Tag Archives: left

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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Bad Idea Roundup

If you followed along with the Booth economics quiz, you may have noticed they didn’t ask about the minimum wage.  That would have been a good fit with the theme – too good, in fact.

Economists know that minimum wage laws are bad for the economy, and create unemployment.  This is contrary to every decent, charitable impulse you might have, and economists would rather not talk about it.

minimum_wageTo a lefty economist like Paul Krugman, minimum wage proposals are kryptonite.  Keynes, his hero, was all about increasing employment through real wage cuts.  The diagram is from Zero Hedge.  The list of bad ideas is from Germany’s Social Democratic party.

  • National minimum wage
  • Lower retirement age
  • More welfare spending
  • Less infrastructure spending
  • Rent controls

The new agenda is opposed by German economists, employers, and even the Bundesbank.  It’s funny to see this happening in Germany.  Why?  Schadenfreude.  Now, if we could only send a copy to China.

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Opposing the President

Veteran actor and producer Robert Redford says in this interview that opposition to President Obama is due, in part, to racism.  Redford’s position is more nuanced than the soundbite suggests, unlike other celebrities who have compared America to apartheid South Africa.

I think what sits underneath it, unfortunately, is there’s probably some racism involved

Ben CarsonPictured here are some prominent people who oppose the president.  What do you see?  That’s right, none of them is from Hollywood.  We see a doctor, a CEO, and an economist.   Do Ben Carson, Herman Cain, and Thomas Sowell oppose the president because he’s black?  Probably not.

Let’s take a moment to define “opposing the president.”  Generally, this means opposing his policies.  Dr. Carson, for instance, is a staunch opponent of socialized medicine.  Republicans in Congress are expected to oppose the president’s policies with policies of their own.  That’s why they’re called “the opposition.”  It’s a contest of ideas.

SowellIn polls, “opposing the president” might mean giving him low approval ratings.  Pollsters struggle to distinguish policy from execution, which are different aspects of the president’s job.  The latter, by the way, is why it’s called the Executive Branch.  Policy is not the president’s main job.

So, why do Hollywood people persist in believing that opposition stems from racism?  Following Saint Francis, we must seek a reason more sympathetic than “they’re stupid.”  Imagine that you are a millionaire movie star living in California.  Ahhh.  Okay, snap out of it.

HermanCainIf you’re a Hollywood person, everyone you know strongly supports the president – on his left.  You don’t know a single Republican, and you can’t imagine what motivates them.  Hmmm.  It must be racism.

Rasmussen did a poll on this very issue.  They asked people if they thought that other people were racists.  LOL.  The sad truth is, there are some people who oppose the president only because of his race, while others blindly support him for the same reason.  Both groups are stupid.

See also:  Our First Black President

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Liberty vs. Equality

StampsKudos to Jeremy Truitt for his article on the psychology of liberals versus conservatives.  This is a difficult topic for a centrist, because our goal is to make each side think constructively about the other.  It’s much easier to write for one side and vilify the other – that’s why you see so much of it.

We will start with the caricatures, and then move on to a place of understanding. Conservatives, technically, come in two varieties – fiscal and social.  In the left’s imagination, the former are soulless capitalists, bent on exploiting workers and despoiling the planet.  The latter are uneducated zealots, who favor civil rights only for white Christian males.  Unfortunately, we do see the likes of Todd Akin every so often, and that reinforces the stereotype.

On the right, liberals are diagnosed with a pathological guilt that drives them to give money to a class of lazy freeloaders – that is, the ones who are not lazy freeloaders themselves.  We covered some of this material in Voting Your Self-Interest.  It boils down to whether you are willing to raise taxes on yourself, or on someone else.

The constructive way to look at liberals is that they are empathetic.  They want to help people less fortunate, and they expect government to be the vehicle for this help.  Conservatives are not insensitive to these needs, but they are skeptical about involving the government.  What liberals think of as a government function called “social justice,” conservatives think of as “charity.”  They are favorably inclined toward “Christian charity,” but they see it as outside the scope of government.

Fundamentally, the social goals of Liberty and Equality are at odds.  It’s easy to scrawl both of them on a banner – with Fraternité, for good measure – but they result in opposing policies and opposing world views.

America’s founders were preoccupied with Liberty.  At that time, the economy consisted of agriculture and trade, and inequality was due to hereditary land ownership.  Let a man clear his own land in the new world, and all would prosper.

Liberty means that whatever you make from your own toil, you can keep – no harsh taxes to King George.  It also means the freedom to fail.  If you make bad decisions, or don’t exert yourself, you get what you deserve.  If you are infirm, or plain unlucky – the church will take you in.

This is the world inhabited by conservatives.  It is not quite “every man for himself.”  It is more like self-reliance, the adult notion that you are primarily responsible for what happens in your life.

Within one hundred years, a third “factor of production” had developed – capital – and now we can say that a hereditary monopoly of capital is just as damaging as that of land once was.  If our government is to maintain the meritocracy envisaged by the founders, there are not many proactive policy options.  Attempts to level the playing field almost always have the character of an ad hoc redistribution of wealth.

This drives conservatives crazy.  They feel violated by high taxes, because it infringes their basic liberty.  They also feel, on the flip side, that receiving largesse from the government makes you its slave.  There is empirical evidence that once the government gets involved with “who deserves what,” it is on the fast track to dictatorship.

Liberals, on the other hand, can make a plausible case that “the system isn’t fair,” and intervention is required.  Inequality is stark in America, especially if you take a synchronic view.

So, here is the our impartial, centrist synopsis of the left-right psychological divide.

  • The right feels that Liberty is paramount, and inequality a tolerable side-effect.  They fear and distrust a government that treats the latter by infringing the former.
  • The left feels that inequality is a blight on America, and they expect the government to fix it.  They trust government to deliver some kind of Equality without unduly infringing Liberty, or the meritocracy.

It’s tough to thread that needle.  We hope you saw your own perspective here – and the other one, too.

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Déjà Vu

Jeremiah is not the first to notice parallels between President Obama’s tenure and that of Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The president faces the same problems, and has adopted the same solutions – fiscal stimulus, expanded entitlements, deficit spending, and bank regulation.  FDR was suspicious of capitalism, as is Obama, and also supported by the unions.

This is not a coincidence.  Whenever there is a financial crisis, voters lose faith in capitalism and turn to the left.  In other words, the conditions create the candidate.  According to Ray Dalio, capitalism has a “long wave” cycle that produces financial crises every fifty years or so.  That’s about how long it takes for the banking system to silt up with bad debts, and then crash.

Dalio has found evidence of these cycles going back as long as there has been credit.  He prescribes a combination of debt restructuring, monetization, austerity, and wealth transfer.  Note that these last two are the policy responses of right and left, respectively.   They are the least effective.

History has its own inalterable rhythms.  After a long boom, there is a bust, followed by a leftist government.  Dalio’s paper analyzes a number of debt crises throughout history.  They produced FDR, Obama, Jose Zapatero, Harold Wilson, and Adolf Hitler.

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Ron Paul, Extremist

In a recent interview, Jon Huntsman described Ron Paul as “appealing to the extremes” of both parties.  If you have a one-dimensional view of politics, this is the only way to explain Paul’s appeal.  He is liberal on personal freedom, and conservative on government.  Jeremiah’s readers, however, have a two-dimensional view.

Seen this way, Rep. Paul is perfectly consistent – and he has spent years honing his barbs against the real extremists in the other corners.  That’s why he’s incomprehensible for a mainstream politician like Gov. Huntsman.  It’s just too bad we voters must always choose between civil rights and property rights.

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The Man from another Dimension

Senator Scott Brown describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a social moderate.  This formulation challenges voters to think of fiscal policy and social policy as two different things, instead of the old left-right divide.  This means that policy choices can be sorted into four buckets instead of two.  Of course, real politics is more complicated than that, but – for voting purposes – two dimensions are better than one.  Here, then, is a two-dimensional taxonomy:

Fiscal and Social Conservative

This is the new, socially-oriented Republican Party.  There are no Democrats in this box, and not even all Republicans.  For these people, the social dimension dominates, which means protecting their ideal of social organization and family values in particular.  They are often blind to fiscal policy, and they consider social moderates like Sen. Brown to be false Republicans.

Fiscal Progressive and Social Conservative

It is hard to find any voters in this category.  Most people who are social conservatives are also fiscal conservatives, or at least indifferent to fiscal policy.  To find leftist fiscal ideas together with social conservatism, you have to consider old-school union labor – intolerant of social minorities and big business alike.

Fiscal and Social Liberal

Modern Democrats have the advantage of moral consistency.  Since the 1960s, Democrats have been socially liberal, anti-war and hostile to business.  They favor big government and they don’t mind high taxes, especially taxes on corporations and “the rich.”  Since they have been in the majority, Democrats have drifted ever farther to the left.

Fiscal Conservative and Social Moderate

This is the grand old Republican Party, as Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan knew it – small government, low taxes and states’ rights.  Goldwater fought a losing battle against the religious right, as did his successor John McCain.  Today, only “northeast Republicans” are in this category, along with “blue dog” Democrats.

Ask yourself which part of “taxpayer-funded abortion” offends you, or “bank bailout.”  The answer may be more complicated than you think.

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