Virtue In The MIrror

We have a local elementary school that is going through a massive remodeling and expansion (the justification of which is based on outright lies from the school board) which includes combining classes into a semi-open classroom format. Eventually they plan to extend the openness across all of the grades.

This year has seen that first step with grades 1 and 2 being together as well as grades 3 and 4.

It’s already showing problems.

Which brings me to the great part of the story: Adele (not her real name).

Adele was a huge supporter of the bond issue and the increased spending on the school where her 2 children go. Living in Woodbrook, very near the school itself, she proudly proclaimed her support for all of the initiatives, letting those of us who pointed out problems with the plan that she had deeper feelings than we. And her moral view is more clear, her values higher, and her general nobility superior. This is NOT an exaggeration, by the way.

So now that the new plans have been partially implemented for the last 2 months? Adele is strongly considering home schooling her kids. She’s very concerned with the unruliness of the classrooms and what her kids are actually (not) learning. She doesn’t share this with the community as a whole, just quietly with individuals she knows.

But those of us who predicted accurately are moral inferiors.


Religion of Government

Quite awhile ago someone for whom I cared a great deal remarked that she thought conservatives were simply greedy, selfish people. All their arguments about government’s limits were just cover for their real feelings, which were ugly.

So I asked her if she really believed that I went from a decent, caring person to a selfish, mean-spirited one in three months by reading a few economics history books? Did she really believe that my character was altered by reading? In three months?

She had no answer, but she didn’t refute her previous claim.

We no longer speak.

Over the years I’ve gone from a doctrinaire socialist to a middling libertarian based, I like to think, on a willingness to concede when I (and my heroes) were wrong. I actually want to get it right; not feel like my gang won something over the “opposing team.” Picking foolish statements or slip-ups, or quoting the idiots on the other side may let you feel superior, but it just doesn’t make you so.

I remember years ago Bernie Sanders was lecturing us Vermonters on how the Soviets had “good quality healthcare.” He actually knew the truth but spouted his crap anyway. But does citing Bernie’s lies or idiocy checkmate arguments by social democrats? No, of course not. It’s the record of predictions and outcomes of their general policies that will or will not do that.

We’ll all read lots of smug, sneering comments and tiny quotes from opposition folks (sometimes taken out of context) to prove the superiority of the writer’s views. And they will be as meaningful and legitimate as…well, Bernie’s BS.

Resentment Abounds

Our local Gander Mountain is going out of business. As you would expect, they are having a “Going Out of Business” sale…nothing surprising there. But I was surprised to learn that they needed a permit to have their going out of business sale. The local government requires a specific permit from the lords of bureaucracy to…go out of business.

A friend of mine who knows the ins and outs of such regs went on a rant about Gander, specifically declaring that they can only get 3 month long permits, and they aren’t allowed to “co-mingle” goods to be sold. And by God if they don’t follow the lords’ rules, they’ll pay a price.

I guess having to kill your business and go bankrupt isn’t punishment enough for bureaucrats.

So I asked him what harm to the public the permits were preventing, to which he remarked, “They might continue the sale for several months, even add new stock to sell.”

Wow. How terrible. They would continue to pay taxes, provide employment, pay their rent, and sell products that people want. What an outrage.

And there you have it folks–attitude is everything in today’s world. The sheer hatred that many of our people have for business and producers will override any semblance of intellect and objectivity.

Tax Cuts and No-Tax Cuts

The tax cut issue is upon us once again and the usual suspects are throwing the typical hyperbole around–dying in the streets, blood on the sidewalks, starvation, homelessness, etc, etc. Somehow any perceived drop in the share of wealth that government can grab will have an unimaginable effect on the well-being of anyone with less than $20 godzillion dollars.

What’s impossible to get through, to pretty much anyone, is that the percent of the GDP that the federal government captures is relatively unaffected by the tax RATE: the fed gets between 15% and 20% of the GDP. There is some evidence that rate cuts can have a beneficial effect on the economy, giving the government actual increases in tax revenue (as opposed the percent of a given payer’s income), but even that won’t help the deficit much if the same government doesn’t control the real determiner of deficits: spending. Reagan’s efforts did wonders for the employment rate, brought in more tax revenues, and lowered the inflation rate dramatically–something all liberal and many conservative economists claimed could not happened. But the deficit climbed significantly because spending was increased across the board.

There are really two parts to the Laffer curve theory of good economy management: overall tax rates and spending. With an improving economy, the need for government social spending should drop–that is so obvious as to be axiomatic. Except to a politician who can never see a reason for lower spending: after all, the politician has people to whom that money–your money–goes. Try to trim any social program regardless of the circumstances and you’ll get the “dying in the streets” claims, all of which is pure horse-crap. Even most lefties know it isn’t true, they just see it as a good political weapon against libertarians and conservatives.

Finally, the most important tax changes we could hope for is a simplification of the code…which will not happen in any meaningful way–far too many people have skin in the game of tax complexity.


A Liberal View

Some years ago I had a neighbor who was a classic modern liberal (a Smith college gal). We were good neighbors to each other: always cordial, even friendly. But political discussions were tough to say the least–she would become very frustrated with my libertarian views and arguments.

It’s notable that we were always respectful when we talked politics–never a raised voice, which is rare today. I suppose it’s that willingness to listen to the other guy that led to a real honesty of views.

Anyway, at some point I asked Jane (not her real name) what she saw as good in our nation. Her answer was enlightening:

“The only real good I see in America is the potential to become a decent nation.”

Now a lot of folks will fall into the puerile statement that we aren’t perfect. That is a trivial axiom–completely meaningless since by definition, nothing can be perfect. But what most liberals who shout that mean is that the US is far less perfect than many other nations. So I asked Jane if she thought that this was the case.

She replied, “I believe many, if not most other nations are morally superior to the US. Even, or rather specifically, socialist and communist countries are superior, though they may be less desirable to live in, because their stated goals are ones with which I identify.”

And there you have it–when the measure is one of intent rather than result, there can be no legitimate argument. It’s a sad situation to me. I’m a pretty strong libertarian, but told one leftie friend that if the early claims about Obamacare were to hold true, I would have to give it my support–pragmatism should override ideology. But I also told him that I had little hope for anything but a disaster in general quality, availability, and cost, all heaped on top of government inefficiency.

Time will tell who is predicting accurately. If the left has called it right–I’ll concede. But if I’ve called it correctly, you can bet the farm my friend will not.

Funny that.


Where Did Logic Go?

It’s a wonder to me how people can passionately support something that most of them know doesn’t work. Probably the clearest example is Anthony Lewis, the self declared socialist writer for the New York Times. Lewis’s socialistic fervor dimmed over time as the failures–and horrors–of socialist states became undeniable. But in his last interview before retiring he was asked whether he still supported socialism in general. He replied that he still supported many of it’s aspects and specifically socialized medicine. Quote: “I know it doesn’t work, but I still believe in it.”

We’re in the same “I know it doesn’t work but I still believe in it” world today. The most recent is in the uproar over the killings in Las Vegas. Study after study, many done by ant-gun scientists, show the folly of “gun control.” The regulations do nothing to control criminal behavior (look at Mexico), but they certainly control what law-abiding citizens do, and perhaps that’s what really lies in the hearts of the gun-control crowd–it doesn’t matter if it works; it screws the neighbors they don’t like.

One of the ugliest aspects of the nations under the old Soviet Union was the rise of cynicism and resentment. Many jokes in Russia were about how neighbors would wish ill upon neighbors; jokes are funniest when they ring true. I’m afraid we’re going there as well. Resentment of another person’s well-being is becoming the coin of the realm in our political world, and I suspect the desire to impose laws “on the other guy” that will have none of the benefits touted by the supporters will proliferate.

The Coming Ayers World

Some one I care very much for once told me that she believes conservatives are simply greedy people. No discussion about limits of government would penetrate her shield–if you weren’t a good liberal, you were a bad person. As Bob Beckel would say, “case closed.”

Now this is not a stupid or uneducated person. In fact she has a PhD and tenure at a well respected university. I–being the naive person that I am–assumed that with reasonable debate I could penetrate that attitude. Nope; information and debate were not needed–she knew the way of the world and she had no need for any other views.

I finally did my “Let me get this straight” routine: “You believe that I went from being a good, noble person to a greedy, ugly one in the course of a few months of studying previous economic predictions and measuring them against actual outcomes? You believe that applying a scientific approach to my policy opinions is immoral?”

End of friendship.

Which is becoming more and more common place for me. Few of us are willing to simply engage in a friendly discussion: we are filled with factoids–many of which are either untrue or nearly so–and refuse to engage any logic or reason to our positions. This wasn’t always so. If you watch some older shows, you’ll see civil debates and thoughtful responses. For that matter, watch Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” from 20 years ago–he’s actually fair, and tough on everyone, not juster the Right.

I’ll leave the root cause of the demise of reason and debate to others–I suspect it’s a combination of things that came to us from a coarsening of values and a dumbing down of society, but in any event the Ayers branch of the infantile left has won the day on the cultural side. They haven’t yet carried the field on the political power side and I suspect things will not work out as they envisioned. But we are at that Manichean point that they claim they hate, but in fact support–the Us against Them fight. What’s coming will be ugly.