Monday, August 30, 2010


Now more than ever, Americans love leaders who seem to validate their way of life. . . The Obama campaign raised it to an art form, convincing voters that by merely supporting his candidacy, they were proving themselves cosmopolitan and young-at-heart, multicultural and hip. In a sense, [Glenn] Beck’s “Restoring Honor” was like an Obama rally through the looking glass. It was a long festival of affirmation for middle-class white Christians — square, earnest, patriotic and religious. If a speaker had suddenly burst out with an Obama-esque “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” the message would have fit right in. [emphasis added]

--Ross Douthat, New York Times, 8.29.10

I listened to Chris Wallace’s interview of Glenn Beck yesterday. Two qualities make Beck—for me—harder to dislike. First, he backs up his a-political claims with references to Republican failures. And second, he is humble in both substance and style. He says he’s engaged in an ongoing search for the truth, and happily welcomes criticism along the way.

I think the search for truth goes with belief in God, or a higher power. There is so much we don't know. Christianity developed during the Roman Empire, when emperors were gods, life was cheap, and most were slaves. Christianity taught followers to value themselves and every human, even outcasts. Though Christians professed no interest in politics, the Romans routinely executed them because they would die rather than accept the emperor as a god. The empire ruled; Christianity was a counter-culture that grew as it was oppressed.

That all changed with Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in 311. The church linked itself to imperial rule for the next 1,200 years, and made itself the faith of kings as Protestantism emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries. But when the American Revolution vested power in the people to overthrow rule by a British monarch, it did so with explicit references to God’s valuing all his children equally. From the beginning, Christianity underpinned American democracy.

We are now led by an intellectual elite that believes science has replaced God. That’s the lesson of “Inherit the Wind” (1960) about how in the 1925 Scopes trial, Charles Darwin finally overcame the Bible. Science is a full-time search for the truth. True scientists are humble in the face of the unknown, just as Christians are.

Our liberal elite is not humble, however, about believing progress moves from superstition, to organized religion, finally to science, where we are today. The American elite honors academic achievement represented by science and teaching, expressed through a meritocracy open to everyone, measured by intellectual accomplishment. Liberals feel, by merit, entitled to rule. Still, they need enough votes from those below to stay in power, and fear uneducated masses will succumb to the siren calls of capitalists, a traditional elite corrupted by money that uses the Republican party, race and religion to snatch needed votes away.

Our liberal ruling class enjoys a rich, expanding culture of new ideas, arts, and entertainment. It seems generous, sincerely believing in its (politically profitable) obligation to help the less fortunate—while keeping its hierarchy in place. Since liberals top the brain hierarchy, since virtually the entire intelligentsia is together in the Democratic Party, it’s almost impossible for intellectuals to view Republicans and their mass supporters as anything but inferiors—bigots, racists, religious wingnuts.

Beck’s rally may indeed represent a largely white following uncomfortable with if not downright hostile to what Douthat calls “cosmopolitan and young-at-heart, multicultural and hip”—also arrogant—America. I think liberals are right to worry about the whiteness of the opposition they have generated. Race can be a powerful divider, and Obama’s open intellectualism does combine with his race to make him less attractive to non-intellectual whites.

If race does divide America, whites remain the biggest. But the size of Beck’s rally still topped any rational expectation. I think it’s because millions of whites who don’t like Obama are fed up with being called racists. Hundreds of thousands of them warmed to the irony of coming together to honor old-fashioned patriotism and America’s Judeo-Christian tradition on the very date and spot of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. After all, that was when the Rev. Dr. King asked America to judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin—exactly the America that Beck’s crowd seeks.

In 2010, it's Democrats who play the race card to gain and hold (minority and liberal white) votes.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fear (II*)

[Regarding] the mosque near Ground Zero[--]the intelligentsia is near unanimous that the only possible grounds for opposition is bigotry toward Muslims. . . It is a measure of the corruption of liberal thought and the collapse of its self-confidence that, finding itself so widely repudiated, it resorts reflexively to the cheapest race-baiting (in a colorful variety of forms). [emphasis added]

--Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, 8.27.10

The British philosopher Roger Scruton has coined . . . oikophobia. Xenophobia is fear of the alien; oikophobia is fear of the familiar: "the disposition, in any conflict, to side with 'them' against 'us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably 'ours.' " What a perfect description of the pro-mosque left.

[Of course oikophobists'] vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . ." This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are . . . intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. [Such thought] is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.

--James Taranto, Wall Street Journal, 8.27.10

Can we not call the current administration an American experiment with socialism? Socialism emerged as a respectable alternative to capitalism in the 19th century, and most of Europe has social democratic parties that have held or are holding power, often by defeating parties associated with business (bourgeoisie v. proletarians). In America, Gallup found that 53% of Democrats view socialism favorably.

The problem is that 58% of Americans have a negative view of socialism. That explains liberal desire to avoid the term, even as Democrats consistently portray themselves as the party of the proletariat (union workers), and Republicans as capitalists. And even as Democrats push tax increases aimed at the wealthy, partly to raise the class consciousness of the unwealthy.

Socialism’s biggest problem is that it’s foreign, as Taranto suggests. America is the land of the self-evident truth that we are created equal. We don’t like any kind of permanent class structure. When Lenin, faced with the disorganization of socialism at the turn of the 20th century, wrote What is to be Done?, he realized communism needed disciplined intellectuals working against the capitalist system, educating the public in communist theory, and organizing a workers’ revolution. He needed a “vanguard of the proletariat” party made up of intellectuals.

Roosevelt in the New Deal worked with an intellectual vanguard party to reshape capitalism and its relationship to the masses, all within a democratic framework, all while avoiding talk of socialism. Obama’s election offered America’s elite, its intellectual class, the opportunity to finish the work begun by Roosevelt. Their top objective—move America toward European-style national health insurance. What worked for Western European democracies, Canada, and Japan—democratic socialism—should work in the U.S. as well.

It’s all gone wrong, according to Taranto, because Americans don’t like a social structure in which intellectuals rule over the rest of us. American intellectuals believe in democracy, but democracy where the masses accept rule by their betters—the very situation Obama’s election seemed to have brought about. Roosevelt accomplished much because Roosevelt enjoyed popular support. Obama’s election offered the same promise, but now the people have seemingly turned on him.

It’s led to a collapse of elite confidence, in Krauthammer's words. The elite’s effort to blame bigots for what’s gone wrong is a sign of weakness. We all know America’s a democracy, where the people rule. For the elite, if they cannot win an election through the media, money, and interest group politics, and if the people don’t like their ideas, their very class standing is under threat. Desperate times elicit desperate responses.

Dark before the dawn.


* = We first discussed liberal fear in May.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Three facts they don’t want you to know about our economic history.

Of course, the media avoid discussing these three important facts. Of course, you should know them. They help us understand where future economic policy should go. The three key U.S. economic history facts are:

1. Franklin Roosevelt reduced unemployment from day one. Unemployment peaked the year Roosevelt took over, then dropped every subsequent year except 1938 (when it rose sharply). The people loved FDR for a reason.

By contrast, the current administration has been unable to lower unemployment. It’s up from 7.4% in Bush’s last month to 9.5% today. Unemployment is down from 10.1% last October, but that’s because fewer people are looking for work. Were the labor force the same size as last year, unemployment would be 10.4%.

2. Ronald Reagan never wavered from his “cut taxes, cut spending” strategy, and triumphed for doing so. Unemployment, at 7.1% when Reagan took office, rose to 9.7% in 1982, leading to Republican House seat losses that fall. Reagan’s job approval rating fell to 37% at one point in 1982, as his inflation-fighting policies temporarily drove up unemployment. Two years later, however, unemployment was down to 7.5%, and Reagan won re-election in a landslide. Unemployment dropped to 5.5% by the end of his presidency (1988). The GDP, after rising only $32 billion in real 2005 dollars between 1980 and 1982, was up by $738 billion in 1984, a 12.6% increase in real terms. GDP rose 30.4% in real terms over Reagan’s eight years.

Reagan’s policies took time to work. But if the current administration sticks to its big government, big spending, high taxes, more handcuffs on business policies, the economy’s unlikely to recover, certainly not as it did under Reagan.

3. Democrats took over Congress in January 2007, not January 2009. Democrats did spend a forgettable two years trying to get the country ready for a Democratic president by frustrating Bush at every step. So maybe they think people will forget that when the Great Recession began in December 2007, Democrats controlled Congress. When Democrats took over in January 2007, unemployment was only 4.4%. It’s now 9.5%, an increase of 215%. The GDP in real dollars was $13.1 trillion when Democrats gained control of Congress. It’s now $13.2 trillion—no growth in four years.

Just because the media bury the Reid-Pelosi four-year economic record doesn’t mean we have to.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Overpaid Government Workers

Signs mount that America is headed for a radical overhall. Here’s another, from the libertarian journal Reason--proof the kleptocracy thrives at our expense:

➢ The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report on employee compensation revealed that, as of March 2010, state and local government workers earn, on average, nearly 44% more than do private-sector workers, including 34% higher salaries and wages and over 66% greater benefits.

➢ At the federal level, a recent USA Today analysis, based on Bureau of Economic Analysis data, found that government employees’ average compensation has grown to more than double that of private-sector workers. Federal workers earned average pay and benefits of more than $123,000 in 2009, compared to a little over $61,000 in total compensation for private workers. Since 2000, federal worker compensation has increased 36.9% after adjusting for inflation while private-sector workers saw only an 8.8% increase.


“the country has sorted itself into two distinct, roughly equally sized groups. . . We battle over a whole host of economic and cultural issues that did not divide us in the past.”

--Jay Cost, “RealClearPolitics,” August 25, 2010

Cost is asserting what I have argued for four years. The country’s pretty evenly divided. Liberals are a minority, but Democrats reach beyond liberalism to unmarried women, blacks, Hispanics, government workers, and others.

Yet the liberal-Democratic elite move around in their own cocoon. They are like “The Truman Show,” where Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lived oblivious to the fact that he was an act billions observed daily on TV. Here’s why:

1. The liberal elite is monocultural. The statement is counter-intuitive. Liberals are worldly, travel when possible, and enjoy mixing the best of home and abroad. But liberals do so in a surprisingly uniform way, taking their cues from the New York Times and the rest of the Times-influenced media. They talk to each other and bounce ideas off each other, using Times-inspired talking points. They have little use for non-elite America, don’t take it seriously, and are largely ignorant of life that goes on there, including how to make a business grow.

2. Those living outside liberal monoculturalism enjoy two or more cultures—the liberal host culture and their own. One can’t think or talk in America without knowing the American elite’s language. We may not speak or write it as well as the elite, but it is our native language too. We learn it in school. We function, however, in an America foreign to the New York Times, ignored by it, or ridiculed by it, one based on traditional, pre-Roosevelt America, when religious values were important. It's the America of Codevilla's "country class." As people who know two or more languages have advantages over monolingualists, so do those who understand two or more American cultures.

3. Outsiders enjoying multiculturalism believe liberals live in a restricted cocoon. It’s hard for those who live in two or more cultures to refrain from viewing monoculturalists the way we watch animals in a zoo, as Truman Burbanks. We know them; they don’t know us; they suffer for their relative situation. For liberals, the battle may be uneven. As Sun Tzu (The Art of War) says, “Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Islamophobia’s Teachable Moment?

Objectively, we know the fury surrounding the planned Ground Zero mosque has ballooned all out of proportion to the attention properly due a single building renovation. Our nation faces truly serious challenges, of which this isn't one.

Yet the controversy is a big deal at two levels. First, it is the starkest example of our president, once thought to be a political master, shooting himself it the foot. Americans are flabbergasted and outraged that our very own leader would so misunderstand why New Yorkers and others affected by 9.11 cannot accept Imam Fiesal Abdul Rauf’s project, given Rauf’s 2001 statement that U.S. actions led to 9.11, his 2005 statement that “the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than Al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims," and his public failure to disassociate from Hamas or Iran.

Second, it’s a crystal clear look at the self-contained cocoon created for themselves by those who teach: the academy, the media, arts, entertainment, non-profits, sympathetic bloggers, and their supporters in government and elsewhere in the liberal elite. Inside the cocoon, they relive again and again their civil rights triumph, where blacks and some whites in the South exposed themselves to real risk as most of the rest applauded from afar. They honor a time when thinking triumphed over prejudice, good overcame evil, and when in those unforgettable Vietnam years, we learned that our most important struggle should be wiping out prejudice at home.

Like generals who know only how to win the last war, Democrats are constantly refighting the civil rights war—for women, for Hispanics and other non-whites, for (they believe, others beg to differ) the elderly and children, recently for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, and now for Muslims. Whoever they fight for, the enemy remains the same: less-educated bigots and racists represented by Republicans, white Southerners, and right-wing Christians. The elite's higher standing in society, which—they know—rests on the more advanced level of education they have achieved, depends upon a polity divided with the enlightened on top, and the ignorant below.

There are more ignorant than educated voters today, and that’s a problem. But over time, as with civil rights, as with the rise of women, this will change if the enlightened ones only keep the faith. College graduates will one day be the American majority. Until then, as the highly-educated courts have taught us, it’s not about majority rule, it’s about being right.

The elite stand with pride inside their cocoon alongside an anti-American imam. They stand against ordinary Americans who truly do believe in “liberty and justice for all,” as long as "all" includes those hurt by and resisting Islamic terror.

Outside the cocoon, it's such a different world. As Franklin Roosevelt once knew, it's really about jobs, and who can create them. Capitalism teaches that business people create jobs--sellers finding ready buyers. Helping business create jobs is teachable moment #1.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fighting Back: The Country Class

Concluding our digest of Angelo M. Codevilla’s important essay. Codevilla, who has little use for establishment Republicans, has decided to define the “rest of us,” organized or not, as “the country class”:

America's country class . . . shares above all the desire to be rid of rulers it regards inept and haughty. It defines itself practically in terms of reflexive reaction against the rulers' defining ideas and proclivities -- e.g., ever higher taxes and expanding government, subsidizing political favorites, social engineering. . . Many want to restore a way of life largely superseded. Demographically, the country class is the other side of the ruling class's coin: its most distinguishing characteristics are marriage, children, and religious practice. . . it is different because of its non-orientation to government and its members' yearning to rule themselves rather than be ruled by others.

Nothing has set the country class apart. . .so much as the ruling class's insistence that people other than themselves are intellectually and hence otherwise humanly inferior. Persons who were brought up to believe themselves as worthy as anyone, who manage their own lives to their own satisfaction. . . resent politicians . . . who say that the issues of modern life are too complex for any but themselves.

The country class actually believes that America's ways are superior to the rest of the world's, and regards most of mankind as less free, less prosperous, and less virtuous. . . This class . . . takes part in the U.S. armed forces body and soul: nearly all the enlisted, non-commissioned officers and officers under flag rank belong to this class in every measurable way. Few vote for the Democratic Party.

Parents of young children and young women anxious about marriage worry that cultural directives from on high are dispelling their dreams. The faithful to God sense persecution. All resent higher taxes and loss of freedom. More and more realize that their own agenda's advancement requires concerting resistance to the ruling class across the board.

The fact that public employees are almost always paid more and have more generous benefits than the private sector people whose taxes support them only sharpened the sense among many in the country class that they now work for public employees rather than the other way around. But how to reverse the roles?

Let members of the country class object to anything the ruling class says or does, and likely as not their objection will be characterized as "religious," that is to say irrational, that is to say not to be considered on a par with the "science" of which the ruling class is the sole legitimate interpreter. Because aggressive, intolerant secularism is the moral and intellectual basis of the ruling class's claim to rule, resistance to that rule. . . must deal with secularism's intellectual and moral core.

One side or the other will prevail. The clash is as sure and momentous as its outcome is unpredictable. In this clash, the ruling class holds most of the cards: because it has established itself as the fount of authority, its primacy is based on habits of deference. [T]he country class wholly lacks organization. By contrast, the ruling class holds strong defensive positions and is well represented by the Democratic Party. But a [Democratic] two to one numerical disadvantage augurs defeat, while victory would leave it in control of a people whose confidence it cannot regain.

[Since] the Republican Party does not live to represent the country class [--] to do so, it would have to become principles-based [--] for the foreseeable future, American politics will consist of confrontation between what we might call the Country Party and the ruling class. The Democratic Party having transformed itself into a unit with near-European discipline, challenging it would seem to require empowering a rival party at least as disciplined. Yet this logic. . . has always been foreign to America . . . Any country party would have to be wise and skillful indeed not to become the Democrats' mirror image.

a serious party would have to attack the ruling class's fundamental claims to its superior intellect and morality in ways that dispirit the target and hearten one's own. The Democrats having set the rules of modern politics, opponents who want electoral success are obliged to follow them.

Ruling Class Crushes Economy, Puts Down Religion, Elevates Science

Continuing the digest of Angelo M. Codevilla’s important essay:

While the economic value of anything depends on sellers and buyers agreeing on that value as civil equals in the absence of force, modern government is about . . . tampering with civil equality. By endowing some in society with power to force others to sell cheaper than they would, and forcing others yet to buy at higher prices[,] modern government makes valuable some things that are not, and devalues others that are. Thus if you are not among the favored guests at the table where officials make detailed lists of who is to receive what at whose expense, you are on the menu.

picking economic winners and losers redirects the American people's energies to tasks that the political class deems more worthy than what Americans choose for themselves. . . ever-greater taxes and intrusive regulations are the main wrenches by which the American people can be improved (and, yes, by which the ruling class feeds and grows).

To the extent party leaders do not have to worry about voters, they can choose privileged interlocutors, representing those in society whom they find most amenable. In America ever more since the 1930s[,] government has designated certain individuals, companies, and organizations within each of society's sectors as (junior) partners in elaborating laws and administrative rules for those sectors. The government empowers the persons it has chosen over those not chosen, deems them the sector's true representatives, and rewards them. They become part of the ruling class. . . a doctor, a building contractor, a janitor, or a schoolteacher counts in today's America insofar as he is part of the hierarchy of a sector organization affiliated with the ruling class. Less and less do such persons count as voters.

legal words that say you are in the right avail you less in today's America than being on the right side of the persons who decide what they want those words to mean. As the discretionary powers of officeholders and of their informal entourages have grown, the importance of policy and of law itself is declining, citizenship is becoming vestigial, and the American people become ever more dependent.

The ruling class is keener to reform the American people's family and spiritual lives than their economic and civic ones. In no other areas is the ruling class's self-definition so definite, its contempt for opposition so patent, its Kulturkampf so open. It believes that the Christian family (and the Orthodox Jewish one too) is rooted in and perpetuates the ignorance commonly called religion, divisive social prejudices, and repressive gender roles, that it is the greatest barrier to human progress because it looks to its very particular interest -- often defined as mere coherence against outsiders who most often know better. Thus the family prevents its members from playing their proper roles in social reform. Worst of all, it reproduces itself.

Since marriage is the family's fertile seed, government at all levels, along with "mainstream" academics and media, have waged war on it. They legislate, regulate, and exhort in support not of "the family" -- meaning married parents raising children -- but rather of "families," meaning mostly households based on something other than marriage. . . rates of marriage in America have decreased as out-of-wedlock births have increased. The biggest demographic consequence has been that 20% of all households are women alone or with children, in which case they have about a 40% chance of living in poverty. Since unmarried mothers often are or expect to be clients of government services, it is not surprising that they are among the Democratic Party's most faithful voters.

dismissal of the American people's intellectual, spiritual, and moral substance is the very heart of what our ruling class is about. Its . . .claim to the right to decide for others is precisely that it . . .operates by standards beyond others' comprehension. While the unenlightened ones believe that man is created in the image and likeness of God and that we are subject to His and to His nature's laws, the enlightened ones know that we are products of evolution, driven by chance, the environment, and the will to primacy.

science is "science" only in the "right" hands. Consensus among the right people is the only standard of truth. Facts and logic matter only insofar as proper authority acknowledges them. That is why the ruling class is united and adamant about nothing so much as its right to pronounce definitive, "scientific" judgment on whatever it chooses. When the government declares, and its associated press echoes that "scientists say" this or that, ordinary people -- or for that matter scientists who "don't say," or are not part of the ruling class -- lose any right to see the information that went into what "scientists say."

By identifying science and reason with themselves, our rulers delegitimize opposition. Though they cannot prevent Americans from worshiping God, they can make it as socially disabling as smoking -- to be done furtively and with a bad social conscience. Though they cannot make Americans wish they were Europeans, they continue to press upon this nation of refugees from the rest of the world the notion that Americans ought to live by "world standards."

Ruling Class Power

This blog gives extensive attention to elite rule over the rest of us via the Democratic party (examples here and here). Similar views receive widespread coverage elsewhere, though rarely in the depth Boston University’s Angelo M. Codevilla provided in his 11,000-plus word essay on the ruling class. I’ve condensed Codevilla’s essay into three blog posts, beginning with his thoughts on ruling class power:

Today's ruling class. . . was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance. . . a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters . . . serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct.

while most Americans pray to [God], our ruling class prays to itself as "saviors of the planet" and improvers of humanity. Our classes' clash is over "whose country" America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark's Gospel: "if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."

the ruling class has a party, the Democrats. . . . They vote Democrat . . . consistently. . . draw their money and orientation from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in the middle ranks who aspire to be the [ruling class]. . . few speak well of the ruling class. [It has] presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans' conviction that the ruling class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified.

Like a fraternity, [the ruling] class requires above all comity -- being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs. Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment's parts.

membership in the ruling class [doesn’t] depend on high academic achievement. [France is] an academic meritocracy . . . where elected officials have little power, a vast bureaucracy explicitly controls details from how babies are raised to how to make cheese, and people get into and advance in that bureaucracy strictly by competitive exams. . .France's ruling class are bright people -- certifiably. . .while getting into the Ecole Nationale d'Administration . . . requires outperforming others in blindly graded exams, and graduating . . . requires passing exams that many fail, getting into America's "top schools" is less a matter of passing exams than of showing up with acceptable grades and an attractive social profile.

[The] ruling class[‘s] first tenet is that "we" are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. How did this replace the Founding generation's paradigm that "all men are created equal"? The notion of human equality was always a hard sell, because experience teaches us that we are so unequal in so many ways, and because making one's self superior is so tempting . . . But human equality made sense to our Founding generation because they believed that all men are made in the image and likeness of God, [and] because they were yearning for equal treatment under British law. . .

[After Darwin], the educated class's religious fervor turned to social reform: they were sure that because man is a mere part of evolutionary nature, man could be improved, and that they, the most highly evolved of all, were the improvers. Thus began the Progressive Era. The Progressives. . . found it fulfilling to attribute the failure of their schemes to the American people's backwardness, to something deeply wrong with America. The American people had failed them because democracy in its American form perpetuated the worst in humanity. Thus Progressives began to look down on the masses, to look on themselves as the vanguard, and to look abroad for examples to emulate.

Franklin Roosevelt . . . described America's problems in technocratic terms. America's problems would be fixed by a "brain trust" (picked by him). His New Deal's solutions -- the alphabet-soup "independent" agencies that have run America ever since -- turned many Progressives into powerful bureaucrats and then into lobbyists.

Our ruling class's agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power [via] patronage and promises thereof. . . it is a "machine”. . . providing tangible rewards to its members. . . whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges -- civic as well as economic -- to the party's clients. . . Hence our ruling class's standard approach to any and all matters. . . is to increase the power of the government -- meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves. . .

Saturday, August 14, 2010


"We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."

-- Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1980)

Khomeini, Khamenei. 1980, 2010. It's all much the same. What changes is Iran’s growing ability to carry out its threat. To Israel, George Will reports after visiting with Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu, Iran constitutes the greatest threat to its existence since Israelis fought with mostly small arms against Arab tanks in 1948.

Iran’s threat stems from the Iranian revolutionary government’s take-over in 1979, its unflagging militancy since, its aggressive encouragement and arming of Hezbollah and Hamas starting in the early 1980s, the Hezbollah victory over the Israeli army in 2006, the present-day threat Hezbollah and its rockets on Israel’s northern border pose to the Jewish homeland today, Hamas’ emergence unfazed from Israel’s invasion of Gaza last year, with virtually the entire world condemning Israel’s action (condemnation repeated when Israeli commandos repulsed a Muslim-supported effort to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in May), and the current threat of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel.

Then there’s Iran with the bomb—perhaps within two short years. Khamenei calls Israel the "enemy of God." Iran's former president, Ali Rafsanjani, considered a "moderate" by many, calls Israel a "one-bomb country," meaning, fairly accurately, one bomb, and Israel is no more.

The only threat comparable to a nuclear Iran is an already-nuclear Pakistan under militant Islamic control. Our foreign policy must continue to be fixed on Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tossing the Lemon; Finding A Better Way

America’s ruling class has failed us. Its caché is the ability to make things work by putting the meritocracy (itself) in charge. But the elite’s bright, shiny, large, well-oiled, pricy machine, it turns out, can’t deliver the horsepower our economy needs. It’s a clunker, and America seems ready to junk it.

We need to replace the big government model with policies that free business to do what it does best—invest, create jobs, generate wealth. While the right way forward seems simple, obvious, easily understood, we are now discovering intellectually refined justifications for the common-sense transformation America needs.

One find comes from Michael Barone: an article by economist Arnold Kling that advocates treating labor as capital. In Barone’s words:
Kling argues that the collapse of the housing market and the financial crisis disrupted what had been "a sustainable pattern of specialization and trade" and that we need to let the market economy develop a new one. Instead [of] propping up the old order -- holding up housing prices and the mortgage market, keeping the Detroit auto companies in place, maintaining the lush standard of living of public employee union members [-- we need a] trial-and-error process of private investment that creates new jobs and patterns of production that will be sustainable.

Kling says job creation today involves investing in labor as if labor is capital. Spending for the sake of spending doesn’t work anymore. It’s all about investment:
we have lost the [old] connection between spending and employment. Firms can vary their output with little or no variation in employment. This explains how we can have a “jobless recovery,” meaning a large percentage increase in output without a comparable percentage increase in employment. For firms in today's economy, labor represents an investment. Firms hire workers in order to develop capabilities that will eventually produce output more efficiently. The return on an investment in workers may take . . . longer to realize [than] return on investment [on] a machine [and] may be at least as uncertain.

For the sake of American workers, Kling says, we must start investing now:
The market needs to undertake a recalculation in order to deploy workers in a new, sustainable pattern of specialization and trade. The process involves . . .trial and error. Firms need to be launched by entrepreneurs, who will make risky investments in employees. The failure rate will be high, but eventually the successes will have a cumulative effect that brings about more economic activity.

How much better this new economy sounds. It works when entrepreneurs invest in labor. Government moves its old “spend, spend, spend” model out of the way.

What Price Victory?

"On June 30, 2009, I and eight other historians were invited to a dinner with President Obama. . . The only thing achieved has been the silencing of the main point the dinner guests tried to make—pursuit of war in Afghanistan would be for him what Vietnam was to Lyndon Johnson."

--Garry Wills, New York Review of Books, 7.27.10

Angelo M. Codevilla is professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University. He has written a long, detailed examination of the American elite’s grip on national power, and how we commoners can cope with it. I like much of what Codevilla has to say, and will expand on other parts of his article later.

For now, I must answer his attack on establishment Republicans for, paraphrasing George W. Bush's 2005 inaugural address, preaching that “America cannot be free until the whole world is free and hence that America must push . . . mankind to freedom.” Codevilla pronounces Bush’s exhortation “an extrapolation of the sentiments of America's Progressive class, first articulated by such as Princeton's Woodrow Wilson.”

Yet Codevilla thinks Bush is worse:
while the early Progressives expected the rest of the world to follow peacefully, today's ruling class makes decisions about war and peace at least as much forcibly to tinker with the innards of foreign bodies politic as to protect America.

Codevilla goes on to attack Obama along with Bush and the rest of the ruling class for committing
blood and treasure to long-term, twilight efforts to reform the world's Vietnams, Somalias, Iraqs, and Afghanistans, believing that changing hearts and minds is the prerequisite of peace and that it knows how to change them.

Gary Wills, elite/ruling class intellectual. Anti-war. Angelo Codevilla, anti-elitist conservative/libertarian. Anti-war. So what about those who believe America must counter Islamic extremist efforts to wipe us out? Where do we fit in?

The Iraq war ruined Bush’s presidency, even though he was right about the surge, and the people of Iraq—not to mention the rest of us—are far better off without Saddam Hussein. In Afghanistan, we are fighting the Taliban backed by al Qaeda in Pakistan, the people who destroyed the World Trade Center and want to finish the job. Codevilla thinks our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan “have achieved nothing worthwhile at great cost in lives and treasure.”

So are we, as he and Wills believe we should, to give up before we win?

Here’s why we should:
1) war and democracy don’t go together. Europe learned the lesson in two world wars fought on its soil, Japan did in World War II. Wills, Codevilla, and most of the country think America learned the lesson in Vietnam, with its 58,000 deaths for no apparent benefit. No more war. 2) Leaders who ignore the lesson, Johnson in 1968, Bush and maybe Obama, are battered and beaten into submission. 3) Vietnam, now a free trading member of the global economy and growing in prosperity, is an advertisement for avoiding war, or for accepting defeat earlier.

Here’s why we shouldn’t give up the fight:
1) as Codevilla acknowledges, Americans know some wars are worth it; they just prefer “decisive military action or none.” Bush understood we fight to win. Obama may not, and his doubts complicate the Afghanistan mission. 2) there is a gigantic difference between Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan. We fight today with a professional army, and we do everything possible to minimize casualties. In our major wars (Revolutionary, War of 1812, Mexican, Civil, Spanish-American/
Philippine, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, War on Terror), American deaths in the War on Terror (Afghanistan + Iraq) are the lowest at 5,500, less than the 6,642 who died in the Spanish-American War + Philippine Insurrection, less than twice the number who died on 9.11, that single day (2,995). 3) Islamic extremists aren’t Vietnamese nationalists who fought a war of independence (a civil war to us) solely to liberate Vietnam. Islamic extremists have a broader objective that already brought them to U.S. territory, and if we don’t fight back, moderate Muslims and the entire West will lose along with us.

The high price of war demands we fight effectively, at the lowest possible human cost, to win.