Tag Archives: Big Government

Be very suspicious of the left’s motives to allow “lateral entry” for military officers

Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently unveiled a proposal to allow people to enter the military directly from outside at levels up to O-6 (colonel, or captain in the Navy) in potentially any job.  The plan, which is being considered by Congress, would expand this option from its current narrow parameters, which allow lateral entry up to the O-4 level (major, or lieutenant commander in the Navy) only for chaplains, lawyers, doctors, and dentists.

Secretary Carter uses the example of cyber specialists as a case where such a program would be most useful, as it’s difficult to develop officers with the level of expertise needed in-house.

This seems like a reasonable concept in principle, if applied selectively, and if it were intended solely to increase the effectiveness of the military (i.e., if conceived by Republicans).  It is an idea with merit and with major implications for both the military and civilian sectors.  It is worth careful consideration.

Color us skeptical, however, at the motives behind this under people like President Obama or Secretary Carter.  The author in the linked article says that the plan “suggests eroding the military’s tradition of growing its own leaders and cultivating a force with a distinct culture and tight social fabric.”

We have no doubt that “eroding” the armed forces’ “distinct culture and tight social fabric” is the whole point.  The left despises the military culture.  When Democrats are in power they enjoy conducting their transformative gambits on the military, be it redesigning training materials to be more politically correct, placing women in combat roles, forcing the forces to accept homosexuals, and next, naturally, removing the ban on “transgendered” warriors.  The left loves being able to play such games with the military, both because it is a perfect laboratory for their insane social engineering experiments—as a large population that has to follow orders and which collects lots of data—and because they see the military as a bastion of such abhorrent retrograde values as patriotism, meritocracy, and masculinity.

We assume that the left’s real motives in making such a sweeping change to the way that America grooms its military leaders are—in addition to making its culture more susceptible to their social-justice ideology—opening up a spigot by which they can corruptly appoint cronies to plum positions; installing moles who are loyal to them instead of to the chain of command (as is the norm in the federal civilian bureaucracy, in which an invisible, unaccountable band of dedicated leftists can always be counted on to drag their feet and stymie the attempted governance of any Republican administration); and, of course, fast-tracking affirmative-action hires to counter the perceived “diversity” problem in the upper officer ranks.

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Don’t be surprised if the U.K. government ignores a Brexit vote

A few media outlets have described the actual process by which the U.K. would leave the European Union (EU) if voters elect to do so this week.  The referendum question is “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”  We would support Brexit if we were British.

Under Article 50 the EU treaty, a country’s departure will be effective two years after the departing member notifies the European Council of its intent to leave.

This period is supposed to provide time for the departing member to negotiate its relationship with the EU—trade deals and the like—but Article 50 makes it clear that the member will depart after two years regardless of whether any such negotiations are completed, unless the EU, including the departing member, unanimously agrees to extend the deadline.

We could see any number of scenarios by which the U.K government simply ignores the will of the voters if Brexit passes.  The referendum is not legally binding.

No doubt the rest of the European Union will drag its feet on negotiations and strike a hard bargain.  The bloc apparently perceives that the U.K. would have little leverage, and we expect the shrill socialists who represent the continental political class to punish the U.K however it can, both to discourage other members from getting the idea to exit and because they despise the U.K.’s individualistic, pro-market, pro-globalization, pro-America identity in general.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation, expected in the event of a Brexit win, could be the first upheaval that would pave the way for U.K. politicians to make excuses to void the will of the voters, especially if the vote is close.  Theresa May and George Osborne, who both have endorsed staying in the EU, are leading candidates to replace Cameron, as is Boris Johnson, who has endorsed leaving.  It may seem odd for the Tories to replace a resigned Cameron with someone else on the losing side, but such fecklessness is what we have come to expect from the Conservative Party.

Could a new pro-EU government try to marshal public support to stay in anyway?  Parliamentary elections are not due until May 2020, around two years after the supposed deadline for the breakup to be finalized.  We could easily envision a scenario whereby, once the media and EU demonization of the U.K. kicks into high gear, the government throws up its hands and says, Wait, the outcome is likely to be much more detrimental to us than we expected, so we need a pause.

What if the political cycle, say a year from now, finds the Tories behind in the polls, perhaps due in part to the negative climate brought about by the negotiations?  We could even see the Tories calling early elections as an act of desperation—perhaps even planning to lose—and using the political turmoil and/or the formation of a new government as excuses to suspend the negotiations and ask the EU to extend the deadline.  If Labor wins the next election, and the process of leaving is not finalized, would they be expected to honor the obsolete vote?  (Current Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn has always been considered a Euroskeptic, but he may come around or may not become prime minister if Labor wins; the rest of the caucus is strongly pro-EU of course.)

Suppose some other shock hits the U.K. in the next two years:  a successful Scottish secession referendum (although Scotland is more pro-EU than England, the government could still use the disruption as an excuse to rethink Brexit); a major recession; a major Islamic terrorist attack; Russian agitation; some EU action that could be spun as a game-changer; the death of Queen Elizabeth II; the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president; etc., etc., etc.  The media and political class would certainly blame every real or imagined ill that befalls the U.K. over the next two years on the “Leave” vote.

The legitimacy of such excuses wouldn’t matter much.  We have high confidence that the establishment could say, Well, due to the tremendous temporary upheaval caused by ________________, it is just not prudent to continue down this course now.  

Maybe they will decide to call another referendum in light of whatever crisis emerges.  We can easily envision Jean-Claude Juncker, or whichever tinpot socialist bureaucrat represents the continental status quo at the time, shaking hands with some Labor prime minister in Brussels in 2019 or 2020, both with stupid grins on their faces, as they announce agreement to shove the Brexit vote of 2016 down the rabbit hole.

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Debates about guns and Muslim immigration don’t explicitly discuss trade-offs

I am willing to tolerate higher levels of gun violence in America in exchange for having a Second Amendment.  We don’t often hear our fellow rightists state the case so explicitly, but most probably have arrived at this cognitive consonance.

(It is true that more guns means less crime in general.  It is also true that America has the highest rate of mass shootings and other gun violence of any industrialized country, and this is due at least in part to the wide availability of firearms.  America’s unique history, culture, legal environment, and demographics all contribute to these seemingly contradictory realities.  The quote above is the position of this blog, and we also believe that the best way to counter the threat of Islamist terrorist attacks like the Orlando night club shooting is to facilitate more people being armed.)

The alternate universe in which the U.S. never had a Second Amendment, in which there were not hundreds of millions of guns in circulation, in which the police have all the firepower, and in which mass shootings and other instances of gun violence were extremely rare, is easy to envision.  That’s the situation in the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and most other industrialized countries (as well as in most police states).  Count ours as one vote in favor of the American status quo.

The left doesn’t really possess the vocabulary to present its own arguments about the trade-offs associated with gun rights (or most other issues).  We rarely hear progressives espousing the values of individual liberty anymore—except in a few specific scenarios that turn the Bill of Rights on its head—and they are even less sympathetic to the concept of individual self-defense.  The left apparently isn’t able to comprehend the main reason why the founders included the Second Amendment to begin with:  protection from government tyranny.  We will have a social contract in which only the benevolent government will have guns, and in exchange the citizenry will trust the government to use them to protect citizens’ liberty and well-being is also not a scenario that liberals articulate very often, even if this is what they believe.

It is a legitimate political stance to try to persuade the American electorate to move our country in that direction, although we don’t see the left doing so very often:  as opposed to openly arguing for repeal of the Second Amendment, they usually use stealthy Federal and local legislative, regulatory, and judicial actions to end-run around it.  Fortunately democratic means couldn’t succeed nationally at this point.

The debate about Muslim immigration, or immigration in general, similarly seems devoid of a discussion about trade-offs.  We would like to hear Donald Trump state, Of course in principle I don’t like the idea of banning an entire group [Muslims] from visiting or immigrating to the U.S.  Such a ban would certainly affect some innocent people who don’t intend to harm the country.  However, we are in a time of war, so we need to accept this trade-off in order to reduce the number of Muslim terrorists we admit.  We presume that Trump feels this way—and he has implied an understanding of the trade-off in his call to pause Muslim immigration until we “can figure out what’s going on”—but it would be nice for him to make it explicit.

Similarly, it would be nice if President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or other liberals made explicit their own views of a trade-off.  The U.S. is the most multicultural, open country in the world.  I want to accept more Muslim immigrants, and in fact all types of immigrants, because they make America better.  I acknowledge that, in so doing, we might inadvertently admit some people who will go on to commit terrorist attacks, but a few hundred or a few thousand dead Americans is a reasonable price to pay for the vibrancy that immigrants contribute to our society.  We have little doubt that Obama, Clinton, and most of the cosmopolitan left, including the mainstream media, feel this way.  (Though even this may be a charitable portrayal of their views:  the hard left, like President Obama, has demonstrated that it thinks that traditional American culture is an anachronism that should be replaced by a culture that is more collectivist, authoritarian, and brown.)

A sympathetic article, “What Obama Actually Thinks about Radical Islam,” by Jeffrey Goldberg (h/t James Taranto) seems to serve as a rare reveal of Obama’s view:

Obama believes that the clash is taking place within a single civilization, and that Americans are sometimes collateral damage in this fight between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists.

Taranto rightly expresses puzzlement at the phrase “collateral damage” as it relates to Americans being killed in a “fight between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists.”  One way to reconcile this apparent misreading of the current state of the world—there doesn’t seem to be much of a “fight” pitting Muslim modernizers against Muslim fundamentalists, especially on American soil—is to speculate that Goldberg misinterpreted Obama’s statement.

Obama possibly seems himself as the “Muslim modernizer”; inasmuch as he is not actually a Muslim, he could be fairly called a “‘Muslimist‘ modernizer,” to use Steve Sailer’s term.  Obama may not identify precisely as a Muslim, but he was raised in a Muslim environment and considers himself an enlightened exponent of the Muslim faith (as does Hillary Clinton).

Goldberg posits that “Obama sees the problems affecting parts of the Muslim world as largely outside American control,” though he cites the president asserting that the way we address Muslims around the world talking about the problem of radical Islam—including his infamous refusal to label the motivations of terrorism as such—plays an important role in addressing it.  And Obama has strongly condemned Trump’s call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to the U.S. while increasing admission of people who claim to be Syrian refugees.  Obama probably sees himself as playing a righteous, central role as a “Muslim modernizer,” by importing more Muslims to the U.S., by his imposition of political correctness on all government discussions of terrorism, and by the virtue-signaling language he insists on using to assert solidarity with Islam.  If these accommodations carry some costs, then it’s worth it.

So, if Goldberg is accurately portraying What Obama Actually Thinks about Radical Islam, then it appears that what Obama is really saying is, The United States can play a role in the clash between Muslim modernizers and Muslim fundamentalists, by, among other things, welcoming Muslim immigrants to the U.S.  A few dead Americans as collateral damage is a price that I am willing to pay to promote Muslim modernization.   Such a viewpoint would fall within the bounds of legitimate debate within our political system—as taking sides in any war involves the conscious sacrifice of American lives—though we assume that vast majority of Americans would vehemently disagree with it and would redeem their disagreement through all democratic mechanisms available.  Let’s have the debate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Liberals don’t acknowledge trade-offs

The left almost never acknowledges the trade-offs associated with the policies it advocates.  Its ongoing attempt to raise minimum wage is the latest example.

It would be nice if liberal politicians or pundits said, We understand that raising the minimum wage always reduces employment, but we are willing to make that trade-off in favor of a higher standard of living for those who keep their jobs.  Instead, the left usually denies the existence of any trade-off (a New York Times editorial in favor of California’s recent law gradually raising the statewide minimum wage to $15 per hour sort of acknowledged some associated costs, but tried to explain them away via economic bunk) or resorts to demagogic attacks against the more productive.

Similarly, you almost never hear liberals make arguments like these:

  • We understand that raising income taxes reduces economic growth, but we are willing to make that trade-off to redistribute resources to government services that benefit some subset of the population in the short-term.
  • We understand that Obamacare will result in healthy people, and taxpayers, paying more for inferior health insurance, but we are willing to make that trade-off so that everyone will have some minimal level of health care coverage.
  • We understand that tariffs and other protectionist measures hurt consumers and overall economic growth, but we are willing to make that trade-off to protect certain workers who have good jobs.  (This stance has become more bipartisan lately.)
  • We understand that carbon taxes, regulations that shutter businesses, and other mechanisms that we propose to reduce the effects of “climate change” will seriously harm the economy and jobs, but we are willing to make that trade-off to prevent more catastrophic consequences–which would result in much lower levels of economic activity and human welfare—in the future.

These are legitimate philosophical positions to take and defend in a democracy, and they might win the day in today’s America.  But it is a striking feature of our culture in the last half-century or so that debate is rarely cast on these terms.

Why don’t liberals mention trade-offs?  One factor is that they think that such arguments are too sophisticated and would make it more difficult to sell their policies; it’s much easier to promise everyone a free lunch.  In some cases, they probably don’t understand that a trade-off exists in the first place (most liberals lack appreciation of basic free-market principles).  In others, they don’t see the trade-off as a cost at all:  when it comes to “climate change,” the massive reduction of industry, redistribution of resources from innovative capitalist societies to retrograde third-world countries, and the creation of supranational bureaucracies to centrally plan the economy are features, not bugs.

The essential problem is that the left has universalized its ideology that government is the solution to all problems.  Whenever there is any unintended consequence—and the consequences are almost always unintended, because the left’s first principles simply don’t understand that their good intentions have costs—they can simply enact another government program to solve the problem.

 

 

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Government programs are like prescription drugs

Kudos to an excellent column by Glenn Reynolds linking the growth of government—and what he calls the “web” of patronage that radiates from it—to the decline of civilizations.  We have always believed that the only way to really counter government corruption, at least in a Western society that values individual liberty, is to reduce the scope of government.  Wouldn’t it be nice if most companies simply didn’t see the need to hire lobbyists, or pay bribes, because there weren’t that many areas in which the state would be inclined to interfere in their businesses?  Wouldn’t it be nice if the only way that a government bureaucrat could steal were to raid the petty cash box, as opposed to misappropriating funds via the countless overlapping, unaccountable ways that the government spends our money?

Most government programs are enacted largely to mitigate the effects of other government programs.  In turn, each program has its own constituents who know how to work the system to keep their goodies.  Liberals like to think of complex legislation, like Obamacare, as a piece of exquisitely-engineered and finely-tuned machinery, with savvy operators balancing the various mechanisms and behavioral responses to achieve their desired ends.  (Actually they think of the whole economy this way.)

In the case of Obamacare, much of the purported problem that it was intended to solve—that many Americans do not consume enough health care—largely came about due to government programs, such as the tax treatment of employer-provided health insurance and the hyper-regulation of the health care and insurance industries, which create all kinds of distortions in the market such as de-linking supply and demand for health care.  Beginning with the premise of making health insurance mandatory, then subsidizing it, the law includes hundreds of provisions to mitigate the iterative incentives and distortions layered upon one another in pursuit of these objectives.

We are reminded of a relative who takes around 15 prescription drugs each week.  Two of them are supposed to treat certain diagnosed ailments, and the other 13 are to counteract the side-effects of those two and among themselves.

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The Hastert case seems like a series of injustices

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) received a 15-month sentence in Federal prison for sexual abuse of a young man.  No, it was for laundering excessive amounts of ill-gotten cash.  No, actually, it was merely for “illegally structuring” bank withdrawals to avoid breaching limits that would have required his bank to report the activity to the government.

Note that Hastert is guilty of “illegally structuring” withdrawals, not deposits.  There are laws governing reporting of deposits, to protect against money laundering and tax evasion, which arguably serve a legitimate public policy purpose.  But in this case, Hastert was dealing with his own money.  There was not necessarily anything illegal about what he was doing with the funds; it’s unclear whether he was a blackmail victim, and we don’t expect the Feds to investigate that.

It’s outrageous that there are laws on the books that impose conditions on withdrawing one’s own money, and perhaps even more outrageous that there are laws on the books that criminalize “structuring” withdrawals to avoid running afoul of the underlying laws that are ridiculous to begin with.

Moreover, Hastert must now register as a sex offender, even though he was not convicted of any sexually-based offense.  He presumably agreed to register, as well as to receive some sort of “sex offender treatment,” as part of a plea agreement, but it strikes us as inappropriate that the judge in the case proclaimed, “The defendant is a serial child molester.”

We will insert the compulsory “we don’t condone the sexual abuse of which Hastert is accused, and if he did it, he deserves to be punished.”  Regardless, we consider it a miscarriage of justice that the government can use the threat of long jail time under preposterous financial laws to coerce a defendant to admit conduct that they couldn’t prosecute because of statutes of limitations, and then, as a bonus, the judge can pontificate from the bench on matters not tried.

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Restricting Muslim immigration is impractical, harms freedom, and is legally dubious, and therefore not worthy of considering even if it improves our safety. Restricting gun ownership, on the other hand. . .

All right-thinking people seem to think that, even if it were practical, banning Muslims from visiting the United States would be at best an ineffective overreaction and at worst, a violation of human rights and abdication of America’s standing as a beacon of liberty in the world.

We—and Donald Trump—concede that banning all foreign Muslims would ensnare some innocent people who only want to visit the U.S. and have no terrorist sympathies at all.  But we are apparently not allowed to consider such trade-offs in debating how best to promote Americans’ safety when it comes to deciding which foreigners to allow the privilege of entering the country.

Meanwhile, President Obama has gone ahead in unveiling various actions to restrict Americans’ access to guns.  “We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people,” the President said, while claiming to support the Second Amendment.  “Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown.”

We understand there are some constraints on our [sic] freedom in order to protect innocent people.  Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — those rights were stripped from Americans serving their country at Fort Hood and in Chattanooga , police officers serving their communities in Philadelphia and New York, and innocent civilians attending a holiday party in San Bernardino, the president did not say.

Banning foreign Muslims from entering the U.S. would create unforeseen problems in our foreign policy, would be difficult to implement, and might entail some legal challenges—so we should not even think about how to overcome these barriers.

Obama’s executive actions on gun control would “present new and unforeseen enforcement problems,” “create untold logistical . . . difficulties,” and be “subject to legal challenge,” according to a White House staffer.  But it’s worth it.

Banning foreign Muslims from the U.S. enjoys majority support in polls, but that is not reason to consider it, according to mainstream media editorialists (most of whom supported the president’s proposals on guns).  According to the Washington Post, majority support is a good reason for Obama to act:  “Obama said gun owners would support his new restrictions. He was right.”

Banning Muslims from entering the U.S. would affect some innocent people, who just want to enjoy their vague “right” to visit the U.S. and are no threat to our safety.  Making it harder to purchase a firearm would affect mostly innocent people, who just want to enjoy their constitutionally-protected right to own a gun and are no threat to our safety.

So are we to conclude that personal freedom, implementation challenges, and public opinion are relevant factors in considering measures to improve public safety only when it comes to some issues?

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