Sunday, November 29, 2009


One of the biggest concerns about the present government's ambitious prgrams is the near-certainty of the corruption they will create.

The essence of power is the ability to decide the winners and losers in some area of endeavor. This is a basic, fundamental fact, unmodified by circumstances. Our current political class realizes this and has endeavored to use political programs to acquire and maintain power. The clearest expample of this is in the healthcare debate. The advocates of healthcare reform do not want rigorous competition; to the contrary they want an oligopoly of a few entities, who are dependent on the favor of the government for success. This ensures that one or two large insurers buys political favor with campaign contributions and support of pet programs. It creates the scenario where government malice inhibits upstart competition at the behest of those interests buying support from the political class.

This scenario favors the politicians who assume to themselves the ability to decide who will prosper and, independent of merit, who will struggle in the bureaucratic wateland of governemtn provided healthcare. To see this principle in effect, consider that the House version of healthcare reform provides for penalties to states that limit litigation awards in medical malpractice cases, or which undertake to limit attorney's fees. This is how the special interest group of trial lawyers will be able to access th etrillions of dollars of publc money that will be confiscated in the name of reform. This is a bald and cynical example of the malignancies that the system seeks to instill. It seeks to create a large, publicly-supplied fund of trillions of dollars, to which special interests seek access by legislative favors. This results in corruption in its purest form.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Overpopulation alarmists often wring their hands and fret over some ill-defined number known as the planet's "carrying capacity." This is maximum number of human beings that the resources of Earth are theoretically capable of sustaining at one time, and represents the practical upper limit of population. No one knows for sure what this number is, but we can be fairly certain that human beings have been able to revise it upward.

If human beings were solely limited to hunting and gathering for subsistence, the planet likely could not support more than a few hundred million people at a time, and familne would probalby be a yearly occurrence somewhere or other. Because humans developed agriculture, irrigation systems, chemistry, etc., it is safe to say that right now there are many more humans alive than the planet could provide for were we limited only to harvesting the wild. A more immediate example is also suggested by the ability of human beings to live for periods underwater and in outerspace, environments that are fatal to mankind in the absence of technology.

It is reasonable then to wonder if the principle involved, i.e. that technological progress has expanded the native ability of the planet to support humanity, is applicable generally. Has the progress that civilization has enabled led mankind to be so dependent on this progress that disaster will result in its absence? We can see many areas where civilization had led to possibilities that were unavailable to our more feral ancestors. We have made progress, not only in the areas of technology, but in our attitudes toward others. We have become more refined in our views on exploitation of others, crime and punishment, charity, and human rights. Surely the progress made by civilization (including western civilization with the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and notions of individual liberty) have resulted in improvements in the human condition, which would suffer greatly were that progress to be abandoned. Just as the development of agriculture allowed the human race to expand beyond the limits imposed by nature, political philosophy that recognized and respected the value of individual liberty allowed mankind to live leves beyond struggles for survival.

The reason this is an issue is because there are those who openly disdain western civilization, and who would reject the centuries of human progress achieved through experience, struggle and a significant amount of bloodshed. They prefer that the mass of men live lives under the restraint of dubious theories.

Not everyone is pleased with the technological accomplishments of mankind. There are some environmental purists who pine for a planet unmarred by man's hand, famine and misery be damned. Likewise there are those zealots that are hostile to individual liberty, because it conflicts with idealilzed notions of humanity as a uniform, conforming hive.

If mankind were to turn away from agriculture, the planet would revert to it natural carrying capacity, necessitationg a compensatory die-off of billions. If mankind were to turn away from the advances that arise from individual rights and individual liberty, the results would be no less disastrous.

Monday, November 09, 2009


One of the criticisms of federal bailouts of this bank, or that company is that they prop up failure.

Subsdizing a failed industry or business model interferes with the quite natural and beneficial process of eliminating outdated and inefficient institutions and allowing more healthy and vigorous entities to replace them. The prospect of bailouts makes the need for development and improvement less urgent, and risks sustaining failing entities to the overall detriment of everyone else. They are analogous to putting a terminal patient on life support so that she may live long enough to die of something more painful.

Our society does not limit itself to bailing out companies and industries. Its wrong-headedness has led it to blunder into supporting cultural conflicts in the same way that it throws good money after bad on Wall Street. Whereas the financial bailouts of TARP and the stimulus have given us deficits and flabby competetiveness, government patronage of disparate customs has given us the disaster of multiculturalism.

The fallacy of multiculturalism is that disparate customs and traditions are simply aesthetic choices that different people make; different strokes as it were. In fact traditions and customs evolve because the are useful to the cultures and environments in which they develop. This usefulness often disappears when transplanted to different locales, where the populations flourish with traditions and customs of their own. It should not be expected that the Bedouin customs of the Arabian peninsula would be particularly useful among the agrarian economy of Ireland, or in the significantly different environment of the Northwest Territories. Societies that subsist in regions with a single dietary staple will develop different customs and traditions than those from more fertile regions. One would expect nomads to have different values than a people that has for centuries taken their living from the same village. Customs and traditions flourish because they are useful, not because they are fashionable.

When customs and traditions lose their usefulness, it is quite appropriate to let them fade away. Thus, the Indian custom of sati, i.e. immolating widows, and the despicable customs of female circucision and "honor killing" should not be accommodated in the name of diversity; if anything they should be actively eliminated. But it is not merely those cultural facets that have lost their original purposes that should wane. Some transplanted traditions and customs are detrimental to their new environment and should not be accommodated, as a matter of common sense.

Cultures, like institutions, should be left to survive or perish according to their merits, and should not be perpetuated solely to satisfy misguided notions of political correctness. Customs and traditions must be relevant and useful to their times, their environments and their purposes. They should not be used as excuses to perpetuate the separation of people who have more legitimate intereststhan, and who interact for reasons other than "diversity." A community that does not assimilate in order to satisfy some artificial notion of multiculturalism is no different than one that remains segregated to sustain racial purity. In each case, the commonality of shared humanness is degraded in pursuit of some theoretical idiocy.

Multiculturalism can be corrosive, not because it recognizes different cultures as valuable, but because it refuses to recognize that some customs, such as stoning aldulterers, or forbidding the education of girls, are detrimental to civilized society and not simply part of some grand tapestry. Some cultural artifacts are simply out of place in certain societies, and certain centuries, and should be allowed to succumb to their own obsolescence. Left to its own course, multiculturalism eventually degenerates to segregation by another name.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


The ability of progressives to advocate seemingly detrimental policies need not be thought of as evidence of some exotic psychological quirk. A moment's reflection reveals that progressives are paradoxically opposed to progress, and simply misappropriate the title for another philosophy. What the modern progressive believes in more than anything is exceptionism. This is to be distinguished from the more familiar exceptionalism in that the latter at least contains a hint of merit and achievement.
What the modern progressive believes is that rules are for other people. It is only the ideologically pure that may obtain exemption from the misery that they prescribe for others under the guise of "fairness." Thus, Al Gore can deplete an entire oil field to lecture us on the evils of fossil fuels; President Obama can crank the heat in the oval office while he practices his sonorous admonition to the hoi polloi that they must "sacrifice." Timothy Geithner can claim carelessness and self-interest as exemptions on his own tax returns while venerating the letter of the law for others. Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, and Nancy Pelosi can be very solemn-faced about the rules when prescribing them for others, but view their own conduct contrary to those rules as the tribute that audacity pays to ideology.
Progressives seem oblivious to hypocrisy because they think themselves incapable of it. Their view of fairness means that exceptions will always be made for hard cases, and any divergence between their words and conduct is merely an exception that they are entitled to by virtue of their own wonderfulness. This explains why the left are so enthralled with anecdotes and victimhood. Of course they are not worried that the government will deny their cancer therapy or their hip replacement when the time comes. They assume that an exception will be made in their case, because the denials are for others, the people clinging to their guns and bibles and so forth.
Progressives know that the cute immigrant child that brings Oprah's audience to tears will get her bone marrow transplant, because an exception will be made in her case. They see all difficult policy issues as simply vignettes of special pleading. They don't worry that costs will rise, that access will shrink, that quality will suffer, because the way they look at the world, it doesn't matter. An exception will be made in their case.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Worst Media Developments

The worst cultural developments over the last 20 years:

1.) 24 hour news. There is not enough interesting news to hold a normal persons attention during all waking hours, so the 24 hour news networks have to compensate by embellishing, speculating, and having people tell us what the news "means." There was a time when we could figure that out for ourselves. What is really corrosive about the twenty four hour news mentality however is the notion that a car chase in Biloxi, or a city councilman's use of a racial epithet in some rural backwater is something we absolutely must know, when in fact it is the immediate, mundane a crucial events in our own families and communities that should command our atention.

2.) Playing 911 calls after some tragedy. Emergency calls are not replayed because of the sharp detail they contain; on the contrary, they are played to exploit the alarm, emotion and fear of the caller. The hysteria and fear of stressed-out citizens is meant to provide "atmosphere," apparently on the theory that we could not figure out that fatal fires or horrific accidents are bad, without cues.

3.) Finding someone to blame for every misfortune. The theory behind this all too common media passtime is that life is all peace and bliss unless someone, usually for malign motives, screws it up for someone. This foolishness has progressed to the point where seemingly educated and reasonably intelligent people prove otherwise by hinting that someone is responsible for disease epidemics, natural disasters and the criminal behavior of others. You see, we all would live in an earthly paradise were we not constantly being screwed by the man...

4.) Having some commentator tell us that we will be "outraged by," "surprised by," or "will not believe" what we are about to hear or see. The media have largely abandoned relaying information that has intellectual merit and replaced it with that appealing to some base emotion. The underlying narrative is that all properly thinking persons will respond to the same emotional chords that move the media. Thus we must certainly be outraged that driver's manuals are not printed in braille, surprised that religious conservatives do not eat their young, and will not believe people sometimes make mistakes.

5.) The disregard of principle. There is a fashioable notion in teh media, as well as academia, and even our governing institutions that some things are too important to let principles stand in teh way. It is permissible, we are left to conclude, to allow a lapse in some scruple as ling as it serves some larger purpose. Thus we see the perversion of science in pursuit of ideological goals, mangling of legal process and order for political advantage, and jettisoning of journalistic ethics in favor of partisan interest. We need to recognize these affronts for what they are: corruption. We have no difficulty in recognizing corrution in some official who misuses his authority in exchange for money, and we should be no more accommodating of those who betray the principles of their profession in pursuit of ideological vanity.

Monday, November 02, 2009


Political "progressives" have several traits that do not translate well into the practice of governing a free society:

1.) They tend to think that what is importat to them should be important to everyone, and worse, seem to think that their priorities should be everyone else's priorities.

2.) They fall for the "novelist's fallacy." Progressives understand that a novelist has complete control over the fictional events of his works. He can make things up, defy logic and reality, create the impossible. What the progressive exptrapolates from this is human laws are made more or less the same way; one can draft a law to say pretty much anything. Thus, just as the navelist can make whatever he wishes happen in his novel, the progressive thinks he can make whatever he wishes happen in society by passing laws, but the consequences of laws often elude the intent of the legislator. There are forces in the world much more powerful than legislative enactments that affect the destinies of societies.

3.) When confronted with the unintended consequences of overly ambitious laws, the progressive's instinct is not to recognize those greater forces that drive such consequences, it is to tweak those laws, advancing them farther down the the path of futility. The practical progressive begins tweaking by declaring exceptions in the law's application, which exceptions apply first and foremost to the progressives who created the law. Laws are for other people; the progressive is guided by his own unshakeable sense that he is special.