Sincerity and small government

January 19, 2010

I’m going to disagree with this:

These supposed "high-profile attempts to shrink government" were in reality bogus plots to achieve electoral dominance and encourage different modes of and targets for government subsidy.

I think some people who have been elected on small government platforms do believe in small government. The problem they encounter is that government doesn’t work the way they assume it does. Once elected, the President can’t just shrink the government by fiat. Congress can in theory pass a law shrinking government, but Congress doesn’t work this way anymore. Law writing has been outsourced to . . . wait for it . . . the agencies of the government. Now, we’re in a position in which the parts of government that would be eliminated would have to shrink themselves. Once it’s understood that government works this way, it becomes very clear why government doesn’t shrink.

For a current example, take financial regulation. Zero government employees employed in financial regulation will lose their job as result of the recent financial crisis (many will actually receive pay increases). No financial regulation proposals will suggest shrinking the number of financial regulatory agencies, since all the financial regulation proposals are written (at least in part) by the existing financial regulatory agencies or their representatives.

Bourgeoisie virtues vs genetics

January 18, 2010

Here’s a column arguing that lack of bourgeoisie virtues – in the case the total death of marriage in the black community – is the cause of the decay of the black community. The statistics are appalling:

Black juveniles accounted for 78 percent of all juvenile arrests between 2003 and 2008 in Chicago; Hispanics were 18 percent, and whites, 3.5 percent, of those arrests. Recognizing that tough truth is the only hope for coming up with a way to change it.

Indeed. But isn’t possible that it’s time to start wondering if the lack of bourgeoisie virtues is itself a cause? It’s becoming increasingly difficult for conservatives to argue seriously that the ultimate cause is not genetic. Blacks just don’t seem to have the same value system. The Roissy-ites are right that society is punishing marriage to a ridiculous extent. The current state of the black community is the future state of the world. Or, as Mencius Moldbug says today, "Visit Port-au-Prince before Port-au-Prince visits you." But the effects of the disincentives to marry are hitting blacks differently than they’re hitting whites. Something else must explain the difference.

Are women bad voters?

January 18, 2010

One way to interpret this information, is to suggest that women are crappy voters. That is to say: "women are demonstrably voting for shittier candidates and therefore shouldn’t vote." However, this is not the only interpretation.

Alternatively, if one understands the welfare state to be synonymous with the patronage state, the voting patterns of women seem smarter (at least temporarily, under they reduce civilization to ruin). In short, Democrats are buying the votes of women and minorities.

Here you see a bit of an intersection of the HBD/Roissy worldview with the Moldbuggian worldview. The former would argue for some genetic explanation for the shitty voting pattern of women. The latter’s explanation is simpler (and therefore, I think, more likely to be correct) – their votes are being bought plain and simple. The same thing has been happening as long as people have been voting.

This is the new blog

January 18, 2010

The new blog is here. All the old posts are up at the new site.

Ever since Mangan’s (and then John Hempton) were shut down Google, I’ve been meaning – as a matter of principle – to move this blog elsewhere.

I also have another motive for moving this blog. When I started this blog, I still believed in democracy – I no longer do. A new fusionism seems superfluous at this point, so the blog needs a new name. I’ll turn 30 in the next year as well, perhaps that’s also worth a change.

I started blogging mostly to keep track of my reading, but lately I’ve seen my blogging pop up in other places. I was honored to be linked to by Mangan and Isegoria and I was happy to get a few comments from C. Van Carter.

The new blog is named after the old Norse god of justice, truth and peace. I couldn’t find a god of justice, truth and order, so peace will have to do.

The new blog will still mostly be dedicated to keeping track of my reading. I’ve been converted in by the Carlyleosphere, the Steveosphere and the Roissysphere, so this blog will be colored by those ideas. I may begin trying to write on the intersection of these views. I will keep the old posts up. I think they show my ideological progression from libertarian/conservative to reactionary – maybe that will be valuable to someone. In general, the blog will document my struggles with completing this conversion and totally undoing the progressive indoctrination of my upbringing.

If anyone is still reading, thanks. If not, I’ll keep writing anyway.

Patronage state watch

January 15, 2010

Wouldn't that make it a Patronage State, from Dr Dalrymple:

One might, if one were inclined to conspiracy theories, construe the welfare state as the means by which the middle class ensures that their children face no competition from clever children of the lower class.

Adams letters

January 14, 2010

Mencius Moldbug recommended these short letters between John Adams and Sam Adams.  They're worth a quick read.  Clearly Mr Moldbug is in the John Adams camp.  As the introduction to the letters notes:

There can be no doubt, that John Adams regarded the constitution of the United States as forming a government more properly to be classed among monarchical than among democratic republics, an idea, suggested at the outset by Patrick Henry in America, and by Godwin in England, which has reappeared in some essays of late years. And the truth or falsity of this construction cannot be said, by any means, to be established by the mere half century's experience yet had of the system. For, although in practice the action of the chief magistrate has thus far conformed with tolerable steadiness to the popular wishes, this does not seem to have arisen from any power retained by the people to prevent him, had he inclined otherwise, so much as from the moderate desires of the men who have been elected to the post.

In his first reply to Sam, John says:

But, on the other hand, the nobles have been essential parties in the preservation of liberty, whenever and wherever it has existed. In Europe, they alone have preserved it against kings and people, wherever it has been preserved; or, at least, with very little assistance from the people. One hideous despotism, as horrid as that of Turkey, would have been the lot of every nation of Europe, if the nobles had not made stands. By nobles, I mean not peculiarly an hereditary nobility, or any particular modification, but the natural and actual aristocracy among mankind. The existence of this you will not deny. You and I have seen four noble families rise up in Boston, — the Crafts, Gores, Dawes, and Austins. These are as really a nobility in our town, as the Howards, Somersets, Berties, &c., in England. Blind, undistinguishing reproaches against the aristocratical part of mankind, a division which nature has made, and we cannot abolish, are neither pious nor benevolent. They are as pernicious as they are false. They serve only to foment prejudice, jealousy, envy, animosity, and malevolence. They serve no ends but those of sophistry, fraud, and the spirit of party. It would not be true, but it would not be more egregiously false, to say that the people have waged everlasting war against the rights of men.

Of course today our nobles are picked by different, more unfortunate means.  John Adams' statement could be taken as the ultimate anti-anti-elitist sentiment.  But one cannot honestly harbor any belief that John Adams would defend today's nobles – as noblesse oblige dies so does a decent nobility.

Finally, one can't help but be struck by the fact that none of our recent Presidents could have held their own in a discussion like this.  How far back would you have to go to find a President that could've?  Pretty far, I'm afraid.
  Look no further for the explanation of the decline in American governance.

Review of "A Country Squire in the White House" by John T. Flynn

January 14, 2010

This book is sort of a prequel to this oneSquire is written before the end of FDR's second term.

I think Flynn actually liked FDR-the-campaigner and he feels betray by FDR-the-President.

Thus we may summarize the program that Governor Roosevelt offered to the people as his New Deal as follows:

That he would put an end to government spending and above all to government deficits, particularly government borrowing from the banks; and would revise and reform the tariff. These two things were the chief obstacles to recovery. That he would adopt an allotment plan for the farmers, but that this would cost the government no money, would be self-sustaining, would be centralized in the Department of Agriculture, no new agencies would be created—on the contrary, the Department of Agriculture would be subjected to great economies by the reduction of its functions and its personnel.

That he would put an end to government support of the excessive railroad debts and would force the railroads to scale down their indebtedness. That in the domain of power he would recognize the permanence of private capital and ownership as against public ownership as the normal mode of operating utilities, but favored government development of water-power sites by states and the Federal government, which was Al Smith's plan. He added to this, however, that while he favored private distribution, the government reserved the right to step in to force equitable rates—to provide a yardstick.

That on the matter of relief he was opposed to a dole and on the question of spending for recovery he opposed that as a stopgap but was willing to issue bonds for public works that were self-sustaining—which was only another way of saying he believed in what Hoover believed in: self-liquidating projects. He declared himself against all forms of regimentation, regimentation by powerful individuals and "by the government of the United States itself," and, above all, all regulation and legislation by "master minds." He denounced monopoly, the merger of competitive business into monopolies, and demanded a strict and impartial enforcement of the anti-trust laws. He was against the for the protection of states' rights and "the sacred and time-honored American principle of the separation of the judicial, legislative and executive departments."

This is a perfect summary of the exact opposite of what FDR actually did as President.  The bulk of this short book attempts to explain how this happened.  Flynn's answer is not that FDR was a very smart person thoughtfully reacting to changing circumstances.  In part, he argues everyone should have seen a switch coming:

It is a singular feature of his [FDR's] career that his first administrative post [as Assistant Secretary of the Navy] was one that involved the expenditure of countless hundreds of millions and under circumstances that suspended all the normal and necessary restraints and cautions. Money was no object alongside of victory. And in the Navy Department, under his wing of it certainly, money was no object. In a speech later in the Brooklyn Academy of Music he told with a good deal of satisfaction how he had thrown money around during the war. On another occasion he boasted that he had paid no attention to rules, regulations and laws—that he had broken enough laws to be put in jail for 999 years. It is a fact of importance that in the shaping of his public career his first experience in administration should have been under circumstances where ordinary prudence, the rules of the department, the normal scrutinies of business and the very laws themselves could be daily thrown into the wastebasket. It made a profound impression upon his habits of thought and his methods of doing things.

But the bulk of the answer is that FDR didn't really believe anything.  He just wanted to make people like him:

This story is related by Moley, who, next to Howe, was the closest man to Roosevelt. Had it not come from so authoritative a source it would be almost incredible. No man knew Roosevelt so well as Louis Howe, and this incident means that Howe knew Roosevelt well enough to believe that he could get him to deliver a speech accepting the nomination for the presidency of the United States without even reading it. Howe handed the speech to Roosevelt on the platform as he was being introduced to the convention. Roosevelt had in his hand the Moley speech and the Howe speech. It was a difficult moment for him. Which should he deliver? He had read and corrected the Moley speech. He had not even seen the Howe speech. He was about to accept a call to lead the Democratic party with that speech. He did a thoroughly characteristic Roosevelt thing. He began to read. Moley, sitting in the convention, was horrified to hear strange sentences that were not in the speech he had written. Roosevelt was reading the Howe speech. Having read almost the whole of its first page, he then went on with the Moley speech. From all this we may begin to form a fairly definite picture of the man who became President of the UnitedStates and upon whose mind poured all the difficult problems of meeting one of the great economic crises in our history.

So he responded to business interests by giving them everything they wanted:

What they produced was a plan for self-rule in industry by trade associations under supervision of a government bureau called the National Recovery Administration—the NRA. It specifically suspended the anti-trust laws, thus successfully completing a war that business had waged for fifty years. It was the one thing that appealed most strongly to Roosevelt's imagination. He imagined he had been the instrument of creating a revolution in American industry. This was his idea of a planned economy. It was a plan for organizing each industry under a code. The code was to be drawn by the industry and submitted to the NRA, of which General Johnson became the head. Labor and consumers had nothing to do with drawing the codes. They could appear before the administrator and object to any part of a code before it was approved, but the codes were drawn by the employer associations.

And what better way to make people like you than by giving them cash, especially borrowed cash:

IN VIEW OF these astonishing failures, what was the secret of the President's immense popularity and his devastating defeat of the Republicans in 1936? The answer, of course, is extremely simple. Since March 4, 1933, Mr Roosevelt has had in his hands, to be spent almost at his own will, twenty-two billions of dollars for recovery and relief. This does not include the money spent to run the government—all the many departments with the army and the navy. This is money, over and above all the expenses of the government, that Congress put into his hands to spend

Of course it didn't work:

Seven years after he took office there are eleven million unemployed, private investment is dead, the farm problem is precisely where he found it. He put through some social reforms that the country was yelling for. But these social reforms have to be almost completely overhauled. As for recovery—the President has not one plan. The cost of all this has been twenty-two billion dollars, all yet to be paid.

These are the actions of weak men in power and they have been the reactions of weak men in power from time immemorial:

Any government can produce a rise in business and keep it going indefinitely by pumping billion after billion into business—giving it first to the poor who will spend it with the businessman. There is no trick in this. There is nothing new about it. It is one of the oldest devices of rulers in trouble in history. It was done by Pericles in Athens before Christ, by Caesar and Augustus. It was done by kings all through the modern era; on a vast scale by Louis XIV and Louis XV. It is what has been done by Mussolini, Hitler, dictators, kings, democratic premiers everywhere.

Much of Flynn's commentary reads like modern commentary on financial crisis.  Yet despite Flynn's fears, the nation eventually emerged from the Great Depression.  Does this mean that those of us who are pessimistic should re-thing our stance?  I don't necessarily think so.  I think it argues that we should be careful not to underestimate the fragility of the American economic system.  However, the idea that we can experiment with it infinitely without ever destroying it, is still just as flawed.  Further, just because the massive federal borrowings that have taken place to-date have not ruined the system, doesn't mean that next round of ever-larger borrowings won't bring it down.  Since the sums go up every time we borrow, eventually we'll hit the amount that is too much.

I do think we must pay attention to Flynn's correct prediction that FDR would lead the country to war, despite the overwhelming unpopularity of that position at the time Flynn was writing.  I think some (manufactured) war may be in our future.

Kling on market failure

January 14, 2010

Arnold Kling is on fire.  This is a hell of a blog post.  Keep it up!

Review of "Hollywood Station" by Joseph Wambaugh

January 14, 2010

Steve Sailer mentioned this book, so I thought it would be worth reading.  It definitely was and I can see why it merited mention from Mr Sailer.

It's hard to sum up quickly because there are many different short stories of crimes that happened in Hollywood and the police that investigate those crimes (the book sort of felt like a season of The Shield).  I started reading the book and then looked up and was half way through.  At that point it was not clear that there was one main story line.  But a main story emerges from some of these unrelated short stories – even if it hadn't the book would have still been highly entertaining.

There are two major themes of the book (in my opinion).  The first dealt with the stupidity of the Federal Consent decree that was put on the LAPD after this.  Wambaugh's writings on this theme really brings out the Sailerisms:

The next day, when Nate went to work, he sat in the roll-call room lis­ten­ing to the lieu­tenant dron­ing on about the U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice con­sent de­cree that the LAPD was un­der and hint­ing that the cars that were work­ing the His­pan­ic neigh­bor­hoods on the east side should be turn­ing in Field Da­ta Re­ports on non-His­pan­ics, even though there were none around.

Cops did what cops were do­ing from High­land Park to Watts, those who worked African Amer­ican ‘hoods and Lati­no bar­rios. LAPD of­fi­cers were in­vent­ing white male suspects and en­ter­ing them on FDRs that con­tained no names or birth dates and were un­trace­able. There­fore, an abun­dance of white male field in­ter­views could con­vince out­side mon­itors that the cops were not racial pro­fil­ing. In one in­ner-city di­vi­sion, there was a 290 per­cent in­crease in non-His­pan­ic white male night­time pedes­tri­an stops, even though no­body had ev­er seen a white guy walk­ing around the ‘hood at night. Even with a flat tire, a white guy would keep rid­ing on the rims rather than risk a stop. Cops said that even a black-and-white had to have a sign in the win­dow say­ing “Driv­er car­ries no cash.”

. . .

The jailor chuck­led at the shak­en young cop and said, “Boy, lucky for you he’s a peck­er­wood. If this cat [the guy who had just attacked a cop and the cop had fought back against] was black, you would be fac­ing the wrath of the city coun­cil, the Unit­ed States De­part­ment of Jus­tice, and the moth­er­fuckin’ ghost of John­nie Cochran.”

. . .

Flot­sam [a cop] said, “Yeah, our chief says we’re sup­posed to just jump out of the way of cars com­ing at us, maybe wave a cape like a mata­dor. Then start chas­ing again, long as we don’t en­dan­ger any­body but our­selves. Any­thing but shoot­ing a thief who might be a mi­nor. Or an eth­nic. I wish some­body’d make a chart about which eth­nics are un­shootable nowa­days and have Gov­er­nor Arnold give them a stick­er for their li­cense plates. So we’d know.”

. . .

One of the watch­ers, D2 Brant Hin­kle, had been bid­ing his time at In­ter­nal Af­fairs Group. He was on the lieu­tenant’s list but was afraid that the list was go­ing to run out of time be­fore an open­ing came for him. He was op­ti­mistic now that all of the black males and fe­males of any race who’d fin­ished low­er on the writ­ten and oral ex­am than he had but got pref­er­ence had al­ready been se­lect­ed.

And so on.

The second major theme was the effects of adding female police officers.  Here Wambaugh's opinions were more divided.  The female officers are clearly more useful and effective than the male officers in certain situations.  Yet the male officers often end up doing stupid things to protect the females who they begin to care about.  I remember when I started college (10 years ago).  The rooms on our freshman floor alternated between boys and girls.  There was very little hooking up between the guys and the girls on a given floor, but I do remember a couple fights breaking out when other guys (not from our floor) would come on too strongly to girls on our floor.  I assume this protective instinct just comes out in guys when there are girls around whom they care about.  Anyway, the dynamic is especially interesting on a police force.

Review of "The Web of Subversion" by James Burnham

January 14, 2010

my review is here