The view from 10,000 feet – March 2017 edition

All too frequently missing from contemporary thinking is the right context. Beginning from misplaced or even incorrect premises will not lead to the best conclusion. Inaccurate terminology and misleading metaphors and synecdoche usually lead to misplaced emphasis and much foolishness. This often is deliberate on the part of politicos and journalists eager to sway opinion.

The higher the airplane, the larger the extent of land one can see. This metaphor can stand for providing a proper context. I propose to offer commentary from 10,000 feet – as high as I can attain without Icarus-like hubris. The conspectus from 30,000 feet is for those who have spent a lifetime pondering the permanent things. I propose to do this at irregular intervals treating several topics concisely without numbers, notes, or hyperlinks. A hat tip to the great Thomas Sowell, who called his columns like this Random Thoughts.

One. Words matter. The current health-care bill, known as AHCA,  is not about health care. It is about insurance. In a twisted instance of synecdoche insurance is used to represent the medical industry generally and one’s ability to receive proper care. If the debate were about health care generally, the debate would center on:

  • Increasing the supply of physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants
  • Reforming the FDA so that new miracle drugs come to market sooner and at lower cost
  • Removing government regulation so that a truly competitive marketplace can minimize cost and deliver better service
  • Ways to prevent mass disruption as government steps out of the medical business – perhaps starting with incentives for insurers to provide inexpensive catastrophic insurance for all
  • Bringing transparency in pricing so that aspirin in a hospital is not billed at hundreds of dollars and people can make choices informed by price
  • Equalizing the individual and group insurance markets by eliminating the deductibility of employer-provided health insurance and reducing income taxes to compensate

The health-care bill is principally about reforming the individual health insurance market and Medicaid. It only slows down the deplorable trend of shifting insurance from the state level to the Federal. Avik Roy warns us that eliminating the ObamaCare surtaxes on the “rich” will open Republicans to withering Democrat attacks in 2018. Senator Cotton that unless the replacement legislation lowers the costs of premiums and deductibles Democrat attacks will hit home.

Two. The current health-care bill must be limited in scope, otherwise the Senate parliamentarian will not permit it to be voted on via budget reconciliation rules. Senator Cruz reminds us that since ObamaCare was passed by the Senate through reconciliation, so can its repeal and replacement. He also states what should be obvious, that the Senate Parliamentarian has an advisory status only. Her opinion can be overridden by the Presiding Officer, Vice President Pence. This is a lame excuse to justify a pusillanimous bill.

I suspect that many House Republicans are not as opposed to big government ‘solutions’ as those of us in fly-over country. Representative Ryan in particular is very squishy on amnesty and has a wonky interest in making big government more efficient, not necessarily smaller.

Three. Two examples of manipulation via synecdoche. Arts funding. In the debate about Federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the arts, journalists and commentators love to wave their magic tongues and pronounce that since funding for defense is so large surely we can afford a tiny fraction of that amount for “the arts.” But “the arts” stands for all the myriad tiny expenditures that together amount to a whale-sized chunk of Federal spending. Government programs are the closest things to immortality. (Pres. Reagan)

Prevailing wage is another notable example. A group claiming to represent veterans is airing advertisements urging the state not to repeal its prevailing wage laws. These laws significantly increase the cost of labor in construction and harm state and local governments and school districts.It represents a transfer of money from taxpayers to a favored interest group. The pitch is that since veterans in construction jobs benefit, we should support prevailing wage laws. Unmentioned are the veterans working for companies that cannot compete for contracts requiring prevailing wage and veterans who are taxpayers. Using one small group to represent the whole would be a non-starter with an engaged, literate public.

Four. In defense of Steve King. In a widely condemned tweet, Representative King wrote:

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” — Representative Steve King in a tweet, speaking truth to power.

Wilders is the Dutch candidate for Prime Minister who does not believe that Muslim immigrants will assimilate into Dutch society. He is widely characterized as “far right,” although he is a conventional leftist in most other respects. King was almost universally reviled for making these two uncontroversial points:

We should preserve our American culture, largely based on Christian and postChristian values brought to our shores by immigrants first from Great Britain and then from Continental Europe. Some alien cultures – notably those based on Islam ­ are inimical to our values and culture. This is particularly apparent in first- and second-generation Muslims.

Many countries with advanced economies are facing demographic suicide via depopulation, with birth rates below –sometimes far below –  the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman of child-bearing age. Some countries, like Germany, Japan, and Italy are near a crisis point, when the demands placed on the welfare state by an increasing elderly population will far outstrip the ability of an ever shrinking number of workers to pay for them. Stagnant economies result. Both Holland and Germany have imported large numbers of Muslims “guest workers” to supplement the workforce. This has not worked out well.

Five. It is not a ban and the travel and refugee pause is about religion. Andy McCarthy reminds us not to kid ourselves. The purpose of these bans, pauses, and vettings is to prevent actual and potential jihadis from entering the country. Jihadis belong to a branch or sect of Islam. Singling them out is of course a religious test, just as would be laws affecting only Methodists. Let’s also not kid ourselves about ‘diversity’ and ‘discrimination.’ Blindly worshipping these concepts is dangerous. Diversity among people sharing a common culture and language can be a great force for unity. Otherwise diversity creates division and strife. Discrimination is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you believe that any and all distinctions are evil.

Six. Collusion with the Russians. Are we talking about Obama telling Medvedev that he would have more flexibility after the election? Or Hillary Clinton approving the deal benefiting a Clinton Foundation  donor and selling 20% of our uranium to the Russians? Or John Podesta’s links to Rusnano, a Russian government company founded by Vlad Putin?  

Troglo  (L. H. Kevil)

The Muslim travel ban and unconstitutional religious discrimination

Words matter. The terminology chosen by the Left and its allies such as Big Media can create and then reinforce the way the public thinks about a particular issue. In the phrase the “Muslim travel ban” only the word “travel” is accurate. The President’s executive order does not deal with Muslims as a group, but only with citizens of several countries who cannot be screened for radical or terrorist ties. Nor is it a ban, which properly means a prohibition with the presumption of indefinite duration. It is simply a temporary pause, not a flat-out ban.

Similarly with “unconstitutional religious discrimination.” The Left has long tried to hoist its progressive policies under the banner of fighting “discrimination.” Having successfully redefined segregation to mean not just legally enforced separation by race, but also the communities formed by personal choices, the Left now does the same with “discrimination,” so that any differences far beyond race are discriminatory, thus illegitimate and subject to governmental discipline. What is illegitimate to the Left then must ipso facto be found to be ‘unconstitutional.’ So now bush-league Federal judges with an absence of a constitutionally presumed ‘judicial temperament’ and respect for the separation of equal powers rush to overturn innocuous executive orders with which they disagree.

It matters not that non-citizens abroad have no constitutional rights or standing. Apart from the vaticinations of courts, that is. Federal legislation specifically grants the President broad latitude to regulate immigration and travel into the U.S. of any class of aliens for any reason. (Naming a class of aliens is of course ‘discriminatory’ to the Left. This would include any sect of Islam that espouses total and permanent jihad on the West.) Even in the absence of this legislation the President’s constitutional duty and ability to do so is clear. Any court cognizant of its duty to interpret the law, not rewrite it, would agree. This is not difficult.

Nor does it matter that the widely reported “unconstitutional religious discrimination” is a figment of the fevered imagination of the men in black who push judicial supremacy. In this case the judiciary asserts supremacy over the executive. In the case of the ‘marriage’ of homosexual people it trumped the legislative power and wrote its own legislation.

The attorney and astute commentator John Hinderaker identified the current blocking of the travel order as a ‘liberal coup.”  I could not agree more. The progressive takeover of the courts must be reversed. The perception of the voters is increasingly ratified that though candidate Trump was deeply flawed, the election of Mrs Clinton and her choice of Supreme Court justices would have inflicted calamitous and permanent damage to American culture and institutions.    

Troglo  (L. H. Kevil)

It’s about much more than Trump

Would it be too much of a simplistic exaggeration to say that the recent eruptions – anti-Trump, pro EU, marches for women’s rights – reflect the perennial struggle between the progressives holed up in their urban echo chambers and the traditionalists in fly-over country, between the globalist citizens of the world fighting to save the EU and its moribund emblem, the Euro, and the nationalists, always portrayed as disturbing Fascists, who love their country, its culture, traditions, and vibrant immediacy subject to gradual erosion by alien forces, between the Hegelian-Marxist millennium worshippers and those of us more than comfortable in our own skin, sex, marriage, career, locality, and religion?

Think of the rage if a long-cherished dream were at last just within grasp only to be snatched away by cruel, capricious fate. Just like a child stripped of the candy about to be enjoyed, so the Leftists of America were ever so rudely deprived of a Hillary completion of the Obama transformation of America. So the intelligentsia of Europe so enamored of their post-national, new non-country super state, the European Union, were shaken by the unexpected rebellion of their inferiors in the Brexit vote, soon to be followed by Italy or some other country whose people have decided that there is a deeply personal, life-enhancing and -deciding meaning to their country and its cultural identity worth fighting for.

The press against Trump, including the BBC, the portrayal of France’s Marine LePen, the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, and others as Hitlerian Fascists, the marches worldwide today for women’s rights all proceed from a worldview of radical, undifferentiated equality that admits of no mediating institutions between man and government, least of all the family. Multiculturalism proclaims all cultures equal, our own inferior one excepted. Non-discrimination leads to an Orwellian acceptance of the Lie as the Truth. One of the Queens chaplains was asked to resign after complaining of Islamic prayers denying Jesus’s divinity in a Scottish cathedral. Might offend Muslims, you know. But the rubes in the provinces know that regional, cultural, and other differences make life worthwhile, not least because they are ours and because they keep the progressives and the horror of their millennium at bay.

Women’s rights? The emasculation of America is nearly complete. Universities teach courses on demasculinization. Title IX star chambers rule. Women in combat roles is now law, although women cannot succeed as grunts. They haven’t got the strength, the endurance, or the culture to be the relentless killers we need our soldiers to be. Nor do they want to be. Men are portrayed on TV as dunces. Millions of men in their prime, ages 25 to 54, are completely outside the workforce, the jobs that should be theirs taken by immigrants, illegal and legal. Feminists crow that women need men as fish need bicycles and yet bemoan that single women occupied with their children don’t earn as much as men. NBC News regrets that while over half the drivers are women, less than 2% of mechanics are female. Division of labor by sex roles is the new unforgivable sin. Weak men gather this into their psyche and submit (and occasionally explode.) Strong men and women know they have work to do.   Troglo

Troglo (L. H. Kevil)

How do we make international trade fair?

Since the desire for “Fair Trade” is the supporting mantra behind each and every threat by government to use tariffs, quotas, or other trade restrictions, shouldn’t fair trade be defined and defended?

There is fair trade whenever trading partners reach agreement on mutually determined prices, terms, and other conditions, whether such partners are individuals, agents, firms or co-operatives.

If such entities attempt to, but can’t reach a mutually acceptable exchange, it is most often due to one or both participants in the bargain determining that  terms of the proposed trade transaction are unacceptable or unfair. Only the parties to the trade transaction can determine what is fair, for them and them alone.

Can government produce fair trade?

I probably don’t need to answer that question, as you likely intuitively already know the answer. I’m sure you wouldn’t hire a representative from the retail grocer association to have the power to determine the price of your groceries, instead of allowing free market competition among grocers to be the primary price determinant. Why? Because the association represents the interests of its member stores and would make every attempt to enhance the grocers’ profit margin, all to your disadvantage.

You shouldn’t want government to interfere with your international trades for the same reason.

When we ask government to govern trade negotiations by means of tariffs, quotas, and other restrictions, it always pursues someone’s interest. It may pursue the interests of consumers, or producers, or distributors, or retailers. If this pursuit results in a change in price or other terms than would otherwise be negotiated via voluntary exchange, the intervention by government would result in favoring one interest to the transaction and disfavoring the others.

Example: If government implements a tariff to favor US producers, to protect them from what it determines to be “unfair competition,” it disfavors US consumers by making their purchases more expensive, harder to get, etc.

By this reasoning we must conclude that government can only produce UN-FAIR trade.

The only way that government can pursue the interests of all is to refrain from intervening in international trade.

#separationofeconomyandstate    Bruce-thumbnail

Bruce Hillis

The Incubation of Brute Political Force

Many if not most rational people agree with Donald Trump’s message (found here) that Fidel Castro was a brutal dictator who oppressed the Cuban people for decades. What’s missing in Trump’s brief statement, and for that matter in most accounts by the mainstream media, is any explanation as to WHY Castro was such a brutal dictator.

What drove Castro to use the brutal force of the Cuban nation state against his own people?

There is no compelling evidence that he took brutal action against everyone.  He used it against those who opposed him.

The question then to be answered is: was his brutality to prevent opposition to his position as dictator, which many intuitively believe; or was it to prevent opposition to the radical leftist-collectivist policies that he strove to implement?

I maintain that it was not due to the fear of having to forfeit his position as dictator.

Given his success in ousting Batista, the brutal and crooked dictator immediately preceding him, Castro would more than likely have enjoyed all the trappings of dictatorship with a luxurious lifestyle and would have long retained his position, with only minor and occasional force.

I suggest that Castro’s brutality was the direct consequence of his philosophy of social order and the policies necessary to implement this philosophy.

Castro was a self-described Marxist-Leninist for whom communism would be the one and only economic system allowed in Cuba.  He was an ideologue who would use any means to achieve his goals.  Brutality was the means of choice because it was his only workable option.

Socialism, especially where a citizenry has been exposed to any semblance of capitalism, even if only crony capitalism, can only be imposed via force. Without force, natural cooperation, the formation of capital and voluntary exchange emerge.  Capitalism, the antithesis to socialism, is achieved in the absence of force.  Natural cooperation and voluntary exchange must be stamped out for pure socialism to survive.

If dictator Castro had embraced capitalism or even crony-Capitalism, Trump would have surely tweeted a different, more gentle message.

The questions remaining unanswered are: what portion of natural cooperation and voluntary exchange will a Trump administration attempt to stamp out via the abuse of private property rights and the imposition of trade restrictions and tariffs; and what version of brute political force will be used to achieve Trump’s philosophy of economic nationalism?   Bruce-thumbnail

Bruce Hillis

 

 

Republicans are smarter than Democrats

I have always thought this. Not just that Republicans – or conservatives – have better ideas than liberals or Democrats. Which is true. But that Republicans are smarter than Democrats. A kind of reverse Professor-Gruber. This faith was shaken after Obama’s election and then his astonishing re-election defeat of Romney.

The Romney campaign’s analytics operation was soundly whipped by the Obama-Silicon Valley coalition or conspiracy. Romney relied on conventional consultants with some digital analytics thrown, Project Orca, which failed. Never really even beta tested, it crashed much of the time election day, which harmed turnout.

How the Trump campaign used analytics is described in Megyn Kelly’s interview with Brad Parscale here. The basic insight is that data-driven analytics should not just operate in one or a few spheres, such as turnout or media messaging. As the interview showed, the Trump campaign made just about every campaign decision based on data.  And who decided on this approach? Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Genius. q.e.d.  Troglo

Troglo (L. H. Kevil)

Protesters dissatisfied with election results should redirect their protests

 

The recent election has produced much angst as well as a substantial amount of misdirected response.  All seemingly due to what many citizens believe is an unfair federal election process that ignores the total popular vote of all U.S. citizens.

Correctly understood, there are no federal elections. There are only state elections.  State elections choose U.S. senators and congressmen to represent the interests of the people of their state in the U.S. Congress.  These state elections also choose electors to represent that state in the selection of the President and Vice President.

Many citizens may believe that since everyone votes for the President on the same day that it is a national or federal election.  Not so.  Although “the Tuesday next after the first Monday in the month of November” is set by federal law as the date for electing those who will select the President, there are only fifty state elections – not one big federal election for all fifty states.

I can’t imagine that citizens of a state would want citizens of another state  to vote in an election to choose their United States Senator or Representative, so why should anyone want citizens of another state to be able to vote in an election to influence their state’s choice for President?

If citizens believe that their votes and voices are not being heard in their state; or that their state does not adequately represent their interests, they should take their complaint to their respective state Capitol; or simply move to another state more compatible with their interests.

Such is the beauty of federalism and the freedoms secured by our founders.   Bruce-thumbnail

Bruce Hillis