the U.S. and European models – the latter clearly not conservative – seem decadent and unworkable. Other progressives, such as Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir, argue that big money has already drained the life out of American democracy. Like Yglesias, he, too, favors looking at “other political systems.” .
. .
Progressive authoritarianism has a long history, co-existing uncomfortably with traditional liberal values about free speech, due process and political pluralism. At the turn of the 20th century, the novelist H.G. Wells envisioned “the New Republic,” in which the most talented and enlightened citizens would work to shape a better society. They would function, he suggested, as a kind of “secret society,” reforming the key institutions of society from both within and without.

In our times, Wells’ notions foreshadowed the rise of a new class – what I label the clerisy – that derives its power from domination of key institutions, notably the upper bureaucracy, academia and the mainstream media. These sectors constitute what Daniel Bell more than two decades ago dubbed a “priesthood of power,” whose goal was the rational “ordering of mass society.”
Increasingly, well-placed members of the clerisy have advocated greater power for the central state. Indeed, many of its leading figures, such as former Obama budget adviser Peter Orszag and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, argue that power should shift from naturally contentious elected bodies – subject to pressure from the lower orders – to credentialed “experts” operating in Washington, Brussels or the United Nations. Often, the clerisy and its allies regard popular will as lacking in scientific judgment and societal wisdom.

Unlike their clerical forebears, this “priesthood” worships at the altar not of religion but of what they consider official “science,” which often is characterized by intolerance rather than the skepticism traditionally associated with the best scientific tradition. Indeed, in their unanimity of views and hostility toward even mild dissent, today’s authoritarian progressives unwittingly more resemble their clerical ancestors, enforcing certain ideological notions and requiring suspension of debate. Sadly, this is increasingly true in the university, which should be the bastion of free speech.

I find that there is a lot of truth in this concept, unfortunately like any other closed society, it breeds corruption. Who hasn’t noticed amongst this ‘elite’ a huge amount of influence peddling, not mention pandering, to obtain funding. In Wolf Hall, we watched as Thomas Cromwell curried favor with Henry VIII, do we not see the same process underway (for quite a while now) in Washington?

The killer “app” for progressive centralism, comes from concern about climate change. A powerful lobby of greens, urban developers, planners and even some on Wall Street now see the opportunity to impose the very centralized planning and regulatory agenda that has been dear to the hearts of progressives since global “cooling” was the big worry a few decades ago. This new clout is epitomized by the growing power of federal agencies, notably the EPA, as well state and local bodies of unelected regulators who have become exemplars of a new post-democratic politics.

Of course, this is in large part the model presented by postwar Europe, and we are watching as it demonstrably fails, which makes it less and less likely to be a model we should follow. Most likely the free-est country in Europe is the UK, not least because they share our suspicion of government (although it is not nearly as virulent). But the UK has, since 2008, created more jobs than the rest of Europe combined.

The fly in the ointment here, of course, remains the electorate. Even in one-party California, local constituents are not always eager to follow the edicts of the nascent “new Republic” if it too strongly affects their lives, for example, by forcibly densifying their neighborhoods. Resistance to an imposed progressive agenda is stronger elsewhere, particularly in the deep red states of the Heartland and the South. In these circumstances, a “one size fits all” policy agenda seems a perfect way to exacerbate the already bitter and divisive mood.

Perhaps the best solution lies with the Constitution itself. Rather than run away from it, as Yglesias and others suggest, we should draw inspiration from the founders acceptance of political diversity. Instead of enforcing unanimity from above, the structures of federalism should allow greater leeway at the state level, as well as among the more local branches of government.
Even more than at the time of its founding, America is a vast country with multiple cultures and economies. What appeals to denizens of tech-rich trustifarian San Francisco does not translate so well to materially oriented, working-class Houston, or, for that matter, the heavily Hispanic and agriculture-oriented interior of California. Technology allows smaller units of government greater access to information; within reason, and in line with basic civil liberties, communities should be able to shape policies that make sense in their circumstances.

This is, of course, nothing less than the federalism the founders designed into our system, which wasn’t new, even then, the catholic Church calls it subsidiarity, although it, like politicians, has always had trouble practicing it. In the eighteenth century as in the twenty-first, America is simply too large to be governed by an elite, centered in the capital, let alone by a clerisy without the requisite skill to understand even the concepts of what most people do.

One possible group that could change this are voters, including millennials. It turns out that this generation is neither the reserve army imagined by progressives or the libertarian base hoped for by some conservatives. Instead, notes Pew, millennials are increasingly nonpartisan. They maintain some liberal leanings, for example, on the importance of social justice and support for gay marriage. But their views on other issues, such as abortion and gun control, track closely with to those of earlier generations. The vast majority of millennials, for example, thinks the trend toward having children out of wedlock is bad for society. Even more surprisingly, they are less likely than earlier generations to consider themselves environmentalists.

They also tend to be skeptical toward overcentralized government. As shown in a recent National Journal poll, they agree with most Americans in preferring local to federal government. People in their 20s who favor federal solutions stood at a mere 31 percent, a bit higher than the national average but a notch less than their baby boomer parents.

If so, and I tend to agree, they may well save us all, simply by thinking for themselves, and acting in their own self-interest. Because I think it self-evident that being ruled by a distant, connected (to each other) is not in our best interest, either individually or as a society.
Hat tip to Gene Veith at Cranach, The Blog of Veith

Around the Web This Week

6a76f4a3-4ad2-4ae2-8a3b-c092e85586afSort of a compendium of odds and ends today, without a lot of commentary from me.

My dearest friend, partner and editor here, Jessica, is celebrating the third anniversary of her blog today, although she is only present in spirit, because of her health problems. My post about it is here.

The Federalist had a bit more on the Amtrak wreck, I think he makes some valid points, especially regarding the unseemliness of many reactions.

The deadly Amtrak derailment this week spawned a frenzy of sleazy opportunism on social media as lefties rushed to declare—before any evidence of the cause of the accident was available—that it clearly showed the need for more federal billions to subsidize Amtrak.

As the official investigation has released actual information, it seems likely that the real cause was excessive speed: the train was traveling at more than 100 miles per hour as it entered a tight curve where the safe limit was 50 miles per hour. How is more government spending supposed to prevent this kind of operator error?

Oh, and contrary to the media’s “Amtrak fan fiction,” as Sean Davis calls it, Congress just authorized $1.4 billion in new subsidies to Amtrak less than five months ago. So there goes that narrative.

There is obviously something unseemly about this—far more unseemly than a violinist distraught over not being able to retrieve the source of her livelihood. This is a tragedy in which people were killed and injured, yet many a media hack’s first thought was about how to score political points against Republicans.

More at The Federalist

National Review has something to say about Paul Krugman’s Pretense of Economic Knowledge

It is wrong to call economics “the dismal science.” Dismal, yes; science, no.

Econometrics and mathematical modeling are enormously valuable, but they also contribute to the pretense of knowledge, which is a lethal intellectual epidemic to which the scientist manqués of the economics world are especially vulnerable. There are competing factions and schools of thought within the proper sciences, of course, but the outsize role played by economic schools — from New Keynesians to Austrians — is evidence of the corrupting influence of politics, which distorts economic analysis in both its weak form (simple political affiliation) and its strong form (servile political advocacy). And as with the scientific case of freelancing gadflies such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, economists damage their individual and corporate credibility the farther they stray from their fields of genuine expertise. It is no surprise that, e.g., purported science guy Bill Nye until recently held foolish and ignorant views on genetically modified crops, views of which he has, to his credit,repented. Nye, who holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering, is more a science enthusiast than a scientist, much less a scientist with any particular expertise in agricultural genetics. There is no reason to suppose that he has particularly well-informed views on any given question, and the temptations of cultural affiliation — the people who are terrified of GMOs are many of the same people who care deeply about climate change and the contents of Texas high-school biology curricula — often lead us astray.

More at National Review

As all know, I’m no particular fan of Jeb Bush, not least because I think there must be a Democrat not named Clinton, and a Republican not named Bush qualified to run for President. I’m not much of a fan of dynasties (at least in America, I rather like Queen Elizabeth, although Prince Charles, not so much, which highlights the problem). In any case, Jeb said some very cogent things about Christianity last weekend at Liberty University.

[…] Giving a fiery speech last month at Tina Brown’s “Women in the World Summit,” Clinton plainly said: “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so that women can have unfettered access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.”

One would like to imagine that Clinton was speaking only about primitive cultures where children are forced into marriage and childbearing, or where genital cutting is common. But we know that she also meant religious conservatives closer to home whose beliefs get in the way. She explicitly criticized Hobby Lobby for not paying for its employees’ contraception.

By contrast, Jeb Bush, who will become the GOP nominee if Republicans are smart, assumed a much different tone and direction in his recent commencement address at Liberty University.

“How strange, in our own time, to hear Christianity spoken of as some sort of backward and oppressive force,” he said. “It’s a depressing fact that when some people think of Christianity and of Judeo-Christian values, they think of something static, narrow and outdated. . . . I cannot think of any more subversive moral idea ever loosed on the world than ‘the last shall be first, and the first last.’ ”

He also spoke of what our world would have been like without the “unalloyed compassion, such genuine love, such thorough altruism,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described Christianity.

It would be defined, Bush said, by “power without restraint, conflict without reconciliation, oppression without deliverance, corruption without reformation, tragedy without renewal.”

He’s right, of course. More at The Washington Post.

And three links on the British general election, which may well have lessons for us, as well

Dan Hannan: Left’s hatred devoured its own election campaign

Charles Utley: Time to Reflect on the Past and the Future

UEA’s Eastminster: UEA’s experts react to the General Election 2015 result

Enjoy!

Obesity and Orwell

English: Picture of George Orwell which appear...

English: Picture of George Orwell which appears in an old acreditation for the BNUJ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reality check time here!

Last week I mentioned a widely reported article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine which claimed that ‘physical activity does not promote weight loss’. The article was taken down by the journal last week due to ‘an expression of concern’. It remains offline as I write this, but the controversy rumbles on. At the risk of further upsetting the low-carb community (who seem particularly antagonistic to the doctrine of ‘calories in, calories out’), I am returning to it today.

Let’s start by looking at a series of blog posts by Jason Fung of Intensive Diet Management that have been doing the rounds on social media. He, too, argues that ‘there is no measurable association between obesity and physical activity’. In his first post, he argues that people are exercising more than ever and yet are becoming fatter and fatter. The positive correlation between obesity and exercise, he says, shows that physical activity really doesn’t make much of a difference.

OK, we’re exercising more than we ever did, huh? When? During the commercial breaks on that long walk the fridge to get another beer?

Look, don’t get me wrong, I love our modern devices with all of their advantages, but I know I don’t get the exercise even my father did, let alone his grandfather.

A quick example, after he retired, Dad decided he needed a bit more exercise and the electric bill was too high, so he decided to heat his 1800 sq ft house with wood, using his Heatilator fireplace. he found that in a normal winter, he would burn about a half to three-quarters of a cord per week, about an eight-foot pickup bed, level full, per week. Given his woodland, that’s about two trees, that he felled cut up, split by hand, and hauled to the house, every week.

No, he never went to the gym. :) But I’ll tell you something else, he was forty years older than me, and I played football, and he could easily outwork me, and that’s before he retired to do physical work, instead of being in the office. And do it irregardless of the weather.

Yep, it made me feel like a wimp, but you know something,? Now I’m the age he was then, and the same thing is true, there are very few 25-year-olds that can keep up to me, and I mostly sit on my butt, running a computer, and have for years.

That’s something I’m proud of but, likely not in the way you think. It means that my generation, like my dad’s and like most (at least since the founding of the Republic) have made the life of our fellow countrymen better, or at least easier. And that really is something to be proud of. It takes less of your money (proportionately) and/or physical effort to house, feed, and clothe your family than it ever has.

I know that’s true when I look around one of our job sites today, the tools we use every day, would have turned my dad green with envy, let alone his dad. Yes, my family has been doing electrical work since Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse were active in the field, long before Fein invented the portable drill motor.

That’s true in nearly every field, but most of our ancestors were farmers, and it is especially true there. The guys that were instrumental in getting electricity on the farms of America thought that the single addition of the fractional horsepower electric motor was worth more than one man per farm, and that has nothing to do with the locomotive tractor, or all the other things, including the personal computer.

It simply revolutionized farming, in the same way, that steam power revolutionized industry, and transportation.

The article I linked below also says this:

In his 1946 essay, The Politics of Starvation, George Orwell noted that the average Briton was eating ‘about 2,800 or 2,900 calories a day’ despite rationing and a shortage of food that was on the verge of leading to civil unrest. This would be enough to fatten up most Britons today, which is why we are advised to eat just 2,000-2,500 calories a day.

This was not journalistic licence on Orwell’s part. Two years later, the British Medical Journal published a study which found that the average Briton lost weight if he consumed fewer than 2,900 calories. Unless you believe that human metabolism has evolved dramatically in the last 70 years, the only explanation for our grandparents eating more yet staying slimmer is that they burned more energy in their daily lives.

Why are we getting fat while exercising so much? Try reading George Orwell – Spectator Blogs.

To which I say, Yup!” For me, now, even 2000 calories is pushing it, I try to stay about 1500, or over time I start to gain weight. But I, like most of u,s miss that 2-pound T-bone and the big baked potato, and dessert, and a six-pack of beer.

So, again like most of us, I cheat but, perhaps unlike most of us, I realize I will have to either work it off or not eat so much for a time to even it out.

We never had it so good

and we haven’t learned to live with it yet.

UK to build the world’s first tidal lagoon power plants

This actually could be a good idea. Of course, like all potentially good ideas, it’s not new. I can remember reading about it back in the seventies, which doesn’t mean that it hasn’t become viable since.

It’s easy to forget that it’s possible to generate electricity not by burning coal or splitting atoms, but using the power of the sea. One company has thought long and hard about the process and is set to change the way Britain generates its renewable energy. Under new plans, Tidal Lagoon Power hopes to build the world’s first lagoon power plants, creating six giant structures — four of which will be built in Wales, with two in England — that will harness powerful coastal tides and generate as much as 8 percent of the UK’s total power.

The company has already put its best foot forward, starting work on a £1 billion plant in Swansea that already has the backing of energy secretary Ed Davey. Even though it’ll be one of the smallest installations, the lagoon will measure five miles across and stretch two miles out to sea, serving not only as significant power source but also as destination for locals. It’ll work by isolating a large space of water, which drives a series of turbines set into the wall as the tidal levels rise and fall throughout the day.

The UK government is keen to back renewable energy projects, so the £30 billion investment needed to build the ambitious lagoons will be met by taxpayers. Wales will host three lagoons in Cardiff, Newport and Colwyn Bay (as well as the one in Swansea) and there’ll be one in Bridgwater Bay, Somerset and another in West Cumbria.

The good thing about tidal power is that barring a lunar catastrophe, sea movements are completely predictable. Wind turbines can stall if it’s a particularly calm day, while solar panels only achieve maximum output when it’s clear and sunny. Marine experts have their reservations, including fears that fish could be sucked into turbines, but Tidal Lagoon Power believes the lagoons will ultimately benefit local ecosystems by serving as artificial reefs.

More at UK to build the world’s first tidal lagoon power plants, including video.

You know, I could support this type of renewable energy, it has its attractions, if they were willing to bet their own money on it. But they aren’t. They want to do it the corrupt way, betting the taxpayers money, so they’ll get rich, no matter what. The proper model is to build it with your own money, and get rich or lose your shirt.

That’s the way Britain (and the US) did it in the nineteenth century, and history is littered with failures but also incredible successes, sometime both for the same people.

And so, for me, it’s not a viable plan, because they don’t believe in it enough to bet their own money and so why should I?

It’s simply another corrupt corporatist scheme to bilk the taxpayers, this time the British ones, and enrich ‘special interests’.

Hat tip to “The Unit” for the link. :)

EU Preps for War Against the Internet: Decides to Lose Again

AAEAAQAAAAAAAANYAAAAJGU4MmZmYjg2LTg5NjQtNDFiNS04MWRkLTcwZmMyNmY0M2RkMAWell, this is interesting, although not very surprising, really. Does anybody really think that Europe (especially Germany and France) can compete with the US on a level playing field? No, me neither. The UK, maybe, but nobody else has a chance, and if good sense ever breaks out in the ruling clique in Britain (or they lose the election) they’ll likely get with the program and with their friends and run away from Europe, again.

I say that because I’ve noticed something. If you look at European technical prowess, especially innovation, in anything from civil engineering to the internet, you’ll find the British leading, and everybody else following, while they whine about ‘the Anglo-Saxons’.

They’re right, as well. The American Interest noted today that the EU wants to regulate Google et. al., much more than they do.

THE EU VS SILICON VALLEY

EU Preps for War Against the Internet

EU Preps for War Against the Internet – The American Interest.

As an aside, I’m no huge fan of Google, I think they’re more than a bit intrusive, and I’m not overfond of their data mining and selling my information to all and sundry. But you know what, I use Google products because they work, I don’t have to. There are other providers, just as I no longer use Microsoft products. But it’s remarkable that a company that started in an American garage a few years ago has all Europe scared of them :)

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned but I hope they do. Why? because if they do, the US will simply increase our lead over the hidebound, over-regulated Europeans, while the best Europeans will again come to America where they can innovate much more freely than they can at home. (And make us still richer, and more innovative!)

Funny thing, isn’t it? We’ve built this powerhouse of a country (not that we don’t have plenty of problems, ourselves) on the freedom to try new things and see if you can make a living with them. We’ve done this since about 1650,nd we have built the most powerful economy in the world, and protect it with the most dominant military the world has ever seen with our pocket change. We’ve done this by letting people try and fail, and try and fail, and finally try and succeed.

It’s a hard model. It’s follows from that old saying about the Oregon Trail, “The weak never started and the sick died along the way,” But, you know, there was nearly always someone around to feed the hungry and nurse the sick, and the dead got a decent burial. And the ones that made it, built a world that their grandfathers couldn’t have imagined, where one of the consequences of being poor is being too fat, because you eat too much while playing video games.

I don’t condone such a lifestyle but I’m in awe at a system that can take a world that nearly starved for billions of years and in a few generations make that happen.

And that is what America has done, with some British help (and gold) and with the people who were stifled by Europe. It’s a logarithmic curve, if you haven’t noticed, constantly accelerating, if we keep going there is no way to know where we’ll be in twenty-five years, let alone a hundred.

Carroll Bryant once said:

Some people make things happen.

Some people watch things happen.

And then there are those who wonder, ‘What the hell just happened?”

I know where I want to be. How about you?

The Left’s Burning Cities

Breitbart.com

Breitbart.com

I suppose it’s time to say something about Baltimore, not that I have anything overly pertinent to add. I have noticed though (as has David French, in the linked article) that what is going on is really nothing more than two of the Democratic Party’s prized identity political groups: public employee unions, and welfare recipients, having a disagreement.

In Baltimore, as the National Guard steps in, curfews are imposed, and business owners pick up the pieces from their burned-out, looted stores, let’s not forget why one more American city has been torn apart by racial violence. Blue America has failed at social justice. It has failed at equality. It has failed at accountability. Its competing constituencies are engaged in street battles, and any exploration of “root causes” must necessarily include decades of failed policies — all imposed by steadfastly Democratic mayors and city leaders.

Are the riots caused by the Baltimore Police Department’s “documented history” of abuse? Which party has run Baltimore and allowed its police officers to allegedly run amok? Going deeper, which American political movement lionizes public-employee unions, fiercely protecting them from even the most basic reform? Public-employee unions render employee discipline difficult and often impossible. Jobs are functionally guaranteed for life, and rogue officers can count on the best representation money can buy — courtesy of Blue America.

Continue reading The Left’s Burning Cities | National Review Online.

As always seems to be the case, people despair when they don’t have the self-respect that a job, almost any job, engenders. We innately know, deep within in us, the difference between earning something and simply being given it. And frankly, it’s hard to imagine a much more hostile place, in America, than the city of Baltimore to start a business that would provide jobs. Michael Tanner noticed this as well:

The unemployment rate in Baltimore in February was 8.4 percent, compared with just 5.5 percent nationally. In the Sandtown–Winchester/Harlem Park area, which is near the center of the unrest, more than half of the people did not have jobs, according to a February 2015 report from the Justice Policy Institute and the Prison Policy Initiative.

One reason for this is the city’s — and the state’s — unremitting hostility to business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that only seven states and the District of Columbia have a worse business climate than Maryland. The state’s tax burden is huge and growing. According to the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, Maryland ranks a dismal 40th in terms of business taxes, and an even worse 45th in terms of personal-income taxes. According to this report, Maryland is one of just a few states where the personal-income tax creates “an unnecessary drag on economic activity.” The state’s small businesses face the nation’s seventh-highest marginal tax rates.

As if that were not bad enough, the city of Baltimore adds one of the highest property taxes among comparable cities. Despite a recent modest reduction in property-tax rates, Baltimore still has a tax rate more than twice the rate of most of the rest of the state. A recent study by the Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy ranked Baltimore twelfth out of 53 major cities in terms of high property taxes. When the city taxes are combined with state taxes, Baltimore ends up with the ninth worst tax burden out of 50 major American cities.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/417619/poverty-despair-and-big-government-michael-tanner

Not where I would start a business, would you? And so, the cycle will continue, until it doesn’t of course, because at some point the politicians will run out of other people’s money.

And at that point, real poverty will ensue. When people find out that they have nowhere to spend their welfare benefits, not even MacDonald’s, what will happen? I don’t know, and doubt anyone else does either,.

I suspect, if we are lucky, Detroit does

 

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