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Permanent Emergency

Another gem from Kevin Williamson, A National State of Non-Emergency in National Review:

The recently proffered Republican health-care bill instantiates much of what is wrong with our politics: The bill was constructed through an extraordinary process in which there were no hearings, no review from the Congressional Budget Office, and no final text of the legislation until shortly before the vote. The process is erratic and covert rather than regular and transparent. It was put together in a purposeful way to avoid substantive debate and meaningful public discourse, making the most of the majority’s procedural advantages for purely political ends. The Republicans are perfectly within their legal authority to proceed that way. But that’s no way to govern. We all know this. As Rod Dreher recently put it, Republicans will have to choose whether they love the rule of law more than they hate the Left. Democrats faced the same choice, once, and they chose poorly, having set upon a course of political totalism that has seen the weaponization of everything from the IRS to the state attorneys general. Republican populists who argue that the GOP must play by the same rules in the name of “winning” have very little understanding of what already has been lost and of what we as a nation stand to lose. The United States will not thrive, economically or otherwise, in a state of permanent emergency.

What’s truly remarkable about our current constant national state of emergency is that no one can say exactly what the emergency is. But we all seem to be very sure that something has to be done about it right now, that we must rouse ourselves to excitement about it, and that the ordinary rules of lawmaking and governance no longer apply. There is not much political mileage to be had from arguing for regular order, transparency, and procedural predictability — but that’s part of what makes those things so valuable. Order in the little things is a necessary precondition of order in the big things. Orderly government cannot be built on a foundation of procedural chaos.

HKO

We have had a long history of strong disagreement in Congress, sometimes even coming to violence. Demonizing opposing views is nothing new, either.  But  the abandonment of procedural rules, the avoidance of debate, and the weaponization of political power has brought us to a state of dysfunction that is unique.  Bad bills are rushed together behind closed doors, and correcting them has become impossible.

The voters who solve problems everyday without this nonsense are outraged at this dysfunction.

 

Piketty’s Myth of Self Managing Wealth

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in The Twenty First Century, has spawned a cottage industry of dissent.  Piketty uses masses of data to illuminate a growth in inequality, that he surmises is an inevitable result of capitalism and can only be resolved by painfully high taxes on the rich. For the left it is a pivotal work that brings data and credentialism to their ideology that capitalism is so flawed that it requires constant and strong control from the state.

Anti-Piketty is a collection of noted economists and political thinkers that find significant flaws with Piketty’s work.  These critiques include serious flaws with the data itself and how it is used, the difficulty of measuring the forms of income and inequality itself, conclusions that are not supported by the data, and a philosophically flawed concept of wealth, growth and capitalism.

From Anti- Piketty Chapter    17. Get Real: A Review of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century by Donald Boudreaux

Here’s an even deeper mystery that escapes Piketty’s notice: if current patterns of executive compensation serve no purpose except to further enrich unproductive corporate oligarchs, what explains the rising market value of the capital that Piketty believes to be the central driver of increasing wealth inequality? Piketty doesn’t ask this question because, for him, wealth perpetuates itself. It grows automatically. So any amount of wealth that is “claimed” by Dick could otherwise have been “distributed” to Jane without reducing the total amount of wealth available to all.

Of course, wealth doesn’t grow automatically. It must be created. And to grow— indeed, even to be sustained— wealth must be skillfully managed. If Piketty’s theory of executive compensation were correct, corporate boards’ inattention to the productivity of their management teams would cause the market value of corporations to plummet. Piketty’s ‘r’ would fall to zero. So, too, would ‘g’. Fortunately, neither the rich nor the rest of us are suffering any such lamentable impoverishment.

Had Piketty examined more carefully the empirical literature on executive compensation he would have discovered that compensation is indeed tied closely to managerial productivity. As University of Chicago professor Steven Kaplan reported not long ago in Foreign Affairs, having analyzed 1,700 firms, he “found that compensation was highly related to performance: the companies that paid their CEOs the most saw their stocks do the best, and those that paid the least saw their stocks do the worst” (Kaplan 2013).

Yet, an observer perched too high above reality can easily miss what really matters. And that’s the ultimate problem with Piketty’s narrative. Like Marx, Piketty writes passionately about big, all-encompassing social forces that allegedly spell doom for humanity unless wise and good government intervenes. 1 But also like Marx, Piketty’s disregard for basic economic reasoning blinds him to the all-important market forces at work on the ground— market forces that, if left unencumbered by government, produce growing prosperity for all.

HKO

If wealth earns a return automatically then the people who manage it deserve no credit for their success. It is the ultimate ‘you did not build that’ finger to the entrepreneur.  Another critic in this illuminating volume notes that he assumes wealth automatically delivers a specific return, when in fact he gets it backward; the return determines the value of the capital. Thus the federal control of interest rates has more impact on the distribution of wealth than Piketty attributes.

A Less Rational Place

from David French at National Review, Post-Christian America: Gullible, Intolerant, and Superstitious

Although I’ve heard some variation on this argument countless times, as I grew older I noticed something odd. Many of the best-educated and least-religious people I knew weren’t all that reasonable. They held to downright irrational views about reality. I remember an elite-educated secular friend in Philadelphia who scoffed at my wife’s Christian faith; this friend was also convinced that her child had an “indigo aura” that imbued him with special gifts. I recall conversations with Harvard Law School classmates who laughed at the New Testament but thought reincarnation was “cool.” And how can I forget the strange sight of Harvard students walking in and out of the neighborhood witchcraft store?

Lest you think these are isolated and meaningless anecdotes, I’d urge you to read a fascinating article in this Sunday’s New York Times. It turns out that America’s less religious citizens are far more likely to believe in things such as ghosts and UFOs than people who attend church.

Here’s the core problem. In the United States we’re replacing an organized, systematic theology with basically nothing. Sure, there’s the moralistic therapeutic deism of the modern “spiritual” American, but its “God wants me to be happy” ethos isn’t quite up to the challenge of dealing with real life. So, we search and search, and in the immortal worlds of the philosopher Aaron Tippin, we learn the hard way that “you gotta stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything” — and “anything” can include indigo auras or the “vibration of a thought.”

The damage extends far beyond politics, of course. If there’s one abiding consequence of the shallow theologies and simple superstitions of our time, it’s the inability to endure or make sense of adversity. It’s a phenomenon that fractures families, fosters a sense of rage and injustice, and ultimately results in millions of Americans treating problems of the soul with mountains of pharmaceuticals.

The choice isn’t between reason and religion. It’s all too often between religion and superstition. Post-Christian America will be a less rational place.

Making Criminals of Us All

from Glenn Harland Reynolds Instapundit,  one of my favorite daily reads:

As Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged:

“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against — then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of law-breakers — and then you cash in on guilt. Now, that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

Why We Are Privileged

from Sarah Hoyt, Poor Darlings:

Most of all you’re privileged because you can work and create and all the spoiled brats can do is take over an institution or an industry, gut it, then wear the skin demanding respect.

In the end, we win, they lose.  And that’s why we’re privileged.  The poor spoiled darlings never had the privilege of being told no and don’t know how to take being laughed at or even being argued with.  They need safe rooms, and for everyone to avoid the trigger words, and stop making them cry.  Because they’re not prepared to cry.  They were never told no.  And if they hold their breath and stomp their feet and come up with JUST THE RIGHT WORDS, we’ll give them what they want, won’t we?  It’s always happened before.

HKO

Great post. Read it in full.