Category Archives: Center Field

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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That Old Time Religion

Camille Paglia says that an empire is ripe for the fall, right around the time its citizens gain total freedom of sexual expression. We may assume that hers is not a moral judgment, but an empirical one – correlation, not cause.

There [comes] a time when these fine gradations of gender identity—I’m a male trans doing this, etc.—this is a symbol of decadence, I’m sorry.

The correlation model holds up pretty well, for falling empires in general. Rome is a favorite example. Paglia adds Egypt and Babylon. America, as we have shown, started going to hell in the 1970s, and has declined pari passu as our society has become more liberal.

The reactionary right believes there is a causal link. America’s military and economic might depended on the “moral fabric” of our society, which was frayed by evils like abortion, gay marriage, and women’s rights. Plenty of evangelists take this line, along with moralizing enemies abroad.

Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership … This is the path to degradation. – Vladimir Putin

Jeremiah rejects all this, of course. We define morality in purely civic terms. It means going to work, paying taxes, serving your country, and being politically active. The sexually repressive definition, which goes by the name of “family values,” is spurious.

Here, then, is a scary thought. What if there is a causal link, and the link is repression? What if the kind of regimentation that produces good soldiers and engineers, also produces bigotry and discrimination? That would mean that a liberal society is always a weak society.

We disregarded the old institutions and the old values, including some we should have kept – like fortitude and self-reliance.

There are counterexamples, like northern Europe, but circumstantial evidence weighs heavily in favor of the reactionaries. We must understand that these people see “good old American values” as a package deal. Gays were in the closet, and we had 5% GDP growth.

Social liberals have made the same conflation. We disregarded the old institutions and the old values, including some we should have kept – like fortitude and self-reliance. Once again, we have arrived at the set theory definition of centrism. The right wants all of the old values back, including the bad ones, and the left wants none, overlooking the good ones.

America needs social norms and institutions that reinforce productive behavior. We need families (of any kind) that stick together, and kids that stick with math. People are saying that we will fail because we have forgotten our values. Let’s not fail.

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Guilt by Association

Jeremiah is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, so there! Regular readers know the centrist position to be more nuanced, but we wanted to cop to what Salon calls the most childish political position ever. The online debate is here, and the latest attack is Greta Christina’s article.

Christina starts plausibly enough, with the assertion that social issues are inseparable from fiscal issues. Unfortunately, her attribution of social problems to fiscal policy relies heavily on stereotyped “conservative” positions and simplistic policy analysis.

Even if you, personally, oppose racist policing, supporting fiscal conservatism makes you part of the problem.

She tells us, for example, that “fiscally conservative means slashing support systems that help the poor, lowering taxes for the rich, cutting corners for big business, and screwing labor.” Seriously, have you ever heard anyone claim those as policy objectives? Who’s being childish here?

Christina simply enumerates policies that are presumed to help the poor, and which fiscal conservatives resist – public education, unions, and the minimum wage, among others. She overlooks the first rule of policy analysis, which is that there are no unalloyed goods. Unions do not always help the poor. More often, unions keep the poor locked out of jobs. So does the minimum wage.

You may feel that the government should spend more on public assistance, and pay for it by raising taxes. Never mind about balancing the budget, or how narrow our tax base is. Do you really want the federal government to have all this power? Why not state governments? Does government have to administer, say, education – or can it simply send a check?

People can reasonably debate these issues, but Christina doesn’t. She has her official list of bad policy outcomes, and she proceeds to attribute all of them to the “fiscal conservative” straw man. This is precisely why good debate avoids the use of labels. You need to look at the actual policies, not the label. Ironically, the last time Jeremiah inveighed against a label, it was socialism.

If there is a general principle called “fiscal conservatism,” it is that big, government directed programs are to be avoided. This definition places many of Christina’s bad outcomes on the other side of the fence. We covered the prison situation here. It is the result of incompetent government and … an irresponsible trade union. The drugs war, likewise, is a big (expensive) government program.

Fundamentally, Christina is undone by her thesis. Fiscal conservatives are obviously different from social conservatives. The people are different, the objectives are different, and the policies are different. To show that the outcomes are somehow correlated would take a lot more evidence than the “all conservatives are alike” argument presented here.

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Take the Quiz

Call the copyright police!  Someone else is using a two dimensional map of the political landscape.  Jeremiah applies his “four quadrants” here, and here.  The Advocates’ quiz map is shown below.

GridIf you are in the middle or upper part of the chart, you are what the Advocates call “politically homeless.”  No matter which party is in power, Coke or Pepsi, you will be unhappy.  Here is how they describe centrists:

Centrists pride themselves on keeping an open mind, oppose political extremes, and emphasize what they see as practical solutions to problems.

This thought provoking quiz has only ten questions – well worth one minute of your time.  Try it today!

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Left Behind

Peter Beinart presents an objective and thorough analysis of America’s millennial left.  It’s refreshing to read something this precise.  He takes the time to define “old politics” in both Republican and Democratic terms, and to defend his designation of a “new generation.”  Finally, he uses survey results to show what the new generation thinks.

Obviously, the new left is bad news for Republicans, but Beinart also has some surprises for Democrats.  The leading candidate for president, Hillary Clinton, is at risk of being “old left.”  Sen. Elizabeth Warren seems younger in this sense – younger, even, than young Republicans like Paul Ryan.  We are reminded of Jeremiah on identity politics.

Right-wing populism generally requires rousing white, Christian, straight, native-born Americans against Americans who are not all those things.

The Republican party, Beinart says, has grown dependent on the xenophobia of a shrinking demographic group.  The left wing of the Republican party – if there is such a thing – is represented by Libertarians like Rand Paul.  He is against foreign wars and the Federal Reserve, and strictly in favor of individual rights.  Unfortunately for Sen. Paul, he is also white, Christian, straight, and male.

No one will mourn the passing of “social conservatives,” but we are a little concerned about the young generation’s lurch toward socialism.  The Republicans have not made a case for free enterprise, and so that task may fall to Mrs. Clinton.

What do you tell a young person with no prospects, a useless diploma, and college debt?  They say the system is broken.  Jeremiah would like to say that the system is broken because it is not actually a free enterprise system.  The housing bubble, the student loan bubble, and the jobless recovery are all due to government intervention.  What is broken is the big lie of socialism, that government can take care of you.

How do you tell that to the new left?  You can’t.  That kind of knowledge only comes from experience.  God help them.

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The “L” Word

The Daily Kos describes Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) as a “selective libertarian.”  Chris Christie warns his party against “libertarian populism.”  Jeremiah wonders, what is this “L” word that has riled up a leftie blog and a Republican governor?  It must be good, if critics are saddling it with descriptions like these – selective, populist, phony.  The first thing you learn, when reading the news, is to question the adjectives.

The idea is clever political gamesmanship that enables the libertarians to walk on both sides of the fence at once.

Not to be outdone, The Huffington Post adds “extremist” and – their vilest insult – “tea party.”  The proximate cause of all this attention is the debate over government surveillance.  Jeremiah has previously anatomized the anti-privacy establishment.  It’s funny to see pundits on both sides warning against the libertarians.

Pundit Sanghoee’s remark, above, echoes the complaint of Jon Huntsman (R-UT) who said that Ron Paul “appeals to the extremes of both parties.”  You can see how this reveals a red versus blue mentality.  The privacy debate has people standing on principle – thinking for themselves, without party whips and talking points.  Clearly, a dangerous trend.

See also:  Free Minds and Free Markets

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Black and White and Red

Researching the Windsor decision, we found that comment about being gay and black, and could not resist running this image.

TDCoupleThis is not one of those Benetton ads, calculated to offend.  It is a genuine solicitation from Toronto Dominion, a Canadian bank.  Gay marriage has been legal forever in Canada, and it’s a big business.  So, why is Jeremiah offended by all this?  An interracial gay couple?  Guess again – they’re Canadian!  They have nationalized health care.

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