Free Markets, Free People
Leave it to former White House Chief of Staff and current Mayor of Chicago Rham Emanuel to provide us with the example. George Will tells the sorry story:
Politics becomes amusing when liberalism becomes theatrical with high-minded gestures. Chicago’s government, which is not normally known for elevated thinking, is feeling so morally upright and financially flush that it proposes to rise above the banal business of maximizing the value of its employees’ and retirees’ pension fund assets. Although seven funds have cumulative unfunded liabilities of $25 billion, Chicago will sacrifice the growth of those assets to the striking of a political pose so pure it is untainted by practicality.
Emulating New York and California, two deep-blue states with mammoth unfunded pension liabilities, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) has hectored a $5 billion pension fund into divesting its holdings in companies that manufacture firearms. Now he is urging two large banks to deny financing to such companies “that profit from gun violence.” TD Bank provides a $60 million credit line to Smith & Wesson, and Bank of America provides a $25 million line to Sturm, Ruger & Co.
Chicago’s current and retired public employees might wish the city had invested more in both companies. Barack Obama, for whom Emanuel was chief of staff, has become a potent gun salesman because of suspicions that he wants to make gun ownership more difficult. Since he was inaugurated four years ago, there have been 65 million requests for background checks of gun purchasers. Four years ago, the price of Smith & Wesson stock was $2.45. Last week it was $8.76, up 258 percent. Four years ago, the price of Sturm Ruger stock was $6.46. Last week it was $51.09, up 691 percent. The Wall Street Journal reports that even before “a $1.2 billion balloon payment for pensions comes due” in 2015, “Chicago’s pension funds, which are projected to run dry by the end of the decade, are scraping the bottoms of their barrels.”
So we have the Mayor of Chicago using, well, Chicago style “politics”, to make a “moral statement” that likely few of his citizens agree with and hurting an already failing retirement system by demanding stocks that are doing well be dropped. We call that “moral preening” and, of course, it’s no skin off his back – he’s not the one losing the money – retirees are. Screw serving the public welfare – his job. He’s all about hurting the public welfare to make a private moral statement.
As for the false moral equivalency? Here you go:
Nevertheless, liberals are feeling good about themselves — the usual point of liberalism — because New York state’s public pension fund and California’s fund for teachers have, the New York Times says, “frozen or divested” gun holdings, and Calpers, the fund for other California public employees, may join this gesture jamboree this month. All this is being compared to the use of divestment to pressure South Africa to dismantle apartheid in the 1980s.
Guns are as evil as “apartheid” and thus should be dealt with the same way. Because everyone knows that owning a gun is precisely the same as being an oppressive racist using the power of government to enforce your racism. Or moralism.
Never mind the fact that:
Guns are legal products in America, legally sold under federal, state and local regulations. Most of the guns sold to Americans are made by Americans. Americans have a right — a constitutional right — to own guns, and 47 percent of U.S. households exercise that portion of the Bill of Rights by possessing at least one firearm.
The left, as it usually does, is going to demonize an industry just as they have the fossile fuel industry. Amusingly, that too is one of the left’s “apartheid divestment” moves.
Moral grandstanding, however, offers steady work, and the Chronicle of Higher Education reports a new front in “the battle against climate change”: “Student groups at almost 200 colleges and universities are calling on boards of trustees to divest their colleges’ holdings in large fossil-fuel companies.” Of course, not one share of those companies’ stock will go unsold because academia is so righteous. Others will profit handsomely from such holdings and from being complicit in supplying what the world needs. Fossil fuels, the basis of modern life, supply 82 percent of U.S. energy, and it is projected that they will supply 78 percent of the global increase in energy demand between 2009 and 2035, by which time the number of cars and trucks on the planet will have doubled to 1.7 billion.
Of course, that’s not a problem for fossile fuel companies because their stocks aren’t going to go without a buyer. Institutional investors who actually are interested in helping build wealth in a portfolio will snap them up. What will suffer? University endowment funds, that’s what. Most people would call that sort of moral preening a “self-inflicted wound”. It won’t change a thing, it’s moral relativisim at its worst and someone else will be happy to take the dividend income those boobs are foregoing.
Institutions of higher education will, presumably, warn donors that their endowments will be wielded in support of the political agenda du jour, which might include divesting from any company having anything to do with corn, source of the sweetener in many of the sodas that make some people fat and New York’s mayor cranky. Or anything to do with red meat, sugar, salt, trans fats, chickens not lovingly raised . . . .
Stanley Fish, writing in the New York Times today, offers a refreshingly honest view of "slutgate", moral equivalency, and double standards. It is, in fact, a bold statement of what we’ve always imagined the Progressive view is, though they have, in the past, been ever so careful not to admit it. It is, frankly, nice to see such honesty. As Mr. Fish explains:
Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?
There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance. Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.
I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.
There you have it. Conservatives are evil, progressives are good. It follows, therefore, that because progressives are good, then what they do in combating conservatives is right. Conservatives, being evil, deserve no respect and no attempts at courteous disagreement. They deserve nothing more than to be driven from the public sphere by any necessary means. Progressives are good, and if they commit what would otherwise be questionable acts, it is only the depravity of their political opponents that drives them to it.
Make no mistake: If the Stanley Fishes of this country could imprison you for holding contrary political beliefs, they’d do it in a second. After all, you are "on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy". This is, of course, justification for a tyranny of the very worst sort. As C.S. Lewis pointed out:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
Progressivism, for all its puffing about equality and justice, is nothing more than totalitarianism cloaked in modern, politically-correct pieties.
It’s nice to see a progressive honestly admit it.
The thing is, it is not possible to have a sustainable, self-governing polity when a substantial portion of the electorate denies the fundamental morality or legitimacy of their opponents. The ultimate outcome of such a belief in a society has historically been an inevitable slide to civil unrest, resulting in either totalitarian repression, civil war, or dissolution into competing states.
I am increasingly beginning to wonder which of those three outcomes is most likely in our case.
It’s there for all to see if they will. While the parody is clever as it can be, one huge and salient fact is missing and thus makes it all a giant FAIL!
Obi-Wan Kenobi, the mastermind of some of the most devastating attacks on the Galactic Empire and the most hunted man in the galaxy, was killed in a firefight with Imperial forces near Alderaan, Darth Vader announced on Sunday.
Hint: At what were Obi-Wan’s “most devastating attacks” aimed? And OBL’s?
More false moral equivalency.
Aside: I thought Dick Cheney was Darth Vader? My how times change, no?
Mark Hemingway at the Washington Examiner brings this little goodie to our attention:
The American public is still mired in doubt about the science and the economics of climate change, he said, but is ready for the kind of social shift that eventually brought success to the abolition movement of the 18th and 19th centuries.
“Just as few people saw a moral problem with slavery in the 18th century, few people in the 21st century see a moral problem with the burning of fossil fuels,” Professor [Andrew] Hoffman [of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources] said. “Will people in 100 years look at us with the same incomprehension we feel toward 18th-century defenders of slavery?”
So now skeptics of AGW are the moral equivalent of slavery defenders because they don’t agree that the science is there which supports the warmists view that man’s CO2 emissions are the driver of global climate change? Really?
If people might do anything during a 100 year retrospective it will be to look askance at the rhetoric this particular issue generated from one particular side. My guess is they’ll look at Hoffman’s analogy and shake their head in wonder at the absurdity of his claim.
I’m not sure what offends me more – Hoffman’s attempt to equate scientific skepticism with an immoral institution like slavery or his obvious ignorance of the fact that science is skepticism.
Hoffman needs to also get out more – there is little if any “social shift” in the making concerning this nonsense. The science is not settled (in fact it is badly discredited), there is no consensus and until there is much more solid evidence from the scientific community – not some divinity school drop out and failed presidential candidate – the public isn’t going to willingly sacrifice its economic well being on some incredibly expensive scheme concocted by warmists that most likely will have no effect whatsoever on the alleged problem.
But, then, what do we slavers know.