And other important things you need to know. Best political and economic analysis I have seen of how the world is working out.
And other important things you need to know. Best political and economic analysis I have seen of how the world is working out.
Steven Pinker speaks to the obvious truths which, he says, when first heard by students starved for truth, leave them defenceless. It is shocking that these obvious truths are found shocking. It is a worry that young students would never have heard these things uttered in polite society, in our universities.
You can blame its decline on the decline of the automobile industry: once the fifth largest city in America, now the 11th largest, $18 billion in debt, or you can blame it on the Big Three automakers, Democratic government, buying off the UAW, black misrule and white flight, all or any of them. Here are three dots which I invite you to connect.
Cronyism and corruption? Or the third world status of the people who still inhabit it and who voted in the governments that pillaged the cities and the taxpayers? All of the above? Who voted the crooks in? Who were the crooks? The UAW? the black city government?
I invite you watch The Wire. It is an artistic masterpiece, and it details what happens when a city – Baltimore in this case – becomes 64% black. The bodies of black male drug dealers pile up, and no one cares except a few cops, many of them black, some of them white.
The Wire shows that not one city institution: city hall, the cops, or the school system is working effectively. Without saying a word, the Wire addresses what decadence and decline look like. The irony lies in watching all the Baltimore politicians and cops in magnificent government buildings, belle époque creations of the 19th century, when whites dominated, and now their successors wander through halls like barbarians of 400 AD wandering through the Roman forum. There will never be enough wealth in Baltimore to rebuild them.
The biggest fact in the world that needs to be explained is how and why we have become so rich, compared to how the human race had lived for ever before the last few centuries.
This graph portrays the economic progress in the last two hundred years as measured by life expectancy, GDP per capita, percentage not living in extreme poverty, energy consumption, war-making capacity, and percentage of people living in democracy.
These are the facts. Why, then, when things are getting better so fast, are we beset by concerns for global warming, climate catastrophes, income disparities, and every form of oppression, including completely imaginary ones? Why the atmosphere of general cultural pessimism?
The question that Deirdre McCloskey asked herself in her book Bourgeois Dignity was why the economics profession was unable to answer this question satisfactorily: why have things gotten better? her answer was that there occurred in western Europe and change in the deal: innovation came to be allowed, indeed encouraged, and you got to keep the economic value of your innovation. Hence the change int he human condition proceeded from a change in ideas. Not from trade, especially not from slavery, not from exploration, not from ripping off the ecology, but from allowing innovation.
You do not have to accept this explanation, but if you read McCloskey you will have difficulty in accepting another.
Deirdre McCloskey is the author of several important books, she is an economist of renown, and she is a proud defender of the bourgeois deal: you get to keep what you make and you are allowed, indeed encouraged, to innovate. She locates several inadequacies in the mindset of economists, in a little pamphlet available off the Intertubes. I recommend it, especially if you are economist. She describes her fellow practitioners in the following terms.
Outsiders would likewise be amazed at the Historical Ignorance of the economist. They think that the scientific evidence about economies before the past few years would surely figure in an economist’s data. It doesn’t…. People call themselves economists who have never read a page of Adam Smith or Karl Marx or John Maynard Keynes. It would be like being an anthropologist who had never heard of Malinowski or an evolutionary biologist who had never heard of Darwin.
The more general Cultural Barbarism of economists is well illustrated by their Philosophical Naïveté. Few economists read outside economics. It is unnerving to gaze about the library of a distinguished professor of economics and find no books at all except on applied math and statistics: these are the worldly philosophers who run our nation? Uh-oh. So naturally the professors of economics have childish ideas about, say, epistemology….
McCloskey’s deepest argument with her profession is that it neither theorizes nor observes, though it believes it is doing both. The arguments are longer than are suitable for this space, and I commend you to read The Secret Sins of Economics in its brief entirety. In essence she says it is not enough to demonstrate whether some thing has some effect, you have to ask how much is the effect. How much? is the critical question, not whether? Most economists avoid interrogating the real world in all its messiness to find out. Her conclusions are:
A sample of McCloskey is found at Youtube:
Some people are starting to notice the power of Google and other web giants to suppress points of view. The firing of their own engineer James Damore for pointing out the biological basis for women and men differing in their desires to be engineers was, it seems, only the beginning.
Now the repression appears to have widened. The Open Markets section of the New America Foundation concerns itself with monopolies and abuses of dominant position: all very econometric geeky stuff. The head of Open Markets, Barry Lynn, issued a notice congratulating the European Commission for fining Google for economic crimes related to dominant market position. He was removed from the New America Foundation. It seems to have been the result of Google’s Eric Schmidt quietly expressing displeasure, as corporate titans are wont to do when underlings make trouble.
In response, Google had our group kicked out of our parent think tank, New America. Ken Vogel at the New York Times did the story on the specifics of how this happened. The combination, of the misbehavior in the search market and the attempt to suppress research into how Google operates, shows that the actual issue at hand is one of political power.
This moment matters. It matters because it shows that monopoly power, and Google itself, is a threat to the free flow of ideas upon which our democracy depends. It matters because it proves that if we do not stand up to monopolists, they will keep our public institutions quiet about their growing power. And it matters most of all because it shows that we can reclaim our democracy if we try.
At Open Markets, we obviously do not like the attempt at undermining our work, but on another level, we see this as a backhanded compliment by Google on how effective our work has actually been. After all, if we are worth silencing, then our words and research carries power.
Monopoly is a political problem. It is time to stand up for our rights. It is time to say, enough. And as we’ve seen, when we do tell the truth, the monopolists cannot abide.
Google’s tactics will not work. Our organization, Open Markets, is going independent. And we are launching a campaign called Citizens Against Monopoly, where we will ask Google’s CEO to stop this manipulation of our public commons. Join us.
I urge readers to stay on top of this story. Freedom is threatened as much by private economic power as by state action, frequently because private market power is exercized without recourse to standards of fairness that states are bound to. The portrait of Google that emerged from the Damore story revealed a place dominated by leftist groupthink. The biological was an excluded category of truth; reference to it as an explanatory cause for why women did not participate in the ranks of elite engineers was the sin of “stereotyping” and a firing offence.
This kind of mental phase-locking would have no importance if Google made physical objects. It matters supremely when the company aspires to record, catalog and make findable all human knowledge. Because the same power to make findable can make things unfindable. The power to control the past is the power to control the future.
Speaking of which, here is an example:
With monopoly or market power, you can now be made to disappear.
Here s the stated policy which the site offended. How much would Barrelstrength offend, if it came to our Internet overlord’s attention?
“As stated in our program policies, Google ads may not be placed on pages that contain content that: Threatens or advocates harm on oneself or others; Harasses, intimidates or bullies an individual or group of individuals; Incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization,” the email stated.
You can drive an armoured division through that one.
What the Chinese encounter as they try to develop the economic resources of the Congo is the same as what whites encounter when they try to do the same.
In the current leftist parallel universe, the media elites try to figure out if a guy, whose favourite daughter is an Orthodox Jew, is a closet Nazi, and Blacks, who were never slaves, are fighting Whites who were never Nazis, over Confederate statues erected by Democrats whilst blaming Trump. Meanwhile in the real world, this was the state of income equality in 2014, when Obama held the reins. It is doubtful much has changed since then.
With serious issues like income inequality on the front burner, it is strange to see that the Left is instead focused on trivialities like this, Man stabbed after haircut gets him mistaken for a neo-Nazi, but as CNN stated, before hastily deleting the headline, “Activists seek peace through violence“
From Edward Luttwak’s recent article “Why the Trump Dynasty will last 16 years” on the root causes of Trump’s win, in case you missed it:
……..That gathering of lean and hungry Clintonians is the world mercilessly exposed in Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s doomed campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes. Meticulously researched and strenuously unbiased, it is the most useful book published so far on the 2016 Presidential election as a whole, as well as the Clinton campaign specifically. It certainly convinced me that Clinton did not understand in what country she was running for election: not one populated by black women (they dominated her convention), environmental activists, patriotic Muslims, vegans, committed free-traders and social engineers, but chiefly a country of car owners and bitterly frustrated would-be new car owners, a far better categorization than Clinton’s own “deplorables”.
That is why the car affordability numbers revealed in June 2016 were so vastly significant in determining the outcome of the elections. Going by metropolitan areas, they extracted maximum affordable car prices from median incomes. The latter ranged from the stellar $87,210 of San Jose in the opulence of California’s Silicon Valley, all the way down to the $24,701 of deindustrialized Cleveland, Ohio, numbers that in turn yielded maximum affordable price limits of $32,855 in San Jose, and $7,558 in Cleveland – not actually the lowest number, which was Detroit’s $6,174, owing to high average insurance costs in that crime-afflicted city (at $1,131.40 per annum, as compared to Cleveland’s $659.47).
What made these seemingly obscure numbers nothing less than momentous was that the cheapest new car on sale in the United States in 2016 was the Nissan Versa sedan at $12,825, twice the level that average households could afford in Detroit or Cleveland, and more than average households could afford in cities ranging from Philadelphia, Orlando, Milwaukee, Memphis, Providence, New Orleans, Miami and Buffalo, as well as, a fortiori, in a very great number of smaller localities across the United States, even in high-income states such as California and Oregon, as well much more commonly in the lower-income Southern and rust-belt states.
The mass exclusion of Americans from new car ownership is the result of two converging phenomena, only one of which was recognized by Hillary Clinton, though scarcely emphasized in her identity-focused campaign: wage stagnation. Sanders and Trump did not hesitate to blame that relative impoverishment on the exposure of the least agile of Americans to international competition, with the resulting de-industrialization that translated millions of Americans from $20-to-40-an-hour factory jobs to miserably paid service jobs. Beholden to the sanctity of free trade, the Clinton crowd even more than the candidate herself blamed the lethargy of the TV-watching, beer-drinking, gun-owning, church-going, and cigarette-smoking “deplorables”, who unaccountably failed to avail themselves of the wonderful opportunity to leave boring assembly-line jobs or downright dangerous coal-face or oil drilling jobs to become fashion designers, foreign-exchange traders, software engineers, or even political campaign operatives.
The bloggers at Barrelstrength continue to try to understand what is going on. If that means some or all of us start sounding anti-capitalist, please be advised: any theory pushed to extremes becomes a tyranny, including even our own ideas. We are as firmly pro-market as we can be in the circumstances. The relevant question these days is: what is the nature of our circumstances? We are each of us searching for answers to what has gone wrong: income stagnation for the masses, coupled with fantastic increases in wealth of the top one tenth of one percent. Whether it be Peter Thiel, Chrystia Freedland, Edward Luttwak, or today’s guest columnist, Wolfgang Streeck, every thinking person is actively considering how much internationalization [free trade + semi-open borders] is good for our own countries.
Those aggrieved by the accelerated internationalization of their societies felt abandoned by their national state. Elites in charge of public affairs were judged guilty of having handed national sovereignty to international organizations. These charges were largely true. Global neoliberalism has enfeebled the nation state, and with it, national democracy. Citizens most affected by these events had only their votes to express their displeasure.
Trumpism took off, fueled as much in the United States as elsewhere by popular irritation at the vast public celebration of internationalization. Economic and cultural elites entered an international space rich in their rights, at ease both in and out of national states. If democracy is understood as the possibility of establishing social obligations toward those luckless in the marketplace, the global elites had entered into, or created, a world in which there was a great deal of lucklessness and not many obligations.
For those plotting to take advantage of growing discontent, nationalism appeared as an obvious formula both for social reconstruction and political success. The winners and the losers of globalism found themselves reflected in a conflict between cosmopolitanism and nationalism. The old left having withdrawn into stateless internationalism, the new right offered the nation-state to fill the ensuing political vacuum. Liberal disgust at Trumpian rhetoric served to justify the withdrawal of the left from its constituents, and to explain its failure to help them express their grievances in civilized public language. Discontent grew fast.
The Trump presidency is both the outcome and the end of the American version of neo-liberalism. Having commenced crumbling in the era of George W. Bush, the neo-liberal regime managed to regain an appearance of vitality under Barack Obama. With his departure, it was bound to collapse under the weight of its contradictions, and, indeed, absurdities.
Clinton’s daring attempt to present herself as advocate of those Americans “working hard and playing by the rules,” while collecting a fortune in speaker’s fees from Goldman Sachs, was destined to fail. So, too, was Clinton’s insistence that it was the historical duty of American voters to elect her as their first female president. Transgendered restrooms infuriated everyone except those seeking access to them, no matter the Obama administration’s attempt to depict bathroom access as a civil right.11 Deep down, no one cared.
“If Trumpists feel bound by their electoral promises, they must put an end to neoliberal reform. This will not end the impasse between capitalism and society. In the absence of a stable class compromise between capital and labor, policy is doomed to become capricious. Perhaps Trumpism will make its departure from neoliberalism and free trade palatable to capital by increasing credit, debt, and inflation—another policy intended to buy time and little else. Nobody knows what Trumpists will do to shore up their political support if economic nationalism fails to produce the promised results.”
In Systems of Survival, the late Jane Jacobs spoke of two moral systems, or syndromes, the guardian and the market.. The relevance of the two systems never diminishes, though the strength of the institutions influenced by each system can vary at different times in history. What we have witnessed in the past forty years has been the increasing dominance of the market system over the guardian system of morality. If people are feeling adrift and bereft, they turn to the only guardian institution they know, the state, to help them get through the crisis.
Jacobs’ thinking on these matters is of permanent importance. Despite Trump’s chaotic, incompetent governing style, the forces that brought Trump to power cannot be ignored, although the internationalists will do their best to whistle past the graveyard – pointing to Putin and Russia as to why Hillary lost. It looks as if they are setting themselves up to be beaten again at the polls.