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Authoritarianism as Science


a gem from George Will in National Review, The ‘Settled’ Consensus du Jour


Four core tenets of progressivism are: First, history has a destination. Second, progressives uniquely discern it. (Barack Obama frequently declares things to be on or opposed to “the right side of history.”) Third, politics should be democratic but peripheral to governance, which is the responsibility of experts scientifically administering the regulatory state. Fourth, enlightened progressives should enforce limits on speech (witness IRS suppression of conservative advocacy groups) in order to prevent thinking unhelpful to history’s progressive unfolding.

Authoritarianism, always latent in progressivism, is becoming explicit. Progressivism’s determination to regulate thought by regulating speech is apparent in the campaign by 16 states’ attorneys general and those of the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, none Republican, to criminalize skepticism about the supposedly “settled” conclusions of climate science.

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Democracy Overrated

Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what is for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed sheep with the same vote.

“Voting is the illusion of influence in exchange for the loss of freedom.” Frank Karsten and Karel Beckman

“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false from for the urge to rule.”  H.L. Mencken

“The more one considers the matter, the clearer it becomes that redistribution is in effect far less a redistribution of free income from the richer to the poorer, than it is a redistribution of power from the individual to the state.” Bertrand de Jouvenal

“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” Winston Churchill

Democracy is supposed to be responsive to what the people want. I am often quite surprised to wake up and read the paper and discover what I wanted.  I had no idea.

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A Universal Theory to Explain Nothing

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems by George Monbioy at the Guardian

It is rare that I post such articles. I disagree with just about every word and thought, but this was shared on FB by one of my most extremely liberal friends and I found it fascinating just to recognize the thinking of so much of what passes for the left these days.

The author seeks a ‘universal theory to explain everything’. Such attempts use some indisputable truths, filtered by very selective and biased analysis to reach conclusions that defy many fundamental observations.

Life and politics are just far too complicated for such theories to have any value beyond giving a name to a collection of individual intellectual prejudices. Every philosophy is flawed and imperfect.  Ideas,  like economics,  involve trade-offs.

Improvements in our constitutional government and capitalist economy come from recognition and control of human flaws in all spheres.  Such criticism of market economies and demands for government controls seem to omit any thought of these human flaws with political power,

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Beware of Pragmatism

hko in Israel

An astute value investor maintains a disciplined approach to his craft.  He knows to value the company based on careful analysis and avoids the seduction of rationalizing the acquisition of attractive companies that fail to fit the criteria.

There will be periods of time when this investment discipline underperforms, sometime for such long periods that the discipline is subject to question. Experienced investors know that in the short term the market is a voting machine, but in the long term it is a weighing machine. Values are eventually recognized, but it takes patience and discipline and faith in your investment premise and criteria.

During the hot market of the 1990’s value investing underperformed a market high on exciting new technology. There was talk of new paradigms; that old investment criteria no longer applied.  Some funds saw money exit for the better performers, chasing higher returns. Some of these funds changed their investment strategies and principles, many of them right before the market collapsed.

One could suggest that such a change was a “pragmatic” response to a changing market, and I use this analogy to lay bare the fallacy of political pragmatism.

Theories of economics and politics are imperfect and must be applied in an imperfect world. Voters criticize those committed to these principles ideologues when it they seem tone deaf to the problems of real people.  It may be necessary to vary from a principle or sound theory in unstable times, but it is quite another thing to abandon sound principles to solve short term problems and never return to the principles.

When we lose sight of our sound principles, pragmatism can become a dangerous state of mind.  The last century of Progressivism is wrapped around a principle of pragmatism, considered the opposite of ideology and principles. Detached from principles, pragmatism becomes another form of power, and assumes (wrongly)  that that there is a consensus of what needs to be done.  Pragmatism does not dispense with the conflict of political factions. In a democracy with a large number of political clients it only aggravates conflict.

The problem on the seeming simple idea of pursuing what works, is that what work for some may not work for others; what works in one time period may not work in another with a completely different set of environmental factors.  Pragmatic policies may sow the seeds of their own destruction.  What is often claimed to work often doesn’t.

When Pragmatism (with a capital ‘P’) becomes an ideology itself, it has no bearings to guide it.  The word had a positive connotation in most personal and business settings, but it takes on a sinister character in the political realm: it becomes a rejection of sound principles and a justification of the ends justifying the means. It becomes a source of tyranny in government.

Those who demean ideologues have distaste for the other guy’s ideology and contend they are so influenced. But John Maynard Keynes noted:

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.”

Be cautious of the call for Pragmatism ( capital ‘P’) on the campaign trail.


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Klavin Explains the Primaries

quite amusing