The danger of good intentions

From Walter E. Williams:

I don’t think that stupidity, ignorance or insanity explains the love that many Americans hold for government; it’s far more sinister and perhaps hopeless. I’ll give a few examples to make my case. Many Americans want money they don’t personally own to be used for what they see as good causes such as handouts to farmers, poor people, college students, senior citizens and businesses. If they privately took someone’s earnings to give to a farmer, college student or senior citizen, they would be hunted down as thieves and carted off to jail. However, they get Congress to do the identical thing, through its taxing power, and they are seen as compassionate and caring. In other words, people love government because government, while having neither moral nor constitutional authority, has the legal and physical might to take the property of one American and give it to another.

The unanticipated problem with this agenda is that as Congress uses its might to take what belongs to one American to give to another, what President Obama calls “spreading the wealth around,” more and more Americans will want to participate in the looting. It will ultimately produce something none of us wants: absolute control over our lives.

The path we’re embarked upon, in the name of good, is a familiar one. The unspeakable horrors of Nazism, Stalinism and Maoism did not begin in the ’30s and ’40s with the men usually associated with those names. Those horrors were simply the end result of a long evolution of ideas leading to consolidation of power in central government in the name of “social justice.” In Germany, it led to the Enabling Act of 1933: Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Nation and, after all, who could be against a remedy to relieve distress? Decent but misguided Germans, who would have cringed at the thought of what Nazi Germany would become, succumbed to Hitler’s charisma.

Today’s Americans, enticed, perhaps enchanted, by charismatic speeches, are ceding so much power to Washington, and like yesteryear’s Germans are building the Trojan Horse for a future tyrant.

Entire essay here

Butting up against human nature

“The intellectual’s struggle to deny the obvious is never more desperate than when reality is unpleasant and at variance with his preconceptions and when full acknowledgement of it would undermine the foundations of his intellectual worldview.”
– Theodore Dalrymple

“The curse of the intelligentsia is their ability to rationalize and re-define. Ordinary people, lacking that gift, are forced to face reality.”
– Thomas Sowell

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From Victor Davis Hanson:

Obama Versus the Way of the Universe

I wish the President well, but he is butting up against human nature. And that is a fight one cannot win. If one runs up nearly a $2 trillion annual deficit, and then persists in such red-ink to the point of adding another $9 trillion, all to reach an aggregate $20 trillion national debt, there are not too many options. If there were, everyone–both states and individuals–would simply spend, call it stimuli, and then find academics to offer contorted explanations why it was OK and the money need not really have to be paid back. Does Obama think his debt is like buying  a house in a down market with an up market inevitable?–that is, we borrow to the max and then count on our equity to come to bail us out? But houses do not always go up, and we can’t quite sell off the US to capture our speculative profit.

So we all know the old rules, because the universe works according to time-honored precepts: we either must tax all of us (there are not enough of those evil “they” who make between $200-500K or even enough of the noble generous rich who make over $10 million a year and think Obama should increase inheritance taxes so that their children get only $1 billion instead of $2, while the hardware store owner’s kids sell the business) in insidious ways; OR simply cut government expenditures elsewhere to pay the annual interest payments, OR print money and screw the Chinese, European, etc. , debtors, inflating our way out via the late 1970s.

Sorry, there are no other real alternatives.

The only mystery? How the choice of payment is rhetoricized in the hope and change mode.

Deficit Foreign Policy Too

So it is with foreign policy as well. Obama’s make-over will have positive short-term effects, as he reminds the world ad nauseam that he is black, sorta, kinda from a Muslim family, and the son of an African who is more like the world than he like most Americans-and not George Bush and not a thieving capitalist and not a warmongering imperialist and not (fill in the blanks). (My favorite Cairo line was the apology on Gitmo where inmates have laptops and Mediterranean food, spoken to millions whose societies kill and maim tens of thousands in Gulags on a yearly  basis.)

But in the long run?

He hits against human nature. Most of you readers–in business, law, the professions–don’t continually praise your friends, competitors, and enemies (e.g., “Glad you got that job, Home Depot-we at Lowes didn’t really need it; what a wonderful bid you submitted, Hilton, much better than ours here at the Four Seasons; it was my fault here at Goldman Sachs that I didn’t match your better offer at Credit Suisse; I grew up working for the Royals, and can empathize why you Yankees don’t like us; it’s time we at Citibank  apologized to Chase for our past cutthroat competition; we are just too arrogant over here at Delta and wanted to let you guys at United know that.”)

Sorry

The world sadly does not work that way. If one were to do that, we know the outcome: a group of rival execs would say “Hmmm, time to steal market share from Citibank, or Hilton isn’t really up to the arena anymore, let’s move in on its Western region, etc.”

Only someone who has not been in the real world, but only marketed rhetoric without consequences (e.g., if Obama had a bad day organizing, or legislating, was he fired?) could believe such things.

Read the entire essay here

Compelling White Guy Stories

Mr. Hoven hits this one out of the park . . . with the bases loaded.

From Randall Hoven:

Some stories are more compelling than others.  Some Latina females have compelling stories.  So do some white males.

Is this story compelling?

  • A woman went to private grade school, high school, college and law school, all in the normal sequence.
  • Immediately after law school, at age 24, she worked as an attorney and later became a judge.
  • Married, divorced, no kids.
  • Last year she made over $200,000 in salary, but that doesn’t go as far as one might think in Greenwich Village, where she owns her condo.

There were some tough times.  Her father died when she was nine.  She grew up in public housing.  She is diabetic and needs insulin, a condition shared by about 1.2 to 2.4 million others in the US.  Her mother worked hard as a nurse, at times holding two jobs.

Oh, and she’s Latina.

Of course, I’m talking about Sonia Sotomayor, who said,

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Or not.  I hear that some white males go to school and become attorneys.  Some have diabetes.  Some even have mothers who worked hard.

Some had a parent die when they were young.  Of the dozen or so close male friends I grew up with, two lost a parent in grade school or high school.  My own three children lost their mother (my wife) when they were eight and two.

About that public housing thing, we are reminded by people like Jesse Jackson

“that invisible poor are white. The visible poor are black and brown. But most poor people are neither black nor brown. They’re white.”

So by my math, the only difference between a Latina woman and a white male is that the white male is white, and male.  (Assuming you consider Latino as non-white, which Judge Sotomayor apparently does.)

Not to belittle Judge Sotomayor’s achievements, but the “richness of her experiences” seems to drop off past adolescence.  Once she started Princeton (at age 18?), her experiences of successful student, attorney and judge might be rich, but how different from white males who also became judges?

Believe it or not, white males can have rich experiences.  And some rich experiences are known to happen after childhood.

For example, did Judge Sotomayor witness the birth of her first child and see the physician panic as he realized the umbilical cord was wrapped three times around the child’s neck?  I did.  Does she remember her thoughts at the moment she realized there was a chance her first-born child might be an invalid for life?  I do.

Did Judge Sotomayor lose her spouse and life companion when her children were young — two still in diapers — to become a single parent?  I did.

Did Judge Sotomayor watch her daughter dying slowly of heart disease, but then saved by a heart transplant at the age of 15?  I did.  Did she watch her daughter start to hallucinate and lose consciousness just before a doctor plunged the largest needle in the world through her chest in an emergency to drain the fluid around her heart and save her life?  I did.

Those white guys I grew up with had some experiences, some of which might be called “rich.”  Some enlisted in the service, in wartime.  Some went to college and some didn’t.  They all worked, and in virtually every case, in a job they didn’t like.  Most had kids, which tended to tie them to those jobs they didn’t like.  Some had healthy kids, and some didn’t.  Some lost loves and some lost loved ones.  I know of no marriage that was trouble-free.  Some succumbed to substance abuse.  None became wealthy or powerful.

The kid who lived across the street from me where I grew up, my best friend through much of childhood, is now in prison for life for murdering his girlfriend.

I reveal these things not to get sympathy or anything like it, but because I am sick and tired of so many non-whites and females acting like white males know nothing of life but some kind of mythical white-bread experience.  Here’s a hint: nobody grew up with Leave It To Beaver or Ozzie and Harriet.  Those were TV shows.

White males in real life tend not to go on Oprah, so you non-white females might not be familiar with us.

You might think white guys wear suits in suites.  That’s where you find them on TV.  Here is where I see white guys: in uniform on military bases around the country, in gowns in hospitals, in shirts with name patches and changing the oil at the quick-lube, in greasy jeans fixing my plumbing, teaching my kids algebra, giving mouth-to-mouth to an unconscious victim who just vomited, volunteering in community theater, collecting money at the local intersection for handicapped children.

The richness of our experiences is what we white guys call “life.”  I’m sure Princeton was rich, too.

Judge Sotomayor’s statement does not bother me because it is racist.  It bothers me because it reveals shallowness and a poverty of experience that has no place on the bench of the Supreme Court.

The human need for transcendence

From George Will:

In “The Green Bubble: Why Environmentalism Keeps Imploding” [the New Republic, May 20], Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, authors of “Break Through: Why We Can’t Leave Saving the Planet to Environmentalists,” say that a few years ago, being green “moved beyond politics.” Gestures — bringing reusable grocery bags to the store, purchasing a $4 heirloom tomato, inflating tires, weatherizing windows — “gained fresh urgency” and “were suddenly infused with grand significance.”

Green consumption became “positional consumption” that identified the consumer as a member of a moral and intellectual elite. A 2007 survey found that 57 percent of Prius purchasers said they bought their car because “it makes a statement about me.” Honda, alert to the bull market in status effects, reshaped its 2009 Insight hybrid to look like a Prius.

Nordhaus and Shellenberger note the telling “insignificance,” as environmental measures, of planting gardens or using fluorescent bulbs. Their significance is therapeutic, but not for the planet. They make people feel better:

“After all, we can’t escape the fact that we depend on an infrastructure — roads, buildings, sewage systems, power plants, electrical grids, etc. — that requires huge quantities of fossil fuels. But the ecological irrelevance of these practices was beside the point.”

The point of “utopian environmentalism” was to reduce guilt. During the green bubble, many Americans became “captivated by the twin thoughts that human civilization could soon come crashing down — and that we are on the cusp of a sudden leap forward in consciousness, one that will allow us to heal ourselves, our society, and our planet. Apocalyptic fears meld seamlessly into utopian hopes.” Suddenly, commonplace acts — e.g., buying light bulbs — infused pedestrian lives with cosmic importance.

Entire essay here