Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Trump: the rebuke to elite consensus

What makes Trump significant? Two views are linked here. One is by Peggy  Noonan, who wrote Reagan’s speeches in the 1980s. Her main observation is that Trump’s candidacy is shaking up political allegiances and motivating people who are fed up with the current consensus of elites to foist free trade and open borders on the citizens of the United States.

Both sides, the elites and the non-elites, sense that things are stuck.

The people hate the elites, which is not new, and very American. The elites have no faith in the people, which, actually, is new. Everything is stasis. Then Donald Trump comes, like a rock thrown through a showroom window, and the molecules start to move.

The second is by Julius Krein in the American Standard, called “Traitor to his Class”.

What Trump offers is permission to conceive of an American interest as a national interest separate from the “international community” and permission to wish to see that interest triumph. What makes him popular on immigration is not how extreme his policies are, but the emphasis he puts on the interests of Americans rather than everyone else. His slogan is “Make America Great Again,” and he is not ashamed of the fact that this means making it better than other places, perhaps even at their expense.

His least practical suggestion—making Mexico pay for the border wall—is precisely the most significant: It shows that a President Trump would be willing to take something from someone else in order to give it to the American people. Whether he could achieve this is of secondary importance; the fact that he is willing to say it is everything. Nothing is more terrifying to the business and donor class—as well as the media and the entire elite—than Trump’s embrace of a tangible American nationalism. The fact that Trump should by all rights be a member of this class and is in fact a traitor to it makes him all the more attractive to his supporters and all the more baffling to pundits.

I recall the almost universal condemnation of Ronald Reagan back when he emerged as a possible Republican candidate in the late 1970s. That was when Communism was here to stay, and the legitimacy of the Soviet Union as a permanent fact of history permitted to be challenged in the then élite consensus. Reagan broke from that consensus. After he became President, he shocked the Atlanticist policy élites by the very simple statement of calling the USSR “an evil empire”, which is exactly what it was: evil and imperial.

The American people gave him two terms as President. The USA went on a military spending spree, called an arms race, culminating in the Strategic Defense Initiative, which was designed to scare the bejeezus out of Soviet war planners. It succeeded. The USSR collapsed from military overspending weighing on a sclerotic economy, contained within a vast prison camp of nations.

I do not wish to conflate Reagan and Trump. There are differences in origin, style, and policy, and at this stage of their careers,  degree of greatness. What I find reminiscent is the desire for liberation from stasis on the part of the American people, and the leader who is calling it like it is, and whose words are resonating with an electorate alienated from the élite consensus, and the gasps of horror from the bien-pensants.

 

 

Trump

Obviously the most interesting candidate in the primary season is Donald Trump, a blowhard from his days in primary school, billionaire, disruptor, egotist, and accomplisher. The issue is: what is his long game?

Is he seeking a high price to be bought out of the race? Or is he seeking the White House for real?

As others have observed, his success so far is a standing indictment of the US political class, Republican and Democratic alike. His every outrage is increasing his strength in polls.

 

trump

 

Trump is having the same effect as Nigel Farage in the UK, Geert Wilders in Holland and, in his day, Preston Manning in Canada: he is opening the boundaries of political possibilities; in a stifling political environment; he is introducing fresh air into an over-managed politically-correct public discourse.

Democrats guffaw, Republicans tremble and splutter in assumed rage. I was dining with a table largely full of Democrats last night. You may imagine their derision. But the most politically savvy among them has a son working for Joe Biden. Why? Because they feel that the first post-feminine female candidate, Hilary Clinton, is not going to win the Presidency. Why? You tell me.

The one American Republican at the table was saying to his colleagues that he could see the circumstances in which he, a hugely intelligent technology entrepreneur and manager, could vote for Trump. The two Canadians at the table were trying to tell the Americans about a certain improbable Toronto mayor named Ford who took the mayoralty of Toronto despite all the hostility of the chattering classes.

Trump as President: it could happen, and that is what the American political class fears. Especially the Republicans. The Dems have their own problem to solve, and her name is Hilary. That bitch won’t hunt.

Between the bull moose in the cow pasture and an heir presumptive who is perceived to be fatally weak, the American presidential race is interesting this month.

 

 

Not black enough

You have to read the article carefully to discover that the claim of “discrimination” is essentially one of a Canadian-born black woman serving in the Washington DC police department, who is suing an American black woman supervisor for discrimination. The reason behind the friction? The Canadian-born  woman was not black enough. Not like us black folks down here, so she must be some sort of whitey bitch, I guess. Anyway the complainant has a PhD in criminology and spoke “white”, a double disqualification for the black-run Washington DC police department.

According to the statement of claim, Samuel, who was born in Canada, completed graduate work in the United States and joined the MPD in 2006 shortly after finishing a PhD in criminology.

The bulk of her allegations are levelled against Diane Hains Walton, who was her direct supervisor for most of her time with the department.

Hains Walton grew resentful in 2008 when Samuel was assigned greater responsibility within the force’s human resources management division, the statement says.

This allegedly triggered a number of “snide remarks” against Samuel’s heritage and country of birth.

The statement says Hains Walton once told Samuel that she “talked white,” adding it was not typical for an “African-American.”

So much for the theory that only white people can engage in racism.

On letting it go

Donal  Trump caught some well-deserved blame for attacking John McCain, the American senator and fighter pilot who spent seven years in captivity in North Vietnam. And my point is neither about McCain, nor Trump, both of whom I like for different reasons. It is about the endless nonsense that Americans make about Vietnam. It seems the same people who deeply opposed the war, also cannot let it go.

One such article resurrected against McCain was by Sidney Schanberg, which documented – supposedly – McCain’s attempts to deny that US prisoners remained in Vietnamese prisons after the peace accords had been signed. The article had been written in 2008 in the left-wing magazine, “The Nation”, but had been resurrected now that Trump had been caught in a temporary foofaraw with Senator McCain.

Whatever is asserted by Schanberg about prisoners held back by VietNam, and held for ransom which never came, is probably true. And here I dare to say that, amidst all the tragedies of that war, it is not really important. Like the millions of Vietnamese, French and American war dead. Tragic but not really important.

I realize this is provocative, but I have finally come around to the view that there is a lot of truth asserted in political disputes, to which the answer is best given as “so what?”.
I have little doubt that the Viet Communists kept some prisoners, and treated them all abominably, as a policy.  I have little doubt that the Americans would be keen to suppress news of this fact. Let us assume the truth of what was written there. And yet I dare to ask: “so what?”

John McCain and others spent years being tortured by the Vietnamese communists. Most broke under torture. Who would not? So what? He has an anger problem, it is said. Who doesn’t, except the depressives, and I am not so sure about them, either.

What exactly does anyone propose to do to repatriate aged men from prisons, when even the author of the article, Sidney Schanberg,  doubts that any are still alive in captivity?

What is anyone going to do, exactly, about lost POWs? Bomb Hanoi?

Vietnam is now our ally against the Chinese.

Cam Ranh Bay is a US naval station, again. No amount of finger-pointing or chest beating or self-flagellation will return one live ancient POW slave prisoner.

Trump is largely right in attacking the immigrant crime question. You can tell he is striking a nerve by attacking Mexican/illegal immigrant crime rates. Good on him. But Trump has a large fast loose mouth on him, and he is wide of the mark in attacking McCain, for all his faults.

I think Trump serves a useful purpose, just as Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders and Ezra Levant do. My point is not about the usefulness of disturbers of the peace of the complacent, and the dissenters from the twaddle that passes for thought in political life.

At some point, you just have to let it go. Your bad marriage and worse divorce. Your difficult teenagerhood. Your wretched mother, or father. For the Americans, it is the Viet Nam war.

On the subject of McCain and lost prisoners, the usual US hysteria is at work.They cannot admit to themselves that they were defeated and that the pain of defeat sucks. Losing is way worse than winning is good. The same hysteria of denial is at work on other issues as well. For example, there are still people who think President Franklin Roosevelt kept back information from the US naval and air commanders  in Oahu in 1941, when in fact the commanders would not have acted intelligently even if they had had correct information in time. Armed with prior information about unknown Japanese threats, the commander of the Oahu airbases grouped his planes closer together on the ground and doubled the watch – against domestic Hawaiian Japanese saboteurs!  – thus making Japanese bombing more effective

No one imagined the Japanese would do anything so bold and effective as bomb Pearl Harbour. And no one in charge of US policy realized that the Viets would lead their own people to the slaughter and accept any casualties short of nuclear war to win, but they did accept those losses, and they won, because we did not kill them in numbers large enough to stop them, and no US politician could have bombed them into submission, except Nixon – and look what the left did to him.

Sometimes the US loses, and it always invents conspiracies and coverups when the plain fact is, they lost, and defeat sucks. The measure of how bad defeat sucks is the fact that articles like the one  Sidney Schanberg wrote are still being written forty five years after the last American got out, except for the possibility of some poor captives held for ransom. Would a good Jewish liberal like Sidney Schanberg have supported the cruel and bloody measures needed to extract American PoWs after the Paris Peace Accords had been signed? Would he or his political ilk have supported re-flattening Hanoi? The US Democratic-controlled House and Senate would not even supply their South Vietnamese allies the money to fight the Communists, after Nixon had resigned. It was the greatest betrayal of an ally in US history. Do you think they were in a mood to bomb the Vietnamese again for a thousand missing prisoners of war when they would not help thirty million South Vietnamese?

And Americans can’t stand the fact that Viet Nam was a defeat, not a mistake, so they write articles like the one Schanberg wrote. Someone must be blamed, and after forty-three years, anyone is fair game. It was McCain’s turn this week to have ancient calumnies resurrected against him.

It is just noise –  that article. Just political noise.

 

Perhaps the laziest blog posting ever, and the most complete

Day by day pontificating on the Greek crisis, the black American underclass crisis, the non existent global warming crisis, Islam, Putin, Obama, the Democrats, the Republicans, the Grits, the Tories, IQ differences among races, automation, modernity and every sort of ephemeral dispute: let me summarize.

Check how many propositions you agree with below. Send me your scores and how you counted.

1. Global warming

a) not happening, as it appears from evidence

b) solar radiation and the amount received by the planet earth drives most of the climate,most of the time.

2. Anthropogenic global warming (AGW)

a) could be happening but is not, see 1 above

b) could be happening but it is too expensive to address it directly, compared to other highly soluble environmental and social problems.

3. Anthropogenic global warming craze

a) a delusional belief system, akin to the cholesterol panic, with a roughly sixty year cycle from invention through inflation to evanescence.

4. The Pope and his recent support for AGW

a) traditional catholic anti-capitalism dressed up in new clothes

5. Taking down the confederate flag in South Carolina

a) about time. The US Civil War was about the enslavement of blacks. I do not approve of slavery, slave owners, or blaming personal or collective failures on the heritage of slavery.

6. American blacks

a) according to US Department of Justice statistics, a white person is 67 times more likely to be attacked by a black person than a black person is likely to be attacked by a white person. Handle with caution.

7. Racial differences in  IQ

a) quite real and possibly genetic in origin,  and susceptible to improvement by the imposition of academic standards.

b) the imposition of academic standards is highly difficult in times of raging desire for equality of outcomes.

8. Islam

a) a totalitarian political ideology dressed up as a religion

b) in the main, a complete waste of time, Civilizations that succumb to it have succumbed to a complete failure to advance socially, materially, or spiritually.

9. Materialism

a) a gigantic limiting assumption on whatever could be real.

b) the predominant intellectual fashion of our age.

c) To my mind, completely refuted by split screen experiments and the confirmation of the mind’s influence on the outcome of split screen experiments.

10. God

a) some kind of superintending and creative intelligence is, in this view, highly likely.

b) by definition, not subject to scientific refutation or support (if it is in the domain of material reality, it is not God)

11. Mind

a) likely to exist apart from its material substrates, such as brains.

b) intimately related in normal conditions to awareness, intention, emotion, and other states of mind.

12. Inequality

a) there is too much emphasis in contemporary on the evil consequences of inequality and too little emphasis on the degree to which inequalities are natural.

b) All men are equal, and all men are unequal, and any society that tries to suppress the truth of either proposition will end in violence.

13. The sexual revolution

a) we are heading rapidly back into a pagan attitude to sexuality. Pauline Christian ideas about with whom to have sex, in what legal constraints, and in what orifice are going out the window.

b) I am ambivalent about it, but I enjoy the changes so far as they have affected me.

c) The state has successfully substituted itself for the ancient ties of family and community, and this with immense popular support in all democracies. Most people in advanced cultures trust the state more than they trust their cousins.

14. Change

a) It is likely that 50% of the ideas expressed here will be repudiated in the next century.

b) which 50% – or larger – is impossible to determine

15. Fossil fuels

a) the advances of wealth, and with wealth, tolerance and the ability for self-expression, that have been made since 1800 are primarily the outcome of increased amounts of energy available to each person on the planet.

b) that increase of wealth is largely the result of burning fossil fuels.

c) Wind and solar energy sources should be pursued up to the limits imposed by physics and the costs of production, and no further. Large scale substitution of wind and solar for fossil fuel energy is demonstrably uneconomic and anti-ecological.

16. On male and female

a) while the Scientific Revolution of the last two centuries derives from other sources than male/female intelligence differences, it is males whose minds, procedures, and cooperation  have generated nearly the totality of scientific and technical progress in that time.

17. On science

a) science as we understand the term has proceeded from a confidence in the intelligibility of the universe as the creation of a rational God, and not otherwise.

b) Chinese, Indian and Arabic civilizations did not develop science for reasons particular to each of those civilizations and cultures. They discovered knowledge in various ways, but not in the rigorous exploration of the boundaries of what is known, and in the organized procedures of intellectual challenge, free from physical violence and the suppression of inquiry by religious authorities, that characterize most other civilizations and cultures, and which threaten ours.

 18.Obama

a) A half-black Woodrow Wilson, an academic, brought up by white Lefties, an ungifted politician, not half as smart as he thinks he is, who rode the wave of being “black”, which he is not, into power. Never bought into him, never was disappointed, never was impressed.

b) His appointment of the racist anti-white Eric Holder as Attorney General, has legitimized, and augmented, a general anti-whitism in the public discourse. White people have not yet shown signs they are collectively fed up with it.

19. The Left

a) is premised on the notion that society is wrongly constituted, that they know what is wrong, that their analysis is perfect, and that what is wrong can be cured by social, political, or economic measures, which act as external constraints on behaviour, not inward changes in man.

b) At their worst, a Godless bunch of destroyers who have been unleashed on our churches, schools and universities, and have destroyed them. By Godless I mean not merely atheistical, but narrowly and stupidly materialistic.

c) They are totally in denial about their destructive impulses and effects, and firmly believe they are morally superior to any opposition, though they deny the basis of morality in any supernatural, metaphysical basis.

d) lacking a metaphysical basis of agreement among themselves, or confidence in the constitution of material reality to cause things to turn out right, they turn politics into a series of tests of agreement on increasingly ridiculous propositions, disagreement with which is cause for expulsion, derision, calumny, and, in the extreme, death.

e) the belief in the rationality of their analysis of  the world ends in irrational politics, and the celebration of that irrationality.

20. Conservatism

a) A strong distrust of the perfectibility of man.

b) The deep suspicion that one could be wrong about many large, important things.

c) the confidence to argue for what you believe, despite a and b above.

d) A deep distaste for persecuting hypocrites, and for persecutions in general.

e) a confidence in the saving power of Jesus Christ – whatever that may mean.

f) The confidence that somehow, against many odds, and multiple sources of error, sin, passion, ignorance, and ideology, that  the human species, and not just its its living conditions, is getting better.

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Materialists, feminists, lefties, Muslims, progressives, slave holders, Confederates, and Obamanauts can vie to see who among them is the most offended.

The rest of us can get on with life, knowing that someone sane is out there.

 

 

 

 

Books: The Sword of the Lord

All books are in competition with one another to be read. Go to a remainders book store if you want to dissuade someone from a writing career; see the piles of unread books about to reduced to wood-pulp. Somehow we select some books and not others, and sometimes for no better reason than the cover or the title.

On my reading list are great books in the Oxford series of the history of the American republic, such as Gordon Wood’s Empire of Liberty, Lincoln Paine’s The Sea and Civilization,  a history of the world from a maritime perspective, Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, a brilliant and concise history  of humanity from 500,000 years ago through now, which is a fast and efficient romp through the Large Facts,  Doris Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit, about the relationship of Theodore Roosevelt to William Taft, which is too long for the importance of the story related  and Jesus: A Pilgrimage, by James Martin SJ, which is beckoning, and several others.

One in particular has won the race against all these “better” books of history, “The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in the American Family”, by Andrew Himes. The author is descended from a line of Baptist preachers, brother to Baptist preachers, and from a line of what are called Scots-Irish, really border people in Scotland, Wales and England who took off for America in the 1800s.

Himes relates the evolution of fundamentalism to the large events that shaped his forbears: dirt poor in Tennessee, to millionaire farmers and slave holders in Missouri, wiped out in the Civil War, the flight to Texas, and the slow climb out of poverty once again.

I am fascinated by people whose interpretation of Christianity is so alien to me. Fundamentalism, in my way of thinking, de-emphasizes the role of the human mind in interpreting the Scriptures, and downplays the role of error, of interpretation, and locks itself into needless battles with modernity, such as anti-Darwinism and resistance to the civil rights of American blacks. In short, they tend to get themselves into Islamic levels of intolerance of anything not themselves.

Once upon a time, a man who had been brought up in the Plymouth Brethren explained to me his  interpretation of what fundamentalism entails.

We were at the dining table. He pointed to the position of the salt and pepper. “Imagine”, he said, “if the salt and pepper being on this side of the drinking glass meant you were going to heaven, and on the other, you were on your way to Hell. Imagine the daily anxiety. Everything, but everything, leads to heaven or hell. That is the point of life: salvation or damnation. So you would be pretty anxious about the smaller details of life, because you never knew for sure what would start you on the path to perdition.

“The anxiety is intolerable. So you project outward onto other people this anxiety, and start to find fault in others because the fault in yourself cannot be tolerated, so consciousness of it is repressed. Fault-finding becomes a deeply rooted reflex.”

Everything I am reading in Andrew Himes’ book makes sense from this perspective. The author was, as a child, a Baptist bigot, travelled through loss of faith and Marxism, (bigotry of a different kind) and arrived back at a post-fundamentalist Christianity.

What would such a Christianity look like? It would, in part, be belief in things that one does not know for a fact to exist. God is not a scientific question, that is, susceptible of proof by inference from the arrangement of physical forces. [On this issue Dawkins is not even wrong]. Moreover it would be a degree of comfort, and not anxiety, that belief would be different from perception of facts, and inferences from nature.

Himes’ story is the emergence of a more relaxed and at the same time stronger faith out of his conflicts with his preaching family, their doctrines, and the quarrelsome tribe from which he sprang. It conveys important lessons in how the United States came to be how it is, and how one man can evolve into something better than he was.

 

Gay marriage, SCOTUS and the decline of Christianity

There are issues I do not have the wit to sort out. The recent Supreme Court decision in the United States on same sex marriage, and what it portends for society, is one of them. I do not know whether this marks the beginning of state-assisted civilizational suicide, or just a steady retreat from Pauline Christianity into something more tolerant and more tolerable for the human species. I suspect the latter. And I suspect myself for not getting bothered about it, but I have come to the end of my capacity for flogging myself for not thinking the end is nigh. I do not think the end is nigh. Broadly, and with large exceptions such as Islam, I think things are okay.

I think the human species will struggle on, banging its head against stupid ideas for thousands of years, and then, suddenly, abandon the struggle and taking up some new idea against which to bang its head for another two thousand years.

The stupid idea against which we have banged our heads, since Saint Paul got the whip hand over Christianity, was that people of the same sex should not feel or express lust for one another. Possibly this was a healthy reaction to the decadence of the late Roman Empire. In any case, the anti-sexualism of Saint Paul may be shared among many religions, in the sense that the path to God may lie through principled denial of the body. I doubt it, but ascetic self-denial is a sure and  true path to the godhead for some. For many such as myself, Saint Paul is as much a stumbling block to the Christian  faith and as a path to it.

Monotheistic  religions, and religions generally, consider that the man-woman procreative bond must exist and be strongly defended against adultery, homosexuality, and any recreational sexual temptations that undermine the pair bond that is dedicated to raising children. Society has a strong interest in its own perpetuation. Religions are conservative; they have to be. They have to concern themselves with what keeps the species going.

I am not going to bother much with whether the Supreme Court of the United States has just invented law. I assume it has. They do it all the time, just as doctors turn off the taps. You don’t want to know this, but animals are killed to make your steak. Judges make this stuff up. They should do so within careful limits. Conservatives feel that the rigor and certainty of the law is threatened when this is done too obviously, and without careful extraction of new and limited findings from previously existing principles. I agree. But all laws are made up. Some laws are consistent with human nature and with the development of a better society, but nonetheless they are made up.

Christianity was first articulated in the first two or three centuries after Jesus when slavery was common, divorce was an almost certain means of starving one’s ex-wife and children, and cruelty to animals was an everyday sight in the streets.Christ spoke against divorce, and said nothing about slavery, yet today we have divorce and human slavery has been largely abolished outside of Islamic countries.

 

The idea that people should actually love one another, as the proper expression of their love for God, continues to influence the world for the better. To this day, Christianity makes the world a better place. The circles of our sympathies are wider, and our ideas of rights broader, because of the primal commandments of Jesus to love one another.

I do not buy this notion that Christianity is uniquely or even principally responsible for the world’s ills. That is letting the human species off too easily. Homo homini lupus, and we should never forget our murderous propensities.

Christianity has had a great influence on social movements that ended modern chattel slavery, on reducing cruelty to children and animals, on expanding the rights of prisoners of war and of the state, and in considering the human person to be worthy of dignity and respect. As Nietzsche described it, Christianity was a religion of slaves, and he hated it for that reason. For that very reason, Christians embrace it. We have all at one time or another in our pasts been slaves to various Pharaohs, and today we may well  be slaves to new forces that will in time be recognized as the old Pharaoh with a new face.

So I regard the gay-rights thing as an overturning of one part of the message of Christianity for another, more important part, of the same message. It has always been this way, that some will see in the message of love thy neighbour as thyself, broader ideas of who is my neighbour, or deeper ideas of love, or – here is the catch – calls to love ones self a little more so that there is love to go around to one’s neighbour as well as to one’s self.

The message will not die, even as Courts make up new rights.

How are you supposed to know? Where do you get the memo?

From the always perceptive Steve Sailer:

Of course, not knowing that transgenderism is to be celebrated as obvious and transracialism is to be scorned as something that can’t possibly even exist is no excuse. These days, you are just supposed to know, and if you get the latest orthodoxy wrong, well, too bad for you…

So Rachel Dolezal is to be scorned, but Bruce Jenner is to be celebrated?

Celebrated

bruce Jenner

Denigrated

rachel Dolezal

It re-confimrs me in the view that all of political correctness is a leftist plot to destroy freedom of thought, speech and association. When Leftism is extracted from Marxism, all that remains is anti-nomianism. We, being saved, should obey no law.

Is the Internet behind growing income inequality?

The MacDonald Laurier Institute held a debate last night between the Liberal trade critic Chrystia Freeland, and the Canadian-American professor of law, Frank Buckley.

The issue was “Income Inequality:  we should quit worrying about it”. The debaters were too intelligent and well-informed to disagree fundamentally. The only decision criterion in the debate arose from one’s pre-existing disposition either to worry, as distinct from being concerned. Not a single intelligent person fails to be concerned about income inequality, in the same sense as a sailor keeps a wary eye on the water level in the bilge.

Freeland’s views are here.   Frank Buckley’s views are here.

The debate turned into a massive agreement between Buckley and Freeland that the United States is doing much worse than Canada in almost every dimension of income inequality, permanent class differences, social mobility in and out of the top ten and bottom ten percent of the income deciles, and so forth.

Buckley’s views on how American government is failing are summarized here. Essentially he attributes the fundamental fault to the separation of powers: the fact that the executive is not responsible to the legislative branch, which has powerful and ramifying effects on the whole system, including irresponsibility of legislators and presidents for results.

Here is Buckley:

 

What Canada has importantly over the U.S. is reversibility, the ability to undo bad laws. That doesn’t happen so easily in America, with the gridlock built into its separation of powers, and that’s a problem Fukuyama himself has identified in two recent books that describe a sclerotic society of special interests which enact wealth-destroying laws. Once passed, Americans are stuck with bad laws. Their constitution doesn’t have a reverse gear.

What Fukuyama recognized in his recent books is James Madison’s error in The Federalist Papers. Madison argued that the separation of powers would prevent bad laws from being enacted in the first place. However, that’s an example of what Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek called the “fatal conceit,” the idea that planners can anticipate all the problems that might arise with a well-drafted statute. More modestly, Canada’s parliamentary system assumes that, in a world of human fallibility, mistakes will be made, that “experts” are often unreliable, that dumb laws will be passed; and that what is more important is giving the legislator the ability to bring hindsight wisdom to bear in undoing laws which experience tells us were ill-planned. If American government has gotten too large, if the statutory code and the federal regulations have caught a case of elephantiasis, that’s not surprising. The know-it-all hubris of the planner was baked into the American constitution from the start.

Other faults abound. US laws are written by lobbyists for various interests – yes, this is exactly true – and then various sections are then “reconciled” with other sections written by other crews of expensive lawyers, and then, if possible, the House version is reconciled to the senate’s version. At no time is a consistent editorial or legal style enforced; no equivalent of the official of the Ministry of Justice, no specialized drafting section, touches a bill.

The Canada Health Act (RSC ch.C-6) is 22 sections long, the US Affordbale Care Act is  974 pages long. It could not have been passed without a large degree of legislative log-rolling, which are buy-offs for regions, senators, and pet-projects.

Or as Buckley says, “the Canada health Act is twelve pages long, and that includes the French”.

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Of all the forces  acting on our respective countries, Canada and the US, I see this one as decisive.

  • every action capable of being reduced to an algorithm is being turned into software,  the instructions for machines, and these machines are doing jobs formerly done by humans.
  • More, the economic productivity gains are, under modern networked conditions, able to gathered on a global scale by very few owners of the intellectual property.
  • For example, think about how Uber takes the economic rents out of taxi licences, or Netflix out of Canadian broadcasting licences, and you can see how wealth can be centralized as never before.

Every other force generating inequality: family breakdown, the Bell curve – the unequal distribution of intelligence, globalization, decline of social cohesion, acts on both sides of the Canada-US border with greater or lesser effect.  The two political systems translate these forces into different social effects. Hence the Buckley-Freeland debate swerved into US-Canada comparisons, but avoided the main cause, as I see it, of increasing inequality.

The conclusions of this effect are being felt around the world:

  • since we do not need as many people to do the jobs now able to be performed by machines, people are reproducing themselves less, and population  is crashing in most places in the world.
  • Modern networked economies permit both innovation, and new forms of accumulating wealth, on scales that were not previously possible.

 

I recognize I am entering the dangerous territory occupied by Andrew Keen. Keen argues against the Internet, in that it does not create jobs, does not increase freedom, and wrecks the middle class. Both Freeland and Buckley were, in their ways, conscious of these trends, but they had not attributed the problem squarely to the effects of the Internet.

It is a thesis well worth allowing yourself to contemplate. I am allowing myself to think negatively and will report back when my views have matured.

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