Prison Reform

One of the under discussed topics floating around Washington is prison reform, which has the support of President Trump. His son-in-law has been quietly whipping support for a bill backed by the White House. Trump’s photo-op with Kim Kardashian was part of the effort to get Democrat support for the bill. The point of the reform plan is to put more money into training and counseling for inmates, in an effort to reduce recidivism and decrease the prison population. America has 2.2 million prisoners which is the highest in the world.

Prison reform in America is a loser of an issue, mostly because all previous prison reform efforts have been nothing more than opening up the jails, so blacks could run wild in the streets. Even if you are not old enough to remember the crime wave of the 1970’s, the “soft on crime, bleeding heart liberal” is a stock figure in pop culture. As a result, whites are solidly against anything with the name “prison reform” in it. That’s why you never see blacks on TV making demands for prison reform. Their handlers have no interest in it.

Republicans in the House and Senate are in no hurry to pass anything. Even the open borders fanatics, who want to fill your neighborhood with criminal aliens and MS-13 gang-bangers, are not in a hurry to pass anything. Instead, they are doing the “comprehensive reform” dance, which is how politicians manage to do nothing, while endlessly talking about the need to do something. That means the odds of something getting done in the near term is not good, even if Trump is behind the effort. It’s bad politics right now.

That does not mean the status quo is workable. We have roughly 2.2 million people in jail at anyone moment. There are roughly 4.7 million people on parole, house arrest and court supervision. In a country of 300 million, that’s not a huge number, but seven million people is more than the population of Paraguay. It’s close to twice the population of Ireland. There are 125 countries with less than seven million residents. One reason we have so many people in jail is it is a lot easier to manage criminals in jail than when they are on parole.

Of course, the prison population is about 40% black. That means about about 2.5% of black people are in jail at any one time. Another 5% are under court supervision of some sort. As has been pointed out for decades, eliminate black crime and America is suddenly as docile as any other Western nation. That brings us back to the politics of prison reform, as everyone knows the stats on black crime. Since addressing the realities of the black population in America is forbidden, we maintain a massive human warehousing system.

The looming problem is demographics. In the 1990’s, getting tough on crime mostly meant longer sentences for smaller crimes. The “broken windows” approach to policing is mostly mythology, but getting crime under control does have a real impact. It works the same way the death penalty worked to pacify Europe. By handing out long jail sentences, cities like New York culled the herd, so to speak. Eventually though, the people sent away for 20 years get out on parole or served their time. What happens to them at that point?

A useful example, although not representative, is Joseph Konopka, who went by the name Dr. Chaos in his criminal career. He recruited a groups of young people he called The Realm of Ch@os, who committed acts of terrorism and vandalism in Wisconsin and Illinois. Konopka was arrested plotting a mass cyanide attack on the Chicago transit system. He is serving a 20-year sentence at ADX Florence. He will be released, having served all of his sentence, in August of next year. How is that going to work out?

For those unfamiliar, ADX Florence is a prison for the worst the system has to offer. It is called a “supermax” prison, but the inmates call it the Alcatraz of the Rockies. It holds people like Larry Hoover of the Gangster Disciples, Barry Mills and Tyler Bingham of the Aryan Brotherhood. They also have Zacarias Moussaoui, Faisal Shahzad, Ramzi Yousef, Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph. In other words, when Konopka comes out, he will have spent 20 years living with some of the most dangerous and depraved men on earth.

This is an extreme example, but illustrative of the problem facing modern America. The solution to crime was to lock people up, which made sense at the time, but no one thought much about what those prisons would produce in 20-30 years. Granted, many men coming out of the system are going to be old, but they will still be useless, as the prison did nothing to ready them for life after jail. There’s zero chance the social justice warriors running FaceBook or Starbucks will be hiring Joseph Konopka upon his release.

The right answer, of course, is to start accepting reality about the last 70 years of social reform that started after WW2. Crime spiraled upward when the constraints on non-whites were removed and diversity was imposed on whites. Steve Sailer famously used Katrina and the subsequent collapse of New Orleans to illustrate this biological reality. Black crime would be half of what it is today, most of which is against other blacks, if whites were willing to reimpose the sorts of cultural  restraints common before Civil Rights.

That said, the diversity horse has left the barn. By turning America into a majority-minority nation, the ruling class of the last half century has condemned future generations to endemic crime problems like you see in Brazil. One solution to this is the return of penal colonies and criminal reservations. The people serving life terms should be housed on remote islands where they can live out their lives, without causing harm to other prisoners and prison guards. It is the alternative to the enthusiastic use of the death penalty.

Penal colonies would also mean a shift in sentencing. A guy like Joseph Konopka would not get 20 years. Instead, he would get life in the colony. In fact, a fair chunk of the 2.2 million currently in jail would get sent to the penal colonies. There’s simply no point in pretending that a man can come out after 30 years in a gladiator academy and be a normal person in society. There’s no point in pretending the rest of us wish to invest in the effort, even assuming it is possible. Penal colonies humanely address this problem.

The Reality Gap

Way back in the olden thymes, a popular gag was to comment about the Soviet media’s disconnect from observable reality. Every schoolboy learned that the name of the main party newspaper, Pravda, meant “truth” in Russian. Unlike America, with its free-wheeling adversarial press, the Soviets had one newspaper that published the official truth. It’s right out of Orwell! It was all mostly nonsense, of course, but it was a useful bit of propaganda that served the interests of the liberal American media, as well as the Cold Warriors.

My school library had copies of the English version of communist publications. I no longer recall if Pravda was one of them, but there were others from Soviet Block countries, along with publications form Western communist organizations, like the Daily Worker and Mother Jones. I used to enjoy reading these, especially the news articles, because it was like experiencing an alternate reality. Even allowing for the gross bias of the New York Times, something obvious in the 80’s, the commie rags were hilariously delusional.

As a result, I’ve often thought that there should be an index that measures the distance between a society’s official dogma, its acceptable truths, and observable reality. Every human society has its pretty lies, of course. This is the grease that keeps the gears moving. There are also the things everyone knows are true, but everyone agrees to not discuss. Then there is the official dogma, the prevailing orthodoxy, that exists because the people in charge demand that it exist. This is where we see the reality gap.

In the case of the Soviets, they often made claims about their material prosperity, relative to the West, that were plainly nonsense, even to the people of the Soviet Union. These were less obviously false in the 1950’s, as Europe dug out from the war and Stalin forced modernization on his country. The gap grew larger after Stalin, as the West slowly passed the Soviets in material prosperity. By the 1980’s, the gap between East and West was so large it was a punchline in the West, but the Soviets still insisted otherwise.

You can see this gap on a smaller scale in cities like Newark and Baltimore. While in Newark, I looked up the local politicians, expecting the usual suspects. The funny part was the talk about the city, as if everything is coming together and the boom years are just around the corner. The pols in Baltimore talk the same way. They will claim that young people are flocking to the city, when in reality the place loses population every year. In fact, the worse things get, the more they talk about how the city is turning the corner.

The question that naturally arises is whether necessity drives this growing gap between reality and orthodoxy or does delusion drive the decline? In business, management will address falling sales with more marketing, not accepting that it is their poor management and poor products. The marketing efforts will exacerbate the decline, as the gap between the promise and reality grows. On the other hand, maybe lying is the last resort, when there’s simply no way to address the true causes of the decline. Maybe it is both.

The other question is at what point does the gap between reality and official orthodoxy get so wide that the strain collapses the orthodoxy. In the case of the Soviet Union, it was not a bloody revolution or violent civil war that ended the system. It was mostly the fact that the system had grown so absurd, not even the people in charge could accept it. This may be what is driving the North Koreans to strike a deal with Trump. Kim Jong Un spent a lot of time in the West. His close circle travels abroad. They know their system is absurd.

The challenge, of course, is quantifying this gap between official orthodoxy and observable reality. For example, is the reality gap in America today bigger than the gap was in 1980’s Russia? We’re required to pretend there are 57 genders, which seems a click more nutty than pretending the Lada was a nice car. There has never been a time or place where humans came in more than two sexes. Cars have been of varying quality since the dawn of the automobile. The Lada was crap, but it beat walking.

Does it matter if lots of people are willing to believe the nonsense? Today, lots of liberal women buy into the unlimited gender stuff. In fact, it is quite remarkable just how fast so many people in modern America are willing to accept the latest crazy. For there to be a reality gap, the public has to know it exists. No one in the Soviet Union thought the Lada was a good car. You were even allowed to complain about the poor state of consumer goods, just as long as you kept it to a minimum. It was the foundation of Soviet humor.

All that said, it seems that a society can tolerate only so large a gap between reality and its official truth. Whether or not we are reaching some sort of breaking point is probably impossible to know. A year ago, no one imagined the North Koreans offering to make peace. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, no one saw it coming. Maybe people just get used to the disconnect until one day, the number of people who notice it reaches a critical mass. Then like a precipitate falling out of solution, the whole things collapses.

The Wages Of Parasites

According to this story in the Wall Street Journal, Sears is on the verge of finally going out of business. For people under the age of forty, this is a meaningless event, as Sears has not been a part of the public consciousness for decades. For those old enough to remember, the early 1990’s was the last time Sears was an anchor store at malls and shopping centers. I think the last time I had a reason to shop at Sears was at the old Natick Mall in the 1990’s. I think I bought a kitchen item, but I no longer recall exactly.

The conventional telling of these stories says that the big retail stores were killed by some combination of Amazon and the internet. That’s mostly just myth-making as companies like Sears were struggling when Amazon was still just a river in Brazil. The big box store, as they came to be called, was always a bad idea that started to show signs of weakness in the 80’s. The logic of this type of retail is a race to the bottom, where margins are maintained by stripping out the value that is implicit in the local retail store concept.

Think of it this way. The local retailer does more than sell stuff. In practice, he stocks the things popular with his community and offers customer service to help his neighbors get the best product for their needs. He’s also going to sponsor the local little league teams and participate in the community. Big retail takes the social capital and the customer service and turns that into a quick profit for the chain store, by cutting prices at the retail side and purchasing power on the supply side. It’s a form of economic piracy.

This model works fine until all of the local competition is gone. At that point it is a battle of soulless wholesalers operating out of warehouse style facilities. The only competition between a Sears and a K-Mart, another defunct chain, was price and location. One thing that is certain about a race to the bottom is that everyone eventually reaches the finish line and for big retail that has meant bankruptcy. You see this with Amazon. Their retailing arm is the marketing expense for their media and technology services now.

This is why conservatives used to be skeptical of capitalism. They correctly saw the reality of large scale retail. It was not that the big retailer was better at selling product or provided a better service. In fact, it has always been the obvious. If you go to your local Home Depot, for example, you are unlikely to get any help from the staff, unless you tackle one of them in the aisle. Even then, the quality of service is so poor, you are better off not asking for help. Big retail turns customer service into a net negative.

Big retail operates as a parasite through false economy. It’s a form of cost shifting, where the loss of social capital and customer service is pushed into the distance, while the cheap prices are in the present. The Old Right understood the corrosive nature of this form of retail and opposed it. Today, everyone laments the loss of local retail and the town shopping district. We’re told it is the result of Amazon being a better choice, but in reality the cause is the willingness of our leaders to auction off our social capital.

Another example of this is the local industrial supply store. Electrical wholesale, welding supplies, HVAC wholesalers and other business that served the trades used to be locally owned family businesses. They were never wildly profitable, but they provided a nice living as a family business. Fred’s Welding Supply would sponsor a little league team, while Fred participated in the community and sent his kids to the local schools. Sometimes one guy would own a couple of stores if his town or city was big enough to support it.

Today, these businesses have been bought up by investment firms powered by credit money from investors. An investment firm gets set up and they bankroll one bigger player as he buys up all of the competitors. The “economies of scale” are that the owners are removed, the accounting and sales staff is centralized and the social capital is carted off to the investors as profit. The customers may get a small break in price, but usually the only thing they notice is the staff now treat them like strangers, rather than neighbors.

Libertarians and “conservatives” will read this and reflexively start chirping about free markets and invisible hands, but there is a reason they are now a punchline. That’s because these are ideologies, if you want to be generous and elevate them to ideologies, that make all the same assumptions about humanity as the Marxists. That is, they see man as the ultimate consumer, a beast that devours his environment, in the same way a plague of locusts wipes out a field. Whittaker Chambers explained this 60 years ago.

Tragedy is bypassed by the pursuit of happiness. Tragedy is henceforth pointless. Henceforth man’s fate, without God, is up to him, and to him alone. His happiness, in strict materialist terms, lies with his own workaday hands and ingenious brain. His happiness becomes, in Miss Rand’s words, “the moral purpose of his life.” Here occurs a little rub whose effects are just as observable in a free enterprise system, which is in practice materialist (whatever else it claims or supposes itself to be), as they would be under an atheist Socialism, if one were ever to deliver that material abundance that all promise. The rub is that the pursuit of happiness, as an end in itself, tends automatically, and widely, to be replaced by the pursuit of pleasure, with a consequent general softening of the fibers of will, intelligence, spirit. No doubt, Miss Rand has brooded upon that little rub. Hence, in part, I presume, her insistence on “man as a heroic being” “with productive achievement as his noblest activity.” For, if Man’s “heroism” (some will prefer to say: “human dignity”) no longer derives from God, or is not a function of that godless integrity which was a root of Nietzsche’s anguish, then Man becomes merely the most consuming of animals, with glut as the condition of his happiness and its replenishment his foremost activity. So Randian Man, at least in his ruling caste, has to be held “heroic” in order not to be beastly. And this, of course, suits the author’s economics and the politics that must arise from them.

A life with no other purpose than to work and consume is actually lower than beastly, because the beast in the field only eats to live. It does not live to eat. Like all living things, it lives to make more copies of itself. For man, possessed of a self-awareness and the capacity to remake his environment, the purpose of life expands to the celebration of life by not only reproducing but leaving a cultural legacy for the next generation. The point of life is for old men to plant trees in whose shade they will never stand.

The auctioning off of our social capital has corresponded with the startling spike in suicide rates. Cosmopolitan globalism and the transactional consumerism that drives it, strips people of their humanity. Like drug addicts, they no longer have the capacity to experience the normal pleasures. The heroin addict is always faced with the choice. Give up the junk and became whole again or take the easy way out. That’s what faces the people of the modern West. The choice is revolt against modernity or amuse ourselves to death.


An Empire of Midgets

Way back in the olden thymes, conservatives in Washington would argue with liberals about the realities of Federal spending and regulation. Liberals argued that if you spent more, people had more, while conservatives would point out that the money had to come from someone, as the government had no money, other than what it taxed. Similarly, when Washington put rules on business, conservatives argued, businesses would figure out ways around them, often making things worse than if there were no regulations.

While it was all for show, there was an important truth in the critique of liberals by conservatives. Not only are there trade-offs to all government policy, every change sets off a series of reactions to those changes. Pass a regulation and the mere act of passing it, changes the conditions you’re attempting to regulate. As business people will tell you, even observing or measuring something can change people’s conduct. People act different when they are watched. Liberals have never understood this basic truth.

The “war on hate” being waged by the Left is another one of those times where their extreme simple-mindedness is undermining the alleged point of their efforts. The lawsuit against Andrew Anglin by the terrorist groups SPLC has no basis in law, but it goes forward anyway. Similarly, the lawsuit by billionaire lesbian, Roberta Kaplan, against the Unite the Right people is another effort to pervert the law. These cases are nonsense and the lawyers should be censured. They undermine the rule of law by making it arbitrary.

That’s the theme of all of the Left’s recent efforts to shut down their critics. Take a look at the women claiming to have been “sexually assaulted” by famous men. In some cases, rare cases, the facts support the charge. In most cases, the facts suggest boorish behavior common to men since the dawn of time. In other words, the very meaning of the words used to govern male-female relations are losing their meaning. Instead of appeals to reason, these cases turn on appeals to mob rule played out in the media.

You see the same thing playing out in the workplace. That poor Starbucks employee who called the cops on two troublemakers lost his job and had to worry about his safety, for following the rules. These bakery employees are also fired because they did the prudent thing and refused to open up the shop after closing. Unbeknownst to them, there was an unwritten rule regarding blacks in the store’s polices. If they had opened the store and the black had robbed the place, they would have been fired for that too.

In the quest for social justice, the Left is obliterating all of the rules, even the rules that govern the language. Instead of having objective standards like an employee handbook or the courts, the rules are arbitrary and in a state of flux. In the short term, this works for them because the final arbiters are people from the cult. Corporate elites and the legal system are brimming with Progressive loons. The normal people who are the victims have yet to figure it out, so they keep acting as if the rules still apply as written.

This is, of course, an inevitable result of proportionalism. This is where the costs of violating laws and principles are weighed against the perceived benefits from violating those laws and principles. For instance, legal discrimination is wrong as a principle, but quotas and set asides allegedly have benefits that are too valuable to pass up, so the elite demands active racism in hiring. It is the belief that the smart people in charge can extract all the benefits of taking shortcuts, without suffering any consequences for it.

This depends on everyone else not changing their behavior when the rules no longer have meaning. That’s obviously not happening. The rise of white identity politics is the direct result of this growing awareness. Whites are slowly figuring out that the prohibitions against identity politics only apply to them, so they are joining the party. Steve Sailer’s famous war on noticing only works if people don’t notice. Once they do, then it becomes completely counter-productive. Political correctness is now driving white identity politics.

What the Left is doing with their lurch into lawlessness is destroying the conditions that make it possible for them to dominate. The short term benefit of having angry broads rampaging through the corporate suites has the long term cost of undermining everyone’s respect for the rules. The same is true of lawfare projects. Their success undermines the public’s respect for the law. The Left has been able to dominate because they slyly played by one set of rules, while everyone was encouraged to play by a another set of rules.

It’s funny in a way. The managerial class has embraced multiculturalism as a religion, while claiming to have advanced beyond the “rule by man” sorts of governance that have been the rule since forever. Yet, in order to make multiculturalism work, the managerial class has to transform itself into the bureaucratic elite of every empire that existed on earth. That is, in order to keep all the tribes, cults and clans from killing one another, the people in charge have to administer ad hoc rules and arbitrary justice to keep the peace.

The trouble with this is the empire had the authority of the emperor and usually an aristocratic class. Even today, it is hard not to be impressed by the image of a Roman Emperor or French monarch. When the guys making stuff up as they go along live in castles and have a retinue of cool looking knights, it’s easy to go along with the arbitrariness. When the people in charge have the majesty of a postal clerk, even the lowest orders think they can do better. Ours is becoming an empire ruled by midgets.

Celebrity Experts

A few years ago Greg Cochran pointed out that western economists had been very wrong about the economic condition of the Soviet block countries. Paul Krugman had claimed that the East German economy was 80% of the West German economy. When the wall fell, what was revealed was a backward economy with environmental devastation and low quality consumer goods. All of this was obvious from the outside. All you had to do was take a look at the cars, which were a joke compared to the cheapest western cars.

The reason western economists were so laughably wrong about the Soviet economy is that it was worth their while to be wrong. The Left side of the ruling class wanted to believe the commies were doing well. They owned the media and the academy, so it is not hard to figure out the rest. That, of course, calls into the question the integrity of the field, but in reality they just believed what was convenient. Even PhD’s can delude themselves if it has social value. You see that in this post by celebrity economist Tyler Cowen.

Will Ethiopia become “the China of Africa”? The question often comes up in an economic context: Ethiopia’s growth rate is expected to be 8.5 percent this year, topping China’s projected 6.5 percent. Over the past decade, Ethiopia has averaged about 10 percent growth. Behind those flashy numbers, however, is an undervalued common feature: Both countries feel secure about their pasts and have a definite vision for their futures. Both countries believe that they are destined to be great.

Consider China first. The nation-state, as we know it today, has existed for several thousand years with some form of basic continuity. Most Chinese identify with the historical kingdoms and dynasties they study in school, and the tomb of Confucius in Qufu is a leading tourist attraction. Visitors go there to pay homage to a founder of the China they know.

This early history meant China was well-positioned to quickly build a modern and effective nation-state, once the introduction of post-Mao reforms boosted gross domestic product. That led to rapid gains in infrastructure and education, and paved the way for China to become one of the world’s two biggest economies. Along the way, the Chinese held to a strong vision that it deserved to be a great nation once again.

My visit to Ethiopia keeps reminding me of this basic picture. Ethiopia also had a relatively mature nation-state quite early, with the Aksumite Kingdom dating from the first century A.D. Subsequent regimes, through medieval times and beyond, exercised a fair amount of power. Most important, today’s Ethiopians see their country as a direct extension of these earlier political units. Some influential Ethiopians will claim to trace their lineage all the way to King Solomon of biblical times.

Cowen is either trying hard to please the Ethiopian economic and cultural ministers or he has spent too much time in the sun. The reason Ethiopia has seen growth rates tick up is the Chinese, and to a lesser degree India, have been investing. The reason they are investing is both are competing for control of the the Indian Ocean. In fact, the Chinese have invested in other East African countries, including a naval base in Djibouti. That’s why China and Indian are investing in East Africa. It’s a modern form of colonialism.

Further, comparing China and Ethiopia, at the civilization level, is a bit ridiculous. China is basically one people, the Han, with minority populations around the fringes. This has been true for a very long time. Ethiopia is a combination of pastoral and settled people, who see one another as rivals. The country is experiencing civil unrest, bordering on civil war, in response to the ruling Oromo minority. China has never had this issue. China also has an average IQ over 100, while Ethiopia is one of the lowest on earth, estimated below 70.

Now, economists are easy targets, because the profession has evolved into something similar to the celebrity chef racket. There’s not a lot of money in making good food and running a quality restaurant. There’s big money in being an entertaining chef with a TV show on cable television. Something similar has happened to economics. You don’t actually have to be very good at economics to get a spot in the commentariat. You just have to sing the praises of the managerial class and play the professorial role well.

Even so, it takes special talent to be this wrong about observable reality. Cowen’s trick, like most celebrity experts, is to couch his obsequiousness and nutty ideas in the form of a question. “Is Ethiopia the next China?” This way, when called on it, he can pretend it was just an intellectual exercise, a thought experiment. Meanwhile, he appears to be lending his authority to the rather ridiculous notion that Ethiopia is poised to be the next boom town. It is no wonder that so many in the managerial class are so vapid and silly.

It is tempting to dismiss this, but the proliferation of celebrity experts says something about the nature of managerialism. It has evolved a class of people that are luxury goods. They have no utility, other than to make the people inside feel special. The TED Talk is a great example. Cloud People pay to be told by a celebrity expert that their lives have purpose and they are on the side of angels. It’s not explicit, but the point of the expert is always to confirm the beliefs of the audience, rather than broaden their understanding.

If the celebrity expert was just the current version of the court jester, it would probably be harmless, but that’s not the case. The people making public policy have risen through the system, never having been told a discouraging word. They end up having opinions about the world that border on lunacy. The people running the Bush foreign policy really believed they could democratize the Middle East. They still believe this and they probably think East Africa is the next economic boom town. That’s what the experts tell them.

There is an argument that the proliferation of lawyers is responsible for the proliferation of laws. The extra lawyers, looking for a way to make a living, inevitably started to pervert the law to create opportunities for themselves. This results in more cases in court, that means more courts, more judges and then more laws to address the crazy outcomes. It is a bit of chicken and egg theory, but there is no question that having a lawyer for ever conceivable case has changed the nature of the law, as well as the volume of laws.

Something similar seems to be happening in the other parts of the managerial class. The excess of middling strivers, means an excess of mediocre men pitching themselves as experts. Since being an expert is hard, the more fruitful course is to tell the audience what they want to hear. As a result, in the public policy arena, the people charged with actually knowing stuff are surrounded by an amen chorus that cheers their every move. Instead of rule by expert, as some imagine, we have rule by people who never faced adversity.

The Dull Man’s Burden

One of the remarkable things in my time has been the precipitous decline of the so-called conservative movement. Even if you were on the paleocon side of the great fight, you could not help but admire some of the writers and thinkers on the other side. Unlike the Left, which has always tended for preachers, rather than thinkers, the people writing for the Buckleyite and neocon outlets were often quite bright and original. They even permitted a sprinkling of heretics, which made their publications worth reading.

Over the last decade, anyone with the least bit of originality has been purged from their sites. Scan The Weekly Standard or National Review and what’s interesting is how dull it all feels now. It’s like reading the internal newsletter of the postal service. That’s being kind, as these sites often resemble a cargo cult. They hire guys like Ben Shapiro to spin the oldies, hoping they will be magically transported back to 1994. If you are engaged in this world from the Right, there is no reason to read these publications. They offer nothing.

This post before the holiday by Jonah Goldberg is good example. Goldberg now plays the role of “senior fellow” for Conservative Inc., so he gets the job of dong the theoretical stuff for National Review. He’s their man of ideas now. Goldberg made his career as a snarky Gen-X jokester, making conservatism sound fresh. Of course, the implication was that the Left was correct about conservatives being humorless stuffed shirts. Shecky Goldberg’s quest was to make conservatism fit for the Catskills. Now, he is their big ideas man.

I understand very well that conservatives often bristle at the idea they need to change with the times. As the famous line from (the far from famous) Lucius Cary, 2nd Viscount Falkland, goes, “where it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.”

But we forget that the conservative movement’s strength came from the fact that it was armed with new arguments from diverse intellectual sources. More important, its vigor stemmed from the fact that these various strains of conservatives were eager to argue among themselves. There are arguments aplenty on the right these days, but the vast majority of them are arguments over a specific personality — Donald Trump — not a body of ideas. And to the extent that there are arguments about ideas, they tend to be subsumed into the larger imperative to attack or defend Trump.

This is from a guy who repeatedly said that large chunks of observable reality are “morally repugnant” and therefore off-limits. It’s a bit tough to have “new arguments from diverse intellectual sources.” when the prevailing assumption is that those ideas and sources are outside what is morally acceptable. Of course, whatever it once was, mainstream conservatism is a no longer a vigorous debate about moral and political philosophy. It is merely a shopping list of talking points acceptable in the managerial elite.

Even in the mundane areas of public policy, the so-called conservatives are startlingly obtuse in their observations. Trump’s diplomacy in Asia, for example, is a genuine sea-change in American policy. He has craftily linked North Korea’s behavior to US trade relations with China. He is making the master responsible for the servant. This is actually resulting in real progress on a half century problem. Yet, the experts of Conservative Inc. remain baffled by what’s happening.They still think North Korea is a Soviet client.

The great Eric Hoffer observed that the difference between a movement and a practical organization lies in the goals of the members. In a political movement, the people joining do so to attain a political goal, something that is bigger than themselves. In a practical organization, people join out of self-interest. They act in order to advance up the ranks of the organization. A rat like Dinesh D’Souza was willing to be a neocon assassin, because he thought it was a good career move. The organization man is not a man who dreams.

That’s been the case with the conservatives for a long time now. The pioneers may have been motivated by ideological zeal, but they built practical organizations. Buckley-style conservatism, by the 1980’s, had become a lucrative career path for the man good with his letters and careful to never color outside the lines. More important, the organization was positioned within the managerial class, rather than opposed to it. An obsequious writer could work for both National Review and a liberal TV network.

Another byproduct of this is the boiling off of anyone with the least bit of creativity. If the in-house intellectual is a vapid airhead with a fetish for 1980’s pop culture references, you are no longer an intellectual movement. The result is a collection of dull and uninteresting people left to figure out how to keep the racket going. That’s the point of Goldberg’s cri de guerre. The old act is no longer pulling in the crowds, so they need a new act with new actors. The trouble is, the dullards left in charge are not up to carrying the burden.

Ben Shapiro

A running debate on this side of the divide is over the utility of guys like Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson and other slightly edgy characters. The claim is that these types of insider critics of the prevailing order are a gateway to more radical thinkers on this side of the divide. A normie starts reading Ben Shapiro or listening to Jordan Peterson, and before long he finds his way to our team. There’s not much in the way of proof of this, just some anecdotes from people who swear that is how they made their journey to the dark side.

The counter argument is that these edgy guys serve as a palace guard, maintaining the line between what is and what is not acceptable. Their job is to make sure that none of the bad think from the outer dark creeps into the thought of the orthodoxy. As a result, they make a big deal out of opposing racism, sexism, antisemitism and homo phobia. The Four Olds figure prominently in their arguments, not as a way to inoculate themselves from the Left, but to make sure no one to their Right is allowed into the debate.

Both claims are right, depending upon the person in question. Take, for example, the Nick Nack of neoconservatism, Ben Shapiro. He’s fond of posting the sort of unhinged rants about the people to his Right, that we generally associate with feminist cat ladies. This should not surprise anyone, as the spiritual distance between a Ben Shapiro and a feminist campus harpy is not very big. He’s just as haunted by the Four Olds as anyone on the Left. He just finds it easier to make a living peddling old CivNat nostrums.

You see that in this post at National Review, where Shapiro appears to be defending bad think, but in reality he is engaged in an act of deception. He does not bother to go into the issues that get a Charles Murray or a Sam Harris in trouble. Instead, he shifts the focus from that to pumping air into his own tires. A few days later, his dear friend Bari Weiss is out promoting the so-called “intellectual dark web” which Ben Shapiro just happens to be part of, along with Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson. Funny coincidence, I’m sure.

Unlike a guy like Peterson or a Sam Harris, Shapiro is just another grifter from Conservative Inc. He’s the edgy band your parents said was OK, hoping you would not start listening to the stuff they thought was dangerous. That’s his utility to the managerial class. Instead of people noticing what happens to our guys when they try to engage in public debate, their eye is focused on how poor Ben Shapiro had to wait a whole hour while the campus police removed a few overwrought students from the auditorium.

That’s why Shapiro will drone on endlessly about how unfair it is that he does not get lucrative speaking gigs on state campuses, but remain stone silent on the endless harassment of Richard Spencer by the Left. Like all of Conservative Inc., he is for free speech that pays him well, but otherwise sides with Antifa against his competition. He’ll never talk about the fact that corporate America is willing to sponsor an Antifa convention in Chicago, but coordinates their efforts to prevent VDare from holding a private gathering.

Even though guys like Shapiro are explicitly opposed to us and are happy to lock arms with the Left against us, some still insist that they serve a purpose. This is true, but not for the reasons they claim. What a guy like Shapiro demonstrates is that there is an unbridgeable gap between the prevailing orthodoxy and the Dissident Right. There’s no middle ground between the blank slate and biological realism. Race is either an invalid social construct or a useful model of biological reality. There’s no middle ground here.

Ultimately, what a guy like Ben Shapiro tries to do is distract people from the real issues, by focusing their attention on the trivial. He starts from the premise that there is a real battle between the Left and some ideological alternative. That battle was over long before anyone reading this was born. The Right in America, for more than half a century, has simply been a modifier, a restraint, on the American Left. Shapiro’s job is to make sure otherwise sensible people never notice this. Otherwise, there will be a revolt.

Now, not all of these guys in the outer belt of the prevailing orthodoxy are members of the palace guard. Jordan Peterson is just an eccentric weirdo who suddenly got famous. He’s probably harmless and he may open doors to our side. A Gavin McInness, who is mostly an incoherent grab bag of cosmopolitan fads and libertarian jabberwocky, is at least willing to engage with our side. Most, however, are there as a barrier. Fundamental to the Dissident Right project is the destruction of Conservative Inc. and the palace guard.

In the Belly of the Beast

On Friday. I went into the lair of the most vile, racist hate filled monsters to ever crawl this earth. That would be The Daily Shoah. When you get around these people, what’s most disconcerting is that they are genuinely nice and honest. Our rulers put so much energy into demonizing dissenters, it is easy to forget that even the most fringe partisans are just decent people with different ideas about the world. Usually, the ideas that come to shape the future start out on the fringe, so it worth engaging with them.

As far as the show itself, it was fun. Mike and Sven are very nice people and extremely generous with guests they have on their show. Unlike the mass media, they don’t see their guests as furniture they can abuse for the amusement of the braying mules in the audience. My only regret is not having used my podcasting setup to do the show. I used my laptop because I could not get Skype working on the other machine. Skype is crappy software and on my laptop the sound quality is terrible, but it came out good enough.

I got a bunch of responses via e-mail. All of them fall into a number of categories. One group wondered why I would go on a show run by anti-Semites, given that I am not an anti-Semite. My view is antisemitism is just an opinion, with the same moral currency as tastes in ice cream. Here’s how I like to explain it. Imagine you move to a new town and learn that one new neighbor is an anti-Semite. Then you learn that another neighbor is a Methamphetamine cooker. Only a liar or a lunatic cares more about the anti-Semite.

More important, the open exchange of ideas and opinions is a base line requirement for a civilized white society. Like any marketplace, the marketplace of ideas does not always produce optimum results. That’s an argument against democracy, not a reason to suppress heretical opinion. In time, bad ideas fail while good ideas eventually succeed, which is the foundation of popular government. That means engaging all comers, as long as they are honest and willing to debate in good faith. It can also be a lot of fun.

Another category of response was to ask why I don’t do more of these things. One main reason is time. My day job, life, the blog and the podcast fill up the dance card. I’m also not a fan of the “blood sports” model that is most popular. Some are OK, but most degenerate quickly into the typical internet purse fight. They should call these things “bum fights” because it’s usually two poorly trained and equipped debaters desperately trying to land a hay-maker. The Daily Shoah format is more to my liking as it fits the medium.

Of course, there were people wondering if Mike Enoch had red-pilled me on the JQ. I’ve come to hate that expression, to be perfectly honest. It implies a soteriological awareness that is only achieved through devotional study. I know the arguments around the JQ as well as anyone can know them. I’ve read the source material and listened to the proselytizers. I’ve done the math. The facts are what they are and there’s no denying Jews wield an enormous amount of influence, in absolute and relative terms.

Where Enoch and I would disagree is in whether or not Jews can be a part of white identity politics. With some exceptions, anti-Semites say no, Jews have their own group and therefore cannot be part of the white group. On the other hand, I would be thrilled if Jews swung our way. Having six million rich smart guys on our side would turn the fight instantly. We’d have a wall on the border that would make Israel envious. Fifty years of multiculturalism would be reversed in no time. The remaining liberals would be in hiding.

In fairness to the anti-Semites, there is zero evidence of this happening. In fact, the most berserk opponents of our remaining liberties are Jewish organization like the ADL and they get zero push back from their fellow tribesman. It is probable that the arrival of alt-Jew will be permanently delayed. I find that disappointing, but I’m used to it. That does not change the essential message, which is that whites in America must come to terms with the realities of being a minority surrounded by hostile minority populations.

This is another area where Mike and I would disagree. If white people in America come to except that they must put their racial interests ahead of all us, in order to contend with the swelling minority populations, the JQ answers itself. Jews either join White Team or join the dark side. Therefore, instead of expending energy on the JQ, a better use of time is to focus on the HQ – Honky Question. There’s a reasonable debate to be had there, which is why it is important for people on our side to have these debates and discussions.

A Vibrant Society

When you live in Lagos on the Chesapeake™, people like to send you stories about the place, as if to be reassured that it is as bad as advertised. I’ve developed the habit of telling people that it is worse than they’ve heard. That’s probably not true, as Baltimore has quite a reputation, but it makes people feel better about it. One of the items sent to me recently was this story about the restaurant closures in Baltimore. So far this year, 24 trendy restaurants have closed, continuing a trend of bad news for the city.

Baltimore has seen another spate of restaurant closures — as consumer habits change and suburbanites find less incentive to dine in the city, according to experts, restaurateurs and consumers.

At least 24 restaurants have closed since January, including Federal Hill stalwart Regi’s American Bistro, Hampden’s popular Corner Restaurant and Charcuterie Bar and Canton’s Fork and Wrench.

Increased vacancy rates for small commercial real estate spaces reflect those closures. Chris LeBarton, a market economist for CoStar Market Analytics, said vacancy rates for spaces up to 3,000 square feet — often home to independent restaurants — rose to 8.1 percent at the end of March, up from 6.8 percent at the end of September, when the city underwent a previous wave of closures. That rate is at its highest since 2010.

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics point toward a trend long in the making. The number of Baltimore’s food and drinking establishments decreased 4.6 percent between 2013 and 2016 — from 1,613 to 1,539. Nationally, the number of establishments increased by 5.7 percent, from 8.9 million in 2013 to 9.4 million in 2016.

Analysts attribute Baltimore restaurant closures to factors including the natural cycles of the industry, millennials’ preference for convenience and value and — more particular to this area — competition in the suburbs and high crime rates that ward off suburbanites.

Downtown Partnership President Kirby Fowler pointed out that restaurants often have a three- to five-year life cycle.

“There might be issues involving the city’s reputation, but it as well could be an explanation of what the restaurant is doing or not doing,” he said of the factors driving local closures. “To open a restaurant is a risky endeavor, but it’s what we all want to happen more and more.”

One of the funny things about life in Lagos is just how many of the locals work hard to avoid noticing the obvious. You see the self-deception is this story. It’s those rotten millennials or the wacky unpredictable nature of the restaurant business. There is an oblique reference to the “city’s reputation” but the bulk of the article is about blaming things that have nothing to do with the problem. They say people see what they want to see, and that is very true, but people can also not see what they don’t want to see too.

On the other hand, it is tempting to blame the crime wave that was unleashed by the Freddie Gray case. The riot was national news, but the subsequent spike in murder has done far more damage to the city’s reputation. That’s most likely not the cause of trouble for the restaurant and entertainment businesses. The real issue is the uptick in black on white crime, particularly in the hipster areas of the city. When a bartender at a trendy restaurant is gunned down in a robbery, white people take note.

There is a phenomenon, that most white people in vibrant areas intuitively understand, but people rarely discuss. That is as vibrancy increases, black-on-white crime escalates. The legendary quantitative blogger La Griffe du Lion showed that the risk whites faces from whites, in terms of crime, is independent of neighborhood size and racial composition. The probability a white is attacked by another white in a given year is the same no matter where he lives. This is true when adjusted for socioeconomic factors, as well.

On the other hand, as the number of blacks increase, the odds of a white being victimized by a black accelerate upward. The reasons are well known now. Blacks are more than three times more likely to commit violent crime than whites and black on white crime is vastly more common that any other inter-racial crime. It turns out that what everyone knows is true. Blacks prefer to target whites when committing crime, especially violent crimes. So as vibrancy increases, white victimization rates accelerate upward.

Again, most people intuitively know this and pick up on the clues from news accounts and conversations with friends. All it takes is a spike in well publicized black on white crime in a tourist area and whites stop going to the tourist area. Of course, this accelerates the trend, as the black-white balance swings to the dark side. It’s why when a neighborhood around here “turns” it tends to do so slowly, then all of a sudden. As La Griffe du Lion noted, the threshold for these things is about 20%. After that begins the run for the exit.

If you look back at the population mix of cities like Baltimore and Detroit, they thrived up to the point where their vibrancy crossed the 25% line. At that point, the infrastructure started to crack under the strain of keeping the vibrancy under control. As the vibrancy spilled into white areas, whites began to flee, the vibrant-to-plain ratio began to quickly tilt to the former and the die was cast. It’s why gentrification only works when the locals are physically removed or they are systematically walled off from the gentrifying areas.

Countries and Nations

In our current age, we just assume that the world is organized into countries. Look at any map and there is no place on earth that is not part of a country. The exceptions are the Arctic and Antarctica. They are governed by a coalition of countries, but they lack more than a sprinkling of people. Otherwise, every bit of the world, that has people, is part of a country. More important, a bedrock assumption of the people who rule over us is that countries are a permanent part of the human condition. Countries are forever.

Nothing is forever, of course, but we can get a sense of how durable the current country model is by looking at some recent examples. The war in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein revealed that Iraq was not a unified country. The big sectarian divisions of Sunni, Shia and Kurdish became a problem as soon as Saddam was toppled. Then, within those larger divisions, there were smaller groups with other loyalties. There are 150 tribes in Iraq and below that are hundreds of clans and thousands of houses. Iraq is a complicated place.

After the fall of Saddam, we learned just how complicated. It turned out that keeping Iraq together required a very strong central government with the ability to balance the various tribes against one another to keep the peace. Even after the US military figured it out and pacified most of the place, the government did not fully control all of the country. The only reason it remains an intact country today is the surrounding countries prevent it from breaking up and the West provides money and material so the government can survive.

The fact is, Iraq is a country only as long as the rest of the countries accept it as a country and help it keep together. If Iran decides it wants to annex part of the country, a part with coreligionists loyal to Iran, there’s not much Iraq can do about it. Joseph Tainter explained this in his book The Collapse of Complex Societies. In the modern age, a society is unlikely to collapse, because of the surrounding countries. like Iraq, a country can go through a very difficult period, but ultimately survive, because there is no other option.

At the other end of the country scale, in terms of internal stability, we have some good recent examples in Eastern Europe. The Visegrád Group, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, have managed to stay together, despite enormous external pressures. Just surviving the Soviet Empire is something close to a miracle, given what happened to Russia proper. Now, under enormous pressure to allow millions of foreign invaders into their countries, they ostentatiously ignore the demands of Europe.

This is not hard to understand. Poland is 98% Polish. They speak Polish in their homes and see themselves as Polish by ethnicity. The tiny minority communities, like the Silesians, have been there for as long as anyone knows. Slovakia is 80% Slovak, with another 9% Hungarian. Again, the minority population has been there forever. The Czech Republic is 95% Czech. These countries are not just arbitrary markings on a map. They are nation-states that share a common language and a common heritage.

The peculiar history of these countries may explain why they have survived as nation-states, but also why they resist the calls for open borders. All of these nation-states have been absorbed by empires, but they have never been on the other end. Poland never tried to conquer Europe. Still, the core reason they have managed to survive through conquest and division is they are nation-states. What this says is that countries can come and go, but the nation-state has permanence. As long as there are people, there will be a Poland.

That brings us to another type of country, the United States. At the founding, calling America a nation-state was a bit of a stretch, but not unreasonable. The overwhelming majority of the people were English and spoke English. There were some Dutch and Indians, with some French sprinkled in, but the only other ethnic group of any consequence were Germans. They were about 10% of the population at the founding and clustered in the midland states, like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.

That’s not the America of today. You can probably just lump in the whites as a single ethnic group, the White American, but we have large numbers of non-whites now. Then you have those old regional cultures that are still lurking in the background, creating new divisions among the newcomers, as the newcomers magnify those divisions. Somalis dumped in Maine are going to change the state in a different way than those dumped into West Virginia. America is looking more like Iraq than the Visegrád nations.

A reasonable person should wonder how long before America starts to have the same troubles as we saw in Iraq. The central government is better organized and more capable than the Iraqi government, but there are limits to everything. The Federal government largely depends on the states voluntarily going along with what the Federal legislature decides is the law. But as we see with California, states are starting to buck this trend, mostly due to their new citizens. California is really not America now, in reality.

This brings us back to Tainter. His conclusion, after reviewing and analyzing why complex societies collapse, is that the modern age has too much inter-dependency for a society to collapse. Every country has deep connections with neighboring countries. Everyone agrees upon the borders and that the country system must be maintained. The thing is though, the primary force behind this is the United States. Without American economic and military might, the country system probably falls apart, at least at the fringes.

That’s not to say America is headed for a collapse or even a crackup. Maybe as the country turns into Brazil demographically, it will avoid becoming Brazil economically and culturally. The bigger question though is when does the internal cost of keep this country together, cut into the resources needed to keep the country system together? At what point does the vibrancy of America make it impossible to keep an Iraq together or a Mexico from dissolving into chaos? Someone should think about that.