Nonsense On Stilts

Steve Sailer is a brilliant guy and one of the most insightful people going, but every once in a while he says something that is a bit nuts. That’s bound to happen when you spend all day every day commenting about the current scene. Blogging is about off the cuff commentary on a range of subjects. You’re going to get some stuff wrong. Some of that will be comically wrong. Here’s an example:

Michael Vick, who has long been the ultimate in NFL black athlete quarterbacks — an incredibly fast runner with a strong arm — has gotten another $5 million contract to play back up for the NY Jets, a half decade after he served 18 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring on his property.
I’ve always thought Vick was a sort of symbolic sacrificial victim for white America’s discomfort with its black athletic heroes. In Vick’s rather backward Southern rural culture, dogfighting was considered sporting and glamorous, just as bullfighting in Spain seemed sporting and glamorous to Hemingway 90 years ago. So Vick saw himself not as some evil person, but as a sportsman take a sporting interest in the sport of dogfighting.
Newport News is not rural. It is a small city, for sure, but it is almost as densely populated as San Diego and no one in their right mind would say that’s rural. It’s not Chicago or New York City, but it is not Mayberry either. The best comparison is the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Further, dog fighting has never been popular in the South and it sure as hell has not been on the same cultural level as bull fighting in Spain.
Like a lot of people with no experience of the American South, Sailer seems to be relying upon what he sees on television and movies. Like many his age, television and movies loom large in his understanding of the world. It is an odd thing about Baby Boomers. Despite all that we have seen, they remain, in general, trusting of what is beamed to them thought their televisions.
The real reasons whites have for resenting black football players all sound like racist stereotypes — their lack of preparation for being college students, their high rates of sexual assault on white coeds, their tendency to beat up nerds, their unfortunate rates of sticky fingers around other students’ electronic entertainment devices, and so forth — so those are largely unmentionable in polite society. For whites to get furiously mad at a black jock over dogfighting, however, doesn’t sound racist, so a lot of white anger at black athletes in general was focused upon Vick.
A better answer, one based on something closer to observable reality, is that Americans really love their pets. Everyone can identify with a pet. The idea of Fluffy being torn to pieces by another animal is horrifying. The image of someone drowning Fluffy or torturing Fluffy sends chills down the spines of the typical American. It’s true that black sportscasters rallied to Vick out of racial solidarity. It is also true that most everyone quickly forgave Vick once he served his time and was appropriately contrite.
Otherwise, Sailer is all wrong on this one.

Why Are Jews Liberal?

If you read Destructive Generation, something that leaps off the page is the fact that Jews are wildly over-represented in radical politics. Just looking at the Weathermen, about half the founding members were Jews. Huey Newton and the Black Panthers were largely brought to life and sustained by Jews in California. Of course, communism in America was very Jewish. You don’t have to be Kevin McDonald to notice that Jews have an outsized influence on American radicalism.

Even accounting for the fact Horowitz may have highlighted the Jews he knew in the movement, it is impossible not to conclude that Jews were way over represented in radical politics.  When one percent of the population is 30% of anything, that’s a clue. It’s not just the number. In Horowitz’s telling, Jews more often than not played the defining role in these radical movements. After all, Barak Obama would still be fixing parking tickets in Chicago without the Jewish radicals.

If you put “why are Jews liberal” into search engine out comes this list of links. When you get 12 million links, it must be an oft-pondered query. It is not as popular as that figure would suggest. Change “liberal’ to “midget” and you get 47 million hits. Make of that what you will, but the fact remains that Jews are over-represented in radical politics and lots of people are curious about it. That’s why it turns up with millions of links when you search the topic. people are curious about it.

Norman Podhoretz wrote about this in 2009. Podhoretz repeats the old line, “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” It’s one of those classically Jewish gags that seems to acknowledge the truth, but subtly shifts the focus away from it. One the one hand you have bourgeois people, the Episcopalians, and on the other hand you have Puerto Ricans. No has strong feelings about Puerto Ricans nor are they associated with subversion, espionage and communism.

Jewish Radicalism is one of those things that seems to only get attention from anti-Semites, which is a shame. Jews don’t quite fit into the anti-Semitics bucket, as they will support radicals who are anti-Semites. In other words, the radicalism trumps the tribal loyalty. Obama captured 78% of the Jewish vote, despite being mildly anti-Semitic and hanging out with anti-Semites.

Most American Jews sincerely believe that their liberalism, together with their commitment to the Democratic Party as its main political vehicle, stems from the teachings of Judaism and reflects the heritage of “Jewish values.” But if this theory were valid, the Orthodox would be the most liberal sector of the Jewish community. After all, it is they who are most familiar with the Jewish religious tradition and who shape their lives around its commandments.

Yet the Orthodox enclaves are the only Jewish neighborhoods where Republican candidates get any votes to speak of. Even more telling is that on every single cultural issue, the Orthodox oppose the politically correct liberal positions taken by most other American Jews precisely because these positions conflict with Jewish law. To cite just a few examples: Jewish law permits abortion only to protect the life of the mother; it forbids sex between men; and it prohibits suicide (except when the only alternatives are forced conversion or incest).

The upshot is that in virtually every instance of a clash between Jewish law and contemporary liberalism, it is the liberal creed that prevails for most American Jews. Which is to say that for them, liberalism has become more than a political outlook. It has for all practical purposes superseded Judaism and become a religion in its own right. And to the dogmas and commandments of this religion they give the kind of steadfast devotion their forefathers gave to the religion of the Hebrew Bible. For many, moving to the right is invested with much the same horror their forefathers felt about conversion to Christianity.

The response to his query and the book that followed was predictable. The NYTimes dragged out an old warhorse to defend the faith, so to speak. First you discredit the man:

Norman Podhoretz loves his people and loves his country, and I salute him for it, since I love the same people and the same country. But this is a dreary book. Its author has a completely axiomatic mind that is quite content to maintain itself in a permanent condition of apocalyptic excitation. His perspective is so settled, so confirmed, that it is a wonder he is not too bored to write.

Then dismiss the argument:

The veracity of everything he believes is so overwhelmingly obvious to him that he no longer troubles to argue for it. Instead there is only bewilderment that others do not see it, too. “Why Are Jews Liberals?” is a document of his bewilderment; and there is a Henry Higgins-­like poignancy to his discovery that his brethren are not more like himself. But the refusal of others to assent to his beliefs is portrayed by Podhoretz not as a principled disagreement that is worthy of respect, but as a human failing. Jews are liberals, he concludes, as a consequence of “willful blindness and denial.” He has a philosophy. They have a psychology.

The long and short of it is we have one person asking the obvious question. Why are Jews liberal? His answer is that liberalism has become the religion of The Tribe. That’s a bit of a tautology, but at least it moves the ball down the field. The alternative theory as seen here, here and in the NYTimes book review is the typical boilerplate we see from the Left every day. “The reason for X is we are the good guys and down in the valley, where the bad people dwell, is Y.”

Podhoretz’s explanation is good for a number of reasons. One is it fits with something we know about liberalism. It is clearly a religion. This political ideology provides the inner measures traditionally considered to be a religious territory, such as ethics, values, symbols, myths and rituals. At the same time, its attachment to the Standard Social Science Model, appeals to those raised in the Talmudic tradition. Instead of divining God’s will from the Torah, liberals divine the will of “science.”

Successful minority groups the world over have one thing in common. That is they attach themselves to the strongest element of the ruling class. Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire, is a good example. He is not Mexican. He is Lebanese. He is also tight with the ruling class. He has to be as he controls 90% of the telephone market. If he does not make sure the guys with guns are well compensated, they may decide Carlos needs some competition. In other words, minorities can be useful to the ruling elite.

The trouble with this theory is Jews have been out front in American culture and politics for generations now. The days of Jewish entertainers, for example, passing themselves off as Italians are long gone. Joe Lieberman was a Vice Presidential candidate 15 years ago and probably kept Gore in the race. Lieberman was a very respected political figure and very publicly Jewish. Modern Jews don’t have to cozy up to the elite for protection, as they are the elite and mostly in control of America.

There are a few other things to consider. Catholics, Episcopalians and Baptists have not followed the same path. Catholics used to be a core Democratic constituency, but that was more class and economics than religion. Plus, when they left their old church, they did not join the new faith. Instead they started voting Republican. Protestants certainly swapped the old religion for the new in many cases. Episcopalians, for example, are mostly way out on the far left these days.

Genetics may hold the key. Jews, as known in the West, are not the same Jews as in the Middle East. Most Jews in the West are Ashkenazim, not Sephardim. They have a very different evolutionary arc and they have a different history. It’s not just the issue with you know who. The Jews of central and eastern Europe are different people from the Jews of Italy, Spain and the Middle East. Recent studies suggest Ashkenazim descend from the earliest Europeans.

The majority of Ashkenazi Jews are descended from prehistoric European women, according to study published today (October 8) in Nature Communications. While the Jewish religion began in the Near East, and the Ashkenazi Jews were believed to have origins in the early indigenous tribes of this region, new evidence from mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on exclusively from mother to child, suggests that female ancestors of most modern Ashkenazi Jews converted to Judaism in the north Mediterranean around 2,000 years ago and later in west and central Europe.

The new findings contradict previous assertions that Ashkenazi mitochondrial lineages originated in the Near East, or from mass conversions to Judaism in the Khazar kingdom, an empire in the north Caucasus region between Europe and Asia lasting from the 7th century to the 11th century whose leaders adopted Judaism. “We found that most of the maternal lineages don’t trace to the north Caucasus, which would be a proxy for the Khazarians, or to the Near East, but most of them emanate from Europe,” said coauthor Martin Richards, an archaeogeneticist at the University of Huddersfield in the U.K.

Given the state of religion in Europe 2,000 years ago, it is rather amazing that a group of people would elect to become monotheists, much less Jewish. A religion requiring a relatively high degree of literacy and one that comes with a rational legal code is going to make them even more unusual. It is not too much of a reach to think that Ashkenazim are hard wired to believe and to believe a certain way. Those unique traits and a high degree of endogamy meant those traits were reinforced through mating.

This is, in part, the Kevin McDonald argument. He takes it well beyond this point, arguing that Jews are purpose built to undermine white nations. That’s a bit ridiculous from the perspective of science, but a lot of people believe it. Maybe it does not matter, as Jews are wildly over-represented in radicalism. Why that is so is not all that important. Like blacks voting Democrat, what matters is accepting that Jews are never going to be on the side of bourgeois white people.

Imaginary Tax

This post over at Marginal Revolution raises a question that never gets talked about in conservative circles. Conservatism today is mostly libertarianism with some lip service to cultural issues, so you would think they would be champions of scrapping business taxes entirely. Even if they could not muster the courage for that, they could certainly champion simplification. That seems like a thing that no one can oppose, as no one thinks more complexity is every a good thing.

Yet, we never hear much from supposed pro-capitalist types about a zero income tax on business. Politically, it has the obvious defect of seeming to be pro-rich people, but people are not that dumb. Some will fall for the liberal argument conflating business with the rich, but most could be persuaded to see that is false. Persuadable voters can also be sold on an idea that will get them a job or a raise, too. A zero business tax would instantly make America a magnet for every global corporation on the planet.

There’s another piece that would be good politics. The candidate running on this idea could tie it to political reform. Our politicians no longer serve the people. Instead they extort money from business by selling them indulgences in the form of tax breaks. John McCain has often said he spends too much time shaking down businesses and threatening them with taxes if they don’t give him money. Remove the weapon and he and his pals can no longer use that weapon to shake down business.

The other benefit is it would allow the Republicans to make the Democrats talk about the details of business taxes. Corporate taxes end up in one of two places. That’s the price of the product or the employee’s paycheck. Taxing business is a false populism. that the Left has for years used to fool the working man. A reasonably savvy pol could turn this on its head and argue it is a hidden tax on working people. It’s not an easy sell, but it shift the frame and breaks the Progressive paradigm.

But, Republicans are not called The Stupid Party for nothin’.

The Pod People

One of my themes is how the people ruling America look like Americans, make noises like Americans, but are nothing like Americans. Our rulers are act like how aliens would think human rulers would act. They studied our television broadcasts and made some visits, before training themselves to play the part of human rulers. As a result, everyday on earth, some starts noticing things and it goes like this.

Now, I don’t think aliens have taken over the country. Aliens would not be so foolish and stupid. If you can master interstellar travel, you’re going to have no trouble running a currency or negotiating with Putin. No, our rulers are human. They just work extra hard to be nothing like those over whom they rule. As Pat Buchanan noted decades ago, we may be the first country in history whose ruling elites hate the nation over whom they rule. A good example of it is in this hilarious Drudge story.

A White House aide set off a stampede of liberal media criticism for Internet news pioneer Matt Drudge over Obamacare – but his critics don’t seem to understand how small businesses pay taxes.

The brouhaha started when Drudge tweeted, “Just paid the Obamacare penalty for not ‘getting covered’… I’M CALLING IT A LIBERTY TAX.”

Jesse Lee, the Director of Progressive Media at Barack Obama’s White House, responded that that was a “Flat lie, no fee for previous year,” adding, “Scary how much influence he once had.”

Lee’s response to Drudge set off a firestorm in the liberal media, with many mainstream media and left-wing reporters countering him on Twitter and in their own articles to claim he does not have to pay Obamacare’s Individual Mandate tax until next year. The individual mandate went into effect Jan. 1 of this year, and most people paying their taxes right now are paying taxes for 2013.

“Dude, there’s no penalty until next yr,” Sahil Kapur of the leftwing Talking Points Memo tweeted.

Kapur’s colleague at TPM Dylan Scott wrote a full story with a headline alleging Drudge was “probably lying.”

“Americans don’t pay a penalty for not having health insurance until they file their 2014 taxes — in 2015,” Scott wrote. “So either Drudge is lying or he paid a huge penalty a year earlier than he needed to.”

“Penalty isn’t collected until 2015,” Sam Baker of National Journal tweeted at Drudge.

The Huffington Post’s Jeffrey Young wrote a full article in which he described Drudge’s tweet as “weird” and a “little head-scratching” because the Obamacare tax does not kick in until the 2014 tax year.

Drudge indicated in his followup tweets that since he is self-employed as the proprietor of The Drudge Report, he files as a small business. According to the IRS’s website for self-employed individuals, they are required to pay taxes quarterly.

“As a self-employed individual, generally you are required to file an annual return and pay estimated tax quarterly,” the IRS website reads.

So, when they file and pay those 2014 first quarter taxes, such individuals have to pay the Obamacare Individual Mandate tax if they opted to not have health insurance—like Drudge just did.

These people going after Drudge not only have never signed the front of a paycheck, they have no idea how taxes even work. They take their “stuff” to an accountant, who does all the work. It is not just the hard core liberals. It’s the whole ruling class. After all, if they want to know something about taxes, they will call a buddy from the BLS or Cato to give them something clever sounding to say on the issue. The mundane task of actually complying with the tax code is for the little people.

Up until the last couple of generations, all but the idle rich experienced real work in the private sector and they had experiences with the other classes. Maybe it was public schools or a stint in the military. Even playing sports gave kids a chance to rub elbows with other classes. Most upper middle-class kids got summer jobs, which was another way to mix it up with people outside their daily experience. the result was a somewhat classless society, in that people were united culturally.

That started to change when the Baby Boomer kids hit their teenage years. The upper middle-class kids stopped getting summer jobs and instead took trips to Europe or maybe interned somewhere swanky. Then this trickled down to the middle classes, as the migrants took up the jobs kids use to do. Of course, the segregation of public schools along class lines and the demographics of the military have made it more unusual for the classes to mix together.

The result, over the last few decades, is a ruling elite with little knowledge of what Americans do every day. How could they? They’ve never done any of these things. The people in the media prove their worth by displaying their cultural ignorance. Like braying asses, they make lots of noise in order to get the attention of their masters, not the audience for whom they allegedly work. Mainstream news organizations live entirely on charity, either the largess of patrons or through the cable bill.

We are now ruled by stranger that hate us.

Race Realism?

I freely admit to being a fan of race realism. Steve Sailer and John Derbyshire do a great job laying out facts, as opposed to the wishful thinking, so popular with the ruling classes. I guess reading outlawed ideas is always going to appeal to a unconventional mind, but race realism has the benefit of being right. Understanding the broad difference between groups of people makes it possible to navigate through the world and make predictions about people and situations. Race realism is useful.

That said, I wonder, what’s the point? This Taki column by Fred Reed is mostly stupid, but it does brush up against this question. I’ve never understood the attraction to the cornpone offerings of Fred on Everything, but that’s an issue of taste. He does have a big following and his opinions probably track with what most white people think with regards to the human condition. Here’s the part that got my attention.

While I want to regard all of humanity as inferior, with regard to particular groups, vile ripples of unwanted evidence occasionally raise their ugly heads (if ripples have heads). Consider Latinos. After living for eleven years in Mexico, I cannot see that Mexicans are any stupider than anyone else. (This, of course, leaves ample leeway for being stupid.) The assertion among fans of IQ is that because of their admixture of Indian blood, Mexicans, and for that matter all mestizos of Latin America, are stupid. I don’t see it.

I know some Irishmen who never touch alcohol, but that does not change the statistics on Irish drinking. There are some black physicists in the university, but that does not change the fact that blacks are under represented in cognitive fields and wildly over represented in the crime stats. Averages are just a general representation of the whole, not an exact description of everyone in the set. How is possible for someone to not understand this? Well, belief is very powerful magic.

In a disorganized way, however, he does touch on three problems that face the race realists. The first is what you see in the Fred Reed column. Unless you are a liberal, you know lots of pleasant people outside your tribe. Most of the people I know are outside my tribe. Whatever the statistical differences, whatever the cultural differences, pretty much everyone has a soft spot in their heart for someone outside their tribe.

That makes discussing this stuff tricky, but not impossible. Where things get dicey is when you move from listing facts to forming public policy based on those facts. Think about it. Let’s say population X is not very bright and prone to violence. Let’s say you lay out the facts to everyone’s satisfaction and there is general agreement that population X is not very bright and prone to violence. Then what? What policy arises from these facts? What would be the point of the policy?

Let’s pretend you can come up with some policy, say for education, that handles the violent stupid people in a humane and productive way. They get some benefit without placing a burden on the rest of society. I don’t know, maybe a colony of some sort where this population is placed. What about the exceptions? What about those pleasant people who are not dimwitted or dangerous? Do you ship them off to the colony too? If so, how do you sell that to the people in your tribe?

The Permission State: Lawless Country & Lawless Cops

Starting in the 1990’s, America started building and arming paramilitary units around the country. Most point to the North Hollywood Shootout as the genesis, but you can probably put the start date in the 1970’s when Daryl Gates formed the Los Angeles SWAT unit after the Symbionese Liberation Army ran wild in Compton. Radley Balko wrote a good book on the subject last year. Here’s a Wall Street Journal article from him last year that covers the important ground.

The foolishness of building these paramilitary units is obvious in retrospect, but at the time it was just the normal consequence of allowing public sector unions. To get the cop endorsement, pols promised them every toy on the market. The result is we are one step closer to warlordism. This piece from William Kristol, of all people, is a good example of what’s coming to a town near you. Washington is now a Renaissance capital with armored limousines instead of gilded carriages. I

This story from California is yet another example of the police ignoring the law. Who is going to stop them? Apparently not the courts.

With a search warrant in hand, federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confiscated computers, customer lists and the questionable polymer 80 percent lower receivers from four Ares Armor store locations throughout San Diego County over the weekend.

“There were women and children inside our retail establishment when the (ATF) agents came in with guns drawn,” said Ares Armor Executive Officer Dimitrios Karras. “They came into our manufacturing facility with their guns up like they were invading Iraq.”

The raid happened three days after Ares owner was granted a temporary restraining by a judge to stop ATF agents from searching their stores.

The ATF confirmed they were investigating the stores for federal firearm violations.

The case stems from the sale of what is called an 80% lower receiver, which gun enthusiast use to build their own rifles and guns.

Building a rifle with specific versions of the 80 percent receivers is legal.   The polymer lower receiver appears to be manufactured differently with two parts, making them a firearm and illegal sell, according to the ATF.

“We did ask the court to clarify if these things were firearms or not,” said Karras. “We did ask for protection as this gets resolved within the court system.”

Karras said they had their polymer lower receivers locked in a closet ready to turn over to the ATF since Wednesday.  He was more concerned about the federal agents taking lists of his customers’ information.

“If anybody is a criminal organization that should be investigated, I think they should look in the mirror. We gave them a black eye publicly,” Karras said. “They tried to do an underhanded deal with us. They said, ‘Hey hush, hush. Keep it secret and nobody’s going to know that we took the customer list from you. Nobody’s going to know we took this from you.’”

The investigation has some customers nervous about their right to bear arms.

“I’m on that list, and I’m waiting for the knock on the door to tell me they are here to remove my second amendment rights,” one customer told Fox 5.

It is already happening.

An Ohio high school student has already been jailed and kicked out of school for having a pocket knife in his car, and now he fears he could lose his dream of serving in the Army.

Jordan Wiser, a student at Ashtabula County Technical School in Jefferson, is finishing up his senior year from home after school officials searched his car in December and found the folding knife and an Airsoft gun. School officials called police, who charged him with illegal conveyance of a weapon onto a school ground based on the three-inch knife.

“I declined to allow them to search myself or my car and that I wanted to talk to my lawyer or my father,” Wiser told “They told me it wasn’t an option.”

You don’t get the rest of those rights in the Bill of Right either, it seems.  The American ruling class has not cared for our Constitution since the outbreak of Progressivism in the 19th century. It has steadily grown worse to the point where the current president is openly hostile to basic guarantees in our Constitution. The courts laugh at the very idea of a restraint on government authority. Now, the cops look upon the masses with contempt. It’s not hard to see where this going to end.

You may say to yourself, “As long as you obey the law it is not a problem. These isolated issues are just that.” That’s not the concern. The trajectory is the concern. A century ago the average American rarely bumped against agent of the national government. The Post Office was his only regular interface with Washington. He infrequently had dealings with his local government. Today, everyone of us bumps into government at all levels We must get permission for everything we do now.

Smokey And The Fatman

It used to be that public health was focused on the health of the public, which meant basic sanitation, medical care and so forth. An expanded definition would include education about nutrition and prevention of disease though vaccinations and public education. Today, public health means pointless virtue signalling from the ruling class over things that have little to do with public health. The news brings word that New Jersey’s governor is looking to tax e-cigarettes.

Cash-strapped New Jersey is leading the charge against e-cigarettes, with Governor Chris Christie and state legislators proposing high taxes that could propel sales into the black market and diminish the state’s tax intake.

Fox News reports that the booming, currently still unregulated e-cigarette industry is enticing a number of states to propose new taxes to cover for the sales. While the health effects of e-cigarettes are still not fully known, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that e-cigarettes have “far fewer of the toxins found in smoke compared to traditional cigarettes,” and many individuals suggest that they have been able to stop smoking cigarettes by switching to this nicotine-providing alternative. One study found that e-cigarettes are as effective as nicotine patches in helping smokers quit.

Lots of people who have switched to the e-cigarettes and then quit using nicotine entirely. Even heavy smokers, who have tried all of the other remedies have found relief through vaping. They don’t start vaping in order to quit nicotine, but that is a happy result of making the switch. it turns out to be an effective way to break the habit, because it first eliminates the link between the hundreds of chemicals in cigarettes and the nicotine. This seems to make quitting less difficult.

You would think that would be welcomed news by the anti-smoking people, but you would be wrong. They never gave a damn about the health of smokers. The people in these movements just like pushing people around. The advent of e-cigarettes is now making that plain. Instead of encouraging harm reduction, they are trying to ban this new gadget. New York City also banned e-cigs, which is hilarious as it is impossible to enforce, as the user can do it undetected with little effort.

Of course, the politicians just want the money. The hilarious part is this whole thing is it pits the busybodies against the legal plunder crowd. The anti-pleasure fanatics are out trying to ban the sale of cigarettes, while the blood suckers in every state capital are trying to figure out how to make more money from the sale of cigarettes. One side is quietly encouraging vice in order to tax it, while the other side loudly condemns, while quietly happy to have people to lecture.

A group of state attorneys general are asking the nation’s top pharmacy chains to follow rival CVS and stop selling tobacco products.

The prosecutors sent letters to Walgreens (WAG, Fortune 500) and Rite-Aid (RAD, Fortune 500) as well as three other retailers with pharmacies in their stores — Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, Fortune 500) as well as grocers Kroger (KR, Fortune 500) and Safeway (SWY, Fortune 500).

“There is a contradiction in having these dangerous and devastating tobacco products on the shelves of a retail chain that services health care needs,” the AGs wrote.

The push is being made by a bipartisan group of prosecutors, led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman and Ohio AG Mike DeWine, from 26 other states and territories.

The funny part is watching the pols struggle to come up with a way to tax something that may be impossible to tax. There are millions of sites selling these things. Taxing cigarettes is relatively easy. The distributors are licensed by the states and put a tax man on-site. Taxing bits of metal that can be shipped from anywhere on the planet for pennies is a different matter. You could tax nicotine at the manufacturer, but then you raise prices of all sorts of other goods. Nicotine is used in pesticide, for example, in the organic food business. There’s some irony.

Fake Indian For President!

People dismiss Elizabeth Warren as a light weight who got a little lucky. That may be true to a great degree, but she is an ambitious light weight. She wants to be the first fake Indian in the White House. She has carefully staked out the right turf and is a favorite of the hard bourgeois Left. When she was running for the Senate, middle-class women were ecstatic for her. Warren’s Facebook page has that cultish vibe to it. It is the sort of fawning that makes normal people uncomfortable.

Today comes news she is prepping a book for later in the year. This is a common thing for pols with an eye on a presidential run. They are written to make life easy for the press covering them. Well, easier for the liberal press swooning over a Democrat candidate. Republicans tend to write books that are used as ammunition against them, because Republicans are dumb. Warren’s next book smells like a campaign platform that her friends in the media can use to promote her candidacy.

The conventional wisdom is Clinton will run away with the 2016 nomination. It is her turn and she has dirt on everyone that could run against her. The Democrats usually abhor retreads and losers, but their bench is empty right now. Warren could probably challenge Clinton as both the authentic Progressive and the authentic Progressive women in the race. There’s a lot of bad feeling toward Clinton from the Left, but running against someone with Clinton’s body count is not wise.

In Washington it is an open secret that Warren is quietly feeling out supporters and donors. Hillary is old and looking rough. If she falters, Warren is going to want to be ready. Publishing a book no one will read is another way to touch the donor base. They will be asked to buy in bulk. If after the midterm the Party is looking for someone around whom they can rally, Warren could be right there to play the Bobby Kennedy role to Hillary’s Humphrey. If not, then 2020 is a possibility.

The thing that no one sees coming is the growing populism in the country. Someone on the Right may figuring it out, as the GOP is a fragile shell of a party. That said, the nation is led by the Left, so that’s where populism will have a real impact if it becomes a thing in politics. Warren is someone who could tap into that and become the new face of bourgeois Progressivism. That assumes that Hillary does not run and win and Hillary does not have these challengers killed.


This post over at Marginal Revolution by Alex Tabarrok is a good example of the neo-Taylorism growing like a fungus over the ruling class. A century ago, the new technocrats that were born of the Industrial Revolution, were sure you could use engineering principles to fix human society. Just as you could organize people inside a factory or even in an army, you should be able to use the same strategies to organize society a a whole. It was technocratic utopianism.

Now, guys like Tabarrok are not trying to use engineering or even corporate management techniques to reorder society. Instead, they come at the problem from articles of faith within modern economics. They believe they can reform society by using the right combination of incentives. In fact, they reject the very notion of society and instead see nothing bu collections of moist economic units. Adjust the market conditions the right way and those economic units will respond accordingly.

Now, Tabarrok  is a fanatic. For instance, his enthusiasm for open borders is slightly deranged at times. This post is a good example. One can reasonably debate immigration. There’s no debating a fanatic celebrating Open Borders Day. Santayana said, “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.” That seems to be the point of the open borders crowd. They no longer know why they worship at that alter. They are certain they must do so every day.

Anyway, this is what stands out in his post:

Politics, however, began to intrude into this Coasean world in the 1940s and 1950s. Auto sales accounts for some 20% of sales taxes and auto dealers employ a lot of people so when it came to a battle in the state legislatures the auto dealers trumped the manufacturers. The result was franchise laws that were increasingly biased towards dealers. In essence, exclusive franchises became locked into place, manufactures lost the right to add dealers even with population expansion, quantity forcing became illegal and dealer termination became all but impossible.
A common feature in this crowd is the excessive use of the word “Coasean” whebever they are pushing a policy. Ronald Coase was a brilliant economist. The Nature of the Firm is a wonderful piece of work that has stood the test of time. He was not, however, a prophet. The priests of this cult have turned him into exactly that. They compulsively yammer about Coasean markets and Coasean outcomes. If Jesus was the son of God, Coase was the son of Efficiency, the top of their chain of being.

The result of dealer rent seeking has been higher auto prices for consumers, about 6% higher according to one (older) study by the FTC. Consumers have been stiffed in other ways as well. In some states, for example, manufacturers were required to reimburse dealers for a repair under warranty whatever amount the dealers would have charged consumers for the same repair not under warranty. As a result, dealers had an incentive to increase their price to consumers because that increased what they would be reimbursed for repairs under warranty. The franchise laws have also resulted in a highly inefficient distribution of dealers as populations have moved but dealers have been frozen into place. The inability to close, move or consolidate dealers has impacted the big-3 American firms especially because they have older networks. As a result, a typical GM dealer sells 377 cars a year while a typical Honda dealer sells 1,062 and a Toyota dealer 1,488.

Tesla wants to sell directly to the public but more generally what we need is to restore the Coasean balance, put dealers and manufacturers back on a equal footing and let the market decide the most efficient means of retailing and distributing automobiles.

That’s the thing with neo-Taylorism. The adherents talk a lot about freedom, liberty, choice and free markets, but when it gets down to it, they just want to impose their morality on everyone else. New Jersey has free and open elections. The people are as sovereign there as they are in any other state. Their representatives are just as crooked and dishonest as any other politicians, but that’s a constant in human societies. Any economic theory, religion or ideology that fails to recognize that is lunacy.
For the new utopians, God is a frictionless, efficient market. Just as Christians measure human action against the ideals of Christ, these guys measure public policy against the ideals of their faith. Like all iterations of the materialist creed, it willingly tramples on any human that gets int he way. In the case of New Jersey, Alex would love nothing more than to throw the men and women working in the car dealerships into the streets and see them starve if it pleases Efficiency.
Libertarian economists always bring to mind Whittaker Chambers take down of Ayn Rand. Like Libertarianism, this sub-cult is a sterile and pitiless dogma. If the choice is between crushing the citizenry in the gears of commerce and paying a little extra for a sedan, these people will feed your kids into the machinery without a moments hesitation. It also has the sort of foolishness to it that Kipling had in mind. It is is why neo-Taylorism is a good label for them, even if a little clunky.
The misappropriation of math and science to areas of life outside of pure math and science has its risks. Using statistics to judge baseball players is harmless entertainment and a reasonable way to determine the market for light hitting shortstops. Using arithmetic to dispose of the unfit is monstrously self-destructive. Economists will claim that the gas chambers are outside the bounds of their morality because of the harm it caused specific people. That’s fine, but they open it up for debate. Any moral code that leave open the possibility of murder being moral is inherently defective.
That’s what you see with Tabarrok. He is all for letting one group of people murder another group of people if it leads to cheaper cameras or cheaper lawn care. He does not put it in those terms because even Randian fanatics understand marketing. You’re not getting far advocating murder, but it is murder none the less. If one group of people invade the lands of another, replacing the native culture with their own, it is murder. It’s ethnic cleansing. Instead of being directed by an easily identified villain it set in motion by economists hiding behind the walls of their university.

Fake Nerds Rejoice

A feature of modern times is the fake nerd. That’s the guy who dresses and talks like he was a geeky kid growing up and now busies himself with science and math. The TV show Big Bang Theory plays on this. In reality these fake nerds are almost always toting liberal arts degrees of the soft kind, like sociology or psychology. These people are brought onto news chat programs to repeat conventional wisdom, but salt their language with statistics or references to science.

Sports TV has been infested with the fake nerds. Pablo Torre on ESPN is the prime example. He majored in journalism, yet pretends to be a math guy on TV. It is a fair bet he cannot do basic math with any degree of confidence, but there he is every day pretending to be a stat-nerd on TV. These guys cherry-pick language and concepts from stat-heavy sites that analyze trends. They don’t understand the math behind them, but they don’t have to, as their job is to play a role, like an actor.

The good news for the fake nerds is their rabbi is back in business. Nate Silver’s racket is back up and running with the help of ESPN. Silver is a bright guy, for sure, but he is an ideologue and that gets the best of him. He’s a lot like Richard Lewontin, who was undeniably smart, but consumed with ideology. So much so it led him to lie about his work and do so brazenly. That’s not to say Silver is a liar, but it shows the risk of allowing an ideologue to assume the role of empiricist.

The application of statistics to human activity seems like a fool’s errand. Sports is a great example. Using advanced metrics has not helped gamblers. It may have helped some gamblers for a short time, but gambling is not just a math puzzle. Games of chance rely on human fallibility. That’s true of sports. The key to winning at sports gambling, for example, is to find the game outside the 90%. That means the possible outcomes within the 90% probability are not going to be winners for the gambler. You need the upsets and unexpected blowouts.

That said, the new religion of economics is legitimizing the use of statistics to public policy, because it opens the debate to corruption. Instead of focusing on desired ends, the focus is on process. The statistics make people think the outcomes are ordained and that what matters is how you get there. It’s why economics often looks a lot like tarot card reading. That assumption the future is written is never said, but it is often assumed, so process is all that matters.

It is a bit ironic. The last time this sort of materialist zeal got a purchase with the public was in the 19th century with Taylorism. That was the application of engineering to the work place to eliminate waste. Sounds a lot like what the new religion means by efficiency. Taylorism eventually gave us The Efficiency Movement. Progressives “such as Herbert Croly, Charles R. van Hise and Richard Ely sought to improve governmental performance by training experts in public service comparable to those in Germany, notably at the Universities of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Schools of business administration set up management programs oriented toward efficiency.”

Herbert Hoover was a big fan of this. Contrary to Progressive mythology, he was not a small government conservative. Like Nixon, he accepted the main arguments of the Left. He just picked the wrong party and, it turns out, the wrong time to be President. The point being that the last time our elites had a religious zeal for a new science of efficiency, promising to bring heaven on earth, they almost destroyed civilization. For that reason I wish Nate Silver and his fellow monks nothing but the worst.