I have a light-hearted exegesis on political philosophy over at Intellectual Conservative. A sample:
I'm having computer troubles - like everyone else - and that got me thinking about politics. In the political vernacular, "PC" is shorthand for "politically correct" (the hyper-sensitive self-censorship expected of normal people by America's self-appointed diversity police), but another PC, the personal computer, contains far more insight into modern politics.
Let's start with origins. The computer's predecessor was the trusty old calculator. The calculator pretty much did what you might have been able to do yourself, but did it faster, more efficiently and with less prospect of error. That's also a fine prescription for good government. In the limited-government scheme of the American Founders, government exists to do those things citizens can't do efficiently on their own.
Naturally, I think the whole politics-by-analogy article is worth a read.
I've been away,
1. Megan McArdle explains why an extended failure to raise the debt ceiling would be a policy and political disaster (though that doesn't mean that the sky falls on August 3.)
2. The Democrats seem to be taking Mitch McConnell's offer of a compromise as a sign of weakness and are increasing their demands.
3. Ross Douthat notes that we are unlikely to get a sustainable budget until at least 2013.
4. The economic climate could change, but Obama is currently vulnerable but not doomed. The Republicans still need a plausible challenger who is both visibly competent, and can explain incremental reformist policies to swing voters. I don't really see that candidate currently running. God help me, but Romney is coming the closest, but I don't think he will wear well. (though he might beat Obama in a favorable environment - if he gets out of the primaries.)
5. If Obama is reelected, even if Republicans retain the House and gain the Senate, Obama will still be in a strong position to shape policy within a deteriorating fiscal environment. It takes time to responsibly phase in entitlement cuts and introduce market-oriented reforms into the health care sector. In the US context, it is much easier to suddenly raise taxes and centrally ration health care than to cut benefits and convert Medicare into a premium support program. 2012 is important because an Obama victory means that our policy options narrow and worsen. Time is running out.
6. This puts me in mind of something Mitch Daniels said earlier in the year:
Here I wish to be very plainspoken: It is up to us to show, specifically, the best way back to greatness, and to argue for it with all the passion of our patriotism. But, should the best way be blocked, while the enemy draws nearer, then someone will need to find the second best way. Or the third, because the nation's survival requires it.
Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers. King Pyrrhus is remembered, but his nation disappeared. Winston Churchill set aside his lifetime loathing of Communism in order to fight World War II. Challenged as a hypocrite, he said that when the safety of Britain was at stake, his "conscience became a good girl." We are at such a moment. I for one have no interest in standing in the wreckage of our Republic saying "I told you so" or "You should've done it my way."
Okay, the stuff about the "passion of our patriotism" is clunky writing but the point is sound. Come what may, politics won't end in 2012 and it will be our responsibility to bring the most good possible out of whatever circumstances we face.
7. Run Bobby Run. For President.
From an article on the government and the non-profit sector in the Winter, 2011 issue of National Affairs:
The conclusion of a January 2010 report by the federal Department of Health and Human Services-titled Head Start Impact Study--that compared Head Start participants of a contrl group. The study found that virtually all gains in vocabulary, math, and other skills realized by Head Start children had dissipated by the time the students completed the first grade. To Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution and Jon Baron of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, the report demostrated that the program "had almost no effect on children's cognitive, social-emotional, or health outcomes at the end of 1st grade."
According to the same article, by Howard Husock, Head Start receives $7 billon per year. Perhaps we would save a bit less than that by shutting it down, as we would have to pay unempoyment for the people who are employed by the program. It might also be wise to use another chunk of that money to look for more effective ways to improve education. So let's call it $6.5 billion per year.
Michael Barone notes that the most recent wave of migration might be petering out. Looking back at past waves of immigration to America, he notes that experts always assume that the future will resemble the past, particularly the recent past, "almost no one predicted that these surges of migration would begin -- and almost no one predicted that they would stop when they did."
That might be true again:
From 1980 to 2008 more than 5 million Mexicans legally entered the
. And Mexicans account for about 60 percent of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States today. U.S.
Immigration policymakers have assumed that the flow of Mexican immigrants would continue indefinitely at this high level. But now evidence is accumulating that this vast surge of migration is ending.
, analyzing census statistics, has estimated that illegal Mexican entrants have been reduced from 525,000 annually from 2000 to 2004 to 100,000 a year in 2010. Pew Hispanic Center
"The flow has already stopped," Douglas Massey of the Mexican Migration Project at
recently told the New York Times. "The net traffic has gone to zero and is probably a little bit negative." Princeton University
Barone suspects that declining conditions in the U.S. and improved ones in Mexico account for the change. If Barone is on target, it is an interesting and important trend. He suggests it would allow us to focus our immigration policy on attracting more skilled and educated immigrants. It might also give us time to assimilate the latest wave of immigrants.
Straus to Voegelin:
May I ask you [Voegelin] to let me know sometime what you think of Mr. Popper. He gave a lecture here [at the New School for Social Research], on the task of social philosophy, that was beneath contempt: it was the most washed-out, lifeless positivism trying to whistle in the dark, linked to a complete inability to think "rationally," although it passed itself off as "rationalism" -- it was very bad. I cannot imagine that such a man ever wrote something worthwhile reading, and yet it appears to be a professional duty to become familiar with his productions.
Voegelin to Strauss:
You are quite right to say that it is a vocational duty to make ourselves familiar with the ideas of such a work when they lie in our field; I would hold out against this duty the other vocational duty, not to write and to publish such a work. In that Popper violated this elementary vocational duty and stole several hours of my lifetime, which I devoted in fulfilling my vocational duty, I feel completely justified in saying without reservation that this book is impudent, dilettantish cr*p.
As Groucho would say.
Ann Althouse points us to a lawsuit in Utah challenging the state's ban on polygamy. The suit is not asking to legalize polygamy, per say, but only saying that the state has no right to prosecute someone who is legally married to only one person, but, in fact, considers himself married to several women, "Mr. Brown has a civil marriage with only one of his wives; the rest are "sister wives," not formally wedded."
Professor Althouse comments:
I think the Lawrence-based argument for decriminalizing polygamy is much stronger than the Lawrence-based argument for requiring the government to give legal recognition to same-sex marriage. One is an argument demanding only that the government leave them alone as they pursue their "own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." The other is a demand that the government alter its treatment of its citizens, giving them access to to the benefits of having the official status as a married couple.
If each of us has the right to purshue his "own concept of existence," then we are free to choose to be slaves, no? On what grounds, other than an underlying idea of what it is to be human, can one justify the right of an individual to choose how he will live?
I am also reminded of the bit in Natural Right and History were Strauss discusses Max Weber: "Weber's own formulation of his categoric imperative was 'Follow thy demon' or 'Follow thy god or demon.' It would be unfair to complain that Weber forgot the possibility of evil demons." Basically the same idea as Bill Cosby's comments on cocaine. (at 3:50 or so).
Refine & Enlarge
Disclaimer: I'm on a laptop and subject to balky WiFi so no links or spell checking. Sorry
I was watching Fox New Sunday yesterday and the panelists were discussing how last Friday's lousy unemployment report mean both sides are digging in. Maybe Obama has decided that the unmeployment report means he should now adopt a higher risk strategy to reelection. It minght look something like this:
It is unlikely that he will be able, by November 2012, to convince the majority of the public that he is doing a GOOD job on the economy,but he could win a aganist a divided and/or discredited Republican Party. So he could hold out for a either a deal on his terms or let some kind of partial government shutdown occur until the Republicans capitulate due to public pressure. His terms could well some combination of phony cuts (of the kind Ross Douthat described on his blog) and distant cuts that would never be implemented in the event of an Obama reelection and hundreds of billions of tax increases implemented up front. The purpose of a deal on such terms would be to split and demoralize the Republican Party by fomenting a war between the Washington leadership and those who identify as Tea Party supporters. If Republicans don't take the deal, Obama can take his chances that the Republicans will take the blame when Social Security checks and veterans benefits are reduced(for however long the standoff lasts) when the government runs short of money and tries to avoid a sovereign default.
In honor of John Quincy Adams' birthday today, I thought it would be fitting to post a link, and some words from, his speech of July 4, 1837:
The most celebrated British moralist of the age, Dr. Samuel Johnson, in a controversial tract on the dispute between Britain and her Colonies, had expressly laid down as the basis of his argument, that--"All government is essentially absolute. That in sovereignty there are no gradations. That there may be limited royalty; there may be limited consulship; but there can be no limited government. There must in every society be some power or other from which there is no appeal; which admits no restrictions; which pervades the whole mass of the community; regulates and adjusts all subordination; enacts laws or repeals them; erects or annuls judicatures; extends or contracts privileges; exempts itself from question or control; and bounded only by physical necessity." (Johnson's Taxation no Tyranny)
The Declaration of Independence was founded upon the direct reverse of all these propositions. It did not recognize, but implicitly denied, the unlimited nature of sovereignty. By the affirmation that the principal natural rights of mankind are unalienable, it placed them beyond the reach of organized human power; and by affirming that governments are instituted to secure them, and may and ought to be abolished if they become destructive of those ends, they made all government subordinate to the moral supremacy of the People.
The Declaration itself did not even announce the States as sovereign, but as united, free and independent, and having power to do all acts and things which independent States may of right do. It acknowledged, therefore, a rule of right, paramount to the power of independent States itself, and virtually disclaimed all power to do wrong. This was a novelty in the moral philosophy of nations, and it is the essential point of difference between the system of government announced in the Declaration of Independence, and those systems which had until then prevailed among men. A moral Ruler of the universe, the Governor and Controller of all human power is the only unlimited sovereign acknowledged by the Declaration of Independence; and it claims for the United States of America, when assuming their equal station among the nations of the earth, only the power to do all that may be done of right.
Steve Hayward and others are calling this our "Reykjavik moment." The argument being:
Gorbachev offered huge concessions to the United States on nuclear weaponry, culminating in the central agreement to abolish all strategic nuclear weapons in 10 years. But there was a catch: Reagan had to give up development of missile defense. Reagan said "Nyet," and the summit collapsed. . . .
The budget talks in search of a "grand deal" that are apparently under way this weekend look like the fiscal equivalent of Reykjavik: Obama may well offer substantial reform of entitlements a decade down the road, in return for a GOP concession on taxes today. On the surface it will look like Obama is willing to break with his base, and in a sense he would be, as Nancy Pelosi will prostrate herself in front of the Social Security Administration. But Speaker Boehner should nonetheless say "Nyet" to this deal. . . .
If the budget talks between now and August 2 (the debt ceiling deadline) collapse because of a GOP refusal to raise taxes, liberals and the media (but I repeat. . .) will howl at the moon, but Obama will have little choice but to come back to the table on Republican terms.
Is that necessarily the case? Will President Obama avoid default at all costs? If there is no deal, the executive branch will try to make it as painful as possible for the American people, and do its best to blame the GOP for it--just as President Clinton did when he refused to deal the GOP Congress offered in 1995.
If there's a default, it will be very expensive. Taxes will almost certainly have to go up. Or would it be so expensive that, even with heavy tax hikes, it will be impossible not to make major cuts to the modern bureaucratic, administrative, welfare state.
This is no fight over loaves and fishes. This is a fight over what the job of government is, and, hence, since the law inevitably shape national character, over the kind of people the Americans will be in the future. That's why both sides are dug in. But is this the right place and time to make a stand? Why would the GOP win if no one blinks until after August 2, (or whenever we finally do really have to do something about America's financial obligations)? My instinct is that there are too many people in Washington who enjoy making deals too much, and who are too averse to bad publicity for this to turn out as Hayward and others hope.
The wonders of large, bureaucratic planning:
The "inventory of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size trucks stood at 122 days at the end of June, according to the Automotive News Data Center." AN says the preferred inventory number is 80 days. . . .
And guess who is profiting from the change of fortunes?
Midsize-truck buyers must look to Japan. The midsize-truck segment has largely become a neglected stepchild of the U.S. auto market. . . . The domestic Big Three have essentially mothballed their midsize efforts to focus on more popular - and higher-profit -- large pickups. The Japanese giants in the U.S. now dominate the midsize-truck business.
Bonus question: are American bureaucracies worse than those of other countries? If there is truth to multiculturalism, presumably some cultures create more and others less efficient bureaucracies.
The #1 ranked U.S. women's soccer team just beat #3 Brazil by one point in an overtime penalty kick shootout. The U.S. team, playing 55 minutes with a woman down, scored a literal last minute goal to tie up the game at 2-2 (following two goals by Brazil's forward, five-time FIFA world player of the year, Marta), sending the match into overtime. Described as gritty and winning over the German crowd, the women's team now moves into the semi-finals, scheduled for Wednesday against France. Japan and Sweden will also compete in a semifinal match on Wednesday.
I didn't even know there was a women's U.S. soccer team, let alone that we were ranked #1 and one game away from the FIFA World Cup. Strange what happens when you are surrounded by Europeans.