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    The Will to Create

    Entries in Noah Millman (4)


    The emptiness of Ron Paul's critics

    Critics of Ron Paul such as Noah Millman and David Frum make general claims denigrating Paul's "radical"  proposals, but they don't have any substantive criticisms. Anyone who thinks that protecting the status quo is reasonable after years of statist/interventionist decline which have brought us to the edge of collapse is not qualified to analyze the current political conflicts.

    Politically motivated monetary policies inflicted on us by the Fed have kept afloat a corrupt system which has finally stagnated the economy and created such uncertainty among entrepreneurs and investors that the very middle class with which the likes of Millman and Frum are concerned have been shut down and shut out. You don't have to be an economist to understand which side of the current battle between Keynesian and libertarian economics operates in reality, but it helps to have read Krugman and Thomas E. Woods, and to possess the ability to reason - Millman and Frum have obviously not compared the two, or, if they have, lack the ability to honestly reason. Anyone of average economic intelligence who isn't a hopeless partisan who reads Krugman and Woods in light of our current economic problems can only come to the conclusion that vulgar Keynesian has crippled economic growth.

    In his book Rollback, Thomas E. Woods addresses the housing boom and bust:

    During a boom, labor and physical resources are attracted to sectors where, it will later be discovered, they did not belong. During the housing boom some 40 percent of all new jobs were in the housing sector. That could not continue.

    Failing firms need to be allowed to go bankrupt. The structure of production undergoes considerable change during the recession period, and the sustainable pattern of consumption and production that results will not permit all firms to continue as before. Bankruptcy permits new owners to take over the assets of failing firms, and either conduct those firms according to a different business model, or simply sell off assets and compensate as many of the creditors as can be accomodated.

    The government's predation on the economy, in the form of spending and taxation, should be reduced. Resources are thereby released that entrpreneurs can use to realign the capital structure in light of the changed conditions that the bust brought to light.

    This strategy was followed in the depression of 1920-21, which saw unemployment shoot up to 12.4 percent and production decline by 17 percent. Wholesale prices fell by 56 percent. The political class today would be screaming for all kinds of "stimulus" to reverse this death spiral. But the federal government at the time cut its budget in half from 1920 to 1922 and cut the national debt by one third over the course of the 1920s. Income tax rates were lowered for all income groups throughout the decade, but these lower taxes took effect after the recovery was already in progress. The Federal Reserve, for its part, did not engage in open-market operations ( in which the Fed purchases assets with money it creates in order to increase the amount of money in circulation) to increase the money supply. The economy was allowed to adjust without the so-called countercyclical government policies that we are told are essential. Signs of recovery were evident by the late summer of 1921, which is when the National Bureau of Economic Research says the depression ended. Joseph Schumpeter, one of the eminent economists of the twentieth century, believed that the 1920-21 case "shows better than any theory could how the system pulls itself out of the troughs under its own steam."

    This is what Frum and Millman call radical ideas proposed by Paul -- they would likely say that things are different in the 2000s. What we're talking about, though, are economic principles, and this is what makes Paul different -- he adheres to time tested principles, whereas the Frums and Millmans praise pragmatic tweaks and ignorant government interventions which fail over and over.

    Also, anyone who's read the history of American interventionism overseas, especially in the mideast, can only praise Paul's non-interventionist position as the right course for America in the 20th century. Neocons and progressive hawks have led foreign policy astray, and the sad situations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya reveal the failures of foreign policy. A strong defense and appropriate responses to terrorist attacks are one thing, but the attempts to remake the mideast are doomed to failure -- history has confirmed this.

    If Paul's critics have any substantive reasons why Paul is wrong, then they ought to explain their reasons rather than continue the empty attacks and smears.


    Please, tell it like it is -- we're adults

    Allow me to attempt an explication of what bothers me about Conor Friedersdorf's response to Jonathan Chait regarding the individual mandate for healthcare insurance, conservative hypocrisy and the Constitution. Chait criticized Republicans for opposing the mandate when they have supported such mandates in the past. Conor is right that conservative hypocrisy is one thing but the issue remains whether the mandate is unconstitutional. It's Conor's response here that troubles me:

    If the Obama Administration’s health care reform bill stands, I do not imagine that America is going to cease to be free, or that a decisive blow in the battle between capitalism and socialism will have been struck. Although I would’ve preferred different variations on health care reform, I am not even expert enough to know for sure whether they’d have been more successful.

    What does worry me is the notion that the federal government is no longer an entity of enumerated powers – that a limit on its scope purposefully established by the Founders no longer exists. It used to be a check and balance. Is it now completely gone?

    If Judge Hudson’s ruling is upheld, I’ll celebrate not because I fear Obamacare – I’m cynical enough to suspect that whatever came next might well make me even worse off – but because a limit on federal power that I care about generally has been re-asserted.

    Should his ruling be overturned, I’ll be disappointed because the precedent troubles me: if the commerce clause can prevent me from growing marijuana in my backyard and mandate that I buy a particular kind of health insurance that covers far more than emergency room care, what Congressional action can’t it cover? You’d think from Chait’s post that liberals never approach matters of constitutional law in this way, looking past the utility in a given policy area to ask what the long term implications are for state power.

    Why wouldn't a decision to uphold the mandate signal decisively that we are no longer free? If government can basically regulate any area of our lives, isn't this justification for strong language and a clear delineation between freedom and tryanny? Chait called this type of language "hysterical" and Conor was trying to avoid "hysteria" -- but why allow Chait to set the terms for disagreement. This mild, measured response from Conor is indicative of an underlying lack of urgency regarding State power -- it's simply a mild statement of preference. Regardless of what the No Labels movement or centrists in general say about over-heated rhetoric, these issues require language which clearly makes distinctions and addresses the seriousness of losing freedom.

    In the comment section, Noah Millman makes the claim that the Constitution is just a piece of paper and what is important is the separation of powers -- so, don't worry, even if government has all this power, it'll be worked out by the three branches. It's this type of apathetic disregard for limitations on government power which should cause all of us, including Conor in his cool rational center and concern to not be hysterical, to state the position of freedom in the strongest terms possible. Even if Conor was being a little sarcastic about "hysteria", he still failed to use language that addresses the real danger of statism -- the loss of freedom requires a spirited defense, and I've noticed that many current thinkers like Conor are concerned with what others think about the depth of their convictions, which is odd. Why is it now uncool to have deep convictions and to express them in strong language appropriate to the gravitas of the issue. I understand how someone expressing strong convictions could be seen as a hypocrite if they have held opposing positions shortly before with no explanation of enlightened conversion, but Conor says he's concerned about what can't be covered by Congressonal action if the mandate is allowed, but also says he does not "imagine that America is going to cease to be free". Perhaps Conor needs to work on his imagination, because I can imagine a government with unlimited powers, all three branches, killing freedom for good. I have no problem calling this government socialism, or worse.


    Perception is perception, reality is reality

    I remember how profound it felt years ago when I could find the right situation to use the newly found phrase -- "Perception is reality". Of course I didn't think very deeply about this at the time, and it was years, and many had knocks, later before I realized the pretentious emptiness of this phrase.

    Perception is reality only in the subjective sense that if I think I'm not broke, I can feel rich, and it works until the rent is due. I was reading Noah Millman's post at American Scene about the public perception of Obama and the economy. Some people are concerned about how to change the public's perception of Obama and the economy, suggesting that perception's the problem moreso than the fact that people actually understand economics and find fault with the theory and reasons which motivate the administration's actions.

    People are angry, according to Millman, because they perceive Obama as favoring special interests, suggesting that if the public could somehow perceive Obama as helping them, then they would like him. Of course, you could say that if Obama was actually helping the general public, they would like him, but, no, Obama just hasn't done a good job framing himself as a populist -- his actions which have affected the economy can be justified -- the actions, however, have been misperceived as geared toward powerful interests and not the good of the public -- the public's perception is off. The only answer, now, says Millman, agreeing with Matt Yglesias, is to get the economy moving and reduce unemployment by any means necessary.

    If I’m not sure Yglesias’ description is complete, his prescription – do whatever it takes to get the economy moving and, specifically, reduce unemployment – is probably the only one that could actually work.

    Why hasn't Obama thought of this? Oh, yes, he did, with the 800 billion and change stimulus. But, now they're saying Obama should do more -- whatever is necessary. Whatever? I have a problem with doing "whatever" is necessary, because short term fixes might be good politically, but they're usually bad for the country later on, and even though Millman and Yglesias seem more concerned with Obama's image than with the reality of our economy, I prefer more fundamental solutions.

    Millman goes to write:

    One thing I’d be curious to know: what are the perceptions of Obama among members of the media, relative to their perceptions of past Presidents? I ask because while this recession has generally been much kinder to more educated professionals than to people without a college degree, the news media is going through a fundamental restructuring that is absolutely wrenching. It’s probably the worst time in memory to try to make a living as a reporter, and reporters are the people who write these stories about how badly the President is doing.

    If Millman perceives the press as against Obama, then this perception problem is contagious, but I want to address is the "educated professionals" comment. Millman says educated professionals have done better in the recession than people with college degrees, but isn't this also true in a good economy? I guess what he's saying is that most workers losing their jobs are people without degrees. I haven't seen any studies on this, but I'll take his word for it. The problem is that the businesses which hire these workers are not certain how regulations will effect them  and what the costs of hiring will be in the future -- this is because of major changes in healthcare and, now ,finance, with energy coming soon. Obama was instrumental in fighting for these changes, even though the congress and the administration are both responsible, along with the statist direction of the government going back decades, but, then, congress is less popular than Obama.

    The perceptions of businesses are based on real changes which affect their bottom line. As a businessman myself, I know -- government manipluation of the housing industry has now put my company in danger of closing -- is this reality, or perception? I suppose we could argue about the government's role in the housing collapse, but any reasonable analysis includes at least partial responsibility. So, it's reasonable to have a negative perception of actions which have proved to be detrimental. The public feeling the consequences of administrative actions might not understand Keynesian economics but they can understand the results. Unlike politicians or bureacrats in Washington D.C., most people can't make a living on perceptions, they have to work in the world of reality, producing real things -- that is if they can find work.


    The Waffling Middle

    Some people might have forgotten that Bill Clinton perfected the art of waffling. You don't hear the term used much now, but during the 90s it described a middle position which took targeted positions which were all over the ideological map -- some called it nuanced and pragmatic, others called it cynical, but it was clearly in the service of pushing a hidden agenda that definitely wasn't centrist. If the Republicans hadn't won congress and resisted his and Hillary's agenda, it would've been disastrous.

    So far, President Obama has taken some of the waffling lessons to heart, but with a Democrat majority in congress, the tactic hasn't been used as much as Clinton used it in the 90s. A few days ago, I wrote a post about intellectual magic, and it relates to waffling - taking small, targeted positions while avoiding committment to a clear direction or standing on principles -- the targeted positions are used to promote a direction - a statist direction.

    It speaks to the modern liberal attempt to claim the mantle of freedom-fighter and open-minded seeker of truth, while working through political power and coercion to limit freedom and marginalize opposition. Modern liberals with a progressive bent, but a centrist pose, are illiberal in the sense they support statism to achieve their goals. Noah Millman wrote at The American Scene that liberals are resistant to authority. Perhaps he means real liberals, the original version of "liberal", but he can't seriously be talking about those in the Democrat Party today who identify themselves as liberals.

    Liberals in the Democrat Party resist authority which is identified with rightwing political control, but when in power, modern liberals have proved to be just as authoritarian, they merely justify their authoritarian actions as friendly policies meant to build the good society. Authority is all throughout the Democrat Party. According to the second definition of authoritarianism from, we have --

    of or pertaining to a governmental or political system, principle, or practice in which individual freedom is held as completely subordinate to the power or authority of the state, centered either in one person or a small group that is not constitutionally accountable to the people.
    This applies to the Democrat Party. The so-called "liberals" are justifying the violations on the basis that the common good, described by the State, is superior to individual freedoms. Surely Millman is not talking about modern liberals in the Democrat Party.
    Actually, Millman has it somewhat backwards -- modern conservatives are calling for individual freedom and less State authority, yet, I'm sure he'll claim that conservatives' resistance to gay rights and abortion rights shows they are hypocritical when talking about individual rights. I guess what has to be established is -- what's meant by promoting freedom? Are we saying individuals should be free to act as they like as long as they're not violating the rights of others, or should State coercion be used to violate the rights of some to promote more oportunities for others  -- is this freedom-promotion? This is more related to group advancement through political power than individual freedom, because when you use political power to give advantages to one group over another, this invariably takes freedom away from many individuals who are in the losing group.
    But, conservatives need to understand that individual rights apply to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. On race and gender, I believe both liberals and conservatives promote equal rights applied evenly through the law. However, most conservatives have no problem with laws that discriminate against gays. Most modern liberals have no problem with laws that discriminate against rich white men.
    Both liberals and conservatives would do good to understand the orignal meaning of liberal. This goes back to waffling -- come to think of it, both sides should quit waffling and committ to true liberal principles. For many years, both liberals and conservatives have spoken about freedom, yet both have used political power to reduce freedom. Millman's descriptions are largely distinctons without a difference -- it's mainly a difference of whose rights will be violated, which definition of progress is used, which power-base will be protected and which group will have the power of authority. I know I'm going beyond the purpose of Millman's post which was mainly descriptive, but his post leaves the wrong impression, I believe, and is based on waffling rhetoric rather than anything found in reality.
    Libertarians are the only ones coming close to classical liberal principles, anti-authoritarianism and equal rights and justice for all.
    Sorry about the rambling, just thinking out loud.