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Thoughts on Brexit

hko in Israel

by Henry Oliner

Many Americans have become familiar with basic economic concepts because it affects them so regularly, but our understanding usually stops at our shore. The Brexit vote has us scratching our head to comprehend something we hardly knew was an issue a few days ago. Before 9/11 we knew who Muslims were but a few weeks later were reading and trying to comprehend the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. Taliban and Al Qaeda were soon correctable on our spell checks.

The economists and the financial community will absorb, comment and predict for the coming months but here are a few observations and thoughts.

The polling was very wrong.  This appears to becoming common. This is because the media that governs so much of the polling is far too monolithic and dismissive.  This is the price they pay for their lack of intellectual diversity. This may explain why even the betting services were so wrong.  When so much of the coverage is one sided it affects even the odds makers.

The British national mood appears to be very similar to the mood in America that begat the Trump and Bernie Sanders campaign.  They are increasingly at odds with the leaders.  The critical issue may be the dual related fears of immigration and national security, but this is also representative of a lack of respect between the governing elite and the great unwashed and will influence other issues.

We have always had elites and commoners, but there was a sense that in spite of their credentials and power that they shared common goals and values.  The attraction to Trump in spite of his elitist wealth is that he at least espouses concerns that the middle class also share.

The elites serve an important purpose; not just to exercise the technical skills to execute policy for the administrative state, but to adhere to principles that protect the long term interests of the people and their culture. The danger of the populist trend is the severing of commitments to principles to serve pragmatic ends. Problems created by the intelligent cannot by default  be solved by the ignorant. A Populist movement that can restore or progress  important values and principles can accomplish great ends, but  such movements are hard to control.  Witness the difference between the American and the French Revolution.

For the libertarian intellectuals Brexit was a rejection of centralization and bureaucratization from Brussels, but we like to see a cause that reflects our preferred view and narrative. I see another sign of the exhaustion of Progressivism.

Our own United States is an American form of the European Union with distinctive and important differences. It is governed by a clear constitution which every state adopts and respects, and it covers a common culture and language even if you often have to press ‘1’ for English.

Critics of the vote may express alarm at the seeming increase in nationalistic fervor, but Charles Cooke at National Review expressed an important distinction between patriotism and nationalism (The Brexit Vote Was Just the Beginning):

George Orwell contended that the difference between patriotism and nationalism was that patriotism involved “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people,” while nationalism “is inseparable from the desire for power.” By this definition at least, Britain’s decision to extricate itself from the EU was patriotic, not nationalistic. Indeed, if there is any group within the debate that seeks to impose “a particular way of life . . . on other people,” it is the one that wants ever-closer integration into Europe, and, eventually, a federal super-state.


While we debate where this will ultimately lead this vote signals an important shift.  The Brexit vote has released a possibility that was inconceivable until last week.  Now we consider who will be next and whether the European Union can survive.

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The Other Half of the Battle

David French

from David French at National Review, The Sins of the Elite Don’t Excuse the Sins of the People

Even worse, the American cultural elite served up a ruinous sexual revolution, complete with anti-religious hostility that spawned and perpetuated enormous human suffering as families fractured and the fatherless multiplied. It launched wars without fighting in them, sought to help the poor without knowing them, and prospered in part by stacking the deck through a faux “meritocracy” that put a premium on credentialing over knowledge.

In other words, if there was any version of the American establishment that richly deserved toppling, this was it.

But identifying the reason for a political revolution is only half the battle: The revolution itself has to offer something better than the status quo. Egyptian governor Hosni Mubarak was an oppressive autocrat, and his ouster during the Arab Spring fired imaginations around the globe — until it ushered the Muslim Brotherhood to power in his place. Western history is littered with examples of justified revolutions spawning even worse tyranny. Few people weep for Czarist Russia, but no moral human being believes that the genocidal Soviet Union was an improvement. France’s Ancien Régime was riddled with injustice, and the French Revolution initially inspired even some of our own Founding Fathers, yet the Reign of Terror was a nightmare. If one could sum up the distinction between the American and French revolutions in two words, it would be these: virtuous revolutionaries. Thank God we had Washington, rather than Robespierre.

 

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Work and Poverty

The left is unable or unwilling to articulate any limitation of the welfare state and unable or unwilling to acknowledge the social costs of long term dependency.

Moves to push the recipients to work must recognize and correct the policy hurdles placed on the providers of jobs, and the tax disincentives on those on on the bottom rungs.  When your net after tax income equals the costs of the benefits you lose you face an effective tax rate of 100%.  A strong pro-growth economic policy would make great progress on many economic and social problems.

from the editors of National Review, A Better Way:

Some of what’s in Ryan’s proposal will be familiar from earlier efforts, including time limits on the receipt of food stamps and housing subsidies for adults who are able to work. The vast majority (about three-fourths) of able-bodied adults without dependents who are receiving welfare benefits do not work; the larger body of welfare recipients, those with dependents (who are exempted from TANF work requirements), work at low rates, too. The great necessity is moving these dependents toward work, and the reasoning here is straightforward: The poverty rate for people with full-time jobs is 2.7 percent; for those with part-time jobs, it is 17.5 percent; for those with no jobs, it is 32.3 percent. Two-thirds of the Americans in poverty do not work at all, and a quarter of them work only part-time.

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A Flurry of Good Articles

hkoisrael

I think I am focused or fairly discriminating on what I post from other writers, but over the years I have gravitated toward only a few.  Kevin Williamson and Charles Cooke of National Review are two of the most used. National Review has a large stable with creative and original writer including Jonah Goldberg, David French and many others.

Jonah Goldberg wrote Liberal Fascism in 2008 and I recently reread it as I have focused most of my reading on the history and evolution of Progressivism.  I keep a copy of this book in a prominent spot in my library since the cover is so offensive to my liberal friends.

liberalfascism

Worthy articles that fit my filter seem spotty. I may not find anything for weeks and then there is a flurry of great pieces.

Deirdre McCloskey had a great piece in the weekend WSJ How the West Got Rich – It is excerpted and commented on a few posts away. It is  is adapted from her new book, “Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World,” on my reading queue.

Kevin Williamson has been on a roll his his recent piece Engineering Better Voters shows an independent writing style that takes conservative and progressive views to task.  Note: National Review changes or uses titles after initial postings –  something much easier to do online.

And Charles Cooke raised an issue with Trump that I have considered, but not in the articulate manner Cooke has- that Trump’s supreme irony may be that he may make the Progressives question the premise of a strong central government. Maybe the liberal may come to learn that the right’s concern with Obama’s use of power was not his race. Read Is Trump’s Rise Giving Progressives Second Thoughts? 

Some great reading recently with excerpts posted nearby.  Some of these articles are quite rich in content and difficult for me to cull into a short post. I encourage you to read the links in full

 

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Political Inactivism

kevin williamson

Kevin Williamson is probably one of the most excerpted writers on Rebel Yid.  I was fortunate to meet him lat year at Freedom Fest in Las Vegas. He has a creative and unconventional way of viewing the great debates. He gets beyond the left and right platitudes.

The entire link merits your viewing.

From Kevin at National Review, Engineering Better Voters:

It isn’t that voters are not profoundly ignorant, it’s just that making them less ignorant isn’t really going to help much on Election Day, because political preferences are not, in the main, a function of knowledge.

Progressives are a funny bunch in that they do sincerely believe that government should be empowered, almost without limitation, to do the will of the People, who are sovereign, but they imagine that the People speak with one voice, or at least that they should speak with one voice. When the People get froggy and refuse to fall in line behind, say, the Affordable Care Act, which the best experts drew up on behalf of the People, who (so the story goes) gave Barack Obama a mandate to reform health care, then something must be wrong. And we all know what that is: Too much debate and too much political discourse including too many voices, some of which — those of Charles and David Koch, for instance — must be silenced in order for the People to be heard as one voice, the way it was intended. (No, we are not allowed to ask: Intended by Whom?) So we arrive at the strange situation in which the Left desires maximal formal participation in democratic processes but heavy restriction of everything ancillary to those processes, most especially political speech.

The cynic might here observe that what’s really going on may be something entirely different, that progressives want more participation by voters because they assume that those new voters will agree with them, and less participation in political discourse because they believe that those new voices are less likely to support them, while conservatives want fewer voters because they believe the ones remaining will be more conservative, while they do not worry about all the new forms of political persuasion because those have been mainly conservative. And it probably is the case that many among our political professionals are exactly that calculating.

What is actually needed is a set of conditions under which fewer questions are decided by democratic politics, which is, even in its highly refined American form, a pretty blunt instrument. Some questions are inherently political, but most are not. We needed a positive act of the federal government to rally the country in making war on the Nazis, but invading Normandy is a different thing from invading the kindergarten toilets in Grover, N.C. I’m with Henry David Thoreau: “I heartily accept the motto,—‘That government is best which governs least;’ and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.”

Which is to say, there’s a time for political activism, but we could do with a bit of political inactivism, too.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/435685/voter-education-futile-exercise