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Radicalism Breeds Radicalism

From Ian Tuttle from National Review, America Needs a Sane Left:

Take all of that (and more) together and there is the distinct sense that the Left’s response to this election is going to be one not of introspection but of finger-pointing. The culprit for its shellacking at every level was not decades of labeling cultural conservatives “racists” and immigration restrictionists “xenophobes” and abortion opponents “misogynists”; it wasn’t the foolish decision to dismiss the white working class not as simply unwinnable but as not worth winning — moral reprobates with backward views; it wasn’t the choice to clear the way for a presidential candidate with longstanding issues of corruption and untrustworthiness; it was “white supremacy” and “sexism” and “fake news.” On Thursday, in a forum at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook blamed his candidate’s loss on FBI director James Comey.

The Left has been relentless in giving to every partisan dispute the moral urgency of warfare. It’s the Left that turned Supreme Court nominations into nasty affairs. It’s the Left that co-opted America’s health-care industry on a party-line vote. It’s the Left that scrapped the filibuster. It’s the Left that forced nuns to purchase contraception. If the Right was willing to countenance a great deal of heterodoxy in 2016, it’s in part because they perceive a Left that has become unconscionably radical.

That is not to say the Right does not have serious problems of its own creation. Trump’s success would not have been possible without a real, and alarming, moral and intellectual vacuity. Opportunism in right-wing media trades on the emotivism of talk-radio listeners eager to have their worst fears about the country confirmed, and ideological zealotry has made the necessary task of compromise more difficult.

But radicalism breeds radicalism, and the Left, in the aftermath of a massive defeat, should recognize that. A Left that ensconces itself in a sanctimonious refusal to consider the world from the perspectives of its detractors is a Left destined to become more politically impotent and nastier. That may work to Republicans’ short-term gain. But a nastier Left means a nastier Right.

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The Consequences of Jawboning

Jawboning American industries to comply with political wishes has been with us at least as long as Teddy Roosevelt negotiated an end  to the Pennsylvania coal strikes.  John F Kennedy pressured the steel industry to settle a labor strike. Bailouts and tax payer funded bribes to attract and keep industry is used by every state and most nations.  But just as Trump threatens consequences to those who will leave, there are consequences to his method which are beyond his control.

To be fare to the president elect, there are signs that his policy will rely more on carrots than sticks; that his preferred method is to reduce corporate taxes and friction costs and make the American economic environment more desirable for commercial activity.  The incentives and the jawboning to keep and least a portion of the Carrier employee base in Indiana is a clear victory for the workers and clear political victory for Trump.

But it is also an example of Bastiat’s broken window fallacy that should teach us to examine the entire cost and all the consequences of an economic decision.  The rejection of ideology for immediate pragmatic results is a hall mark of progressivism, as is the use of central government power to drive local decision making. If this is only a short term pragmatic solution with an eye to creating an environment more amenable to bottom up economic growth then the harm will be limited.

The use of threats from a central authority, however, can become  a slippery slope.

Kevin Williamson in National Review writes The Economic Stupidity of the Carrier Bailout:

The ethical question is more complicated than the pop-cons let on, too. Our government runs deficits, which means that a federal tax credit of $1 million given to Smith is $1 million in taxes that eventually will have to be paid — by Jones, and Wilson, and Humperdink — with interest. Carrier is a division of United Technologies (the Otis elevator and Pratt & Whitney engines people), which is first and foremost a government contractor, a firm that derives at least a quarter of its revenue from government contracts, and 10 percent of it from Pentagon contracts alone. It is a company that has competitors — competitors who employ Americans and pay taxes, just as Carrier does. These firms and their employees are put at an economic disadvantage by the subsidies paid to Carrier thanks to Trump and Pence. That means that some of these companies probably will be less profitable, and that they will not hire people they otherwise would have hired. But you’ll see no Trump press conference celebrating that. This is a case of Frédéric Bastiat’s problem of the seen vs. the unseen. The benefits are easy to see, all those sympathetic workers in Indiana. The costs are born by sympathetic workers, too, around the country, and by their families and by their neighbors. But those are widely dispersed, so they are harder to see and do not hit with the same dramatic impact.

From Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek, An Open Letter to Generalissimo Trump:

How do you anticipate business executives will respond to your bullying threats?  Are you truly so stupid as not to understand that among the results of your intimidation is that fewer firms will open in America?  That fewer businesses here will expand?  That those that do open or expand will use a higher ratio of capital to labor because they fear that the greater the number of workers they employ the more likely they are to be victimized by your arbitrary diktats?  That no matter how much you cut the monetary taxes they pay, the uncertainty and absurdity of your promised autocratic rule drastically raises firms’ costs of starting and growing on U.S. soil?  And that each of these inevitable responses to your imperious fulminations will be slower job and wage growth for Americans?

From the Wall Street Journal Editors, Trump’s Carrier Shakedown:

The company is also betting that Mr. Trump will fulfill his promise for tax and regulatory reform to make U.S. manufacturing more competitive. United Technologies does about 61% of its sales outside the U.S., and it has some $6 billion in cash overseas that would be taxed at a 35% rate if it brought the money home today. Carrier currently pays a 28% effective tax rate, so a tax reform that cut the corporate rate to 20% and only taxed earnings in the country where they are earned would more than make up for the Indianapolis concession.

From The Editors of National Review, The Winners and Losers of the Carrier Deal

We are not very enthusiastic about government-run economic-development programs that rely on industry-specific — or firm-specific — tax breaks, grants, or other concessions. In the long run (and generally in the short run, too), these programs are almost always corrupt in themselves and a source of corruption in others, with the benefits going mainly to politically influential and well-connected companies, whether that means Solyndra during the Obama administration or Carrier in the Trump administration. Inevitably, what happens is this: The government creates a set of incentives to encourage certain kinds of business activity, from “green” energy to manufacturing, and then, after a few years pass, complains mightily that companies are responding to the incentives that the government created. Consider those periodic journalistic spasms over General Electric’s low corporate-tax bill or the criticism that Starbucks encountered for taking advantage of manufacturing credits in its manufacturing operations: Those deductions and carve-outs didn’t happen by accident — they happened exactly the way the Carrier deal is happening.

 

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Ideology Separates from Political Parties

From National Review’s Kevin Williamson, Progressives Without Power:

Beginning with the nomination of Barry Goldwater and thanks in no small part to the efforts of many men associated with this magazine, the Republican party spent half a century as a highly ideological enterprise. But highly ideological political parties are not the norm in the English-speaking world, especially not in the United States, and the conservative fusion of American libertarianism, social traditionalism, and national-security assertiveness probably is not stable enough to cohere, having now long outlived the Cold War in which it was forged. Trump’s lack of conservative principle is unwelcome, but it points to an ideological looseness that is arguably more normal, a return to the model of party as loose coalition of interest groups.

The Democrats, on the other hand, are becoming more ideological, or at least more openly and self-consciously ideological, as the party’s progressivism becomes more and more a catechism. This has the effect of making the Democratic party less democratic. American progressives have a long and genuine commitment to mass democracy, having supported not only various expansions of the franchise but also many instruments of direct democracy such as the ballot initiative, but they also have a long and genuine commitment to frustrating democracy when it gets in the way of the progressive agenda, which is why they have spent the better part of a century working to politicize the courts, the bureaucracies, and the non-governmental institutions they control in order to ensure they get their way even when they lose at the ballot box. Democrats did not pay much attention when they started suffering losses at the state level, because they were working against federalism and toward a unitary national government controlled from Washington. And they did not fight as hard as they might to recover from their losses in Congress while Barack Obama sat in the White House, obstructing Republican legislative initiatives and attempting to govern through executive fiat — an innovation that the Democrats surely are about to regret in the direst way.

HKO

The unity that seemed to be an advantage the Democrats had over the Republicans, who seemed forever factioned by litmus test conservatives, has blown apart.  That unity was held together by a power that eroded state by state since 2010. The power that held it together is now gone. All it took was one faction to tilt right (white blue collar union voters) and their bubble was burst.

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Racist Backlash

From Jonah Goldberg at National Review, Liberals should think twice before blaming the 2016 election on racism.

Activists today are clear-cutting vast swathes of civil society to make room for reason-free zones where feelings outrank facts — they call them “safe spaces.”

Here’s some free advice for all the liberals insisting that Trump was elected by racists: The more you say that, the more you help Trump.

I can understand why this is confusing. There’s a certain breed of guilty white liberal who actually enjoy being called racist, confessing their racial sins, and denouncing less advanced white people. The hot new term for this is “virtue signaling” — a way of communicating how enlightened you are.

But there are a lot more white people out there who are not racist and therefore do not like being called racist or being berated about how their country is racist. They also sense that the “everything is about race” crowd is using race as a cudgel to silence critics and have their way.

That sort of thing begs for a backlash. You can call it racist if you want — some people do with everything else — but it won’t play well outside the safe spaces.

 

When your only tool is a hammer ……

The true racists are a minuscule number compared to those tired of the politically correct and demonized for challenging the liberal orthodoxy.

 

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Impatience With the Constitution

Yuval Levin recently wrote TheFractured Republic, an intelligent look at the state of political discontent, and a recommended read.  He recently wrote Hillary Is an Embodiment of the Left’s Disdain for Democracy with coauthor Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review. He examines three reason why Hillary is the larger threat while acknowledging Trump’s significant shortcomings.

Excerpt:

Liberals generally justify all of these work-arounds that subvert normal democratic politics and constitutional processes by claiming that they are but responses to the alleged dysfunction, extremism, and nihilism of conservatives. But such complaints amount to little more than the kind of impatience with our system — and with the very existence of opposition to their ideas — that progressives have articulated since at least Teddy Roosevelt. Conservatives oppose many liberal policies and do use the mechanisms of our constitutional system to attempt to prevent and reverse them. It’s true that our system greatly empowers such opposition: It is frankly premised on the notion that most policy ideas are bad ideas and that making change slow and difficult is likely to serve the country.

That the Constitution makes the work of progressive ideologues frustrating is not an excuse for ignoring and subverting it. That the constitutional system will not acquiesce in its own debilitation is not a justification for debilitating it. Arguments for doing so amount to unprincipled excuses for lawlessness. They make elected officials less responsible, and they are expressions of an impatience with constitutional democracy, not a defense of it.