Author Archives: Greg Morin

Blowing the Sails

President Trump continues on his shortsighted warpath of ever escalating tariffs on Chinese goods. “Tariffs will make our Country MUCH STRONGER, not weaker. Just sit back and watch!” he tweeted recently. Well, yes, I suppose if you jump off a bridge and break both your legs those bones will be stronger once healed, but I don’t think that’s what he had in mind. Tariffs are a self-imposed burden; the exporter of a good does not pay them – the importer does (i.e. the domestic business, employing domestic workers, selling to a domestic market). It is the economic equivalent of me insisting I pay an extra 25% to the grocery store because I’m so upset there is a trade imbalance between the grocer and myself. Trump is either being willfully dishonest (and to be fair, what politician isn’t – ‘if you like your plan you can keep your plan’), or, he is entirely ignorant of how tariffs actually work. If Importer ABC is buying widget A from a Chinese exporter for $1 and there is a new 25% tariff imposed, the cost goes from $1 to $1.25 – paid for entirely by the importer. The cost is either passed on to the American consumer or expenses in other areas are reduced (i.e. layoffs of American workers) in order to stay price competitive. 

            Perplexingly, Trump actually acknowledged the potential harm to some sectors (i.e. US farmers, whose sales of exported goods to China have dropped off due to in-kind retaliatory tariffs by China on the US) and rather than extinguishing the dumpster-fire he has created he has doubled down on an even more ludicrous plan. He is proposing that we take the proceeds from the tariffs and use it to offset declining agricultural sales by purchasing the unsold goods – and get this – donating it to foreign countries! So, it is bad for the US if China “dumps” low cost goods into our market, yet somehow it’s a-ok if the US in turn dumps totally free goods into other countries’ markets? Nah, that won’t totally disrupt their domestic agricultural market driving them to cross a border in order to find work… there is some country where that has happened before but the name escapes me right now. This Rube Goldberg scheme is tantamount to using a fan to blow the sail of a sailboat. Yes, it works, but it is incredibly inefficient; just remove the sail and turn the fan around. In other words, an actual free market in trade (not managed trade á la NAFTA or TPP) is maximally efficient and beneficial to all.

            The only utility to be gained from this scheme is to encourage Trump-hating-leftists to closely examine the idiocy of this scheme. Perhaps once Trump is out of office they will recognize the lunacy of this scheme in future government polices. For example, all foreign aid works on this principle. Take money from some Americans and give it to others to buy their goods in order to give them to a third party for free. Or, take money from some Americans and give it to a third party with the stipulation they can only use it to buy goods from some other Americans.Carbon taxes, if imposed, would work the same way. Impose a tax (on Americans) then turn around and refund the just collected funds to other Americans to offset the fact they are paying more for energy. 

            Perhaps in the end that will be the silver lining of the Trump presidency; to awaken the American electorate to the fact that the idiotic schemes implemented by Trump are identical to every past presidential administration in their execution. These programs and schemes are counter-productive and inefficient on their face regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. 

Quora: Social Contract question

Someone asked this question below, you can see it on Quora here

My reply is below

According to some libertarians, the idea of a social contract is invalid. If so, on what basis do they argue that I can’t steal, as I have never explicitly committed myself to respect their property?

The social contract is a cudgel that says one MUST act i.e. forcing one to engage in an activity one would otherwise avoid (eg taxation toward some putative communal good).

Not stealing compels no action. Not stealing is inaction. Not acting costs nothing. Acting carries a cost (opportunity cost e.g. I want to do x but the social contract forced me to do y). So forced or required action not explicitly agreed to carries with it an outside imposed burden.

The social contract is invalid not because it is imaginary but because it imposes costs not agreed to. So even if you believe basic tenets of morality (such as theft is wrong or murder and rape are wrong) are imaginary, it costs nothing to not engage in those activities. Indeed it is advantageous to not do so insofar as it creates additional opportunity to engage in other more productive activities.

Social contract limits choices. Morality expands them. Perhaps both are imaginary constructs but positive obligations are inherently more limiting than negative obligations.

Reparations Roller Coaster

The political landscape in the Democratic Party has become so chaotic that in order for a presidential candidate to distinguish him or herself it is no longer sufficient to engage in safe, conservative levels of vote pandering e.g. free healthcare for all. Now one must step up with über-insane policy positions like slavery reparations. Several candidates have put forth pro-reparations platform positions recently. Any self-respecting black person should reject such talk outright. The whole notion is preposterously insulting. Why? Ok, hold up your hand (any race) if you think your “success” today is even marginally affected by the life events of one or more of your sixteen to thirty-two second-great or third-great grandparents? Can you even name a single one of them? The argument is basically that all succeeding generations over 150+ years have been entirely impotent to advance in life because they lacked a check from the federal government – all other forms of welfare and assistance not withstanding (12 years of free schooling be the main one). Perhaps you could make that argument (as with apartheid in South Africa) if every single black person were dirt poor today. But that’s not the case. In fact there are numerous highly successful black individuals today (doctors, lawyers, business owners, actors, politicians, athletes, etc.). This alone should conclusively prove that race no longer plays a meaningful role in holding anyone back. While the poverty rate for blacks as a whole vs. whites is higher, it is not earth-shatteringly so (20% vs 8%). To hear the pro-reparations people talk you’d think black poverty was 90%+ in this country.

The time for reparations was immediately after emancipation, to the actual slaves. That is how reparations have operated for more recent state-level atrocities (Germany, South Africa, etc). Locate the victim and compensate them. That is correct and just (although monetary compensation can never truly make one whole for these kinds of state sponsored crimes). Reparations should have been made in the US shortly after the Civil War (and indeed this was done for a short period, General Sherman’s Special Order 15 was quickly reversed by President Johnson). That this did not occur is a crime against those former slaves. However, there is nothing that can be done to fix that now. History is like that. Bad people did horrible things, but navel gazing hundreds of years later isn’t going to put the toothpaste back in the tube. If my grandmother were raped but the culprit never served time nothing is served by putting that guy’s grandson in prison today. However that is exactly what reparations would do, only worse (it would be like grabbing some random person off the street and putting him in prison merely because he’s a man). Were reparations to come to pass it would be funded by some new tax. But many millions of Americans (like myself) are recent generation Americans. All of my great-grandparents entered this country over 50 years after the end of the civil war – why should I be taxed to pay for something that neither I nor them could ever have conceivably benefited from? Indeed, these great grandparents were initially treated harshly (yes, the Klan hates Catholics too) by the “nativist” populations they emigrated to. Should I get reparations too for how they were held back by such incipient hatred on arrival? (In case you were wondering the  answer is “no” to this rhetorical question).

Some would argue that even post Civil War emigrants enjoyed the privilege of all the wealth brought about in this country through the labor of former slaves who built this country. Ok. Except that is totally backwards. This country was made poorer, not wealthier, because of slavery. The reason for this is simple: automation. Cheap slave labor meant there was no incentive to explore more efficient means of production. Without slavery the south would have been pushed economically to explore efficiency improving automation that much sooner. As we recall from high school history, the north was regarded as wealthy while the south was considered poor. The primary reason for this was the difference in automation. The highly industrialized north was highly automated in its output. Just as paper beats rock so to do machines beat humans every time in the output Olympics.

Even if we were to pay reparations there is no practical “fair” way to do so. The whole thing quickly spirals out of control into a general welfare check. Such a check would be far out of proportion to what those individuals might have had had actual reparations been paid in 1865 to the forefathers. If it were in proportion it would amount to only a few hundred dollars and politically such a small amount would be a non-starter. So it will have to be disproportionately larger. So how does this idea go from only for descendants of slaves to everyone? Well, first if it were constrained to only those that could prove a genealogical connection to a slave, accusations would fly of unfairness for all those unable to claim their rightful inheritance because of paperwork lost to the ages. Ok, so now anyone who is black (DNA test) gets it, but how much “blackness”? 90%? 50% 25%? No matter where you draw an arbitrary line someone will complain so just make it 1% or more then no one will complain. And of course the DNA tests will have to be free, otherwise this too would be deemed as unfairly keeping those most in need from obtaining their due. Next is the problem of payment ratio. Should it be a ratio of your DNA %, e.g. you are 10% black so you get 10% of the reparations payment? Or what if you can only prove one out of 32 ancestors was a slave; do you get 1/32ndof the payment? The mind boggles with the logistics of handling this all. Even if you assume a generous $100k reparations payment to each former slave this would be rapidly diluted to only a few hundred dollars today after applying the various race and generational dilution heuristics. Is a few hundred dollars really going to change anyone’s life?

And lastly, this must be a one-time payment. Anything other than that is not reparations but simply welfare. If you have made each “victim” whole, then there is no more reason to continue payment to them or their progeny. So under the only possible “fair” model of reparations Barack Obama would qualify. That’s a good thing, just think of what he could have accomplished had he not been black!

CON Job

There are a myriad of reasons that health care costs are sky high. Every cause shares a common genesis – government. From the World War II era tax benefit of allowing tax-free employer sponsored plans to state imposed price controls (Medicare/Medicaid) to today’s outright subsidies (Obamacare), it has been a 70+ year slow motion train wreck that has annihilated anything remotely resembling a “free” market in health care. However, today I want to focus on but one sliver of that regulatory quagmire: Certificate of Need (CON) laws. When I first learned about these I honestly thought I was reading satire – this is America after all! How can such monstrosities of law exist? And yet they do. For those unaware, CON laws basically allow one or more local hospitals to have a say in whether a prospective hospital may be permitted in their “backyard.” It’s like if McDonalds had a vote in whether any new fast food restaurants could be built within say 30 miles of their location. What do you think McDonalds’ choice would be? This is nothing but state backed protectionism, pure and simple. And like all protectionism it harms consumers while benefiting the protected class (unions, taxi drivers, any tariff protected industry, etc.) But please, tell me more about this free market in health care we have.

Supporters of CON laws try to appeal to ones sense of “fairness” by claiming that if these mean old private hospitals come in why they’ll “steal” patients from our poor old public hospital by only offering the most lucrative and profitable services leaving the extant hospital with money losing care and indigent patients. Hogwash. In other words they are saying that in terms of those “lucrative” services they can’t compete because they are in fact overcharging for their “lucrative” services in order to subsidize the money losing services.  In other words they don’t know how to properly run a (hospital) business and are afraid of someone coming in and competing with them that does. 

Ludicrously, these same people will turn around and decry the “monopoly” of a company like AT&T or Microsoft or Google or Apple and claim “why we need to break them up, don’t you know monopolies are bad and that competition lowers prices and helps consumers?” But then will unironically tell you that monopolies in hospital services makes perfect sense and why don’t you just trust the guy telling you he doesn’t need competition to give you a fair price? I guess state backed monopolies are “a ok” (schools, courts, police, utilities, roads, etc.)

Ironically many of these people who support CON laws are “conservative” Republicans! Indeed there was a recent Bill 198 in the Georgia House that died in that Republican dominated chamber. One representative quipped in a local paper

“I was very happy to help kill the elimination of the CON process that would hurt local hospitals.”

David Belton
R – Buckhead, GA, District 112

Wow, give that man a Bernie Sanders medal, he is a Democratic Socialist and doesn’t even know it. Socialism claims the right of the “people” (aka the State) to own the means of production. Ownership conveys a right to control, you don’t own it, you can’t control it and vice versa. Well if the state can tell prospective investors in a new hospital what they can’t do with their own money, then what is the state doing other than asserting an ownership (control) claim over those investors’ property? I’m sorry Republicans; I must have missed the part in the Constitution (Federal or State) where it says we have a right to a livelihood unfettered by nettlesome competition. Repeat after me, just because a violation of rights can be harmful doesn’t mean anything deemed harmful is a rights violation.

Climate Morality?

It has been suggested that combating climate change is now a moral imperative. The argument is as follows: man-made climate change will obviously lead to more frequent and intense weather events that will disproportionately impact those with fewer resources. This is a rather transparent attempt at shaming those who have not drunk the Klimate Kool-Aid. Right up there with sticking “children” or “freedom” in a bill’s name to deflect criticism.

To dismantle this argument we shall start with the premise: man-made climate change is real. This is false. Climate change is real, but the extent to which man is contributing is an open question ex cathedra proclamations by the UN notwithstanding. CO2 does not correlate well with rising and falling global mean temperatures. The Medieval Warm Period was much warmer than today and yet CO2levels were lower than now. Likewise climate change (warming) would be expected absent any human influence as we have been climbing out of the “Little Ice Age” since around 1600-1700 (well before the onset of the Industrial Revolution). In short, if man’s primary contribution is from pumping a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere, then the lack of correlation of CO2with global temperature changes undermines that premise.

Irrespective of man’s contribution, the planet is indeed slowly warming. What might we expect then? It does seem superficially plausible that warmer air would hold more water vapor and so storm intensity/frequency would rise. Unfortunately that analysis crumbles when faced with actual data and an equally valid interpretation, namely that overall global warming reduces temperature differentials and thus the strength of storms.  It is temperature (energy) differentials that drive storms, e.g. we get rainstorms when warm and cold fronts collide. This premise is supported by an NOAA study of Atlantic hurricanes: “the warming projected for the tropical Atlantic in the models is not very different from that projected for the tropics as a whole.” The NOAA recently concluded that,

“neither our model projections for the 21st century nor our analyses of trends in Atlantic hurricane and tropical storm activity support the notion that greenhouse gas-induced warming leads to large increases in either tropical storm or overall hurricane numbers in the Atlantic.”

In other words the frequency and size of hurricanes today or projected this century is not statistically different than that which occurred over the 20thcentury. Therefore, since climate change doesn’t result in more damaging storms, we can’t use the costs arising from such storms as a justification for “investments” to combat climate change. The other side of this equation is sea-level rise. Yes, the earth is warming and the sea is rising. However the rise from 1880 to 1900 is nearly identical to the change seen from 1980 to 2000: about 2 inches. Seems like something other than man is driving this change. Although the rate is now 3.3 mm per year it’s safe to say, “we have some time” to adapt. The Dutch have successfully overcome the challenges of sea level rise for the past fifteen hundred years or so; I think we’ll be ok. If you choose to build or buy real estate on the coast today knowing full well the current rate of rise, well, that is on you, not on society. 

The conclusion that climate change is a moral imperative crumbles once we conclude man is no more responsible for it than he is for the rising and falling of the tides. Climate change as a movement does not “work” if it is not caused by man. It is the means by which the masses will be hypnotized into willingly ceding control of their rights and living standards to a monolithic unaccountable bureaucratic state. Every now and then the elites tip their hand: 

“Our aim is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to change the global economic system…”

– UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres (Feb 2015)

“The common enemy of humanity is Man. In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill..”.”

– The Club of Rome Premier environmental think-tank and consultants to the United Nations. 

Although there are well-intentioned people that genuinely believe the climate propaganda and want to “save the planet” they are what Lenin would describe as “useful idiots.” They are climatic Typhoid Mary’s, unwittingly spreading a disease that will lead to global totalitarianism and declining living standards. The global elites don’t care about the environment; all they care about is their own power and wealth.  Any movement that accrues power to the sociopaths in power will not be abandoned easily.  

tl;dr –  Climate change is a flimsy pretext used to justify increasing levels of taxation to further the left’s goal of economic “justice”

Slippery Slope

It seems the Democrats are hell-bent on losing to Trump in 2020. Americans do not like taxes. They tolerate them because they’ve been conditioned to accept the fiction that society can’t function without top down central planning. But when given a choice of more or fewer, they’ll opt for fewer. Consider the candidacies of Michael Dukakis and George H. W. Bush. The former promised new taxes while the latter broke his promise to avoid them; they both were beaten badly. Perhaps an oversimplification, but the point is, don’t lead with “more dental work for all”. The near success of Bernie Sander’s prior candidacy has nearly every Democrat tripping over themselves to ironically capitalize on their perception of his voter appeal: envy. The message from the Democrats now is one of simple, base envy. Those people have stuff, we want it, let’s take it. The trite slogan of “making America work for everyone” can be parsed into “making” = “armed thugs will force you”, “America work” = “productive Americans to hand over your property”, “for everyone” = “to the unwilling, unskilled, and envious.” 

The irony is they may succeed as they take a page from Trump’s political playbook. Trump used fear and vilification of “the other,” the illegal immigrant, to bolster support for his cause. The Democrats too vilify “the other,” except theirs is “the wealthy” or “the capitalists.” They make indulgent promises that rest on a bedrock of theft. Just raise their taxes to the roof and empty the pockets of the Kulaks, after all it’s our fair share right? 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s plan of a 70% tax rates is built upon a foundation of either downright stupidity or deliberate misrepresentations. Neither are good options. Tax rates were at that level and higher in the past but so were allowable deductions! For example, if gross income were $10 then net AGI was only $3 when rates were 70%, but today the rules yield an AGI of $6 but at 35%. Obviously the tax obtained is identical. No matter the tax rate, the government only manages to bring in about 17% of GDP give or take since 1930. I’m sure the current plan is to raise rates and not deductions … but to equate the current goal as being equivalent to past policy is disingenuous – high deductions in the past means nobody paid those high rates. 

Elizabeth Warren has an even more ghastly proposal – a direct wealth tax on assets. Settings aside the constitutional issues with such a tax any student of history should see where this is going. When the income tax was first implemented it was but a mere 1% on income over $50k in today’s dollars, and 6% on income over $8 million. We know how that went. Warren’s proposal has equally high thresholds of 2% on assets over $50 million and 3% over $1 billion. Only a fool would believe those rates will not rise and the thresholds fall in short order. But the big reveal for those thinking this would not affect them is the fact that even those not owing the tax will still have a filing burden. Everyone would in perpetuity endure the annual burden of submitting to our overlords a complete accounting of all that one owns in order to prove no tax is owed. Think property tax on steroids.  

Those who may be persuaded that they will be better off if “others” are punished should be wary of the collateral damage from these financial grenades. When it comes to taxes, slippery slopes are the rule.

In Pursuit of Exceptionalism

What is the origin of the idea “American Exceptionalism”? Most Americans’ belief in this is based on a reflexive veneration of the revolutionary war coupled with good old-fashioned team spirit. If pushed further to justify their feelings they may fall back on the claim that this exceptionalism comes from the many and superior accomplishments of its citizens in sports, science, business, warfare, and on and on. But to paraphrase Yoda, “zip codes not make one great.” History is replete with individuals from all over the globe who have achieved great deeds. 

America is not exceptional because our neighbors are nice folk or because its residents have achieved laudable feats, but rather it is exceptional because it is more than a mere country – it is an idea and ideal. It is the political incarnation of the concept that the negative rights of the individual trump all other concerns. Period. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness exist only to the extent that ideal is respected. Governments and constitutions do not GRANT negative rights. They are inherent and inalienable to our being. Constitutions/governments are but mere tools to protect these rights. One does not protect something by injuring it. Regrettably the United States government has been injuring the very thing it was established to protect since its inception (see: Alien & Sedition Acts, slavery, etc.). It has only gotten worse since – “like sands through the hourglass”, so are the injuries against liberty.

Some will insist that despite these failures it is still the freest country in the world, although that is demonstrably false based on its ever-falling rank (17th) in the Cato Human Freedom Index (and similar indices). Freedom should be graded on an absolute scale, not a curve. A country that permits the practice of civil asset forfeiture, criminalizes victimless activities, requires state permission to employ or be employed, confiscates wealth solely for the punitive goal of ensuring “fairness”, and that pre-emptively invades other countries resulting in the deaths of millions of innocent civilians; such a country is not the ideal and is far from being great. 

 Indeed, even one of the most basic cherished freedoms, the freedom of speech, is under attack from the left and the right. Congress is presently trying to make it a criminal offense to boycott Israel. That pesky 1stamendment was in the way but they seem to have found a work around. Stay tuned. Meanwhile in New York City it is now a criminal offense ($250k fine) to repeatedly “mis-gender” someone by using the “wrong” pronoun when addressing them. Sure, people should be nice and respectful, but likewise it should not be a criminal offense to say mean things. Allowing speech to be criminalized because someone else does not like its content or it hurts someone’s feelings utterly disembowels the 1stAmendment.

“We don’t have freedom of speech so we can talk about the weather.  We have the 1st Amendment so that we can say very controversial things.” – Ron Paul

The greatness of the American ideal exists anywhere people acknowledge that what their neighbor does is none of their business and that when conflict arises it should be dealt with by an equivalent level of reciprocal force or mediation. Respecting this ideal means acknowledging that all interactions must be voluntary. Wherever this ideal is respected can rightfully be called “American”. In such places “America” will firmly take root and those that live there will enjoy the promise of what America should have been: a place where one is free to pursue their own happiness free of authoritarian busybodies. 

P.S. And no, the fantasy of the “social contract” does not magically make every state intrusion into our lives “voluntary”

The NPC’s Strike Back

My recent editorial at the Oconee Enterprise brought on a somewhat misapprehending response by guest columnist Anthony Potts. My response to his response is below:

White people are racist when they blankly stare, because power, or something.

This column is in response to Anthony Pott’s guest column last week. Some of his points are understandable since the editorial staff altered (for space reasons) a more nuanced statement in the opening preamble. The column (as submitted) did not state that “(racism) is dead” but rather “that legacy, at least as a tangible society-level property, is now dead.” Nor did the column state racism was isolated to the 20thcentury, rather that there was a parochial conception of it in the US at that time. The interested reader may see the full article, as originally submitted. My observations were focused on American society, not at any particular individual. It’s the same as noting that Americans are generally regarded as being over-weight without excluding the possible existence of thin people within that collective. 

The rest of his response, however, is a collection of deliberate distortions of my column. Nowhere will you find explicitly or implicitly the statements “black people are the racists now” or “whites are now the oppressed group.” These mischaracterizing assertions reveal much about the liberal/progressive mindset. People are not viewed as individuals; but rather as part of a collective, mere cogs in the machine. The individual is the collective and vice versa. An attack or defense of the individual is seen as applying to their collective. Therefore, unsurprisingly, when presented with clear, unambiguous, video proof that Group A was accosted by Group B, the progressive will regard the argument being made as ALL members of Group A are victims and ALL members of group B are aggressors. 

Finally, I must point out that it is Potts and his ilk that have an utter misunderstanding of the definition of racism. He claims I don’t know what it means, and I’ll admit I’m a bit old fashioned, but the last time I checked a dictionary there was nothing about “societal power dynamics.” The dictionary defines prejudice as “unreasonable feelings, opinions or attitude esp. of a hostile nature directed against a racial, religious or national group”. Gee that sounds a lot like racism to me, which is defined as “a hatred or intolerance of another race or other races”. If we allow the left to redefine racism to mean “people who (perceived to) hold “power” in society are engaging in racism whenever they interact with someone (perceived to) to not hold power” then like the wordsmiths on the right with their “war on terror” we will ensure never ending culture wars.  You can’t win a war against a label whose definition changes. 

This “racism is rampant today” narrative is further bolstered by the leftist media’s periodic outrage du-jour of a white on non-white incident that in 99.9% of cases today (i.e. the 21stcentury) turns out to be a hoax or misunderstanding. Mark my words, the “Jussie Smollet” incident mentioned by Potts will be found to have been a fabrication within 6 months 6 days and will be quietly swept under the rug.<Just call me Nostradamus – I wrote this when nearly everyone and their brother was convinced of the veracity of Smollet’s story… how quickly did that unravel…hmmmm>

Racism is but one flavor of prejudice. There are many others (e.g. sexism, anti-Semitism, jingoism, etc.) Nowhere does “power dynamic” come into play. That doesn’t mean a prejudiced individual can’t impact your life if they hold power over you in the context of that interaction but the mere holding of power does not do the reverse, it does not make them acquire prejudicial beliefs. Individuals hold power in society, not groups. Those that define you based on your perceived group memberships are the true enemies of the people for they seek to gain power (political, social, or economic) by appealing to one group while demonizing the other. The left does it. The right does it. Let’s cast off these imposed identities and interact as the individuals we are.


Racism is dead. Long live racism

What is racism? In the United States (at least in 20thcentury) the prevalent conception is of a pro-white anti-black bias. This misapprehension of what racism means is a rather peculiar parochial American artifact. It is primarily a result of declining 20thcentury standards in history pedagogy. White on black racism is an echo of the government-endorsed subjugation of one class of individual by another that existed in the US for decades – a legacy that warped and shaped the minds of millions over multiple generations. That legacy, at least as a tangible society-level property, is now dead.

Racism (as a form of behavior) is an anti-intellectual inheritance of our primitive forbearers who had to make quick judgments about the dangers lurking in the world. It’s the same reason we have a natural fear of heights and snakes; both are so dangerous it’s not worth the time to reflect on the finer points of non-venomous varieties or handrails. If one example of A has property B then it is easier to simply conclude all other examples of A must also have property B. Thus racism is a form of low-information low-thought quick-conclusion collectivism. We don’t need much information or much thought to reach our conclusions. Likewise the herd instinct takes over when our neighbor reaches a conclusion before we do; we then assume they’ve already thought it through and so can’t be wrong so we’ll quickly adopt their mindset (again, more intellectual laziness). From an evolutionary standpoint this can work insofar as the herd steering away from the predator will tend to keep the individual safe; but it can also backfire when the herd is spooked over the cliff.

And so it was this past week we saw this herd-like low intellectual analysis play out in real time on Twitter and in the state media. A short video clip emerged showing a group of MAGA-hat wearing teens “confronting” and “intimidating” a gentle and peaceful elderly Native American man whilst he chanted and played his drums on the Washington mall in DC. Apparently, 10 seconds of video is all that was needed for the media and the Twitter blogosphere to start (literally) calling for the death of these teens! These kids were unwitting lighting rods for the vitriolic hatred of all things in any way connected to Donald Trump (aka as TDS: Trump Derangement Syndrome). The outpouring of invective towards these boys from across the country was breathtaking in its rhetorical and ideological uniformity. Intellectual reflection was not necessary – these were white males, some of whom apparently had a preference for President Trump, therefore no other conclusion was possible than that they were nascent Nazi’s. That is perhaps the saddest part of this whole story: so many on the left ardently believe that nearly every white person in this country is a closet Klan member. So convinced they are of this that they will imbue every innocuous non-event as somehow being proof of the existence of these witches.

As it turns out (surprise, surprise) the above narrative was 100% wrong. After a full 2-hour video  (see here for yourself) emerged we quickly learned that it was not the boys who approached the Native American man (Nathan Phillips) but rather that Phillips approached the boys’ group and got right in the middle of it. The boys were merely waiting for their school bus to pick them up from their field trip. They were actually being harassed by a group of blatantly racist (according to the SPLC – I mean, when the SPLC is calling a black group racist, that has got to be bad!) black men known as the “Black Hebrew Israelites” who hurled racist and homophobic invectives at the teens. Philllips bizarrely claims he moved into the teen’s group to prevent them from attacking the Black Hebrews (even though the videos show zero evidence of that brewing).

In short, these boys were on the receiving end of what blacks have had to endure in this country for decades: a summary judgment based solely on one’s preconception about members of that skin color group coupled with a scant smattering of “evidence” (oh the irony that this happened over the MLK holiday weekend). Likewise, the real instigators here, the black Hebrews, are entirely ignored, forgiven, or excused, again, solely based on skin color. When racist, old, black men are assumed to be in the right and young, white boys are assumed to be in the wrong, then, on a national level, it is safe to conclude that all traditional notions of racism in this country are dead. Should that be celebrated our mourned? Both and neither – truly a paradox.

Eyes Wide Shutdown

The current government shutdown is moving into its third week as I write this and has now won the prize for longest shutdown in history – truly America is being made great again. The longer it goes on the more Americans it affects. Already we are seeing multi-hour queues at TSA checkpoints as more and more unpaid but “essential” federal employees are quitting or calling in sick. Many IRS agents have been furloughed and that agency is operating at minimal capacity (although I think that would bolster support for the shutdown!). And for the first time ever I have been personally impacted by one of these shutdowns insofar as my genealogical hobby has been halted by the shuttering of the doors at the National Archives.

The popular stereotype of anti-government libertarians might lead one to believe libertarians are rejoicing. Although there might be a wee bit of schadenfreude, for the most part that is not the case since (a) libertarians oppose the state, not government (a critical but important distinction that even many self-described libertarians are oblivious to) and (b) temporary disruptions do nothing to advance that goal for the same reason your employer doesn’t hire a replacement every time you go on vacation. But – when a poorly performing employee does go on vacation sometimes it provides an opportunity to demonstrate to management that a temporary replacement is actually doing a better job – or that maybe we don’t need that position after all (i.e. no one noticed that the job not getting done).

For example during this shutdown many local businesses around Yellowstone National Park have banded together and voluntarily taken over the duties of the local park service (removing trash, cleaning bathrooms, maintaining roads, etc).

Why? Because it is in their mutual self-interest – all those tourists coming to Yellowstone also spend their money at those local restaurants, hotels, and shops. Indeed, this is the model that answers the perennial “but who will build the roads?” question – businesses that want to make it easy for customers to find them, that’s who.

Likewise the TSA disruption should make all question why exactly airport security is an arm of the federal government? Do we really want air travel in this country to be held hostage by the whims of those bickering children in Washington? Up until the incidents of September 11 airport security was a completely private affair. 9-11 was certainly not a failure on the part of that private system (unless of course you believe a federal TSA agent would have (a) stopped the guys with the box cutters because (b) they knew box cutter = destroyed buildings). Again, airports and airlines have aligned incentives in that both would be culpable and liable if they allowed dangerous individuals on board a flight. They should be allowed to choose the best most competent agency to handle security, rather than being forced to accept a single monopolistic agency (TSA) that can’t be fired no matter how poorly they perform. Due to the “crowding out” effect caused by nationalization (as with the TSA) there exists no viable competitors that could take over during these short-term disruptions (because by their nature they are short term – who would start a business that could only get operate once every year or two for a week or two?).

Hopefully this current shutdown will serve as a “teachable moment” amongst the general public who will begin to question why the federal government must control endeavors that can quite easily be managed by the private sector.