The Fallacy of Free Trade

Way back in the 80’s, I used to tell people we would rue the day we let Congress give up its power to manage trade. Tariffs and restrictions have well know costs and they don’t always serve the interest of the people. I read Smith’s analysis of English corn laws and I fully agree that tariffs rarely accomplish their stated goal. The world is richer when countries allow the free flow of goods between them – generally speaking. There are exceptions and they are big exceptions.

That’s the trade-off. Congress gets to play games with trade in exchange for addressing those exceptions. Free trade with Canada, for example, is a no-brainer. The free flow of goods and people between our two countries is good for both of us. Free trade with Mexico, on the other hand, is fraught with problems. Mexico is a failed state run by narcotics traffickers. Here we are all these years later and maybe it is starting to dawn on our rulers that trade is not a set it and forget it thing.

President Barack Obama has called on Congress to grant him fast-track trade authority for his Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement. The administration insists the authority, which would give Congress only an up-or-down vote on the agreement, is needed to get the best possible terms from its trade partners along the Pacific Rim.

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama promised to renegotiate and improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But it now looks like what he really meant is to expand on that flawed trade model and extend it to other countries.

Twenty-one years after NAFTA and four years after Obama’s 2011 U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, there is abundant data documenting how this trade model has been disastrous for most U.S. businesses, farmers and workers.

Since the pacts were implemented, U.S. trade deficits, which drag down economic growth, have soared more than 430 percent with our free-trade partners. In the same period, they’ve declined 11 percent with countries that are not free-trade partners. Since fast-track trade authority was used to pass NAFTA and the U.S. entrance into the World Trade Organization, the overall annual U.S. trade deficit in goods has more than quadrupled, from $218 billion to $912 billion.

The United States now has an annual $177-billion trade deficit in goods with its 20 free-trade partners. Over the past decade, however, U.S. export growth to countries that are not free-trade partners exceeded the growth of free-trade partners by 24 percent.

The trouble has always been cultural. Canada can be relied upon to follow the rules. The Canadian government will police itself and respond to requests from our government when something is amiss. China, on the other hand, is a bandit culture and the Chinese government sees America as an adversary. Naturally, they cheat on every deal. Mexico is a failed state and lacks the ability to police themselves, even if they wanted. Free trade with these countries sets us up to be patsies, which has been the case for decades now.

The thing with tariffs is we knew the costs up front. The cost of protecting a domestic industry could be calculated. As a matter of public policy, the people decide if the price is warranted. It’s not always logical, but the costs are at least predictable. Unfettered trade brought unknown unknowns that are just starting to be understood. Those unknown unknowns have costs. The new global elite, for example, is unconstrained by national governments. The result is a class of global pirates seemingly beyond the reach of the state.

Public policy is always about trade-offs. Life may not be a zero sum game, but it is close enough to think of it that way. That means a policy that benefits one group will do so at the expense of another. Limiting trade with Mexico may drive up the cost of lawn care, but it also means you can go into an emergency room that does not look like a bus station in Tijuana. Regulated trade with China may jack up the cost of your iPad, but it also means keeping poisoned pet food from China off US shelves.

These are trade-offs to be debated by the people’s representatives. Turning them over to technocrats at the WTO is to make a mockery of self-government and open us up to predation.

iStupid

If you look at the comments section of this NRO post, you will see my unbridled enthusiasm for mocking the Cult of Apple. You will also see why I enjoy mocking the weirdos who populate the MacCult. That’s not to say that all Apple users are weirdos or in a cult. My guess is the Apple user base is divided into three groups. One group simply got used to using Apple stuff and never saw a need to change. Another group buys the Apple display items because that is what cool people do. The final group are people who have turned an electronics maker into a religious movement.

My guess is the majority of Apple customers are just people who follow trends. The first group, people who got used to using Apple gear is probably the smallest. The most vocal by far are the MacCultists who are convinced Apple is ushering in the utopian future. They are the idiots who line up at midnight to trade in their iPhone 6 for the iPhone 6.1 that does nothing new or different. They are the ones who will tell you that their $900 iPad is changing the world, even though they only use it to play games and surf the web.

These people have been with us for a long time. My first encounter with them was in the early 90’s, I guess. A woman described herself as a “Mac-snob” while we were discussing something to do with computers. At the time most people figured Apple was going to follow Wang into the abyss. But, the true believers kept the company alive, despite the fact Apple products were comically bad for a long time.

These were the people Jobs identified as his way out of the technology trap. If his company could become a social statement, they could move a lot of product. Apple went from competing with Microsoft to focusing on clever designs and marketing to the growing hipster community. I don’t think it is an accident that Apple took off with the Great Progressive Awakening. The iPod became an ID badge for every liberal hipster in the 90’s.

Here we are at the denouement of this Great Progressive Awakening and I suspect Apple follows the trend. This story in America’s Paper of Record suggest that’s the case.

Detroit had a good year in 2014, selling 16.5 million autos — up 1 million from 2013. The stock of Ford and GM has revved on the good news, jumping 5.7 and 7.8 percent, respectively, in 2015.

That’s better than the S&P 500, which has risen 2.5 percent.

Motorists responded well, not only to low-interest-rate loans but to all the technology in cars today — everything from touch screens, Wi-Fi hotspots, hybrid technology and back-up cameras.

But in just one week, Detroit’s vibe has gone from hip to has-been.

With reports last week that Apple hopes to bring a car to market in five years, every motorist who remembers the pre-iPhone era of smartphones must be feeling like their new car will go the way of BlackBerry, Nokia or Palm Pilot.

I’m continually amazed by the social amnesia. I remember life before the iPhone. I had a Palm and it was a nice phone. Apple took the idea and applied what they learned from the iPod to it. That is, make it look cool and let the army of iDrones in hipsterville market it. The touch screen was a nice upgrade, but hardly revolutionary.

Currently, at a secret location near its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters, Apple is said to be working on a car design — code-named “Project Titan” — at breakneck speed. While auto companies can take as long as seven years to develop a car, Apple is said to be hoping to start shipping its vehicles in five years — or as early as 2020.

Elon Musk’s Tesla is currently the No. 1 electric car maker — with vehicles ranging from $70,000 to $100,000 — and Google is working on George Jetson-like driverless cars. But neither is close to cornering the market on mass-affordable electric cars.

My sense is this is where Apple will attack — just as it had with smartphones, laptops and tablets.

Elon Musk is the biggest parasite in the world. Tesla does not exist without tax payer money. The driverless car is a solution in search of a problem and it is far from being practical. I’ll note that Apple’s “success” with laptops was quickly cannibalized by the iPad, a cheaper display item than a $4,000 Powerbook.

Former Ford Engineer Steve Zadesky is heading up Titan.

Efforts to fast-track the car project got Apple in a little jam last week when a car-battery maker, A123 Systems, sued it over alleged poaching of its executives.

How badly does Apple CEO Tim Cook want to get this car out the garage?

Well, Apple has been offering the best and the brightest in the car-battery field $250,000 signing bonuses plus salaries 60 percent higher than what they currently earn, Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek this month.

Take Marc Newson, who just so happens to be close friends with Apple’s design guru Jony Ive. Newson, hired last September by Apple, is considered one of the more elegant engineers in the world.

The guy has works archived by MoMA — not something you hear about a lot in Detroit.

Zadesky, the boss, besides holding 90-some patents, was the sole signatory on a 2010 business contract with an organization called Liquidmetal. It is known for Moldable Metal — “Nanophosphate metal” — which can be shaped like plastic.
Detroit still welds.

This is another weird thing with the MacCult and the fake nerd crowd. They carry on like they are cutting edge technologists when most of them can’t count their balls twice and come up with the same number. Detroit is not the hub of the car building universe and it hasn’t been for generations now. Toyota is one of the best run companies on earth and they have been pushing the envelope in automotive engineering for a long time. Mercedes is another example of leading edge technology in the car building business. Frankly, Apple has nothing on these guys.

Building cars is hard. The reason Tesla remains a welfare queen for rich people is it takes more than mock turtlenecks and clever marketing plans to make a car company. Apple’s habit over the years has been to steal someone else idea and then dress it up in their minimalist stylings and peddle it to their followers as innovative. Silicon Valley looks more like the boxing business these days than an industry. It’s all about the pump and dump. That’s unlikely to work in the car business, which is very mature with highly complex supply chains.

This all has the feel of a company and an era jumping the shark.

 

Snow Falls in the Ghetto

When I was in Boston a few weeks back, one of the things that jumped out at me is the number of young people walking around with shovels looking for work. The streets were not thick with these kids, but I saw more than few groups of teens, all white, walking around town. On the Monday of the storm, crew of teens shoveled my buddy’s house. They saw us shoveling and offered to do it for $20 a man. We were happy to take them up on it because you have to encourage this stuff and shoveling snow is not much fun for old men.

That’s not something you see in the ghetto. When it snows, the natives stay inside. The fact is, the ghetto is beyond a low trust society and is a high distrust society. If you see a group of young males, you have to assume they are up to no good. Walking with their pants hanging down and one hand on their balls is tough in good weather, so they can’t go out in the snow. Even so, if I’m approached by a group teens offering to shovel, I’d be more inclined to pull my gun than agree to hire them.

Of course, no one shovels snow in the ghetto. Check that. Few shovel out their cars and their sidewalks. Most just wait for someone else. The landlords hire Mexicans to do it. The government has crews to shovel their part of the ghetto, but even they have outsourced to companies using Mexicans. One of the stranger things you see in the ghetto is tropical people happily shoveling snow. Say what you want about Latinos, but they are generally happy people.

One reason why the natives never shovel out their cars is the fact none of them have jobs or any place to be. I’m old enough to remember when they made welfare recipients show up once a week to get their check. Then it was once a month. Then they mailed the check. Now they have EBT and that means they can order takeout on-line. It’s not hard to imagine a time when the local drug dispensary will be delivering to the ghetto. That way the natives can have their weed delivered with a large pizza and some purple drank.

Another oddity when snow falls in the ghetto is that the people who do venture out walk in the middle of the road. The sidewalks are still covered in snow and the plows have made one pass on the roads. That leaves the middle of the street as the path of least resistance. Ghetto natives are not known for their work ethic so if the choice is struggling on the sidewalk or waddling down the middle of a plowed street, they are walking in the street. Driving in the ghetto therefore is more of an adventure than in civilization.

Cops, I suspect, love the snow. There’s an old saying that the rain is the cop’s best friend. Hoodlums stay inside when the weather is bad. White trash tends to have shootouts over the dinner table when cooped up by the weather, but non-whites become more docile. Black crime is almost always over respect, women or drugs. If everyone is stuck inside, it is hard to disrespect someone, mess with his woman or steal his weed. As a result, crime is at its lowest in bad weather.

I suspect that’s why the plows come to the ghetto last. Most people assume the politicians cater to the tax base and that’s probably true, but they also rely on the ghetto vote to beat back middle-class backlash. But, it rarely snows at election time and the locals seldom complain about the lack of plows. It keeps the boys off the streets so it works for everyone.

Steve Sailer likes to refer to Moynihan’s Law of the Canadian Border and there’s some truth to it. It’s an esoteric way of addressing a taboo subject. What you learn about living in a low trust society is just how fragile they are in some respects. New Orleans could not respond at all to Katrina because it was a low-trust society incapable of large scale cooperation. A snow storm in the ghetto is paralyzing because no one in their right mind trusts their neighbor. A ghetto in Canada without aid from the surrounding people would not make it through the first winter. The locals would be eating one another by February.

It’s why you don’t see a lot of complexity in places like sub-Saharan Africa or Mesopotamia. The greater the complexity of a society, the more vulnerable it is to natural disasters. In Europe, with a high percentage of smart people and lots of native cooperation, complexity is a great tool against nature. In low-trust societies with an excess of dimwits, complexity is lethal so we get simpler, big man societies.

Maybe the answer for America is to send our ghettos to Canada.

Grinding To A Halt

There’s an old bit that goes something like this. A community has a problem and they turn to local experts for help solving it. The experts come up with a plan, no one but the experts can understand, to tackle the problem. The plan is implemented and the problem remains. Worse yet, new problems arise from defects in the plan to solve the old problem. New experts are brought in to solve the new problems. Coincidentally, they happen to be proteges of the first experts. Their complex plan cures the first problem, but adds new problems to the now growing list of problems.

Some variation of this gag has been kicking around for as long as I can remember. It’s usually a criticism of the role of experts, but it is is a good example of what’s happened with government in the last couple of decades. The steady rise in the size and scope of government is part of it.Each new generation of politicians needs to have some reason to cut a ribbon, convene a commission or appoint a czar. I think the Feds are up to 45 czars now, all of whom need a team of experts to fix what the other czars have done.

It’s safe to say that the vast majority of experts are now employed by the state to address the problems created by their mentors. The ObamaCare bill, for example, was an overly complex solution to the problems created by fifty years of previous government solutions. There’s no money in just getting rid of the old defective solutions so this cycle continues until the whole thing eventually collapses. Or, grinds to a halt. The complexity reaches a point where no one can predict the outputs from the inputs so everything stops.

Here’s a good example of how the gears eventually grind to a halt. Keep in mind that Boston has had near record snow, which has exposed the public transportation boondoggles to enough stress to cause breakage. The trains have not been running and bus service has bee halted in many places. Money that should have been going to maintenance and repairs had been diverted to batshit crazy schemes like the one in that link.

There are other problems, but they follow the same pattern. This report from five years ago covers the rinse-repeat process of never solving a problem, but always spending on new solutions. That’s an inherent problem with democracy. The system attracts sociopaths, who get elected by showing off display items purchased with tax payer money. Buying tools and spare parts for the buses is boring. Showing off a new “smart initiative” with the Google execs is a vote getter.

It gets worse as much of this stuff is financed with debt that the government never intends to repay. The financial legerdemain required to pay for these schemes creates downstream problems that eventually jam up the gears like we see with the Greeks. At the state and local level, the lack of a printing press means complex, laddered borrowing schemes that eventually lead to insolvency. New York allows cities and towns to borrow from their pension funds in order to pay their pension fund obligations.

The galling thing is that most of the state and municipal problems can be solved by the state and municipal governments doing their jobs as they used to do fifty years ago. Cities need to police the streets, put out fires, run the schools and keep the streets repaired. That’s it. States have other things like ports and highways, but there are no new challenges facing human societies that require novel solutions. But, the sociopaths in politics can’t bray about those mundane things so they launch new programs and abandon their duties.

It’s the Antoninus problem. Antoninus was the emperor who followed Hadrian. Everyone knows something about Hadrian, the guy who left the famous wall in Britain. No one knows anything about Antoninus because nothing interesting happened in his 23 year reign. There were no wars, great economic troubles or revolts. It was one of the most peaceful and prosperous times for the empire. But, no one one remembers him because nothing big happened. Our pols want to be remembered so they are always casting about for something big to do.

The trouble is, layer after layer of new programs, new rules and new departments eventually leads to paralysis. The people shivering in the cold waiting for a bus or train in Boston are getting a taste of what’s coming. In Massachusetts, RomneyCare, the great health care reform of a decade ago, has made everything worse. Another rounds of “reform” and they will have to leave the state to get health care as the whole system will seize up. That’s where it is all headed.

 

The Left’s Embrace of Islam

Belief is a funny thing. I can go to bed thinking my team won the game, despite having gone to be before it ended, and wake up to learn they blew it and lost. In other words, I can think one thing and suddenly think the opposite once new information is presented. I used to think BMW’s were great cars until I drove one. I still think they are great cars, but just not for me.  In other words, even in areas of taste, the rational part of our brain works from facts and experience. New information results in new patterns of thought.

That’s not how it works with beliefs. I know very smart people who are also devout Christians. They believe God created the heavens and earth. They believe God created man in his image. Evolution, as far as they are concerned is a nice hobby, but not science and mostly nonsense. They simply don’t believe any of it and no amount of data or experience can shake that belief. It’s why I seldom engage in debate with ID’ers. You can’t argue about belief as belief is immune to facts and reason. Therefore, there can be no debate.

The thing about faith and belief is you can fake belief to a point, but you can’t fake disbelief. You see that on-line when liberal sock puppets post on conservative sites. They try really hard to pretend to be down with the issue, but they just can’t stop themselves from inserting exceptions. The best example I recall is the fake Jon Huntsman supporters from the fever swamp showing up in the comment sections. They would swear they were “right-wing conservatives” and then launch into what was essentially a liberal fantasy about Jon Huntsman. They simply could not maintain the facade. Their belief was too strong.

Faith is a biological thing. It is thought that belief as a human trait co-evolved with language. That makes it one of our oldest traits. Religion is a part of every human society that has existed. There are no records of any society devoid of some form of religious faith. It’s why when people say America or the West is becoming less religious, they are mistaken. Less Christian for sure, but the believing trait is still there in the same degree. It is just expressed differently. The political and social ideologies of the West now serve as the vessel for the religious impulse. As Rousseau called it in the Social Contract, the West now has the Civil Religion.

If you have been reading my stuff, you know I’m fond of calling American Liberalism a cult. It operates like a cult, even having a Führerprinzip. It’s temporary and tied to the democratic processes, but the dynamic is the same. Obama is the cult leader now, but will soon be replaced by whoever runs for president on the 2016 ticket. Obama worship will continue, but his leadership role of the one true faith will be handed to another. It’s not an accident that their heroes are all referred to by three letters, FDR, JFK, MLK, RFK, BHO. Bill Clinton is about to be demoted simply because no one calls him by his initials anymore.

So, where am I going with this?

This post by Jonah Goldberg got me thinking about what’s happening with the Cult and Islam. Since Rousseau, radicals have had a loathing for Christianity. It has always been the big scary monster in their myths and legends. Today, they fret more about Bible-toting grannies in the South than bomb wielding Muslims in their own backyard. If you put “Christian backlash” in a Google machine, it returns over 8 million results. The phase “Muslim backlash” nets 1.7 million results, most about anti-Muslim backlash by Christians.

As an aside, you’ll note how they changed Reverend Martin Luther King into Doctor Martin Luther King. There’s never any mention of his faith. The same is true about the early Progressives of the the late 19th and early 20th century. There’s no mention of the fact that early Progressives claimed Christ as their source of legitimacy. The Temperance Movement, for example, is now cast a bunch of crazy church ladies, rather than progressive reformers. For the modern Left, Christianity is now beyond the pale, as unacceptable as racism or antisemitism.

This derangement is evident in the Obama administrations biological aversion to mentioning Islam in the context of the barbarism we are seeing in the Near East. Their refusal to accept a link between attacks on Jews in Europe and the fact the attackers are all Muslim has become a sick comedy. Obama was on television the other day complaining about the Crusdades, as if we have a problem with terrorism from the Knights Templar. As laughable as it is, they can’t seem to stop themselves. As I said, belief is a visceral thing. It’s biological. The modern Left has somehow come to believe that Islam is their soul mate in some way.

This bit from the Goldberg column is a good example:

In an essay for the Wall Street Journal, Secretary of State John Kerry asserts that “violent extremism can’t be justified by resorting to religion. No legitimate religious interpretation teaches adherents to commit unspeakable atrocities” such as those committed by the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and other Muslim fanatics. For those who invest in John Kerry supreme religious authority, that statement is unquestionably true. The problem is that very few people take their religious cues from Kerry — or Obama.

Kerry is repeating a line common on the Left. It is the No True Scotsman fallacy. In this case, Kerry is saying no true religion advocates murder. That’s nonsense, of course, which is why it is a fallacy. Now, if you are a fan of esoteric writing, you can argue he is telling the flock that Islam is not behind these acts and it is just propaganda blaming innocent Muslims. After all, not true Muslim advocates terrorism so it must be something else at work, like easy access to guns or racism.

That’s how Muslims hear it and I suspect that’s the true intention here. Kerry is clodhopper so I doubt he wrote the essay. It sounded nice so he signed off on it. The people who wrote it and the many speeches of Obama on the topic are true believers like Obama. They see in Islam a natural ally and therefore cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the obvious. There was a time when it was polite to avoid pointing out the link, in the hope that more sensible Muslims in the Middle East would deal with these lunatics. We’re well beyond that so it makes no sense to pretend Islam is not at the heart of ISIS, for example.

Still, the Left is embracing Islam and that’s no small thing. I’ve often wrote that modern progressive thought looks a lot like Islam. The anti-rationalism, the mysticism and the occasionalism are there in both groups. It’s a one way love affair, of course, but the Left’s deep hatred for Christians appears to have pushed them into an emotional partnership with the barbarians beyond the edge of civilization. For this generation of Western radicals, ISIS is the Black Panther Party of their parents generation.

Panromantic Gray-Asexual

Kathy Shaidle linked to this today.

It’s Friday afternoon during finals week, and two undergrads at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville are lounging together on a battered couch in the student center, watching cartoons. They’ve only met twice before, but they’re all over each other. Rae, a tiny pixie of a sophomore wearing a newsboy cap, nuzzles up against Sean, a handsome freshman. He’s got his arm draped across her. They giggle and tease each other, and she sprawls into his lap. Their friend Genevieve, perched on the arm of the couch, smiles and rolls her eyes.

It looks like a standard collegiate prelude to a one-night stand. But there will be no kissing, no fondling, and definitely no Saturday morning walk of shame. Sean and Rae do not have the hots for each other—or anyone else, for that matter. In fact, they’re here hanging out at the campus outreach center, a haven for all who question their sexuality and gender identity, because they’re exploring an unconventional idea: life without sex. Or mostly without sex. They’re pioneers of an emerging sexual identity, one with its own nomenclature and subcategories of romance and desire, all revolving around the novel concept that having little to no interest in sex is itself a valid sexual orientation. Rae tells me she’s an aromantic asexual, Sean identifies as a heteroromantic demisexual, and Genevieve sees herself as a panromantic gray-asexual.

Not sure what these terms mean? You’re not alone. The definitions are still in flux, but most people who describe themselves as demisexual say they only rarely feel desire, and only in the context of a close relationship. Gray-­asexuals (or gray-aces) roam the gray area between absolute asexuality and a more typical level of interest. Then there are the host of qualifiers that describe how much romantic attraction you might feel toward other people: Genevieve says she could theoretically develop a nonsexual crush on just about any type of person, so she is “panromantic”; Sean is drawn to women, so he calls himself “heteroromantic.”

The jargon is all nonsense, lifted conceptually from the managerial elite’s fetish for taxonomy, with a healthy dose of the therapeutic culture sprinkled on top. Asexuality is nothing new and it has been with us since forever. Some percentage of humans lack the normal sex drive, just as some people have a hyper-active sex drive.

There’s also the fact that societies in decline have lower fertility rates. This has been understood for a long time. In good times, people have more fun and that results in more babies. In bad times, there’s less fun and fewer babies. It’s not just material good times or bad times either. Periods of material wealth, but spiritual decline can push down fertility rates. Iran is the an interesting example of a society with a very low fertility rate, despite modestly improving material wealth.

Japan is the classic example. It turns out that a people without a unifying purpose, regardless of their material wealth, are just not all that enthusiastic about the procreative acts. David Goldman, in his book How Civilizations Die, notes how fertility rates track church attendance in the West, while the reverse seems to be true in Islam. In America, a transactional, materialistic society is probably not inspiring to young people coming into a world without purpose. In Islam, a world ruled by lunatics who believe in flying carpets and magic inspires little in the way of optimism.

My Fridge is Spying on Me

On my last trip out of the ghetto, I rented a car at Logan Airport. It was a nondescript sedan as you would expect from a rental car company. It may have been a Hyundai or possibly a Toyota. All of our cars look the same nowadays so I suppose it does not matter. At some point I stopped to fiddle with the radio, hoping that maybe the satellite radio was working. I don’t have a Sirius subscription, but I would if I spent a lot of time in the car. It’s a great service. Fiddling around, I noted that the car was Bluetooth enabled meaning I could (maybe) play music from my phone, but I had things to do so I went on my way, leaving it for later.

At some point as I was tooling around Cambridge, a friend called and suddenly the radio stopped. Then the phone ringer was coming through the car speakers. When I answered the phone I was hearing the call through the car’s speakers and speaking through a hidden microphone somewhere. It was a little disorienting at first as I was not expecting it. Later in the day I had time to fiddle with the radio again and I noticed my phone had synced with the car automatically. I left the Bluetooth enabled on my phone by mistake. Thus, my phone and this strange car were able to conspire without my knowing.

I noticed that a lot of phone data from previous renters had been loaded into the car’s radio. Who knows if they knew it. I deleted my phone from the list and shutoff my Bluetooth. I keep nothing on phone of any value, but my phone is willing to partner with just about anyone, it seems, so who knows what mischief it could drag me into. My phone has now become another sentient thing I have to look after or beware of, as the case may be.

It’s going to get much worse as our rulers insist on wiring up more of our stuff so they can keep better track of us. The Internet of Things trend promises to let all sorts of people keep tabs on us in our homes. The same people who are always getting hacked and losing our credit card data will now be in charge of making sure the fridge does not tell tales out of school about us. I’m sure that will work out just fine. What could possible go wrong?

Of course, these services will be offered “free” but you will consent to having the electric company turn off your lights at night, the gas company monitoring your heat usage, the diet police watching your beer consumption. At first it will just be friendly e-mails and texts about your wastefulness. I get these now from the power company telling me I use more electric than my neighbors. They include a little graph, I’m always in red, and “hints” about how I can be a better steward of the environment. What comes after the “hints” is probably a knock on the door.

Increasingly, the private space of life is contracting. The government gets to read your private correspondence without notice. They can listen to your mobile phone chatter. They analyze your financial data looking for trouble. Now they have our health care data and will surely be using that in ways that only paranoids from a prior era imagined. If you complain about it at home, within earshot of the television, that could be a problem. Your TV is no longer a trusted member of the home.

All of it is for your own good and mostly welcome by the public. The thing about the custodial state is the inmates quickly get used to the walls, the gates, the guards, the instructions. Even the worst police states on earth have a cooperative and docile population. North Korea is arguably the worst place on earth. They regularly make the uncooperative hold a mortar shell until it goes off. The people have been on the edge of starvation for decades, yet they peacefully submit. Most Americans will have no trouble submitting to Big Google as long as the flow of goodies does not stop.

A world without privacy or volition is not entirely alien to the human animal. Early man surely lived in close proximity with his clan, sharing all of the intimate details of life with the clan. Well into settlement, privacy was a rarity. Heck, well into the 20th century, outhouses for two were common in rural America. If you can share a two-holer with another member of the family, there’s not much you are going to think is private. I suspect communal living amongst the Vikings is why some Scandinavians are so shameless.

In the “hodgepodge” society our rulers are planning for us, privacy will not exist. Everything you do will be monitored by someone and therefore made public at some point. In such a world, there’s no need to for any sense of shame. There would be no point. In prisons and basic training, the near total lack of privacy fundamentally alters human relations. Our rulers with their dreams of trench socialism, are sure the hodgepodge will be like boot camp or an army base. History says it will be more like San Quentin or North Korea.

In a world where even your fridge is spying on you, there can be no trust. We have plenty of experience with low trust societies like those in sub-Saharan Africa or the Middle East. North Korea or Albania back in the Soviet says were examples of extremely low trust surveillance societies, but they were homogeneous. A heterogeneous, zero trust society sounds a lot like Angola State Prison, but our rulers are convinced otherwise. I’ll be dead before reach that point, but that’s where we are heading.

Barak Milhous Nixon

One of the striking things about the Left is just how much they model their tactics on those they swore Nixon used against them back in the last Great Liberal Awakening. Even forty years ago, when the Left was in a panic over Tricky Dick, their charges sounded more like a revenge fantasy than plausible reality. By that, I mean they were accusing Nixon of what they would do if only they were in his position.

A good recent example is Obama’s “Executive Amnesty” that was just blocked by the courts. This is reminiscent of Nixon’s use of impoundment, the power of the executive to not spend appropriated funds. In theory it gives the executive the opportunity to reign in nutty ideas funded by Congress. In practice, it was simply a way for a president to block spending on something he did not want.

The paranoia of the Left about Nixon, the imaginary one not the real one, led to the Impoundment Act of 1974. This stripped the power from the executive. Like most of what the Left claimed about Nixon, they imagined he was doing what they would do if they had the chance. In reality, Nixon’s use of impoundment was trivial.

The Left claimed Nixon was trying to be an emperor, which is always a concern in our form of government. There’s a balance between the executive, legislative and judicial. Giving the president too much power runs the risk of sublimating the other two branches to the whims of a temporary dictator. A degree of paranoia about what the executive is doing or planning is probably healthy.

Of course, no such paranoia exists now because Obama is the leader of the Cult of Modern Liberalism. The Führerprinzip has always been very strong with American Progressives. Just look at how they rallied to defend Bill Clinton, despite knowing he violated holy writ. With Obama, it is off the charts because they truly think he is Chocolate Jesus. There’s nothing the man could do to shake their faith in The One. Naturally, they are defending his lawless amnesty to the last man.

Yesterday I got home and flipped on the news. A Greg Gutfeld show was on and one of the people on the set with him was repeating the old line about Obama’s amnesty relying on the precedent of Reagan. It is nonsense and a lie, but the Cult believes it so they keep chanting it nonetheless. The striking thing about what the woman was saying is just how much it reminded me of the Nixon years. Nixon was no Boy Scout and he often justified his actions by comparing them to past liberal presidents. This tactic sent the Left into a frenzy. He was trolling them, in a way.

Here we are forty years later and the Cult is doing all the things Nixon did, plus the things they imagined Nixon wanted to do , but never got around to doing. The IRS scandal is a good example of how Obama is making Nixon look like a piker. Having the DOJ harass reporters as Obama has done would have led to massive protests in the 1970’s, championed by every news organization in the country. Today they defend it because it is their cult and that’s how cults work.

This amnesty stuff is more striking in that it gets to the heart of the liberal brief against Nixon. That is, an Imperial President inevitably leads to an Emperor. It was not what Nixon did that warranted removal; it was what he could do that warranted removal. The justification for pushing through The Impoundment Act was that Nixon, in the midst of Watergate, could not be trusted with that power.

Fast forward forty years and we have Obama claiming he can re-interpret laws in ways that clearly contradict the letter of the law. In this case, he says can direct federal agencies to not enforce certain criminal statutes and direct other agencies to ignore certain legal requirements. There’s no discussion of a limiting principle, which means there is no boundary to this authority. Logically, what they are claiming is the president could stop the FBI from arresting bank robbers and order prosecutors to drop all their criminal cases. In short, he can re-write the laws as he sees fit.

Interestingly, someone in the administration sees the problem and the risk of such an approach. If you read the judges ruling, it appears Obama never actually signed an executive order, which is a legally recognized document. Instead, he ordered DHS to issue a memorandum. The judge wrote that “both sides agree that the president in his official capacity has not directly instituted any program at issue in this case.”

Later he writes, “Regardless of the fact that the Executive Branch has made public statements to the contrary, there are no executive orders or other presidential proclamations or communiqué that exist regarding DAPA. The DAPA memorandum issued by Secretary Johnson is the focus in this suit.”

This is something even Nixon, the imaginary one concocted by the Left, was never able to conjure. Here we have the president saying he has issued an order, when in fact he did not. Of course, the reason for lying to the public is to deceive, something Tricky Dick was accused of in the Articles of Impeachment drawn up by Congress. Not actually issuing the executive order is an obvious attempt to shield the president from legal jeopardy. Again, that’s a degree of slipperiness Nixon could not imagine.

The Tyranny of Youth

I’m an old man and that means I get cranky when the kids walk on my lawn, if I had a lawn. Like all old people, I was young once. That’s what gives old farts an edge over young pups. We remember what it was like to be them, but they have no way of knowing what it is like to be us. That, alas, is the only benefit of being old. Well, that and the willingness to say things in public that you’re afraid to say when you’re young. Otherwise, I fully admit to agreeing with W.C. Fields when it comes to young people.

I’m exaggerating a bit, but the tyranny of youth culture has gotten out of hand. Mark Steyn has commented for years that male leads are getting younger and more feminine. If I recall, he used the example of William Shatner playing Kirk in the original Star Trek series. Shatner was in his 30’s and playing a role as a middle-aged man. The current Star Trek movies feature boys in their 20’s playing boys in their 20’s inexplicably given command of a starship.

I’m not a big consumer of pop culture and maybe that’s why. Once I reached 30, everyone in music, TV and movies started looking young and silly to me. Even so, pop culture has always been juvenile and repetitive. The Honeymooners, for example, has been a standard template for TV for as long as I’ve been alive. I Love Lucy has been the template for couple-based sitcoms for fifty years now. Eventually, it gets boring for adults so it is left for kids, who are seeing it all for the first time.

That’s no what this post is about, however. The whole youth culture thing is now invading public affairs. The rulers feel it necessary to have bimbos as spokeswomen. Public affairs programming is beginning to look like the cafeteria at your local college. Rather than crabby old guys and gals with years of experience talking about the news, we have hot looking airheads repeating what they heard from some other hot looking airhead.

It’s not just TV news either. The reason for this post is something I saw on National Review the other day. If you look at the picture of the writer, it’s clear he is a child. He looks like he should be organizing the fraternity keg party this weekend, not offering opinions on the Federal Reserve. As an adult, I have no reason to care what this young fellow has to say about anything so why in the world is he offered up as an expert?

So that I don’t sound like a terrible meanie, I’m sure Jon Hartley is a fine young man with a world of promise. His resume says he graduated from U. Chicago with a degree in economics. He held jobs doing statistical work in public and private firms. He would make a great intern at a big bank or possibly a PhD candidate at a university. He’s clearly ambitious and one of his ambitions is to be famous. All of that is wonderful and I wish him the best.

Regardless, he is unqualified to write opinions about current affairs. That pipe I talked about the other day is already packed full of nonsense. The tiny capillaries that remain open to the transmission of sensible information cannot be clogged with the musings of children hoping to be famous one day. Surely there are seasoned adults with knowledge acquired through experience willing to write for these sites. if not and all we are left with is the tyranny of baffled young people it’s time to consider disbanding and going our separate ways.

Hi-Tech Colonialism

At the start of the industrial revolution, lots of people got rich by getting around existing rules that governed other the world. That’s the nature of technology. The guy who invented the first plow found a way to get around the limitations of the hoe. The next guy who added a draft animal to the mix got around the limits of the human body. The Industrial Revolution, at the simplest level, was the application of science to the physical limits of the human being.

That’s the romantic view. The more realistic view is that great technological leaps are accompanied by, and maybe spurred by, a desire to get around laws, customs and moral codes. Web development in the 1990’s, for instance, was driven by the pornography business. The technology to display images and video on-line was primarily due to pornographers. Jeff Bezos became a billionaire avoiding sales taxes by selling on-line and gaming local tax laws. Uber right now is gaming the laws to undermine taxi cartels.

The push for open borders by Silicon Valley, for example, is about getting around labor laws and nothing more. Mark Zuckerburglar loves the idea of paying the rates they pay in Tamil Nadu India for technical work. He just hates the idea of having to go to Tamil Nadu India to get them. Instead, he would like to import those people to live in camps here and work at rates otherwise against the law here. He’s even willing to let them use indoor toilets, thus showing he is a warm and generous man!

The Robber Barons can’t put it that way so they lie about shortages of labor in their industry. Here’s a good example.

President Obama’s legislation on immigration has been one of the most hotly contested political reforms for a generation. The Immigration Order, along with Ron Paul’s subsequent bill attempting to overturn the reform, put immigration firmly at the forefront of the political agenda.

The outcry in the US reflects a similar sentiment sweeping across Europe. The rise of numerous right wing parties of varying extremes across European countries has led to immigration being actively curtailed. Anti-EU sentiment also is fueling a desire for homegrown talent in business in this highly charged atmosphere.

You see what’s happening? Those who oppose mass immigration are Nazis. They are bad people that can be dismissed, or worse, because they are not really human. They are extremists!

However, as arguments on both sides escalate, the technology sector has emerged as one of the few voices of reason. Digital companies are used to operating globally, and innovation is driven by attracting and retaining the best talent from around the world.

In San Francisco, the battle for talent has seen tech companies doing everything they can to win the best recruits. Hairdressers, free food and doctors are all expected as competition continues to soar. The distance between this environment and the national debate around restricting immigration is extraordinary.

The “everything they can” also includes colluding with one another to depress wages and prevent employees from jumping companies. For people allegedly trying everything to attract talent, they seem oddly willing to engage in what should result in lengthy prison terms in order to not attract talent.

The fact is there’s no shortage of technology workers in America or Europe. There’s a shortage of owners willing to abide by the laws and pay market rates. Instead they seek to game the system to enrich themselves at the expense of their countrymen. It’s a form of colonialism, except this time the colonists are exploiting their own ethnic group. I’d call it feudalism, except feudal lords provided a service in exchange for food rents.

The argument from libertarians in these matters is that the market will sort it all out. Tyler Cowen’s flunky always says it is unfair to punish people because of the accident of birth. National borders are immoral. That’s insane, but let’s think it through. No borders means no country. No country means no citizens and that means no government, at least no legitimate government. Order will simply be imposed by those with force to do so.

In such a world, the entire economics department of George Mason would be on a chain gang somewhere as chattel labor in a few weeks after the new system is in place.

The hard cold truth is that much of the tech sector is just another ruling class scam these days. Credentialed grifters get a license from the state to rip-off the public. The costs are socialized so they are not as obvious, while the profits are privatized. Flooding the country with cheap labor from abroad, living here as indentured servants, has a cost. Silicon Valley thinks you should bear that cost so they can enjoy the profits.