I was fortunate enough to hear Daniel Hannan speak earlier this year. He is, in a word, brilliant. A few other words: informed, moral, funny, articulate, and a true classic liberal. In a just world, he’d be one of our greatest statesman. In today’s world . . . well, we’re still fortunate enough to get to hear him speak:
Alleged New York Times Baghdad Bureau Chief lambastes Obama administration
If a Reddit user really is Tim Arango, Baghdad Bureau Chief for The New York Times, it’s very impressive to read his scathing indictment of the administration’s Iraq policy and conduct:
it’s not my job to rate the obama administrations actions in iraq. but i will tell you that after 2011 the administration basically ignored the country. and when officials spoke about what was happening there they were often ignorant of the reality. they did not want to see what was really happening because it conflicted with their narrative that they left iraq in reasonably good shape. In 2012 as violence was escalating i wrote a story, citing UN statistics, that showed how civilian deaths from attacks were rising. Tony Blinken, who was then Biden’s national security guy and a top iraq official, pushed back, even wrote a letter to the editor, saying that violence was near historic lows. that was not true. even after falluja fell to ISIS at the end of last year, the administration would push back on stories about maliki’s sectarian tendencies, saying they didn’t see it that way. so there was a concerted effort by the administration to not acknowledge the obvious until it became so apparent — with the fall of mosul — that iraq was collapsing.
Given the poor grammar, though . . . well, I don’t know. You decide. Maybe he was typing away on a small android keyboard. Or maybe that’s how Times’ writers really write before the editor gets hold of their stuff.
9/11 from outer space
Learn a little more about 9/11’s first hero and first fatality
Danny Lewin, an American-born Israeli, was a tech giant in Israel — and 9/11’s first hero and first fatality.
Why do Muslims rape women?
Short answer: Because Mohamed. The Prophet practiced what he preached, and his followers have done so too since Islam’s inception.
The War Against Women
The pressing issues at NOW (the National Organization for Women):
- Having other people subsidize your sex life and abortions
- Getting paid the same money as men, no matter that you’re not doing the same type of work
- LGBTQ rights
- Believe it or not, the Equal Rights Amendment lives as “constitutional equality.”
- Protecting women of color who have even fewer rights than women without color
- And violence against women, which includes a campaign to fire George Will
Thousands of Iraqi women are being forced into sex slavery in brothels run by a ‘police force’ of British women jihadis, it has been reported.
As many as 3,000 women and girls have been taken captive from the Yazidi tribe in Iraq as Isis militants continue their reign of terror across the region.
Sources now say that British female jihadis operating a religious police force called the al-Khanssaa brigade, that punishes women for ‘un-Islamic’ behaviour, have set up brothels to for the use of Isis fighters.
ISIS goes full socialist
An ISIS supporter put up a Facebook post lauding ISIS’s incredible largess once it’s in power:
Ten Facts from the #Islamic_State that everyone should know.
1. We don’t pay rent here. Houses are given for free.
2. We pay neither electric nor water bills.
3. We are given monthly grocery supplies. Spagetti, pasta, can foods, rice, eggs and etc.
4. Monthly allowance are given not only to husband and wife (wives) but also for each child.
5. Medical check up and medication are free – The Islamic State pays on behalf of you.
6. You can still survive even if you don’t speak Arabic. You can find almost every race and nationality here.
7. For every newly married couples are given 700usd as a gift. (Only for Mujahid and I’m not sure if it’s still available now).
9. No one is conducting business during prayer time. You can see people left their shops opened and pray either in the masjid or near by their shops.
10. The number of mix-marriages and mixed-race children are so high. It’s beautiful to witness brotherhood with no racism.
From a muhajir sister,also spouse of a Mujahid brother at #Islamic_State
Diary Of A Muhajirah
People have noticed that these promises are pretty much in line with what every socialist state promises. Nevertheless, there’s one profound difference: Socialist states are predicated on the notion that everyone works cheerily together for the public good, while in a caliphate, the producers and the consumers are two different groups.
In socialist nations, the difference between reality and rhetoric has within it the seeds of socialism’s downfall. Despite the rhetoric, the reality is that people will only work for the public good, as opposed to their own good, at the point of a gun. Moreover, even with that gun pointing at them, the socialist workers inevitably produce less well as time goes by. The result is that the free houses are poorly-built, overly-populated apartment blocks; the water and electric bills don’t exist because people have no running water or electricity; the food is poor quality and limited in quantity, and the medicine is primitive. These realities inevitably kill the enthusiasm for socialism amongst everyone but the very small inner circle.
In the caliphate, as I said, things are different, very, very different. The consumers are one perpetual class, always enjoying luxury, while the producers are another perpetual class, always suffering servitude. A case in point is the fact that, as you probably noticed, I left out Item No. 8 in the above list. That’s the one that talked about paying for this socialist Islamic paradise:
8. You don’t have to pay tax (If you’re a Muslim).
Coerced payment from the non-Muslims is always at the point of a gun or the tip of a sword. And when one batch of non-Muslims, because they’re dead or worn out (think: Qatar), stops producing, the answer isn’t to convert your economy to a more capitalist one. After all, large segments of the population (the armed ones) are doing just fine with this Islamic socialist system. Rather than changing the system, they just go out and conquer another nation. A vigorous, blood-thirsty, rape-rich attack (think: ISIS) usually brings into the caliphate’s fold a fresh batch of cowed producers to support the takers. As Islam’s rise showed, this system can work effectively for centuries before it finally hits a wall.
Is the media preparing to turn on Obama?
It’s becoming impossible for the base to ignore that Obama has failed to fulfill his promises. Obamacare didn’t socialize medicine; it propped up insurance companies. The economy has been a boon for cronies and no one else. And around the world, countries hate America, even as the anti-war president is poised to launch yet another war. What to do, what to do? It appears that one of the things the media’s doing, before it even gets around to explicit attacks, is some subliminal undermining — how else to explain Thomas Lifson’s discovery about the media’s changing visuals for Obama. Remember, those whom the media Gods would destroy, they first dehumanize.
Will Obama learn his lessons?
When it comes to foreign policy, Obama has repeatedly been proven to be decisively wrong in both his reading and his handling of situations around the world. Daniel Henninger asks the right question: Will Obama realized that he’s been humbled?
My answer: No. His Leftist, insular, narcissistic, self-aggrandizing world-view leaves no room for humility, regret, or repentance.
Democrats may be getting snitty about Obama’s constitutional overrides
The Democrats were fine when Obama ignored the Constitution to re-write Obamacare so as to help them out in elections and spare cronies from its worst effects. They’re encouraging Obama to override the Constitution when it comes to immigration. But when it comes to starting yet another war, the same Democrats who were supine when he bombed Libya now complain that Obama needs to get Congressional permission this time around. Amazingly enough, the Republicans who were cowed, rather than supine, about Libya are also making noise about limitations on Obama’s war-time powers.
Turkey’s flying the coop (along with everyone else)
It doesn’t help Obama’s war presidency that the coalition of the willing in the fight against ISIS won’t include Turkey. That’s gotta hurt.
Turkey is not the only nation that casts a wary eye on Obama’s call-out to the world to help fight ISIS. A lot of non-Muslim (or, more accurately, not-yet-Muslim) nations have already announced that they’re going to be part of the coalition of the un-willing.
When it comes to Obama’s insistence that America won’t have to fight this war alone, Michael Ramirez hones in perfectly on the flaws in his argument.
Why should anyone pay attention to Barack Obama on ISIS?
Obama’s speech yesterday (which I hope to discuss more in a later post) is getting booed from all quarters. The peaceniks don’t like the war cries, and anybody of any intelligence doesn’t like the apologetics for Islam, the lunatic strategy of promising no boots on the ground (and we know how much Obama’s promises are worth), and the assurance that Middle Eastern and Muslim countries will rush to America’s aid, providing their troops to face down ISIS’s rampage.
Most importantly, there’s no reason to believe either Obama’s diagnosis or prescription regarding ISIS. As the Washington Free Beacon shows, when it comes to radical Islam, Obama has been wrong every time:
There are a few possible causes for a 100% failure rate when it comes to analyzing a political situation: incredible stupidity, incredible denial, or incredible evil. Take your pick. It really doesn’t matter which reason you choose, because the results are the same regardless, and we’re still stuck with him for another 2.5 years.
DOJ covertly attempts to influence House IRS hearing
You’ve probably already heard about assistant to Eric Holder who dialed a wrong number and revealed to Rep. Darryl Issa’s office that the DOJ intended to use covert methods to come to the IRS’s aid in hearings before the House. If you haven’t heard, though, or if you want more details, the good news is that the story has broken out of conservative circles and hit the big time at The Hill, where you can read more about it.
For Ted Cruz, getting booed is a good thing
Ted Cruz continues to prove that he’s the smartest man in the room. When he went to a gathering of Middle Eastern Christians and was booed off the stage for defending America and Israel, the guys and gals exercising the thug veto probably thought that Cruz had lost that round. They would have done better to remember that as America finds itself staring down ISIS, many Americans aren’t feeling the love for the usual Middle Eastern rabble-rousers, whether Muslim or Christian. Moreover, many of them may be getting the sinking feeling that Israel is the canary in the coal mine and that America is next in line to be wrapped in Islam’s suffocating embrace.
Smart Ted, however, knew exactly how that booing would play, and he’s publishing his speech and the room’s response far and wide:
“Tonight, in Washington, should have been a night of unity as we came together for the inaugural event for a group that calls itself ‘In Defense of Christians.’ Instead, it unfortunately deteriorated into a shameful display of bigotry and hatred,” Cruz said in a statement provided to Breitbart News. “When I spoke in strong support of Israel and the Jewish people, who are being persecuted and murdered by the same vicious terrorists who are also slaughtering Christians, many Christians in the audience applauded. But, sadly, a vocal and angry minority of attendees at the conference tried to shout down my expression of solidarity with Israel.”
As America gears up for yet another war against radical Islamists, it’s useful to know who our real friends are. Score one for Ted!
Jeff Dunetz continues his efforts to call out anti-American, antisemitic radio hosts in New York
Jeff Dunetz (Yid With Lid), continues his annual effort to call out and get an apology from Mike Francesa and Chris Mad Dog Russo, the popular hosts of a New York sports radio show. Dunetz notes that the show was enjoyable in part because the two men disagreed with each other all the time, making for some interesting fire works. On September 12, 2001, though, the two were unanimous in blaming . . . Jews and America for the attack that killed almost 3,000 people, and demanding that American Jews be forced to take an oath of loyalty.
The Scientific method, as explained by Richard Feynman
One of the more delightful books I’ve read in the past many decades is Richard Feynman’s Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character). Feynman may have been one of the smartest guys on the planet, but he somehow managed to avoid becoming one of those geniuses so lost in his head that he was unintelligible. It’s a funny, fascinating, informative, very human book, and I recommend it highly.
I also recommend Feynman’s explanation about the scientific method. I especially recommend it to the climate “scientists” whose theories have been proven wrong at every turn. In real science, failure vitiates the theory. In climate “science,” failure reinforces the theory.
I’m in a very visual state of mind today, so I thought I’d dedicate a post to the superb cartoons and posters people send my way. Special thanks go to Caped Crusader, Sadie, Earl, and W “B” S for helping me compile this truly epic illustrated edition.
And a hat tip to the wonderful American Digest for these two:
Sorry for the long silence today. I had a standard-issue medical test done on me this morning and, while I passed with flying colors (I’m such an overachiever), the procedure knocked me off my pins and I’m only now getting back to something akin to normal.
I haven’t yet had the chance to read today’s news (which I think looks sort of like yesterday’s news, right down to yet another air tragedy), but I have a ginormous backlog of links I gathered yesterday that I’d still like to share. So, fasten your seat belts and . . . we’re off!
** 1 **
Just an observation about Israel’s efforts to rout Hamas in Gaza: Many, myself included, think that this is Israel’s moment in Gaza. The ones who are openly supporting her incursion are all Israelis (as opposed to merely some Israelis), most Americans, European heads of state, the EU (!), and citizens of good will the world over. Heck, even the notorious anti-Israel Washington Post has another editorial denouncing Hamas and insisting that it must be disarmed before Israel gives up the fight.
The ones who are tacitly supporting her incursion are heads of state all over the Arab world who, scared by both Iran and ISIS and, as in Egypt’s case, deeply hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood, are keeping silent or even castigating Hamas. The only ones who are opposed to Israel having the chance, once and for all, to destroy one of the world’s most malignant terrorist organizations, are Barack Obama, John Kerry, and the hate-ridden Muslim and hard-Left rioters in European and American citizens.
** 2 **
At the end of my conversation with Sol Giggleweed, I added that, in a comparison between Hamas the Nazis, the Nazis are actually better than Hamas insofar as they revered their own women. My sister added another Nazi virtue that Hamas lacked: the Nazis did not use their own women and children as living, breathing defense systems.
Apropros this reverence for life, check out this Facebook post.
Indeed, even canine life comes in for care (in stark contrast to the Muslim world, which hates dogs and, at least in Pakistan, tortures them for fun):
** 3 **
Arabs, Muslims, and Leftists keep agitating for a return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Rhymes with Right agrees in principle, but differs somewhat as to precisely which pre-1967 borders Israel should be returned.
** 4 **
I don’t understand why America’s multiculturalists aren’t more up in arms about ISIS’s blatant disrespect for Christian culture in Iraq. (And yes, I’m being very, very, very sarcastic there.)
** 5 **
Yet another article about the U.S. State Department’s absolutely disgraceful failure to bring over to the U.S. the Afghani interpreters who now sit in the Taliban’s cross hairs.
** 6 **
Yes, it’s true. The University of Wisconsin at Madison is planning to move to race-based grading: Teachers are required to add a separate (and impliedly lower) bell curve for grading for non-whites. You’d think things such as this would bring non-whites to the realization that the Left thinks they’re really stupid.
** 7 **
HBO no longer makes any pretense of hiding its hardcore DemProg credentials. Even its obscene, sex-obsessed vampires are DemProgs so, when they get the opportunity, they apparently used an imaginary Ted Cruz fundraising as the opportunity to engage in some foul-mouthed Republican and women bashing. Ted Cruz and his aide Amanda Carpenter, however, elegantly and easily show why mental midgets shouldn’t tangle with people infinitely smarter than they are.
** 8 **
You know what happens to a socialized manufacturing sector? Nothing. It doesn’t innovate, grow, or create wealth. Instead, as Venezuela has demonstrated for the umpteenth time, socialized manufacturing sectors collapse very badly. (Article is behind a Wall Street Journal pay wall.)
** 9 **
Should you be able to get behind that Wall Street Journal pay wall, you should also read Daniel Henninger’s scathing denunciation of a president who is just too bored, busy, and important to deal with the crises popping up all over the place. He’s not even trying to play crisis whack-a-mole. He’s just walking away and looking for the next fundraising party.
If you can’t get behind that pay wall, you can still read Mark Steyn on Obama’s vanishing act, played across the backdrop of the endless rewind and replay in the Middle East.
** 10 **
Britain is mad at Russia because of the fact that pro-Russian fighters in Ukraine, armed with cutting edge Russian weapons, shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17. Of the almost 300 people who died, many were British subjects. Britain is so mad, in fact, that it’s reviving the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a Putin critic who died very painfully in England from polonium poisoning.
** 11 **
One of my tawdry media indulgences is the Daily Mail, which is a combination of sleaze, trash, eccentric wonders, and actual cutting-edge news from all over the world. One of the things I’ve noticed lately in the Daily Mail is the number of young to middle-aged bankers who have been killing themselves or dying of mysterious circumstances. Zero Hedge has noticed too and obviously wondered whether it’s just a coincidence that we’re aware of because of world wide reporting or if something really weird is going on.
** 12 **
Planned Parenthood continues to teach Americans young women about sexual perversion. Says Ed Morrissey:
Planned Parenthood gets millions of dollars for sex education and other programs from the federal government, and the education they provide is exactly what those parents predicted. No 15-year-old needs instruction on how to let herself get handcuffed or tied to trees by her boyfriend as part of rational education about health and sex. If a 15-year-old even hinted that her boyfriend was pressing her to try these kinds of activities, that calls for an intervention, not a how-to for submission. The advice to watch pornos for further sex education threatens to distort the teen’s sexuality for a lifetime, from a healthy expression of love and pleasure in the context of marriage to decades of being someone else’s rag doll for exploitation.
This isn’t education. It’s indoctrination, and the cultivation of Planned Parenthood clients for the next 20 years. Planned Parenthood can continue to offer sex education, but it shouldn’t get tax dollars to do so.
** 13 **
Jonathan Turley, a Barack Obama voter and law professor, has made a name for himself of late by speaking out against the expanding administrative state. He sees the D.C. Circuit’s Halbig decision, which confines Obamacare subsidies to state-established exchanges per the laws explicit language, as a very important one and contrasts it favorably against the 4th Circuits King decision, which ignored the statute’s explicit, unambiguous language in favor of a “well, I think the legislature really wanted to do this” analysis:
At the heart of the conflict is a fundamentally different view of the role not just of federal courts but also of federal agencies. I have long been a critic of the rise of a type of fourth branch within our system. The Framers created a tripartite system based on three equal branches. The interrelation of the branches guarantees that no branch could govern alone and protects individual liberty by from the concentration of power in any one branch.
We now have a massive system of 15 departments, 69 agencies and 383 nonmilitary sub-agencies with almost three million employees. Citizens today are ten times more likely to be the subject of an agency court ruling than a federal court ruling. The vast majority of “laws” in this country are actually regulations promulgated by agencies, which tend to be practically insulated and removed from most citizens.
** 14 **
The government is still doing a fancy dance around Obamacare. Separate from the fact that the administrative branch went all legislative and re-wrote the statute to suit the Democrats’ political purposes, the fact remains that the Exchange’s only measurable success is getting people onto the exchange. Everything else . . . well, not so good.
** 15 **
Hundreds of California taxpayers and professors are upset about the fact that San Francisco State University used taxpayer funds for terrorist outreach. I agree with their anger. I’m only sorry that we don’t live in a country that actually supports the rule of law. Since Hamas is a designated terrorist organization, in a law-abiding country, the federal government would have come down on SFSU and the errand faculty like a ton of federal bricks.
** 16 **
Back in the 1930s, the primary difference between Soviet Communism and German and Italian fascism was that the former nationalized businesses while the latter allowed them to exist (and profit), provided that they subordinated themselves to the government agenda. Jonah Goldberg, in talking about Elizabeth Warren’s efforts to subordinate American business to the federal government DemProg agenda, never mentions 1930s era fascism, but I couldn’t help noticing the structural similarities.
** 17 **
And while we’re speaking of that cozy relationship between business and DemProgs, here’s more on the federal government’s policy of privatizing corporate profits (if they make a profit overseas, they keep it) and socializing their losses (if they lose money, taxpayers suck up the loss). You don’t need to look overseas, of course. Obamacare is one big gift to the insurance industry. That makes it something everyone can hate: conservatives hate it because it brings health care under federal government control and socializes costs; Leftists hate it because these socialized costs are all funneled into the insurance company’s pockets.
** 18 **
There’s an old saying that, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. When it comes to the Obama White House and its efforts to hide all of its agents’ emails, mails, documents, texts, etc., there’s a new old saying: Where there’s neither smoke nor fire, there’s a cover-up. The most recent one involves Shirley Sherrod.
** 19 **
Trey Gowdy continues to be IRS Commissioner Koskinen’s worst nightmare:
Gowdy must have been one hotshot trial lawyer.
** 20 **
Andrew Klavan takes a satirical look at one of the real security concerns flowing from the Obama-manufactured border (border? what border?) crisis:
** 21 **
I had the good fortune yesterday to attend a lunch at which Tom Gordon Palmer, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and an executive at the Atlas Network, was the guest speaker. In an entertaining, often amusing, and clear speech, Palmer introduced us to the realities of the welfare state.*
Palmer opened the “welfare state” portion of his talk by pointing out that, barring a few manifestly silly people, most people today don’t really believe in classic “socialism.” Instead, they support something equally pernicious: the welfare state. Indeed, the welfare state may be even worse than socialism because, by creating utterly dependent political constituencies in lands that are ostensibly democratic, it’s very difficult to correct or dismantle.
While the Romans may have had their bread and circuses, the modern welfare state started with Otto von Bismarck, who envisioned a world, not of bread and circuses, but of steel and blood. Bismarck was the original nationalist, imagining a people emotionally wedded to the state and financially dependent on it.
Palmer made clear that, from the beginning, the welfare state was not socialism. Unlike socialism, Bismarck’s welfare state, which was the template for all future welfare states, did not disallow private property, which was needed to fund welfare, nor did it centrally control the economy, although it certainly meddled in the economy. The welfare state was essentially a form of bribery using social services, such as health, education, and welfare. The result could be summed up this way: “We, the state, gave you something you consider essential to your well-being. Now you owe us your political support and, if called upon, your military service.”
Bismarck’s opponents saw which way this would end. They feared (correctly) that the welfare state would result in “a nation of helots.” Instead of making people dependent on the state for social service handouts, the opponents wanted the state to fund individually-owned accounts, so that citizens would have an ownership interest in their well-being, as well as marketplace power to choose which services they wanted. The opponents lost.
This first welfare state became the template for Hitler’s fascist Nazi movement. Right until the end of the war, Hitler was an extremely popular leader because he kept giving the German people things. Indeed, in the beginning, the war, rather than causing Germans to get less from the state, actually enabled them to get more. We all know that Hitler confiscated everything that belonged to the Jews, including their teeth and hair, and handed all these things over to the German people as a right or entitlement flowing to them from the State, furthering their allegiance to the Nazi party. What many don’t know is that Hitler’s troops also looted the treasures and treasuries of all occupied countries, sometimes through straightforward theft, and sometimes by devaluing the nation’s currency so that German troops were able to “purchase” goods for a fraction of their actual worth.
The Nazis were, to date, the most blood thirsty welfare state but, take away the whole bit about world domination and destroying “inferior” people, and you end up with a welfare state that pretty much looks like every other welfare state in the 21st century. According to Palmer, all welfare states share two common traits.
1. Welfare states use the PayGo or “Pay As You Go” method. On paper, PayGo sounds good: the government doesn’t run up a deficit to fund social welfare. Instead, it pays current expenses with current tax revenues. The government takes money from Taxpayer A and immediately hands it over to Welfare Recipient B. As long as there are more Taxpayers than Welfare Recipients, this system works. Problems start, however, when the balance shifts, so that there are more takers than givers. This problem is inevitable because of a principle called “the tragedy of the commons.”
Imagine a pond with a finite number of slow-breeding fish. The sensible thing for the community is to set a quota on people’s fishing rights so as not to deplete the resource and to give it a chance to regenerate. The sensible thing for the individual, however, is to take advantage of whatever fish the pond has to offer, since he operates on the assumption that, if he doesn’t catch them, somebody else will. It’s this “if I don’t take it someone else will” mentality that permeates so much of the welfare state, with people lining up for handouts because they’re there — never mind that, with everybody lining up, takers will swiftly outnumber givers. This is so because the takers will include large numbers of former givers who figured “why should I give when I can take?” and jumped in the welfare line.
As long as there are still givers, the system will limp on. As their numbers decrease, the welfare state uses its coercive power to get more money out of them. Eventually and inevitably, though, the golden goose is dead — the givers are broke and the nation’s wealth destroyed. And when the system stops working, the last generation of givers, the ones who were promised that there was a “lock box” or “trust fund” into which their money would be waiting for them, get nothing back for their efforts.
If what I’ve described sounds familiar to you, it should: It’s a pyramid or Ponzi scheme. If someone does it in the business world, he goes to jail. If the entire United States government does it, the takers keep voting into power the political party that promises most sincerely to keep the Ponzi scheme afloat.
The other thing about a government Ponzi scheme that differs from a business Ponzi scheme is the temporal factor. A business Ponzi scheme quickly runs out of new investors. A government scheme, however, reaches into the future, tagging unborn generations as mandatory contributors to an inherently corrupt economic plan.
2. Welfare states characterize the plan as one of “social rights.” Terminology matters. Privileges come and go, but rights are forever. Roosevelt knew this, which is why, in a 1944 speech, he announced a “second bill of rights” that perfectly encompasses all of the promises of the welfare state:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
Unlike the Founders, Roosevelt didn’t bother to convene a constitutional convention to make his new “bill of rights” official. Instead, he relied on politician’s greed for votes to make it happen. He knew that, if you give people things, they will vote for you. The race was on for both parties to give voters the most things. The only differences between the parties were the kind of things they would hand out and whether they wanted to pay for these things now or later. The Democrats usually won this race, because they’d give everything and just put it on the government’s tab, to be paid at some indeterminate future date.
In addition to its permanence, there’s another advantage to a “right”: It’s not charity, thereby bypassing opposition from people who might have moral objections to receiving charity. Of course, once the welfare system becomes entrenched, that moral generation quickly dies out.
What we’re see today in America is what happened in Greece, Italy, and Spain in the last few of years: The PayGO system is collapsing because the takers vastly outnumber the givers and, in any event, the givers have nothing left to give. Our current entitlement obligations — which are separate from government debt, because we’ve been stealing from the unborn, rather than borrowing from existing creditors — are somewhere in the range of at least $147 trillion.
Moreover, to the extent entitlements must be paid now using current revenues, entitlement spending is swamping government budgets across America. In California, for example, pension payments gobble up most of the state’s budget, leaving no money for other state expenditures, such as basic infrastructure maintenance or debt service.
What Palmer stressed is that, while the welfare state feels like socialism, because of the huge welfare transfer, it’s not socialism. We do not have a centrally managed economy or one without private ownership. What we have, instead, is a government playing a perverted Robin Hood game — it steals from those it decides are rich and gives to those whose votes it wants.
A perfect example of the speed with which the welfare state destroys the economy, said Palmer, is Italy. What few people know or remember is that Italy had a free market after WWII and, not coincidentally, had a huge economic boom, bigger even than Germany’s. That’s why the 1960s were the era of la dolce vita: Italians were young and their economy was vibrant. And that was the moment, in the 1960s, when do-gooders said, “We’re so rich, let’s spread the wealth.” Rather than setting up a true trust fund, or having people pay into their own lock box accounts, Italy set up a welfare state . . . and that was the beginning of the end.
One of the big downsides of the welfare state is that it always ends badly. True socialist economies actually can lateral over to a marketplace economy by having the government back off of economic management. We’ve seen this in action in some former Soviet bloc countries, such as Latvia and Estonia. Dying welfare states, however, are corrupt from top to bottom, and are therefore more likely to end up as Nazi Germany. In Greece, for example, the public is being torn two ways, both equally evil: Marxist and Neo-Nazi groups are growing fast. The latter are every bit as violently antisemitic as the original Nazis were (never mind that there are almost no Jews in Greece).
The absence of Jews within their borders is not a problem for nascent Neo-Nazi movements in bankrupt welfare states. Indeed, image conscious Neo-Nazis in places as diverse as Greece and Hungary try not to use the word “Jews” (unless they’re talking about the evil Zionist Jews in Israel, of course). Instead, they talk about “New York financial interests” or “dirty foreigners coming to get our social benefits.”
As to that last point, Palmer pointed out that the “dirty foreigners” are on the bottom of the Ponzi scheme pyramid, paying in more than they’ll ever get out. (And no, I don’t know whether he was referring to the Turkish, Algerian, and Moroccan workers all over Europe when he said this, or only to America’s self-imported immigrants from Mexico.)
Because welfare states always bankrupt themselves, default is inevitable. In America, this bankruptcy, which is roughly 20 years in the future, can take three forms: (1) default on the national debt, which is unlikely; (2) a change in the welfare formula (later retirement, death panels, etc.), which is more likely; and (3) inflation, which is most likely and completely disastrous, because it destroys a nation’s wealth, as well as destroying individual lives along the way.
And speaking of wealth, Palmer says that there are two alternatives to a crash. The first is self-help and wealth-creation, which is achieved through secure property rights; a reliable, relatively un-corrupt legal system; and free trade. As an example of this method in action, Palmer told us about Kakha Bendukidze, the man who saved the Republic of Georgia during his tenure as Minister of Economy, Minister for Reform Coordination, and Head of the Chancellery of Government of Georgia. My notes are scrambled about Bendukidze’s acts (they just say “wiped out most of the government”), so let me quote Wikipedia:
He is known as a committed libertarian and strong supporter of market economy, deregulation and privatization, stating that the Georgian government should sell everything except its honor. During 2004-2007, under his leadership, Georgia became the top-reforming country in the world, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business report. In particular, Georgia jumped from 137 to 11 on the ease of doing business scale, ahead of Germany and France.
Since the weakening of the democratic credentials of the Saakashvili government after the police crackdown of the 2007 protests, the government has put the stress on his successful economic reforms. Bendukidze was pivotal in the libertarian reforms launched under Saakashvili, including one of the least restrictive labour codes, the lowest flat income tax rates (12%) and some of the lowest customs rates worldwide, along with the drastic reduction of necessary licenses and permits for business.
In addition to his wildly successful economic reforms, Bendukidze cracked down on rampant corruption and brutality in Georgia’s police force. He did it by doing away with the police entirely, including their buildings, which were filled with windowless, blood-stained “interrogation” rooms. When people objected, he said “If you’re sitting in a dark room and you turn off the lights, does it get darker?” In other words, if the police are themselves a crime problem, getting rid of them probably won’t increase crime. Bendukidze then built up a whole new police force, housed in buildings with windows into every room.
The second alternative to default and collapse is mutual aid societies. America used to be filled with them, although the young generation probably has never heard of them. We oldsters knew them as the Elks, the Shriners, the Freemasons, etc. [Update: I forgot to add that, the only real surviving mutual aid society in America, according to Palmer, is Alcoholics Anonymous.] These societies had deep roots, going back to Roman burial societies. They were voluntary associations, complete with codes of conducts and secret rituals, that bound people tightly together. They transcended class. The local gentry would rub shoulders with the butcher and baker as they went through their Masonic or Shriner rituals.
The mutual aid societies had funds into which everyone paid (presumably on a sliding scale, giving their egalitarian membership). These funds would then be disbursed to members in need. Because small, social groups managed the funds, they kept track of the deserving poor versus the undeserving poor. The latter did not get access to these emergency funds. The societies also kept track of moral hazard issues: people were socially pressured to avoid dangerous behaviors that could deplete the funds.
Welfare states hate mutual aid societies because they are the antithesis of big government (whether in the form of socialism or the welfare state). In England, the Fabians, who wanted socialism without bloodshed, used sneaky legislation to destroy these societies.
In 1911, the Fabians got the government to enact the National Health Act. Before the act, a mutual aid society member might voluntarily pay a small amount of money every month into the communal pot. In exchange, he and his family would get access to perhaps seven different doctors, kind of like an HMO. The National Health Act mandated that all citizens pay a proportional tax to the government, in exchange for which they’d get access to their original seven doctors, plus perhaps five more. Rather than paying twice for the same benefit, Brits ended their voluntary associations and paid only the coerced tax. (Does this sound familiar to you?) Once all of the voluntary associations were gone, Britain went to the next step, which was to socialize medicine. (I swear that this sounds familiar to me, and I’m talking about recent history, not events overseas in the 20th century.)
At this point in Palmer’s talk, I ran out of paper and began to write in microscopic script that I can no longer read. I can tell you, though, that it is possible to back away from the precipice towards which we’re speeding. As an example, Palmer pointed to Canada which had, as he said, an “adult discussion” about the coming economic collapse. Intelligent, numerate politicians from the center left and center right identified the problems, talked about solutions, and cut Canada’s indebtedness by 50%.
Palmer repeatedly stressed the necessity of having a bipartisan discussion. If Republicans get hold of government, their reforms will be as suspect to 50% of Americans as the Democrats’ “reforms” were. Moreover, as the Bush presidency showed, Republicans with the bit in their teeth spend almost as much as Democrats do, although they use the money to woo different constituencies. Only divided government slows government spending. The bipartisan aspect of any discussion about avoiding default is the equivalent, I think, along the lines of the fact that it takes two thieves to strike an honest bargain.
(Let me just add here that, when it comes to Republican spending, Palmer expressed his distaste for neocons who, he believes, substitute nationalism for socialism, with equally bad social and economic results. He cited David Brooks as an example, since David Brooks wants to spend lots of money on all sorts of Big Government things that aggrandize America. I agree that Brooks is wrong, but I don’t see him as a neocon. He’s simply a leftie who likes America.)
The problem today with that bipartisan strategy, says Palmer, is the lack of numerate adults in politics, especially among the Democrats. There were numerate Democrats in the Clinton administration, but Obama’s administration is composed completely of ideologues who are uninterested in facts.
Finally, I see scrawled in my notes the word Putin. Putin, says Palmer, is a pure National Socialist. Those who know him say he’s also a stone-cold killer, who will, without blinking, kill people who stand in the way of his political vision (while ignoring those who don’t). Like Hitler, he uses social welfare to buy people. Like Hitler, he has dreams of vast geographic expansion, with occupied states funding his social welfare. And like Hitler, he’s found a scapegoat which, in Putin’s case, is homosexuals. Putin’s war against homosexuals ratchets up daily, to the point at which it’s somewhere around 1935 for homosexuals unlucky enough to be in Putin’s Russia.
*I’m basing this post on my scribbled notes, so I apologize in advance if I’ve erred here. I’m sending a copy of this post to Tom Gordon Palmer, so that he can correct me if I put the wrong words in his mouth or, worse, mangled his ideas.
It’s Easter Sunday, and that means all family all the time. No complaints here, though. It’s been a lovely day so far and I anticipate an equally pleasant afternoon and evening. Full blogging will not happen today, but here are a few (a very few) links that intrigued me:
I’ve long known in a vague sort of way that Egypt is one grain of wheat away from a famine. Having read David Archibald’s article, though, I now know in a very specific way precisely what kind of famine may be facing the world’s most populous Muslim nation. While the Western world seems to have managed to stay one step ahead of Malthus, that’s not the case in Egypt, where bad things — overpopulation, underproduction, lack of diversification, political upheaval, and probable drought — are coming together to create a Perfect Storm of advanced hunger.
One of my favorite non-fiction books is Thomas Cahill’s The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. In authoring the book, Cahill has no ego. To the extent that he’s vastly well-informed, he wants to share his knowledge with people, not overwhelm them with his erudition. The result is a book that is simultaneously scholarly and accessible. I mentioned it here because Shmuley Boteach has written what could be the short version of that same book, describing how the Jews have contributed to the world’s well-being.
Two very specific things in the early 1980s taught me that socialism cannot work. The first was the fact that, when my father visited his sister in East Germany, shortly after she retired from her decade’s long career as a high level Communist Party functionary, he discovered that she had lived for nine years with a broken and unusable kitchen sink. Not to worry, this true believer told my father. She was “on the list” and was confident that the glorious Communist Party would one day get around to fixing her sink. I suspect that it was still broken when the wall came down.
The second thing that taught me that socialism cannot work was the story of two hip replacements. Back in 1974, my father got his hip replacement two months or so after he was told that it was the only way to keep him from spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He walked, albeit with pain for the next twenty years of his life, until his death.
Meanwhile, in 1981, while I was living in England, I met a woman who had been told back in 1979 that a hip replacement was the only thing that would keep her out of a wheelchair. When I met her, she’d been barely functioning for two years, although she’d avoided the wheelchair. After I left, she went into the wheelchair. I lost contact with her about two years after a left England (i.e., four years after the referral for hip surgery), at which time she was still in that wheelchair. I don’t know whether she ever got that hip.
Keep those realities in mind when you read about Sweden’s socialized medicine, which works wonderfully only if you live long enough to benefit from it.
The DiploMad may not be in the State Department any more, but he has friends who are. He’s learned from these friends that the State Department has a new initiative to ensure that something like Benghazi never happens again. Let me just say that I’m with the DiploMad in thinking that the movers and shakers in State are delusional — and to despair that they’re pursuing their delusions using our dollars and American lives.
A lawyer friend of mine is brilliant, informed, and an incredibly good writer. I hope those are adequate reasons for you to check out his post about the Free Speech (and Association) implications of the attack on Brendan Eich.
The etymology of the word “liberal” isn’t complicated. It’s from the Latin līberālis, meaning “of freedom,” which in turn derives from līber, meaning “free.” The problem with “liberalism” as a political doctrine comes about when people try to define the control from which they wish to be free. As a recent attack on Jonah Goldberg reveals, America’s finest colleges are failing miserably when it comes to helping students examine what “liberty” really means, both in theory and in fact.
The definitional problem with the notion of “liberty” was already evident in the late 18th century, so it’s not as if American educational institutions haven’t had a while to wrestle with this intellectual problem. When Thomas Jefferson wrote about each individual’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the liberty that he envisioned meant an individual’s right to construct his own life: his own career, his own faith, his own personal relations, and his own economic progress.
The Bill of Rights, a binding contract between government and governed, established that Jefferson and the other Founders knew that this liberty could be achieved only through less government, not more. At various times throughout history, the federal government has stepped in to lift a heavy yoke off of people, including slavery and Jim Crow (both of which were state government initiatives), but the understanding was that the federal government wasn’t then supposed to fill the power vacuum it had created.
At the same time that the Founders were reducing individual liberty to what they hoped would be an iron-clad constitutional contract (with the enforcement mechanism being each individual’s jealously protected right to bear arms), French revolutionaries were contemplating a very different type of “liberty.” When they spoke of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” they meant to substitute one heavy-handed government (the blood-thirsty commune) in place of another heavy-handed government (the ancien regime). The notion of individual liberty, a person’s right to be free from government encroachment, was not part of the French Revolution’s operating system.
In the 220 or so years that have passed since the Bill of Rights and the French Revolution, the diametrically-opposed meanings applied to the words “liberty,” have never changed. A steady strand of thinking in America has always held that liberty means a person’s right to determine his own destiny with minimal government intervention, control, taxation, and policing. Meanwhile, whether under the heading of socialism, fascism, communism, Naziism, or Progressivism, most Europeans and some Americans (including the modern Democrat party) have steadfastly insisted that liberty means a person’s right to be free from the burden of thinking about and caring for himself. (Islam makes that promise too.)
I was reminded of this definitional paradox when I read a 23-year-old’s throbbing denunciation of Jonah Goldberg’s challenge to the recycled communism found in a Jesse Myerson article published in Rolling Stone. The 23-year-old guilty of this purple passion in support of the Left’s liberty is Emmett Rensin, who describes himself for the L.A. Times as “a political activist and essayist living in Chicago.” His website adds that he recently graduated from the University of Chicago, which is one of America’s premier institutions and was once Milton Friedman’s home base.
Rensin may be young, and he may consider himself Progressive, but his article is actually pretty funny because it’s so reactionary in tone. This is a guy who, after four years in a top American university, looks back in longing at communism’s glory days, and regrets that he was unable to live in those heady times himself. Even his insults have a dated quality, rolling of the tongue with all the clunky rhetorical elegance that used to character a good Stalin speech. Thus, Goldberg is a “professional colonialism apologist and perennial Democratic crypto-fascist hunter.” Wow! It’s 1948 all over again.
Obviously, Rensin’s writing is not the stuff of ages, although it’s probably the stuff of old, aged Leftists. Rensin is worth quoting, though, because he so perfectly embodies the long-standing Leftist notion, one that is now de rigueur in America’s colleges, that “liberty” means the freedom to have an all-powerful government take care of you:
Young leftists like Myerson and myself share a moral outlook that fundamentally differs from conservatives like Goldberg: Freedom, in the most prosperous nation on Earth, must entail the freedom to act without the constant specter of homelessness, hunger and preventable illness. But this is nothing new, and the very founders Goldberg implies would have defended the present status quo are cases in point. The revolutionary generation (many of whom, by the way, were theatrically radical young people) was made up of men of means. They were all comfortable; many were wealthy. They had time to recycle the old ideas of Locke and Montesquieu and to dream of a nation outside the shackles of English monarchy.
It’s hard to imagine squeezing in the Continental Congress in a world where Thomas Jefferson had to run across town to his minimum-wage night job.
If liberalism believes that freedom consists of freedom from want, then we want only to extend the means for such achievement beyond the wealthy, white and landed few. Not everyone needs their own Monticello, but an apartment and some groceries might suffice.
Rensin has the youthful college grad’s passion for supposedly erudite references and sweeping pronouncements, not to mention a good acquaintance with the Spark Notes version of Marx’s turgid, lugubrious, boring Communist Manifesto. What Rensin lacks, however, is actual knowledge. If he had knowledge, he would know that freedom from want (which is what he desires) happens best when a society lets individuals decide how to create and spend wealth, rather than in societies in which the state, promising freedom from want, makes decisions for individuals about how to create and spend wealth.
It’s absolutely true that every country predicated on individual liberty and economic freedom has failed to eradicate poverty and has made terrible moral mistakes. What’s also true, though, is that these same countries have raised the standard of living for every individual within the country, from the poorest on up; has contributed wealth around the world; and has repented and remedied its moral mistakes. (A useful primer on this is Niall Ferguson’s Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Ferguson.)
The contrary is true for countries of the kind Rensin envisions, with a beneficent government caring for every individual. Without exception, the promises of a managed economy have failed. Invariably, and quickly, many more, rather than fewer, people end up mired in abysmal poverty, grinding despair, not to mention existential fear of ones own all-powerful government. The standard of living for everyone in these countries has gone down. There isn’t one communist country that doesn’t support Winston Churchill’s justly famous observation that “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery” (emphasis mine).
Worse, in every one of these socialist countries, as the promises failed and the people took notice of those failures, the governments did something that no magnate or corporation could ever do and on a scale so vast even now it’s hard to comprehend: they silenced, tortured, imprisoned, and executed people who failed to be adequately grateful for the state’s vision of “liberty.” This is true whether one speaks of Soviet Gulags, Nazi and North Korean concentration camps, Chinese reeducation camps, or Cuban prisons. In each case, people were sent there, not for committing crimes against their fellow citizens (assault, murder, robbery), but for being offensive to the state, sometimes by what they said, sometimes by what they did, and sometimes just by existing.
I can already hear Rensin saying that my statements only apply to the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cuba, Nazi Germany, East Germany, North Korea, and other “communist” countries, but are untrue when it comes to socialized Europe. Again, he would be wrong. Because Europe went for soft socialism, not hard, and because America supported it economically for decades during the Cold War, it’s decline has been the slow-mo version of hardcore socialist states.
When the Cold War collapsed, and America’s dollars dried up, Europe’s economy slowly disappeared. Living standards across Europe are falling, not rising. Moreover, the petty tyranny of the EU is ramping up. Free speech is increasingly verboten in England, the home of free speech; France is reliving the Dreyfus affair with virulent antisemitism rising to the fore; Greece is in social and economic free fall; Spain is broke; and on and on. Norway still does socialism successfully, but that’s primarily because it’s floating on a sea of the Beverly Hillbillies’ famous “black gold.” It’s easy to be socialist when you have an unending stream of one of the world’s most valuable commodities. And of course, Norway is back away from socialism as fast as it can.
This post started with Jonah Goldberg, and it’s going to end with him too. His opinion piece today at the National Review notes that, while Allan Bloom once wrote about the “closing of the American mind,” that’s no longer true. The American mind has stopped closing; instead, it’s closed, very tightly. On college campuses throughout America — the ones that are training the Emmett Rensin’s who are let loose in newspapers and magazines — the door has shut firmly and definitively on wisdom, general knowledge, historical understanding, and analytical thinking. We are in an intellectual dark age as stultifying and dangerous as the one that swept through Europe with Rome’s collapse and that only slowly lifted in the eight centuries thereafter.
“Monday morning mish mash” would have been more alliterative, but we do what we can.
How corrupt is Lois Lerner and the swamp-like federal system from which she emerged? This corrupt.
How crazy has the gender obsession at America’s institutions of higher education gotten? This crazy.
How horrible was the misbegotten Obamacare launch? This horrible.
Could it be that some Europeans are realizing that socialism is a societal dead-end? Why, yes it is possible that they are.
Is it possible for you — not “you” collectively, but “you,” the individual reading these words — to change our political culture? Yes, but it requires some organization and work.
And finally, not a question, but a promise: If you go into your marriage knowing that marriage isn’t for you, you will be happy.
If there are any questions you’d like to ask, or answers you’d like to give, here’s your Open Thread.
I have a couple of high school friends on Facebook who grew up to become teachers. They are relentless about posting daily materials highlighting the American teacher’s martyrdom. If you relied on these posters alone, you’d think that being a teacher is the hardest job, with the lowest salary, in the world.
I am not unsympathetic to teachers. My father was a teacher and, back in the day, he really did earn a low salary. In 1987, after teaching in his school district for 25 years, my dad’s top salary was $23,000. (Add just another thousand, and you can get Dan Savage to come and speak for an hour at your university.) I graduated from law school the same year, and with absolutely nothing to contribute to a big law firm, walked into a $55,000 salary.
Daddy worked extremely long days — but those hours weren’t because of his teaching job, but because of the low salary. His teaching day was from 8-3. Grading homework added another couple of hours, for a regular eight-hour day. The real hours came with the four extra hours of private tutoring he did every day to augment his meager salary. Also, since he worked only eight months a year, he spent every summer hunting desperately for a mixture of summer school and private tutoring jobs, so that he could pay the mortgage and buy food for us. In those days, California teachers earned a living wage provided one had no aspirations to be middle class.
Nowadays, teachers earn living wages appropriate to the middle class, and work eight hours a day, five days a week, eight months out of the year. I don’t begrudge them that. Theirs is a necessary, important, and beneficial job and, depending on the school, not always an easy one. Those tasked with spending the majority of their time with our children should get paid a living wage. But the martyrdom shtick is unseemly.
At National Review, Jason Richwine points out that this martyrdom shtick benefits them in intangible ways, and is the flip side of the disdain with which doctors are increasingly treated in our society. This got me thinking about the fact that, in every society that socialized its medicine, doctor’s status instantly degraded. This is true whether you’re looking at the Soviet Union, Cuba, England, Canada, France, or anywhere else. This is true even though doctors have the longest education and apprenticeship of any job in America and, once they’re working, they truly hold our lives in their hands. Likewise, in every socialized society, teachers’ status improves. This is true despite the fact that their training places a moderate demand on their time and they don’t hold our lives in their hands.
Thinking about it, of course, this socialist inversion makes perfect sense. Teachers produce the next generation of socialists; doctors cost money by saving the lives of old socialists who no longer contribute to the commune. The relative values assigned these jobs in a socialist society has nothing to do with their contributions to the individual and everything to do with their contributions to the state.
The Daily Kos is incredibly excited because a 61-year-old Republican got a good deal on Obamacare:
The coup de grace however is the stories that are now coming out of Republicans going onto the exchanges and realizing that they had been lied to. This was the case with Republican Butch Matthews, a 61-year-old former small business owner from Little Rock, Arkansas. ThinkProgress reports that,
Butch Matthews is a 61-year-old former small business owner from Little Rock, Arkansas who used to wake up every morning at 4 A.M. to deliver canned beverages to retailers before retiring in 2010. A lifelong Republican, he was heavily skeptical of the Affordable Care Act when it first passed. “I did not think that Obamacare was going to be a good plan, I did not think that it was going to help me at all,” he told ThinkProgress over the phone.
But after doing a little research, Matthews eventually realized how much the law could help him. And on Tuesday, his local Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) provider confirmed that he would be able to buy a far better plan than his current policy while saving at least $13,000 per year through Arkansas’ Obamacare marketplace. [Source]
Turns out pre-Obamacare, Matthews was paying $1069.per month with a $10,000 deductible. Matthews’ doctor visits went from a co-pay of $150 to $8. Matthews has a simple message to all Americans. He says,
I would tell them to learn more about it before they start talking bad about it,” he noted. “Be more informed, get more information, take your time and study and not just go by just what you hear on one side or the other. Actually check the facts on it. [Source]
In the face of that (willfully?) naive triumphalism, it seems almost indelicate to point out that socialism (i.e., redistribution of wealth) always works in the beginning, when there’s still some wealth to redistribute. At a certain point, though, to paraphrase Maggie Thatcher, you run out of other people’s money.
You did notice, I hope, that Butch is 61 and retired. That means that he’s one of the subsidized ones under Obamacare, so he’s necessarily going to get a good deal. At least, it’s a good deal for now. James Taranto offers a neat distillation of the fundamental structural problem plaguing Obamacare, one that entices the Butch’s of the world into the program but that guarantees to leave them high and dry in a few years (or months?):
ObamaCare relies on price controls that jack up premiums on the young and healthy in order to keep them low on the old and sickly. If the latter but not the former are signing up in huge numbers–that is, if people are responding rationally to incentives–then the scheme is unsustainable.
Here’s a perfect example of the person paying for Butch’s cheap insurance.
Socialism can temporarily stave off market realities but the problem with pushing cans down the road is that, when you get to the end of the road, those cans have piled up into an impenetrable mass of rusted, sharp, twisted, destructive metal. (And just to make the metaphor even more juicy, they’re probably populated by botulism too.) Problems deferred are still problems. Butch is happy now, and rightfully so. Will anybody be happy next year? Doubtful, very doubtful.
We visited Bergen today, which is very, very far north. So far north that, during December, the residents can get as little as 9 hours of daylight the whole month, if the ship’s expert is to be believed. During July, though, Bergen gets 160 (or maybe 180) hours of daylight. It’s 9:00 at night now, and back home we’d look at the same sky and guess that it’s about 5:30.
Bergen was founded in 1070 by one of the first Kings named Olaf. There where a lot of Olafs, and I don’t remember which one founded Bergen. For a long time, Bergen was Norway’s capital city. Since Oslo took over, though, Bergen has dropped to second place, with a population of about 240,000.
The visual highlight of Bergen is the wharf area, which has a small castle and the famous row of 18th century houses, some of which sag delightfully, like colorful drunks next to their more sober sisters. From travel brochures and shows, one has the sense that all of Bergen has that charming, somewhat loopy antiquity, but that’s definitely a false impression. Outside of the historic area, Bergen is a thriving, modern city. The white Norwegian houses, with their black tile roofs, seem to climb every one of the seven hills that make up this charming city at the far end of a fjord.
After admiring the wharf, we took a funicular up to a spectacular view area that allowed is to see the entire city spread out before us. We then hiked even further up, to some of the most beautiful little glades I’ve ever seen. Bergen gets around 240 days of rain and snow annually, so the woods are lush, and mossy, and dotted with small lakes on which float delicate lily pads. I kept feeling as if I’d wandered into one of those 19th century pastoral landscapes we saw at the museum in Oslo. Only the cows were missing.
Marin is semi-arid, so a hike up Mount Tam or Ring Mountain tends to be a yellow and dusty experience. If there’s been rain, the dust turns to mud, and the yellow scrub takes on a greenish cast, but lush is not the word I would use to describe it. Lake Tahoe, like Bergen, is carved out of wonderful, solid, glittering gray and pale gold granite, but it too is arid. Unlike Tahoe, the granite in Bergen was softened by feathery trees, moss in all shades of green, soft, waving grasses, and meadow flowers.
It’s a good thing nature was so satisfying, because everything else was too expensive to enjoy. Norway is one of the most expensive, and profitable, countries in the world. This doesn’t come about because of exceptionally good management or unusually hard work. Instead, Norway floats on a sea of oil (or, as they said in the “Beverly Hillbillies,” “black gold, Texas tea”). I think a guide told us that Norway is the third largest oil exporting country in the world.
The Norwegians don’t use the oil themselves (for the most part). Instead, they ship it out to great profit, and then turn around and piously use renewable energy within their own borders.
Okay, that was a bit snarky of me.
Where the Norwegians get great credit is that they’re like the Alaskans in that they think the oil wealth is a bounty owned by all, rather than just by the oil companies. Unlike Alaska, though, which sends checks to each Alaska citizen, the Norwegians are so homogenous in their belief systems that they willingly plow it into socially agreed-upon infrastructure and social services.
Norway’s socialism thus works to the benefit of all, not because socialism itself works, but because the Norwegians can bankroll socialism with black gold, and impose it upon people who all think alike. What this means is that, while many can admire the Norwegian model, few can emulate it.
Both systems — Alaskan and Norwegian — are good on their own terms, and especially good when compared to the Russian and Middle Eastern models, which see corrupt oligarchies and poor masses.
And that’s pretty much all I have to say about Bergen. More tomorrow.
Last year, my friend Bruce Kesler, who blogs at a wonderful conservative group blog called Maggie’s Farm, directed me to a book called Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. What makes this book different from other books about that era is that it doesn’t just examine the murderous years of WWII. Instead, it also examines the carnage Hitler and Stalin wrought during the 1930s, in the lead-up to WWII. It is an absolutely devastating book, describing the unimaginable scale of death that two socialist leaders — Stalin and Hitler — visited on the region between their two countries.
Although Hitler industrialized the killing machine, it was Stalin who created the model when he decided to destroy the Ukrainian kulaks (independent small farmers) who were standing in the way of his vision of a collectivized agrarian nation. To achieve his goal, he brutally starved these farmers to death — 20 to 30 million of them. Reading author Timothy Snyder’s description of their suffering is horrible — but it’s something that we need to read in order that we never forget how fundamentally evil socialism is. The ones who really should read this book, of course, are American socialists, but sadly, they’re unlikely to do so.
If you can get a socialist to read Bloodlands, but he has still failed to learn his lesson about what happens when government — which lacks a conscience — decides that its job isn’t to enable individual freedom but is, instead, to control all people without regard to individualism, have him read Yang Jisheng’s book, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962. Hard as it is to believe, Stalin and Hitler were just the warm-ups for Mao, the Chinese leader who, inspired by Stalin, may well hold the record for being the biggest mass murderer in human history.
Arthur Waldron, writing at The New Criterion reviews Jisheng’s book and his review shows that this is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand why Leftists are fools when they’re frightened of corporations and, instead, want desperately to place control over every aspect of their lives in government hands. It is impossible for a corporation to wreak the kind of havoc that socialist governments have visited upon their people. The estimates for Mao’s killing fields during his “man-created disaster” range from 36 to 70 million. (The higher number includes the babies that never got born to a starving population.) As happened with Stalin’s socialist-created famine, people in dire straits did unspeakable things to survive, including cannibalism. As Snyder said in his book (and I paraphrase), “an orphan was a child whose parents died before they ate him.”
When word of the Chinese famine got out, Mao blamed unspecified natural causes, and a credulous, Left-leaning, Walter Duranty-esque media dutifully passed this on. It was a lie, of course. There was nothing unusual about Chinese weather patterns from 1958-1962. Moreover, even as the people died in the millions, food filled warehouses and party officials dined in style.
Jisheng knows firsthand about the famine: alerted that something was wrong in his native rural area, he left the city with a rice ration, but arrived too late to save his father who, though alive, had become too starved to do anything but die. When this happened, Jisheng accepted the party line and didn’t question the thousands of deaths in his area of rural China. It was only during the mid-1960s Cultural Revolution, which saw many millions more die, that Jisheng began to realize that the problem wasn’t nature or farmers or people who needed re-education — it was Mao’s socialist policies, all of which officials throughout China unquestioningly accepted, either because they were true believers, because they were mindless party drones, or because they were afraid.
Although Jisheng’s book isn’t the first to tell about the famine, Waldron thinks it’s the best:
Tombstone, however, is without a doubt the definitive account—for now and probably for a long time. The Chinese original is two volumes and banned in that country. In Hong Kong it has sold out eight printings. The English version has been most skillfully shortened, edited, and rearranged by a team of Western and Chinese scholars, with an eye to making what is very much a massive compilation of statistics and reportage into a volume more accessible to the English-speaking reader.
This is a book whose importance must be compared with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago (1973) in that it documents beyond the possibility of refutation ghastly horrors that were first rumored, then denied, then written about a bit, but only with Solzhenitsyn and Yang were so thoroughly documented and analyzed as to place them beyond question.
You should read Waldron’s review and then, if you have the heart and stomach for it, read Jisheng’s book.
When socialism fails, as it invariably does, the American Left equally invariably claims that the failure isn’t because the plan was fundamentally flawed. To socialists, the problem is always implementation and the culprit is always the Republicans who made it impossible for the Democrats fully to implement their plans. Books such as Bloodlands and Tombstone remind us precisely what happens when the Left has unfettered access to a helpless population. Every person in America should be thanking God for Republican foot-dragging, and should hope that they drag their feet ever harder and faster.