Tag Archives: America Is Doomed

Will Hurricane Maria provide the excuse for Congress to bail out Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico’s electric utility was already effectively bankrupt.  Now, most inconveniently, Hurricane Maria has knocked out power to the entire island.
We predict that that hurricane will provide the cover for Congress to provide a massive bailout—effectively leveraging the tragedy of Maria to cover for its previous woes too.
Perhaps it’s unseemly to discuss now at this time that calls for compassion.  But the hurricane could well provide, shall we say, a glaring silver lining for this island that will allow it to escape accountability for its decades of corruption and mismanagement.

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George Clooney could be a formidable presidential candidate

George Clooney just sold his tequila business for a headline-grabbing $1B.  It seems plausible that he is building his image for a presidential campaign, and, if so, Republicans should take it seriously.

Although he has spewed the standard Hollywood liberal talking points, he hasn’t come across in the deranged Ashley Judd/Madonna mold.  He seems like a serious guy, not an arrogant idiot, who has taken a lower political profile than many of his contemporaries.  He’s not even on Twitter, has done interviews with Fox News and Business Insider, and thereby has created space for an image of gravitas that most celebrities have squandered.

His UN “humanitarian” work seems more legitimate, low-key, and serious, than that of most Hollywood grandstanders.

He took another step toward political respectability by marrying not some starlet, but a quintessential liberal pin-up girl:  exotic, brown, man-jawed, not too young, with a prestigious-sounding job as a “human rights lawyer” and now having children.

Plenty of people have speculated about a potential run for California or federal office, and he has denied interest.  And of course we don’t know how his views would stand up to scrutiny or how he’d do in a debate, but he could be strong candidate. Now that President Trump has broken the glass ceiling of celebrity-type candidates, this could be a trend.

The biggest barrier to his candidacy might be a refusal by the Democratic party to accept a white male nominee.

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Top 10 side effects of Trump’s victory

The great news just keeps on rolling in after Tuesday.  Here are some great (and some not so great) side effects that we can look forward to:

10.  The Clinton Foundation will close up shop, since with no influence to peddle no one will donate to it.

9.  The media will try to build momentum to elect Hillary Clinton Speaker of the House for the sake of national unity (and since she won the popular vote, dontcha know).  President Trump and Vice President Pence will then have to avoid being in the same place for four years.

8.  We will never hear the name Alicia Machado again.  Or Sidney Blumenthal, Robbie Mook, or Jennifer Palmieri.  Or Huma Abedin (unless she ends up in the dock or in the pages of the Federal Register as having been granted a pardon).

7.  Ivanka Trump will be America’s first woman president, maybe around 2028 (while the left decries the Trumps for trying to create a dynasty).

6.  Democrats will move to abolish the electoral college.  Democrats will rediscover the majesty of the filibuster, the perniciousness of the presidential executive order, and the importance of checks and balances.

5.  Merrick Garland will resign his judgeship, join the Harvard Law School faculty, and become a bitter old man writing op-eds and appearing on MSNBC panels relentlessly attacking President Trump.  He may run for Senate and prove to be just as leftist as Elizabeth Warren.

4.  The bubble for firearm and ammunition company stocks will end (though the Soros-funded rioters may keep up demand under they peter out).

3.  Chelsea Clinton will run for office (the only way to prevent #10).  Kirsten Gillibrand will lose her status as liberal icon and be pressured to make way for Chelsea to take her seat.  Ditto for Richard Durbin once Michelle Obama decides that she’s entitled to a senate seat too.

2.  James Taranto will grudgingly have to retire his “we blame George W. Bush meme.”  Glenn Reynolds will happily have to retire his “TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day XXX” meme.  CBS will finally be able to cancel Madam Secretary, which was presumably created as an in-kind donation/hagiography to the Clinton campaign (every time you saw a promo for the show, you were supposed to think of Hillary Clinton).

1.  The Trump Organization will have to change its name back to the original German Trumpf to avoid any conflict of interest.


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Where are the citizens with pitchforks?

We were sitting recently with some neighbors on the stoop in a sleepy central California beach town.  Like most of the state’s coast, this area continues to gentrify; the community combines the long-time eccentrics typical of a California beach town with upscale Californians who live within driving distance buying weekend or retirement homes.  This particular street runs perpendicular to the beach, with great views of the surfers and the whales, and increasing prices as the modest properties proceed down the block from Highway 1 to the ocean.  There are not many better places to live in the world.

One homeowner just completed an arduous years-long process to secure planning permission to build an extension of his back deck on his own property.  The neighbor next door took a long time to secure the necessary permits to knock down the junk house that was there when he bought it and build a new one on a prime lot on a bluff over the ocean.  The neighbor on the other side said, we would like to do the same, but will perhaps remodel instead if we can’t get permission, due to either the whims of some bureaucrat or simply government inertia.  The city has delayed getting back to him for six months, he shrugged, and continued with his drink.

Across the street, a house is completely gutted to the rafters; when we asked why the owner took this approach instead of demolition, we already knew the answer:  it’s easier to get permits for a renovation than for a new construction.

In addition to the myriad levels of local government and numerous departments to navigate for permission to modify one’s own property, one needs to secure permission from the California Coastal Commission even to repaint one’s own house.

We sat astonished as these various property owners—all affluent, civic-minded, taxpaying citizens who are certainly capable of comprehending how government works—shrugged with mild perturbation, yet resignation, at the gauntlets before them.

How can we tolerate this encroachment on property rights?

California is certainly one of the world’s leading lights on NIMBY-ism, also known as, I have secured my comfortable place, and now I am going to pull up the drawbridge in front of everyone else.  And you’re lucky to live here so shut up.  But this is a town of several thousand people; perhaps a concerted effort could replace the entire city council, or county board, although there would always be more bureaucrats standing beyond the reach of accountability and more vested interests that know how to work the system—if for no other reasons than envy, petty power-grubbing, or a vague sense of sentimentality for the status quo.  Many municipalities in the state have layer-upon-layer of restrictions, ranging from days (most days, as it turns out) in which homeowners are not allowed to use the fireplaces in their own homes, to limiting the square footage that a house can expand based on the size of the garage.

We remain astonished at the complacency with which citizens accept the lazy, irrational, often corrupt, machinations of the state.

This is the same California that, due to profligacy and mismanagement, had to issue IOUs in lieu of payments in 2009, including for tax refunds.  That’s right, citizens were compelled to loan the government their money interest-free by over-withholding throughout the year, then when it was time to repay, the state said, don’t worry, we’ll catch you later.  We remember thinking at the time, where are the citizens descending upon Sacramento with pitchforks?  Moreover, nothing has changed via the ballot box since then.

Illinois recently paid lottery winnings with IOUs.  Again, we wondered, where are the citizens with pitchforks?  The lottery is a supposedly self-financing fund; how is it acceptable that the government confiscates the pot and shrugs when beneficiaries come to collect?

In Greece—i.e., the California and Illinois of the future—the government last summer not only refused to let people withdraw their own money from banks, but also didn’t allow them to remove cash and precious metals from their own safe deposit boxes.  Despite media reports of widespread suffering and outrage (usually directed by Greeks at Germany), nothing has really changed in Greece; the voters returned the left-wing government to office and virtually ensured that this crisis will recur in a couple of years.

The western world is in a sickly decadent stupor.  We mentioned earlier that this particular coastal California city is indeed one of the best places one could hope to live; but it does not follow that we should consider residing there a privilege, granted at the pleasure of the state, and we should just pipe down and accept infringements of our liberty.  These examples of what citizens will accept from their supposed “representatives” certainly constitute leading indicators of complete societal collapse.

We know, you’re saying, these are first-world problems compared to what governments in most of the world do to their citizens.  But anyone who has worked hard and participated honestly in society cannot take much comfort in that.

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Lovers of liberty should hope for more Kim Davises when they come for our guns

There’s a thoughtful debate on the right about whether Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who, citing her conscience, defied the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges discovering that the Constitution grants the right of marriage to gay couples.  Davis refused to issue marriage licenses in her jurisdiction and was briefly jailed.

A core tenet of conservatism  is the rule of law.  The Obergefell ruling, absurd as it is, is the law of the land.  Not only was resistance on Davis’s part futile, but arguably inappropriate as a public official.  When one takes a job as a public servant one must uphold the law.  Civil disobedience is only the right of civilians.  The proper action from a public servant would be to resign; perhaps mass resignations would be an effective tool in persuading legislators to change the law.

On the other hand, Americans are rightly proud of their traditions of defying oppression that comes under the color of law.  And such defiance—by government agents—would likely be the only recourse in what this blogger fears will eventually be an attempted government usurpation of our right to bear arms.

It is within the realm of possibility that, one day, Congress w ill pass a law banning and confiscating handguns and the Supreme Court will uphold it under whatever imaginary constitutional logic it can muster.  Fortunately the legislative element remains a formidable hurdle at this point in time, but that is not always certain to be so.  And once Congress passes a law, all it will take is for five liberal Supreme Court justices to overturn centuries of precedent.

At that point, it would be up to the executive branch to implement the law.  Eventually, this would require a door-to-door effort, such as Australia completed for certain types of guns in the late 1990s, much to President Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s admiration.

Noble “from my cold, dead hands” rhetoric notwithstanding, it’s not likely that many Americans would respond to a federal agent’s knock at the door with an armed standoff in which the government would certainly win.  Thus the only barrier to confiscation would be if ATF and FBI agents, and maybe members of the military, that the federal government would send a-knocking were to refuse to follow orders.

Is such a scenario likely?  It would get ugly, leading to calls for martial law by some and secession or outright revolution by others.  We can all hope our last hope is not to rely on government functionaries disobeying their elected leaders, but it might come to that.

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Coming soon: Abolition of cash?

Andy Haldane, the chief economist the U.K. central bank, has brought to the mainstream a scary fantasy held by many liberals:  abolishing cash.  In an era of zero interest rates, and even negative rates in some countries, governments are finding it difficult to continue printing money to stimulate the economy.  When their attempts to induce inflation by printing and spending more money aren’t effective, they may move to more draconian measures.

No doubt our enlightened leaders will point to the supposed obsolescence of physical cash, the costs that cash handling imposes, and the wondrous technology that can be brought to bear to relieve us of these burdens.  They also mutter about tax evasion and money laundering, which is closer to their real agenda of fully controlling the economy’s resources.

There will possibly come a day when all cash is electronic, on which the government can mandate “negative interest rates”—i.e., theft of depositors’ assets, either to prop up banks and/or to go directly into state coffers.  Such totalitarians dream of the scenario in which all assets that you hold are at the pleasure of the government, to be spent as you are told.  This is already true to an extent in the era of fiat money, but many central bankers and government treasurers would be very happy to take away citizens’ freedom to stash money under their proverbial mattresses.

Of course, we have seen plenty of capital controls lately, such as Cyprus “bailing in” banks (i.e., stealing from large customers) and Greece not only refusing to allow depositors to withdraw their own money from bank accounts, but even refusing to allow people to remove cash from safe deposit boxes in those banks.  (Note to self:  buy stock in manufacturers of household safes.)

When a government bureaucrat hears about a bank robbery, he probably laments, “such a missed opportunity.”  Our best advice is to think twice about any whiz-bang technology that ties up your money in a place where the long arm of the state can reach it.



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Trump would not exist without Jeb Bush

One of the most fun aspects of the Donald Trump phenomenon is the conventional conservative media’s bewilderment as they try to understand his appeal.  (There’s nothing interesting or surprising at all about the way that the elitist, left-wing mainstream media has covered Trump.)

From Fox News, to the Wall Street Journal, to National Review, to leading opinion makers such as George Will, Michael Barone, and Charles Krauthammer, most of the standard-bearers of mainstream conservatism have piled on with increasingly hysterical condemnation.

But he’s not really conservative!  He’s cozied up to Democrats!, they tell us.  He’s flip-flopped his positions on fundamental issues!  He’s not knowledgeable about policy details!, they shriek.  He’s a loudmouth, a loose cannon, a gaffe machine!

Does any devotee of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, or National Review need to be told these things?

Those who do respect their audience enough to present an analysis of why Trump is resonating inevitably focus on three major dimensions of his appeal:  his focus on our immigration crisis; his populist criticism of our political class and their cohorts in big business; and his anti-PC candor.  These are critical, valid stances, on the front lines of the culture war in which our elites are routing the nation.  But they miss the point.

Donald Trump, alpha male

To praise Donald Trump for simply saying what’s on his mind or railing against “political correctness” is to fall far short in the accreditation that he deserves.  Trump is the embodiment of the alpha male, and it is that very alpha-ness that this country needs given the problems that we’re facing at this time—more than any particular ideological stance or policy solution.

Chateau Heartiste, perhaps the leading “manosphere” blogger, has documented this phenomenon every step of the way since the beginning of his candidacy a few months ago.  But do voters really understand what this implies, and will it resonate long-term as such beyond the manosphere?

Social-justice warriors are well on their way to completing the job of emasculating our culture.  We are being overrun by an alien invading force.  We are being trounced by our diplomatic adversaries.  Solutions to these challenges within the American system will be driven partially by ideology, but to a greater extent by principled leadership.  Donald Trump is a uniquely American personality who embodies what it means to lead from a foundation of American values.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had some alpha characteristics, but they were still creatures of our corrupt political machine.  Trump is inviting us to vote for the man who is completely independent, and therefore sets his own rules; with trust in how he identifies with fellow Americans, managerial competence, and strong personality as more important than his stances on the issues.

We can gain hope from the fact that his persona stands so athwart our zeitgeist, so outside what our SJW-owned degenerate popular culture considers acceptable, yet he is resonating with the public.  Trump brings to life the strong worldview of what a leader should be and how, specifically, that definition ought to manifest itself in our political leaders vis-à-vis their rivals (more on that later).

We are being treated to a clinic on the type of leadership that America needs at this time, and voters are responding.

  • He is perceived to be, and in fact is, completely independent.  Though he has business partners and customers like anyone who earns an income, he obviously is not beholden to any of them.  When a few pusillanimous companies severed ties with him, he laughed and declared the impact immaterial.
  • By setting the agenda with, remarkably, a single issue, he has gotten other candidates tied in knots.
  • He has demonstrated extreme self-confidence, parried ridiculous shit testsagreed and amplified putative insults, and refused to apologize to a stung snowflake who tried to embarrass him.
  • He has asserted his authority in subtle ways, making multiple interviewers and the Republican chairman come groveling to his office, unlike most candidates.  He’s set another agenda and put CNN on the spot by cleverly suggesting that the profits from their debate be donated to charity.
  • He has sucked oxygen out of other contenders’ spheres, most notably Scott Walker, who was in the top tier before Trump entered and is now subject to the “not ready for prime time” grumblings, and Marco Rubio, whose weakness on immigration has become a major liability thanks to Trump’s raising of the issue.  He also likely caused Rick Perry to drop out of the race.

However, Trump’s greatest asset—the flood lights illuminating his alpha attributes and behaviors, the neon flowing through the signboard at his campaign headquarters, the unobtanium fueling his rocket ship to the nomination—is Jeb Bush.

Jeb Bush, the quintessential cuckservative beta male

Should he win the nomination, Jeb Bush would probably be the most extreme beta male ever nominated for president by a major party—quite an accomplishment for a country that has recently had Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, and of course Barack Obama as standard bearers.  (To be bipartisan, one can acknowledge that George H.W. Bush came across as rather beta in his 1992 re-election bid, in contrast to his previous record; perhaps he lost his hunger for the job.)

Bush’s softness has been evident since his formative years.  Despite his pedigree and good looks, he infamously married a Mexican peasant, apparently the first girl who ever paid attention to him.  He jumped in, as he cringingly recounts as the first paragraph in his biography, even though she is not beautiful and possibly too stupid—and/or too selfish and/or too lacking in self-awareness, given that her husband comes from a prominent political family and would likely be in the public eye someday—to learn English in her decades in the U.S.  Not to mention that Bush didn’t cajole her to do so, apparently even speaking Spanish with the family at home.  We know who wears the pantalones in that household.

Bush’s political career has been defined by cuckservatism.  He isn’t the only cuckservative major politician, the underlying idea didn’t just become relevant this summer, and of course Trump didn’t coin the term.  However, this word would not exist if Trump did not enter the race against Jeb Bush.  The concept arguably arises as the intersection of Trump’s focus on the immigration issue with Bush’s whole life story.  Jeb Bush is the embodiment of the cuckservative and Donald Trump is the antithesis of it.

Donald Trump as the leading candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nominee would not exist without Jeb Bush.

After Trump referred to Bush as “low-energy”—a devastatingly salient, parsimonious insult if ever there was one—Bush felt the need to pathetically qualify himself with language right off of the beta male’s Facebook missives to his friend-zone crush:  “The low-energy candidate this week has only been six days, 16 hours a day, campaigning with joy in my heart.”  He prefaces any criticism of President Obama, “with all due respect. . .”

Perhaps he took a cue from Heidi Klum, who also felt the need to reply to Trump’s gentle mocking.  This was a few weeks after Bush white-knighted for Megyn Kelly while Trump was doubling down.

The contrast between them could not be starker.

There is no doubt that some of Trump’s support comes from people who recognize this contrast, though perhaps they can’t quite put their finger on it.  They see Bush, and the disaster of President Obama, then look at Trump, and say, yeah, that’s the kind of guy I want as president; it doesn’t really matter where he stands on the issues as long as he’s not a leftist.  It is similar to how the girl in the bar gets weak-kneed from the alpha male based on how he carries himself, without needing to know the details of his biography or his preferences.

The Trump phenomenon parallels that of Rudy Giuliani when he was first elected mayor of New York.  No one mistook him for a hard-core conservative, but the quality-of-life problems in the city, especially crime, made him practically a one-issue candidate—especially versus David Dinkins, who embodied all that was wrong with New York.  Combined with his toughness and self-confidence, he offered exactly what New York needed in 1993, just as Trump offers to the nation now.

What next for Trump?

There exists gossip about feuds between Trump and the Bush family predating the campaign, and media reports about Trump’s antipathy for Jeb in particular.  It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which Trump looked at the race, in which Bush was the front runner—especially in the coastal elite circles in which Trump travels—and said to himself, This guy?!?  Anyone but him! 

Trump has a big ego, and history with Bush, but it isn’t plausible that he entered the race primarily to throw a monkey wrench into Bush’s plans just out of spite:  that would be way too beta for Trump.  More likely, knowing Bush—i.e., the reason why he despises him in the first place—he knew that he could, and would be motivated to, present a perfect personality contrast.  Combine that with the immigration issue, on which Bush would be vulnerable and on which no other candidate was representing most Americans’ views, and, voila, he has the ingredients for a viable challenge.

Trump will eventually need to be more disciplined on the stump and stake out a handful of coherent positions in major areas.  One in which he will likely focus, which will serve to contrast him well with his beta opponents as well as the feckless appeaser currently in the White House, will be his strength in negotiating with adversaries, based on his immensely successful business record.  “Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran,” he declared at a rally recently.  He will likely make similar references to President Obama’s “negotiations” with the Castros, with the Taliban over the deserter Bowe Bergdahl, and with others.  This will be a winning issue among voters who agree with Trump’s views about America’s place in the world and see him as a strong negotiator.  It will also naturally play into his alpha male bona fides.

Above all, though, Trump should continue to do what he has been doing.  His persona, while turning off the pajama-boy beta lisp voting bloc, has a chance to expand the share of the electorate that will vote Republican.  Not only will his personality resonate with women, but it could attract blacks, which would certainly doom the Democrats if they were to receive less than 80% of their vote.

The 2016 Republican primary is a great opportunity for the nation to apply leadership lessons beyond our own respective work, social, and dating lives—to connect the dots in an actionable way between the characteristics that we seek in our leaders and the larger culture war.  This is not to advocate an Obama-style cult of personality, and there are certainly legitimate reasons for a conservative or libertarian to hesitate to support Trump.  But all Americans of principle should reflect on the real challenges that the U.S. is facing and what they would look for in a representative to face those challenges.


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How long will it be before the Fourteenth Amendment is deemed to prohibit “hate speech”?

Justice Kennedy’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges finding a Constitutional right to gay marriage doesn’t really bother to cite a legal justification, instead relying on florid exaltations of “love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” and an aw-shucks conclusion that laws against gay marriage “burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality.”  His nominal Constitutional reference point is the Fourteenth Amendment, that contemporary cannon in which all manner of federally-provided goodies are loaded and splayed about the populace.

Suppose a future Congress were to pass a law criminalizing “hate speech.”  Such a law would, contrary to the willful understanding of much of our popular culture, be unconstitutional, at least as of June 25, 2015.  However, if a respondent (say, a future Democratic Solicitor General) defending such a law were to assert that “hate speech” uttered by a hateful hater effectively prevented the victim from enjoying her civil rights, or from fully participating in society—which is the position of many universities, the NAACP, and plenty of others on the mainstream left—then couldn’t the Supreme Court uphold the law under the same principles as the Obergefell decision?

If the First Amendment to the Constitution protects hate speech, Justice Kennedy might hold, then the First Amendment itself “burdens the liberty of minorities subjected to hate speech, and it must be further acknowledged that it abridges central precepts of equality.”

Consider another passage from the Obergefell decision:

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.

Unlike in the case of the desire among gay people to get married, our founders did understand the concept of speech that would offend people and explicitly decided that the value of free speech outweighs the consequences of hurt feelings.  First Amendment rights in the U.S. are generally not subject to the left’s beloved concept of “balancing tests” (issues related to national security are an exception), but Kennedy’s fuzzy language leaves much to the imagination as to how a future Court might decide to construe liberty.

Other countries that have historically cherished free speech have carved out exceptions, such as the criminalization of “racism” in the U.K. or of denial of the Holocaust in France.  The fact that America’s democratically-elected representatives have attempted many abridgments of free speech over the years certainly proves that there exist ongoing differences of opinion on “the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions.”

Now that the Supreme Court has again interpreted “a claim to liberty” as the right to receive benefits from the government as a married gay couple—as opposed to the founders’ notions of liberty as freedom from coercion by the government—it does not seem too much of a stretch to think that a future Court acting on this precedent would discover that an American in a protected class demanding protection from hateful speech is entitled to rectification of a similar “claim to liberty” that must be balanced with free speech rights.

Such a purported victim need only claim that his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and/or Equal Protection rights have been violated in some vague manner to assert the primacy of that Amendment over the speaker’s rights to free speech.  After all, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed subsequently to the First, so there is no reason why the former could not be deemed to supersede the latter.

Justice Thomas notes in his dissent, “inversion of the original meaning of liberty will likely cause collateral damage to other aspects of our constitutional order that protect liberty.”

By the way, it is not that difficult to imagine extending the same argument to require a balancing of Fourteenth Amendment rights with those protected by the Second Amendment.  E.J. Dionne, writing presciently in the Washington Post on June 24, wants a new campaign “protecting the rights of Americans who do not want to be anywhere near guns.”  One wonders if he had dinner with Justice Kennedy a couple of weeks ago to trade notes?

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Out of the mouths of babes. . . Touching stories of Somali integration

In Lewiston, Me., of all places, the concept of free-market economics is illustrated nicely:  “Many Somalis originally came as refugees to larger cities, Atlanta in particular, but then moved to Maine after hearing that it had a wider array of subsidized housing available and also was easier to get on the welfare rolls.”

From the same article:  “‘People were thinking, to be a police officer, you have to be born in the U.S. … you have to be white,’ Libah [a recent Somali arrival] told the news agency. ‘They never thought they could be a police officer.'”

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We are all technocrats now

The U.S. is pretty much the only country in the world in which some constituency can be found asking, Is this really something that government should be doing? in response to a proposed law at the national or local level.  But our culture is changing, and such inherent skepticism of the government is rapidly moving toward extinction.

We now tolerate a nanny state, which shows up at all levels of government.  To take three recent random examples that we came across:

  • January:  A typical zoning fight about whether an e-cigarette lounge should open on a certain street in San Francisco pits various activists debating whether or not such an establishment fits with their views about whether this is an amenity that the neighborhood wants in light of the other retail available on that street.  No one has suggested that a land owner and tenant should be able to come to private agreement on what to do with their own property.
  • May:  A debate about whether to allow self-serve gas stations in Oregon features arguments about supposed safety considerations, jobs, and various lawmakers’ and bureaucrats’ opinions about the impact on customer convenience.  Again no one seems to be offering the opinion that the government has no right to meddle in a station owner’s business decision to begin with, nor mentioning that perhaps the free market would be better served to sort out issues of customer service and price.
  • May:  Opponents of a proposed ordinance in San Francisco to require warning labels on soda advertising (following the defeat of a city-wide soda tax last year) resort to insisting that sugar is soda is no different from sugar in any other product, and that “education” would be a more effective means of propaganda anyway.  No one at the table is offering the argument that government has no business interfering in consumer choices about a basic product, but rather they are arguing about what tools are most effective to implement the state’s nannying agenda.

The boundaries of these and countless similar local debates is most depressing to this libertarian, not only because we feel for the normal Americans whose livelihoods are chipped away by big government, but also because of the picture they paint about how our citizens apparently want to be governed.  The terms of the debate are so far away from Is this really something that government should be doing? that such questions seem quaint.

We could call these debates “technocratic,” that is, a presumption that a new government program is all that we need to solve some problem or close some gap in society, and we just have to debate what the government program will look like.

The “technocratic” moniker is not that common the U.S.  It’s a familiar (though ought to be derisory) term in Europe, often used to describe some government or individual minister who comes to power in a parliamentary system.  In that sense, it’s roughly a synonym for “socialist,” and simply means that apparatchiks who used to be a step or two lower, or more obscure, in the ranking of the political class assume power as sort of a compromise when the highest-ranking members can’t come to agreement on who will take the top political jobs.

“Technocratic” governments in Europe sometimes come about due to fiscal crisis, and sometimes due to elections that don’t produce clear winners.  In either case, their jobs consist essentially of keeping the big government functioning within the same narrow bounds that it did before, until voters can re-mandate the not-all-that-different status quo ante.  It may seem perplexing to an American audience, but our governments are looking more and more like this too.

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