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Natural, Rare and Necessary

Winston-Churchill

From National Review, Lion to the Last by Larry Arnn:

Excerpts:

Churchill agreed with the socialists, partially, on one issue: He helped invent the social safety net. But he looked for ways to implement it without threatening the free-market system, the liberal nature of the society, the advantage of labor over idleness, and the security of property. Churchill’s social safety net relied chiefly on contributions from the beneficiaries and their employers, who paid money into accounts that they could track. Benefits were limited so as not to undercut work or break the treasury. Understanding that human life would always be imperfect as long as it remained human, he did not preach or attempt utopia. The trials of living, raising a family, and following one’s conscience were essential attributes of a fully human life. Churchill believed that if these activities were socialized, life would fall under dehumanizing tyranny, like Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

He balanced these decisions — often between being popular or speaking truth, for allying with socialists during the war and fighting against them in his campaign, for changing political parties twice in his career — all with the artfulness of action called statesmanship. It required gifts “much rarer than the largest and purest of diamonds,” he said. He believed statesmanship is natural, rare, and necessary; it involves the elevation of capacities inherent in human beings and required for high citizenship. All of us must choose. All of us have ultimate purpose and principles that drive what we do, and all of us face necessities that cut in different directions from each other and from our principles.

The classics teach us that this art of choosing involves an intellectual virtue, prudence, and is best learned by studying those who have the reputation for excellence at it. Those people tend to be statesmen, because the questions of politics involve so many people, so many ultimate questions, and so much risk and opportunity. This is why we study Churchill closely.

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The Iraq Amnesia Syndrome

From National Review,  The Biggest Lie, by Victor Davis Hanson

There were all sorts of untold amnesias about Iraq. No one remembers the 23 writs that were part of the 2002 authorizations that apparently Obama believes are still in effect. They included genocide, bounties for suicide bombers, an attempt to kill a former U.S. president, the harboring of terrorists (among them one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers), and a whole litany of charges that transcended WMD and were utterly unaffected by the latter controversy. How surreal is it that Obama is preemptively bombing Iraq on twelve-year-old congressional authorizations that he opposed as trumped up and now may be relevant in relationship to dealing with Syrian and Iraqi stockpiles of WMD?

We forget too how Harry Reid declared the surge a failure and the war lost even as it was being won. Or how Barack Obama predicted that the surge would make things worse, before scrubbing such editorializing from his website when the surge worked. Do we remember those days of General Betray Us (the ad hominem ad that the New York Times, which supposedly will not allow purchased ad hominem ads, granted at a huge discount), and the charges from Hillary Clinton that Petraeus was lying (“suspension of disbelief”)? As Obama megaphones call for national unity in damning Leon Panetta’s critiques during the present bombing, do we remember the glee with which the Left greeted the tell-all revelations of Paul O’Neill, George Tenet, and Scott McClellan during the tenure of George W. Bush, or how they disparaged the surge when Americans were dying to implement it?

 

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The Biggest Thinking Machine

Switzerland World Economic Forum

From The National Review, Davos’s Destructive Elites-“None of us is as dumb as all of usby Kevin D. Williamson

Conservatives are generally inclined to make a moral case for limited government: that transfers are corrupting, that taxes should be collected only to the extent that they are essential, that regulation is a necessary evil and that as such it should be kept to a minimum. That is generally true and persuasive, but the more important argument is the problem of ignorance. Even if Congress were populated exclusively by saintly super-geniuses, there is only so much that 535 human beings can know and understand. The more that decision-making is centralized in political agencies, or even in elites outside of formal government, the more intensively those decisions will be distorted by ignorance. This is true of market-oriented institutions, too, in the sense that big businesses make big mistakes. One of the lessons of the 2007 financial crisis is that the guys who run the banks do not actually know that much about how banks work, even if they know 100 times what the banking regulators know. Free markets offer a critical, if imperfect and partial, corrective to that in the form of financial losses and business failures, which is why things like cars and computers consistently improve while schools and welfare programs don’t. Big markets with lots of competing buyers and sellers are the biggest thinking machines we have, offering the broadest epistemic horizon that our species has figured out how to achieve.

There is a deep philosophical challenge for progressives in that: Progressives say that they want inclusive social decision-making, but the most radically inclusive process we have for social decision-making is the thing that they generally distrust and often hate: capitalism — or, as our left-leaning friends so often put it, “unfettered” capitalism. And who should decide what sort of fetters are applied to whom? The view from Davos is, unsurprisingly: the people at Davos.

The hypocrisy and material self-indulgence on display at Davos may rankle, but the deeper problem is the unspoken assumption that the sort of people who gather in Davos are the sort of people who have the answers to social problems. Historically speaking, there is little evidence to support that proposition. And that is why conventions like that in Davos end up being so frequently counterproductive. When elites get together to talk about the big issues, the discussion consists mostly of very similar people asking themselves what people like them can do. The answer is: A whole lot less than you think.

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Real Communities and Fake Communities

From Jonah Goldberg at National Review, The  Perils of Hypocrophobia:

People with lots of financial and social capital can afford to make bad choices that would be devastating for others. Rich single parents can afford nannies and tutors and play groups and summer camps. And parenting is only one aspect of it. The elite can afford rehab. If they get a DUI, they can afford a good lawyer. If they lose their license, they can take Uber. In terms of social capital, they get second and third chances from judges, schools, employers, landlords, et al.

When Hillary Clinton & Co. talk about how “it takes a village to raise a child” they’re invoking wisdom from what P. J. O’Rourke called the “ancient African kingdom of Hallmarkcardia” to make the case for vast new federal bureaucracies, taxes, programs, regulations, etc. But the phrase itself contains a lot of truth. Unlike bureaucrats in Washington, neighbors, teachers, pastors, coaches, coworkers, and friends can help raise your kids, in ways large and small. Real communities involve extended networks of trust and goodwill. Fake communities have regulations, fees, subsidies, and checklists.

It is perhaps liberalism’s most grating rhetorical trick: deliberately conflating small and important truths about local community and family with large new federal initiatives. This bait-and-switch is the very heart of Obamaism. Obama talks about unity and community as if they have anything — and everything! — to do with initiatives from Washington. Remember when he explained why we need to raise taxes? Because it would be “neighborly.” The “Life of Julia” was nothing more than an argument for the federal government to replace the functions once performed by family and community. His most recent push to make community college “free” while raising taxes on college-savings plans perfectly illustrates his hostility to the idea that other institutions should take the lead instead of the federal government.

Anyway, my only intended point was that 1 percenters can afford their sins, for good and for ill. But what infuriates me is when, out of a fear of seeming hypocritical, they defend sin as a principle for everyone, including those who can’t afford it. Such hypocrophobia forces people to defend bad ideas on the mistaken belief that it’s better to be consistently wrong than inconsistently right. What’s even more infuriating is that most elites actually live according to pretty good values but are terrified of saying what works for them might be right for others as well. Divorce and out-of-wedlock births aren’t that much of a problem for the well-off. And marriage is a huge boon to economic prosperity. As Andrew Cherlin once said, “It is the privileged Americans who are marrying, and marrying helps them stay privileged.”

But elites won’t come out in favor of marriage as a social ideal (except for gays, of course), because as Charles Murray likes to say, they refuse to preach what they practice.

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Favorite Writers of 2014

As a blogger with a day job, I often find myself curating other posts- selecting and  commenting.  Over the years I have found a few writers that I frequently return to.

My Favorite writers for 2014:

1. Kevin Williamson- National Review

favorite article: Welcome to the Paradise of the Real

Excerpt:

None of those problems facing the poor — and they are the key problems — is an economic problem. All of them are political problems. For progressives, the obvious solution to that is less economics and more politics. The possibilities of economic division will always be limited by what there is to divide — so many houses, so many cars, so many apples and oranges, so many SweeTarts. Progressives don’t care what’s in the bag, so long as they get to be in charge of it. It is no accident that they talk about the “distribution” of wealth and income as though those things were literally distributed, like candy out of an Easter basket, by the distribution fairy.

2. Daniel Greenfield in Sultan Knish.

favorite article, The Left Is Too Smart to Fail

Excerpt:

Finally, manufactured intelligence is self-involved. It mistakes feeling for thinking. It deals not with how things are or even how we would like them to be, but how we feel about the way things are and what our feelings about the way things are say about what kind of people we are.

A companion piece from Daniel is Science is for Stupid People

Excerpt:

What the left calls science is really a hypothesis accepted as a fact without the skepticism. Its intelligence is a conclusion without bothering to determine whether it’s true. Science and intelligence are perpetual processes that are never truly settled. But in law and government, as in all other fields, the left discards the process and asserts an inevitable outcome by virtue of its superiority.

Also How To Write About Israel

 Weigh every story one way. Depersonalize Israelis, personalize Muslims. One is a statistic, the other a precious snowflake. A Muslim terrorist attack is always in retaliation for something, but an Israeli attack is rarely a retaliation for anything. When Israeli planes bomb a terrorist hideout, suggest that this latest action only feeds the “Cycle of Violence” and quote some official who urges Israel to return to peace negotiations– whether or not there actually are any negotiations to return to.

3.  Jonah Goldberg in Commentary (often in National Review)

favorite article Mr. Piketty’s Big Book of Marxiness 

Excerpt:

Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Sergey Brin, Fred Smith, and others became billionaires because they created goods and services of real value to consumers; there was nothing “arbitrary” about it. In fact, most of them didn’t achieve their wealth, strictly speaking, from “capital” in the Pikettyesque sense at all. They mostly earned it from technological innovation. Piketty seems to believe, without marshaling much if any evidence, that such accretions of wealth undermine meritocratic values—when in fact, in a very real sense, the wealth creation over the past 30 years collectively constitutes the most extreme example of meritocratic advancement the world has ever seen.

4. John Cochrane in his blog The Grumpy Economist, Why and How We Care about Inequality

Excerpt:

Why are otherwise generally sensible institutions like the IMF, the S&P, and even the IPCC jumping on the “inequality” bandwagon?

That answer seems pretty clear. Because they don’t want to talk about Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, bailouts, debt, the stimulus, the rotten cronyism of energy policy, denial of education to poor and minorities, the abject failure of their policies to help poor and middle class people, and especially sclerotic growth. Restarting a centuries-old fight about “inequality” and “tax the rich,” class envy resurrected from a Huey Long speech in the 1930s, is like throwing a puppy into a third grade math class that isn’t going well. You know you will make it to the bell.

5.  Victor Davis Hanson in The National Review, Lying for a Cause- If myths do more for social progress than facts- then why worry?

Excerpt:

From the details of Rigoberta Menchú’s memoir, to Tawana Brawley’s supposed rape, to the O. J. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” myth, to the open-and-shut case of the hate-crime crucifixion of Matthew Shepard by savage homophobes, to Dan Rather’s fake but accurate National Guard memo, to the Duke lacrosse team’s supposed racist raping, to Barack Obama’s autobiographic interludes with his girlfriend, to Scott Beauchamp’s “true” stories of American military atrocities in Iraq, to Lena Dunham’s purported right-wing sexual assaulter at Oberlin College (home of the 2013 epidemic of pseudo-racist graffiti), to the pack of University of Virginia fraternity rapists on the loose, to “Hands up, don’t shoot,” we have come to appreciate that facts and truth are not that important, if myths can better serve social progress or the careers of those on the correct side of history.