THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 632 July 19 - 25, 2010
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July 19, 2010
Nancy Pelosi is now saying that the reason Obama's popularity is falling is that expectations were too high. Jimmy Carter tells us that it's racism. The NAACP tells us it's racism that motivates the tea parties and opposition to the government. Meanwhile my newspaper headlines tell me that the Administration, without any Congressional action, is completely revamping conservation and environmental protection. No one is sure what all that means.
And small business investment falls, job creation is low, and the only reason unemployment is falling is that the number of people seeking jobs is falling. I wonder if Congress has considered that if you collect unemployment benefits you have to be looking for work, so if we increase the time you can collect unemployment it will attract some of those who gave up seeking work because their benefits ran out, and thus bring unemployment rates up again? Which is a long winded way of saying that if you want more of something subsidize it. If you want less of something, fine people for doing it. If you make it more difficult and more expensive to employ people, you will get fewer people employed; if you pay people to be unemployed, you will get more unemployed. If you pay people to be poor for a living, you will get people to take that job: since they are employed -- the job is collecting public benefits -- perhaps we should "reduce unemployment" by taking them off the "unemployed" list? That should help the numbers.
The government has lost the confidence of the people. The government doesn't even have to read the laws it passes. It's all being passed along to a bureaucracy that understands full well what is wanted.
My one-time colleague Angelo Codevilla -- he was briefly a Research Associate at Pepperdine Research Institute when I was Managing Director -- has a long and important article in the current American Spectator magazine. The title is "America's Ruling Class -- And the Perils of Revolution". Both parts of that title are important. You can find it here: http://spectator.org/archives/2010/07/16/americas-ruling-class-and-the/print
There have always been elites in America, and there have always been local ruling classes and aristocracies; but it is only comparatively recently that there has been "a ruling class" of the kind we have now. Codevilla traces its development and some of the consequences.
This development was predictable and predicted. The authors of The Bell Curve understood the phenomenon, and postulated some of the causes; of course the development of the ruling class was well under way when The Bell Curve was published, and interestingly enough the establishment, although created in large part by the process described in The Bell Curve, soundly and roundly rejected the book, its principles. and everything about it. That's because the authors of The Bell Curve were not part of the ruling class and never could be; and besides, part of their thesis was wrong. The US hasn't become a meritocracy; but the pretense of creating one did bring together the elements of the ruling class.
Some of this development was, if not predicted, at least strongly implied in some of my earlier papers on The Voodoo Sciences, all written long before the current crisis or indeed before "the global warming consensus." And of course there's The Iron Law. Codevilla's thesis isn't all that new (nor does he claim it to be) but this presentation is done well. It's particularly relevant on what has to be done.
The main thesis of Codevilla's article is that America's majority -- an overwhelming majority -- is not represented by the Ruling Class and is increasingly unhappy with it -- and the remedy is not merely turning the Democrats out in November. The storm clouds are gathering.
Codevilla also agues that the ruling class is busily dumbing itself down. Having been created in theory as a meritocracy, it never really was that, and is less so now than ever. I might note that the collapse of the public school system works toward that end. We've discussed this in previous essays, and coincidentally there's relevant mail today. As to the consequences:
There's a lot more, some of which you will have encountered here, such as Adorno's influential book that few have ever heard of, and other stuff from the Voodoo sciences, or our discussions of education.
The question is, what to do about it. A large majority of Americans rejects the current ruling class. Codevilla (who came to America from Italy unable to speak English as a youngster, and was thoroughly assimilated by the time he was a graduate student) summarizes the task for Americans this way:
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|This week:||Tuesday, July
The Eagle Has Landed
When I was reading science fiction in high school I never doubted that I would live to see the first man on the Moon. I didn't think I would live to see the last one.
I am not entirely sure that is an optimum expenditure of American tax money to pay NASA to allow the Muslims to contemplate the great accomplishment of preserving Greek works and thus distract itself while stoning women to death.
I have often recommended Amity Shlaes The Forgotten Man (Kindle Edition) for those who want to understand the Great Depression and the various measures used by the New Deal in its pragmatic attempts to Do Something.
One of the key factors in recovering from depression -- or long term recession -- is confidence. If investors don't have confidence in the government's ability to provide predictability and policy stability, they don't invest. Last July 13 Miss Shlaes published a short essay, FDR, Obama, and "Confidence" addresses that. I recommend it.
As in The Forgotten Man, Miss Shlaes tells the story by following individuals; in this case Treasury Secretary Morganthau, who came to the Treasury largely because Roosevelt really wanted to be his own Secretary of the Treasury and Morganthau who had no credentials in economics or finance had no authority other than his office and thus could be trusted to do the President's will; but during the four years following his appointment he began to gain some understanding.
Obama could learn a lot from reading The Forgotten Man; for that matter he could learn something from reading this short essay. It's unlikely that he'll ever see them, of course.
I note that today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial along the same lines as yesterday's observation here: if you want more unemployment, pay people to be unemployed.
There are jobs that need doing in the US. Most of them aren't pretty, or fun, or inspiring, and in a severe recession (none dare call it a Depression) that's particularly true. One "remedy" to that is to have government hire people to do them. In our present system those fortunate enough to land a government job are going to be a lot better off than those who have to rely on the private sector. Of course government doesn't have any money and the jobs government creates don't tend to produce anything measurable that might generate income; and of course that government job must be paid for by taxes. In cities that tends to be sales and property taxes.
If you want less of some human activity, fine them for doing that. Fining people for buying things and owning property always works to reduce buying and owning. Taxing small business insures that we'll have fewer small businesses. So it goes.
Mark Horning addresses What Would Kipling Say over in mail. It's worth a look. You should then have a look at The Gods of the Copybook Headings, and perhaps The Old Issue.
July 21, 2010
I am way behind today. Everything seems to be up in the air, as the establishment tries to recover from its rush to judgment. I never heard of a government employee being told to pull over and resign, on the spot, on a cell phone. I got a lot of mail on the story yesterday as links to the first story, but this isn't a breaking news site, and I don't pass along such stories without understanding more than the original link showed. I collected the mail and waited. By evening it was clear that whatever happened, this wasn't what the original link suggested.
I am still uncertain as to what position Shirley Sherrod holds (or held until required to send her resignation by Blackberry from the side of the road). At the time of the original incident she referred to in her speech to the NAACP she was most certainly a civil servant. If she still is, then the actions of the Administration are unconscionable; so much so that I suspect she must now hold (well, held) some kind of political appointment. It must be. I can't imagine that anyone in the Administration would be that ignorant of the civil service regulations. I'm no great fan of the way the civil service runs now, but having GS workers subject to that kind of arbitrary authority -- pull over and text us your resignation now! -- can't possible be a good thing for the nation.
Indeed, that kind of rush to judgment based on an Internet posting of part of a speech about an incident that took place shows such a lack of judgment that I question whether those who rushed to that action should be paid by the US government. Of course that doesn't mean they ought to be forced to resign without a hearing or notification or discussion. But were I the President, I think I might think about my Secretary of Agriculture. Of course the story isn't over yet.
The moral of this story is that some crimes are so horrid that merely being accused is sufficient to convict. Of evidence there is no need. Of defense there is no need since no defense is possible. And there is no need of time for consideration.
Take Climate Change Deniers, for example...
Meanwhile I have to go write.
I even thought I had convinced Governor Reagan to do it. Somehow it never got through either the California legislature or Congress. Astonishing that the oil companies didn't want to do that. I bet BP wishes they had now...
July 22, 2010
Cap and Trade is still alive, although it won't have that name. Reid can't get 60 votes for it, but he'll keep looking for ways to get something through. And the AGW Climate Change consensus is back with a vengeance.
One move is to require a high percentage of "alternate energy." Note that nuclear power is not considered "alternate" and is not on the table.
At one time T Boone Pickens was enthusiastic about wind, which is on the alternate list. He has stepped back a bit on wind, but he's big on natural gas. His current article is a good introduction to the subject (and even looks a bit at wind).
Pickens goes into the reason why he believes government action is needed. It has to do with sending money overseas. It doesn't take long to read, and it's worth your time.
July 23, 2010
.The reverberations from the Shirley Sherrod story continue.
I find it all fascinating:
Uh -- given that the speech was made at the NAACP, isn't it likely that the NAACP had available a full copy of the speech, and might have reviewed it -- all twenty minutes of it -- before calling the White House and bringing the Wrath of God down upon the head of Ms. Sherrod? Or perhaps to talk to someone who actually heard the speech? But such is panic.
Peggy Noonan as usual tries to make a lesson out of it all.
The lesson for me is that I'm glad I don't try to do breaking news. I prefer to make my mistakes after a bit more consideration. There's probably a lesson in there, too.
Niven and I went hiking and then to lunch yesterday, and I got fired up to do some fiction. I'm still trying to keep up on that. It's still the silly season.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned about city government from the Bell horror story, but it's well to reflect on it before leaping in to draw conclusions. That's for another time. It's certainly an interesting lesson on how to grow wealthy from city management, not to say on how to loot a city. Possibly quite legally. Of course local problems stay local; local folly costs mostly the foolish. Except when it doesn't, as may happen in this case, with state liabilities as well. But all that's speculation.
Today's mail is a very mixed bag indeed.
The subject is complex. Certainly breaking news belongs to those who found it, and they deserve to make some money from it. We need news organizations, and aggregators while useful don't actually go out and get the goods for us. On the other hand, a month old story probably won't be read again unless someone reprints it. Perhaps by linking to it, perhaps not.
We just watched 2012 broadcast without interruption on a good HD television. The effects were spectacular. The plot was abysmal as these things tend to be. Apparently if you wish hard enough, and you have the right feelings, then physics and engineering doesn't matter. Moreover, the soldiers stay loyal, even though we're coming to the end of the world as we know it, and they know that, but still... It seems to have done well at the box office, though. Parts of it were reasonable I suppose, but I could never have written that. I guess I am doomed to try to make things both self-consistent and reasonably in conformity with reality...
July 24, 2010
I took the day off.
I loved it. I suspect all the readers here will like it too! Go enjoy that! And see below:
July 25, 2010
I loved the Flash "Brindisi" and it brought up this Flash Sound of Music clip from Antwerp.
(And I actually now the words to "Do, Re, Me.")
This would be a big story if you could find one. Alas, it's mostly an announcement of hope. Of course I recall when ball point pens sold for $15 each in a time when $15 was more than a day's pay...
It's that last sentence that's the problem.
And North Korea threatens war if the US and South Korea continue their naval exercises. At least one source says they threaten nuclear war. I am reminded of an episode of Gunsmoke in which a young gunslinger in search of a reputation finally convinces Matt Dillon that he's serious...
The July mailbag is now posted at Chaos Manor Reviews
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 5,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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