Monday, December 10, 2018

We Need ‘Extremism’ to Move the Political Ball in Our Direction--Capitalism

In my 2010 post Extremists vs. the Moderates: Why the Left Keeps Winning, and the Right has been Powerless to Stop It, I observed that

the Dems have been far more consistent - read, extreme - in cleaving to their collectivist “ideological purity”. Socialism has had a loud voice in the Democratic Party, but capitalism has yet to find its political voice. The two ideological extremes are the primary combatants. The Left knows it. The Right doesn’t. The result: The political "middle" keeps moving Left.

In this regard, Ronald Bailey has a helpful article at Reason How Political Extremism Sways Elections and Public Policy. Contrary to the dogma that political extremism is harmful; it not only works but shapes the political direction of a nation. Bailey writes:

One new study shows that extremist arguments can be effective in shifting public policy debates. Another reports that voters do not penalize more ideologically extreme presidential candidates.

"Exposing people to extreme conservative policies makes them more likely to prefer moderate conservative policies relative to liberal ones, and vice versa," reports the New York University political scientist Gary Simonovits. Simonovits' study, which was published in the journal Political Behavior, is basically an empirical confirmation of how the "Overton Window of Political Possibilities" works.

As Simonovits explains, Joseph Overton was a libertarian policy analyst at the Mackinac Center who "argued that the range of policies or opinions deemed acceptable by the public is in a constant flux and can be shifted by introducing and defending ideas not yet 'on the table.'" Or as Daily Kos blogger David Atkins once summarized it: "You win policy debates by crafting arguments for extreme positions—and then shifting the entire window of debate."

A good analogy is going for a touchdown in football. Which is the better strategy; throw a “bomb” to get to the end zone in one play, or go for the goal line by making a series of first downs through plays that gain 4 or 5 yards at a time? The “bomb” would be great, but unlikely. The Left has been going for the socialist goal line one small gain at a time, and they’ve made steady progress. How? By preaching the extreme basics of socialism, altruism/collectivism, while settling for political “compromises” that always moves the culture toward socialism. As I wrote:

The Left will certainly compromise legislatively, such as Obama giving up on the “public option”, so long as the ball is moved toward its ultimate totalitarian socialist goal, as with ObamaCare. The Left will gladly forego the political first down on the first play, knowing that the GOP . . . will compromise on a three or four-yard gain. But the first downs will keep coming on four-yard gain after four-yard gain, as the drive toward the collectivist goal line continues. The Democratic Left represents one extreme, collectivism, and proudly and openly stands on those principles. It has never been “moderate” in regard to its ideological essentials.

The GOP, with rare exceptions, has abandoned the other extreme, individualism (if it ever really embraced it).

Bailey observes that extremism isn’t the only factor in elections. I think it’s far more important in swaying public policy. And I think history bears this out. Republicans have won their fair share of elections over the past 100 years. But the country keeps moving to the Left. Why?

The Right, led by the conservatives, almost always starts from the moderate position, rejecting outright the ideal of laissez-faire capitalism (Objectivists are the obvious exception). We Objectivists have always said that the political direction of a culture may wobble, but the general direction is determined by the extremes of political ideals, with the most consistent extreme winning. Given the Leftist intellectual’s greater (though perhaps not not always full) consistency, is it any wonder that the American political  center keeps moving Left, toward socialism.

It’s time for the Right—the true Right, the advocates of individualism and its political expression, laissez-faire capitalism—to get extreme. That is, to state unapologetically its laissez-faire ideal. This way, people can compare where specific policies ultimately lead—which is, either to totalitarian socialism or fully free capitalism. Then we can compromise in a way that moves the culture toward more liberty, without contradicting our fundamental principles. A good concrete example of this strategy is to observe the way Objectivists approach the field of education: We proudly display our long term ideal, a free education market through the complete separation of education and state, even as we settle in the shorter term for universal school choice through tax credits, education savings accounts, or even charter schools. None of these policies represent a fully free education market. But each adds more freedom to education, and thus moves the ball towards our ultimate ideal. Then we will have a chance to reverse the trend toward collectivism and its statist political expression, socialism.

Extremism works. As I said above, “The Left knows it. The Right doesn’t. The result: The political ‘middle’ keeps moving Left.” To repeat David Atkins from Bailey’s article, "You win policy debates by crafting arguments for extreme positions—and then shifting the entire window of debate." Atkins said it in the context of Trump's shocking win over Clinton. And as Bailey observes, “Simonovits' research suggests that Trump's extreme anti-immigrant, protectionist, anti–free speech, pro–surveillance state, and racially divisive tirades may have the effect of shifting the Overton Window toward mainstreaming radically anti-liberty politics.” Which would suit the Left just fine. A more rights-violating government, albeit in the short term not much to the Dems’ liking, will in the long term work to their benefit.

But the overriding message is—Goldwater was right: “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

Related Reading:






Saturday, December 8, 2018

QUORA: ‘How do we get rid of the Electoral College forever?

QUORA *: ‘How do we get rid of the Electoral College forever?

I posted this answer:

There is only one way that I know of—amend the Constitution (though I think that would be a mistake given that the College is an integral part of governmental checks and balances).

I might add that the proposed “National Popular Vote Interstate Compact,” should it ever be adopted, does not do away with the Electoral College. It just reorients its application. The popularly elected state legislatures would still hold the Article 2, Section 1 authority to appoint the Electors.


RELATED READING:

My posts on the Electoral College, including answers to QUORA inquiries.

* [Quora is a social media website founded by two former Facebook employees. According to Wikipedia:

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.[3]Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users' answers.[4]

You can also reply to other users’ answers.]’

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Democratic Socialism: The Left Escalates America’s Journey to Totalitarianism


A recent Foundation of Economic Education article by James Davenport argues that Democratic Socialism Doesn't Exist: Like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, Democratic Socialism Exists Only in Myth. I take issue with this terminology. Republican socialism doesn’t exist. Democratic socialism certainly can. But that is an issue for another column.

Davenport’s main argument is that socialism is (or inevitably leads to) totalitarianism because socialism by definition eliminates private property, which means “the end of individuals and corporations owning, improving, and exchanging resources, goods, and services,” leading to ever-increasing central control of all economic activity. (The socialist abolition of private property can be accomplished through outright confiscation or totally controlled, though nominally privately owned, property.) Davenport makes a point that I want to address:

The entire notion of democratic socialism is simply a fiction.

By hailing certain Nordic countries as successful examples of democratic socialism, these candidates mislead people about the true nature of both socialism and capitalism.
The fact is that the very countries Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez praise have market-capitalist economies.

Not only are they market-capitalist systems, several of them rank higher than the U.S. in economic freedom comparisons.

What Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and their supporters label as democratic socialism is actually market capitalism with a robust (some argue unsustainable) social safety net.

I don't believe Sanders et al are making an innocent mistake.  

The creation of the so-called "social safety net" has always been the means by which
socialists could gradually transform capitalist America into a socialist state. "The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism," said six-time US Socialist Presidential Candidate Norman Thomas. "But under the name of 'Liberalism,' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened."

But the welfare state has its limits, inherent in the very notion of a "safety net" for capitalism. The socialists have taken the welfare state as far as it can. To complete the transformation, a new rationale was needed.

Enter democratic socialism. We are now being told that our welfare state has been socialism all along. Do you collect Social Security? Send your kids to public schools? Support food stamps to help feed the poor? Well, that's socialism--democratic socialism! See? That's not so bad, is it? But unlike the social safety net, democratic socialism implies no limits. Get people to accept democratic socialism, and the road to totalitarian socialism is cleared.

I believe the miss-identifying of the Nordic mixed economies as socialist is deliberately intended to sanitize socialism's actual nature and record in order to pave the way for actual totalitarian socialism in America. Once Americans begin to identify its comparatively benign welfare state with socialism, real socialism can continue to be smuggled in piece by piece, so that by the time Americans catch on, it will be too late. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," imposed by the guns of state, will have arrived--along with its inevitable consequence of economic paralysis and collapse, and the total state.

With important midterm elections approaching, it's imperative to know what the Democratic Party is up to.

Related Reading:






Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Instead of an Antitrust Exemption for Newspapers, End Antitrust


America’s traditional newspaper publishers are struggling in the era of the internet. So, they’re looking to Congress for help. Representative David Cicilline obliged, introducing the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2018 (JCPA). The Act would

provide a temporary safe harbor for the publishers of online content to collectively negotiate with dominant online platforms regarding the terms on which their content may be distributed.

That is, award an exemption from the antitrust laws.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger, not surprisingly, enthusiastically supports the law. In its 10/30/18 editorial, This website is under siege by Facebook and Google. Send help, the Star-Ledger wrote:

James Madison feared that our democracy cannot survive without the free and independent press -- "chequered as it is with abuses," he admitted, but essential for "all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression."

That's still the mission statement. That is probably why journalism is the only profession Madison deemed important enough to be granted explicit protection in the Constitution [the First Amendment], and as he would have guessed, the press is just as crucial today as it was in the 1780s.

What is different is how we access it: Most of us read news in digital form, often through portals such as Facebook and Google News. Odds are you are reading this sentence through one right now. It is heartening that the demand for news remains extremely strong on the internet. Its appeal to advertisers remains very robust.

But only a few companies benefit financially from that digital ad revenue, and they do it without supplying any of the digital news content.

This is an economic imbalance that needs to change.

My emphasis. The Star-Ledger argues that

The only way to break the Facebook/Google duopoly is to allow 2,000 newspapers to take them on in a collective negotiation, but antitrust laws protect these trillion-dollar web behemoths from united actions by publishers.

The Star-Ledger concludes by again invoking James Madison and democracy:

These solutions cannot wait. At the time of year when we consume news at a voracious rate, this is an ideal moment to tell your Congressman that you care about the digital landscape and the future of news. Because our democracy, as Madison predicted, depends on it more than ever.

There’s undoubtedly an element of disingenuousness in the Star-Ledger’s position. The alleged “Facebook/Google duopoly” broke the predominantly Leftist mainstream press’s stranglehold on news. So, the demise of the newspaper business is probably driven in part by competition. Suddenly, people can bypass the newspapers for a more freewheeling news source. I’m a longtime reader of the Star-Ledger, and I see first hand the Leftist bias in the news reporting. So, I shed no tears for the newspapers.

Also, for all of the Star-Ledger’s invoking of the First Amendment, the editors “forget” that the First Amendment broadly protects freedom of speech, not just press. Yet the Star-Ledger has no qualms about stifling freedom of speech for non-journalists, including its opposition to Citizens United, one of the most important pro-free speech Supreme Court decisions ever.

And just five years ago, the Star-Ledger called for an antitrust assault  on Google. So it is really rich for the Star-Ledger to now plead for “help” today. (To be fair, perhaps the Star-Ledger has changed its views since then. It writes, “Nobody wants a war. Newspapers do not want to deny the digital platforms the ability to distribute their content.”)

That said, I left these comments:

The first paragraph tempted me to stop reading and turn the page. Madison didn’t want to protect democracy. He hated democracy. That’s why he championed a new constitution--to make America a republic that protects individual rights from the political power of electoral factions. He wrote the First amendment because free expression is an inalienable right, not to “save” democracy.

That little piece of fake news aside, I sympathize with the Star-Ledger. Newspapers should be exempt from antitrust laws. So should everyone else. The problem is precisely that these laws are "flexible and adaptive”--a zealous prosecutor’s dream. A flexible law is no law at all. It is the rule of men; i.e., tyranny. And that’s antitrust. Antitrust punishes competitive success but also hampers competition by forbidding companies from exercising their economic power earned in the marketplace. The call for this exemption proves the point. Why should 2,000 newspapers be banned from using collective negotiation in the first place? Why should these trillion-dollar web behemoths be protected from united actions by publishers?

Like I said, I sympathize with the Star-Ledger. But I also don’t like exemptions from laws for some, but not for others. That’s institutionalized cronyism. Law enforcement should be equal. Law enforcers should not have the power to dish out favors.

Antitrust has a long history of abuse. It is also based on myths about free markets. Yet antitrust has widespread support in our culture. It’s time to consider the argument against. The fact that the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2018 (JCPA) has been introduced, and that traditional newspapers believe they need it to survive, is itself an indictment against antitrust. I recommend “The Abolition of Antitrust” by Gary Hull.

Related Reading:






My published letter-to-the-editor: Google not a Monopoly (Scroll down to the fourth letter)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

'I want out’: Under Americanism, You Can. But What If You ‘Want Out’ of the Left’s Statist Agenda?

The image at the bottom of this blog post was displayed on her Facebook page by a far Left acquaintance of my wife and I. (I put the image at the bottom because I didn’t want to lead off this post with that garbage.) The acquaintance, a woman named Cynthia, captioned her post with this:

“This sums up my feelings for the past several years, possibly decades. I want out.”

This in really interesting. Cynthia “wants out.” But what is the only social condition that allows someone who wants out to actually opt out? A free society. In its Founding principles, America is the freest country ever. America guarantees every individual her inalienable rights to her own life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. The government--again in accordance with America’s Founding philosophical ideals--protects these rights. You are free to pursue your own values, but not force your values on others--and vice-versa. If you “want out” of--want nothing to do with--other people’s schemes and plans, you can simply say “no” and go peaceably on your own way.

Now examine the diatribe below. To a Leftist--that is, a collectivist/statist--“the country”, i.e., the state, takes precedence over the individual and her rights. The state owns your life--which means, people like the Leftist Cynthia can use the government as their “hired gun” with which to force their values on everyone else whether they agree or not. If they want to “assist’ the poor, they get to force you to pay for it. That’s their world view. It is up to the government to manage food and healthcare assistance to the poor, to own and run the schools, to take care of unwanted babies, to dictate to farmers and other private industries how they run their businesses, etc.

What if you simply want to make your own choices on assistance to the poor or to the babies? On education? On your business? What if you “want out” of these government programs and regulations? Well, just try it! Just try not paying your taxes, or disobeying a regulation. You’ll be seized by armed agents of the government, fined and/or jailed and/or have your home seized for breaking their tax and regulatory laws. This, by the very government that Americanism holds should protect your rights to your life, liberty, and property.

The Left calls this “civilized.” Well, that’s tyranny--and today, the American Left wants plenty more of it. To the collectivist Left, every social problem, real or imagined, can only be dealt with by government coercion. There is no room for voluntary action; no room for anyone to choose for themselves with their own time, money, and effort. No room for freedom--or personal achievement; to them, private initiative and prosperity--capitalism--means destroying the Earth.

All of those tears in that frayed American flag in the image below? They represent the statists ripping America’s freedom ideals out from under us. Well, I want out of the collectivist tyranny of the Left. No one wants to “limit” assistance for anyone. We who value freedom and respect other people’s right to live by their own judgement want to limit (and end) government’s power to force other people’s choices on us. So, I’ll take Americanism. Cynthia and her ilk can opt out of America, go to Canada (or North Korea, for that matter), and take their socialist agenda with them. The rest of us who don’t “want out” can get to work restoring our constitutionally limited government and our freedoms and our inalienable rights in healthcare, education, charity, business, work, and other values.


Long live the “U.S. Empire”--a philosophical empire built on universal human values of freedom and individualism.







Related Reading:







Friday, November 30, 2018

The ‘RIGHT’ to Disagree Must Also Mean the Right Not to be Forced

In a contentious Facebook debate over the Kavanaugh fight, a commenter who opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination said:

What I truly love about this country is our RIGHT to disagree. My only hope is that we can all sit around the table and talk. Guess what? We all live here, we all have families, we all want what is best. If we can’t meet somewhere in the middle, we are doomed.

So true. But the “RIGHT to disagree” has a vital corollary--the right NOT TO BE FORCED by those with whom one disagrees. If two people disagree but one then pulls a gun on the other in order to force submission to his purpose, there is no real “RIGHT to disagree.” For the “RIGHT to disagree” to mean anything, the two who disagree must not only be ready to let each other go their separate ways in peace; they must be legally forbidden to do otherwise--and government should be subordinated to the same principle.

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It is crucial that this principle--live-and-let-live--must be extended to government, given its unique nature as the one institution that can legally compel obedience to its edicts. All people accept the right NOT TO BE FORCED principle in their private lives. But more and more people don’t see it as applying to government, so the government is increasingly becoming the tool or “hired gun” for victorious electoral factions to force their values on those who disagree. The conflict between those who believe live-and-let-live must apply to government and those who don’t lies at the heart of the increasingly hostile SCOTUS nomination process. It’s destined to get a lot worse, because there’s no middle ground between the two sides.

Related Reading:





Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Stop ‘Denying’ the View From Outside the Climate Catastrophist Government Establishment

You’ve probably heard about the latest government climate catastrophe report, this one put out by a group of federal government agencies. The report focussed on the increasing damages brought on by extreme weather, allegedly due to climate change, and asserted that the damage will get worse. As the Washington Post reported:

The federal government on Friday released a long-awaited report with an unmistakable message: The effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening.

The authors argue that global warming “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” And they conclude that humans must act aggressively to adapt to current impacts and mitigate future catastrophes “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

“The impacts we’ve seen the last 15 years have continued to get stronger, and that will only continue,” said Gary Yohe, a professor of economics and environmental studies at Wesleyan University who served on a National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the report.

Of course, these dangers have always existed. What’s changed is that there is more development and thus more economic damage by fires, heat waves, and hurricanes. Of course the impacts have gotten stronger. And of course, humans have always had to adapt to the ongoing reality of climate change. True, humans often contribute to climate change--but usually in the process of improving the human condition, as has been the case over the most recent Century or so.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger expressed surprise that the Trump Administration released the report in unadulterated form, but nonetheless lambasted Trump for relying on “climate change deniers” in his policy decisions. In Now Trump doesn't believe his own scientists on climate change, the Star-Ledger editorialized:

This is a report that the White House is required to put out every four years, and the initial fear was that Trump officials would tamper with its findings. Its data will certainly be an impediment in court, as they seek to roll back environmental protections.

But apparently, the White House allowed it to be released as is, because it believes that even in the face of dire warnings from Trump's own administration, his fans will be undeterred.

A climate denier on Trump's transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency, Steven J. Milloy, put it this way: "We don't care."

He blamed this report on the "deep state," as if thousands of scientists all over the globe, and in a consortium of 13 U.S. federal agencies, are conspiring to hide the truth from the American public. Yet we see the impact firsthand.

I left these comments:

Imagine you as a kid who loves weather and climate. You are in school, but you get a one-sided view of anthropogenic climate change as bad and the solution as banning of fossil fuels. You get to college, and the one-sided view is intensified. But you keep your objectivity, your “open mind.” Then you turn your attention to a career in climate science, your first love. But you learn that funding for climate science research has been hijacked by government, and that funding only goes to people who will produce “research” that furthers the politicians’ climate catastrophist, anti-fossil fuel, anti-nuclear, statist agenda. You find out that the climate scientists with the best chance of getting funding for their work, or getting a job in one of the government agencies, are the ones who swallowed the schools’ one sided view hook, line, and sinker.

Welcome to the politicized government climate establishment.

It’s time for the climate catastrophist establishment to be called out. There is a huge body of mostly private sector work pointing to a completely different viewpoint that sees no impending climate catastrophe; that there is no call for crippling forced government curtailment of vital energy from fossil fuels, or of totalitarian, global government-imposed "unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society," as the U.N. urged; or that humans can flourish better by remaining free and adapting to climate change.

It’s time to stop denying the works of the un-establishment, including energy expert Alex Epstein; Ron Bailey, expert on science as it relates to human progress; and climate scientists like Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. Knappenberger.

The real deniers are the establishmentarians who ignore the opposing view. Kudos to Trump and his team for ignoring the deniers.

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In the end, it all comes down to faith. Yes, faith. From the Washington Post article:

For many Americans, however, no simulations are necessary. The effects of climate change are already playing out daily.
“We don’t debate who caused it. You go outside, the streets are flooded. What are you going to do about it? It’s our reality nowadays,” said Susanne Torriente, who also reviewed the report.

On the other side of the country from Washington, at least one well-known atmospheric scientist this week was wrestling not with the contents of a climate report but with the changing view from his window.

“Normally, I can see San Francisco Bay from my home,” said Ken Caldeira, a senior researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “Today and for the past few days, I could not see the bay for all the smoke from the Paradise fire. Fires that approach the size of the Paradise fire are most common in the hot dry years — the kind of years that we are likely to see many more of.”

“We are trained to be skeptical and resist jumping to quick conclusions,” he said. “But looking at the smoke, I could not help but think: ‘This is climate change. This is what climate change looks like.’ ”

See a flooded roadway or smoke in the air or (fill-in-the-blank) weather effect, and conclude climate change. Don’t think. Don’t analyze. Don’t consider all facts and viewpoints. That’s the way the establishment wants us to behave--blind belief in “the scientists” and blind obedience to the Leftist political establishment’s “solutions.”

Related Reading:




Lukewarming: The New Climate Science that Changes Everything
—Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. Knappenberger