Withdrawing

I found this passage from a letter written by a parent on removing his daughter from an exclusive New York City girl’s school and published by Bari Weiss, quite telling:

I object to Brearley’s vacuous, inappropriate, and fanatical use of words such as “equity,” “diversity” and “inclusiveness.” If Brearley’s administration was truly concerned about so-called “equity,” it would be discussing the cessation of admissions preferences for legacies, siblings, and those families with especially deep pockets. If the administration was genuinely serious about “diversity,” it would not insist on the indoctrination of its students, and their families, to a single mindset, most reminiscent of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Instead, the school would foster an environment of intellectual openness and freedom of thought. And if Brearley really cared about “inclusiveness,” the school would return to the concepts encapsulated in the motto “One Brearley,” instead of teaching the extraordinarily divisive idea that there are only, and always, two groups in this country: victims and oppressors.

l object to Brearley’s advocacy for groups and movements such as Black Lives Matter, a Marxist, anti family, heterophobic, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic organization that neither speaks for the majority of the Black community in this country, nor in any way, shape or form, represents their best interests.

As Eric Hoffer put it, “What starts out here as a mass movement ends up as a racket, a cult, or a corporation”. When the business model for these rackets (or corporations) fail, the “movements” will vanish as well but it will take a lot more actions like that of this parent for that to happen. And a removal of government subsidies.

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The Second Time Around

On Wednesday I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. As I had anticipated the facility where the inoculations were being administered was much, much busier than it had been a little more than three weeks ago when I received my first inoculation. There were probably 500-1,000 people waiting in line. They were, of course, mostly not observing social distancing although when I looked squarely at the people in front of me and behind me in line they gave me a wider berth. I have command presence.

The inoculation itself hurt like blazes, significantly more than the first. I haven’t experienced any other side effects so far other than soreness at the inoculation site although I’m told that they can take as long as a week to manifest.

Well, now I guess I’ve done what I can in the largest clinical trial in the history of the world.

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Well, the Game Is Plentiful Anyway

I greatly enjoyed this piece by Chandler Lasch and John Hirschauer at RealClearPolitics about a pair of Illinois “watchdogs” who, according to the article are striking fear into the hearts of Illinois politicos:

Kirk Allen and John Kraft started Edgar County Watchdogs, a government-accountability nonprofit, in 2011. By appearance, it is a humble operation – Allen and Kraft are the group’s only employees. Edgar County is smaller than most Illinois townships.

In terms of impact, however, the Watchdogs punch well above their weight. Allen and Kraft’s investigative work has resulted in 186 indictments, 28 convictions, and the removal of 425 officials and bureaucrats from public office. They’ve successfully lobbied for a dozen new state transparency laws. They terrify the state’s most corrupt officials. For all their success, their approach is straightforward.

Their method is insidious and devilishly clever:

“We’re using their laws,” Allen said.

While I have little doubt that Chicago is the most corrupt city in the country, I would dispute the claim in the article that Illinois is the third most corrupt state in the union. Just during my lifetime four Illinois governors have done time in jail. I don’t believe any other state can equal that record. And have they never heard of “Operation Greylord”?

IMO the greatest threat to American democracy isn’t voter fraud or voter suppression or Donald Trump or any of the many other things that are pointed to. I think it’s political corruption. It’s so widespread and pervasive that corrupt politicians no long recognize that what they’re doing is corrupt. It’s just the way things are.

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Wise Words

Today David Brooks’s New York Times column was about wisdom:

When I think of the wise people in my own life, they are like that. It’s not the life-altering words of wisdom that drop from their lips, it’s the way they receive others. Too often the public depictions of wisdom involve remote, elderly sages who you approach with trepidation — and who give the perfect life-altering advice — Yoda, Dumbledore, Solomon. When a group of influential academics sought to define wisdom, they focused on how much knowledge a wise person had accumulated. Wisdom, they wrote, was “an expert knowledge system concerning the fundamental pragmatics of life.”

The most worthwhile passage in the column is a quote from Montaigne:

Wisdom is different from knowledge. Montaigne pointed out you can be knowledgeable with another person’s knowledge, but you can’t be wise with another person’s wisdom.

which explains succinctly why wisdom will become increasingly rare. Google can provide you with facts; it might provide you with knowledge; it can’t provide you with wisdom.

The thoughts in the column were said better and more tersely a millennium ago by the Neo-Platonist philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol:

The first step in the acquisition of wisdom is silence, the second listening, the third memory, the fourth practice, the fifth teaching others.

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Dr. Doom on Inflation

At Project Syndicate Nouriel Roubini lays out the inflation risks:

The problem today is that we are recovering from a negative aggregate supply shock. As such, overly loose monetary and fiscal policies could indeed lead to inflation or, worse, stagflation (high inflation alongside a recession). After all, the stagflation of the 1970s came after two negative oil-supply shocks following the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

In today’s context, we will need to worry about a number of potential negative supply shocks, both as threats to potential growth and as possible factors driving up production costs. These include trade hurdles such as de-globalization and rising protectionism; post-pandemic supply bottlenecks; the deepening Sino-American cold war; and the ensuing balkanization of global supply chains and reshoring of foreign direct investment from low-cost China to higher-cost locations.

Equally worrying is the demographic structure in both advanced and emerging economies. Just when elderly cohorts are boosting consumption by spending down their savings, new restrictions on migration will be putting upward pressure on labor costs.

Moreover, rising income and wealth inequalities mean that the threat of a populist backlash will remain in play. On one hand, this could take the form of fiscal and regulatory policies to support workers and unions – a further source of pressure on labor costs. On the other hand, the concentration of oligopolistic power in the corporate sector also could prove inflationary, because it boosts producers’ pricing power. And, of course, the backlash against Big Tech and capital-intensive, labor-saving technology could reduce innovation more broadly.

What Dr. Roubini does not touch on is that the asset inflation that practically everybody explains by central bank actions is already exacerbating wealth and income inequality and what’s worse that policy produces a positive feedback loop. The more money the Fed stuffs into the pockets of the wealthiest Americans the more those beneficiaries will want it to keep right on doing it.

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The WaPo’s Plan

The editors of the Washington Post present their preferred plan for dealing with carbon emissions:

The best answer is to price greenhouse emissions, which is most efficiently done through a carbon tax. Put a high-enough price on polluting, and massive cuts in emissions would be guaranteed, regardless of whether the federal government’s chosen investments succeeded. In fact, it would render all sorts of expensive provisions in the proposal, such as extensions of wind and solar tax credits, unnecessary. It would raise revenue to pay for clean energy research, and it would easily clear the bar for reconciliation, the parliamentary maneuver that overcomes Senate filibusters.

The Biden plan’s clean electricity standard is a decent second-best approach to ensure the electricity sector slashes emissions, but that industry is just one part of the emissions picture. If this Congress refuses to put a price on carbon, future Congresses likely will have a lot more work to do, and less time and fiscal capacity with which to do it.

which differs fairly dramatically from the plan advanced by the Biden Administration. I think that the administration’s support for carbon capture and sequestration is welcome. If the “pioneer facilities” prove effective, it will be a major step forward at a relatively nominal cost, particularly in a world in which the increasing emissions from other countries outweigh our ability to reduce emissions. I’m not as enthusiastic about the centerpiece of the administration’s plan:

Though White House officials don’t dwell on this point, the centerpiece of the president’s plan is a mandate: an energy-efficiency and clean-electricity standard. This would require utilities to derive increasing percentages of their electricity from non-emitting sources such as renewables and nuclear power, or to meet ever-lower targets for the greenhouse gases they emit.

That’s one of the key realities. I’m skeptical that much productive can be accomplished without a rededication to nuclear power and too many of the president’s supporters are reflexively anti-nuke.

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Pack/Don’t Pack

I’m trying to figure out how to reconcile the view expressed by Charles Lane in his latest Washington Post column:

There is fury on the right over President Biden’s new commission to study reform of the federal judiciary, including expansion of the nine-member Supreme Court, a.k.a. “court-packing.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called it “a direct assault on our nation’s independent judiciary and yet another sign of the Far Left’s influence over the Biden Administration.”

Still stewing about McConnell’s refusal to abet his challenge to the 2020 election results, and about the senator’s denunciation of the Jan. 6 mob attack on Congress, former president Donald Trump said the real court-packing problem is that McConnell is “helpless” to stop it.

What an overreaction. Yes, some on the Democratic left would love to add new justices, negating the current 6-to-3 conservative majority.

with this report from NBC News:

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats will introduce legislation Thursday to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices, joining progressive activists pushing to transform the court.

Is he accusing House Democrats of pure and futile partisanship?

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A Better Solution Than Statehood for DC

An op-ed by Jonathan Horn in the Wall Street Journal provides a little historical background:

In the spring of 1861, Union officers in Washington looked with fear at the Arlington Heights rising from the Virginia banks across the Potomac. With Virginia seceding from the Union, Confederate forces could fortify the position and inflict serious damage on the capital. “The president’s house and department buildings in its vicinity are but two and a half miles across the river from Arlington high ground, where a battery of bombs and heavy guns, if established, could destroy the city,” warned the officer in command of Washington’s defenses.

It did not have to be this way. Arlington had sat comfortably inside the District of Columbia’s borders, which Congress in 1790 had charged then-President George Washington with drawing along the Potomac. Washington had plotted a 10-by-10-mile square, oriented like a diamond, straddling the river and encompassing land ceded by both Maryland and Virginia. But in 1846, with Congress’s permission, residents on the Virginia side held a referendum on their future and voted overwhelmingly to leave the federal district and rejoin their native state.

Even President Washington’s adopted son, George Washington Parke Custis, who owned the pillared mansion crowning the Arlington Heights and had long opposed breaking up the diamond-shaped federal district, had come around on the idea and cheered the outcome. The government buildings were on the Maryland side of the river, and residents of the Virginia side had tired of having no representation in Congress, which had legislative power over the federal district and could one day have restricted the region’s profitable slave trade or even freed its slaves altogether.

Then as now, views on the constitutionality of shrinking the federal district varied. Sen. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina insisted that nothing in the Constitution prohibited the federal government from returning land it no longer needed. Rep. John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts thought otherwise. He declared the act “unconstitutional and void.”

and in doing so suggests a better solution than statehood for Washington, DC. The borders of the nation’s capitol should be reduced to the area immediately surrounding the White House, National Mall and Capitol and the remaining land ceded back to Maryland. That satisfies the goal of providing representation to the residents of that space, should not provoke a political battle, and would not require a constitutional amendment or approval by the states.

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Too Much Money Chasing Too Few Goods

Charlie Bilello provides a litany of the assets and goods that have increased in price over the last year including:

  • Stocks
  • Junk bonds
  • Crypto-currencies
  • Housing
  • Lumber
  • Copper
  • Agricultural commodities
  • Used cars
  • Collectibles

Some of these are at 7 year or 10 year highs. I would add gold.

Maybe it’s transitory and maybe it’s not. When gold and collectibles prices rise, it’s a pretty good indication that there are people who are expecting inflation.

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All of the Above

There’s enough of interest in Judge Glock’s rather sprawling post at City Journal, “Can American Cities Manufacture Again?”, that I recommend you read the whole thing. It touches on industrial policy, subsidies, taxes, educational policy and other subjects. I’ll just quote some snippets and then add my own commentary afterwards.

The confluence of the Great Lakes and their tributaries helps explain why the large area that comprises St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Rochester, and Milwaukee has dominated U.S. manufacturing for more than a century. While manufacturing employs only about 7 percent of the workforce in most states, these numbers remain at about 14 percent in much of the Rust Belt, and at over 16 percent in Wisconsin and Indiana. One finds a similar zone—called an industrial “banana,” ranging from Essen in Germany down to Milan in Italy—that has dominated European industry for generations. Its location in Western Europe’s center, which includes the intersection of the Rhine and the Danube, helped establish its preeminence.

Even when the importance of geography wanes, these industrial heartlands remain powerful. One reason is that existing industries inspire the creation of new infrastructure. New canals, railroads, highways, and airports attract more industry and then more infrastructure in a virtuous cycle. And the output of one industry, such as steel, is often the input of another, such as cars, so that the industries benefit from proximity and from being near to that burgeoning infrastructure, too.

and

Despite a national obsession with high-tech clusters like Silicon Valley, manufacturing industries and their workers are much more concentrated than service industries. The most concentrated industries in America are sectors such as carpet-weaving (still based in Dalton), paper products, and steel-rolling. Though proportionally a small part of our economy, these clusters are a matter of life and death for their home cities.

and

America’s deindustrialization is not only a story of failure. One reason U.S. manufacturing has declined is that we have been more successful in other spheres, partly because of our light-touch employment regulations. Economists Stian Westlake and Jonathan Haskel have shown that a positive relationship exists between the relative laxness of job regulations—that is, how easy it is to hire and fire people—and the amount of investment in “intangibles,” or nonmanufactured things like brands, software, and job training. Europe’s strict labor regulations encourage tangible investments and large-scale factories, for instance, since these can succeed even with stilted, immobile labor forces. But such regulations discourage the more ethereal investments and mobile workers who power the freer American economy.

Deindustrialization in the U.S. owes perhaps less to factors driving factories away than to the pull of productive and tradable service industries, such as software and movies. A Brookings Institution study ranked the U.S. as having one of the globe’s best manufacturing environments, a reality reflected in how, despite our proportionally smaller workforce, we still produce more real goods than any other country, though we’re now neck-and-neck with China in that regard. But America has an even more dynamic service industry. We wouldn’t want to follow the European path and revive manufacturing at the cost of discouraging mobility and eroding the nation’s dominance in service industries, which make up more than 80 percent of our economy.

The key problem with American deindustrialization is that those who have benefited have been a very different cohort from those who lost out. Those who lost out have never really recovered. And those who have benefited represent a much smaller slice of the American population. What of the other 75% of the population?

I think that in the final analysis Mr. Glock fails to apprehend the enormity of what has happened in the U. S. over the last 40 years. 40 years ago you could drive throughout the Midwest or the Northeast, off the main roads and in town after town after town there would be a court hour or seat of government, churches, stores, and a small number of light manufacturing facilities. Now much of that is gone and those towns are either ghost towns, greatly diminished, impoverished or all of the above.

As I have said before I think that we need a re-commitment to primary production (mining, agriculture, lumbering, etc.), secondary production (steel, refining, etc.), and tertiary production. We need to be a lot less reliant on finance and consumption in its various forms than we are today.

And as I have also said before the U. S. is actually better at mass engineering projects than it is at subsidized industrial planning and research. With new mass engineering projects the research and industry will happen.

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