It’s Exploitation, Stupid!

A consensus has now emerged as to why Donald Trump is president, why Britain voted to leave the EU, and why Marine Le Pen is ascendant in France.  Some thoughtful analyses have come from the left.  If you are a Democratic Party strategist and you attribute the “Trump disaster” to racism and xenophobia, you are hopelessly behind the curve.  This is not a strategy that will prevail in 2018.

Indeed, if you have been reading anything at all on the topic, you know that the relevant new divide in politics is between rural and urban voters.  In America this might have something to do with racial politics, but the phenomenon is global.  Points for originality go to David Wong, who spotted the shift a month before the election – writing in, yes, Cracked and strongly recommend for youth readers.

The rural folk with the Trump signs in their yards say their way of life is dying, and you smirk and say what they really mean is that blacks and gays are finally getting equal rights and they hate it. But I’m telling you, they say their way of life is dying because their way of life is dying. It’s not their imagination.

With the benefit of hindsight and some classical history, Wong might have written this analysis in City Journal or this one in The Guardian.  Read one or the other if you identify as right or left, respectively.  They say the same thing.

And what I am here to say is that the Midwest is not an exotic place. It isn’t a benighted region of unknowable people and mysterious urges. It isn’t backward or hopelessly superstitious or hostile to learning. It is solid, familiar, ordinary America, and Democrats can have no excuse for not seeing the wave of heartland rage that swamped them last November.

The really interesting part, though, is the intersection of liberal values with urban life and the global economy.  Humanity has now produced a strain of pure liberalism, combining classical liberal laissez faire economics with “social liberal” values in the American sense.  If Trump supporters are the losers from global trade, these urbanites are the winners.  You may have seen this map depicting the archipelago of Clinton voters.

You could draw the same map of Europe, and someone has – a geographer by the name of Christophe Guilluy.  The mayors of London and Paris have more in common with each other than with ordinary British or French workers.

Charles Murray would have you believe these people are the “cognitive elite,” blessed with superior intellectual gifts.  Jeremiah is not so sure.  Maybe some are internet entrepreneurs, but it seems more likely they are simply attached like leeches to lucrative sectors like banking and government – what you might call the “ruling class.”  Here is Victor Hansen again, from City Journal:

The elite in Washington and Menlo Park appreciate the fresh grapes and arugula that they purchase at Whole Foods. Someone mined the granite used in their expensive kitchen counters and cut the timber for their hardwood floors. The fuel in their hybrid cars continues to come from refined oil.

For people who think about public policy, this is a conundrum – how to enjoy the benefits of global trade without producing a society that looks like The Hunger Games.  On the other hand, the beneficiaries of this new economy are not losing sleep over it.

French elites have convinced themselves that their social supremacy rests not on their economic might but on their common decency. Doing so allows them to “present the losers of globalization as embittered people who have problems with diversity,” says Guilluy. It’s not our privilege that the French deplorables resent, the elites claim; it’s the color of some of our employees’ skin.

Thus it transpires that social liberalism is congruent with economic liberalism, i.e., exploitation.  Sure, we love to give immigrants a chance.  Whether they’re migrant farm workers or H-1B engineers, immigration drives down labor costs.  The same goes for offshore jobs.  Everyone must have a fair shot at driving down labor costs, while the urban elite reaps the profits.

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The Right To Leave

Nothing demonstrates the impotence of the United Nations quite so starkly as the long suffering of the North Korean people.  Living in wretched conditions and subjected to ongoing famine, North Koreans are two inches smaller than their South Korean cousins.  One in three North Korean children is chronically malnourished.

This has been going on since 1953.  North Koreans living today were born into suffering, and have never known any other life – even though South Korea, across the border, is one of the world’s most affluent nations.

Article 13.2: Everyone has the right to leave any country

A better life for these people is literally within walking distance, but they are imprisoned by their own leaders – a dynasty of brutal dictators who build monuments to themselves while the people starve.  The previous dictator, Kim Jong-Il, died of old age, blissfully untouched by the world’s opprobrium.  If the United Nations had any purpose at all, it would be to end such regimes.

We might as well say the same about Cuba and, in its time, the Soviet Union.  In an international context, the most fundamental right is the right to leave a bad country.  Properly enforced, this would limit the amount of suffering any dictator could impose, and ultimately compel some of the higher order human rights.

The United Nations has a lengthy declaration of human rights, including health care and free education, but it lacks a mechanism to enforce – or even encourage – its principles.  One of these is, in fact, the right to leave.

The U.N Security Council regularly votes against interference in the “internal affairs” of any country.  However much we might criticize China for human rights abuses, this is a gray area.  The Chinese could point back at Guantanamo or race relations.  No one wants the U.N. to be the arbiter of how well a country treats its people – certainly not China, and they’re a permanent member.

Whether the people are free to leave, however, is completely objective.  They’re either free, or they’re not.  The United Nations could, with perfect clarity, make Article 13.2 the acid test for human rights.  Resolutions should follow, with sanctions including military intervention.  The North Koreans are prisoners, and the world has a duty to free them.

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Filed under Civil Rights, Foreign Policy

The Chinese Worker Protection Act

comradeJeremiah, as you know, takes a nuanced view of protectionism.  We favor free trade, but we recognize the role of negotiation.  Since our new president has promised to get tough on China, here is a suggestion: use trade barriers to promote environmental and worker protection standards around the world.

For example, if a Chinese (or any) exporter enjoys a labor cost advantage because it exposes its workers to hazardous conditions, slap punitive tariffs on them until they reform.  Good luck challenging that at the WTO.  If they are polluting Shenzhen, we don’t need to buy their products.

American manufacturers complain that our trading partners can offer cheap goods because they abuse their workers, and it’s true.  Just look factory fires in Bangladesh.  These people labor like slaves in conditions we outlawed a hundred years ago.  Labor advocates worry about a race to the bottom.  We can halt this race using … protectionism!

Now, here is a trade policy that should draw bipartisan support.  We can protect our manufacturers by holding foreign companies to American standards.  This will create jobs in America, and at the same time make life better for exploited workers around the world.

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Filed under Business, Economy, Foreign Policy

Doubts about Climate Change

Old timers like Jeremiah recall that winters used to be longer and colder.  Old photos in ski lodges invariably show more snowpack and a bigger glacier.  There can be little doubt about climate change.  One can, however, doubt the policy response.

Do you agree with President Obama, that climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity?  Jeremiah can find, without exerting himself, at least a billion people who feel more imminently threatened by hunger.

worldpop

Among resource crises, the shortage of fresh water is easily more urgent.  With oil at $40 a barrel, the world’s desalination plants should be running flat out.  Alas, water is universally mispriced and so squandered.

A global outreach to discourage meat would go a long way.  Raising animals for food is an egregious waste of resources, especially fresh water.  Plus, livestock produce methane, a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The root cause of our resource problems is overpopulation.  So, why not a global program to promote birth control?  Better yet, a global program (backed by sanctions and incentives) to mandate equal rights for women.  You can’t go wrong emancipating half the world, plus – fertility drops off sharply once women stop being chattel.

 “Population policy has been abandoned in recent decades. It is barely mentioned in discussions on sustainability or development” – Simon Ross

Why are the world’s policy makers focused on climate change, a distant and secondary effect, instead of root causes and immediate returns?  There is no logic to it, unless we apply our imagination and think like a criminal.

State control over energy is the mother lode of political rent seeking.  Politicians wielding this power can make or break any company they choose.  Those who donate generously can be rewarded with “green energy” grants.  Those who don’t can be sanctioned, without much evidence.

You can’t do that with birth control.

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Up the Establishment

This election season provides further evidence, if any were needed, that our two political parties are merely two prongs of the same pitchfork.  Let’s start with the Republicans.  The Republicans, through laxity or inattention, failed to smother the insurgency of Donald Trump.  This prompted the hilarious spectacle of Republican pundits like George Will bailing out of the party, averring they would rather see a Democrat in the White House.

There are plenty of reasons not to like Donald Trump, but – not if you’re a Republican.  If there are really such important differences between the parties, then surely Will, Krauthammer, et al. would prefer to see their guy win, no?  Maybe you disrespect him in the primary, because maybe he can’t win in the general, but once he wins the primary, you shut up.  Trump, furthermore, did not merely win the primary, he crushed it by a margin unprecedented in party history.

The Democratic establishment did a better job of rigging their primary, with the help of party hack “super” delegates.  At the appointed time (and long before the votes were tallied) friendly media called it in Hillary’s favor.  Not for nothing is it called the Clinton News Network.

This was supposed to be another Bush versus Clinton contest, with either outcome safe for the ruling class.  We would have been treated to the usual non-debate about reforming our so-called capitalism and reining in the welfare state.  Now, the pundits are stymied.  What is Bill Kristol going to say against Sec. Clinton, when she is as much a neocon as he is?

On foreign policy, Clinton is somewhere to right of Sen. John McCain.  She has backed all the Mideast wars, including the utterly indefensible bombing of Libya.  She supports all the international trade agreements, except for her poll-driven epiphany on the TPP, and she is the darling of Wall Street.  If you think she is out of step with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, you’re right.

Clinton is basically a Republican or, more to the point, this distinction between Republicans and Democrats is a sham.  There is only the establishment.  Without a candidate of their own, establishment Republicans will have to support Hillary.

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Moving to Canada

People are saying they will flee to Canada if Donald Trump is elected.  Canada has already endured waves of disgruntled Americans fleeing George W. Bush, and then President Obama.  The Trump case is funny, though, because of The Donald’s position on immigration.  One Twitter wag suggested that Canada should build a wall.

To gain permanent residency in Canada, you must have a sponsor, a trade, references, a background check, and speak either English or French.  The process takes at least two years.  If you sneak in and overstay your visa, you will not be able to get a driver’s license, a health card, a job, or rent an apartment.  The RCMP will hunt you down and send you back.

So, people who are offended by Trump’s remarks about immigration plan to protest by burdening the immigration system of our northern neighbor.  Funny, eh?  The only thing funnier would be if they tried moving to Mexico.

See also: Arizona has rights, too

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Utopia, Do Not Enter

People who claim to know the ultimate, perfected state of society are dangerous maniacs.  This claim is in the same category as perpetual motion and quack cures for cancer, only more dangerous.  The patient may choose his own treatment, but a utopian will foist his delusion on us all.

Obviously, if you are working to bring about paradise on Earth, you have a license to kill.  Utopia is worth any sacrifice of human dignity.

This has been going on from Aristotle to Marx, and the victims never wise up.  When Plato writes about his “philosopher king,” whom do you suppose he has in mind?  We must have the gold people to rule over the bronze people, the shepherds to lead the flock.  That’s right – the flock.  Sheep.

Marx claimed that his utopia was the inevitable result of inexorable “laws of history” that he, alone, had discovered.  LOL.  Gee, Karl, if it’s inevitable, maybe we don’t need to put quite so many people in the gulag!  Utopia probably doesn’t need a barbed wire fence to keep people from escaping.

Perfect societies like Aristotle’s usually depend on a caste system, which the inventor has to justify.  In fairness to Marx, he was hoping for some kind of self-organizing collective.  In practice, though, you get the Party, and the Party rules just like any other despot.

The needs of society outweigh the rights of the individual.

The first thing to consider when you read this stuff – especially if you are reading it in school – is the plight of someone not born into the ruling class.  Would you have any kind of social mobility?  Would you have any free will at all?  Often, the answer is simply “no.”

Individuals exist to serve the greater good.  The metaphor of a beehive is invoked, which sounds lovely until you actually think about it.  Fascists love to say that “the needs of society outweigh the rights of the individual.”  This is great if you are the one implementing the needs of society – not so great for the individual whose rights are outweighed.

Individual freedom must be the basis of any just society.  Beyond that are philosophical questions about where individuals’ rights may conflict, how much power to delegate to the government, etc.  The real work lies in creating institutions that appropriately safeguard the rights of the people, joint and several, and then revising the institutions over time.

This is an incremental, and difficult, process wherein society may improve steadily over time.  Anyone who has worked at it will tell you that “better than before” is sufficiently grand.  Someone claiming to know the ultimate answer is either clinically insane – or a charlatan.

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