Finding meaning in the dustpan — or how Little Women, housekeeping, socialism and capitalism are all related

Believe it or not, in an act of near heroic intellectual prestidigitation, I’m going to explain to you how Little Women, housekeeping, socialism and capitalism are all related.  Or at least I’m going to try.  Here goes:

One of my all time least favorite movies is the 1994 version of Little Women.  It is a beautiful movie, and lovingly done, but it totally fails to “get” the message in Louisa May Alcott’s classic book.  In fact, it gets the message topsy-turvey, and that kind of thing irks me.

The wrong moment in the movie, the one that spoiled it for me, is a moment about 2/3 of the way into the movie, when Jo tries to explain to Professor Baehr her father’s philosophy.  I can’t find the quotation, and I haven’t seen the movie since it came out, but what Jo said was essentially a fancy version of “follow your bliss.”

Putting aside the fact that “follow your bliss” is not the message behind transcendentalism (although Bronson Alcott did, in fact, use his philosophy as a justification for repeatedly trying to follow his bliss), anyone who has actually read Little Women know that “follow your bliss” is most decidedly not the message in the book.  The book’s message is that you must find meaning and purpose in life by serving others.

No, I’m not making this up.  In chapter after chapter, with increasing force as the book nears its end, Jo is taught to think beyond her own needs and to sacrifice her hopes and desires to others.  Only in that way can she find happiness.  Whether Jo struggles with her baser self after Amy destroys her writing (only to learn that Amy is more important than her nascent career), or allows herself to be rude to Aunt March (only to lose the chance for a trip to Europe), the lesson is always the same:  Don’t think of yourself.  Thank of others.

Only when Jo is forced by her intense love for her dead sister Beth to try to take the latter’s place as the family’s domestic Goddess does Jo find her “happily ever after” — and she does so in the arms of Professor Baehr, who pedantically uses every opportunity to lecture Jo about the beauties and joys of self-abnegation. For Jo, therefore, life’s quality is to be found in appreciating the service of broom and dustpan.  By looking to others’ needs, she profits herself.

Right about now, I can hear the good statist asking asking me “How can you be a capitalist if you believe in self-sacrifice?  Capitalism is all about greed.  It’s only liberals who are willing to give to the general good.”  That question is as wrong as the movie was.

Capitalism works only if you find a need and fill it.  You have to look outside of yourself to determine what product others will want or what service they will need.  You then have to work, and work hard, to provide that  product or service for others.  If you have correctly read others’ needs, you will be rewarded.  In a capitalist system, that reward is money.  And in a free nation, you are allowed to keep that money (which, presumably, you will plow back into the capitalist marketplace by buying products or services that some other outward looking person has labored to put in the market).

Capitalism, then, precisely reflects Louisa May Alcott’s philosophy:  look to others, serve their needs, and reap the reward.  That she was speaking of emotional, not financial, rewards, doesn’t change the underlying paradigm.

Socialism, on the other hand, by allowing people to pass on to the government the responsibility for serving others, is essentially navel gazing.  You never have to do anything beyond sitting back and letting the government siphon your pay check, all the while telling yourself “Woo-hoo!  This feels really good, because in a completely passive, unthinking, effortless way, I’m serving others.”   In reality, you’re doing nothing at all.  Your moral contribution is no greater than the cow who automatically produces that milk.  It is the farmer who, through his labor and initiative, brings the milk to market, so as to feed the child.

And that, my friends, is why Little Women is, or at least should be, one of the doorways to free market capitalism and individualism.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Being forgiven for our past sins — or, maybe, O’Donnell has grown up *UPDATED*

I know this will come as a surprise to all of you, but I was not born wise or well informed.  I blush to think of some of the behaviors in which I indulged, and the ideas that I held, when I was younger.

When I was a very little girl, I picked up from the secular people surrounding me the idea that there is no God.  Not only did I refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance, although I was scared enough of the teacher that I still moved my lips, I also thought all believers were fools.  I held to this belief for many, many years.

After reading Gone With The Wind for the first time, when I was 11, I came away with the impression that slavery wasn’t really such a bad thing, as long as you treated your slaves nicely. It took me a while to shake this belief too, especially because it seemed to me that the way many American blacks lived, whether in San Francisco’s Bayview/Hunters’ Point, LA’s Watts and South Central, or Michigan’s Detroit, wasn’t a great improvement over the life of a slave.  The concept of freedom, versus mere material welfare, eluded me.

At around the same time, as a child who grew up watching the Vietnam War on the news, as well as all the antiwar protests, I thought the American military was evil, and that Communists weren’t so bad.

When I was 17, and California voters pass Prop. 13, I thought it was outrageous that people should want to keep their own money when it could go to the government, which would spend it for the people’s own good, only it would do it better.

When I was 18, I voted for Jimmy Carter and was deeply saddened when he lost.

When I was a 20-year old student attending Berkeley, and I heard that Ronald Reagan had been shot, I agreed with my fellow students that he deserved it, a sentiment that earned me a harsh and well-deserved scolding from my parents.

When I was 21 and living in England, I wore a keffiyeh, because it was a cool fashion statement.  That same year, I listened in silence as a British Arab man told a terrible and cruel holocaust joke, because I was too socially intimidated to speak up.

When I returned to America in the early 1980s, I was fascinated by MTV, and watched it obsessively, believing that somehow those videos, with their rocking beats and alternatively meaningless or crude images, could enrich my life.

Throughout my teens and 20s, I hated Christian proselytizers, because I thought they wanted to hurt me, a Jew.  It took me decades to understand that they were acting out of great spiritual generosity, and that they would respond immediately and respectfully to a politely given “no.”

Also throughout my teens and twenties, I was mean.  I was an awkward, geeky bookworm, with a quick wit that I used to great effect to hurt people before they could hurt me.  I always had friends, but woe betide anyone who fell on the cutting side of my tongue.  A physical and moral coward, I nevertheless believed that, when it came to insults, the best defense was a good offense.

I was young and I was stupid, stupid, stupid.  I cringe when I look back at the things I did and thought.  What’s really sad is that the only thing that stopped me from making even worse mistakes was my cowardice.  I didn’t really live life.  I observed it from the sidelines, and simply managed to collect a whole bunch of bad ideas as I went along.

The good news is that I grew up.  During those same years, I managed to learn a lot.  At Berkeley, because I couldn’t understand the Marxist cant that permeated every non-science class, and therefore ignored it, I managed to learn about history and art and literature.  At law school (despite a miserable semester with Elizabeth Warren), I learned how to revere the constitution, respect the law and, significantly, analyze data.

Being a lawyer was also a great gift.  It exposed me to activist judges, something that taught me that, without a rule of law, businesses crumble and anarchy arises.  It was frustrating to know that, if I was representing a bank or business in a San Francisco court against an individual, the bank or business would always lose, no matter how rigorously it followed the law, while the individual would always win, no matter how sleazy or careless.  The same held true in employer/employee cases.  I understood that judicial activism increased the cost of doing business, drove businesses out of the Bay Area (and California), and made it virtually impossible for business people to have reliable predictors to control their conduct.

Earning and spending money taught me that capitalism, if properly policed (not controlled, just policed) enriches people, rather than impoverishes or enslaves them.  Living as a responsible adult (rather than a child at home or a cocooned student) taught me that government, even with the best will in the world, is an inefficient engine that moves slowly and that inevitably crushes individuality.  I realized that I prefer to keep power diffuse, amongst myriad people with different ideas about the world, rather than aggregated in one, all-powerful being, whether that being is a person or an ostensibly republican government.  This made me a strong anti-Communist and, indeed, an anti anything totalitarian.

I learned that the old saying was right, and that I could truly catch more flies with honey (especially true honey, not false words of flattery), than I could with vinegar.  I came to regret very deeply the verbal hurts I had inflicted on people.  You will seldom catch me being mean, in act or word.  (Although I admit to slipping when the migraines hit or the kids fight.)

I found it impossible to cling to my prejudices about God and religious people.  The more I learned about science, the more I asked myself, “How did it begin?”  I accept the scientific record and scientific conclusions all the way back to the Big Bang — but what came before?  Could all this something truly have come from nothing?  I don’t know that there is a God, but I’d be an arrogant fool, faced with those questions, to deny a God.  I’m not a believer, but I try to live a moral life as an open-minded non-believer.  I respect believers.

As for Christianity, I learned that people can hold beliefs different from mine, and still be truly, deeply good people, whom it is often an honor to know.  My history studies helped me to understand that the Inquisition is over and that, for the past two hundred years, Christianity has been a uniform force for good in the world.  There are, of course, bad people who profess to be Christians, but Christianity as a belief system is a good thing and we should be grateful for it.  (I also learned, which few Jews accept, that the Nazis were not a Christian movement, but were a violently anti-Christian movement, something that helped me open my heart and mind to Christianity.)

Watching our military during the First Gulf war, and meeting military people as I got older, I began to understand that ours is an exceptional military:  a volunteer organization, controlled by the Constitution, and peopled by ordinary Americans.  Well, “ordinary” in that they’re neither the dregs, nor the aristocrats, as is the case in other, class-based societies.  Instead, they’re people like you and me.  Except, unlike me, they’re brave, even the ones who just joined to pay off their student loans.  Oh, and they’re patriots, which isn’t that common.  And of course, they’re awfully polite and frequently so kind.  But other than that….

So here I am:  someone who was profoundly stupid as a child and young person, but who had the capacity to learn and who did, in fact, learn and grow.

You know where this is going, don’t you?  Christine O’Donnell, of course.

I get the feeling that Christine O’Donnell was a very lost soul when she was young.  The latest evidence of this fact is that Bill Maher is boasting that he has tapes of her admitting to practicing witchcraft (although, frankly, this should endear her to the Left, which loves its Gaia-worshipping Wiccans).

When O’Donnell hit Christianity, she hit it hard, taking a lot of extreme positions (masturbation being the one that has the Left most atwitter) — which is normal for a convert.  The zealots usually come from the recently converted, the ones who still have enthusiasm and who also feel that extremism is an act of repentance.  She’s had financial problems, too, although that leaves her in good company, since it seems that this is a common trait in federal employees.

But O’Donnell has grown up.  Or at least she says she has and, for now, I choose to believe her — because I grew up too.  I wasn’t as silly a youngster as O’Donnell, but I grew up in the 70s and early 80s, which gave me a couple of advantages:  I had a slightly more friendly pop culture (TV still hewed to traditional values) and my youthful idiocies didn’t get captured forever on video tape.

Here’s the difference as I see it between O’Donnell and Obama:  Both of them had idiotic belief systems when they were young, because that’s what a lot of young people do.  But Obama’s belief systems hardened into true-blue (or do I mean true-red?) Marxism, whereas O’Donnell grew up.  She held to her core conservative values (no abortion, small government, etc.), but seems to have abandoned the worst excesses of her youth.

More than that, her conversion to maturity seems sincere.  She has indeed walked away from her immaturity. Yes, O’Donnell is still a pugnacious, somewhat volatile young woman, but she’s not a Wiccan now, she’s not going to set the masturbation police on you, and she’s not going to force all Americans to worship in her church.

If we take her at her word, the O’Donnell of today will go to Washington, D.C. to cut government spending, shrink government’s size, and push for a more Constitutionally run government than we currently have. And there’s nothing crazy or immature about that.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

UPDATE:  I seem to be in good (and forgiving) company, as this related post shows.

UPDATE II:  David Swindle has taken my post and run with it.  He makes the point that O’Donnell’s positions on lust, porn and masturbation are “serious” not “extreme” if you have truly embraced Christianity.  I think he’s absolutely right.

The fact is, though, that the media is selling O’Donnell as “extreme” to Americans who aren’t always that serious about Christianity or who are, like me, fairly conservative, but haven’t fully shaken off a lifetime of urban liberal thinking.  I therefore used the word “extreme” in this post in relation to point of view of people who could be swayed by the media’s attack.  In fact, I agree with David’s take about the smooth and reasonable integration of O’Donnell’s faith and her morality.

The one other thing that informs my use of the word “extreme” is the fact that, as someone older than both David and O’Donnell, the whole “spilling your guts on video about your sexual (or wiccan) beliefs” is just a little freaky to me — and that’s a generational thing.  We didn’t do that when I was growing up probably because, in that pre-video, pre-MTV era, we couldn’t do it.

UPDATE III:  If you’ve read UPDATE II, above, you must read Zombie’s wonderful post mixing up quotations from O’Donnell and Carter.  Both are Christians, but you can tell the O’Donnell posts, because she sounds smarter and less narcissistic.  Oh, and the Left loves Jimmah.

UPDATE IV:  Please visit the Anchoress on this too.

Timeless wisdom from a long-forgotten Scotswoman

D.E. Stevenson, born in Edinburgh in 1892, wrote 42 novels in the years between 1923 and 1970.  Most are out of print, so I’ve had the pleasure of reading only the small handful I’ve stumbled across in local libraries over the years.  She writes about the British and Scottish middle class, always with a loving, respectful, sometimes humorous tone.  Those of her books that are my favorites are the ones she wrote during WWII.  Stevenson was intensely patriotic, and believed that the British were in an existential war that must be won in order to preserve their democratic way of life against Nazi totalitarianism.

I was recently lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of Spring Magic, which Stevenson wrote in 1941, when Britain stood alone against the Nazis.  The book is ostensibly a romance, with an innocent, but gallant young woman meeting, and falling in love with, a young officer.  That story-line, however, is just a hook for the book’s real focus, which is to delineate the two things Stevenson believed gave Britain her strength and integrity:  its respect for individuals and its career military.  In book after book, Stevenson refines the theme of the goodness and power of the individual (which means her books are filled with charming, honorable characters), and the necessity of an honest, committed military class.  (Stevenson was herself the wife of a career army officer).

Stevenson’s ruminations about British strengths — and the country’s occasionally dismaying fall into suicidal weakness — make for interesting reading seventy years later.  I’d like to share with you a single passage from her book, one that is as relevant today as it was in 1941.  Just so that we’re on the same page, I’ll mention that the passage below, which has the old Laird explaining things to a young officer, reminds me of the fact that (a) in January, the moratorium on estate taxes ends, with the result that estate taxes will go as high as 55% and (b) that the phrase most often heard on Obama’s lips, in one form or another, is always “it’s someone else’s fault,” a phrase usually coupled with a false statement to the effect that, at the time, Obama knew better:

“. . . but even before the war started we had been living on our capital for years,” Mr. MacDonald was saying earnestly.

“I’ve heard it said before,” admitted Guy. “But I’m no economist, I’m afraid.”

“It is quite easy to understand,” Mr. MacDonald replied. “You know what happens when a man starts to spend his capital, and the same thing is bound to happen when a Government starts spending a nation’s wealth. Death Duties and Succession Duties are capital, but the Government has been spending the proceeds as if they were income. It would not be so bad if the Government raked in the money and invested it and spent the income — but that does not seem to have occurred to them. It does not require an economist to realise that a nation’s wealth lies in the wealth of her citizens. Moneyed people are an asset to a nation; paupers are a liability. Take a man with an income of ten thousand a year; he is a valuable asset. The State can depend upon him for a definite yearly income. Then the man dies and the property — instead of passing to his son and continuing to yield the same yearly income to the State — has to be broken up and sold to pay Death Duties.”

“I see,” said Guy, nodding.

“You see,” continued Mr. MacDonald, “every time a big estate is sold up it is a national investment sold out. No more yearly income will accrue from it to the State. It means that the Government has killed one of its geese, so that goose cannot lay any more golden eggs. In the last fifteen years or so the Government has killed off dozens of geese . . . soon there will be no more geese left, and therefore no more golden eggs.”

“It seems very shortsighted,” said Guy thoughtfully.

“It is shortsighted,” replied Mr. MacDonald. “We have been suffering from shortsighted politicians for years. This dreadful was is due to myopia on the part of our politicians — ”

“That’s true!” exclaimed Guy.

Mr. MacDonald smiled. “They wouldn’t see and they wouldn’t listen,” he declared. “They never listen to people who try to tell them unpalatable truths. Lord Roberts warned them before the last war and they said he was in his dotage. Winston Churchill, Roger Keyes, Nevile Henderson and half a dozen others warned them that Germany was on the warpath again and all they did was to disarm faster and break up our battleships for scrap . . . . I don’t know whether you have noticed,” continued Mr. MacDonald. “It is rather an extraordinary thing. Churchill has never once said ‘I told you so’ or ‘If you had only listened to me.’ He is a big man, there is no doubt of that.”

The illogical behavior and beliefs of the American Statist

“Logic! Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?” — C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Neither Data nor Mr. Spock, two relentlessly logical creations, could ever be liberals or Democrats or Progressives, or whatever the Hell else they’re calling themselves nowadays.  (For convenience, I’ll just lump them all together under the “Statist” title).  As I realized over the 20 plus years of my political journey from knee-jerk Statist to thinking Individualist, the single greatest difference between the two ideologies is that the former lives in a logic-free world.

Sure, as Statists will always shrilly point out, more Individualists than Statists subscribe to traditional religion — and the belief in God definitely requires a leap of faith — but that’s just about the only leap of faith in their lives.  Their political positions are almost always driven by a solid understanding, not only of human nature, but also of the realities of cause and effect.  Liberals, on the other hand, even as they pride themselves on the logic of their abandoning God (never mind that they cannot satisfactorily prove God’s nonexistence), apply magical thinking to just about everything else.

Here, in no particular order, is a laundry list of illogical policies espoused by Statists (with the understanding that modern statism is driven by identity politics and self-loathing):

Statists believe that America’s out-of-control illegal immigration has nothing to do with the fact that, when illegal immigrants sneak across the border, we provide them with education, health care, welfare, food stamps, and the promise that they will be allowed to remain in the country regardless of their unlawful status.  These same Statists, blind to the laws of cause and effect, are always shocked when temporary crackdowns result in a corollary (and, equally temporary) diminution in the number of illegal aliens.

Statists are wedded to the idea that government creates wealth.  To this end, they are bound and determined to use taxes to consolidate as much money as possible in government hands so that the government can go about its magical wealth creation business.  The fact that those countries that have all or most of their wealth concentrated in government hands have collapsed economically (Eastern Europe, Cuba) or are in the process of collapsing (Western Europe) doesn’t impinge on this belief.  As even my 10 year old and 12 year old understand, the government’s ability to print money is not the same as an ability to create wealth.  The best way for a government to create wealth is to ensure a level playing field with honestly enforced rules — and then to get out of the way.

Statists believe that no-strings-attached welfare has nothing to do with the creation of a welfare culture.  My father, the ex-Communist, figured this one out:  “If you’re going to pay women to have babies (meaning constantly increasing welfare benefits), they’re going to have babies.”  In 1994, a Republican Congress forced Clinton to change “welfare as we know it.”  To the Statists’ chagrin, all their dire predictions about weening Americans off the government teat proved false.  Poor people are not stupid people.  If they’re getting paid to do nothing, they’ll do nothing.  If that money vanishes, they’ll work.  By the way, I’m not arguing here against charity for those who cannot care for themselves.  I’m only railing against a political system that encourages whole classes of people to abandon employment.  This subject is relevant now, in 2010, because there is no doubt but that, Rahm-like, Democrats are using the current economic situation as a backdoor to increase welfare benefits to pre-1994 standards.

During the run-up to the ObamaCare vote, Statists adamantly contended that, even if employers would find it far cheaper to pay fines than to provide insurance coverage for their employees, they would still provide coverage.  Likewise, they refused to acknowledge that, if insurers could no longer refuse coverage for preexisting conditions, and if individual fines were cheaper than insurance, savvy consumers would jettison insurance and wait until they were actively ill before knocking on the insurer’s door.  In both cases, the Statists’ illogical beliefs about human nature and economics were proven absolutely and conclusively wrong.  (Info and examples are here, here and here.)

For decades, Statists have contended that if we can just get guns out of citizens’ hands crime will go away.  To the Statists, the problem isn’t one of culture and policing, it’s that the guns themselves cause crime.  What’s fascinating is that they continue in this belief despite manifest evidence that it is untrue.  The NRA was right all along:  If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

Statists firmly believe that Individualists (a group that includes Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, and other “bitter” Americans), are an angry mob, primed and ready to explode against all non-white, non-straight, non-Christians.  They do so despite hard evidence that angry mobs, as opposed to scattered angry individuals, reside solely on the Left, anti-American side of the political spectrum.

Statist gays, who feel obligated to be Leftists because of identity politics, throw their wholehearted support behind Palestinians, whom they see as the beleaguered victims of evil Israeli imperialism.  They hold to this view despite the fact that Palestinians kills gays, and Palestinian gays regularly try to immigrate to the safe haven of Israel.  In the same way, Statist gays, hewing to their solid Leftist credentials, side with Iran against America, despite the fact that Iran is able to boast about the absence of homosexuals only because it routinely kills them.

Statist blacks, who feel obligated to be Leftists  because of identity politics, are deeply hostile to the police.  While there is absolutely no doubt that, in the past, police routinely harassed, arrested, and killed black people just for being black, we’re not living in the past anymore.  In modern America, the person most likely to kill a black person is another black person.  Blacks need police more than I do, sitting in my comfortable safe, suburbia — yet it’s here, in white suburbia, that our police force, which is largely decorative, is appreciated and admired.

American Statists believe that, if you placate a bully, he will see the error of his ways and become nice.  It didn’t work for Chamberlain in 1938, and I’m pretty damned sure it won’t work for us, whether the bully is Iran, Venezuela, China, Russia or any other totalitarian government intent upon expanding its power beyond its own borders.  I’m not advocating unbridled aggression our part.  That would mean we’re no better than the bullies arrayed against us.  I’m more of a Teddy Roosevelt, in that I’ll allow us to speak softly, as long as we carry a big stick.  Self-defense is not aggression — and sometimes you have to fight to defend a principle, a person, or a nation.

Statist women are silent, absolutely silent, about the condition of women across most of the Muslim world.  I think I’ll rename them “sadist” women, not “statist” women.

Statists tout as a quality Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan, who violated American law to bar the military from her campus because of Clinton’s don’t ask/don’t tell policy, but who cheerfully accepted millions of dollars and a chair from the same Saudis who murder homosexuals and treat women like 32nd class citizens.  There’s logic for you.

I opened this post with a quotation from C.S. Lewis regarding the absence of logic in education.  We can see the profoundly dangerous effect that lack of logic has on real world policies.  I’ll end with Tweedledee and Tweedledum opining on logic in a way that only a Statist could appreciate and understand:

“I know what you’re thinking about,” said Tweedledum: “but it isn’t so, nohow.”

“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.”

The Communist cat is out of the climate change bag

Since the beginning, climate change skeptics have said that the hysteria of the man-made global warming movement, aside from being based on manifestly shoddy and often dishonest science, was in fact a Leftist political gambit.  The Communists, having failed to win the world over with a Cold War had regrouped and were seeking to win it over with a warm war.  By targeting Western (that is, capitalist) nations as the evildoers in the world’s imminent boiling destruction, and then playing on the fear, guilt and ignorance of those same Western nations, the Communists . . . er, global warming saviors . . . announced a solution:  the West should give up its wealth by transferring it en masse to poor nations.  The West should also give up its lifestyle, by abandoning electricity, gas and even toilet paper.  The West, in other words, should give true meaning to global warming by engaging in self-immolation.

The last month, though, has seen this Communist-inspired house of cards collapse as quickly as the Soviet bloc did back in 1989.  First came ClimateGate, which revealed to the whole world the fact that the most ardent climate “scientists” were, in fact, ideologues who cared little about science, and a great deal about achieving a political goal.  They lied about their data, destroyed their facts, and systematically set out to muzzle and destroy anyone who disagreed with them.

Second came word from Russia that the same “scientists” (and please understand that these “scientists” are responsible for almost all of the conclusions on which the hysteria was based) cherry-picked climate data from Russia.  This is no small thing.  Russia covers 12% of the earth, and it’s been the Siberian tree rings that have been at the centerpiece of the warmies’ claims.

And today comes news that definitively rips the mask off of this whole thing.  When Hugo Chavez, a man who seeks to turn his beleaguered nation into a Communist worker’s paradise, with himself as leader for life, announces in Copenhagen that capitalism is the real culprit, and is met, not with silence or boos, but with deafening cheers, everything becomes clear:

President Chavez brought the house down.

When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships” he got a rousing round of applause.

When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.

But then he wound up to his grand conclusion – 20 minutes after his 5 minute speaking time was supposed to have ended and after quoting everyone from Karl Marx to Jesus Christ – “our revolution seeks to help all people…socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell….let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.” He won a standing ovation.

Let me translate Chavez’s speech:  “The capitalist pigs in the United States are the enemies of the people and need to be destroyed.”  Chavez’s speech, in other words, is pitch-perfect Communist Cold War rhetoric.  During the Cold War, non-Communist bloc nations would have been politely silent, even if they agreed with his sentiments.  Thanks to the brainwashing of global warming, however, people no longer feel compelled to hide their hatred for America and their desire for its destruction.

If Barack Obama had anything approaching human decency, he would use this Chavez speech — and, more importantly, the reaction to this Chavez speech — as the justification for refusing to go to Copenhagen.  He won’t though.  Obama has made it clear, time and time again, that he agrees with the Chavez speech.  He too believes that America is the cause of the world’s woes.  He too believes that America should be de-energized and debased, both because it would make the world a better place and because America deserves that kind of humiliation.  Chavez’s speech, rather than being the straw that should break the Obami back on climate change, is simply the spoken expression of of their innate beliefs.

Incidentally, I realize that I erred somewhat when I compared what’s happening now to 1989.  The difference between now and then is the media.  Although the media always hewed left, and was steadily dragging Americans into the relativist world of “Communism is just another way of life,” it was still able to recognize the shattering drama of the Solidarity movement and the physical destruction of the Berlin Wall.  These were visible symbols of a decades-long conflict, and their occurrence made for good TV.

Things are entirely different here and now.  The media, with almost no exceptions, had bought wholesale into the religion of Climate Change.  Media members don’t want to see their God fail.  Additionally, there’s no good TV here.  Instead of hundreds, and then thousands, of Polish dockworkers facing down Soviet guns, or brave people climbing a wall, again to the backdrop of loaded guns, here are have somewhat complex scientific discussions, a few disgraced academics, and Hugo Chavez (a man media people find charismatic).  They don’t want the American people to see or know anything about all of this and, because it lacks good visuals, it’s easy to hide.  There’s a revolution taking place, and the media is doing its damndest to bury it.

So folks, it’s up to us here, the ones in the blogosphere, to get word of the revolution out.  Bloggers need to write, readers need to email blog posts and news articles to their less news obsessive friends.  All of us need to put intriguing notes on facebook, linking to articles that will enlighten a population kept in the dark.  We need to write letters to our local editors chastising them (politely, of course), for missing out on the biggest story, so far, of the 21st Century — bigger even than the election of a vaguely black, completely red, man into the White House.  The one thing I suggest is that you don’t use the “I told you so” approach.  People tend not to respond well to that kind of thing.  It’s much better, in terms of piquing people’s interest, to strike a tone of incredulous amazement, or excited sense of discovery, or even vague sadness.

There’s a revolution happening here.  We have the weapons to destroy the Communist movement’s second attempt to destroy the Western world.  Don’t sit on the sidelines.  Do something!

The Archbishop of Canterbury is an idiot

In his latest opining about world events, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has certainly managed to assure that every one of his illustrious predecessors is rolling in his grave.  Please recall that Williams is the same Church prelate who advanced Sharia law.

He’s now calling for the end of economic growth the save the planet.  In his singularly incoherent style, he argues that economic growth, even though a good thing that’s brought enormous benefits to the world is really a bad thing because of global warming — and yes, this would be the global warming that doesn’t exist.  Little things such as facts and logic have never stopped Williams before, though, and they’re not going to stop him now:

The Archbishop of Canterbury called for an end to economic growth to save the planet.

Dr Rowan Williams said that economic growth based on consumer power had led to towards ‘the death of what is most distinctively human’.

But he acknowledged that poverty should not be romanticised and said that economic growth could be one cause of ‘human liberation’.

‘We cannot grow indefinitely in economic terms without moving towards the death of what is most distinctively human, the death of the habits that make sense in a shared world where life has to be sustained by co-operation not only between humans but between humans and their material world,’ he said.

‘We have to ask whether our duty of care for life is compatible with assuming without question that the desirable future for every economy, even the most currently successful and expansionist, is unchecked growth.’

However, Dr Williams added: ‘It is right to work for a world in which there is security of work and food and medical care for all, and to try and create local economies that make local societies prosper through trade and innovation.

You can read more of his singularly befuddled utterances here.

I don’t even know how to parse the abject ignorance and utter lack of logic that wanders through those inchoate thoughts.  This man is so inane, he defies fisking.   While I’m sure there’s the germ of an idea hiding somewhere in the back of that small brain, I doubt he or anyone else is capable of teasing it out.

There are all sorts of stupid people in the world.  The tragedy is that the Church of England has elevated this boneheaded academic to a bully pulpit from which he can harangue, confuse and destroy the people of England.

Obama Energy Secretary cheers the decline of capitalism

Okay, Steven Chu wasn’t as explicit as my post caption suggests.  Nevertheless, buried within his peculiar remarks about companies deserting the U.S. Chamber of Congress is a profound disdain for the American way of doing business:

Our energy secretary applauds and encourages companies to leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its position on climate change. Should any Cabinet secretary, with the powers of government behind him, be threatening U.S. companies?

Part of the climate-change mantra is that the debate is over and the science is settled. Just to make sure, environmental groups have sought to pressure businesses to go green or at least keep silent. Now it would appear the whole weight of the federal government is being thrown behind this campaign to coerce and silence real and potential opposition.

On Thursday, Steven Chu, President Obama’s energy secretary, told attendees at a solar power event on the National Mall that it’s “wonderful” to see companies like Exelon, Apple and Pacific Gas & Electric leave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber is a pro-capitalism, pro-free-enterprise association of businesses that has fought against climate treaties like Kyoto and legislation such as Waxman-Markey as futile efforts not founded in science that are economically damaging and recipes for global poverty.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Chu told reporters at the event. He said that companies that left the 3-million-member chamber objected to “foot-dragging” and “denials” and realize that efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases are “part of our economic future in the United States.”

They say that people get the government they deserve, but did we really sin enough as a nation to deserve this?

Hat tip:  Sadie

What good profits? — by guest blogger Danny Lemieux

I have a question: what are “profits” and why do so many people associate “profit” with something bad?

Oh, I understand the envy mentality that says, “if someone is earning profits, it’s unfair and I demand my fair share.” I also understand the entitlement mentality of people that say, “I have a right to food, shelter, health care, etc. and therefore if someone profits there from they are stealing from me.” These are social justice arguments peddled by morons.

Here’s my proposition: I propose that profits are good and that profit-making should be encouraged.

I suspect that many people are opposed to profits because they don’t understand what ‘profit” means. When I periodically present to college students on this subject, I explain that profit is a synonym for “perceived value”, defined as the “added value” of a good or service over-and-above the cost of its component parts.

Let’s say that that I decide to build a backyard jungle gym. I pay a certain amount of money for the raw materials. To that, I add the cost of my labor and intellectual property (the design. This is the cost of my jungle gym…the total cost of inputs. If I cannot sell the jungle gym for a price that equates to more-than the cost of these inputs, the net perceived value of that jungle gym to the buyer is negative to zero. There is, therefore, no incentive for me to build more, although I might donate the one already built.

However, if the buyer is willing to pay more for that jungle gym than the cost of its component parts, then I have created value. By contrast, should the prospective buyer believe that they should be able to obtain my jungle gym for less than the cost of its inputs then I will have created something worth less (i.e., worthless).

What I am trying to say is applies directly to the current health care debate and all other government entitlements under contemplation. A brother in-law, a renowned professor of finance economics, told me that he believes the world moves forward purely based on incentives. Profit (i.e., added value) is the incentive for value-creation. Take away profit, either by trying to control prices (Cap and Trade) or providing something for “free”, destroys the perceived value of the goods and services in question. Things of high value are treasured, things of low value are trashed.

We’ve seen what happens to societies from which the profit motive has been stripped away, such as communist societies (where profit was forbidden) or third world oligarchies (where profit is stolen from the many by the few). Such societies lack incentives to grow and instead decay. However, where profit is valued, societies flourish and add value to the general good.

Let me share a specific example: an aging friend of my mother-in-law, living in a Florida retirement community that spends its days plotting devious ways to extract as much as possible out of their limited budgets, has figured out a splendid way to avoid waiting lines in emergency care whenever she perceives herself to have a health problem, no matter how minor. You see, she dials *911 to get ambulance service “for free”. No need to wait, go to the head of the line! It costs her nothing. It costs her community quite a bit.

What I believe has happened here is that subsidized Florida Care has enabled this person to disconnect the “price” (cost plus profit) of the services provided from its value. For this person, the price ergo value of emergency health services had been discounted to zero and can therefore be squandered. Obviously, this is not sustainable.

When people disconnect the relationship between costs and profit to the concept of value, goods and services lose all value. I fear that this is exactly where we are going under the current mindset –an economy stripped of the profit motive will ultimately be devoid of perceived value.

Is my proposition wrong? Can any of you other Bookworm salonistas contribute to this proposition? Please attack it from every angle and let’s see if it holds up. Once we conservatives have examined the facts, as Bookworm proposes in her title subhead, we may then draw the appropriate conclusions.

Other people’s money

As you may recall, I said at the beginning of the summer that I was going to introduce capitalism into the house by giving my children big chores with meaningful rewards.  This plan worked fairly well.  It wasn’t quite the juggernaut I’d hoped for, with the kids taking care of all the backlog in the house, but we still got a lot done.

Part of the plan’s failure was simply the dislocation of summer:  my son went to sleep-away camp, then we went away for vacation, then the kids started long day camps, then my niece came to visit, etc., etc.  I simply could not maintain a work schedule. Even with the disruptions, though, the kids made a lot of money:  My son has amassed $175 and my daughter $165.

At the beginning of the summer, when the kids and I first agreed on this economic experiment, I promised them that they could spend the money as they wanted, subject to my veto.  My daughter wanted to spend it at Abercrombie & Fitch.  That put me in something of a bind.  Let me give you a bit of background to explain my dilemma.

One of the things I struggled with as a parent all last school year was the fact that the idea of popularity plays such a large role in 5th grade.  Because we share a school district with an extremely affluent community, the popular girls in 5th grade were the ones with money at their backs:  they live in very large homes, their parents drive very expensive cars and, most importantly from my daughter’s point of view, they wear clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch.

You may recall that A&F used to be a very staid provider of outdoors clothes.  You’re also probably aware that nowadays Abercrombie sells totally ordinary clothes, but that it makes them seem special to teens and tweens by using exceptionally salacious advertisements.

Since I disapprove deeply of A&F’s marketing plan, I refuse to spend any money there.  By the time summer began and my daughter made her request about buying clothes at A&F with any money she might earn, neither she nor I had ever set foot in Abercrombie (either the real store or the cyber store).

My first instinct was to say “no” to her request to spend her earned money at A&F.  However, I knew she would need every incentive possible to buckle down to household tasks, and this was clearly an incentive.  I also figured that we’d shop online, which would keep her out of a store festooned with what amount to soft porn pictures.  I have a little more control over what she sees if we shop online.

I needn’t have worried about any of this, though.  Now that summer’s over and she has the money in her hands, she’s decided that she doesn’t want to shop at A&F at all.  She wants to shop at Target.  Why?  Because it’s her own money.  All during the school year, when she was begging to go to A&F, she was contemplating spending my hard earned money, not her hard-earned money.  Now, however, having herself worked hard for the money, she doesn’t want to waste it.  She’s figured out that she’ll get perfectly lovely clothes at a much better price (meaning more clothes) if she shops at Target.

In other words, this summer’s experiment proved to have a double capitalism whammy.  Not only did the promise of earning real money give my children an incentive to work hard at tasks that they would otherwise not have done, the experience changed my daughter’s spending habits.  Rather than being profligate with my money, she is being wise with her own.

Her sudden wisdom about money, of course, is precisely the same argument tax foes make when they say that the government, rather than taking as much money as possible from people (the Obama model), should leave as much money as possible with people (the conservative and sort-of the McCain model).  Because the government doesn’t work for the money, it has no incentive to spend it wisely.  From the government viewpoint, every penny in the budget is “other people’s money.”  Additionally, the government knows that, with its coercive power, there’s always more where that came from.  It’s the people who work hard to make money who should be given the right to control its spending, and that’s true whether they want to spend it on a few items of high quality (or cachet) or on many items of middle quality.

I understand that there are some things that people simply can’t buy:  local and national infrastructure and national defense.  However, people should be able to decide about health care, and schools, and all sorts of things either that the government now controls in whole or in part, or that the Obamamanics want to sweep into government control.  Government, for the most part, spends money profligately; people, for the most part, spend that same money wisely.  (And even if they don’t spend it wisely, either they’re still happy with their profligacy, because it’s their choice, or they learn their lesson and don’t make that mistake again, a lesson the government never masters.)

What next for the nanny state?

Here in California, the hands-free cell phone law went into effect July 1.  (By the way, does anyone know whether there was an actual increase in traffic accidents after cell phones became popular?)  This morning, I heard a story that said that 1,800 fires and dozens of injuries resulted from fireworks last year.  Of course, in most communities around where I live, most fireworks are already illegal.  Yet, I also heard a story this morning that in California alone 50 people died last year from boating accidents, but I’ve not heard a call for a ban on pleasure boating.  And, a few days ago I heard about the latest of the frequent fatal accidents at amusement parks, but I haven’t heard any calls to ban amusement parks.

A few questions:  How do does our government select which forms of entertainment to protect us from?  What is next on the nanny state agenda?  I suppose the next logical step is banning cigarette smoking by drivers.  Hard to picture a hands-free cigarette.  But what else?  And why is the government in the business of protecting us from our own (and, I suppose, each other’s) stupidity? 

This issue has deeper ramifications than one might think.  Perhaps the biggest cause of the decline of American civilization in the last 50 years is that we’ve gotten very soft.  We don’t have the stomach for a serious, protracted war.  When challenged economically, we don’t step our game up a notch, we run for the cover of protectionist legislation (conservatives are especially guilty of this one).  We use social promotion and grades-free systems to protect our children from their own failures.  We teach unearned self-esteem, rather than stressing the need to actually accomplish anything to earn self-esteem.  We ban running, active and competitive play on the playground.

At all levels, we excuse failure.  It’s the parent’s fault.  It’s society’s fault.  It’s the government’s fault.  It’s the fault of stuff that happened to our great great great grandparents 150 years ago.  It’s the UN’s fault.  It’s the EU’s fault.  It’s OPEC’s fault.  It’s the fault of all those other nations who engage in “unfair” trade practices.  It’s everybody’s fault but our own personal fault.

We’ve gotten so soft, in fact, that we expect the government to protect us from ourselves and to give us everything we need, whether we’ve earned it or not (think the push for universal health care, for example).  We think safety, security and even comfort are inalienable rights.

At bottom, all of the various threads I’ve pointed to are attacks on personal responsibility, and there do not appear to be any limits placed on the attackers.  This cannot be healthy, can it?  If we decide government is responsible for everything and no one is responsible for himself or herself how will our society survive?  In a nanny state, we all become children.  And no society of children can long survive.  Does this make sense?  And what, if anything, can we do to prevent the increasing infantization of the American public? 

Remind me not to buy American Apparel clothes

This is the beauty of the marketplace:  American Apparel can use its advertisements for clothes to advance a political agenda that urges us to dissolve our borders (which probably makes a wholesome change from the semi-pornographic ads it ran before) and I can refuse ever to buy these clothes, and urge all of you not to buy them either.  Ms Magazine is also a good example of the marketplace concept:  it can refuse to run an advertisement showing successful women in Israel (no doubt because it conflicts with the Leftist paradigm of Israel as the only backwards State in the Middle East), and it can be reviled across the internet — and, with luck, of its five remaining subscribers, one might be embarrassed and cancel her subscription.

On the subject of pornographic ads and clothes, there is an Abercrombie in my local mall.  I grew up when Abercrombie was staid and preppy.  My daughter, who desperately wants Abercrombie because the trendy girls in her school boast about it, grows up in an era when Abercrombie is sleazy and disgusting — if not in its clothes, than in its advertisements.  Passing the store with her the other day, one could see in the entry way, visible to anyone passing by, a huge black and white photo of a young man with his pants down to his thighs, running away from a group of people who were chasing after him.  I suspect that, on Madison Avenue (or its regional equivalent), they thought this showed young people running from convention and breaking free from conservative oppression.  To me, it looked like nothing more than a young man trying to escape a gang rape.  It is a very creepy picture, and I’m not going to take my children into a store with that kind of S-M porn on the walls.

More gold in Goldberg *UPDATED*

I’m still enjoying every page of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, and I thought I’d share with you a few more points that I thought either summed up perfectly something most of us have already figured out or explained why I’d been suffering from cognitive dissonance for so long trying to understand the liberal historic paradigms offered up in college and beyond.

I think Goldberg has summed up as well as anyone can the liberal view of race, and the liberal view of conservatives vis a vis race. Here is his summary of liberals and race:

Even on the liberal left [as opposed to the black supremacist left, which speaks in terms surprisingly reminiscent of Nazi racial ideology], where the poisonous notions are far more diluted, it is axiomatic that there is something inherently and distinctly good about blacks. How so? Well, it must be so. If you buy into the various doctrines of multiculturalism and identity politics you already believe that blackness is distinct, immutable, and unchanging. Once you accept this logic — and the left obviously does — you are then left with a fairly simple choice. If race is not neutral, if “race matters,” as Cornell West says, then how does it matter? Given the choice between assigning a positive value or a negative value, liberals opt for the positive. (p. 278.)

Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to believe race is a matter of skin color. They keep in mind two important historic phrases: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” and “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This is what Goldberg calls “race neutrality.” How is it that an outlook that says race doesn’t matter routinely gets transformed into cries of “racist”? Jonah answers that question too:

There are only three basic positions. There is the racism of the left, which seeks to use the state to help favored minorities that it regards as morally superior. There is racial neutrality, which is, or has become, the conservative position. And then there is some form of “classical racism” — that is, seeing blacks as inferior in some way. According to the left, only one of these positions isn’t racist. Race neutrality is racist. Racism is racist. So what’s left? Nothing except liberalism. In other words, agree with liberals and you’re not racist. Of course, if you adopt color blindness as a policy, many fair-minded liberals will tell you that while you’re not personally racist, your views “perpetuate” racism. And some liberals will stand by the fascist motto: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Either way, there are no safe harbors from liberal ideology. Hence, when it comes to race, liberalism has become a kind of soft totalitarianism and multiculturalism the mechanism for a liberal Gleichschaltung. If you fall outside the liberal consensus, you are either evil or an abettor of evil. This is the logic of the Volksgemeinschaft in politicaly correct jargon. (p. 283.)

Goldberg also explains why I’ve always suffered from cognitive dissonance when being told that the Nazis were capitalist fat cats, so that people who believe in capitalism, and don’t view corporations as enemies, are fascists. This clashed head on with a few things I knew about Nazis: they hated capitalism, which is part of why they loathed Jews; they were socialists; they semi-nationalized most industries; and they were a populist movement that started with the Volk in Munich. As to this last, they were very hostile to aristocrats (who created the group that came up with the plot to assassinate Hitler) and industrialists. Those aristos and industrialists who became ardent Nazis did so because they shared its antisemitism and its Aryan racism, or because they saw that the Nazi nation was a profitable entity, with a good government trough. All that being the case, why did Nazism, and therefore “fascism,” get tied up with capitalism? Here’s why:

Doctrinaire Marxism-Leninism defined fascism as “the most reactionary and openly terrorist form of the dictatorship of finance capital, established by the imperialistic bourgeoisie to break the resistance of the working class and all the progressive elements of society.” Trotsky, an admirer of Mussolini’s, conceded that fascism was a “plebian movement in origin” but that it was always “directed and financed by big capitalist powers.” This interpretation was foreordained because by the 1920s communists were convinced that they were witnessing capitalism’s long overdue collapse. Marxist prophecy held that the capitalists would fight back to protect their interests rather than face extinction in the new socialist era. [The Marxist version of the “left behind” theory, I guess.] When fascism succeeded in Italy, communist seers simply declared, “This is it!” At the Fourth Congress of the Communist International in 1922, less than a month after the March on Rome — long before Mussolini consolidated power — the assembled communists settled on this interpretation with little debate over the actual facts on the ground. (p. 286-287.)

In other words, because Marxism assumed that there would be a last gasp of capitalism before the inevitable communist take-over, and because fascism appeared when the Marxist chronology had dictated that this last gasp would occur, therefore fascism was the last gasp of capitalism — a false syllogism if I ever heard one. It sure does explain, though, why I never could make head nor tail of the line taught me at Berkeley — namely, that fascism is simply capitalism carried to the extreme.

And my last Goldberg point for now has to do with a rather charming irony. Do you remember liberal outrage that Cheney sat down with industry leaders to draft rules governing the industry? (And for the life of me, sitting here this morning, I can’t remember which industry it was that Cheney had the termerity to meet with.) It turns out that the close relationship between big industry and government is a long and honorable progressive tradition, one that began even before Wilson’s ultimate progressive WWI government. Goldberg explains that big industry originally encouraged government regulation for an anticompetitive purpose — it knew that small players couldn’t afford to keep up with government requirements. For example, when Upton Sinclair wrote his famous 1906 muckraking book The Jungle, about the meatpacking industry, he was being just a bit disingenuous:

The problem is that it’s [the liberal myth that progressive government forced unwilling corporations to become humane] totally untrue, a fact Sinclair freely acknowledged. “The Federal inspection of meat was, historically, established at the packers’ request,” Sinclair wrote in 1906. “It is maintained and paid for by the people of the United States for the benefit of the packers.” (p. 291.)

Originally, government was hostile to this kind of thing, because it was meant for anti-competitive purposes. However, when Wilson, the first progressive took the White House and was able to use WWI to begin his experiments, he immediately set about controlling big business — and big business went along with it, believing that it would drive out competition and increase profits:

Big business and the Wilson administration formed the Council of National Defense, or CND, according to Wilson, for the purpose of redesigning “the whole industrial mechanism . . . in the most effective way.” “It is our hope,” Hudson Motor Car Company’s Howard Coffin explained in a letter to the Du Ponts “that we may lay the foundation for that closely knit structure, industrial, civil, and military, which every thinking American has come to realize is vital to the future life of this country, in peace and in commence, no less than in possible war.”

When the war broke out, the CND was largely folded into the War Industries Board, or WIB. Run by the “dollar-a-year-men” from the world of finance and business, the WIB set prices, trade quotas, wages, and, of course, profits. Trade associations were formed along vaguely syndicalist lines. “Business willed its own domination, forged its bonds, and policed its own subjection,” wrote Grosvenor Clarkson, a WIBer and historian of the effort. The aim was for the “concentration of commerce, industry and all the powers of government.” “Historians have generally concluded,” writes Robert Higgs, “that these businessmen-turned-bureaucrats used their positions to establish and enforce what amounted to cartel arrangements for the various industries.” (p. 293.)

As Goldberg repeatedly states throughout his book, when Roosevelt’s New Deal came along, there was nothing “new” about it. Almost without exception, its policies simply resurrected the policies that Wilson had put into place during WWI. One of these policies should remind you of the infamous Cheney/industry meeting:

The propaganda of the New Deal — “malefactors of great wealth” and all that — to the contrary, FDR simply endeavored to re-create the corporatism of the last war. The New Dealers invited one industry after another to wrote the codes under which they would be regulated (as they had been begging to do in many case). (p. 293; emphasis mine.)

In other words, Cheney was doing nothing more or less than aping the Left’s idol — FDR.

If you can get a hold of a copy of Goldberg’s book, I really urge you to read it. As I noted before, it will explain how liberals ended up where they are, and why it’s the conservatives who wrongly get the pejorative label “fascist.”

UPDATE: It seemed appropriate to include in this post three links to good discussions about Obama and the race card, since it seems very likely that, if Obama is the Democratic candidate, anyone who does not vote for him will be castigated as a racist and, if he loses, the entire nation will be called to account for that “shame.” Article 1 is at Cheat-Seeking Missiles, Article 2 is at Commentary Magazine’s blog, and Article 3 is Charles Sykes, writing at American Thinker.

In the same vein, I had an interesting conversation with my mother, who gets her news solely from MSM television. She agreed with me that Obama lacks any meaningful experience, that he’s untried, and that he’s basically an empty shirt. She also agreed that his political positions do not represent the view of all Americans — and possibly represent the views of fewer than half of all Americans. Nevertheless, she then announced that if Obama loses, it will be because Middle America is racist and will not vote for a black. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a map of the US with me, because I think she forgot where Iowa is. My Mom is an intelligent, humane woman with a lot of common sense. Her take on Barack Obama, though, shows how even the best mind can start showing signs of cognitive dissonance if it is exposed to nothing more than the MSM.

UPDATE II: I read the Charles Sykes (American Thinker) article after I’d had the conversation with my mother and after I’d written about the conversation, above. I think Sykes must have been eavesdropping on my conversation, though, or looking over my shoulder as I blogged:

A central tenet of modern liberalism, after all, is the unshakeable conviction that white American is deeply and irredeemably racist. For three decades, America’s white liberals have invested in the belief that American is so incapable of racial fairness that society needs a panoply of laws, preferences, quotas, set-asides, and remedial programs to ensure that black people are treated fairly.

All of those policies are fundamentally based on the belief that America is deeply racist, that their fellow Americans are personally biased and institutionally prejudiced — consciously and unconsciously, intentionally and structurally; racist in history and practice.

It follows that many race-holding liberals will be among the last to believe that America will ever elect an African-American as president.

White liberals face this cognitive dissonance: if they decide that America is ready for a black president and back Obama they would also be forced to surrender or at least modify decades of convictions about American bias.

Communal living — the utopian dream that never dies

Did you know that when the Puritans first arrived in America, they set up a commune?  I didn’t, but that’s what John Stossel says happened:

When the Pilgrims first settled the Plymouth Colony, they organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share everything equally, work and produce.

As with all exercises in Communism, it didn’t work:

Why? When people can get the same return with a small amount of effort as with a large amount, most people will make little effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. Some ate rats, dogs, horses and cats. This went on for two years.

Only when the Pilgrims made a conscious effort to abandon their socialist enterprise and put a little self-interest into the mix did they have the kind of harvest for which they could give thanks:

“So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented,” wrote Gov. William Bradford in his diary. The colonists, he said, “began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, [I] (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. … And so assigned to every family a parcel of land.”

The people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.

“This had very good success,” Bradford wrote, “for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. … By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many. … “

Stossel’s conclusion is one worth remembering as the Democratic candidates make their constantly recurring promises to take our money and spend it “wisely” on our behalf:

When action is divorced from consequences, no one is happy with the ultimate outcome. If individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in it, each person has an incentive to be a free rider, to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon, the pot is empty and will not be refilled — a bad situation even for the earlier takers.

What private property does — as the Pilgrims discovered — is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there’s a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer.

Secure property rights are the key. When producers know that their future products are safe from confiscation, they will take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.

That’s the lost lesson of Thanksgiving.

To which I say, Amen!

Communal living — the utopian dream that never dies

Did you know that when the Puritans first arrived in America, they set up a commune?  I didn’t, but that’s what John Stossel says happened:

When the Pilgrims first settled the Plymouth Colony, they organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share everything equally, work and produce.

As with all exercises in Communism, it didn’t work:

Why? When people can get the same return with a small amount of effort as with a large amount, most people will make little effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. Some ate rats, dogs, horses and cats. This went on for two years.

Only when the Pilgrims made a conscious effort to abandon their socialist enterprise and put a little self-interest into the mix did they have the kind of harvest for which they could give thanks:

“So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented,” wrote Gov. William Bradford in his diary. The colonists, he said, “began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, [I] (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves. … And so assigned to every family a parcel of land.”

The people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.

“This had very good success,” Bradford wrote, “for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. … By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many. … “

Stossel’s conclusion is one worth remembering as the Democratic candidates make their constantly recurring promises to take our money and spend it “wisely” on our behalf:

When action is divorced from consequences, no one is happy with the ultimate outcome. If individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in it, each person has an incentive to be a free rider, to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon, the pot is empty and will not be refilled — a bad situation even for the earlier takers.

What private property does — as the Pilgrims discovered — is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there’s a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer.

Secure property rights are the key. When producers know that their future products are safe from confiscation, they will take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.

That’s the lost lesson of Thanksgiving.

To which I say, Amen!

Healthy and unhealthy consumerism

I am routinely thankful for my good blog friends, many of whom help me find interesting stuff in the blogosphere that I might otherwise miss. Since this was a busy, busy weekend, and since I have the kids for another few days before school starts, I can assure you that, had Earl not given me the heads up, I would have missed entirely Andrew Anthony’s “The Day Reality Hit Home,” an op-ed in Britain’s ultra Left Guardian (of all places). Here is how the Guardian itself describes Anthony as the introduction to excerpts from his just-published book:

The writer Andrew Anthony was a committed member of the liberal left – until the attacks of 11 September, 2001. A veteran of CND and Nicaraguan solidarity campaigns, he was astonished at the liberal left’s anti-American reaction. And so he began to question other basic assumptions about race, crime and terror – a political journey he charts here, in these exclusive extracts from his compelling new book.

As you can imagine from that introduction, it’s a fascinating article and I urge you to read it. It also, right off the bat, highlighted something I touched upon in my early “Why Fight?” post — which is a question about what we’re defending when we fight. I pointed out in that earlier post Bruce Bawer’s observation that Europeans, for all their high minded socialism, seem obsessively focused on consumerism at the engine driving everything. So many seem incapable of recognizing, let alone fighting for, abstract freedoms. To them, every war is about opening or positioning oneself in a marketplace. And since they’ve come to the conclusion that the marketplace is a shallow and uninteresting thing, they are disdainful of anything associated with it — including causes that Americans describe in high minded terms as fights for liberty.

Interestingly enough, that’s the very premise Anthony uses to describe the political and ideological world in which he was operating when 9/11 occurred. After describing his own mid-life malaise, he extended that as a metaphor to look at the pre-9/11 world:

A midlife crisis did indeed ensue after 9/11. In truth it had been brewing for some time. It wasn’t my midlife crisis, however, but that of Western culture at large. No matter what other aims may have motivated this singular act of terrorism, it was beyond question that it was planned as a symbolic, as well as a lethal, attack on ‘the West’, whether the target was militarism (the Pentagon), capitalism (the WTC), or cosmopolitanism (the heterogeneity of the victims). The problem was many in the West were not sure that it was worthy of defence. For some time in the post-Soviet era, as America established its position as the sole superpower, a West-based movement had been growing that rejected the spread of free-market capitalism and the Western values that underpinned the global market. Known as anti-globalisation, it drew attention to the poverty and deprivation that was such a common feature of life in the Third World. But it also posed some stark existential questions about the Western way of life. ‘What was the point?’ the anti-globalisers seemed to be asking, all we do is buy stuff, turn everywhere into a market, and force McDonald’s and Starbucks down other people’s throats. Our culture is nothing but consumption. As the anti-globalist writer Naomi Klein argued a few weeks after 11 September: ‘Part of the disorientation many Americans now face has to do with the inflated and oversimplified place consumerism plays in the American narrative. To buy is to be. To buy is to love. To buy is to vote.’

To Europeans and those on the American Left who look to Europe for intellectual guidance, there is no connection at all between freedom from government interference and the amazing comforts Western living provides. That is, they don’t see that the former is the beneficial soil, and the latter merely the lovely crop that springs from this rich soil. Put another way, although I’m not a person who craves “things” just to have them, I like my comfortable home, my nice car and my clean streets as much as the next person, possibly even more. I never make the mistake, however, of believing that these material trappings are the alpha and omega of America. They are merely symptoms, if you will, of a healthy society; they are not the society itself.

Europeans, however, are different. Keep in mind that, all during the 1960s and 1970s, when they seemed to have such a money rich society, so that they could produce those luxury European items American snobs know and love, and so that they could provide cradle to crave care, these trappings came about, not because they had a free society with a free market, but because America did away with their defense costs by providing a free military for them. England, which was the only European country that did not have American troops all over the place so that, forcing it to fund its own military, could not sustain a health socialist economy and a military all at the same time. Fortunately for the Brits, they had the wisdom to elect Maggie Thatcher, who put the brakes on the socialist experiment and revitalized the economy.

What this means is that, in Europe, there is no connection between a healthy marketplace, both economically and in the world of ideas, and a healthy consumer culture. For decades, because of American help, Europeans had, on the one hand, a government run marketplace and stifling ideological conformity, and, on the other hand, the ability to produce and buy massive amounts of consumer goods. I doubt many recognized that it was American help that made the latter possible despite the former. Given their obliviousness to the missing link, it’s no wonder that Europeans see consumer goods as a meaningless offshoot of nothing. If that were the case here, I too might start to look with both disdain and guilt upon my consumer culture.  Small wonder that the Europeans, confronted with a whole in their society, do their best to pass of the blame to America, which glories in its consumer culture. If only they could understand that America, unlike Europe, glories in consumerism it earned it through honest capitalism.

When you stop and really think about it, Europe is exactly like the Arab/Muslim world. Because of its submission to Islam, the Arab and Muslim world is a completely stagnant world. Half the population (the XX chromosome side) is prevented from being useful, except as breeding machines. No ideas or inventions come out of the Arab/Muslim world because that involves questioning and questing, ideas incompatible with obedience to Islam. There is no marketplace, especially since usury is understood, not as the charging of exorbitant interesting, but the charging of any interest.* The absence of investment money alone (never mind the fact that intellectual inquiry is actively discouraged) means that there are no reasonable opportunities for small businesses, inventors, innovators, prospective homeowners, etc.

Despite this completely dead economic and intellectual environment, however, much of the Arab/Muslim is awash in money. Massive of amounts of money. More money than many of us can imagine — and its all courtesy of the West, desperate for the black gold buried in Islam’s sands.  It’s a stagnant society with Mercedes cruising the sands.  It’s an extreme version of Europe, which boasts a semi-stagnant society with Mercedes, Volvos and Bentleys cruising narrow medieval streets and modern freeways.

The Muslim’s and European’s fundamental inability to understand American capitalism is a big problem for Americans.  If those arrayed against us, whether Muslims or Europeans, make no connection between freedom and material prosperity, they are always going to think we’re hypocrites offering false coin when we assure them that we truly believe in freedom, both in and of itself and as a pathway to the pleasures of an active, exciting, responsible and beneficial marketplace.


*Some writers contend that in Islam there is a difference between charging ordinary interest and charging usurious interest.   While that may be true in theory, the fact is that ordinary Muslims understand the matter as I have described it.

Understanding market forces

The other day, my kids got an object lesson in the how the market works.  As I was picking them up from camp, two ice cream trucks were lined up outside the camp.  The flashier truck had a long line of children in front of it; the lower key truck was abandoned.  Suddenly, the driver of the lower key truck leaned out the window and hollered “All ice creams are 75 cents.”  Within about two minutes, he suddenly had the longer line as the kids all shifted to the truck offering a serious (25 cent to $1.25 per product) discount.  My kids, who had been haggling in the first line about how to split a single ice cream for the $1.50 they had left to them, were amongst the kids who instantly, and rationally, peeled off to the cheaper product.

As we walked away, I pointed out to my kids that the driver offering the discount had made a smart decision, but only if (a) he could still make money selling at the lower price or (b) he hoped to get kids to switch trucks permanently.  We didn’t know about the first factor, and my kids weren’t so sure about the second.  They explained that the flashy truck has a much broader selection to go with its higher prices.  However, the driver of the flashy truck is apparently quite impatient, while the other driver, the one who offered the discount, is more pleasant to deal with.  Over the long run, they weren’t quite sure which would draw them the most.  We then talked about the fact that anyone offering a product, whether that product is goods or services, has to make decisions about market positioning:  best price?  best product?  best service?  Two out of three?  Three out of three?  My kids were fascinated, and show every sign of becoming budding capitalists, God bless ’em.

Market forces are working at the home front, too.  I’ve had a cheap swimming pool service that, in theory, should fulfill all my needs.  The business, however, seems to be unclear on the “service” part of its swimming pool service and hasn’t been showing up at all.  Today, I’m switching over to a more expensive enterprise, but one that also involves a broader range of services.  Even at that, though, I’m not paying top dollar, because the new guy is a solo.  It’s smart positioning.  The big pool service companies in this area charge a little for chemical only service, and a lot for everything else.  I’d gone with the former, and gotten nothing.  With this new guy, because he has almost no overhead, I’ll get “everything else,” but for less money.  Sounds like a deal to me.

Incidentally, these obvious, on-the-ground market forces seem either to elude or to frighten more sophisticated people.  On the one hand, Thomas Lifson has another in his series of articles chronicling the almost pathetic decline of the New York Times.   On the other hand, inspired by a probably righteous fear of talk radio, Hillary and Nancy may well be busy plotting its demise, and are apparently planning to use government forces to shut down the marketplace.