Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pro-Bailout Republicans Lost and Should Step Aside

I wrote the following blog on the Republican Liberty Caucus site and reproduce it here.

Walter Weyl was one of the three founders of the New Republic, all of whom were pivotal in the creation of so-called “state activist liberalism”, an Orwellian phrase if there ever was one. Weyl was a professor at the Wharton School of Business and advocate of socialism. His book, New Democracy, is not as popular today as Herbert Croly’s and Walter Lippmann’s, his partners’. But Weyl’s book is the most prophetic and forthright. In it he argues (unlike Croly and Lippmann who were not so explicit) that Progressivism (the ideology of Theodore Roosevelt -R- and Woodrow Wilson -D-) would lead to socialism.

The culmination of Weyl’s ideas has occurred. The close linkage between the Progressivism of the Rockefeller Republicans (of whom Theodore Roosevelt was the first) and the social democracy of the Democrats (that traces back to Franklin Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan) is now evident. With the bailout we see that both Progressivism and social democracy are, as Weyl knew and advocated, complementary versions of socialism.

One side effect of this is we now know what to call them. They are not “liberals”, which is what libertarians should be called. They are not “Progressives” because no ideology is more conservative than socialism. Nor are they “social democrats” because they do not believe in democracy, preferring pandering to Wall Street and other special interests, especially public sector unions, failed manufacturing firms and banks to democracy. Rather, they are SOCIALISTS. I therefore say to you now:


A second side effect is that there is an important struggle ahead: to retake control of the GOP. In the early twentieth century the GOP was the party of Progressivism. William Howard Taft was what today would be called a conservative, and Theodore Roosevelt bolted the GOP to start the Progressive or Bull Moose Party by which time he was aggressively socialist. William Jennings Bryan had captured the Democrats in 1896 on behalf of populism, and these ideas found final articulation not in the Progressivism of Wilson, who was for most of his life a Bourbon or laissez faire Democrat, but of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The fact is that most of FDR’s ideas had already been advocated by TR in 1912.

The GOP never recovered from the harm that TR did. Subsequent presidents, Harding and Coolidge, were not ideologically astute and did absolutely nothing to alter the Progressive institutions that Roosevelt and Wilson had initiated. Hoover was a Progressive from the time he had worked for Woodrow Wilson as his food industry price fixing Czar during World War I. The New Deal was just a continuation of Hoover’s failed Progressive ideas such as using public works to cure unemployment. Eisenhower did nothing to reduce government and added his share, such as the Interstates. Goldwater and Reagan were a departure, but George W. Bush was part of the Progressive tradition, and waited until several years into his office to make it clear.

We are left with a situation where socialist extremists are in control of both parties. The pro-bailout Republicans of McCain and Bush and the socialist Democrats constitute a twin-headed hydra. We can win, though, because a healthy 30 percent of America still favors freedom. If we align ourselves with various other interests, such as the religious, we can win.

But there is a big fight ahead. Liberty Republicans need to think about how to convince the Rockefeller Republicans to move to their true home–the Democratic Party. Yes, let’s get rid of them. They predominate in the unwinnable Blue states anyway, and the public will not care if oil, health care and insurance executives align themselves with the party of greed, the Democrats.

In any case, we have a good argument: the pro bailout Republicans lost because of their ideas. They have failed. They should step aside.

Mitchell Langbert blogs at
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official positions of the RLC.

David on Conservatism

Last week I blogged on the difference between conservatism and libertarianism. David has brought up some good points, and I copy and respond to them as follows.

David on Conservatism

Thank you for your response. It is appreciated. I do, however, feel obliged to reply.

Burkeans do not believe in preserving all norms, mores, and institutions that have existed in the past, simply because they existed in the past. They believe in preserving what has proven to be good and excising what has proven to be bad. The cutoff point for your account of English history is premature, as 1688 marks the birth of Parliamentary Supremacy and the monarchy’s steady decline in influence and power. The Founding generation said they were fighting for their rights as Englishmen. As Paul Johnson aptly put it, many Americans may not have been literate, but they could tell you what their rights were. The Bill of Rights of the Glorious Revolution is copied almost verbatim in some of the US Constitution’s passages (e.g., excessive bail, excessive fines, cruel and unusual punishment), and re-articulated in many others (e.g., individual gun rights, which I like to yell at liberal, collective rights 2nd Am revisionists about). It is predominantly, I think, to that historical period, its lessons, political corrections, and norms that one ought to refer in order to make sense of the American claim of preserving English rights. Though they also had in mind the Magna Carta and other English inventions from prior periods, it certainly does not follow, as you claim, that “[t]hese [centralized monarchical power, torture of dissidents, etc.] are the institutions that conservatives would need to say that they are preserving if they are to take Burke's advice.”

I must also disagree that the colonists “ran wild” for two centuries before the Revolution, given their faith in English rights, in Blackstone and the Common Law (which was adopted without much, if any, theoretical tweaking to fit the new republican regime), and in their fidelity to regional political structures. By non-complete revolution, Burke did not just mean English rights, but also that, although radically transformed into sovereign countries, the government constructs, i.e., the provinces, were preserved intact as states. While the federal political architecture is Polybian-Montesqueian-Lockean, the above mentioned factors are heavily indebted to English institutions. From the fact that the colonists had more freedom (and lived better) than their English cousins, or that they couldn’t replicate the sophistication of English institutions (due to low populations, education, the vagaries of colonizing a new land, etc.) it does not follow that certain (neither I, nor Burke, said ‘all’) critical English institutions were not preserved “in the most important ways”.

Your account of Jefferson appears wholly accurate (I am nowhere near an expert to judge properly), and I read his letter to Madison where he expressed the notion of generational revolutions. However, I must admit to finding your account insufficient, since I question using Jefferson as the sole and representative mouthpiece for the Founders in order to prove a lack of conservativism within that group. This is not to say that I or conservatives generally reject Jefferson, but certainly one need not subscribe to everything he says. He was dead wrong about France because of the nature of its revolution, not just economics. He was also wrong about Black people. Adams and Franklin certainly did not agree with him on many issues, and famously influenced the change in language in the Declaration of Independence concerning unalienable rights. Why are their views not given equal consideration when considering the group’s set of values (even if Adams was a loudmouth and not well liked)? Did Madison agree with Jefferson’s suggestion? The Federalists also won the first Presidential election after GW. Did the people of the northern states who voted for them harbor old-world, monarchical sentiments?. To my mind, that Jefferson did not speak for all or even most of the Founders when it came to the Establishment clauses is evidenced by the fact that it took decades for the official state churches to be eradicated. In other words, one may find your explanation for the eventual eradication of said churches both completely true and insufficient to justify your claim that all, or even most, Founders were libertarians. Why did it take them so long to do it? I still don't understand why, under your account, why they did allow for it in the first place given their willingness to do ban hegemonic churches at the national level in 1787. So, as for your questions, do I believe Jefferson believed his “wall of separation” speech? Yes. Do I think all or even most of the other Founders agreed that that is the Establishment Clause meant, rather than merely prohibiting a national church like that in England (or Rome)? No. I am not religious and do not have a bias in favor of any church or increased church-state relations. I’m a right wing Jew and would rather die than see a synagogue have an official role anywhere in America (especially given the probability of such a body’s pinko proclivities). Now, you may say that libertarianism evolved unto the 1830s to a point where Jefferson’s view became dominant, but this would require further evidence than you’ve provided, and would need to call into play a larger cast of historical characters. If we do not take Jefferson's word as strictly representative, his call for periodic revolutions is in no way a proof about the Founders as a group.

That the word “liberal” had a different meaning than it does today is true insofar as it now means social welfarist or open-minded (a question begging predicate). That “conservative” is a personality type is perhaps true. However, your claim that it simply meant Freedom in the Jeffersonian tradition while “conservative” meant deference to Old World, pre-democratic thinking is not borne out by the fact that there were liberal and conservative Whigs. THAT distinction is not what divided them. Nor the early Republicans. Nor the late 19th Century Democrats, who believed in decentralization.

My Response

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. They are helpful. I have read about 3 books on the Whigs and have not come across the "conservative/liberal" continuum that you mention and I would be interested in where/who uses that terminology and the context. The Whigs were in large part a response to Jackson, the prototypical libertarian. The use of terminology like conservative/liberal in the 1840s/1830s may have been specifically in reference to either slavery or banking, which were the chief issues of the day. Note that the Whigs were NOT what we would call "conservative" in reference to slavery--it was the Jacksonian Democrats who were the more racist of the two groups. That is one the tragedies of American history and libertarianism, that it was associated with slavery and racism (the trail of tears and the Dred Scott decision were both products of the Jacksonian Democrats). Yet today, many who call themselves "conservative" are closer to the Jacksonian views of Chief Justice R. Taney than they are to the Whigs.

There were radical abolitionists and radical opponents of the Bank of the United States. Also, people may have been considered "conservative" who favored established privileges like monopolies. None of these are likely positions of conservatives today, except some may believe themselves to be defenders of privilege.

The examples of English history that you are using are not reflective of conservatism. Rather, they were changes that were made in the 1500s and 1600s as royal advocates of the Catholic and Anglican church fought with each other and with Parliament and as Parliament wrested power leading up to 1642. These were truly progressive changes to, not preservation of, institutions. You are saying that conservatives base their conservatism on these changes. But that's not conservatism. That's a belief in change.

There is a radical shift that occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries. Between 900 and 1500 the society believed in "the great chain of being". That is the idea that the monarch is the most important, the aristocracy second, the landed gentry third and the commoners last. Since 95% of the population was commoners, that relegated virtually everyone to fourth-class status. A true conservatism would have to accept some variation of the great chain of being. In fact, no American conservatism accepts any such idea (with the exception of academics who believe in a hierarchy of institutional prestige, Harvard first, etc.). American conservatives reject the great chain of being, so their conservatism begins with the 16th century. Before then, rights were an issue of conflict between the aristocracy and the king. This is also true of Cromwell. He was a member of the landed gentry, and even in the 17th century commoners were not much of a part of the Civil War.

It is true that decentralization was a by-product of barbarian conquest, and that we ought to preserve that (and perhaps in that sense we can be conservative as we can with protection of freedom), but the Great Chain of being is a concept antithetical to all American thought save at the fringes.

The term conservatism crops up at times when some favor the wealthy and are reminded of the great chain of being and the medieval belief that the descendants of the conquering Normans were more important than the descendants of the conquering Angles, who were more important than the descendants of the Celts and other tribes and the Roman conquerors occupying England when the Angles arrived. But no American conservatism claims this.

The Americans emphasized rights that had been established in conflict between king and parliament, and make no mistake about it--the parliament was composed of higher gentry and above, the top five percent of the country. The house of commons was a house of non-nobles, not the average person. You had to own a good chunk of land just to vote. The cost of travel alone would have prohibited most Englishmen from serving in Parliament. By 1835, within slightly more than 50 years of the country's founding, virtually all of the rights previously granted only to landholders had been granted to all Americans. And in the first place, it wasn't that hard to become a landholder in colonial times.

That the colonists emphasized rights and not the great chain of being was a matter of their choice. It was not a conservative decision. It was a libertarian one. Lockean rights talk was new at that time. Like the great chain of being, communism had existed throughout Europe, including England, in the form of the common field since the earliest days of Christianity and before. The colonists explicitly chose to reject that approach. They were told to adopt it by the companies that sent them here, and they refused. Conservative?

Why is emphasis on the rights that were slowly being newly established "conservative" and emphasis on older communism and the common field, or the Russian Mir considered "progressive"? There is no logic there. It is the ideas that the colonists were adopting that were novel and radical. Communism was associated with the manorial system, with Christianity (as in the monasteries) and with the Zealots of ancient Judaism. There was nothing new about communism. It was the 18th century liberalism that you say conservatives focus on that was new and radical. So why call the newer thing "conservative" and the older thing "progressive"?

Conservatism as a concept is a major aid to socialism. By asserting they are are conserving something of the past (18th century liberalism) against something of the future (socialism) conservatives are saying that socialism is the future. But socialism is the past. It is the older and less successful approach. The conservatives do not conserve anything. they assert the new, radical and future value of freedom. In their hearts pro-bailout conservatives are very much in favor of socialism--the true conservatism.

Of course, unlike Jefferson many in the founding generation favored state churches. But a national church was not feasible. Many states today are larger and more diverse than the entire United States in 1776 (population three million). As a practical matter, a state-level church today would create similar problems to a national church in 1800, and probably worse. Also, I would guess a majority of Americans would oppose this on libertarian grounds.

While Americans believe in Christianity and Christian values in general, and there is no question that this was always a Christian country that espoused Christianity, establishment of a state level official church would lead to the same problems that caused the colonists to come here in the first place. That is why the state churches ended. Moreover, this has always been the most tolerant country. The largest single denomination in the US is Catholic, who were tyrannized by the Anglicans and who also tyrannized the Protestants at several points. But Catholic, Protestant, Jew and Muslim can co-exist here if all accept liberty.

The way that the colonists had state-based churches was that they had deviant beliefs but still considered themselves affiliated with the Church of England. But if they had gone back to England as Puritans the Church of England would have burned them at the stake. So the idea of any kind of established church was, even then, impractical once the colonies grew to any significant size and level of diversity.

Whigs could have been "liberal" in the sense of being abolitionists (for instance, Henry David Thoreau was a libertarian Whig abolitionist who opposed the Mexican War and subsidies to business). Jacksonian Democrats could have been "conservative" in favoring state banks and "liberal" in favoring abolition of state banks. I'm not sure how these terms were used. I'd be interested in hearing where and how they were. They probably would have had very different meanings in the 1830s than in the 1780s. There was no great debate between "liberals" and "conservatives". Conservatives today would often be closer to the Jacksonian Democrats, who favored democracy, limited government, opposed the central bank, opposed monopolies, and were on the wrong side of the race issue. Whigs were for government-paid projects, central banking, big government, tended to be more racially tolerant and more tolerant of immigrants, and were more interested in government privilege for business.

Today, "progressives" would be much closer to the Whigs--they favor big government, centralization and central banking just as did the Whigs. The title of Gabriel Kolko's book "Triumph of Conservatism" is very much a reminder that the Whigs were the central banking party and that their and the Federalists' emphasis on central banking was also emphasis on privilege for the rich. The fact is, the New Deal democrats were able to convince everyone that they are for the poor and then put in the central bank which was obviously a huge subsidy to the rich. They were just better Whigs.

Hence there is very little difference between New Deal Democrats and "conservatives". Both are Whigs. The Democrats are Whigs who claim to help the poor, and the conservatives are Whigs who do not claim to help the poor. Otherwise, they agree.

The closest ancestor to today's Democratic Party is the Federalists. They favored big government, specifically the Bank of the United States. The Whigs and then the Progressives also favored big government and the Bank of the United States. The difference between the New Deal democrats and the Progressives is that they advocated more aggressive social programs but more aggressive privileges for the central bank than any previous party. Thus, they were able to do what the Roman emperors did--provide bread and circus (social security) to the masses but greater privileges to the wealthy via the Fed. In this, they are very much in the Whig tradition, as are the so-called "conservatives" who advocate use of the anti-trust law (as did Taft) to regulate big business, who favor state and banking subsidies to business. The two are different in advertising and tone but not substance. The Democrats say they are for the poor and subsidize the rich, while the Progressive (conservative) Republicans say they are for the rich and are for the rich.

As for the Federalists winning the first three elections, 1788, 1792 and 1796, that is not accurate. George Washington was not a Federalist. He tried to straddle the fence and appointed both Jefferson and Hamilton. He did veer toward the Federalists and then Jefferson resigned as Secretary of State. Washington won in 1788 and 1792 because of his immense popularity and prestige as commander in chief. There was no other reason than the his tremendous persona. His election was non-ideological. Adams did win in a close election, largely, I believe, on foreign policy grounds. His four years were troubled by the Federalists' unpopular Alien and Sedition Acts. Jefferson won in a landslide in 1800, and the Federalists essentially ended soon thereafter. The following thirty years are called the "era of good feelings" because the Federalists had been routed. The Democratic Republicans spawned the radical, Jackson, who was more extreme and liberal (in the true meaning) than Henry Clay, who was a supporter of big government. In fact, Jefferson and Madison were moderate individualists who did not in the end oppose the bank. Jackson was a radical decentralizer who abolished the bank. However, his ideas became dominant and were the ideology that the nation adopted in in its most successful period, from 1832 to 1908. Jackson's ideas were not conservative and they were not traditional. But laissez faire, widespread democracy, and the abolition of the central bank created the most vibrant, innovative economy in the history of the world. In contrast, the policies of the Progressives, the twentieth century's Pro-Fed socialist conservatives and the New Deal's socialist Democrats have been a pathetic failure since 1970, forty years of economic stagnation, mis-allocation, and stupidity.

A final point on the word liberal--it is simply a derivative of the Latin "liberalis" meaning "of freedom". It has always referred to the advocates of Lockean individualism and freedom. No competent historian or political scientist can dispute that. In the Progressive era the leading Progressive theorists began saying that their ideas were really "liberal" and the meaning of liberal as being for freedom was out of date. That is one of the earliest Orwellian reversals of meaning. But the root of the word is "of freedom", and the word continues to be used with the correct meaning in England and Europe. One example of the double talk surrounding the word liberal is Louis Hartz's book liberal tradition in America. The application of the word liberal first to Progressivism and then to socialism is just a form of deception and propaganda. "Freedom is slavery", "Liberalism is state activism", etc.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

High Schools Should Stop Teaching Evolution

I just blogged that there is no such thing as an American conservatism that is not libertarian. It is also true that the rights of people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible should be recognized and protected. Those who believe in secular humanism have no right to enforce their views on those who hold a contrary view. John Stuart Mill made these two points in On Liberty (I memorized them when I was a teenager):

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind...We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still."

As much as this is true of opinion, it is even more true of religious belief. Those who believe in evolution have no right to stifle the beliefs of those who do not. That is not the job of education.

There is no reason for evolution to be taught in high school. The problem facing high schools is that the students do not learn the basic skills--reading, writing and arithmetic. They do not know history. They do not know civics. American education is a disaster area. Students graduate from high school without knowing how to multiply fractions. So why do the schools have time to teach the theory of evolution? Do they teach the theory of the evenly rotating economy of Ludwig von Mises? Do they teach Locke's ideas on natural rights?

No, they don't. They have plenty of time for failed, irrelevant, left-wing ideology in Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto but they do not have time for Locke or Smith. No set of ideas have been more wrong or more destructive than those of Karl Marx. Yet, the public schools in New York continue to teach Marx's ignorant fantasy.

Just why any high school needs to talk about the theory of evolution when they are graduating students who do not know how to multiply fractions is beyond me. Since the subject is offensive to many, it should be dropped. There is plenty of space in the court of public opinion to discuss Scriptural versus Darwinian ideas.

Secular humanism is bunkum.

A Living Faith Does Not Need to Be Conserved

I have claimed that there is no such thing as American conservatism that is not libertarian. That is, the only possible kind of conservatism is one that aims to preserve institutions that protect liberty. A conservatism that claims to be cultural is either not American or not really conservative. The reason is that American institutions were started from scratch and had little to do with the Medieval approach to government that existed in England and Europe at the time of the colonies' founding. The Americans started their free market approach to political economy despite instructions from the British companies that funded them to do otherwise. They established churches that were frequently at odds with established religion in England and Europe. Theirs was not a traditionalist belief system but one based on living faith.

A living faith is NOT CONSERVATIVE. A direct belief does not require adherence to past tradition. It can, but it does not have to. Thus, anyone who claims that their faith is "traditional" either comes from a specific faith that is traditionalist or else lacks faith and simply mimics past practice in the name of tradition. The first is fine, the second seems weak kneed to me. In either case, people who believe these things cannot be said to be particularly American or to preserve American values any more than people to whom faith is revealed directly or who find a new faith.

It is the people of living faith and living ideas who are true Americans. Whether that faith is traditional is beside the point. But it is ONLY INSTITUTIONS THAT PROTECT LIVING FAITH that can be said to be truly American institutions. Enforced conservatism in faith is anti-American because it is anti-libertarian.

Thoughts on Health Reform

I just posted some thoughts on health reform on Raquel Okyay's blog.

Health care costs started going up within a decade after establishment of two government programs: Medicare and Medicaid. In the rest of the world government limits the amount of testing and the kinds of operations people can get. In America, socialists dominate the public health schools and the literature on health reform. They do not consider the effects of socialism on innovation and downplay the interaction of socialism and rationing.

1. Most medical innovation has occurred in the United States, which is also the only nation with anything resembling a free market in health care. If America goes the way of Europe, then what will happen to medical innovation world wide? This issue is not discussed in the academic literature on health reform, and no Democratic Party media has had the competence to ask this question.

2. Excessive use of health services is stimulated by tax exemption of health benefits. This is further magnified by government-paid benefits. Furthermore, third party payers and what economists call information asymmetries stimulate demand (that is, doctors demand excessive services because they are shielded from competition by government-enforced licensing that was established in the early twentieth century).

3. Health care is one of several government-dominated fields that have not globalized and so have had costs increasing more rapidly than general inflation. These include higher education and government services (including lower education) as well as health care. What does college tuition have in common with fixing your kid's broken arm? Both are prevented from being globalized by government regulation and both are dominated by government. As a result, both have rapidly escalating costs.

4. Health services can be globalized just like other products and services. An operation done in India or Mexico costs one tenth of what it costs here.

5. Many Americans are willing to pay 10% of gross national product to satisfy the narrow-minded, chauvinistic belief that American doctors are better than Indian doctors and so globalization of health services is an absurd idea. I disagree.

6. In my region and yours, Kingston, NY and New Paltz, NY, virtually all of the physicians were born in India, Arabia and other countries that are likely suspects for health care globalization. Hence, the chauvinism is based on illusion.

7. Globalized health care can be regulated through joint treaty. America's health providers are fully capable of developing quality systems equal to those in other industries such as Japanese car makers. If Toyota or General Electric can operate international organizations to capture low labor costs, why not hospitals?

8. The health care debate is fake. Since regulation and government programs cause rising costs, the debate starts from a false premise, that GOVERNMENT IS THE ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL. Government-run health care is a reactionary concept. Free market health care is an innovative, radical concept.

9. There is no need for health reform if regulation is scrapped and health companies are freed to globalize as companies in low cost, high quality industries have and high cost, low quality organizations in education, government and health care have not.

So long as the American people prefer chauvinism and regulation over affordable health care, I have little to more say to them about this topic except, as in most every field, their discussion is nonsensical and conducted by a bird-brained, Democratic Party media.

And I am tired of being forced at gunpoint to conform to the crappy services and stupid ideas of the violent Democrats and Rockefeller Republicans. If they like crappy health care, why can't they buy their own instead of forcing me to participate?

Town Subsidies to Democratic Party Legal?

Dear Board of Elections;

I have a question. I am aware of a Town that provides in-kind benefits in the form of trash removal and police serving as labor for a Democratic Party fundraiser in the town. The Democratic Party holds an annual fundraising event and the Town pays police to entertain children. When other groups (such as the Republican Party) hold equivalent fundraisers (that are much smaller as the Democratic fundraiser is the largest event) they are charged for park cleanup and there are no services provided, but when the Democrats hold their fundraiser they are not charged, services are donated by the Town and the amounts are much larger into the thousands of dollars (whereas the other groups are small).

Is it legal for the Town to subsidize the Democrats and not the Republicans or anyone else?


Mitchell Langbert

More Town of Olive Subsidies to the Democratic Party

I just received this e-mail from a person of good will who knows a little bit about the Town's parks. She writes that in addition to thousands spent on trash removal in Davis Park that is not spent on behalf of any other partisan or public interest group:

"the town also pays for 3 parks people to be at Olive day all day and pays for all the overtime for all employees that work the day of Olive day. Most all received overtime pay for Olive Day which has nothing really to do with the town other than being the fund raiser for the Olive Democrats."

People of Good Will Take Action

>Hello Mr. Langbert,

>I just came across your blog. After reading it and looking at the links, you seem to be someone who shares many of the same views as myself. I am finding it very difficult to find anyone to discuss issues with, that I believe are of extreme importance to the very existence of our country. Any such dialogue seems to breakdown quickly into personal attacks and personal bias. I am hoping to find a learned person such as yourself, to have some rational and logical discussions with, concerning these things. I am a worried grandfather trying to figure out how to pass down useful information to those that will inherit what we leave them.

Thank you, P.D., IN

Hi Paul. If you'd like to chat, send me a brief e-mail of the main points you would like to discuss and your opinions and concerns about the points. If you send your phone number and a good time to call I'll be glad to call. Best wishes, Mitchell.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Faniculi Fanicula

The lyrics of Faniculi Fanicula, written in the Neapolitan language, are a great guide to life. Freedom can prevail and we can be happy. I grew up in what was then largely an Italian neighborhood, Astoria, Queens (now Greek, Arab and eastern European). I was always bowled over by the Sicilian culture. The street fairs, the zeppolis, the fresh Italian bread from Parisi's, the pizza and Italian ices from Angelo's on Broadway.

Wikipedia writes about the song:

"'Funiculì, Funiculà' is a famous song written by Italian journalist Peppino Turco and set to music by Italian composer Luigi Denza in 1880. It was composed to commemorate the opening of the first funicular on Mount Vesuvius, which was destroyed by the eruption of 1944. It was sung for the first time in the Quisisana Hotel in Castellammare di Stabia and met with huge success. It was presented by Turco and Denza at the Piedigrotta festival during the same year...Six years after Funiculì, Funiculà was composed, German composer Richard Strauss heard the song while on a tour of Italy. Thinking that it was a traditional Italian folk song, he later incorporated it into his Aus Italien symphony. Denza filed a lawsuit against Strauss and eventually won. Strauss was forced to pay him a royalty fee every time the Aus Italien was performed in public."

Notice that the singers are smiling, or suppressing smiles. See if you can stop yourself from crying for joy when you listen to it.

The above rendition by Andrea Bocelli is my favorite. The "traditional English lyrics" on Wikipedia are:

Some think the world is made for fun and frolic,
And so do I! And so do I!
Some think it well to be all melancholic,
To pine and sigh; to pine and sigh;
But I, I love to spend my time in singing,
Some joyous song, some joyous song,
To set the air with music bravely ringing
Is far from wrong! Is far from wrong!
Listen, listen, echoes sound afar!
Listen, listen, echoes sound afar!
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Echoes sound afar, funiculì, funiculà!

Ah me! 'tis strange that some should take to sighing,
And like it well! And like it well!
For me, I have not thought it worth the trying,
So cannot tell! So cannot tell!
With laugh, with dance and song the day soon passes
Full soon is gone, full soon is gone,
For mirth was made for joyous lads and lasses
To call their own! To call their own!
Listen, listen, hark the soft guitar!
Listen, listen, hark the soft guitar!
Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!
Hark the soft guitar, funiculì, funiculà!

The below version, with Pavarotti, Aqua and a children's chorus is also very good but slightly marred by the other male singer:

Mario Lanza's take is of course magnificent:

There are many other wonderful versions. Dino Valle's is mindblowing:

Anne Marie Harpen's "Walk the Streets"

The esteemed Contrairi Mairi of Chicago sent me this beautiful video. It will bring tears to your eyes.

How the Democrats Lie, Fund Racketeers

My neighbor sent me the above link about ACORN. Apparently Democratic propagandists went around saying that ACORN had been de-funded. Happily, I don't waste my time with television or newspapers, so I do not need to constantly figure out how they're lying. You'll be much happier watching the Sopranos or playing computer games than watching television news.

Budget Opacity in the Town of Olive

America claims to be a democratic country and takes pride in democratic rituals. Scratch the surface, though, and elitist authoritarianism often is evident. This is true because, as the economists Mancur Olson and George Stigler pointed out in the 1970s, special interests extract benefits via the state, and in order to facilitate rent extraction democracy is skewed. The two parties compete to attract funding from special interests, and therefore must resort to deception.

One of the deception tools is the government budget. There are many tricks that politicians play with budgets. In New York, budgetary sleight of hand is almost a religion. The deception likely occurs on the level of local upstate as well as New York City and State governments. One of the major tricks is to budget one thing and fund another. When I worked for the ways and means committee in Albany, there was a state capital budget, which had nothing to do with reality, and then there was the "financial plan" which the newspapers never discussed and which was an accounting of how real money would be used.

I attended my first two successive Town of Olive Board meetings yesterday evening and had quite an adventure. The first one was a budget information meeting for candidates. The second a general budget meeting. There were a number of non-candidates in both meetings' audiences, as both were public meetings.

Soon after arriving I caused some mirth by falling asleep and snoring. Although I was rude, it was appropriate to the interest level of the discussion, which involved the Town Supervisor, Mr. Berndt Leifeld, going line by line and stating what was already written on the budget. After I was jabbed awake and the Town Clerk, Sylvia Rozelle (who comes from Kentucky originally) had quite a laugh (she told me that in the past 15-odd years three people fell asleep and they were all from West Shokan), I picked up on a discussion about the health insurance budget. It turned out that the actual spending on health insurance was very different from the amount budgeted. Although the spending was less than the prior year, the amount budgeted was 60% more than the prior year. A discussion ensued, and there was no clear explanation as to the variations in numbers.

It was obvious from the discussion that, like in Albany, the amount funded and spent with real cash often has little to do with the budget. I asked Mr. Leifeld and the Town Board if they would consider printing the program items that had significant variances between the Alice-in-Wonderland budget and the actual spending once per year in the local newspaper, the Olive Press. Mr. Bruce LaMonda, whom I know from the Emerson gym and is on the Town Board, said "no", they would not do this. During the discussion, I disagreed with one of the speakers. Then, one of the elected Democratic officials, engaging in partisan politics, suggested that I was rude, from elsewhere, and probably ought to leave town (he didn't say the last part but it was implicit). Then, Mr. Leifeld said that the meeting was intended for candidates only. Clearly most of the Democrats are committed to democracy and transparency in government to the degree that I am committed to learning the language of Bali. Perhaps they should rename themselves the "Authoritarian Party".

In contrast, Ms. Rozelle pointed out that there is a report every month that is not widely disseminated but is publicly available if requested that lists variances between budget and funded expenses. I asked to have a copy and will pick one up from her tomorrow.

I did not get thrown out of the meeting despite misbehavior. The official engaging in partisan politics apologized to me afterward, and I accepted the apology. I will be interested in reviewing the variance list and I suspect I will have to compile monthly variances to obtain a picture of annual variances.

Related Issue--Possibly Illegal Subsidy to Democrats

A related issue was raised by Mr. Chris Johansen, head of Olive's prestigious Conservative Party. The Democratic Party in Olive, the majority party, holds a successful annual fundraiser in Davis Park. Other groups, including the Republicans, also hold events. When other groups such as the Republicans hold events, the Town requires a $200 deposit. If trash is left in the park, then the money is used to remove it. Otherwise it is refunded

The Democratic Party event is by far the largest one each year, attracting as many as a thousand people, including people from as many as 30 miles away. They call it "Olive Day" and not everyone knows that it is a Democratic Party fundraiser. I have never attended but plan to one day. However, Mr. Johansen raised the point at the budget meeting that the Democrats are not required to leave a $200 deposit and the cleanup fees were likely several thousand dollars (he did not cite that number but that is my guess). He asked Mr. Leifeld why other groups such as the Republicans had to hand a check to the Town but the Democrats are subsidized. After the meeting, Vince Barringer pointed out that the Town also uses the police to entertain children at the Democratic Party fundraiser, paying them for their time.

Mr. Leifeld did not have a coherent response to Mr. Johansen's questions. I suspect that it is illegal for the government to favor a political party and the use of public funds for partisan purposes is not allowed under election and perhaps other statutes.

Mr. Johansen has given Mr. Leifeld the opportunity to respond to this question in a timely manner.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What Are Your Degrees of Separation from Ancient Times?

The psychologist Stanley Milgram has pointed out that only six degrees separate everyone in the United States. Milgram was likely wrong. The number may be three or four degrees of separation. Six degrees of separation in a US population of 150 or 200 million that existed when Milgram did his work implies an assumption of everyone's knowing only 22-25 or so distinct people (there's always overlap because your neighbor knows many of the same people you do). That is because 22**6= 113,379,904 and 25**6 244,140,625. Most of us know many people casually. I have probably had close to 10,000 students in 17 years of teaching (many of my classes have been 50 to 70, and I have frequently taught summers). Likewise, a single politician like Hillary Clinton probably knows at least ten thousand people, and has probably met many more than that. So there are fewer than six degrees of separation, maybe only three. If on average we each know 1,000 then 1000**3 = one billion without taking overlap into account.

Of course, the degrees needed to reach any one of our ancestors in ancient times is greater and more difficult to compute. Part of the difficulty is that conquest dislocated people. Take the case of western Europe. There is no specific date for the fall of Rome in western Europe, but Totila and the Ostrogoths depopulated the city in the sixth century. Rome was sacked four or five times. Geiseric and the Vandals sacked Rome in 455 and Romulus Augustus, the last emperor, was deposed in 476. Alaric and the Visigoths sacked it in 410 AD and Brennus and the Gauls sacked it in 387 BC. The Arabs attacked it in the ninth century. One may guess that conquest in those days involved taking slaves.

The matter is also complicated by plagues. According to the Hacienda Pub site, "the Plague of Justinian (6th Century A.D.), the Black Death (14th Century A.D.), and the Bubonic Plague (1665-1666, which coincided with the Great Fire of London) caused an estimated 137 million dead in a world much more sparsely populated than it is today." Many in those periods lost their entire families.

So how many degrees of separation are there across generations? How many people are you removed from Julius Caesar? I would guess it takes about 80 generations to get us back to the days of Romulus Augustus (the last Roman Emperor, who was deposed in 476) and about 100 to the days of Augustus. In socialist and conservative, pre-free-market societies, life expectancy was about age 25-35. So if we figure that people died at 35 there were at least two generations alive for most at any give time.

But the world population was a tiny fraction of what it is today, even going back two centuries. Wikipedia estimates that western Europe's population was 25-30 million in Charlemagne's time, one thirty second of today's and the world's population was about 200 million, also about one thirty second of today's.

With 30 million alive at the time of Caesar, we can guess that there were no more than three degrees of separation. So My guess is that you have to go back 100 degrees to get back to Caesar, then 2-3 more laterally, so if you assume 100 down and 2-3 across there's about 200-300 degree of separation between you and Julius Caesar.

But that assumes a right triangle of relationships, vertically down through the generations and then horizontally across in ancient times. There are also "hypotenuse" relationships whereby someone you know now, knows someone from an earlier generation who was slightly closer to Caesar and the path could follow diagonally. Putting on my 10th grade geometry cap for a second (my worst subject) then if the base of the right triangle is 3 and the leg is 100 the diagonal is 3**2 + 100**2 = 10,009, the square root of which is about 100, and that would seem closer to the right answer.

I wonder if you formed a chain beginning with someone who knew Julius Caesar and ending with the person you know who is closest to Julius Caesar today, what the differences across the generations would seem like. After just a few generations the people would be quite unlike most anyone in the world today. We are much closer to people remote from us in distance than we are from the past. Yet, many people are loyal to ancient ancestors but suspicious of strangers. Of course, our ancestors are dead so do not threaten us as can people in today's world. But socially, culturally, intellectually and in most visible ways, we are more like someone who lives in China than we are like our ancestors in Roman times.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Whom Despots Fear

Legendary blogger Doug Ross has an excellent post today entitled "Whom Despots Fear". Take a look.

Nobel Peace Prize So 20th Century

As Swedish peace activists and virtually everyone I know have pointed out, the Nobel Prize should not have been awarded to Barack Obama. The Peace Prize, awarded by a Finnish (not Swedish) government-appointed panel is politicized. Last year it was given to Al Gore, a politician who advocates everyone else's cutting back so he can consume more, and this year to another Democratic Party hack, Barack Obama. Perhaps the Norwegians gave it to him because they believe him to have been born in Norway. But they were afraid to ask for his birth certificate.

In any case the Peace Prize has been degraded. Not that I would think that the Scandinavian governments in Sweden and Norway have any moral substance to give such an award. In the 1930s Sweden quietly back Hitler, and although it was formally neutral during the Second World War, a third of Swedes did not mind seeing six million Jews gassed, and more than a handful likely were happy about it.

I would add that their most famous intellectual, the socialist Gunnar Myrdal, supported Hitler during the 1930s. Roland Huntford's book New Totalitarians dissects the ugly, amoral quality of Swedish socialism. Huntford points out that noticeable elements of feudalism continued into the 1950s in Sweden, specifically the bruk system in which workers in certain factories were tied to the factories, essentially as serfs (with their homes the property of the factories). Notice that American socialists admire Swedish culture because it is reactionary. The Swedes are barely out of the Middle Ages. But remember that it is the Finnish who give the Peace Prize, the Swedes the other prizes.

Yassir Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize before refusing to make peace. Obama's chief contribution to peace was reappointing George W. Bush's Defense Secretary, Robert M. Gates, after telling Americans that he is for "change". "Change" to him meant appointing the same guy. It is difficult to take the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, which takes an partisan role in American politics, seriously.

The Nobel Peace Prize is a thing of the past. I'm sure recipients want the monetary award, but would you want to share a "peace prize" with Al Gore, Yassir Arafat and Barack Obama?

Democrats Are The Party of Greed

Libertarians have long known that FDR's "New Deal" was primarily about banking and that the programs were a smoke screen. FDR used the ancient Roman strategy of bread and circus, small change to the proletarians while the wealthy extract ever larger gains. The bread and circus consisted of inter-generational transfers (from later to earlier generations) and failed attempts to rationalize and re-engineer labor relations and banking. High marginal tax rates and abolition of the gold standard re-enforced government authority over the individual, and during the 48-year Democratic Party reign from 1932 to 1980 the government pursued a bleeding-and-extraction process by which the wealthy extracted the national blood from workers, small business and the poor, using the Federal Reserve Bank as its syringe.

Until the past few years the military-financial-industrial complex was able to keep the public happy with bread and circus; the public's fear of unemployment; and a social security plan that seemed to work until about 10 years ago. The price was massive growth in government waste and special interest extraction, as big business, government employees and most of all the financial community rushed to the public trough to suck productive Americans dry. The Democratic media have lied and covered up this process to the point that Americans now willingly pay 50% of their income for a government that produces S-H-I-T.

The worst of it is yet to come. Both retirement funding and health care will place heavy burdens on the public's pocket book, and the baby boomers are facing a looming gap in both.

The public is seeing itself get poorer as the policies of the Democratic Party turn into the policies of special interest greed. No party in American history has lied more aggressively than the Democratic Party during the Bush years. Damning Bush for greed, the Democrats took power on the promise of change. But their first action was to produce the largest special interest subsidy in the nation's history, exceeding the greed and stupidity even of the Rockefeller Republicans and George W. Bush. The multi-trillion dollar handout to Wall Street, supported by every Democrat, all of whom a few years earlier claimed be concerned with income inequality, is the largest single subsidy to any industry at any time in American history. The Obama bail-out is the largest exercise of greed in the nation's history.

Was the subsidy needed to avert a depression? That claim, which was used to convince some Americans to support the Democrats' exercise of greed, is pap. Most Americans are concerned about depression for one reason: the risk of unemployment. Five trillion dollars was NOT NECESSARY to cover the risk of unemployment. If twenty percent of the 140 million strong workforce or 28 million were out of work (more than double the current number), every one of these people could be paid $30,000 for two years at a cost of about $1.7 trillion, a fraction of the cost of the bailout. Throw in a third year, and the amount goes up to $2.2 trillion, less than half of what the Democrats have spent.

Ah, but that approach would not have ensured that George Soros, Warren Buffett, and Obama's supporters on Wall and Broad could be kept in multi-seven-digit incomes, or that the incompetent Wall Street clowns could be allowed to continue to manage businesses that they do not know how to manage.

The Democrats have become the party of greed. They are the party of the biggest subsidy to the nation's ultra-rich in history. They not just have subsidized the rich. They have subsidized the least productive, least competent group that is also the richest of any group of wealthy in the nation's history.

The Republicans must disown the bailout and fight a good fight to make this a triumph. But some Republicans too are linked to beneficiaries of the bailout--Progressives who would rather sacrifice their party's success than see Wall Street suffer.

It is incumbent upon libertarians, free-market conservatives (the only possible kind), and anyone not motivated by an easy job or special interest benefits, anyone who is NOT A GREEDY DEMOCRAT or a stupid, slobbering Rockefeller Republican, to act.

Americans are getting poorer. Taxes and government waste are on the rise. States like New York are largely Peoples' Republics in which personal and economic freedom have disappeared. Many Americans live the lives of slaves and do not even know it. A person born into slavery does not know what freedom is.

Much of the Democratic strategy has been based on hate--hate for Republicans. The Democrats' obsessive hatred for Republicans is a religion, and the public has been fooled "most of the time" by emotional group-think and misdirected rage. The Progressive Republicans have fed this rage by behaving like...Progressive Republicans. Liberty Republicans need to develop a strategy to overcome the McCain/Bush crew once and for all.