Sunday, February 10, 2019

Recommended reading: Sandy's War

This essay by Kevin Williamson (arguably one of today's greatest philosopher-journalists) is fascinating, weaving together themes of social media, identity, fame, environmentalism and socialism in an insightful fashion. Here are a few brief excerpts from a rather long piece:

“This is going to be the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil-rights movement of our generation,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) says about her so-called Green New Deal. ... a “new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II.” 
Under whose command? That of Field Marshal Sandy, of course. 
Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both. 
While many causes associated with the moral equivalent of war are well-intentioned and honorable in spirit (fighting poverty, conservation, etc.), the problem with the idea itself is that it is totalitarian ... .
... the call for a World War II–level national deployment in the service of an old, tired, hackneyed, shopworn Democrat-socialist wish-list is not about reversing the trend of climate change ... or even about redistributing wealth or aggrandizing the power of petty politicians. Field Marshal Sandy needs a great cause to which to attach herself, lest she return to being only Sandy, obscure and unhappy and of no consequence — or at least no consequence obvious enough for someone with her crippled understanding of what life is for.

Do read the whole thing.

And do read a much shorter essay by Roger Simon, who explains why "AOC represents the natural outgrowth of our extraordinarily biased higher education system."

It's not global warming that's the problem, as the Green New Deal would have it (though its actual intention appears to have little to do with the environment and everything to do with promoting socialism). The real problem is our colleges (and earlier education, obviously) that are turning out the likes of AOC on an assembly line of the sort that drove Charlie Chaplin mad in Modern Times.

If a majority of today's voters cannot understand that AOC's Green New Deal is the product of the fevered imagination of a young, ignorant socialist struggling to give her life meaning, then the future of our country is bleak indeed.


Fred said...

"Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself."
"The typical state of mankind is tyranny, servitude and misery." Milton Friedman.

marcusbalbus said...

i'll take her fevered dreams over your advocacy of central bank fostered wealth inequality.

Benjamin Cole said...

In many ways, I agree with the sentiments expressed here, although with the caveat that pollution is an external cost, not captured by the price signal. A true economist acknowledges something has to be done about pollution. Pollution taxes are probably best.

But add on: The US spends $1.2 trillion annually on “global security.” This, despite the fact that even in farfetched scenarios, there is no possibility of another power invading the US.

Constitutionalists? The Founding Fathers advised avoiding foreign entanglements, and loathed, detested and reviled standing militaries. Read your history. In the war of 1812, US militias refused to invade Canada, and they refused to fight unless in strict defense of homeland.

A small, spartan, domestic-based military of citizen-soldiers, and a small fleet of ballistic and hunter-killer subs would be all the US needs today.

Worse, the present-day hyper-mobilized, globalized military apparatus seems to allow civilian leaders to get the US into quagmires, such as Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria. Tar-babies all. Once in, you can never get out. Trump says we have spent $7 trillion in the Mideast with nothing to show for it. You know, that is a little bit of money.

We have “allies” like Saudi Arabia. I do not want to be allies with the Khashoggi-killers who financed 9/11, and if global shippers want global security, let them pay for it. not me.

The US military as global guard service for multinationals is very expensive.

Even domestic green-spending makes more sense than overseas military boondoggles. Which defines every US military expedition since Korea.

So yes, let us cast a gimlet eye on green spending---green as in uniforms, and green as in movements.

As usual, let me say there are many fine and sincere people in uniform, and also in the green movement. But as a taxpayer, let me say I have reservations.

honestcreditguy said...

She is just a waste of a congressional seat, her district is top line entitlements yet she would want to end ICE and let illegals do as they please.

She is a sheep.....Flocked by her political leftist leanings.....

randy said...

"If a majority of today's voters cannot understand that AOC's Green New Deal is the product of the fevered imagination of a young, ignorant socialist struggling to give her life meaning, then the future of our country is bleak indeed."

It is bleak. The right is deluding itself. Conservatives are on the losing end of every angle of demographics. It's a tragedy, but the younger voters have no sense of history; of how exceptional America's place in the world is. For all of our many, many, flaws and mistakes, the world is an immensely better place than it would be without America.

My judgement is that Democrats excel at shining the light on problems, and using that to stoke the base - but they have incredibly awful policy for that. Partly because of corrupted leadership, partly from lack of humility and a sense of history, they will tear down all that has come before - to be replaced by the whims of idealists bent on a new order. Yeah, that's worked out well in the past.

Republicans are just as much to blame. Debate whether it started with Newt, or Cheney/Rumsfeld or 9/11. Republicans represent something far uglier than Reagan's shining city on a hill. Republicans have been awful at accepting and recognizing that real issues do exist. Not everything can be solved by tax cuts and stacking judges and shouting MAGA.

For those that still revere western civilization - individual liberty and responsibility, rule of law, market based solutions, skepticism of redistribution, etc - American and the world will be on a better course when conservatives engage much more sincerely and compassionately in issues of well being for all. A thousand points of light as he said.

randy said...

The Niskanen Center is good place to find good ideas for the center-right.

The Cliff Claven of Finance said...

I've been reading about climate science since 1997.

I write a climate science blog
to summarize my reading.

It's had over 30,000 page views so far.

I posted a short article on the "Green Bad Dream"
today, concerning climate science,
that may interest your readers.

I wish Trump would read it.

He's got good instincts on the climate change (non) threat,
but knows almost nothing about climate science.

Very few people will spend even one hour
of their life learning about climate science
-- perhaps because of the somewhat "boring" focus
on the past climate, with a lot of unanswered questions,
and no one knows what the future climate will be.

Climate junk science is what you read
in the mainstream media -- scary, exciting,
wild guess predictions of the future climate
-- always bad news stated with great confidence
in spite of the very wrong average temperature predictions
for the past 30 years -- predicting triple the warming that
actually happened, based on a theory from the 1970's
that is obviously wrong, but no one will admit it, or change it !

Real science tells us that adding CO2 to the air
is a net benefit for our planet -- significantly
'greening' our planet and accelerating
green plant growth.

Junk science claims CO2 is an "existential threat".

We've had global warming for 20,000 years,
starting with Chicago and Detroit under glaciers
-- the warming since then has been nothing
but good news.

Why is it that predicted FUTURE global warming
is ALWAYS bad news, unlike the good news in the
past 20,000 years ?

These scary predictions have been made since the 1960's.
and there is still no bad climate news ... except in
overactive leftist imaginations !

Because the scary climate predictions are
nothing but nonsense, from science deniers,
and they have been since the 1960's !

Sid Pools said...

I watched the Fyre Festival documentaries over the weekend (one on Hulu;one on Netflix) and i was struck by Williamson's description of the GND in the first paragraph: "and that’s all the Green New Deal is: an advertising campaign without a product..."

This is EXACTLY the case of the Fyre Festival - a bunch of people caught up in the vortex of twitter/instagram "influencers" checking their brains at the door and making stupid choices. Worse, are the influencers, and even more so, those that manage/manipulate the influencers.

So many parallels to what we are seeing today on the extreme left (and right, for that matter...)

brave chicken said...

While the delusional twin hobgoblins of Socialism and Weather (on the distant horizon) are debatable, polarizing and sustainable -- the immediate, current and ignored impacts of GDP decline seem more Real:

Overall, the CBO projected economic growth will slow this year to 2.3 percent, compared with the 3.1 percent rate last year, as the benefits of the new tax law begin to fade. Through 2023, growth is expected to average 1.7 percent, below the CBO’s estimate of the economy’s potential.

The gross domestic product for Quarter 4 of 2018 took about a 0.1 percent hit, and the Quarter 1 of 2019 will suffer about a 0.2 percent GDP dip (about $8 billion).

Scott Grannis said...

Re: CBO GDP growth projections, which envision a significant slowdown in economic growth over the next few years. I would take these forecasts with huge grain of salt. CBO forecast errors are notoriously big. I wouldn't pay them much attention at this point. However, the real yields on TIPS are relatively low, which seems to point to the market having the same gloomy outlook as the CBO. Lots of pessimism floating around these days, which means the market is likely to be surprised to the upside if growth comes in anywhere near 3% or higher.

Meanwhile, the fundamentals look pretty impressive: tax and regulatory burdens have been cut significantly. More people are working than ever before. The unemployment rate is very low; the ratio of those unemployed to those working is the lowest in many decades. Wages and salaries are rising faster than inflation, which remains relatively low and stable. Businesses say their biggest problem is finding qualified workers. The Fed is not tight; monetary policy is not likely to become "tight" for the foreseeable future. The dollar is relatively strong and stable. Small business optimism is relatively high. Liquidity conditions in the bond market are excellent. Bank lending is expanding at a normal pace. Credit spreads are relatively low and falling. Business investment is rising. Corporate profits (trailing 12-month after tax earnings) are very strong and rising at an above-average rate (10% annualized over the past 3 months).

If there is any chance Trump can negotiate a tariff/trade truce with China there is a tremendous amount of upside potential in the market and in the economy. I'd be unwilling to bet against that happening, since a resolution to trade tensions would be a win-win for all concerned.

WealthMony said...

Scott Grannis, I am in agreement with all you write above regarding economic fundamentals. Somehow, it always seems to be the unknown and unanticipated that appears and drives us into recession. However, I think research will show that we've not had a recession without first there being an inverted yield curve and a sustained rise in new claims for unemployment compensation. I think the beginnings of a real trade deal would send the economy surging and would put the FOMC back on the front burner. I still believe what will ultimately drive us into recession will be an unaccommodating Fed policy. The stock market has the jitters aKgain, but that should pass by the end of earnings season. And would certainly go away with a trade accomplishment. Keep up the great analysis, sir, and enjoy your life in, yuk, California!

WealthMony said...

The US economy is not roaring just yet. Brian Wesbury estimates 4Q2018 to be 2.5%. I'm not sure we'll get a 3%+ economic growth for 2018 and that is disappointing. What did we get in 2017? I believe it was 2.3%. I am not worried just now about a potential recession, but I am worried that growth under Donald Trump may not turn out to be much more than 1% annualized beyond Barack Obama's weak 2.1%. I have not yet bought into the "new normal," and continue to believe we could growth 4%+ annualized. That's what I want to see. No one seems to expect it!

steve said...

Of course the reason AOC and others are gaining traction is we have a POTUS who acts like a peevish child. Very easy to dislike-even if you like most of his policy. If you don't like his policy-well then what do you do? You lurch further to the left than mainstream dumbass dems! This has always been my biggest tiff with DT.

randy said...

@steve - yes. The majority of arguments I have with people, including my wife, about the faults with Democrat positions, almost always fall back to - "well, any candidate would be better than living with trump" By reflection, all Republicans are painted as bad. Given Democrat race to the fringe, there is a huge opportunity for Conservatives to be the sane choice. It may not be possible in the shadow of Trump. Watching Klobuchar to see if she fills that gap.

brave chicken said...

I hate to go out on a fragile limb, but what has historically driven people towards socialist ideals, is economic woes and inequality. Historical cycles are not unlike the stock market, with up and down economic disparity that has resulted in extremist political reactions. Socialism in many ways reminds me of Ebola, i.e., every now and then and not too often, some chain of chaotic events is triggered -- setting into play, an explosive condition that had long been dormant. Socialism magnetically pulls together economic and political particles into a powerful force. We live in a time of disruption and fragmentation. There are current economic issues related to vast unprecedented economic gains from an increasingly large group of super-wealthy people, who don't seem inclined to contribute greater support to the "working class". As just one example, wages have been stagnate for many decades, while rent costs have skyrocketed, making life challenging for an increasingly large group of people, who are angry. It's an age old problem intertwined in all our DNA. Socialism is a symptom of an economic disease.

==> The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.’

-Winston Churchill, House of Commons, 22 October 1945

==> Following a crisis-induced plunge of 10.4% in the volume of global trade in 2009 – a modern-day record – recovery has been muted. After a brief two-year rebound in 2010-2011, world trade growth averaged just 3.6% from 2012 to 2018 – about half the 7.1% average annual pace in the 20 years before the crisis.

All in all, the global trade cycle is facing major stress in 2019, and markdowns have only just begun. This underscores the risks of a major shortfall in world GDP growth. In a still tightly connected world, no major economy will be an oasis. That includes the US, whose 45th president continues to insist that it’s easy to win a trade war.

From ING: opinions/stephen-roach-warnings-from-the-global-trade-cycle/

WealthMony said...

Scott, can you tell us if corporate America is over indebted?

K T Cat said...

I think Roger's is by far the better essay. As much as I used to love Kevin, reading the National Review these days is like perusing the doctrines of fanatical cavalry generals in 1925. They're about 20 years behind the times and they won't admit it. For example, his criticisms of Twitter and social media in general are silly. Those are the avenues that professional public affairs and advertising people use.

Johnny Bee Dawg said...

I get the impression our country will plummet towards Socialism the minute Trump is out of office.
Swamp dont want to be drained.
CEOs intertwined with Politicians in an unholy alliance.

R.I.P. Capitalism and Freedom.
Here comes the Government Dependency.
FORTY new DEM seats in the House? Really?? (only after a week or so of "finding" votes)
Goodbye record low unemployment for blacks, hispanics, asians, women, poor people, & those without high school diplomas.

Half the public applauds the Socialist agenda, now. America hates prosperity.

Grechster said...

Geez, JBD, that was fast! I'm not agreeing or disagreeing but your quick and dramatic pivot has my head spinning. (For my part, I think both parties manifestly embrace socialist thought and merely express the embrace in different ways. I happen to believe the republic has already fallen.)

Johnny Bee Dawg said...

What Pivot? Im watching the coup, and the American people being ok with Socialism.

Trump election repudiated the idiot Socialist elites, and stopped our decline.
We dodged a bullet by avoiding Hillary.

But the Swamp don't want to be drained. I dont think it CAN be drained after seeing how the Mueller thing even exists to deflect away from the real criminals.
Brennan, Comey, Clapper all lied under prison.
PUBs set up the entire Mueller probe.
McCabe and Rosenstein still walk around free as a bird.
Hillary lied under oath, colluded with Russia, took bribes from foreign governments, mishandled classified material, paid for spurious "intel" to take down a duly elected President to keep from being investigated herself. No prison.

Everyone in DC from politicians to waiters and janitors love the Swamp system which is bankrupting the country.
Nothing's happening to any of these criminal conspirators, and half of America applauds.

America has seen the difference between pro-America policies and anti-American policies and STILL gave the DEMs power in Congress. (Or it was rigged). Markets have NEVER liked DEMS gaining power in Congress. Of COURSE we crashed after Powell did his job to help.

The second Trump is gone, all these Swamp rats take over again, and the US slide continues at an unprecedented pace. Except we will have Europe-like GDP growth, and soaring debt from mathematically unsustainable redistribution programs once the Socialists regain power.


Unknown said...

"Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both".

An excellent description of Trump supporters.

Tom Nugent said...

There is another perspective that might have some merit for a few open minded readers of this blog. If you would like that perspective, check out Professor Bill Mitchell, one of the founders of MMT and his recent blog entitled: "The erroneous "lets have a little, some or no MMT" narrative.

Johnny Bee Dawg said...

To "Unknown"...

Except Trump supporters advocate returning government power to its Constitutional bounds.
Get the Nanny State out of our lives, and off our backs. Live and Let Live. No more Thought Crimes, and stifling of free speech.

Your linkage simply doesnt make sense.
Trump supporters are the polar opposite of "totalitarians", while the Socialist DEMs are the very embodiment of the term.
Enjoy your faux moral superiority.