Free Markets, Free People

statism


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 15 Dec 13

This week, in the last podcast of the year, Bruce, Michael and Dale talk about Iran, government, and Obamacare.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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How Republicans will lead again

What will the Republican Party look like when it retakes the lead in governing?  I’d bet it will be a coalition that identifies more with what Alex Castellanos is laying out at NewRepublican.org.

Some of it is new messaging for old ideas. Castellanos rebrands spontaneous order and subsidiarity as “open,” “natural,” “organic,” and “bottom-up.”  He tags statism, command economies and federal control as “closed,” “artificial,” and “top-down.”  Those are elegant ways to tell Whole Foods shoppers and Silicon Valley what we’re about without assigning them F.A. Hayek or a history of the Soviets.

Castellanos also stresses the superiority of private compassion over state welfare, but instead of getting trapped by placing charity in a bidding war with the welfare state, or quibbling over the definition of charity, he casts the state welfare agencies as “machine-like” or “factory-like” and “archaic,” and more importantly labeling them as “social mercenaries” that allow Americans to “distance ourselves from our responsibilities as human beings,” which involve “person-to-person” compassion.

That leads into a much more substantive change: redirecting social conservative energy to where it can actually accomplish something for itself and for the party, namely local and fulfilling private action instead of trying to seize the top and push down, which outsources to politicians and bureaucrats the promotion of our values.

Several items on the list of 67 beliefs of New Republicans (67!) deal with this:

4. We believe in freedom nationally and values locally.

6. We believe that when we allow big-government to enforce our values, we legitimize it to enforce other values, as well.

7. We believe in natural and organic ways of addressing social challenges, not political and artificial controls directed by Washington.

12. We believe Washington should stay out of our wallets, and out of our bedrooms.

39. We believe we are Republican for Everybody, and Republicans Everywhere.  We believe our principles are an indispensable force for good, needed now to alleviate poverty, misery, dependency, and family breakdown destroying American lives in our inner cities.

Social conservatives lost the battle to use federal levers to enforce family and religious values, and damaged the good reputation of those values in the attempt, but those beliefs are still popular in many states, towns, and households.  They can still gather a majority coalition with libertarians and moderates to carve out the space to practice their values and their faith without interference from the state, with more confidence and optimism than Paul Weyrich had in the late ’90s; if they revert to using top-down power, those potential allies will be embarrassed of their association with social conservatives.  That’s coalition politics.

The New Republicans will avoid being associated with Big Everything, including Big Business. What saps the Republican Party’s entrepreneurial spirit and daring to cut government and promote free markets is its reliance on forces that want the state to protect them against change and competition; Milton Friedman repeatedly observed that this makes business community a frequent enemy of free enterprise.  But the GOP need not be anti-business, just suspicious to the extent of keeping anything Big at arm’s length.

Chris Sansenbach / Flickr

Finally, Castellanos does stress a couple of times that New Republicans believe in “campaign[ing] for our solutions in the most benighted parts of America, from the barrio to the inner city.”  I’ve heard noises to that effect from Republicans for years, but that will only succeed if it’s a major, sustained effort; if we have nothing to say about urban problems beyond school choice, and we don’t learn how to assertively persuade people that we are absolutely superior at addressing poverty, we’re cooked.  These things require practice, trials and errors, and personal experience with the poor and with urban life.  We have to be able to win at least sometimes, electing mayors and city councils in major metro areas, to show that our way of governing works for the growing portion of the country living in cities.

I said at the beginning that this is how Republicans will think when they regain the lead in governing, and I chose those words instead of “winning elections” because it’s possible the GOP can temporarily get over 50% here and there by other means, but it won’t have the initiative until it accepts the challenge to persuade all of America that its principles are relevant to them. The party could and should also make gains by modernizing the way it learns and reorganizes itself, how it encourages and channels activism, its campaign tactics and strategy, and more.  But those things go naturally with a mindset that’s reflexively entrepreneurial and not only open to change but so hungry for it that we’re unafraid to stop doing what isn’t working.


It’s the collectivist that are the problem, not the individualists

I’m amazed at times by what I read in major daily newspapers.  OK, not as much now as I would have been say 10 or 15 years ago.   Maybe it’s just awareness on my part now, but as I get older I am confronted by what I see as half-baked opinion on the pages of such rags than I ever remember before.

Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I’m the one that’s gotten sharper over the years and am able to spot nonsense more easily than before.   Take for instance, Nina Power of the Guardian.   Power is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University, so she can be forgiven for being somewhat removed from reality. In her opinion, which the Guardian gladly publishes, the problem of the riots in London and elsewhere can be laid at the feet of government and austerity policies.  Why?  Well let her explain:

Since the coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital (preceded by clashes with Bristol police in Stokes Croft earlier in the year). Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. The government knows very well that it is taking a gamble, and that its policies run the risk of sparking mass unrest on a scale we haven’t seen since the early 1980s. With people taking to the streets of Tottenham, Edmonton, Brixton and elsewhere over the past few nights, we could be about to see the government enter a sustained and serious losing streak.

It’s the “brutal cuts” and the “enforced austerity measures”.  Note she admits that “each of these events was sparked by a different cause”, however she then rejects that admission and claims that in reality they all come back to government cut backs.

Really?  It couldn’t be good old technology aided criminality could it?   Or something else completely?   Or a combination of other things altogether?

For instance, in the next paragraph, she says:

The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan last Thursday, where it appears, contrary to initial accounts, that only police bullets were fired, is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police’s treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment.

One journalist wrote that he was surprised how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the IPCC, but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.

Oh, so it could be all about police harassment then and nothing to do with “brutal cuts” or austerity?   It could be that the spark that lit this fire had to do with police treatment of minorities?  It certainly seems that is what she’s saying.  And of course the riots elsewhere could simply be copy-cat.  Criminal gangs who learned the methods used in Tottenham and deploying them elsewhere to loot and avoid the police?

Well, yes, it could be.  In fact, it could really have nothing at all to do with the “entitled and dispossessed”.

Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear.

They do?  What’s clear is she’s bound and determined to link them, that’s for sure.  But clarity … yeah, not so much.

But that is necessary, even if not true, to conclude the following:

Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.

As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as "social problems" (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.

All of that from a riot against police that one could conclude was a long time fermenting.   Recall the LA riots – was that because of “brutal cuts” and “enforced austerity measures”?  Was the looting that took place then a result of “decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness” or mobs taking advantage of the lawlessness the riots brought to loot what they wanted?

And even if she’s half right – what’s the solution she’d desire?  Well “equality” of course.   She’d rather trample the rights of those who’ve won “life’s lottery” (even though they worked their rear ends off to do so) and redistribute it to the poor and disenfranchised than ask the poor and disenfranchised to do what is necessary to give themselves a chance in life and quit demanding others do it for them.

Collectivism, although she never comes out and says it, is her answer.   And we’ve seen how well those equal societies did, didn’t we?  Well at least those of us who had been born before the collapse of the USSR and objectively observed the outcome.  

Yes, friends, a whole new generation of collectivists begin to rear their heads, some having never seen what the collectivism of the last century brought in terms of “equality” -  Equality of misery, equality of oppression and equality of hopelessness.

The problem in the UK isn’t austerity, it’s the results of collectivism and the fact that the inevitable outcome has begun.  It isn’t individualism that’s the fault.  It’s a massive state which robs people of incentive through it’s supposed benign acts of state sponsored charity.  Why strive if you will be taken care of whether you do or not?   Why seek food if you’re not hungry or don’t care what you eat?   Why take care of yourself if the state will do it for you?   And if you start running out of money, tax the rich bastards who want better.

Uncle Jimbo, at Blackfive, puts the exclamation mark on the real reason London is burning:

Liberal social policies have brought western civilization to the breaking point. They had the best of intentions, just ask them. But they, and sadly we, are getting a heaping dose of the law of unintended consequences. If you train an entire cohort of society to believe that the government doesn’t just offer a safety net but a way of life, well you get this- gangs of scum who will take what they want if the free lunch stops showing up. The chattering class is doing their level best to paint this as a legitimate reaction to dire economic times, and for once I agree with them. This is what happens when you run out of other people’s money.

By the way, this isn’t just a one-off bit of nonsense from Ms. Power.  She’s been quite active in the Guardian pages denouncing all sorts of things with titles such as “Don’t Assume the Police Are On Our Side”, which makes me wonder what “our side” might be, and “Happiness has been Consumed by Capitalism” which clarifies the sides.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Ed Morrissey nails it

Take a look at this little blurb from President Obama’s speech in Quincy IL:

We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy.

Ed latches on to those two highlighted lines to deliver a great rebuttal:

He should have stuck with the TelePrompter. The President doesn’t get to decide when people have “made enough money.” In fact, as the radio host notes, that’s a statist point of view. Furthermore, the responsibility of an entrepreneur isn’t to “grow our economy,” core or otherwise. It’s to grow his own economy. In a properly regulated capitalist system, the natural tension of self-interests create economic growth through innovation and efficient use of capital and resources.

Bingo – well said, old friend.

~McQ