Monday, May 30, 2016

Social Democrats' Blind Spot Is Central to Their Philosophy

Nicholas Kristof wrote an article in the New York Times on May 28 entitled "The Liberal Blind Spot." He criticizes social democrats as being intolerant of conservatives. Mr, Kristof uses the term "liberal" mistakenly. What Mr. Kristof calls "liberal" is not liberal. It is groupthink, so what he is attempting to do is to square a circle.  

Mr. Kristof's implicit claim that a key issue in all of political theory is gay rights is a short-term consensus reached by peer pressure or group dynamics. It has little to do with any definition of liberalism. (It not only has little to do with the true and original definition of "liberalism," which refers to freedom, including freedom of thought, but also with the twentieth century American one, which was rooted in Progressivism and the New Deal and which involved adjusting the free economy to provide a government-imposed social insurance system like Bismarck's. Many of the "liberals" of the Progressive and early New Deal period were overt bigots, including Woodrow Wilson and John R. Commons.) 

 Rather, the way the author uses "liberal" is to refer to the concurrence of the Establishment media and academia and their committed followers to a short-lived issue such as gay rights,  the environment, Obama for president, and so on.  It is rooted in media persuasion, brainwashing,  and it was first seen in the late nineteenth century when the Mugwumps rejected in unison the Republican candidate for president, James Blaine, and backed Grover Cleveland, the Bourbon Democrat.  Today the Mugwump Republicans would be called the "liberals," but the point is that what distinguishes so-called "liberals" from others is the very unison of thought that the author criticizes.  The uniformity comes from media and academic conformity pressure, groupthink, and the uniformity is central to American "liberalism."  Social democrats' identification of intelligence with unity of opinion to a received doctrine, whether it be evolution, gay rights, or Obama for president, is as far from liberalism as Stalinism was.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

USD Should Establish a Gail Heriot Award

Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars had sent a press release about a controversy concerning Professor Gail Heriot's testimony about transgender bathrooms.  I don't consider the issue to be a federal one, and I don't consider it to be particularly important. However, I do believe that a professor with an opinion should be allowed to testify before Congress without having her life threatened by authoritarian left wingers.   I wrote this email to the dean of the University of San Diego's law school and the university's president.  Peter Wood's email follows.

Dear Dean Ferruolo and President Harris:

I read about the recent abuse of Professor Gail Heriot.

Gail Heriot has performed a public service by testifying before the US House Taskforce on Executive Overreach.  In response, Representative Zoe Lofgren has attacked Professor Heriot, calling her a bigot. Several blogs have joined the attack, and activists who support Representative Lofgren’s views and tenor have sent Professor Heriot death threats.  As well, Dean Ferruolo has received demands that he fire Professor Heriot.

In a sense, this is a letter of congratulation. In hiring and supporting Professor Heriot, you are performing an important public service. Easy cases do not test academic freedom, and it is with respect to hard cases that public service like Heriot’s is signal.

We have seen this  intolerant tendency in and around universities  since the 1980s.  Representative Lundgren’s inability to disagree about a difficult moral and social question is inconsistent with the ability of a free society to function.  Her performance has been disgraceful.

It is time for universities  to encourage political speech that offends authoritarian sensibilities. I urge the University of San Diego to establish a Gail Heriot award to honor faculty who engage in difficult public debate.

Sincerely,

Mitchell Langbert, Ph.D.

Peter Wood, the president of the National Association of Scholars, has responded with the following statement to the controversy over Professor Heriot’s May 24, 2016 testimony to the U.S. Taskforce on Executive Overreach.
On Tuesday Gail Heriot, a professor of law at the University of San Diego and a board member of the National Association of Scholars, gave testimony to the U.S. House Taskforce on Executive Overreach criticizing new guidance on restrooms and locker rooms for transgendered individuals. Professor Heriot testified that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) had overstepped its legal authority in issuing its May 13 “Dear Colleague” letter, which requires all schools to allow students to use the restroom and locker room of their choice, regardless of biological sex.
In the questioning that followed Professor Heriot’s prepared statement, California Representative Zoe Lofgren attacked Professor Heriot’s testimony as “offensive.” Lofgren continued, "I think you’re a bigot, lady. I think you are an ignorant bigot."  Lofgren was particularly upset that Professor Heriot’s remarks would become part of the committee’s official record. The chairman of the Taskforce, Representative Steve King (Iowa), responded to Lofgren’s outburst by calling the meeting to order and asked Lofgren to refrain from “calling names.” Lofgren, however, persisted and announced she could “not allow that kind of bigotry to go unchallenged.”
Several left-wing blogs quickly reported on the event. Brad Reed, writing at Raw Story, characterized Lofgren’s remarks as an “epic smack-down.” The reports set off a cascade of hate mail to Professor Heriot, including death threats and a writer urging her to commit suicide. Stephen C. Ferruolo, the dean of the law school at the University of San Diego, has also received demands that he fire Professor Heriot.
The National Association of Scholars strongly supports Professor Heriot. Her invited testimony to the U.S. House Taskforce on Executive Overreach was well crafted and represents carefully considered views well within her professional expertise. In no way did Professor Heriot present “bigoted” statements on sexual identity. Rather, she gave a history of the OCR’s past disregard for legal limits to its authority and traced the history of the law regarding transgender individuals. She also noted that the concept of “transgender” did not enter the legal vocabulary until many years after the passage of Title IX, which OCR claims as the basis for its authority to issue its “Dear Colleague” letters.
Lofgren’s outburst was outrageous. It violated the standards of civility of the U.S. House of Representatives. And it was especially inappropriate in view of the temperate character of Professor Heriot’s remarks. It is perhaps too much to hope that Representative Lofgren will apologize for her antics as they seem to have served her purpose in exciting her progressive base. Other observers will take note of her abuse of her authority.
We expect the University of San Diego to disregard the calls to remove Professor Heriot from her position.
The National Association of Scholars recognizes Professor Heriot’s outstanding work on behalf of civil rights in America and her determination to uphold the rule of law during a period in which the executive has frequently abused it.

Monday, April 11, 2016

France's Economic System Doesn't Come Close

The students in my classes are products of the New York City school system and the New York City media milieu, and they tend to believe the propaganda and indoctrination that they receive from the two.  One of their misconceptions is the belief that the French are better off economically than Americans are.  

France's economic system has been in trouble for many years, and this UK Telegraph article sums it up . A big part of the problem in France is the state's punitive attacks on small business. In some ways New York State has long followed a similar set of policies, so New York's population growth has been a small fraction of the country's as a whole. 

One student mentioned that although France's GDP per capita is 30 percent lower than the United States' GDP per capita, the overall quality of life might be better in France.  I looked for some alternative measures to GDP per capita, and the UK business magazine The Economist reported in 2013 about an Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD) study of quality of life in the OECD countries, which are the richest countries.  The study is reported in this  Economist article and in a Forbes article.

Although America has the highest income inequality among the OECD countries, the poor in America are better off than the poor in the other OECD countries, with the exceptions of Canada, Sweden, and Australia (all small countries), but the difference in the quality-of-life index for the bottom 10 percent among the four--US, Canada, Sweden, and Australia--are small.  Notice that Canada and Australia have less-regulated economies than the US does, and Sweden's is only slightly more regulated.

The quality of life of the BOTTOM 10 percent in America (.65) is within striking distance of the TOP 10 percent in France (.73).  As the Forbes article points out, the BOTTOM 10 percent in America does better than the TOP 10 percent in Israel, Russia, Portugal, Brazil, Turkey, and Mexico. The top ten percent in America has the highest quality of life in the world.

 The rising income inequality in the US and the other OECD countries since the late 1970s is correlated with increases in the money supply and consequent reductions in interest rates that boost the stock market, real estate market, and other asset markets. The top 10 percent in income rely on asset markets for both income and wealth, so the Obama bailouts and quantitative easing have contributed to income inequality.

The New York Times has consistently favored regulations that harm small business in the name of addressing income inequality, but it also has consistently favored aggressive monetary expansion that helps Wall Street and big business and increases income inequality.

As well, the rising income inequality since the late 1970s follows an increase in government spending.  In 1950, when income inequality was significantly lower than today, total government spending was about 22.5% of the economy. In the late 1970s, when the Gini coefficient (a measure of income inequality) began to rise, government spending was about 28% of the economy, and in 2011 government spending was about 36%.  Hence, a 60% increase in government spending over the past 66 years has been correlated with a 60% increase in income inequality.

I am claiming that both rising income inequality and government spending are linked to monetary expansion. A prediction of this correlation was first made by the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises in 1912. On page 209 of his book 
The Theory of Money and Credit, he predicted that a pure paper currency would result in rising income inequality .
 

The chart below is of GDP per capita, oil exports, population, and economic freedom among the 15-richest countries. France is not among the top-15 countries, for its GDP per capita is about $35,000, about 30 percent lower than the United States'. As you can see on the list, seven of the 15 countries with high GDP per capita are in the top-15 ranking of economic freedom (lack of regulation).   These are Qatar, Singapore, UAE, Switzerland, the US, Hong Kong, and Australia. Another seven of the top-15 countries are oil exporters (Qatar, Brunei, Kuwait, Norway, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain).  The only country on the list with a population in excess of 25 million is the United States.  Several small countries such as San Marino, which receives subsidies from Italy and has a population of 300,000, are anomalies.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Minimum Wage Push May Inadvertently Provide New American Model

The minimum wage presents one of many value choices that divide America.  That is nothing new, but because it is one of the few areas in which some states are exceeding the federal government's degree of coercion, its differential adoption across the states suggests a potential model for overhauling the American political system.  The country can be divided into a green half that favors coercion, equality, and the religions of Marx and Comte and a blue half that favors freedom, economic growth, and the religions of Jesus and Moses.

In the nineteenth century the economic divisions between North and South led to two major conflicts: the conflict over the Tariff of Abominations in the late 1820s and early 1830s, which nearly led to a civil war, and the Civil War, which was fought not about slavery but about its abolition in new territories, which meant more land for white, small-scale farmers from the North.

The party of big business and white labor, the Republican Party, was also the party of abolition. Although Lincoln was not elected on an abolitionist platform, and Lincoln was a racist who wanted to send African American slaves to Africa, the conflict between states' rights and national power became associated with racism. This unfortunate historical confluence played into the hands of the big business-oriented Whigs, who had become a cornerstone of the Republicans.  Lincoln, for instance, was a railroad lawyer and lobbyist who directly benefited from the transcontinental railroad, which he authorized.  As well, increasing national power played directly into the hands of a host of large corporate clients, especially Wall Street. Regulation, painted as anti-business, was a bulwark of the corporatization of the American economy.  Universities were bolstered not only to provide scientific support to large-scale industry but also to provide ideological justification for centralizing policies that support their architects and funders: the federal government, Wall Street, and big business.

Centralization has relentlessly proceeded even as it has become more costly. It was never clear that economies of scale minus centralization's costs provided net benefits, but the costs have relentlessly increased and the benefits relentlessly dwindled as social democratic and socialistic policies invented in the Northeast and especially in New York have been imposed on the rest of America.  The minimum wage is a case in point: It causes unemployment, and its expansion is likely to cause further unemployment.  The effects of increasing enforced unemployment in American ghettos are unknowable, but the Democratic Party is eager to impose such costs in order to further the needs of its clients, especially the Service Employees' International Union.

However, not all states are beholden to the SEIU.  In an article in Seeking Alpha Vlae Kershner produces the chart below. It shows the states that have adopted above-federal minimum wages and those that have not:


Kershner suggests that increasing the minimum wage will harm Wal-Mart and help Amazon, and my guess is that Amazon's management is in favor of the minimum wage.  The green states, those with a minimum wage higher than the federal one, have in a sense adopted a social democratic model. The ones who have not, the blue, purple and dark blue states, have  a more constrained ideology, which likely includes elements of belief in freedom.

The relationship is not one to one. Pennsylvania, for example, may not fall into the freedom-oriented category and Alaska or Florida may.  Perhaps, though, Prof. Angelo Codevilla's country party finds most life in the twenty-one blue, dark blue, and purple states.

This suggests a new model for American governance.  There is no reason why we need a single federal system of the size and scope of today's United States. Two, three, or four systems linked by common trade and military policies might be more efficient and result in a greater degree of experimentation than the increasingly suppressive federal government with its increasingly idiotic voters.  Switzerland, with 26 relatively independent cantons and Canada, with two different languages, outperform the United States economically, politically, and spiritually.