Sunday, November 19, 2017

Happy F'ing Birthday Communism - And People STILL Believe In It

Communism: you know, that proven failed political theory that still has adherents despite the millions of deaths that prove otherwise.


An Anniversary of Evil: 100 Years of Communism, 100 Million Deaths by Daniel Mitchell

The Insatiable Utopia 

100 Years of Communism: Death and Deprivation 

Communism Turns 100 by John Stossel

The Russian Revolution and Terror of Marxism-Leninism

The Russian Revolution, 100 Years On: Its Enduring Allure and Menace

100 Years of Communism, 100 Million Deaths, but a Silver Lining of Clever Jokes and Satire

Disaster in Red: The Hundredth Anniversary of the Russian Socialist Revolution 

The New York Times and the “Lost Cause” of Bolshevism

100 Years of Communism, 100 Million Deaths, and the Moral Blindness of (some) Economists 

100 Years of Communism, 100 Million Deaths, and the Economic Performance of Nations that Escaped Soviet Tyranny 

Hey Millennials: Communism Sucks, I Lived It

New: 100 Years of Communism, 100 Million Deaths, and the Lingering Horror of North Korea

Interesting Read on Early Education

I understand the attraction of pre-K to working parents, yet I have long believed that letting children be children and start them in school later is the ideal process for setting them on their way. Another Study Reveals Pre-K May Hurt Kids Over Time:

Sending young children to school at the age of three or four is increasingly becoming the norm for American parents. The fact is, everyone wants to see their child succeed, and conventional wisdom suggests that the earlier a child is exposed to school, the better off they will be in later life.
But over the last few years, several cracks have been appearing in that theory. The first was discovered when a Quebec childcare program (similar to preschool) found that participating students experienced increased anxiety, aggression, and crime in later life. The second crack showed up through a study of Tennessee’s state-funded preschool program. The program appeared to help students adjust to kindergarten, but by third grade, students who had skipped preschool were performing better academically than those who participated.
A similar finding has now been discovered in a survey of Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program (VPK). Conducted by the University of Virginia, the survey examined one small element which preschool is supposed to improve, namely, grade retention. Researchers expected that those who participated in the Florida preschool program would have less of a chance of being held back a grade in future years.
To their surprise, the results were not as clear cut expected, particularly over the long term. As with the Tennessee study, preschool attendees were less likely to be held back in kindergarten than their non-preschool counterparts. That changed, however, the older children grew. By the time they reached second grade, those who participated in Florida’s VPK program were more likely to be held back a grade than those who had not.
Interestingly, this occurrence was especially true for black students and those on free-reduced lunch programs, a finding which runs contrary to many preschool studies showing that minorities and disadvantaged students are the ones for whom preschool is more helpful.
These findings are concerning, particularly since grade retention is believed to foster greater delinquency and lower educational attainment for students in later years.
It’s undeniable that the push for preschool is growing. In early 2017 it was reported that 43 states had publicly-funded programs which averaged a cost of around $5,000 per student. Many would likely consider such spending worth it if preschool programs demonstrated a positive and consistent impact on student achievement. But the fact is, research is increasingly calling this assumption into question. 
Let’s face it. Preschool education seems quite attractive for busy parents who are working fulltime and need to find a caregiver for their child. But is it really beneficial to the child?
The ancient Greeks forestalled formal schooling until a child reached the equivalent of modern-day second grade. Could it be that children simply are not ready to be cooped up in an institutional, academic setting until they are a bit older? And by placing them in such a setting at an ever earlier age, are we actually wearing them out and diminishing their future creative and academic potential?

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Relationship Between Capitalism and Freedom

Richard Ebeling will be posting a number of pieces on the relationship between freedom and capitalism.

Capitalism and the Free Society, Part 1:
So especially in “the West,” those who earlier had been advocates or apologists for, first, the Soviet regime in Russia and then other communist governments around the world, changed their tune. Private property did not have to be abolished outright and in every corner of society. Private enterprise could continue to “deliver the goods,” but it needed to be constrained and controlled by a spider’s web of regulations and restrictions to see that “capitalism” produced what and where it would best serve the “common good,” rather than the directions into which private businessmen would take it guided only by the “profit motive.”

The interventionist state had to be accompanied, at the same time, by the welfare state to assure a less “exploitive” and more egalitarian redistribution of wealth through the use of the tax system to take from the “unfairly” richer “Peters” to give to lower income and more deserving “Pauls” in society. (See my article, “Barack Obama and the Meaning of Socialism”.)

Capitalism and the Free Society, Part 2:

Throughout most of human history political power, economic privilege, and social status have been the result of physical prowess and strength for conquest, control and plunder. Spoliations of the productions of others and the enslavement of them were the methods for possession of the means for wealth and luxury in those earlier times. It was truly the case that “the few” were able to rule over “the many” and live off what they produced through the use or threat of physical force.
Superstitions and crude ideologies served as the complementary rationales for systems of enslavements and compulsory servitude. Kings and princes, pharaohs and priests used psychological and cultural tools to manipulate the minds of others to accept as pre-ordained and inescapable the rule of the power-lusting few.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Good, That's Very Good

Cryptos may destabilise fiat by Alasdair MacLeod

And So It Begins

It Begins: Pension Bailout Bill To Be Introduced This Week.  What could go wrong?  The government backed the mortgage market and that worked out well, right?:

Over the past year we have provided extensive coverage of what will likely be the biggest, most politically charged, and most significant financial crisis facing the aging U.S. population: a multi-trillion pension storm, which was recently dubbed "one of the most heated battles of a lifetime" by John Mauldin. The reason, in a nutshell, why the US public pension problem has stumped so many professionals is simple: for lack of a better word, it is an unsustainable Ponzi scheme, in which satisfying accrued pension and retirement obligations requires not only a constant inflow of new money, but also fixed income returns, typically in the 6%+ range, which are virtually unfeasible in a world where global debt/GDP is in the 300%+ range.  Which is why we, and many others, have long speculated that it is only a matter of time before the matter receives political attention, and ultimately, a taxpayer bailout. 
That moment may be imminent. According to Pensions and Investments magazine, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio plans to introduce legislation that would allow struggling multiemployer pension funds to borrow from the U.S. Treasury to remain solvent.
The bill, which is co-sponsored by another Democrat, Rep. Tim Ryan, also of Ohio, could be introduced as soon as this week or shortly after. It would create a new office within the Treasury Department called the Pension Rehabilitation Administration. The funds would come from the sale of Treasury-issued bonds to financial institutions. The pension funds could borrow for 30 years at low interest rates. The one, and painfully amusing, restriction for borrowers is "they could not make risky investments", which of course will be promptly circumvented in hopes of generating outsized returns and repaying the Treasury's "bailout" loan, ultimately leading to massive losses on what is effectively a taxpayer-funded pension bailout.
The bill would also fund a program at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. to finance any remaining needs of pension plans borrowing from the new program. 

"Any money needed for the PBGC would be a tiny fraction of what it would otherwise be on the hook for if Congress fails to act," said an analysis by Mr. Brown's office.
Sen. Brown's angle was naturally populist, and aimed squarely at those whose pensions are likely to recoup pennies on the dollar under the current investing climate: union workers. Brown told a group of retired Teamsters in Ohio on Monday that the bill will be out shortly. 
"It's bad enough that Wall Street squandered workers' money — and it's worse that the government that's supposed to look out for these folks is trying to break the promise made to these workers. Not on our watch. We won't allow that to happen," he said. 
No, instead what will happen "under his watch" is that funds collected from taxpaying Americans will be spent to satisfy the ridiculous retirement promises and obligations made over the past few decades, and while the immediate recipients of the funds, i.e. those looking at near-term retirement will be made whole, everyone else, i.e., taxpayers will lose. 
And now that the machinery for pension bailouts is finally in motion, we look forward to the next, and possibly final, tear in the American social fabric, that between workers who can't wait to retire to the generous pension promises (see "Why Illinois Is In Trouble - 63,000 Public Employees With $100,000+ Salaries Cost Taxpayers $10 Billion" and "Mapping The $100,000+ California Public Employee Pensions At CalPERS Costing Taxpayers $3.0B"), and all those other unluckly taxpayers, who will have to fund these promises.

This Certainly Covers It



So They Do

Charter schools do more than teach to the test: evidence from Boston

Good Question

Why Is It Such a Struggle to Reform Our Colleges? Let's start with the answer that too many people go to college that shouldn't, and, the plethora of useless degrees leading to many graduates employed in positions that could easily be performed by high school graduates. I believe colleges do not need to be reformed, rather, they need to be imploded and reconstructed, with the emphasis on teaching, not administration and athletics.

Coup and Counter Coup in Saudi Arabia

Nassim Taleb refers to Saudi Arabia as Saudia Barbaria, and I entirely concur.  The Middle East is a mess, has been for eons (well, ok, for 'ages') now, yet the last several months has witnessed a major upheaval in the Kingdom of Saud.  One underlying theme is evident as this situation plays out: the power of those in power, i.e., the tools of the apparatus of state that can be called upon to crush dissenters, is truly scary sh*t, really.  In my opinion, events now are taking shape according to the fallout of the proxy war waged in, and or by the United States, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria and Iran.  All is related to the entire Sunni-Shiite (Shia) mess ...

Good starting point: What the Hell Just Happened in Saudi Arabia?  

Lebanon Plunges Into Crisis After Premier Resigns, Fearing Assassination Plot

 Saudis Intercept Ballistic Missile Over Capital Riyadh.  False flag?

In Shocking Purge, Saudi King Arrests Billionaire Prince Bin Talal, Dozens Of Others In Cabinet Crackdown

Saudi Banks Begin Freezing Accounts Of Arrested Royals, Private Jets Grounded

Second Saudi Prince Confirmed Killed During Crackdown

To my point: Israeli-Saudi Tandem Adjusts to Syria Loss

Opinion Is Saudi Arabia Pushing Israel Into War With Hezbollah and Iran?

Trump Defends Saudi Actions: "Some Have Been Milking Their Country For Years"

Saudi Arabia Is About To Confiscate $33 Billion From Four Of Its Richest People

Part I: On The Verge Of Catastrophe: Saudi Arabia Says Lebanon Declared War

Saudi Arabia's 'Game of Thobes'  This is a good background piece.

Will the Saudi People Remain Bystanders? [IMO: yes, very likely yes]

After "Declaration Of War", Yemen Rebels Threaten Attacks On Saudi Arabia

"Explosive" Leaked Secret Israeli Cable Confirms Israeli-Saudi Coordination To Provoke War

The inside story of the Saudi night of long knives  

Saudi Purge Goes Nuclear: Over 1,200 Bank Accounts Frozen

Real Motive Behind Saudi Purge Emerges: $800 Billion In Confiscated Assets 

The Saudi Purge: The Middle East Is On The Verge Of New War

Part II: As Israel And Saudi Arabia Target Lebanon, What Are Hezbollah's Military Capabilities 

Saudi Arabia Orders Its Citizens To Leave Lebanon Immediately 

Kuwait Orders Citizens To Leave Lebanon Immediately "As Precaution Against Any Negative Impact That Might Take Place"

Saudi King May Relinquish Throne To Crown Prince Within 48 Hours: Reports 

Saudi Billionaires Scramble To Move Cash Offshore, Escape Asset Freeze

Saudi "Deep State" Prince Bandar Among Those Arrested In Purge: Report

Hezbollah Leader Says Saudi Arabia Has Declared War On Lebanon

Setting The Stage For War: US Air Force Says Missile Targeting Saudi Capital Was Iranian

What Now?  from James Kunstler.  Here's his spot-on conclusion:

And in the middle of all this, poor, feckless, Hezbollah-haunted Lebanon, and the boneyard formerly known as Syria. The region is seriously coming apart. Someone is going to make a dangerous misstep. The Golden Golem of Greatness has been off far away sampling General Tsao’s chicken and Singapore noodles. And this country is completely preoccupied with Sex Among the Stars. Thank goodness the stock market only goes up.
Arab League To Hold Urgent Meeting On Iran As Saudis Reportedly Mobilize Fighter Jets

"Abdication Is Unthinkable": Saudis Deny King Salman Will Relinquish Throne To His Son 

In First Shocking Interview Since Resignation, Hariri Lashes Out At Iran, Hezbollah

 "This Is A Dangerous Iranian Escalation": Bahrain Blames Pipeline Explosion On Iran, Terrorists 

If The Saudi Arabia Situation Doesn't Worry You, You're Not Paying Attention

Saudi Coup Signals War And The New World Order Reset

New: Saudi Arabia Offers Arrested Royals A Deal: Your Freedom For Lots Of Cash

New: Israel Ready To Share Intel With Saudis "Against Iran" Ahead Of Possible War

Quote of the Day

"When a government becomes a national security state, as Zimbabwe, Chile, and the United States are, the military-intelligence segment of the government wields the power to oust people from public office, with impunity. When that happens, there is nothing anyone can do about it because of the overwhelming power of the military and intelligence agencies. A regime change may be illegal and unconstitutional but under a national-security state, it becomes a distinct possibility." - Jacob Hornberger, The Extra-Legal Backstop for a Dangerous President

Yes, But They Elect Those That Won't

Poll: Americans Would Cut Middle East War Spending.

Well It's About F'ing Time

Good riddance.  Be safe.  Good luck.  Don't call.  But seriously, PESCO?  Whatever.  EU Creates New Defense Pact to Reduce Dependence on US.  Next step is for the US to get out of NATO.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Today's WTF Headline!

49% Favor Mandatory Military Service For US Youth.  "Mandatory" and "America" ... two words that should never appear in the same sentence.

Quote of the Day

... and here's why the world sucks, why there will never be peace in the Middle East and why there will always be war ...

"Though nearly half of Israelis polled last July – well before the scandals took a much dirtier turn – believe that Netanyahu is corrupt, a majority of Israelis said that they would still vote for him." - Ramzy Baroud, The Trials of Benjamin Netanyahu: Corruption in Israel Is Not Just an Israeli Issue

Catalonia - What Price for Independence?

For a majority of Americans, the word "Catalonia" is new.  Few know it is a region of Spain that has long wanted independence from their Castilian masters.  What they "know" now comes only through the media, primarily the MSM, and relatively few will read any meaningful research material.  While I had long had a basic awareness of Catalonia and Castilian regions of a fascinating country, I learned much more while reading the Patrick O'Brian Aubrey and Maturin historical fictional novels.  As fate would have it, my wife and I travel to Barcelona on Saturday, October 14th.  While many have told us not to go, we're going.  Please, read up.  Not just what I post below, but dig a bit and formulate an informed opinion.  I firmly believe all people have the right to self-determination.  Period.

A Few Thoughts on the Catalan Independence Referendum from Marian Tupy (who is a native Czech and knows a thing or two about separatist movements)

The Catalonian Mess by Alberto Mingardi

Catalonia: What's Next? by Justin Raymond

Five Things to Remember About Catalonia by Vicent Partal

Police Violence at Catalonia Vote Reveals Thuggish Nature of Government by Ed Krayewski

Everything You Need to Know About the Catalan Independence Referendum by Joe Jarvis

Catalan Independence: Why The Collective Hates It When People Walk Away by Brandon Smith

Crisis in Catalonia Caused By Judiciary by William Watkins

Let The Catalonians Leave by John Stossel

10 Historic Reasons Catalonia is Fighting for Independence from Spain 

Again on the Catalonian secession and the EU by Alberto Mingardi

Spain To Activate Article 155 Process, Suspending Catalonia Autonomy

Spain Activates "Nuclear Option": Will Seize Control Of Catalan Government, Force New Elections

"It's A Coup": Catalan President Slams "Worst Attack" By Spain "Since Franco Dictatorship"

Spain Won't Arrest Separatist Leaders, Blames "Fake News" For Catalan Crisis

Catalan Separatists Plan Human Shield, "Civil Disobedience" To Block Spanish Takeover

Getting It Right On Catalonia by Justin Raimondo

A Few Thoughts on Catalonia by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (interesting perspective)

Catalan Separatist Leader: "Spain Leaves No Option But To Proclaim New Republic"

Almost 1,400 Companies Have Left Catalonia Since October 2

Catalan Government Said To Back Off Independence Push, Will Seek Elections; Spanish Stocks Soar, Yields Tumble

Catalan Separatists Rebel Against Their Leader, Shout "Traitors" Outside Puigdemont's Office

Spain Showdown: Catalan Parliament To Decide On Independence Tomorrow, Chaos To Follow

BREAKING: Catalan Slaps the Government of Spain Across the Face, Officially Declares Independence

Catalan Leaders Face 30 Years In Jail As Spain Brings "Rebellion" Charges

Catalan Leader Urges "Peaceful" Rebellion As Spain Takes Over Government

Puigdemont Seeks Asylum In Belgium After Spain Files Charges Against Catalan Government For Rebellion 

Spain Order Jailing Of Catalan Leaders: 'What Happens Next' To Puigdemont?

Catalonia and Common Sense by Alberto Mingardi

Why The Catalan Independence Movement Is Failing

Ousted Catalan Leader Turns Himself In To Belgian Police

750,000 Protesters Clog Barcelona Streets, Demands Release Of "Political Prisoners"  

This is NOT a joke; not a piece from The Onion - Spanish Government Blames Russian "Dezinformatsiya" Campaign For Catalan Uprising

New: And very good! Catalonia and the Art of Differential Diagnosis


Only In Government Can This Happen

U.S. Postal Service Extends Losing Streak to Eleven Years:
The United States Postal Service is reporting losses of $2.7 billion for the past fiscal year, USA Today reports, less than the $5.6 billion from the previous year but still the eleventh straight year the USPS has been a loser for taxpayers. Increases in package delivery failed to offset the drop in regular mail, which fell by, count ‘em, some five billion pieces since more people now use email to pay their bills. The response to losses has been to jack up the price of stamps and seek relief from Congress. As we noted, during years with some of the worst losses, USPS bosses bagged big raises. The massive losses are hardly the only problem for the USPS. 
As we noted, the USPS is dropping post offices in retail outlets such as Staples. Consumers found those convenient, but the USPS government employee union doesn’t like them. This forces consumers to use regular post offices, which are like stepping into the eighteenth century. Congress and USPS management have also been unable to implement a simple cost-cutting measure such as ending Saturday mail delivery. So the USPS continues to be a loser for taxpayers. 
President Donald Trump says he doesn’t like losers, so he might team with Congress to lift the USPS monopoly on first-class mail and let the USPS compete in that field, as it now does in packages. In the digital age or at any time, stopping the mail monopoly is the only way to end the USPS losing streak and rack up a win for taxpayers

More Like Him Are Needed

Professor Makes Students Cluck Like a Chicken When Beginning a Statement With ‘I Feel’

Virtue-Signaling

Virtue-Signaling, defined in Are You Guilty of 'Virtue-Signaling'?:
Virtue signaling, a term coined by British author James Bartholomew, began in the 1960s as a way to 'vent anger.'
British author James Bartholomew has secured his place in history. Recently, he invented the perfect phrase for our times: “virtue signaling.”
Virtue signaling is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas, cultural happenings, or even the weather. When a liberal goes on a tirade about how dumb and dangerous U.S. Senator Ted Cruz is—a tirade devoid of specific examples of Cruz’s mendacity—that person is actually signaling to others that he or she is virtuous. It has very little to do with Cruz’s actually personality or record.
Celebrities who publicly express panic about the environment without knowing much about science are virtue signaling. So are those who seize on current events to publicize their supposedly virtuous feelings, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg did recently when he wrote on Facebook: “If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.” Well, that’s a relief—Facebook won’t be banning Muslims.
Modern virtue signaling began in the 1960s, when cultural leftism overthrew not just the conservatism of the 1950s but also the vital center of liberalism. Conservatives and moderate liberals had done plenty of virtue signaling of their own, and a lot of it was based on racism and hatred of homosexuality, but a lot of it was also grounded in reason and truth. William F. Buckley, Richard Nixon, and Whittaker Chambers were right about communism. Moderate liberals also favored research and analysis over slogans. Liberal Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” predicted the catastrophe that would befall the black community as a result of broken families.
The New Left of the 1960s was more about rage than reason, and they passed their anger down to their Millennial offspring. Often the entire front page of left-leaning websites like Slate and Salon are nothing but virtue signaling, the headlines all variations of: Celebrity/Politician/Activist A Just Destroyed the Homophobic/Sexist/Racist Idiocy of Politician B. Usually the articles are jeremiads without much reporting. If research is going to buzzkill your virtue signaling, well then, to hell with research.
But then, virtue signaling is not about journalism. It’s a way to vent your anger. As James Bartholomew describes:
It’s noticeable how often virtue signalling consists of saying you hate things. It is camouflage. The emphasis on hate distracts from the fact you are really saying how good you are. If you were frank and said, ‘I care about the environment more than most people do’ or ‘I care about the poor more than others’, your vanity and self-aggrandizement would be obvious. . . . Anger and outrage disguise your boastfulness.
One of the most appalling examples of this appeared recently on the Huffington Post. In “Dear Islamophobes: Your Racism is Putting Us all in Danger,” writer Ryan Grim, who failed to marshal research, conduct interviews, or consult polls, declared:
Anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim political parties in Europe have stirred up a tremendous amount of Islamophobia there, and such attitudes naturally drive feelings of anger and betrayal. For a young man or woman on the edge, it can be just enough to push them into radicalization, and it’s not a coincidence that Europe has seen far more homegrown attacks. Yet we here in the U.S. seem to be barreling headlong for that same cliff.
It’s delivered like Holy Writ, without sourcing or self-reflection or doubt: Islamophobia is declared irrational, blamed for producing feelings of anger and betrayal in Muslims, which then pushes young people “on the edge” towards radicalization. No need to dive into data about Muslim attitudes about jihad. No need to examine the contradiction of liberals who argue that vulgar elements of pop culture have no effect on people, even people “on the edge.”
Bravo, James Bartholomew. You have invented a useful and timely neologism. Hopefully it will lead to public awareness of or disgust with virtue signaling, which is both obnoxious and intellectually lazy. At the very least, it is a reminder that genuine virtue, pursued in everyday acts and often hard-won, isn’t likely to be found in places like The Huffington Post.

Business Cycle Theory: Basics

Marginal Revolution University will be running a short series on business cycle theory.  I'll post each short video as it arrives!

First up are the Keynesians:




New:  Next up: The Monetarists


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Most Certainly True

Information—and, yes, misinformation—flows more easily and cheaply than ever, making access nearly universal. That's a good thing.
Is American society so fragile that a few "divisive" ads, news stories, commentaries, and even lies—perhaps emanating from Russia—threaten to plunge it into darkness? The establishment's narrative on "Russian election meddling" would have you believe that. On its face, the alarm over this is so ridiculous that I doubt any of the fearmongers really believe their own words. They're attempting to provoke public hysteria for political, geopolitical, and financial gain. There's no more to it than that.

While we the people are not deemed worthy of being shown the evidence that "Russia"—which I take to mean Vladimir Putin—was behind the so-called meddling, even if we grant it just for the sake of argument, what does it amount to? Where's the existential threat to America that justifies the fevered rhetoric and bizarre policy proposals that are the staple of cable news? There is none. All I can say is, if that's the worst the Russians can do, I wouldn't lose any sleep over them.

And even if we ignore the fact that the material in question amounted to drops in the vast ocean of information Americans encounter every day, the establishment's narrative and proposals are outrageous. Let's state the obvious: we live in an increasingly borderless world—and that's a good thing (no matter what the demagogue and ignoramus Donald Trump says). Information—and, yes, misinformation—flows more easily and cheaply than ever, making access nearly universal. It can't be controlled. That's a good thing. It does not justify panic.

To grow up is to cultivate methods of separating the wheat from the chaff in what we see and hear. Early on we learn to discount—if not disbelieve—the claims we hear in television commercials because we understand the role interest plays in describing goods and services. We also learn (one hopes) to treat the claims of politicians, the traditional targets of American ridicule, the same way.

There is no substitute for this sort of skepticism; it's is a sign of maturity. A government effort to protect us from misinformation in the name of preserving "our democratic institutions" would be a contradiction, not to mention a "cure" far worse than the alleged disease. The best protection against one-sided, erroneous, even dishonest assertions is competition, the universal solvent.

Most people understand this but in too narrow a way. In every election season we are deluged with questionable, false, and even crazy claims. This didn't start with the internet. It's as old as politics. In fact, most campaigns today are more civil than in the past, when candidates' alleged extramarital affairs and illegitimate children were fair game.

We have all heard of—or looked at—fringe websites that traffic in political stories even the National Enquirer might reject. But a call to shut down those sites would be rejected by most people—unless the sites were suspected of being Russian.

Why should that make a difference? If a story is true, who cares who tells it? And if it is exaggerated or false, can't the people be trusted to exercise the same skepticism they are expected to exercise when the source is American? If not, why does anyone praise democracy? Isn't it odd for proud small-d democrats to lack that confidence in the people?

Knowing the identity of the source doesn't indicate if a story is true. (The New York Times said—falsely—that Iraq had WMD and that all 17 intelligence agencies verified that Russia hacked the DNC.) Virtually all the material supposedly posted by Russians was authentic. (Much of it was redundant. Which bright Russian schemer thought it worthwhile to tell the people of Ferguson, Missouri, about police and racial issues there?) Were voters better or worse off because that material was made available? Was the American political system imperiled by RT's coverage of third-party candidates or fracking? Fans of democracy who worship the "informed voter" can't seriously say they were worse off.

Whether or not "the Russians" did what they are accused of doing, we need to be skeptical about what we see and hear, and we need to demand evidence rather than take the government's word on faith. That also goes for what we get from the established news outlets, which have a financial interest in marginalizing alternative media.

In other words we need to be adults and quit worrying about Putin's alleged plans to sow chaos in America.

What we don't need is government regulation, a blunt instrument that would produce horrendous consequences, intended and unintended. One suspects that the social-media moguls have belatedly jumped on the anti-Russian bandwagon because some members of Congress have read them the riot act: get on board or else. But who really thinks that scapegoating Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (!), and YouTube, and burdening them—us!—with regulations would protect Americans from political untruths and exaggerations? A false sense of security is worse than no sense of security at all.

I see more than a little irony in the fact that those who would use the state to shield us from "Russian influence" also urge us to trust the "intelligence community"—in the absence of any evidence—when it (more precisely, a group of handpicked analysts) says Russia is working night and day to destroy America. The threat to peace and liberty is homegrown and resides largely in Washington, D.C.

On the Release of the JFK Files

Two from one of the leading experts in the assassination of JFK, Jacob Hornberger.

I Predict Trump Will Continue the CIA’s JFK Assassination Cover-Up

Circumstantial Evidence in the JFK Assassination

No "Smoking Guns" in the JFK Records?:

I highly recommend reading everything by Hornberger on the subject.  It's some fascinating material!

Trump Blocks Full Release of JFK Assassination Records After Last Minute CIA Push.  Yeah, right.  The "push" was likely a simple "you're next if ...."

The National Archives: Lawbreaker and Cover-Upper

Martin Luther King and Lee Harvey Oswald

New:  Who Killed President Kennedy and Why?  A few new items in this one that even I didn't know! 

Federalism, Federalism and More Federalism

Decentralize government to resolve country’s division: [consider the entire f'ing piece emphasized!]
America is increasingly a nation haunted by fears of looming dictatorship. Whether under President Barack Obama’s “pen and phone” rule by decree, or its counterpoint, the madcap Twitter rule of our current chief executive, one part of the country, and society, always feels mortally threatened by whoever occupies the Oval Office.

Given this worsening divide, perhaps the only reasonable solution is to move away from elected kings and toward early concepts of the republic, granting far more leeway to states, local areas and families to rule themselves. Democrats, as liberal thinker Ross Baker suggests, may “own” the D.C. “swamp,” but they are beginning to change their tune in the age of Trump. Even dutiful cheerleaders for Barack Obama’s imperial presidency, such as the New Yorker, are now embracing states’ rights.

The founders’ solution

When the founders crafted the Constitution, they confronted a country with deep divisions — rural and urban, slave and free, immigrant and nativist, manufacturing and commodity producing. The solution they came up with had its shortcomings, notably the tolerance of the truly deplorable institution of slavery, but without these built-in restraints the republic likely would not have survived its first decades.

Even after the Civil War settled control of the central government, the country largely followed the founders’ vision of separating and restraining power. Education, zoning, laws and the governing of morality were handled largely at the local level. The federal government focused on things that were its natural purview — interstate transportation, immigration, foreign and defense policy.

Federal intervention remained necessary at times, for example, to assure voting rights. But, overall, maintaining power at the local level has remained broadly popular, with the support of over 70 percent of the adult population. Even in one-party California, most would prefer to see local officials, not those at the national or state level, in control.

Division and the road to alternating dictatorships

As in the antebellum period, American politics sadly reflects two increasingly antagonistic nations. One can be described as a primarily urban, elite-driven, ethnically diverse country that embraces a sense of inevitable triumphalism. The other America, rooted more in the past, thrives in the smaller towns and cities, as well as large swaths of suburbia. Sometimes whiter, the suburbs are both more egalitarian and less reflexively socially liberal.

This division worsened in the Obama era, whose city-centric approach all but ignored the interests of the resource-producing regions of the country, as well as the South. In contrast, under Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Democrats were joyously competitive in these areas, assuring that the party was truly diverse, rather than simply the lap dog of the littoral constituencies.

With the GOP now in control of Washington, the coastal areas are becoming, to paraphrase President Obama, the new clingers, whether on the environment, racial redress or gender-related issues. Now they fear, with good reason, that the very administrative state they so eagerly embraced could come back to undermine their agenda even at the local level.

Republicans, for their part, are stoking these fears by using statehouse control to slap down efforts by communities in the states they control to embrace progressive policies on minimum wages, transgender bathrooms and fracking bans. By doing this, the GOP could be accused of engaging in its own form of payback, which simply assures that when the Democrats get back in power, they will do the same to them.

How to reunite the country — by decentralization

A better course would be to allow the blue states to push back against federal intrusion, hoping that, perhaps, they have learned a lesson about Washington overreach. The country is too diverse, too different in terms of economics and ethnicity, to find common ground on every issue. The reality of polarization requires greater latitude for local authorities.

The alternative seems to be ever greater dissension and discord. With Trump in power, California progressives dream of secession; had Hillary Clinton won, we’d be hearing hotheads advocating Texas independence.

What is needed is not enforced unanimity but the nurturing of alternatives. We need to allow states to serve as what the progressive U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis described as “laboratories of democracy.” These entities, he suggested, can “try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” In other words, let Oregon legislate one way, and Texas and Oklahoma another. Voters could then judge which approach they prefer, and try to prove what works best.

Under these localist principles, states, too, should decentralize authority. California’s coastal power structure, largely concentrated in the Bay Area, should not be so able to impose policies that mean real hardship in Fresno, Riverside or Redding. Similarly, progressive redoubts in places like North Carolina should be able to legislate their preferences without being gagged by the more conservative rural areas.

The entire point of the country’s founding was to give communities control over their own money and their own fate. The decades-long rush to centralize power — whatever the political orientation — has tended to only weaken our union, and leave the country on the road, inevitably, to a new kind of interminable civil war.

What, You're Surprised To Learn

UK Prosecutors Admit Destroying Emails In Julian Assange Case.  Really?

Milton Friedman on Socialism

Well worth 10 minutes of your time ...


Why? Because We Allow It To Be

Why the Worst Humans Are Able to Rise to Power.  Politics attracts the feeble-minded power-seekers.

WTF!!! Neo-Tolerance?

Teacher Facing Discipline for ‘Misgendering’ Student:
Second, the issue is a touchstone of sorts, one that is testing how far Western nations will go in their effort to enforce neo-tolerance. I write neo-tolerance because, as the theologian Ben R. Crenshaw has pointed out, the idea of tolerance has changed in recent years. 
“Under the traditional view of tolerance, two aspects were required: first, that you respected the right of the person or individual in question to hold his beliefs and voice his opinions; and second, that you had a right to disagree with those beliefs and contest them both privately and publicly. As D.A. Carson paraphrases it in The Intolerance of Tolerance, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” You do not have to like the person with whom you disagree, but you do have to respect and tolerate his right to speak...
Over the course of the last century, however, the old view of tolerance has been slowly transformed. The emergent new tolerance holds that persons who are truly tolerant accept the views of others and treat these individuals fairly. The key distinction is that under the old tolerance, one would accept the existence of other views even while rejecting some views as false; but under the new tolerance, one accepts these other views. In other words, all views are seen as equally valid and true.”
Under a traditional view of tolerance, one could say, I disagree with that idea, but you should feel free to pursue it all you wish. The new view of tolerance, however, treats this attitude as a harm. To be skeptical of transgenderism is to reject the person who identifies as transgender. The difficulty of the problem is particularly acute because of the English language, which relies heavily on pronouns: him, her, she, his, etc. One is left with a choice: whose pronouns will I use? Theirs or mine?

So Very Quietly

Quietly, The U.S. Builds Its First Army Base Inside Israel.  No one appears to be asking "why?"  Worse, so few seem to care, but, so long as it doesn't interfere with getting the new iPhone, why bother to give the implications a thought?

Monday, November 13, 2017

So, You're Surprised To Learn That ...

New Farm Subsidy Programs Were Supposed to Save Money; Instead They've Cost Billions More Than Predicted.  Really?
Most of the money has gone to a small collection of well-off farms.

The government tends to be terrible at pruning back spending. For evidence, consider the new form of farm subsidies it adopted in 2014—a reform that was supposed to save taxpayers' money but instead is costing us billions more than projected.

According to new analysis by the Environmental Working Group, the government spent $8.8 billion last year on commodity subsidies, paid to the growers of corn, wheat, soy, and other crops. That's about twice the $4.8 billion the feds had anticipated its commodity programs would cost.

As with past subsidy schemes the bulk of these billions are going not to small family farms but to the largest, most prosperous agribusinesses. In 2016, the top 1 percent of subsidy recipients were getting a minimum $116,501 payout, while the median recipient was recieving only $2,479.


"When you look the current subsidy system," says Colin O'Neil, legislative affairs director for Environmental Working Group, "we are seeing a concentration of wealth with the largest, most successful farm businesses."

The 2014 Farm Bill eliminated the government's system of direct payments to farmers, a change that was supposed to scale back spending and spread the subsidy benefits around more evenly. At the time, those direct payments had become a national embarrassment: A 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office found that a quarter of payments were going to producers who were not even growing the crops the program was supposed to subsidize, while another 2,300 farms were getting subsidies while growing no crops at all.

"Everyone knew that the program that previously existed, the direct payment program, was going to go away," says Josh Sewel of Taxpayers for Common Sense. So the discussion between Congress and farm lobbyists became one of how to scrap the direct payments without losing the money attached to it.

They settled on the new Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program, which would pay farmers a subsidy whenever the revenue for their crops fell below a five-year average revenue set by Congress. They also created a smaller Price Loss Coverage (PLC), which pays out if prices fell below a particular point. This, proponents argued, would save taxpayers money by only funding farmers when their revenue saw a sudden drop.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), working with revenue and price projections provided by Congress, estimated that these new subsidy schemes would cost $2.5 billion in 2015 and then only about $4.8 billion in 2016—almost a $1 billion less than what the direct payments would have cost.

Instead, the new programs paid out $5.7 billion in 2015 and a staggering $8.82 billion in 2016, a combined cost overrun of $7.2 billion. "It has cost us a lot more money than if we had just kept paying farmers to be farmers," says Sewel.

When Congress drafted the 2014 Farm Bill, lawmakers predicted that crop prices and revenue would remain at historic highs, necessitating little in the way of payouts. When those predictions proved wildly overoptimistic, the costs of the new programs skyrocketed.

Those overruns are set to continue. According to a budget analysis released by the CBO in June, the new system of commodity subsidies will cost $22.1 billion from 2016 to 2018—$7.5 billion more than predicted.

The new subsidy arrangements have not been more equitable either, with huge cash payments still going to the large agricultural producers. In 2016, the largest recipient of commodity subsidies was Deline Farm Partnership, which operates farms across six states and received a $4 million payout from the federal government.

These programs are set to expire in 2018. When Congress takes up the issue again, Sewel hopes it will recognize that ARC and PLC have been failures.

Not only are they "overgenerous" and "unnecessary," he says, but they also distort the market forces the agricultural industry relies on to spur change and productivity growth.

"People tend to forget that farmers are some of the most innovative, dynamic, technically expert" producers, Sewel tells Reason. "There is a lot of innovation that can happen there if they're given the opportunity."

This Guy Likely Has Few Friends

... the truth does hurt, but Arnold Oliver speaks it anyway! Bring Back Armistice Day and Honor the Real Heroes.  Few people know the history of Armistice Day, but fortunately, Oliver presents a lesson worth remembering. 

I believe in one simple concept regarding honoring those who lost their lives in America's wars: the best way to honor their ultimate sacrifice is to create a world where no one will ever be called upon to do so again.

The Myths About The "Rich" Are Still Prevalent

Funny how the left in general and progressives in particular continue to perpetuate the myth that rich people are all simply sitting back, doing nothing, and making money doing it.  Kevin Williamson contributes his thoughts to why this isn't true in his latest, The Myth of the Idle Rich

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Military Myths Are The Hardest to Kill

Well worth a read - Debunking two American myths.  As my brother used to say: "there are two kinds of ships: subs and targets".

Well Said

Spanking the Monkey by James Kunstler:

The hysteria manufacturing business formerly known as the news media is enjoying multiple orgasms this morning in the outing of notoriously vulgar comedian Louis CK for exactly the sort of vulgar behavior offstage that he riffed about onstage. What a surprise. We also learn today that Jeremy Piven, beloved and admired for his role as a bimbo-berating Hollywood agent in the HBO comedy Entourage, is alleged to have groped a starlet in his trailer. Or was he just doggedly staying in character between set-ups? And what was she doing there, anyway? Stopping by to share the everything bagel with jalapeƱo cream cheese that she picked up at craft services?
I suppose these guys will be joining Kevin Spacey in his new dinner theater in Tampa, since they’ll never work in Hollywood again, and surely they have bills to pay, especially to their lawyers. Hollywood itself, being the vulgar place it has always been, must be nervously awaiting the inevitable next phase of this melodrama: when various actresses, and other women around the biz, are revealed to be sluts who screwed and blew their way to stardom — not to put too fine a point on it. Surely a few ladies out there have misbehaved in the way that ladies can, trading favors for fame and fortune — or do you suppose that never happens? Or only when men force them to? (Anyway, don’t count on hearing about that in The New York Times.)
Then the whole prurient cavalcade of cross-allegation and litigation will be as forgotten as a mass slaughter in Las Vegas, or Texas, or Lower Manhattan, and it will be back to business-as-usual in the news racket: nattering about contacts with Russia, a faraway land that, we’re told, is determined to corrupt the morals of our shining city on a hill.
The metamorphosis of the news business from a dignified and necessary component of the public interest to a gong and geek show is now complete. Some of you may remember that it used to be the task of news organizations to actually gather the news from far and wide. When Walter Cronkite came over the airways on CBS news, he “anchored” the revolving team of reporters in the field: we go to Marvin Kalb in Moscow… Fred Graham in Atlanta… Peter Kalischer in Paris… Lesley Stahl in New York…. Do you know what those people were doing? They were reporting the news on site, because it was important to actually be in the places where events were happening and talking to the people involved in them. And, by the way, do you think Marvin Kalb made contact with Russians? Or perhaps reported on other fellow Americans in contact with Russians? (And that was back in the Cold War, when Russia was run by the wicked Boris and Natasha).
Turn on Anderson Cooper on CNN these days and what do you get: “And now lets turn to our panel for analysis.” Our panel? Analysis? A gang of moonlighting kibitzers with an opinion about what might have actually happened in the world that day, which none of them have been busy actually reporting on. The transformation on the cable networks especially has been insidious. Not so distantly as the days of the Iraq War, CNN checked in every night with Christiane Amanpour, the last of the great foreign correspondents, roving about the Middle East. Do these so-called news organizations even employ any reporters anymore?
I don’t think so. Perhaps the most important story of the decade is the developing meltdown of governance and authority in Saudi Arabia and a Defcon Red level of potential for major war breaking out between them and Iran. How many reporters do the cable networks have in Riyadh today? What’s on CNN’s home page this morning? Boy dies after eating grilled cheeseWhy men use masturbation to harass women; and the lead under their “Top Stories” banner: ‘Magnum, P.I.’ actor John Hillerman dies. Maybe you can find a clue in here why the USA has become a reality-optional society. Maybe it’s the American news media that actually has its dick in its hand.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Madness? Yes, But Profitable

At some point in the near or semi-distant future, one way or another, Mr. Trump will have departed public office. For many reasons, perhaps most of all because we managed (if we do manage) to avoid nuclear war during his tenure, we will feel relief. But we may also feel a kind of letdown. Instead of having our anxieties focused upon the shallowness, impulsivity, and macho vengefulness of one particular leader, we will be forced to go back to worrying about the craziness of deterrence itself, irrespective of who is leading us.

A conference at Harvard on November 4 on "Presidential First Use of Nuclear Weapons," examined whether the law should be changed and the choice to initiate nuclear war ought to be placed in the hands of congress rather than the president’s hands alone.

It may be of academic interest where launch authority should reside, but the question fails to address that moment of maximum awfulness when someone in the military reports to civilian authorities – accurately or not – that incoming missiles have appeared on a screen, requiring that someone decide how to respond, with millions of lives in the balance, in the space of a few inadequate minutes.

To have drifted into the creation of a system that culminates in such a moment, to put any one person or team of people in that position, is to have participated in a form of collective psychosis. We are all complicit, for example in the way both citizens and the press tolerated the bizarre reality that the topic was never brought up in any of the presidential debates.

It is not surprising that people find it challenging to think clearly, or to think at all, about the issue of nuclear war. Its utter destructiveness is so impossible to wrap our heads around that we take refuge in the fantasy that it can’t happen, it won’t happen, or if it does happen it will occur somewhere else. Mr. Trump’s ascendancy has sharpened our apprehension, which may be a good thing if it helps us reexamine the bigger machine in which he is only an eccentric cog.

Many argue, speciously, that the potential destructiveness is the very thing that makes the system work to prevent war, forgetting the awful paradox of deterrence: that in order to never be used, the weapons must be kept absolutely ready for use. The complexity of the electronic systems intended to control them keeps on increasing as they are deployed in ever greater variety – on missiles from ships, on tactical battlefield launchers, from bombers and submarines, from aging silos in the Midwest. Error is inevitable, and close calls are legion.

The planet as a whole has pronounced clearly its judgment on deterrence, in the form of a treaty banning all nuclear weapons signed by 122 nations. The United States, citing the erratic and aggressive nuclear behavior of North Korea, boycotted the conference that led to this majority condemnation.

Sixteen years ago, Henry Kissinger joined William Perry, George Shultzm, and Sam Nunn to write a series of editorials in the Wall Street Journal arguing that deterrence is obsolete and abolition must be the ultimate policy goal, even if fiendishly difficult to achieve. On October 28, 2017, Kissinger was quoted in the New York Times saying:
"If they [North Korea] continue to have nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons must spread in the rest of Asia. It cannot be that North Korea is the only Korean country in the world that has nuclear weapons, without the South Koreans trying to match it. Nor can it be that Japan will sit there," he added. "So therefore we’re talking about nuclear proliferation."
No sane person wants nuclear proliferation. The only other choice, then, is the new treaty banning the most heinous class of WMD altogether.

The answer to the North Korean crisis is not further nuclear proliferation, nor, God forbid, is it all-out war on the Korean peninsula that would leave millions dead and make the United States, were we to participate with or even without nuclear weapons, a pariah nation. Instead we can start by reassuring North Korea in word and deed that we are not an existential threat to them, and wait patiently for internal changes in their governance that time will make inevitable.

Former Secretary of Defense Perry has argued we can afford to entirely eliminate the land-based leg of our land-sea-air nuclear triad with no loss of security. What would happen to planetary balances of power if our country unilaterally joined those 122 nations in a treaty that categorizes nuclear weapons, like chemical weapons, as beyond the pale, and we began to stand some of our weapons down in confidence-building gestures of good will? Would the Chinese or the Russians, or for that matter the North Koreans, really risk the omnicidal blowback of nuclear winter by launching unilateral attacks upon the U.S.? Isn’t the risk of that happening a good deal less than the risk of slipping into war with North Korea merely because leaders in both countries assumed that credible deterrence required the madness of mutually deliverable threats?

The Fall Accelerates

I couldn't agree more with Paul Craig Roberts in his latest, From Superpower to Incompetence: [emphasis mine]
Having grown up during the second half of the 20th century, I don’t recognize my country today. I experienced life in a competent country, and now I experience life in an incompetent country.

Everything is incompetent. The police are incompetent. They shoot children, grandmothers, cripples, and claim that they feared for their life.

Washington’s foreign policy is incompetent. Washington has alienated the world with its insane illegal attacks on other countries. Today the United States and Israel are the two most distrusted countries on earth and the two countries regarded as the greatest threat to peace.

The military/security complex is incompetent. The national security state is so incompetent that it was unable to block the most humiliating attack in history against a superpower that proved to be entirely helpless as a few people armed with box cutters and an inability to fly an airplane destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon itself. The military industries have produced at gigantic cost the F-35 that is no match for the Russian fighters or even for the F-15s and F-16s it is supposed to replace.

The media is incompetent. I can’t think of an accurate story that has been reported in the 21st century. There must be one, but it doesn’t come to mind.

The universities are incompetent. Instead of hiring professors to teach the students, the universities hire administrators to regulate them. Instead of professors, there are presidents, vice presidents, chancellors, vice chancellors, provosts, vice provosts, assistant provosts, deans, associate deans, assistant deans. Instead of subject matter there is speech regulation and sensitivity training. Universities spend up to 75% of their budgets on administrators, many of whom have outsized incomes.

The public schools have been made incompetent by standardized national testing. The purpose of education today is to pass some test. School accreditation and teachers’ pay depend not on developing the creativity or independent thinking of those students capable of it, but on herding them through memory work for a standardized test.

One could go on endlessly.

Instead, I will relate a story of everyday incompetencies that have prevented me from writing this week and for a few more days yet.

Recently, while away from my home, a heavy equipment operator working on a nearby construction site managed to drive under power lines with the fork lift raised. Instead of breaking the wire, it snapped the pole in half that conveyed electric power to my house. The power company came out, or, as I suspect, an outsourced contractor, who reestablished power to my home but did not check that the neutral wire was still attached. Consequently for a week or so my house experienced round the clock surges of high voltage that blew out the surge protection, breaker box, and every appliance in the house. Expecting my return, the house was inspected, and the discovery was that there was no power. Back came the power company and discovered that high voltage was feeding into the house and had destroyed everything plugged in.

So. Here we have a moron operating heavy equipment who does not understand that he cannot drive under power lines with the lift raised. We have a power company or its outsourced contractor who does not understand that power cannot be reconnected without making certain that the neutral wire is still connected.

So every appliance is fried. Glass everywhere from blown out light bulbs. We are talking thousands of dollars.

This is America today. And the incompetents ruling incompetents want war with Iran, Korea, Russia, China. Considering the extraordinary level of incompetence throughout the United States, I guarantee you that we will not win these wars.

And This Surprises Whom?

13 Baltimore High Schools Have Zero Students That Are Proficient In Math

Absolutely! (But, It Will Never Happen)

The welfare state will never be abolished for a few different reasons, with the primary one being that concessions to the left, from the right, are a quid pro quo for the left's support for the warfare state so loved by the right (and now, many on the left).  Next, few people know the past history of charitable organizations in this country, most of which folded when the state supplanted these institutions, resulting in a public that cannot comprehend what charity would look like without government.  Though there are many others, the last reason I'll raise is the simple fact the welfare state provides so many opportunities for cronyism, pocket-lining, payoffs, etc. and in this, welfare is so much like the warfare state, which excels in the cronyism department.  Here's Jeffrey Tucker's Should the Welfare State Be Abolished?: [emphasis mine]
I was honored to be the guest speaker of the Yale University Political Union last week, addressing the need to abolish the welfare state. The structure of the union breaks down students into “parties” based on political ideology. The guest speaks and then the students challenge. This is followed by minor speeches and challenges from students. The entire event lasts two hours, and the guest gets the final word.

A word on the students themselves: I was amazed at the erudition, decorum, and adult-like collegiality among them. It seems almost out of some movie I’ve seen, something set in the 1920s. I’m not entirely sure the students fully realize just how special they are. With a student body like this, I suspected that they learn more from engagement with each other than from their classes. Several students confirmed this. And, to be clear, this was true regardless of political outlook.

I, of course, was speaking on behalf of the pure free-market position on the welfare state, going further even than F.A. Hayek to say that the whole thing ought to be scrapped. There is nothing that the welfare state contributes to our lives that couldn’t be replaced by the normal operations of the market and civil society. In the end, I lost the debate, two to one, which is not a surprise, but I hope I planted plenty of seeds of doubt about the merit of the welfare state.

Command and Control

This whole topic is widely misunderstood. People think of the welfare state as a system of redistribution to help the poor improve their lot in life. Those who oppose it, we are told, are greedy advocates for the interests of the rich.

My contention is that this is just a story we tell ourselves that has nothing to do with the history and current reality of the welfare state. The welfare state is a system of command and control, imposed by the political elites, that targets politically marginalized groups in a way that, through both bad and good intentions, excludes them from participation in mainstream society.

The grim history is undeniable. Going back 100 years, controls on wages, working hours, marriage, migration, and professions were heavily influenced by eugenic and white supremacist ideology and pushed forward with the intention to mold population demographics in a way approved by political elites.

This is not the story anyone is taught in class. Mostly this history is suppressed, especially by champions of the welfare state. We are supposed to believe that the purpose of the welfare state was to help people. But I explained that the US already had a huge and growing structure of private welfare in place, particularly as provided by religious institutions dedicated to helping widows, orphans, and new immigrants.

A great example is Mother Cabrini of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They opened orphanages all over the East and West Coasts, managing hundreds of properties including hospitals and schools. But for the “Progressive” intellectuals of the period, these institutions were considered unprofessional and entirely too undisciplined, and they sought to displace these institutions with secular and publicly funded services. They succeeded.

Between 1905 and the mid-1930s, the welfare state was built and came to replace private provision. Funding sources dried up following the double blow of the income tax and estate tax, together gutting the fortunes that had been so generous to charitable institutions. Public provision did not make up the difference. But the big change was regulatory. A great example of early efforts is the minimum wage. When it was first presented, it was designed not to raise the wages of the poor but to raise the bar of entry into the workforce as high as possible so as to exclude “unfit” portions of the population (for more on this, see my full article.)

The same story can be told about maximum hours legislation, immigration restriction, marriage licenses, public schools, business regulation, and so much more. The rationale was slightly different in each case but the main goal was the same: to control and manage the population through coercion.

Where do we get this idea that the welfare state is designed to help people live a better life? It began to emerge during the New Deal, but that was just a cover. The New Deal was really about creating large-scale business cartels. The story repeats itself: the people who construct and manage the institutions of the welfare state are not the poor; they are privileged intellectuals working with power elites in industry and government. It has always been so.

Not What We Think

But let’s look today at the workings of the modern welfare state. The idea that it actually helps the poor is unsupportable. It is funded by vast payroll and excise taxes that harm the poor and middle class disproportionately (the rich pay most of the income taxes). Of the more than $1 trillion of spending that today constitutes what people call the welfare state, most of the dollars end up in the hands of the cartelized medical industry, which results in higher prices, less competition, and lower quality service.

There is a reason why obtaining medical insurance and service is so difficult as compared with buying groceries or software. It is precisely because of so much state involvement. It has ended up restricting, not expanding, access.

Or consider food stamps. These aren’t for the poor. The program is administered by the Department of Agriculture to create a guaranteed market for big agriculture. Imagine if the big three automakers could back “car stamps” so that taxpayers were forced to pay for cars for people in a certain demographic. It’s nice work if you can get it.

I concluded my speech by calling for a complete end to the welfare state as a necessary part of ending the hegemonic control by the ruling class. If you want to see what the state really does to the poor, visit the traffic court, the jails, the prisons, or see how policing works in poor communities. The state is not the friend of the poor.

The Responses

As you can imagine, my presentation confounded many of the people on the left–which probably constituted fully two-thirds of the people present. Following my speech, speaker after speaker pleaded for the need for the state to take from the rich and give to the poor as if this had never been tried. It’s like a narrative that some minds just cannot shake, despite all the evidence.

Still, I found their speeches fascinating because of the pervasive mistakes in their thinking.

First, not one speaker on the left seemed to connect the issue of poverty alleviation with the solution of wealth creation. Failing to address the issue of where wealth comes from–the zero-sum mindset here is pervasive–they have yet to learn the basic lesson that Adam Smith tried to explain two and a half centuries ago. He explained that wealth comes from the expansion of the division of labor, trade, innovation, and a flourishing commercial society. The dramatic decline in poverty around the world over the last 20 years comes not from more welfare but from expanding markets.

Second, not one speaker on the left seemed interested in the problem of granting the state power over people’s lives, which is very strange. An underlying assumption of their comments was that the state is a benevolent institution that is wise enough to pass and implement legislation that promotes social justice. It seems to be completely lost on these people that political establishments operate according to self-interest and end up advancing themselves most of all. Certainly, no state is interested in the precise political vision of Yale students.

Third, not one speaker on the left seemed particularly interested in the real history and experience of the welfare state as it has been practiced. Indeed, they seemed unwilling to defend any aspects of the status quo, even though policy has been striving for 100 years to implement precisely what they claim to favor. Why the lack of interest in the failures of the past? I suppose it is somewhat analogous to how today’s socialists are uninterested in the history of the Soviet Union or Mao’s China.

Welfare, Diversity, and Fascism

In my concluding remarks, I drew attention to the complex political dynamics between welfare and diverse population groups living under the same regime. People genuinely resent having their money taken and transferred to groups with which they feel no integral relationship. The welfare state, then, ends up exacerbating religious, racial, gender, and language conflicts, giving rise to populist movements that trend fascist. The advocates of the welfare state bear some responsibility for the rise of authoritarianism around the world.

These remarks were obviously unwelcome by the “social justice” crowd in attendance. Though I faced a lot of opposition, I do have to credit the students for not shutting me down and instead keeping the debate civil. As I mentioned, I was voted down by a margin of 2 to 1, but my hosts were thrilled with this result.
Your speaking appearance yesterday evening at Yale was memorably phenomenal! I was so very grateful for all of the substantive content and energetic explanations which you provided to our Yale Political Union assembly! Having brought in [other speakers], I can say proudly that in terms of intensive argumentation you topped the list!
In my perspective your arguments at yesterday evening's debate were unrivaled; none of the opponents of your views who spoke during the debate actually provided convincing ideas and arguments that could match your own….This afternoon you were the subject of many campus conversations.
This is what it is all about: advancing good ideas, furthering the conversation, promoting engagement, and encouraging people to rethink the ideologies of top-down social management.

I had a wonderful experience. In some way, I lived my dream: to advocate the abolition of the welfare state at one of the places where the ideology of welfarism was born.