Friday, April 25, 2008

Man-Eating Progressive Zombies Run Wild in New York

The 2007 sci fi film I am Legend is a remake of two earlier films, The Omega Man (1971) and The Last Man on Earth (1964). According to Wikipedia, the films are based on Richard Matheson's novel, I Am Legend, which is about the last man in LA.

This movie is about the last man in New York, and I have been pondering the reason for the change of venue.
The reason is that the film is about progressivism, and New York offers a better venue to dissect progressivism than any other state. It was the home or birthplace of several of the founders of progressivism, to include Herbert Croly and Theodore Roosevelt, as well as their New Deal acolytes, to include as Al Smith, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Francis Perkins (Perkins was born in Boston but attended Columbia and subsequently made her career in New York before becoming Secretary of Labor under FDR).

I am Legend's plot is that a new treatment for cancer causes a virus that wipes out 90 percent of the the human race and turns the remaining 9% into a species of man-eating zombies. About one percent of the population is immune to the virus, but most of those who are immune (except for Robert Neville) have been eaten by the zombies. The story focuses on Robert Neville (Will Smith) who has remained in New York to attempt to find a cure for the virus. Unfortunately, his efforts have been unsuccessful. He is able to avoid the zombies but he is accidentally exposed, leading to a climactic battle between Smith, armed with an M-4 machine gun, and hundreds of zombies.

I am Legend is clearly a movie about progressive-liberalism. The experiment that killed the human race was federally funded. The zombies look suspiciously like New York's progressives.
Progressive-liberalism claims that the poor should eat the rich, but really aims for the rich to eat the poor. Somebody eats somebody. How many human beings have been murdered through socialist or left wing ideology? The zombies' hive pattern is clearly a reflection of progressivism.

Moreover, the left has long behaved as a mindless horde of zombies whose policies destroy all who do not fit its politically correct mold. The left aims to establish a zombie-like world where all disagreement is suppressed and all human instincts eradicated.
Smith is the lone conservative in a city of progressives who are trying to eat him alive. I know because I have lived in New York. What better example than Mayor Michael Bloomberg? Can you seriously argue that he is not a zombie?

While New York's population base exits almost as fast as depicted in I am Legend, this film fairly depicts progressive New York. At the end, a surviving character moves to Vermont. A zombie who looks suspiciously like Bernie Sanders awaits.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Calvin Coolidge on Delegation

"In the discharge of the duties of the office (of the presidency) there is one rule of action more important than all others. It consists in never doing anything that some else can do for you. Like many other good rules it is proven by its exceptions. But it indicates a course that should be very strictly followed in order to prevent being so entirely devoted to trifling details that there will be little opportunity to give the necessary consideration to policies of larger importance."

---Calvin Coolidge, The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge, p. 196.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Both Parties Are Committed to The Problem

The Republicans favor inflation. The Democrats favor more inflation. The Republicans favor policies that create food shortages. The Democrats favor policies that create greater food shortages. The Greenspan Fed stimulated demand for real estate, and farmers sold their land to real estate developers. Now we have food shortages. Banks took the counterfeit Fed money and lent it to people who couldn't pay it back, transferring it to the real estate developers. Now the Republicans favor printing more money to subsidize the banks who lent it to the people who can't pay it back. The Democrats favor printing more money to directly subsidize the people who can't pay it back. Neither party questions the importance of printing money to steal from productive Americans and subsidize banks, real estate developers and real estate investors. Neither party questions that land was diverted from farming to real estate development. Now, we have food shortages, and neither party can offer an intelligent solution.

No politician wants to addres the underlying problem because they are deeply committed to the perpetuation of said problem. Both parties favor distortion of the market place by stimulating demand. The Democrats aim to stimulate demand for real estate by transferring funds from the working class to the real estate owning class and in the process keeping land away from optimal use, i.e., farming. The Republicans aim to stimulate demand for investment banks by transferring funds from productive Americans to inept investors, also making sure that productive use of wealth does not occur.

The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge

Calvin Coolidge. The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, 1929. 247 pages.

Calvin Coolidge grew up in Plymouth, an old fashioned, rural town in Vermont. The town was mostly Republican. Coolidge's father was a justice of the peace and held several other government posts that led to his collecting taxes. Coolidge writes (p. 26):

"As I went about with my father when he collected taxes, I knew that when taxes were laid some one had to work to earn the money to pay them. I saw that a public debt was a burden on all the people in a community, and while it was necessary to meet the needs of a disaster it cost much in interest and ought to be retired as soon as possible."

While at Amherst College, he favored Benjamin Harrison over Grover Cleveland in 1892. Cleveland was the Mugwumps' candidate and more committed to limited government than was Harrison. Harrison was a mainstream Republican. However, Coolidge was an advocate of the gold standard early in life. While he was studying for the bar exam in 1896:

"When I was home that summer I took part in a small neighborhood debate in which I supported the gold standard. The study I put on this subject well repaid me. Of course, Northhampton went handsomely for McKinley."

In 1909 Coolidge was elected Mayor of Northampton, Massachusetts (p. 101):

"Our city had always been fairly well governed and had no great problems. Taxes had been increasing. I was able to reduce them some and pay part of the debt, so that I left the net obligations chargeable to taxes at about $100,000. The salaries of teachers were increased."

Coolidge writes that early in his tenure in the Massachusetts state senate (p. 102):

"I...secured the appointment of a commission that resulted in the passage of a mother's aid or maternity bill...and I was made chairman of a recess committee to secure better transportation for rural communities in the wester part of the Commonwealth.

(p. 103) "...the Boston Democrats came to be my friends and were a great help to me in later times...

"...My committee reported a bill transforming the Railroad Commission into a Public Service Commission, with a provision intending to define and limit the borrowing powers of railroads which we passed after a long struggle and debate...The bill came out for our trolley roads in Western Massachusetts and was adopted..."

He goes on to suggest that he differed from the more radical Progressives in tone (p. 106-8):

"It appeared to me in January 1914 that a spirit of radicalism prevailed which unless checked was likely to prove very destructive. It had been encouraged by the opposition and by a large faction of my own party...It consisted of the claim in general that in some way the government was to be blamed because everybody was not prosperous, because it was necessary to work for a living, and because our written constitutions, the legislatures and the courts protected the rights of private owners especially in relation to large aggregations of property...The previous session had been overwhelmed with a record number of bills introduced, many of them in an attempt to help the employee by impairing the property of the employer. Though anxious to improve the condition of our wage earners, I believed this doctrine would soon destroy business and deprive them of a livelihood. What was needed was a restoration of confidence in our institutions and in each other, on whcih economic progress might rest...In taking the chair as President of the Senate I therefore made a short address, which I had carefully fully prepared, appealing to the conservative spirit of the people. I argued that the government could not relieve us from toil, that large concerns are necessary for progress in which capital and labor all have a common interest, and I defended representative government and the integrity of the courts."

When the state Republican Committee chose him as chairman (p. 109-110):

"I drew a conservative platform, pitched in the same key, pointing out the great mass of legislation our party had placed on the statute books for the benefit of the wage earners and the welfare of the people, but declaring for the strict and unimpaired maintenance of our present social, economic and political institutions."

As President of the Massachusetts Senate (p. 110):

"I wanted to cut down the volume of legislation. In this progress was made. The Blue Book of acts and Resolves for 1913 had 1,763 pages...for 1915 only 1,230, which was a very wholesome reduction of more than thirty percent. People were coming to see that they must depend on themselves rather than on legislation for success."

While Coolidge had many conservative impulses he also had many progressive ideas. He mentions that in his inaugural speech as governor of Massachusetts in January 1919 (p., 125):

"I dwelt on the need of promoting the public health, education, and the opportunity for employment at fair wages in accordance with the right of the people to be well born, well reared, well educated, well employed and well paid. I also stressed the necessity of keeping government expenses as well as possible... "

Thus, Coolidge adapted the language of progressivism to a somewhat self-contradictory model whereby he would give the people progressive government while not spending for it.

Coolidge helped stop a police strike in Boston which received national attention. He reinstated Police Commissioner Edwin U. Curtis (who had been supplanted by the Mayor). Samuel Gompers, head of the AFL attacked Coolidge for removing union policemen, but Coolidge refused. He said (p. 134):

"There is no right to strike against the public safety by any body, any time, any where."

As governor, Coolidge signed a law limiting the work week for women and minors to 48 hours. He vetoed a bill permitting the sale of beer (during Prohibition).

The police strike brought Coolidge national attention and he won the nomination to vice president.

His instincts were conservative based on his basic rural New England education (p. 153):

"I contended that the only sure method of relieving this distress was for the country to follow the advice of Benjamin Franklin and begin to work and save. Our productive capacity is sufficient to maintain us all in a state of prosperity if we give sufficient attention to thrift and industry."

He adds (p. 182):

"Wealth comes from industry and from the hard experience of human toil. To dissipate it in waste and extravagance is disloyalty to humanity. This is by no means a doctrine of parsimony. Both men and nations should live in accordance with their means and devote their substance not only to productive industry but to the creation of the various forms of beauty and the pursuit of culture which give adornments to the art of life.

"When I became President it was perfectly apparent that the key by which the way could be opened to national progress was constructive economy. Only by the use of that policy could the high rates of taxation, which were retarding our development and prosperity, be diminished and the enormous burden of our public debt be reduced."

Despite his small government conservatism, he was no libertarian. He notes that as vice-president (p. 180):

"I had seen a large amount of government business. Peace had been made with the Central Powers, the tariff revised, the budget system adopted, taxation reduced, large payments made on the national debt, the Veterans' Bureau organized, important farm legislation passed, public expenditures greatly decreased..."

Coolidge remarks on Jefferson (p. 214):

"(A)ny one who had as many ideas as Jefferson was bound to find that some of them would not work. But this does not detract from the wisdom of his faith in the people and his constant insistence that they be left to manage their own affairs. His opposition to bureaucracy will bear careful analysis, and the country could stand a great deal more of its application. The trouble with us is that we talk about Jefferson but do not follow him. In his theory that the people should manage their government, and not be managed by it, he was everlastingly right."

On political parties Coolidge supports the two-party system (p. 230):

"The last twenty years have witnessed a decline in party spirit and a distinct weakening in party loyalty. While an independnet attitude on the part of the citizen is not without a certain public advantage, yet is is necessary under our form of government to have political parties. Unless some one is a partisan, no one can be an independent. The Congress is organized entirely in accordance with party policy. The arties appeal to the voters in behalf of their platforms. The people make their choice on those issues. Unless those who are elected on the same party platform associate themselves together to carry out its provisions, the election becomes a mockery...It is the business of the President as party leader to do the best he can to see that the declared party platform purposes are translated into legislative and administrative action."

Was Calvin Coolidge a conservative? I think on balance the answer is "yes", unlike his Republican predecessors Roosevelt and Taft and his Republican successor Hoover. But Coolidge's conservatism was an accidental one. It resulted from his mainstream American upbringing. The conservatives of the 1910's did not see the need to educate the public about conservative ideas in the way that the Progressives saw the need to educate the public about Progressivism. There was no unified movement, only the broader cultural inheritance. Coolidge was an un-selfconscious conservative and in that he was a weak conservative. The reason is that Progressivism was a conscious, organized movement with intellectual underpinnings and self conscious vigor. In order to present a real conservative response, Coolidge would have had to have perceived the need for a parallel kind of organiztion that could proactively reinvent American culture along conservative lines, not just respond to the initiatives of the Progressives and cut taxes when they went a little too far. This was not a robust conservatism because it did not replenish the roots of American culture and economy. Rather, it was a tepid reaction to the Progressives, who never gave up. This weak response characterizes the Republican Party even now. The unwillingness to undo the Democratic progressive program reflects a tepidness and failure of inventiveness. Conservatism is not acceptance of the Democratic initiatives. But this is all the Republicans have had to offer since Coolidge.

Fed and Financial Community Cause Global Food Shortage

Gaius of Blue Crab Boulevard has posted a blog about a New York Sun article concerning food riots. The current global food shortages are a symptom of Alan Greenspan's and Ben Bernanke's excessive liquidity policies. As Howard S. Katz has pointed out in his blog, the banking system in the United States and globally has lent counterfeit Fed money (or excess liquidity) about which the financial community has been ecstatic for the past three decades (calling it stabilization of the credit markets, priming the pump, reducing unemployment, ending recession, stopping depression) to build homes that no one could pay for. At the same time, too little investment was made in commodities. Thus, the sub-prime crisis and the current global shortage of food are direct products of the banking system's lending practices and the Fed's expansion of the money supply since 1981. Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian economist, called this process malinvestment. For the past 25 years the Fed printed money and stimulated home building. Too many homes were built and sold to people who could not pay for them. Too little investment went into expansion of food and commodity production. The sub-prime crisis of today results from the mistakes that the banking community made in response to the hot Fed money that Greenspan and Bernanke have been creating under four presidents, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush II.

The Bush administration's solution to the malinvestment of the past three decades has been...more malinvestment. The Bear Stearns bailout, the current loose monetary policies of the Bernanake Fed and further government transfers to banks to prevent defaults from incompetently made loans keep real estate prices high and continue the massive malinvestment that has occurred in the housing sector.

From an investment standpoint, it is clear that commodities will be hot for the next few years as rising interest rates freeze out new investment in commodities (see Howard S. Katz's blog for more on what he calls the "commodity pendulum"). From a moral standpoint, the American public should be ashamed of itself for allowing this orgy of self indulgence among the various players in the financial community; for allowing transfer of wealth from people who need to eat to wealthy stock investors and hedge fund managers; and for allowing the incompetence and mismanagement that the economics establishment and the Fed have demonstrated.

To quote Gaius:

"The New York Sun reports on a trend that is not at all pretty. In some areas of the country, rice, flour and cooking oil are in such short supply that retailers are limiting the amount people can purchase. This is happening right here in the United States.
The curbs and shortages are being tracked with concern by survivalists who view the phenomenon as a harbinger of more serious trouble to come. "

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Media and Democracy

Does public distrust of the media threaten democracy or does the media's failure to report and analyze the news in a balanced way fail the public and democracy? Larwyn just forwarded a post from Jammiewearingfool who comments on a New York Times editorial:

"Get a load of this pap:

"'It might seem a bit self-flagellating for the editorial board of the New York Times to bemoan the collapse of Americans’ trust in the press over the last 30 years. But it seems that the media’s fall from grace is undermining democracy.'

"Oh my. Now because people aren't getting their marching orders from this socialist rag, the bumpkins in flyover country may not vote the way the elitist snobs in Manhattan want them to."

As I mentioned in class the other day, it would be instructive to compare the New York Times's, Fortune's and Business Week's coverage of both Enron and Wal*mart during the years 1997 to 2000. Were the Times and the business press suspicious of the payment of an $80 million bonus to Rebecca Marks for building a $1 billion power plant in Dabhol, India that never opened? Or was Paul Krugman busily collecting $50,000 in fees each year from Enron and so managed to overlook this story? While virtually none of the media questioned the Dabhol plant or any of the other long litany of incompetent investments that Enron had made, and were telling the public that breaches of fiduciary duty meant that Enron was the most creative firm in America, how did the Times and Fortune describe Wal*Mart, which has consistently helped the poor by creating consumer surplus?

Rather than bemoan the public's mistrust, perhaps the New York Times should explain.

Bob Barr Is Gunnin' For John McCain

Newsmax just released this report:
Former Republican Rep. Bob Barr is seen as the Libertarian Party’s most likely presidential candidate — and he could wind up torpedoing John McCain’s White House hopes.
“Given the recent fundraising prowess of a kindred spirit — Ron Paul's campaign for the Republican nomination siphoned up $35 million, mostly off the Internet — libertarians are feeling their oats,” political analyst George F. Will writes in Newsweek.
“Come November, Barr conceivably could be to John McCain what Ralph Nader was to Al Gore in 2000 — ruinous.”

I am not a huge fan of Bab Barr on a personal level (he reminds me of a meaner Elmer Fudd) but I respect his candidacy on the Libertarian ticket should he decide to run. I am of two minds about it. On the one hand, if he increases the probability of a Democratic win in November 08, that will have been unfortunate (although understandable given the Republicans' big-government turn under the Bush administration). On the other hand, if he pushes John McCain a little bit further in the libertarian direction without deflecting McCain's win in November, God bless him.