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Demosclerosis

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from National Review, How American Government Became Encrusted with Subsidies by George Will:

Excerpts:

Madison counted on conflict, but gargantuan government is, because of its jungle-like sprawl, mostly opaque. So there is what Weiner calls “dissipation of conflict.” And Weiner suggests that this, which enables minorities to feed off the inattentive majority, is the result of what Madison thought would inhibit abusive majorities — the size of what Madison called an “extensive” republic.

His revolution in democratic theory was this: Hitherto, it had been thought that if democracy were at all feasible, it would be so only in small polities. Factions were considered inimical to healthy democracies, and small, homogenous societies would have fewer factions. So, Madison favored an extensive republic because it would have a saving multiplicity of factions. They would save us from tyrannical majorities because all majorities would be impermanent coalitions of minorities. For a century now, Weiner writes, the national government has been hyperactive in distributing economic advantages to attentive but inconspicuous factions. This will not stop. Why?

If Americans devoted their lives to mastering the federal budget’s minutiae, gargantuan government might behave better. But what economists call the “information costs” of such mastery would be much higher than the costs of just paying the hundreds of billions that the subsidies cost. There is a name for what this fact produces: demosclerosis.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/422584/government-growth-subsidies-sclerosis

 

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Climate Policy without Results

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Carly Fiorina on Climate Change Strategy in National Review, Carly Fiorina Shows How to Address the Left on Climate Change

In the political battles over climate change, there are three distinct and relevant questions. First, does mankind have a material affect on the Earth’s climate? Second, if mankind does impact the climate, is that impact harmful? And third, if we assume that mankind is harming the environment, will any given American policy or collection of policies have a meaningful beneficial impact? So far, the conservative movement has mainly pushed back on the “scientific consensus” related to the first question — the extent of human influence over the Earth’s climate.

The short version of Fiorina’s argument is this: If the scientific consensus is that man-made climate change is real, there is also consensus that America, acting alone, cannot stop it. Indeed, the Chinese are only too happy to watch us constrict our economy as they capture the market in clean coal.

Americans have proven time and again that they’re willing to sacrifice — if convinced that their sacrifice has a purpose, that it accomplishes an objective. There’s certainly room for Cruz’s climate-change skepticism in the national debate, but there just may be more room for Fiorina’s economic, scientific, and geopolitical realism. The Left is asking America to sacrifice for nothing — for no true economic benefit, no true climate benefit, and no true or meaningful “global leadership.” That’s a bad deal even for those who believe in man-made climate change, yet that’s the “deal” the Left demands.
Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/422395/carly-fiorina-climate-change-left

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An Ugly Form of Civil Confusion

Donald Trump

From National Review, The Trump Virus and Its Symptoms by Charles Cook:

excerpt:

In parallel, the Trump virus yields a second — and equally potent — symptom: It provokes otherwise intelligent people into an ugly form of civil confusion. Because the Trumpite has invariably arrived at his conclusion before he has considered his premises, he is prone to disastrous conflation when pressed to explain himself. Thus does he mistake boorishness and vapidity for courage and the common touch. Thus does he muddle together self-interest and public spiritedness. Thus, ultimately, does he come to believe that fatal weaknesses should be conceived as dazzling strengths. In a sane world it would be abundantly clear to anybody whose research skills extend to the casual use of Wikipedia that Donald Trump not only lacks crucial government experience but that, insofar as he has hitherto connected with that world, his behavior has been appalling. And yet, because Washington is a mess and a plague o’ both your houses! tendency currently obtains, the Trumpite is prone to assert without evidence or reason that these clear deficiencies are in fact a remedy for its ills. In the main, such gymnastics are roundly comical — comparable, perhaps, to a person’s choosing a disabled man to run in a marathon because he is especially bombastic. “But he can’t even walk,” the naysayers might observe. “That’s the point!” would come the inexplicable reply. “He’s not like the others!”

Alas, difference is soon taken as a virtue in and of itself. To any moderately informed observer of the present political scene, it is evident that Donald Trump is not in fact a conservative, and that his political instincts tend more often than not in precisely the opposite direction. For those who describe themselves as “conservatives,” this should present something of a problem. But, because he does not operate within the same world as the much-loathed Mitch McConnell — and because he cannot therefore be judged on the basis of anything concrete — the man’s ideological indiscretions are being steadfastly ignored. For decades now, our friends on the progressive left have wondered in vain what it might take to convince a sizable portion of America’s rightward-leaning dissenters to embrace single-payer health care, advocate stricter gun control, propose higher taxes on the wealthy, endorse the broad use of eminent domain, defend protectionism in trade, affirm the pro-choice cause, and cozy up warmly to the likes of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. Today, they have their answer: It takes a general dissatisfaction with the status quo, and the cheapest of P. T. Barnum knockoffs to exploit it.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/422347/donald-trump-progressive-left-virus-conservative

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Political Money Laundering

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from Kevin Williamson at National Review, The Minimum Wage Con:

The worst kind of welfare state is the welfare state that is ashamed of itself and therefore feels obliged to pretend to be something it isn’t. Instead of forthrightly taxing individuals and businesses and converting that revenue to welfare benefits in an honest and transparent way, covert welfare statists usually attempt to disguise welfare payments as wages. Artificial wage increases imposed by law perform the same function as ordinary welfare benefits — transferring income from politically disfavored groups to politically favored groups — but the revenue doesn’t show up on the government ledger as taxes and the outlays don’t show up as spending. Everybody in government gets the opportunity to engage in a little delicious moral preening about how they’re doing the right thing for the hardworking people of wherever while maintaining fiscal discipline, as if the underlying facts of the policy — “Patron X shall give Client Y at least Z amount of money” — weren’t fundamentally identical to those in a transparent welfare state.

Which is to say, laws mandating wages and benefits beyond market prices are political money laundering for unpopular welfare payments. They work brilliantly: Americans have a generally low opinion of welfare programs, but large majorities of us — including majorities of Republicans — support raising the minimum wage.
In the U.S. context, what this means is that the left hand of government spends its time adding to the cost of employing Americans with wage and benefits mandates while the right hand of government spends its time trying to enact legislation that will prevent these higher costs from having their natural effect, e.g. by restricting trade with those perfidious low-wage foreigners in Germany and Sweden, or by bribing and bullying companies into knuckling under to political demands. This produces a labyrinthine network of mandates, penalties, and subsidies that is so complex as to be incomprehensible to anybody without the time and resources to make a careful study of the matter, which in effect renders the architecture of this secondary welfare state invisible to the typical voter.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/421716/minimum-wage-political-con-kevin-d-williamson

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Reality and Hope

From  Jonah Goldberg in National Review, When We Say ‘Conservative,’ We Mean . . .

Gratitude captures so much of what conservatism is about because it highlights the philosophical difference between (American) conservatism and its foes on the left (and some of its friends among the libertarian camp). The yardstick against which human progress is measured shouldn’t be the sentiments and yearnings that define some unattainable utopian future, but the knowable and real facts of our common past.

So-called liberals love to talk about how much they just want to do “what works,” but it’s amazing how often “what works” doesn’t. Even more remarkable is how the mantra of “what works” is almost always a license to empower the “sophisters, calculators, and economists who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs.”

In contrast, the conservative belief in “what works” is grounded in reality, not hope.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420055/conservatism-definition-difficult-produce