Monday, August 8, 2011

The Collapse of Liberalism

That’s the demolition of one of the buildings in the Pruitt-Igoe project up above. That’s a project built as part of the urban renewal mania of the 1950s. It failed for a number of reasons, and you can find out about them on the appropriate Wikipedia page.

Now that we have moved into the Greater Depression era, and the stock market has collapsed, the US credit rating has been downgraded by one rating company, with additional downgrades to follow, it’s time to look at some of the key programs of liberalism, and see how they’ve fared over the years.

Public Education. Here’s one that started in the early years of the 19th century. The central idea was to provide an educated citizenry at the state’s, i.e., the taxpayer’s expense. How has that worked out? I was the product of private and parochial schools, so I can’t say how it’s worked out in my case. In my experience as a parent, however, it has been pretty dismal. Both of my children were diagnosed as dyslexic. The elder one endured 12 years of miseducation at the hands of Fairfax county, and did not really learn the basic things, grammar and math, until he decided that he wanted to go to college. He then sat himself down with my grammar books, and got up to speed on grammar and composition. He also learned enough math to get through college. The younger one managed to get a degree in psychology. On a larger, more sociological level, we have seen SAT scores decline, and the Secretary of Education state that 85% of schools are failing. The Obama administration has apparently decided that schools are so miserable that the tests mandated by the No Child Left Behind act should not be given.

The states, under public education, set the curriculum for the schools. They are charged with determining what shall be taught in classes such as reading, history, biology, and all of the other topics that children learn. The most controversial topic is biology because of evolution, and the opposition of some people to the teaching of evolution as a fact. Now one thing that fuels current opposition is the belief that a consequence of accepting evolution is atheism, and the parents do not want their children exposed to such ideas at a young age. Some parents feel that teaching evolution to the exclusion of theocentric ideas of creation is contrary to their belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, and the setting up of evolution as an opposing religion. I saw a news clip in which a mother pushed her child in front of Gov. Rick Perry, and cajoled him to question the governor about his views on the age of the earth. In the background she could be heard saying “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.” Isn’t this setting up evolution and “science” in general as a system of religious belief, just as some parents might feel? Isn’t this an attempt to assert a tyranny over the mind of the child? “You must believe this, or you do not fit in. You are incompetent. You are&hellipunscientific.” Are the stake and the flaming faggots far behind? Surely people have a right to believe anything they want. Parents have a right to be concerned about what their child is taught. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong about evolution, they have a right to their concern and to respectful treatment. They don’t get it. They get mockery. They’re boobs, and the elite know better. Failure.

Minimum Wage. Somehow setting the lowest wage that can be paid sounds like a good idea. What actually happens though? As far as I know there are two kinds of inequality, greater than, or less than. There is also the possibility of equality. So something, such as a legally defined wage, can be either equal to or unequal to something else, such as prevailing market wage. If the MW (minimum wage) is equal to the PMW (prevailing market wage), it will have no effect on employment. If it is less than PMW, more people will offer jobs, but fewer people will be willing to take them, and will contrive other means of obtaining money. If the MW is greater than PMW fewer employers will offer jobs, and employment will not be as great as it would under market conditions. That’s the theory. The fact is that unemployment among the young, the primary intended beneficiaries of minimum wage legislation is higher than among other age groups. So the policy has not produced any benefits for either the employers or prospective employees. Failure.

The Income Tax or 16th Amendment. The idea of progressive taxation is that somehow the wealthy are more able to afford higher taxes than the poor. This is further advanced by appeals to class warfare, i.e., “we’re going to spread the wealth around.” There is supposed to be an illegitimacy to the acquisition of great, or even moderate, fortunes, and by some mysterious process the wealth of a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates diminishes my own well being. Rates that were low initially have gone as high as 90% in some cases. The money taken is then spent on some project or other that in someone else’s eyes accomplishes some benevolent purpose. There are few questions raised, except by wing nuts such as myself or Ron Paul, as to the legitimacy of these claims upon our property. The major justification for income tax is that failure to pay will result in your carcass being thrust into some federal hoosegow. The steady, reliable stream of money going into the coffers of the feds ensures that your money will be spent on projects, such as a road widening in my area, that are worse than the problems they attempt to cure, or on projects that are failures, such as Pruitt-Igoe. Failure

Direct Election of Senators or 17th Amendment. I suppose the idea here was that it would remove the process from the fat cats and the state legislatures, and give it to the people. The result has been that elections have become more expensive, and power has migrated away from the people and to the PACs who are able to purchase the best senators. Failure.

Presidential Primaries. Once again empower the people. Again the cost of electioneering has been raised. Power has moved again to the PACs. Failure.

Social Security. The Social Security Administration denies that it is a pyramid scheme. Well, of course they do. Al Capone denied that he was a murderer. It may not be a pyramid scheme in the sense that is used to describe classic frauds, such as Ponzi’s, but is based upon an unsustainable premise: that the number of payers will always be sufficient to fund the payees. As the population of payees has expanded the population of payers has shrunk due to late entry into the work force, lower employment rates, or simple non-existence (the aborted workers). The result is a coming shortfall of funding for Social Security. This can only be resolved by reducing the number of payees through raising the age of retirement, means testing, killing off the surplus, or some other means. The alternative, earlier entry of workers into the labor force, or greater fertility, is not likely to be realized. Failure

Medicare. The same problem here. Funding is through a pass-through system that is dependent upon there being more payers than payees. The ratio is shrinking, and the program is underfunded. An item Fox News the other day said that the original projection was that Medicare would cost $12 billion now, not the current $120 billion. Failure.

Head Start. There is no evidence that the program has helped anyone. Failure

Student Loans. Federal money for higher education, not necessarily loans, started in the aftermath of WW II with the GI Bill. That money no doubt helped lay the ground for the post-war recovery, and American supremacy during the Cold War period. However, that came with a cost, which was increased costs in education. Further money poured into the coffers of the colleges resulted in disproportionate tuition increases so that increases in tuition far exceed increases in other areas of the economy. Costs have been further raised by burdens imposed on the colleges. Costs of administration have risen as more people move out of teaching into administrative positions, a move that may be due in whole or in part to federal requirements. Failure

Housing. Do I really need to point out to anyone the abject performance of the assorted Fannies, Freddies, and Ginnies. Failure

Voting Rights. It may have been needed at one time, but it has been become a sacred cow. If you oppose its continuation, you’re a racist. Is it really necessary for Caroline County, VA to get approval for its election plans from DC? Isn’t this the way that conquerors treat their newly acquired possessions? Failure.

Unemployment Insurance. I’ve only collected this twice. One time I had to file an appeal against my former employer to get it, and that was long after I’d gotten and lost another job, and the second time I was without work for 16 weeks. I got about $250 per week. It’s not a lot, and it was a bit of a recession. Unemployment currently runs for 99 weeks. The amount you get may not be enough to pay your food bill, but it provides a cushion that if you have another source of income, such as a working spouse, you can take longer to find the right job. The bad thing about that cushion is that it reduces your motivation to get a job, any job, and that reduced motivation prolongs the time it takes to find another job. Failure

Environmentalism. Naples was famous for its malaria epidemics. When American troops went ashore in WW II there was an even tougher enemy the German and Italian soldier waiting to greet them. The mosquiton, and his little parasite. Killing the mosquitoes with DDT saved lives. A few years later Rachel Carson got her knickers in a twist over songbirds and pesticides. Everybody loves songbirds, well I don’t care too much for crows, who are listed as songbirds, but other than that everybody likes songbirds. And we all love the American bald eagle. So nobody wants to harm those. So Rachel Carson led the fight to ban pesticides from the environment, among them DDT. Now malaria is resurgent in parts of Africa, and the big thing is to send them mosquito netting. How about a few tons of DDT. It kills mosquitoes, and properly applied and monitored any environmental damage can be minimalized. Nope, it’s mosquito netting, and the deaths of a few thousand Africans so American and European environmentalists can feel good and noble.

The inevitable result of any concern, or issue, is the foundation of a new bureaucracy, with its attendant rules and regulations and thugocrats. So now we have the EPA. They, and their allies in Congress, managed to ban incandescent light bulbs. Now what business they had doing that I don’t know, but I do know that I don’t like the CFLs, and I don’t like the fact that I have to have the house declared a Superfund site if I drop one. The last straw for my wife came when she found that the EPA had a rule about ceiling fans. What business is it of the EPA to regulate my ceiling fan? The EPA has a multitude of rules and regulations that serve mainly to strangle business and create jobs for otherwise unemployable thugs.

The Washington Post carries a story about the coming attack on coal power. Despite denials by the Congressional Research Service, enhanced EPA regulation of coal power plants will adversely affect pricing of electricity. Failure

Freedom of Choice. Paul Erlich wrote a book back in the late 1960s or early 1970s called The Population Bomb. It’s most notable for the fact that none of his predictions of famine and starvation came true. Nonetheless, that has not deterred advocates for ZPG (Zero Population Growth) from advocating limits on population, and pushing for unrestricted contraception and abortion. Nor has it deterred advocates of “a woman’s right to choose” from focusing solely on her right to abort her child. China has a notorious policy one child policy. Instances of a mother being forced to abort or kill one of a set of twins have been reported. Where couples have had more than one child they have given them up, or in some way evaded the law.

Joe Biden knew all the horrors of the Chinese policy, and was fully aware of them when he went on his recent trip. He, as a supposedly practicing Roman Catholic, was also aware of his church’s position, as expressed in Humanae Vitae, about contraception and abortion. Despite all of this, on his trip he said that he understood the Chinese one child policy. He appears to have left it at that.

I understand the extermination of the kulaks, but I don’t approve of it, and I don’t condone it. George Bernard Shaw said of the “To understand all is to forgive all” school of thought that it was “the Devil’s sentimentality.” Perhaps Biden should be less sentimental, and less demonic.

If “a woman’s right to choose,” is so fundamental, such a super-precedent, that it is discovered under one of the penumbrae and emanations from the Constitution, shouldn’t that right also, as a logical necessity, include the right to actually have children? Isn’t the right to choose dependent upon the freedom to have that choice. If abortion is about the right to choose, and if contraception and abortion are “reproductive rights,” isn’t the right to choose to have two or three or even twenty children just as fundamental? If reproductive rights are solely about abortion and contraceptive, and not the right to bear children, then people should stop masking their advocacy as about freedom, and admit that it’s about limiting population to their idea of an ideal size.

As a moral and logical policy. Failure

Energy Policy. The Department of Energy is another disaster that we owe to the Carter administration. It was formed in response to the oil crises of the 1970s, and for the most part it joined formerly independent groups, such as the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) into one bureaucratic entity. There is no evidence that since its formation that it has been responsible for the generation of one additional erg of energy. We also have the problem of oil production. We can’t drill in ANWR because some bozo cares more about caribou than the lives of people. We can’t drill in the Gulf because of the BP oil spill. Exxon has reportedly discovered a billion barrels of oil in the Julia field in the Gulf, and is in the process of suing the government to recover its leases to the field so that it can drill. There is no coherent energy policy that actually produces cheap energy. Failure

TSA. In the days before 9/11 we didn’t have the TSA, and while there was some screening of passengers it was nowhere near as onerous as it is now. The one major attack on the US that was not the work of Islamic extremists was the Oklahoma City bombing, the work of Timothy McVeigh, a lapsed Catholic turned atheist, who may have been upset over Janet Reno’s destruction of a compound in Waco. The remaining attacks upon the US have been by Islamic terrorists, almost exclusively, young and male. They have not been infants in diapers or grannies in walkers and wheel chairs. In order to protect us from ourselves we are expected to disrobe or submit to being groped by the leering thugocrats of TSA, men and women incapable of functioning without sadism and threats of terror that they inflict upon their victims. The searches proceed without a warrant upon purely fictitious grounds. A more useful employment for the 70,000 men and women of the TSA would to be form 4 or 5 divisions of them, and send them to Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and other nasty places where they could actually detect and kill terrorists. Failure

Post Office. Benjamin Franklin was our first Postmaster General, and while not one of the original cabinet positions, (Attorney General, Secretary of War, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of State) was in a position of some influence and prestige. Because the Post Office penetrated into every city, village, hamlet, and one horse town in the country it became a useful tool for patronage and the placement of political hacks to ensure continuance in power. Despite this it managed to work for a long while. Service, however, has deteriorated. You can read a novel of the 1920s, 1930s, or 1940s, and find mention of twice daily mail deliveries. That’s declined to once a day. The Post Office used to be the way to send packages. I only deal with one group that sends me books by mail (Library of America), Amazon and other stores use UPS or FedEX. The postman used to walk up to your door, and slide it in a slot. The only one I know that does that nowadays is Mr. Beasley in Blondie. The individual mailbox has been replaced by the cluster mail box. I won’t say what kind of cluster that really is. Individual messages between friends and loved ones are more likely to be exchanged over the telephone, or via email, or tweets, than by mail. The mailbox has become the refuge of catalogs, advertisements, assorted junk mail, and the occasional magazine. “Going postal,” at one point meant going on a murderous rampage. Additional reductions in the work force and a reduction of deliveries from 6 days a week to 3 are anticipated. Historically the post office was a success. In its current form, however, it is a Failure.

Agricultural subsidies. The Department of Agriculture was founded in 1862, the middle of the Civil War, which Southern wannabes like me refer to as The War of Northern Aggression. At least we do when we feel like ticking off our liberal acquaintances. One of the first things they did was tell farmers that the rains would follow the plow, and the plains of the mid-west would be suitable for wheat, corn, and all sorts of crops. So the end result of that good advice from the government was—the dust bowl of the 1930s. So much for “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.” Since that proved so successful, it was decided to help the farmers by establishing price supports. Now price supports, as you can probably guess from their name, are intended to keep the prices of agricultural goods elevated above what they would be in an unfettered market. Now the money for the price support is extracted from the taxpayer, who then pays more for his bread and wheat and corn dogs. The poor sap is hurt twice. Sometime in the 1960s food stamps came along. These were administered by the Dept. of Agriculture. I’ve never used them, but I understand that there are all sorts of complicated rules involved with the program, and not a few scams. So the money for food stamps comes, once again, from the taxpayer. But it goes to pay for more expensive food. Food that is made more expensive by price supports. The money also flows into the market for agricultural goods, and pushes the price up so that there is overall inflation and inflation with regards to food. So the farmer gets some support, but the 298,000,000+ who are not farmers get the earth plowed out from under their feet. Overall the the taxpayer gets hit several times, by taxes, and by inflation. Failure

FCC. Hey the radio spectrum is a scarce resource, so lets ration it. Radio and television are technologies that send out signals that can interact with local devices, so some form of licensing and regulation is probably a good thing. However, the FCC, using the scarcity of the airwaves as an excuse, came up with something called the Fairness Doctrine, which essentially mandated that a station provide equal time for a number of opinions. This essentially restricted a station’s ability to advocate for opinion. When the Fairness Doctrine was repealed you had the beginning of the rise of talk radio. Most of the successful talkers are on the right, such as Rush Limbaugh, and the left has pretty much failed at talk radio. With the rise of the Internet there is also an outlet for every variety of opinion, and for all manner of production. You can find movies, news, opinion, and yes, pornography, of every kind on the Internet. I don’t want to go into the whole issue of net neutrality, and I don’t really know enough to have a valid opinion on it, but the FCC seems to favor it, and has apparently tried to impose it by administrative fiat. D+

FDIC. Harry Browne wrote a book called How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World. He called the FDIC basically sticker insurance. It’s rather like the video cameras in crime shows. Typically the detective goes in, and asks if the surveillance camera got a picture of the perp. Usually the clerk or manager says, “Nah, it’s just a dummy.” The idea being that if people think they’re being recorded, they won’t rob the store. The idea behind the FDIC sticker is that if people think their money is safe, they won’t stage a run on the bank. Well, sometimes stores with dummy video cameras do get held up, otherwise the crime shows would be without a plot point, and sometimes banks do fail. The FDIC, in the event of a major collapse, another Depression, will not have assets sufficient to cover the bank failures. So far that hasn’t happened, but the FDIC is not a guarantee of bank safety. D+

Federal Reserve. Central banks were advocated long before Marx and Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848. Whether it was 19th century radicals and nascent socialists who advanced the idea I can’t say. The Fed, however, was established in 1913 under Wilson, one of Glenn Beck’s villains. The failure of the NY Fed to respond properly to the crash of 1929 is generally credited as bringing on the depression. Historically the Fed has served as the engine of credit expansion and contraction, and has been responsible for inflating the money supply. It is the money supply that drives inflation. The Fed, while supposedly independent, does its best to ensure the re-election of the incumbent, so you can usually count on it to ease credit, and attempt to stimulate the economy in order to achieve that happy result. D+

Property Rights. It’s pretty much liberal dogma that property rights are subordinate to human rights. Is that really the case though? My property is the means through which I achieve my purposes. My real property, my house, my land, is the means by which I protect myself from the weather and furnish comfort for my family. My chattels, my car, my books, my television, my computer, are the means by which I get to work or church or school, by which I educate or amuse myself and my family. My thoughts are my property, and the computer on which I write these thoughts is the means by which I give expression to what is my most intimate property. If my property is large, it is the means by which employ other men, other women, to produce items. Those items, if I’m running a business, will be sold to other men and women to help them live their lives and achieve their purposes, and I do not sit in judgement upon those purposes. But liberal doctrine says that your property is not your own. Your income is not your own. If the state is benevolent enough to not confiscate all of your income, that is nothing less than a “tax expenditure,” because the state has the right to all of your income. Property rights reached what may be, for now, their low point when the Supreme Court decided in the Kelo decision that the city could condemn non-blighted housing, housing that was occupied, and sell it to another private operation that would supposedly put it to better use. Here we have something at work that was described by, believe it or not, Trotsky. What is at work here is that some group, in the case of Kelo the city fathers, decide that they know the will of the people, and that they can exercise this will. So they substitute themselves for the people. Now Trotsky contended that the process of substitution in which the party speaks for the people, results in the party vanguard speaking for the people; the Central Committee speaks for the party vanguard; the Presidium speaks for the Central Committee; the General Secretary speaks for the Presidium. As you can see, we inevitably arrive at Stalin. The root of Stalinism can be seen in this process by which the assumption is made that someone, someone who has this knowledge, can act on the behalf of the people. By not defending property rights as a human right the liberal leaves open the philosophical justification for despotism. Failure

Gun Rights. If I have a right to property, and a right to life, I have a right to protect my property and my life. The liberal position is that gun rights are a figment, or that they are somehow contingent upon the prior existence of a militia. Yet, if you read the Second Amendment, the existence of the militia is dependent upon and subsequent to the prior existence of that right, and the existence of an armed citizenry. “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The militia is to be drawn out of those people who are armed. The militia does not arm the people; the people, much like the ancient Romans, arm the militia. It has long been a mantra of the “gun nuts” and groups like the NRA that “When they outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.” So take a look at England. Guns are effectively outlawed for the general population, so when the riots and looting broke out, the shopkeepers, those who supplied goods to people, who offered jobs, were looted by thugs, and were unable to defend themselves effectively. The result was damage to business, to jobs, and to human lives. Here too liberalism has failed. Failure.

Liberalism I’m afraid, despite what it thinks of as its good intentions, has helped no one, and has been a disaster. Europe is now reaping the results of liberal social and economic policy. The United States is poised to follow. James Burnham once wrote a book called The Suicide of the West, in which he claimed that liberalism was a form of suicide for the Western democracies. He was right.