Guilds in America

Over in The American Spectator Andrew Wilford had a few things to say about how state licensing restricts trade. In fact, he, like me, calls it the guild system. We do that because that is exactly what it is. Here’s some of his.

Occupational licensing remains one of the most effective methods of restricting employment in the country. Experts have estimated the economic costs of excessively strict occupational licensing around the country at $203 billion. Burdensome licensing rules function as a way for entrenched professionals to restrict competition in their industry—licensing rules have resulted in 2.8 million less Americans employed. A study out of Alabama shows how effectively these anti-competitive professionals lobby for excessively restrictive licensing rules to keep the number of new licenses issued at a minimum.

If anything, he underestimates. And don’t think that it is only a problem for hair-braiders and barbers and such. It permeates construction, while not doing anything at all to improve either quality or price.

Let’s revisit something I wrote about it back towards the end of 2012.

Guilds, Licensing, Inspections, and Code, Oh My

Guilds and Licensing

You’ve often heard me say that trade licensing is like nothing so much as the medieval guilds. Here’s why.

You decide you want to be an electrician, so you go get a job with one or you go to a community college, now you can get your apprentice card, you lucky boy or girl. Either way, once you’re on the job site, you’ll carry parts, run a broom, maybe bend some conduit, dig a trench, the stupid stuff that young people always end up doing. That’s fine, it’s been that way forever, I did it, and so did my dad.

You keep doing that for a few years (it varies with school or pure apprenticeship) and you’re qualified to take the journeyman test. They claim it has some electrical knowledge on it but, for the most part, it’s a code test, which is important, but not the be all-end all you think. Let’s say you pass, many don’t, 5 or times isn’t uncommon. I think it’s a ridiculously stupid test and open book at that, but it’s not up to me. Now you’re a journeyman.

As a journeyman you can supervise three apprentices (these are all Nebraska examples) in theory you could be in charge of wiring the new skyscraper in Omaha, as a 25-year-old journeyman. (Don’t worry, you won’t be, usually, that job will have 50 or so electricians on it). But most likely you’ll be in charge of a crew, and as you learn what you’re doing your responsibilities will increase. It’s not all that bad a system.

The next step and many never take it, is to take the contractor’s test, it’s a little more difficult but not much. If you pass and buy insurance you can be an electrical contractor. Woo-Hoo!

Say you decide to go out on your own, which is really the only point to that license, you might be a good electrician, many are barely OK and lazy to boot in my opinion. But here are some things you need to know:

  • How do you do a fair estimate?
  • How do you figure out how much of which material to use? [Most house plans leave all that up to you, and if they’re three or more years old, they’ll need revision for the current code cycle]
  • How do you figure a fair return? Not that you’re going to get it on residential work.
  • How does accounting work?
  • What do you have to do to comply with OSHA?
  • What is and when do you have to apply NFPA 70E or NFPA 101
  • What is the UL White book, and why does it matter.

My point is, there’s a lot to being a contractor that a journeyman rarely sees.

Oh, did I mention that your present contractor has to sign off on you taking the test? That’s where the guild thing comes in. It’s nothing less in my mind than using the government in restraint of fair trade.


Here inspection is done by the State, and they’re pretty good, knowledgeable, fair, and consistent. Just about all you can ask, really. Or is it? See the thing is, their job is to enforce the code, period. And as we’ll talk about in the next section that introduces some problems.

What I would like to see is this, when you buy a home, if you want insurance (and most mortgages require it) why couldn’t the insurance companies require that electrical, plumbing and whatnot be brought up to code, using their own or contract inspectors, which would mean that every once in a while homes would get inspected and not the messes that some so-called handymen leave behind them.

Nothing new about this either. When I was young, nearly every factory in America was insured by Factory Mutual. Factory Mutual not only required compliance with a very strict code, that covered lots of things, they even had their own labs for rating products, and if your product didn’t have an F-M label it couldn’t be used. But if you complied, the insurance was pretty cheap. Why? Because the losses were low. You know, the free market at work.

Codes, Codes, and more Codes


For the most part, electrical work is covered by the National Electric Code (NEC, NFPA 70), it’s a good code. Like it plainly states it is not a design manual, although if I want the job, I’m usually not going to go very far beyond it. If wired in accordance with the code, your house will be safe, it may be adequate and convenient, or it may not.

But there are problems. If your house was wired in the 50s or before, it may still have a 60A main, you will find it inadequate. If I remember the code started requiring 100A in the early 60s as it still does. So if you have that 60A service, usually it will have two sets of cartridge fuses labeled main and range, which is what they are normally used for, in addition, it will have four of the old plug fuses, we call them Edison base, same as a light bulb.

Here’s the kicker, say you blow a fuse, and you call me, and by some miracle I can come right over, if that panel shows any sign of overloading, like too big a fuse for the wire size, or pennies behind the fuse, or even if it’s hot (and I’ve burned myself on a few). I can do one of several things, I can replace all the fuses with the proper size Type S fuse and its adapter so that you can’t overfuse, although you’ll be very limited on load, I can replace the panel, or I can refuse to work on it. That’s it.

The best option for Joe Homeowner is to replace it. That’s problematical too though. In the current code, I have to protect just about every circuit in the house with either a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) or a combination type Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) instead of using a regular circuit breaker (I can’t even buy a fusible panel anymore).

GFCIs work fine here, no problem, it’s one of the very few ways I can replace a two wire outlet as well. AFCIs can be an entirely different kettle of fish. Invariably if I try to put one on the old cable with the woven covering, it won’t work, it could be something as minor as a staple driven too tight or something. If I’m in that spot, from the get-go, I’m going to tell you, you have to rewire your house. You really do need to anyway, but here we are talking about it on a cold winter’s night while we watch your pipes freeze.

OK, that’s settled, right? Oh, you want an estimate or a bid. OK, that better for both of us, anyway. It’s gonna cost you about $5000 dollars, more or less.


Because times have changed, in 1965 or so we went to grounded outlets, first with a small conductor and then with a full size one, it was a very good idea.

In about 1980 we started required bathrooms and kitchens to have GFCIs essentially wherever we are within six feet of water, and in the basement, garage, and outdoors. Again a good idea.

Now we require AFCIs on almost anything else in a dwelling unit. It’s not a bad idea, they detect an arc in the wiring and shut off the circuit.

Not least of the problems is that instead of about $5 for a circuit breaker, these (and GFCIs) are about $50. They also change some of our methods of wiring, and yes the new ways are more expensive in both time and material but, it can’t be helped.

Now the fun begins. Under the code, certain things are required.

  • An outside light, wall switch-controlled at each entrance
  • An outside outlet, as described above
  • Outlets, not more than 12 feet apart in all rooms of dwelling units, including any wall more than 18 inches long, except some halls and stairwells.
  • Wall switch controlled luminaires, or in some cases outlets, in all rooms, controlled at each entrance.
  • Bathroom circuit, 20A GFCI cannot serve anything else (sometimes it can serve another bathroom)
  • Kitchen, 20A GFCI, outlets every 24 inches over the countertop (not excluding that fancy island), two circuits required minimum.
  • There are limits as to how many outlets can be on a circuit 7 for a 15A circuit if I recall.
  • Any appliance that has a nameplate that calls for a separate circuit, has to have one. Invariably dishwashers, garbage disposers, freezers, furnaces, and icemakers do
  • A laundry outlet that serves nothing else.
  • Usually, I’ll spec a circuit for the refrigerator because they don’t always play nice on GFCIs or AFCIs and I hate call-backs.

So where are we, somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen or more circuits, electric dryer add 2, electric water heater add 2 more, air conditioning add 2 more. If I remember, and I’m writing this from memory, the biggest 100A box I can buy has about 15-20 spaces in it, and it’s very poor design not to leave room for expansion, so you’re looking at a 200A service. In truth, I haven’t recommended anything else in 20 years, and I’ll bet those that insisted on saving that 50 or so bucks regret it now.

Did I mention that I have to use tamper-resistant outlets too? It’s not a big thing, only about a dollar more per outlet.

So after you cry for a while (I don’t blame you for it either) you say OK and pay the deposit which will be in the neighborhood of $2500. Now we can pull the permit and get started.

Everything I’ve mentioned above is required by code. I and the inspector have no choice. What we used to be able to do is to stage it, we could figure out the whole job, change the panel now, and rewire later, and occasionally it still can happen. Oh, don’t forget to schedule the drywall guy and painters, cause we’re going to damage your walls.

But, here’s the problem, remember where we started this story, when I walked in, I burned my hand on your panel. Let’s say you just got a job that pays say $10 dollars an hour, and your house payment is $300 a month. How are you going to be able to pay me? The short answer is, you can’t. I know it, you know it, and the inspector knows it too. But we’re all stuck.

Thing is, a competent electrician can do other things to make it reasonably safe, without all that drama. But the way the code is written we can’t.

That’s one of the reasons I like the system I outlined above, when you’re buying the house, you’ve got options, maybe the seller will help, in the worst case maybe you can include it in your mortgage,  instead of trying to do it right now when you have a problem.

Basically, we’ve made code compliance so expensive that we are leaving very dangerous situations in homes because no can afford to fix them. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in their quest to make electricity safe for a two-year-old, have priced fixing actual real-world hazards out of reach of the average homeowner.

Now mind, electricity can be dangerous, and complying with the code is important. But the roadblocks we place in the way of somebody wanting to do the work are ridiculous.

When I lived in Indiana, which had no state license (still doesn’t, I think) the work I did still had to pass inspection, and that is proper.

The real problem is contained right here, to get the license you need your employer to sign off on it. If you’re a decent electrician, why exactly would he? It’s directly against his interest to do so unless he’s your daddy. Usually, he won’t, and so you’re stuck. The other thing is, the ECs control the commission, which can take your license back for any or no reason.

A system designed to use the government to hurt the consumer, and that’s pretty close to a working definition of a guild. Something they told me in school is one of the things that stifled progress in the middle ages. I’m sure it did because it does now.


Thursday Report and Civil War 2.0

I need to thank The Other McCain for picking up on yesterday’s post and expanding on some aspects of it. I agree with him.

Steven Hayward reminds us that

Because as near as I can tell, what Cambridge Analytica did was exactly what the Obama 2012 digital campaign did with Facebook, with the active cooperation of Facebook it would seem. No one made any fuss about that at the time. But as I never tire of pointing out, if liberals didn’t have double-standards, they wouldn’t have any standards at all.

In other words, this is a very stupid ‘scandal’, for lack of a better term.

Maybe, just maybe, the Congressional Republicans are not quite as stupid as they sound. If David Catron in The American Spectator is correct, this is rather clever. I have no reason to doubt him, I just don’t know.

The Democrats have ceaselessly clamored for the inclusion of cost-sharing reduction and risk mitigation programs. But they cried “foul” upon discovering that the leading Republican sponsor of the “stabilization bill,” Senator Lamar Alexander, had stipulated that the Hyde Amendment would apply to the bailout funding: The Los Angeles Times reports:

Democrats said they were shocked Monday to find out that Alexander had approved restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions that would, they said, make it impossible for women to purchase abortion coverage under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.… Those restrictions were not in an Alexander-Murray measure released in 2017, they said.

The Democrats know the abortion lobby will crucify them if they accept such language. More to the point, so does the GOP. The stipulation was obviously inserted to force the Democrats to choose between propping up Obamacare and angering the abortion industry. Senator Alexander feigned surprise to find that the Democrats were so worked up:


I think we need some Kurt Schlichter, just for reality’s sake. Civil War in America, yep, not likely but it could happen. But what would happen? Carry on, Colonel.

It’s obvious that the central tenet of the Democrat Party platform is now hatred and contempt for Normal Americans. Taking their cue from the elites in Europe and Canada who are stripping dissenters of their free speech rights and religious freedoms, the leftist elite is moving to solidify its hold on power here with the eager assistance of tech companies and the moral support of the Fredocons who yearn to return to pseudo-relevance as the ruling class’s slobberingly loyal opposition. In California, the leftist government is practically firing on Fort Sumter. And nationally, these aspiring fascists are especially eager to disarm Normal Americans – doing so would be an object lesson in who’s the boss, as well as solving that frustrating problem of the Normals having the ability to resist. […]

There are two Civil War II scenarios, and the left is poorly positioned to prevail in either one. The first scenario is that the Democrats take power and violate the Constitution in order to use the apparatus of the federal government to suppress and oppress Normal Americans. In that scenario, red Americans are the insurgents. In the second scenario, which we can even now see the stirrings of in California’s campaign to nullify federal immigration law, it is the blue states that are the insurgents. […]

Let’s talk terrain and numbers. Remember the famous red v. blue voting map? There is a lot of red, and in the interior the few blue splotches are all cities like Las Vegas or Denver. That is a lot of territory for a counter-insurgent force to control, and this is critical. The red is where the food is grown, the oil pumped, and through which everything is transported. And that red space is filled with millions of American citizens with small arms, a fairly large percentage of whom have military training.

Remember what two untrained idiots did in Boston with a couple of pistols? They shut a city down. Now multiply that by several million, with better weapons and training.

Let’s look at the counter-insurgent forces in the Democrat oppression scenario should they attempt to misuse our law enforcement and military in an unconstitutional manner to take the rights of American citizens. There are a lot of civilian law enforcement officers, but the vast majority of the agencies are local – sheriffs, small town police departments. They will not be reliable allies in supporting unlawful oppression of their friends and neighbors. The major cities’ police departments are run by Democrat appointees, so the commands would be loyal. But the rank-and-file? A small percentage would be ideologically loyal. More would be loyal because that’s their paycheck – they could be swayed or intimidated to support the rebels. Others would be actively sympathetic to the insurgents. This is true of federal law enforcement agencies as well.

And the military? Well, wouldn’t the military just crush any resistance? Not so fast. The military would have the combat power to win any major engagement, but insurgents don’t get into major engagements with forces that have more combat power. They instead leverage their decentralized ability to strike at the counter-insurgents’ weak points to eliminate the government’s firepower advantage. In other words, hit and run, and no stand-up fights.

For example, how do a bunch of hunters in Wisconsin defeat a company of M1A2 Abrams tanks? They ambush the fuel and ammo trucks. Oh, and they wait until the gunner pops the hatch to take a leak and put a .30-06 round in his back from 300 meters. Then they disappear. What do the tanks do then? Go level the nearest town? Great. Now they just moved the needle in favor of the insurgents among the population. Pretty soon, they can’t be outside of their armored vehicles in public. Their forces are spending 90% of their efforts not on actual counter-insurgency operations but on force protection. Sure, they own their forward operating bases, and they own a few hundred meters around them wherever they happen to be standing at the moment, but the rest of the territory is bright red. As my recent novel illustrates, American guerillas with small arms are a deadly threat to the forces of a dictatorship.

But the military is so big it would overwhelm any rebels, right? Well, how big do you think the military is?

Keep reading, this is reality.

Something Kurt doesn’t talk about here but is also true. America, or rather American patriots, invented modern insurgency warfare, it was called partisan warfare back then. It’s the old ‘hide behind a tree and take out an officer’ thing that we did, that unnerved the King’s forces back in the Revolution. Ugly as it is, it works, as Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox showed. Eventually, it got so bad that Lord Cornwallis’s forces were pinned into the Yorktown peninsula, waiting for the Britsh fleet, which never came, but the Continental army, naked and barefoot, did, and their muskets worked just fine, as did the captured British artillery.

Kurt’s other scenario is just as valid, and just as true, and just as catastrophic for the left.

And this is why free men, do not give up their arms. It’s also why we are prudent and careful about provoking such ugly scenarios. But I suppose if you think history began with Barack Obama, you wouldn’t know that.

And just a note, we all enjoy thinking about these unlikely scenarios, it’s a common diversion. But real wars are won by logistics, how hard is it to derail a train? wreck a semi? blow up a substation? How you gonna feed the cities without fuel, without electricity, and without food and water? The left is living in a fantasy world, if it goes beyond words, and they’re trying to make it. They lose, fast, hard, and ugly. So does everybody else in the world, of course. And the biggest loser is the US Army, which goes back to being detested just as the King’s soldiers were in the 1770s. No winners at all, except the most important one, freedom.

Secularism and Religion

Many here are aware that the basis of western civilization is in our Judeo-Christian heritage. Often we merely assert this, since we have known it all our lives, but it can be examined fruitfully.

I admire Melanie Phillips greatly because not only is she a very good writer and speaker, she is fully capable of thinking through things. And she does so here. Yes, this is a long read, but I think you’ll find it valuable to read the whole thing.

It has become the orthodoxy in the West that freedom, human rights and reason all derive from secularism and that the greatest threat to all these good things is religion.

I want to suggest that the opposite is true. In the service of this orthodoxy, the West is undermining and destroying the very values which it holds most dear as the defining characteristics of a civilised society.

In truth, in the United States, we don’t hear it explicitly very often, but in Britain, it is quite common in my experience. Not to mention very strident, not only from the secularists, but from Randians, and other assorted libertine groups.

Some of this hostility is being driven by the perceived threat from Islamic terrorism and the Islamisation of Western culture. However, this animus against religion has far deeper roots and can be traced back to what is considered the birthplace of Western reason, the 18th-century Enlightenment.

Actually, it goes back specifically to the French Enlightenment. In England and Scotland, the Enlightenment developed reason and political liberty within the framework of Biblical belief. In France, by contrast, anti-clericalism morphed into fundamental hostility to Christianity and to religion itself.

“Ecrasez l’infame,” said Voltaire (crush infamy) — the infamy to which he referred being not just the Church but Christianity, which he wanted to replace with the religion of reason, virtue and liberty, “drawn from the bosom of nature”.

[…] Instead of God producing heaven on earth, it would be mankind which would bring that about. Reason would create the perfect society and “progress” was the process by which utopia would be attained.

Far from utopia, however, this thinking resulted in something more akin to hell on earth. For the worship of man through reason led straight to totalitarianism. It was reason that would redeem religious superstition and bring about the kingdom of Man on earth. And just like medieval apocalyptic Christian belief, this secular doctrine would also be unchallengeable and heretics would be punished. This kind of fanaticism infused the three great tyrannical movements that were spun out of Enlightenment thinking: the French Revolution, Communism and Fascism. […]

In the Sixties, the baby-boomer generation bought heavily into the idea propounded by Herbert Marcuse and other Marxist radicals that the way to transform the West lay not through the seizure of political or economic control but through the transformation of the culture. This has been achieved over the past half century through what has been called a “long march through the institutions”, the infiltration into all the institutions of the culture — the universities, media, professions, politics, civil service, churches — of ideas that would then become the orthodoxy.

From multiculturalism to environmentalism, from post-nationalism to “human rights” doctrine, Western progressives have fixated upon universalising ideas which reject values anchored in the particulars of religion or culture. All that matters is a theoretical future in which war, want and prejudice will be abolished: the return of fallen humanity to a lost Eden. And like all utopian projects, which are by definition impossible and unattainable, these dogmas are enforced through coercion: bullying, intimidation, character assassination, professional and social exclusion.

The core doctrine is equality. Not the Biblical doctrine that every human being is owed equal respect because they are formed in the image of God: equality has been redefined as identicality, the insistence that there can be no hierarchy of values of lifestyles or cultures. There can no longer be different outcomes depending on different circumstances or how people behave. To differentiate at all is to be bigoted and on a fast track back to fascism and war.

So the married family was kicked off its perch. Sexual restraint was abolished. The formerly transgressive became normative. Education could no longer transmit a culture down through the generations but had to teach that the Western nation was innately racist and exploitative.

Subjective trumped objective. There was no longer any absolute truth. Everyone could arbitrate their own truth. That way bigotry and prejudice would be excised from the human heart, the oppressed of the developing world would be freed from their Western oppressors and instead of the Western nation there would be the brotherhood of man.

All this was done in name of freedom, reason and enlightenment and in opposition to religion, the supposed source of oppression, irrationality and obscurantism.

At the heart of it was an onslaught against the moral codes of Christianity. Those moral codes are actually the Mosaic laws of the Hebrew Bible.

[…] What they [Western “progressives” and the Islamists] also have in common is hostility to Judaism, Israel or the Jewish people. The genocidal hatred of Israel and the Jews that drives the Islamic jihad against the West is not acknowledged or countered by the West because its most high-minded citizens share at least some of that prejudice. Both Western liberals and Islamists believe in utopias to which the Jews are an obstacle. The State of Israel is an obstacle to both the rule of Islam over the earth and a world where there are no divisions based on religion or creed. The Jews are an obstacle to the unconstrained individualism of Western libertines and to the onslaught against individual human dignity and freedom by the Islamists. Both the liberal utopias of a world without prejudice, divisions or war and the Islamist utopia of a world without unbelievers are universalist ideologies. The people who are always in the way of universalising utopias are the Jews.

Do read it all, and there is a deal more than I have given you. The full title is: Secularism and religion: the onslaught against the West’s moral codes. It is simply a superb examination of where our basic morality came from, and how it has allowed us to exceed former civilizations by orders of magnitude, and how it has come to be endangered.

Crossposted from All along the Watchtower.

Still, Again

One of the victims of the Rotherham grooming ring (Getty)

I imagine you remember the mess that spilled out from under the carpet in Rotheringham a while back. Hundreds of underage girls (what the media won’t tell you is, they are white working class girls, mostly) beaten, drugged, sexually abused, and such. “Grooming” they call it. Grooming for what, well I guess you can figure that one out. Very few if any people have yet to go to jail for it. Why? Because the perpetrators are, almost without exception, what the British euphemistically call, Asian. What they really are is Moslem, usually Pakistani, and their religion puts them above UK law, because of the higher law of PC. Sad, ain’t it?

There have been several cases since Rotherham spewed forth, and now there is still another, in Telford. Best I’ve read on it so far is from the Catholic Herald.

A casual attitude towards underage sex is putting children in terrible danger

What do Torbay, Liverpool, Rochdale, Thurrock, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Bristol and Somerset have in common? All have been the subject of serious case reviews published within the past five years in connection with child sexual exploitation. That’s without mentioning Professor Alexis Jay’s independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

In all nine regions, a clear picture emerges of a culture in which underage sexual activity is viewed as relatively harmless so long as it is perceived to be consensual.

To that growing hall of shame, we must now add Telford. According to an 18-month Sunday Mirror investigation, an estimated 1,000 girls suffered sexual exploitation and abuse in the Shropshire district over a period of 40 years.

As yet, there has been no formal investigation into child sexual exploitation in Telford and no full published report, but from the limited information already available we see the reappearance of several features found in reports from other regions.

First of all, we find the same complacent attitudes towards underage sex. The Sunday Mirror reveals that “Council files show social services, teachers and mental health workers were fully aware of what was happening but did little. They also failed to tell police.”

Why? Because, like their counterparts in Rochdale, Rotherham and Bristol, education and welfare professionals in Telford assumed that the girls were making what are sometimes called “lifestyle choices”. “Instead of seeing them as exploited victims, some council staff viewed them as prostitutes,” we are told.

And so “case histories reveal many were ignored after reporting rapes to the police”. On the basis of prior assumptions that had been made about the girls, their reports were not taken seriously. The Rotherham Inquiry similarly found that “children as young as 11 were deemed to be having consensual sexual intercourse when in fact they were being raped and abused by adults”.

A second common feature is the ready and confidential provision of contraception and the morning-after pill to underage girls. One 14 year-old Telford victim said, “I must have been getting the morning-after pill from a local clinic at least twice a week but no one asked any questions.”

In spite of her frequent use of the morning-after pill, the girl fell pregnant twice and had two abortions. But presumably, still no questions were asked.

By virtue of the fact that they were seeking contraception and “sexual health services”, the girls were deemed to be making mature and responsible choices, and assumed to be freely exercising their sexual rights, even though many of them were under the age of 16 and in some cases were as young as 11.

Keep reading Norman Wells excellent article.

Whether this again involves Asians, I simply don’t know, but frankly, it matters little. That the British have become so callous towards these young girls, is the real scandal, I can imagine only a few places in America where such things could happen – on an industrial scale. A thousand girls! My God, if it were to happen most places in America – the accused would be very lucky indeed to make it to jail.

I have few answers, but I will note that this is what happens when you delegate authority that belongs to the family to an overweening welfare state. No doubt, still another chapter of this tragedy will be along shortly.

[And an update: My friends at The Conservative Woman are also writing about this, and know far more about the political situation than I do. Read the linked article, as well.]

Thinking about Parkland

Robert Tracinski brought us a thoughtful post over the weekend at The Federalist.

Early this week, I wrote an article taking the Parkland kids to task for spreading a lot of bunkum, not just about guns, but about the general state of the world — which I backed up with some facts and figures, and even some charts and graphs.

In response, I got a lot of the usual hate mail, but what struck me was how the general response was summed up in this exchange.

Logic and facts: what have they ever done for us?

The hyping of the Parkland kids is one giant appeal to emotion. The approach is to go to a school where a shooting happened and carefully select a small number of kids who are reasonably articulate and willing to go along with the full gun-control agenda. Ignore the ones who don’t. Then give these kids the backing of well-funded and well-connected advocacy groups. Fly them around the country and book them on cable TV shows. Then insist that these 17-year-olds are invested with absolute moral authority, and if anyone challenges this, scream at them for being insensitive to the victims of a horrific crime and basically hating children and wanting to see them die.

This only works on two conditions. First, it works because the media cooperates. If the NRA flew pro-Second Amendment kids around and tried to book them on news shows, the media would suddenly develop professional ethics and either turn them down or grill them about being shills for the gun lobby. But the other Parkland kids are treated as concerned citizens, and no one in the media thinks they are under any obligation to note that the kids are basically being bankrolled by Michael Bloomberg.

But the second condition is more important: This works because people want it to work. It aligns with their preconceptions and resonates with their emotions. So they assume that emotional power will sweep away all opposition.

If you are on the left, you are probably now feeling outrage that I am dismissing your advocacy of gun control as mere emotionalism. If you are on the right, you are probably feeling smugly superior to those lefties who are always so invested in their “feels.”

For the benefit of both sides, let me flip the script. Let’s say that instead of invoking the Parkland kids, I were to invoke the parents of Kate Steinle.

Remember her? She was the young woman who was killed in San Francisco by a bullet fired from a gun held by an illegal immigrant. (Prosecutors were unable to prove the shooting was not an accident, which is why he got off on only a weapons charge.) Steinle’s death couldn’t be used to make the case for gun control, because she was shot with a handgun stolen from the car of a law enforcement officer, someone whose weapon would not be banned. But the shooter was an illegal immigrant from Mexico who had been previously deported multiple times, who was released onto the streets of a “sanctuary city.” So this shooting could be used to make the case against sanctuary cities and against Mexican immigrants in general. Which is precisely what Donald Trump did.

Yet the form of the argument is exactly the same in the one case as in the other. It was an emotional appeal to the idea that if only one senseless death could be prevented by taking drastic action, then we’re required to do it — and you’re a monster who doesn’t care about human life if you raise any objections.

Keep reading.

He’s correct, of course, the right did do the same thing in the Kate Steinle case. It was an appeal to emotion, not facts. The right is better than his, at least we better be. Objective fact is not the realm of the Randists, although they do a better job of it than most, they go too far. Emotion matters, but it is not the overwhelming paragon that it often appears that the left thinks it is.

That’s one of the reasons for the old maxim, “Hard cases make bad law”.

Facts Matter.

In truth, when our founders designed out government, one of the reasons they designed the Senate as they did, at a remove for the electorate (elected by the legislature) and for a six year term, was simply to slow things down, to let emotions cool. That was an inherent feature of the design, which the irrational left couldn’t abide, and so the Wilson Government spearheaded it’s repeal. They were wrong, it helps us to maintain an objective, fact based law, not one based on capricious fallible emotion.

Part of their genius, overthrown by much smaller men.

Zimbabwe as an Instruction Manual

My friend Brandon Christensen over at Notes on Liberty has taken to giving us presents most nights with his Nightcap series of a few good links, and they are. This is one of them.

Johnathan Pearce writing in Samizdata brings us a very good (I think) report on what is going on in South Africa. I say I think because it’s not something I know much about and need to catch up on. Here’s some of it.

South Africa decides Zimbabwe is an instruction manual, not a warning

Grim news from South Africa. Just in case anyone thought that the departure of President Zuma, a corrupt man who has stripped his country (South Africa faces severe water shortages brought on by neglect of infrastructure) might lead to better things will be disappointed. The new regime has signed off on a land-grab policy of confiscating white-owned land without compensation. (About 70 per cent of South African farmland is owned by whites.) The claim made is that any white person who owns land in the country must, by definition, have stolen it. (The idea that such ownership might have come into being without theft just does not cross certain persons’ minds. That fact is simply undiscussible.)

As we have found in the seizure/collectivisation of farms in the former Soviet Union, in China, and in Zimbabwe more recently, such moves herald mass poverty and violence. South Africa has ironically seen an influx of poor Zimbabweans since the vile Mugabe regime started to attack white farmers and seize land; the country has suffered a catastrophic decline in its farmland output, which may never recover. South Africa seems keen to follow suit; it has a range of largely self-inflicted woes: the current government is deeply corrupt. The country needs inward investment – seizing white-owned property hardly encourages any investor, of any racial background. As a matter of simple common sense, taking land by brute force, without compensation, from owners and giving it to those who are political cronies and hangers-on will inevitably reduce output and wealth, not the other way round.

There’s more, and it’s good, but what really stands out here is just how little I know about it. The other thing that is very valuable here is the comment stream. That is what really makes alternative media so much better than the dead tree press, even when it occasionally screws up and tells the truth. As of this writing, there are 88 comments on it, and all are germane either to the situation in South Africa or the wider application of what we are seeing there.

It is rare for me to run across a site where not only do I not know much about what the article is talking about but know so little that I do not think I have anything to add. This is one of those times. Do I need to say that the site is already in my reader

Enjoy, and learn.

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