Strangling in Red Tape

True – Code of Federal Regulations governing small business

This is interesting, from Jack Doll, writing in The Federalist.

In his seminal and controversial books “The Bell Curve”and “Coming Apart,” Charles Murray makes the compelling case that differences in intelligence between groups is creating a chasm between the rich and the poor that is only widening. In the modern age, the ability to critically think, read at an advanced level, and perform complex mathematics makes the difference between working in engineering, accounting, law, or the sandwich line at Subway.

This is not to say there isn’t worth in these non-intelligence-intensive fields. My father was a firefighter and although he didn’t have to perform calculus to do his job, the people he saved were likely eternally grateful either way. And, as Uncle Eddie in the hilarious TV show “Grounded for Life” once said, “If everyone could do anything they wanted, who would make the sandwiches?”

Well, if you say so. It might be true for making sandwiches at Subway, but being a firefighter, or at least living through being a firefighter, is certainly a way of making a living that requires intelligence. Think about it, you drive up to a building engulfed in flames, you have to decide whether to enter or whether it’s going to collapse, whether the heat is too high to survive, and many other real-life decisions that must be taken right now. I do not think the author means to demean his father here, but those of us that deal with things in real-life and real-time, see things not as something interesting to write about over the next few days, but as problems that have to be solved real-quick using the knowledge that we already have. One can learn a lot from books, and I’d bet that firefighters do, but the best knowledge comes from experience. The old saying is this, “Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment, hopefully, someone else’s”.

In all seriousness, however, the “intelligence gap” is a worsening problem that partially helps explain the rise of Donald Trump. In the book “Shattered,” Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen quote Hillary Clinton aides who rave about Hillary’s policy “wonkiness” (a word only used in Washington DC). They detail how Hillary Clinton could have discussions for hours about the nuances of law and schemes to help “the children” or “women” (classic Hillary talking points). All of that sounds wonderful. Hillary acolytes who read that book I could barely get through might come out saying “she’s so smart, why on Earth isn’t she President?” They also unwittingly answer their own question.

Hillary Clinton’s plans, in reality, are Rube Goldberg machines. Rube Goldberg was a comic strip author who drew complex machines that accomplished a simple goal. For example a “self-operating napkin” (per Wikipedia) would operate as such: [Goldberg was also an engineer, UC Berkeley, ’04. Neo]

This, on the other hand, is an excellent and true point, with the extra added benefit of requiring even more bureaucrats to administer. Win, win, only the people lose, and who cares about them, other than their tax money.

Soup spoon (A) is raised to mouth, pulling string (B) and thereby jerking ladle (C), which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and ignites lighter (J), setting off skyrocket (K), which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M), allowing pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth, thereby wiping chin”

The usual definition of a Rube Goldberg contraption is a mechanism to accomplish a simple task involving a ridiculously overcomplicated series of devices. It is a perennial fun subject in engineering. When I was at Purdue, and continuing till this day, I think, the Engineering school sponsors a contest to design and make work the most ridiculous machines. It is the opposite of elegant design, which is enough to accomplish the mission and not a bit more. See the Golden Gate Bridge for an elegant example.

Enough is important though, see Galloping Gertie. And I’d bet somewhere in that organization there was an engineer, draftsman, or construction worker who knew what was going to happen to that bridge. There always is. But too much is just as bad, wasting resources, time, and money. It may not catastrophically fail, although sometimes it will, but it will never work properly.

One of the major issues with these regulatory schemes is that high-IQ people who love details (and are extraordinarily boring at parties) are too caught up with their own Rube Goldberg machines to see the obvious. It is reminiscent of the character of Lucifer in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Lucifer (or Satan) is highly intelligent and rational (which explains why he is God’s highest angel). However, he is banished from God’s heavenly kingdom because he attempts an insurrection, as he believes himself to be as high as God. Rationality falls in love with its own creation and falls. Regulation creates unforeseen issues, which are papered over by more regulations. Eventually what we’re left with is a 20,000-page bill which is almost predestined to fail.

He’s speaking here of the Obamacare, which not only failed quicker than Galloping Gertie but was basically impossible to build, these designed pieces could not be made to fit. In my world, there is a chasm between the engineers, who can design the most amazing things, and the people who have to build them and make them work. Over 90% of the time, if built as designed, it won’t work, and can’t be made to. But good practical people can modify it, dink around and make it work, often better than the original design called for. It takes both.

The problem with people like Hillary, Obama, and a bunch of others, especially in Washington, is that they have no real world experience, they’ve lived their entire life off the government’s teat. The government produces nothing, and neither do the people who work for it (other, perhaps, than red tape and trouble) which they far too often use to hamstring the productive people who make a good life possible. Nothing new there, really, its always been that way.

Read his article, it’s a good one.

 

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Progressive Authoritarianism

responsibility-42

This is a bit newer (April 2015) than most of the posts this week, but I think you’ll find it valuable.

This 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

Of Cars and Definitions of Efficiency

Yesterday, I was reading an article at PA Pundits, that highlighted that CAFE mileage standards, which were implemented during the oil crisis during the seventies, have rather severely distorted the market, not to mention killed Americans.

A good example is corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) standards on vehicles. Originally enacted in 1975 to offset the impacts of the OPEC oil embargo and US oil price controls, and slow the rapid depletion of oil reserves, the mileage standards grew increasingly stringent. During the Obama years, the earlier justifications were replaced with claims that a vastly tougher 54.5 mpg standard would somehow help prevent “dangerous manmade climate change.”

However, EPA’s own analysis showed that the new mileage standard would have brought emission reductions of a barely perceptible 3 billion tons of CO2 over the lifetime of vehicles covered by the new standards – out of an estimated two trillion tons of CO2 emitted worldwide during the same period.

That meaningless 0.15% savings was fraudulent enough. But as Competitive Enterprise Institute general counsel Sam Kazman, other analysts and I have often pointed out, the real impact of these rules has always been on people. CAFÉ standards kill, maim and paralyze drivers and passengers – because they force auto makers to downsize and plasticize cars and light trucks, making them less crashworthy.

Insurance industry and other studies found that the earlier 27.5 mpg standard resulted in 2,200 to 3,900 additional fatalities every year, and hundreds of thousands of additional serious injuries, in collisions with cars, trucks, buses, trees and other objects. Minority and other poor families suffer disproportionate injuries and deaths, because they can least afford the higher priced cars and light trucks with advanced safety features. One can only imagine the extra tolls that would be associated with the 54.5 mpg rule.

I’d say it exacerbated the trend, but he certainly is right, but competition was making American cars lighter already, not to mention shorter lived. An example, someplace around 1968 or so my dad acquired a 1961 Dodge Pioneer, it was supposed to be my high school car when we got it fixed up. We started on the bodywork, the previous owner had apparently been in few accidents with it. Then we made a discovery, the engine was pretty much wrecked, (he also ran it out of oil) it could be fixed, but it was going to take considerable money. It didn’t help that this was the old polysphere 318, good engine but even then uncommon. Eventually, we abandoned the project and pulled it out behind the shed. I wasn’t too sad, the 61 Dodge may have been the ugliest car ever made in America. On the other hand, this one had been my dad’s company car when it was new. I rode in it one winter from Indiana to Dallas, to Tuscon, to the Grand Canyon, and home in two weeks and three days of that was a convention dad had to go to. It was also the last unairconditioned car he had. 🙂

So it sat out there, bare metal and all. Eventually, in the mid-seventies, I ended up with a 1970 Polara, a stupidly practical car for a young man, I didn’t love it exactly, but it sure worked well. Late in the decade, I bought something else, mostly because I was tired of the Polara, and the gas tank was rusting on the inside to the point that it stalled the car, for the second time. It only had about 375,000 miles on it, so it was kind of a shame. It was also starting to rust rather badly. It ended up out back next to the 61, and dad and I both commented that the 61 had less rust than the 70, after standing with bare metal for a decade. They didn’t make them that way anymore.

The thing about both of them was that if you took care of them (and didn’t live in country where they salted the roads) there was little reason you couldn’t drive them a half million miles, or more if you maintained them. Try that with a new car. To start with, the systems are too complex for most technicians to understand, they’ve been turned into part changers directed by a computer. Cars have become disposable, good for just a hair over what the warranty says, boring too, I think.

And that is pretty much the case with a lot of things. They are considerably more efficient, use less energy, steel, whatever. Sadly the tradeoff is that you’ll end up buying a new just a few years down the road, probably before you’ve paid it off. To me, that’s a false efficiency, buy it once and maintain it is my definition of efficiency. I could use a new car, by the way. What am I looking at? A 1960 Dodge, of course. Real American steel and should last the rest of my life. What could be better? Mileage should be about 15-20 mpg, I think, and there are things I can do to make it better if necessary. Looks something like this:

Thursday Videos

Seems like I’ve been sitting on a few videos, either because they haven’t fir what I’m writing about or they’re a bit long, or both. So here are some of them.

From Laura Perrins at The Conservative Woman. Yes, it is aimed at a British audience, but it is true for us as well.

Another from Laura, and one you want to watch, Jordan Peterson and Camille Paglia

British sports, or is that sport?

Some truth, slightly NSFW, a lot of truth is these days

And more truth, the objective kind.

Are you tired of Jordan Peterson yet? Me neither, here he is with Ben Shapiro.

Have a good day.

 

 

The Triumph of American Oil

If you remember the cold war, America won it when we buckled down, built up the military threatening the Soviets when technological change they couldn’t deal with, and simply outproducing them into bankruptcy and defeat. It was even good for our economy.

In spite of the last administration, we’ve done it again. We have routed OPEC, the middle east, with the exception of Israel, is beginning to recede into the medieval meaninglessness that it had until the Great War. How did we do this? The Spectator knows.

[T]here are a couple of articles, one at the New York Times and the other at Reuters, which are required reading for anyone who isn’t aware of perhaps the greatest American economic victory in recent times.

There was a War for Oil, for the benefit of our friends who remember fondly the protests from the previous decade, and we won — without firing a shot.

We’ll borrow a bit from the Times to offer the gist

A substantial rise in oil prices in recent months has led to a resurgence in American oil production, enabling the country to challenge the dominance of Saudi Arabia and dampen price pressures at the pump.

The success has come in the face of efforts by Saudi Arabia and its oil allies to undercut the shale drilling spree in the United States. Those strategies backfired and ultimately ended up benefiting the oil industry.

Overcoming three years of slumping prices proved the resiliency of the shale boom. Energy companies and their financial backers were able to weather market turmoil — and the maneuvers of the global oil cartel — by adjusting exploration and extraction techniques.

After a painful shakeout in the industry that included scores of bankruptcies and a significant loss of jobs, a steadier shale-drilling industry is arising, anchored by better-financed companies.

With the price of West Texas intermediate crude above $65 a barrel, a level not seen in almost three years, the United States is becoming a dominant producer. It is able to outflank competitors in supplying growing global markets, particularly China and India, while slashing imports from the Middle East and North Africa.

A few years ago, the U.S. oil patch came under attack by OPEC, the international cartel of state-owned Third World oil companies from places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Iraq, Nigeria, and several others. OPEC decided to ramp up production despite a relatively soft global demand in an attempt to drive the myriad of independent companies which make up a huge chunk of the American shale production sector out of business.

It was a war. There isn’t really a better way to describe it. And there were casualties. Lots of them. Tens of thousands of Americans lost their jobs, and a large number of those independent oil producers got introduced to the bankruptcy laws.

And unlike those cartel companies run by flunkies of the local potentate, the U.S. oil industry couldn’t run to the government for sovereign wealth fund investment or some other bailout. Instead, they had to find a way to survive.

They did. U.S. shale won the great global oil price war, because eventually the Saudis and the others couldn’t afford to lose money on oil they were dumping at garage sale prices when selling that oil was the major means of funding their welfare states.

Production went down. Prices went up — a little. But the old dynamic, in which OPEC could set its own prices by a vote of the oil ministers, was broken. Back to the Times

“OPEC missed the point,” said René Ortiz, a former OPEC secretary general and former Ecuadorean energy minister. “They thought they could recover the U.S. market by bringing the prices down. Now the U.S. has gained the leading position in the world oil market regardless of what OPEC does.”

“This displacement of Saudi oil, Nigerian oil, Libyan oil and Venezuelan oil,” Mr. Ortiz concluded, “was never anticipated.”

A week ago, OPEC leaders met in Oman to discuss a probable extension of production cuts into 2019 to support prices. Their biggest obstacle is the United States.

Shale plays are much different animals to the gigantic prospects which used to dominate the exploration of oil. A relatively small, independent oil company can drill and produce using modern hydraulic fracturing methods in a short period of time and for a lot less initial investment than in the old days. What that means is when the price of oil ticks up, the shale players in places like the Eagle Ford, Permian Basin or Bakken fields can execute very quickly to get production on line. So while the old dynamic used hold that OPEC would turn their spigot on and off at will, this time turning the spigot off ultimately resulted in losing market share to American oil.

This year it’s projected the United States will produce more oil than ever. We’re likely, by the year’s end, to be churning out more than 10 million barrels a day (the Energy Department thinks it’ll be as much as 11 million barrels a day) — which could put us in a position to surpass the Saudis as the second-largest oil producer on earth. The Russians still lead the world, for now, in that number, at about 10.9 million barrels a day.

In 2010, U.S. oil production was 5.5 million barrels a day.

Quite a lot more at the link, but the key thing is. Never, ever bet against free men who want to make a buck, or ten. It’s one of the ways we’ve built the modern world, and also part of the reason it’s more peaceful (overall) than before. Prosperous people tend to not want to break the china in a bar fight.

SOTU in a Nation of Dreamers

And so. I came home in the middle of the speech from a job site and listened to it on the internet, set as it usually is to the local BBC Station in Norfolk. It was quite the speech, and as usual, the analysis on the BBC was completely partisan. But as conservative we are used to that. The best write up I saw was on The American Spectator, no real surprise there.

[I]n all of the media’s blather about bipartisanship, it never acknowledges the Democratic radicalism that makes any national unity impossible. No sooner had Trump finished the State of the Union Address — a speech that could have been delivered by any Democrat before the radicalism of the 1960s and 1970s seeped into the party — than CNN was throwing a wet blanket on it. “There will be Democrats offended by the speech,” intoned Jake Tapper. “He was selling sweet candy with poison in it,” chipped in Van Jones.

What is the sound of one aisle clapping at the most basic and blameless expressions of nationalism, the nationalism that every functioning country on earth observes? Americans heard it Tuesday night. The Democrats couldn’t clap for the flag or fighting gangs (that elicited a groan from some of them). It couldn’t clap for the national anthem, secure borders, religious liberty, even vocational training. It saw poison everywhere, though they did perk up at Trump’s mention of second chances for criminals.

The Democrats have become the foreigners first party. Notice that one of the two official Democratic responses was in Spanish. The other one was delivered by Rep. Joe Kennedy III, whose digressions about “transgenderism” would have even confused his forbears. He too broke into a little Spanish during his response, before endorsing the open borders anarchism of La Raza. He approvingly quoted illegal immigrants who promised to “tear down” any future walls.

Trump’s speech contained few ideological edges. But Tapper, a former Democratic staffer, saw parts of the speech as “holding up a fist.” Other commentators, desperate to find something to attack in the speech, pronounced it “flat” and questioned its “cadence.” They liked that he larded it with a rainbow of “inspirational stories,” but turned their noses up at its policy ambitions, even though many of them (paid family leave and amnesty for Dreamers) represented substantial concessions to the Democrats.

Before the Democrats took their McGovernite turn, they would have agreed with almost everything in Trump’s speech and would have stood for much of it. Now it is a party of stale and geriatric radicalism. (Even Joe Kennedy III sounded like a young old fogey, delivering a speech that could have been written by George McGovern and Bernie Sanders.) And so the Democrats sulked through much of the speech. They fiddled with their phones and rolled their eyes even at the most banal lines. The black caucus slouched through Trump’s tribute to historic levels of black employment.

And that is what I saw as well, a Democratic party that has sold out its heritage as an American party to become the party of ‘Anybody but America’. It’s a sad turn, as I’ve often said my dad was a New Dealer, even though he was conservative because of experience. But the left has overturned any possible positive legacy from FDR, and there were several. Sad really, but hiding the truth doesn’t change what it is.

As Americans, it behooves us to remember at this time, as usual, we are an example to the world. Think about that, I, in Nebraska, listened to this speech from an American President, live. on a local station in East Anglia, England.

for wee must Consider that wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill, the eies of all people are uppon us; soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our god in this worke wee have undertaken and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a byword through the world, wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of god and all professours for Gods sake;

So wrote John Winthrop long ago. It was then and it is now, people around the world look to America to see how freedom works. Yes, those in mud huts around the world, but those in England itself, who wonder how they got so far off course, look to the basics of Anglo-American freedom, as we state it. Where America leads, others follow. And the President is correct, we lead where our dreams take us. If our dreams are small, as they have been the last few years, our leadership is as well, but when we again dream large dreams, large things will happen. Not because of our force, applied wantonly, but because people will see that light on a hill, and be drawn to it.

And so for the first time in a decade, the State of the Union is good, and improving, because once again the dream is alive in Americans, and as we are seeing, especially in Central Europe, when America believe in the American Dream, others will follow, and once again the sky will be lit with the glow of liberty.

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