Fuzzy little things that I find interesting.

Political musings from someone who thinks the S-D curve is more important to politics than politicians.

Do you want to know the future of housing? Look at how royalty lives.

The future of America’s suburbs looks infinite

Just a decade ago, in the midst of the financial crisis, suburbia’s future seemed perilous, with experts claiming that many suburban tracks were about to become “the next slums.” The head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development proclaimed that “sprawl” was now doomed, and people were “headed back to the city.”

“Experts.” (Eye roll.)

Most so-called “experts” are mother-fucking morons who are more interested in imposing their vision onto our lives, rather than allowing us to choose for ourselves. I have no patience for them, especially the ones who look backwards to history, picking and choosing the lessons they want to project on us, without considering the “why” of history, and without using a calculator to calculate the costs of their proposals.

This story reflected strong revivals of many core cities, and deep-seated pain in many suburban markets. Yet today, less than a decade later, as we argue in the new book that we co-edited, “Infinite Suburbia,” the periphery remains the dominant, and fastest growing, part of the American landscape.

Well, that’s just the stupidity of Americans, right? Um, no…

This is not just occurring in the United States. In many other countries, as NYU’s Solly Angel has pointed out, growth inevitably means “spreading out” toward the periphery, with lower densities, where housing is often cheaper, and, in many cases, families find a better option than those presented by even the most dynamic core cities.

So, do you want to know the future of housing, and to understand how people would choose to live if they could?

Easy. Look to the rich. Look to those who, throughout history, had access to the resources necessary in order to live the lifestyle they want, without the limits of economics or politics or logistics.

So, do the rich live in tiny little apartments in the center of town?

Do the rich forgo cars in favor of sitting alongside their fellow man on the subway?

Do the rich spend their time walking along crowded city streets?

No.

The legacy of the Vanderbilts billions (adjusted for inflation) was not a one bedroom apartment in the downtown region of Raleigh. It was a 200 room sprawling estate on an 8,000 acre estate in the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. The “Mad King” Ludwig II of Bavaria did not live in a 2 bedroom apartment in Fussen next store to the public Opera House. He built Castle Neuschwanstein, within eyeshot of Castle Hohenschwangau.

Look anywhere in the world and at any time in history, and Kings and Emperors and the incredibly wealthy never chose to live in apartments. Some did maintain penthouse apartments in major cities–but as a second home convenient for performing business. Their main homes were estates; gigantic homes on rolling landscapes, away from their fellow man.

To suggest somehow that these impulses–to live in relative isolation, away from others, in a home of your own, on chunk of land, enjoying relative privacy even in exchange of relative convenience–are somehow limited to the rich: that having money makes these impulses sane, while not having money makes them ill-thought out or crazy: that’s just classist.

And fucking crazy.

Suburbs represent the urge of everyone to satisfy that impulse of relative isolation and relative comfort; to have some privacy in a space you call your own. Of course not everyone can have a 200 room mansion on 8,000 acres of rolling forests. But a lot of people can afford a 3 bedroom house on a quarter acre with a cute little backyard, perhaps with an outdoor barbecue.

The only reason why home ownership rates have declined with Millennials is not because they’re “woke.”

It’s because they’re “broke.”

And the moment they are no longer broke, thanks to sky-high student debt, you’ll see home ownership rates with Millennials increase. Not because of any sort of failure or brainwashing. But because they can, and because it’s what people really want.

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I think this is the point.

Question asked: Is Hollywood Support Now a Liability for Democrats?

Hollywood has long been a safe and secure stronghold for Democrats. It was where they could safely raise a great deal of money while still pretending to care about the little guy. After all, these aren’t your typical rich people: they make movies! That means they’re regular folks who understand the people, despite never associating with any regular folks ever.

The Hollywood elite always lined up to endorse the latest Democrat darling. They’d stump for them: the allure of a celebrity in the flesh would lure potential voters out to rallies, then convince them to vote Dem on the strength of the actor’s charisma.

But then the world learned about Harvey Weinstein.

But here’s the thing. All this sexual hanky-panky, involving casting couches and starlettes (and young stars) being sexually abused by older, more powerful people in the business: this has been a well known “secret” for decades. And let’s be honest: if the gatekeeper standing between you and stardom that involves making millions (rather than being a washed-up D-lister who appears on a handful of TV shows in one-off roles) wants you to strip naked and do a little priouette on their genitals–well, a lot of people are more than happy to take one for the team regardless of how gross. Especially when they are the “I” in team.

So the fact that Hollywood is a moral cesspool has been known pretty much forever.

So why now?

My thinking: part of it was driven to drive this “open secret” out into the open, to force Hollywood to “live up to its own book of rules,” rule 4 in Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.” Notice the attack started with Harvey Weinstein, reportedly one of the largest Hollywood fundraisers for the Democratic Party.

And then it all snowballed.


As it is oft noted on Instapundit, the left will miss civility when it’s gone. Because there are a lot of people on the Left who will become fair game.

And, as my wife noted, we’ll get 9 more seasons of “The Orville”, which got an 18% on Rotten Tomatoes and was panned hard by reviewers–because no-one else will be left in Hollywood to make TV shows.

Instead of theorizing what they could do, ask why we want them.

The Death Of The Car

When you think about it, automobile ownership is a wildly inefficient use of capital. It is usually a family’s second largest expense, after their home, running $30,000-$80,000. It then sits unused in garages or public parking for 96%-98% of the day. Insurance, maintenance and liability costs can be off the charts.

What if your car were used 24/7, as is machinery in well-run industrial plants? Your cost drops by 96%-98% to the point where it is almost free. The sharing economy is the way to accomplish this.

Essentially he is arguing that, at some level, cars will become interchangeable and replaceable, and in essence instead of pulling the family car out of the driveway you’ll ask for a self-driving car on demand from Uber.


But hang on a second. Why do we have cars?

At the bottom of the stack, they are–in most cases, more than most urban planners care to admit–they are the most time efficient way for us to go from “here” to “there.” For example, if I need to go to the grocery store, it is the fastest way for me to get to the grocery store, load up on my week’s worth of groceries, and drive home.

And that’s even true if the grocery story is within walking distance of home, since the important part is the ability to move a car-load of groceries relatively quickly to the house before the ice cream melts. (For my wife and I, a weeks worth of groceries fills about 6 to 8 cubic feet of space; far more than can be pulled on a utility cart.

The problem with ordering an Uber ride to go everywhere is the overhead of waiting for the Uber ride–which in my area runs around 10 to 15 minutes. Meaning for me to take an Uber ride to the grocery store (which is 3 miles away) I effectively double to triple the amount of time it takes to get to the store itself, most of that time spent waiting for my car to arrive. To go from here to there and back–I’m adding nearly a half hour to my trip just waiting around for an Uber ride.

And then I have to unload my groceries when I arrive back home before I can release the car–which essentially forces me to prioritize unloading over orderly sorting of groceries. (If I own the car, I can leave a couple of bags of vegetables in the car while sorting through the frozen goods.)

Considering that the average amount of time most people have historically spent in one form of transportation or another is around 50 minutes per day–waiting for half an hour for a short trip to the grocery store significantly uses up that 50 minute budget.

(As a rule of thumb people spend an average of 5% of their waking day–around 50 minutes–going from one place to another. This 50 minute average is true throughout history. It’s true today (17600/365=48.2), regardless of mode of transportation, it was true during medieval times. It’s why most medieval market towns–ones that lack town walls–are roughly a mile or two across; three miles is how far one can walk in an hour at a relatively brisk pace. And it directly implies a 50 minute per day transportation budget; the more time wasted in inefficient transportation (such as waiting for an Uber ride), the more inconvenient that mode of transportation is.)


Cars happen to serve two other purposes, which would force us to rethink cars in a brave new world of interchangeable self-driving modules. First, they serve as means of expression–status symbols or avatars that we use to express who we are to the world. (I bring this up because the original article’s $80k price point for a car doesn’t buy you a car; it buys you a status symbol. So to assume this is a wasteful capital expense ignores why it was purchased in the first place; after all, luxury watches and women’s jewelry are also wasteful capital expenses.)

This also happens to be true of older cars and of utility cars such as pickup trucks.

And second, cars serve as a sort of “second home”; a place where we store things we routinely use as part of our routine trips. (For example, how many of you keep the office access card in your car? Some people I know keep their work supplies in their car, including a change of clothes.)

But at its core, cars represent transportation freedom by being the most efficient way to go from point A to point B, and to bring things back from point B to point A.


Now I can see a brave new world where for those times we need something specialized we hire a service rather than owning it ourselves. For example, once in a while it would be useful for me to have a pickup truck rather than a small two-seater car. So being able to open up “Uber for Trucks” to hire a self-driving truck to meet me at the Home Depot to bring home a bunch of stuff would be useful.

I can also see, in an attempt to control increasing volume of traffic in small urban cores, a requirement that your car must be in self-driving mode if you traverse an urban core–and even expanding the self-driving logic to slot your car in the traffic flow in the same way Air Traffic Control for aircraft provide time slots for commercial aircraft. (You have been scheduled to arrive between 11:12 and 11:14 in downtown Los Angeles. Please remain in self-drive mode. We are cleared to depart in 6 minutes; departure window void in 8 minutes.)

But unless we are willing to inconvenience ourselves by forcing us to wait for a car every time we drive, burning the 50 minute average transportation time budget most of us subconsciously have, the reality is it will be more convenient for us to own our own personal car.

And so long as car ownership remains an option, there will always be a market for personalized cars; for luxury cars, for cars which represent us as we drive (or are driven) to our destination.

Probably the best example of Thomas Sowell’s “Unconstrained Vision.”

I’ve referred to Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions repeatedly in the past, because to me, it (along with the 11 nations model offered in Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America) provide an excellent model to help explain modern politics in the United States.

In his book, Thomas Sowell theorizes two visions of mankind; one associated with the liberal progressive view of the “unconstrained vision” of mankind:

Ultimately they believe that man is morally perfectible. Because of this, they believe that there exist some people who are further along the path of moral development, have overcome self-interest and are immune to the influence of power and therefore can act as surrogate decision-makers for the rest of society.

As a result:

Those with an unconstrained vision distrust decentralized processes and are impatient with large institutions and systemic processes that constrain human action. They believe there is an ideal solution to every problem, and that compromise is never acceptable. Collateral damage is merely the price of moving forward on the road to perfection.

And now, Governor Jerry Brown outs himself as a believer in the “unconstrained vision”:

“It’s not just a light rinse,” Brown said. “We need a total, I might say brainwashing. We need to wash our brains out and see a very different kind of world

To Mr. Brown, the election of Trump is a sign: a sign that we have gone down the wrong “moral path” and need a wholesale correction before we go down the wrong path to our destruction.

After all, this (and not environmental warming) is the ultimate message of Global Warming alarmists in the media: that we must repent, that we must see the errors of our way, and we must give ourselves to the Bodhisattvas on the Left who can lead us out of the desert and to the promised land.

The environmental damage itself is really just a sign from Gaia for our moral imperfection–and while there is a “scientific explanation” for these signs (though “tipping points”–future predictions without past examples–are about as scientific as reading tea leaves), they are sold to us as a sign of our moral failures. And they are sold to us in the same way the sins of mankind were justification for Noah’s flood, or for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Think I’m being silly? Again, Governor Brown:

“The power here is prophecy. The power here is faith, and that’s what this organization is supposed to be about. So, let’s be about it and combine with the technical and the scientific and the political.”

“The problem … is us. It’s our whole way of life. It’s our comfort … It’s the greed. It’s the indulgence. It’s the pattern. And it’s the inertia.”

It is our moral failures, deciding to lead wicked lives of comfort and joy and abundance behind the walls of Sodom. We have been given signs and portents by almighty God, and if we could only just find 10 righteous people who can lead us to salvation, we will surely die.

Instead, Brown called for a fundamental transformation of people’s way of life.

Repent!


It has always fascinated me that the Liberal Progressive movement, so deeply rooted in the “Unconstrained Vision”, fails to understand its own religiosity.

After all, you cannot have a moral arc without absolute morality–and absolute morality is only philosophically justifiable with an external frame of reference.

To the religious, God provides that external frame of reference; there are absolute rights and absolute wrongs on which to hang a moral framework because God said so.

But without God–there can be no absolute external frame of reference on which to hang morality. I mean, you can (as I do) assume at the bottom of your ontological stack there are certain truths which are informed by reasonable assumptions. But you must start with reasonable assumptions. You must start, for example, with the assumption that individual life is precious, and as thinking beings our desire for self-expression is important.

But without an absolute truth, you have nothing to hang your hat on.

Which, to me, is the ultimate irony of global warming alarmists who parade around in the press demanding we repent for our comfortable lifestyles. Because the world will survive, even if we do not. Even if we make the world so inhospitable that human life goes extinct, the world will survive and carry on without us. And, if some on the Left are to be believed, it would carry on far better without us.

So caught in this inherent philosophical trap of believing we must save the world from us, but save it for us, all the Left can do is appeal to an absolute moral arc that depends on absolute morality–an absolute morality that can only be provided by a God many on the Left profess not to believe in.


The only way out of this philosophical trap is to either believe in God (and that you are doing the Lord’s work), or to believe there is no absolute moral arc–and all that is left is for each of us to cut our own way through the Jungle.

But if you arrive there, you arrive at Sowell’s “Constrained vision” of mankind. Because without an absolute moral arc to serve as your compass, how do you sort between the Bodhisattvas and the charlatans?

… And?

Does The Republican Tax Plan “Screw Democratic Voters”?

That’s what Kevin Drum says at Mother Jones. Leftists are up in arms at the idea of taking away the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes and capping the home interest deduction at $500,000.

So fucking what?

I mean, we’ve heard for years that tax deductions favor the rich, and are essentially welfare for the rich. I mean, how often do we hear about “ending welfare to oil companies”, despite the fact that the biggest “oil company welfare” programs include the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, counted as a sort of subsidy to oil companies in that it effectively gives money to oil companies to allow the sale of cheap home heating oil to the poor.

We’ve also been constantly reminded that Democrats tend to live in wealthy enclaves while Republicans are in poorer rural areas–a reminder that plays out most often when we hear about Republicans “voting against their interests”, the implication is that Republicans are stupid poor whites who cling to their bibles and guns.

So in this setting, how can one argue that the home mortgage tax deduction for home loans above $500,000–a mortgage which is only affordable to families making over $165k/year (about three times the national average, and within spitting distance of the top 5% of income earners)–is anything but welfare for the rich?

And how can anyone argue that allowing property tax deductions and federal and state tax deductions above $10,000–which implies property values above a half a million dollars owned by someone in the top 5% of income earners–is anything but welfare for the rich?

We are constantly reminded that Democrats are more successful than their Republican counterparts.

Does this entitle Democrats to a greater share of welfare for the wealthy?

Please.

The hypocrisy here runs thick here.


My point is this.

Either you agree with the statement that tax cuts will inherently help those who pay the most taxes–i.e., the wealthy, including relatively wealthier Californians and New Yorkers–at which point shut the fuck up about benefiting the wealthy.

Or you believe that the wealthy need to “pay their fair share”–and if you are a wealthier Californian and New Yorker, that includes you.

But slicing the baby in the way the Mother Jones article does so as to make the argument that somehow wealthier Democrats are being penalized because they’re Democrat and not because they’re wealthier?

*eye roll*

So remind me, why are people so dumb as to talk to the police?

Tripping Up Trump

The versatility of the federal criminal law can be a useful tool against genuine criminals. Consider the famous example of gangster Al Capone, jailed for tax evasion when murder and extortion charges wouldn’t stick. But Capone was a career criminal, and he was evading taxes before anyone pursued him. Modern federal investigators and prosecutors have learned the trick of startling their quarry into foolish actions, making their prior criminality irrelevant.

The examples are legion. Martha Stewart was convicted for how she reacted to an insider trading investigation, not for insider trading. Scooter Libby was convicted of lying to a grand jury investigating leaks, not for leaking. Retired Marine Corps general James E. Cartwright was convicted of lying to the FBI during their leak investigation, not of leaking. Clinton-era housing secretary Henry Cisneros was convicted of lying to the FBI about money he gave a girlfriend, not for the wide-ranging subject of the independent-counsel investigation into him. New York state senator Thomas Libous was convicted not of the corruption he was accused of but for lying to the FBI in the course of the investigation. House speaker Dennis Hastert was investigated for misuse of public funds, and was proved to have engaged in horrendous child abuse, but was ultimately convicted of lying to the FBI about the money he used to pay his victim and of structuring those payments in a way designed to evade detection. Rapper Lil’ Kim wasn’t convicted for participating in a gunfight; she was convicted for lying to a grand jury about one.

As a refresher for all of you who are high in the ranks of political power and who may become the subject of an FBI investigation, I provide you this video:

So what did I say the other day?

Mother Jones journalist David Corn joked about rape, gave ‘unwelcome shoulder rubs’: Emails

Emails from 2014 and 2015 suggest that a top editor for the progressive magazine Mother Jones sexually assaulted subordinates and made inappropriate comments about their bodies, a report said.

Portfolio manager accused of raping, beating women in penthouse dungeon

A former portfolio manager for an investment fund founded by financier George Soros sexually abused women at a Manhattan penthouse dungeon, according to a $27 million Brooklyn federal suit.

Kevin Spacey chose to engage an old and toxic myth

In response to Rapp’s claims, Spacey released a statement in which he insisted he couldn’t recall the night in question, and then said: “But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” This is an apology that will make its way into the great hall of historic nondenial denials. But the recourse to blaming Bacchus isn’t even the worst of it.

In his statement, Spacey went on to confirm another rumor: “I choose now to live as a gay man.” Great. Welcome out of the closet, Kevin. But is that 2,000 years of homophobic stereotype I hear in the background?

Brett Ratner Harassment Scandal: Warner Bros. ‘Reviewing’ Allegations

Warner Bros. said it is aware of the sexual harassment allegations against producer and director Brett Ratner and is looking into the situation.

Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment banner has a $450 million film co-financing pact with the studio and rents office space on the lot. The director and producer was accused of sexual harassment or misconduct by six women, including actress Natasha Henstridge, in a report published Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times.

Second Woman Accuses Dustin Hoffman of Sexual Harassment, as Hollywood Scandal Grows

For the second time in as many days, Dustin Hoffman has been accused of sexual harassment by a woman who worked with him in the entertainment industry.

On Thursday, Nov. 2, writer and TV producer Wendy Riss Gatsiounis came forward with allegations that the acclaimed 80-year-old actor made a pass at her when she was pitching a project to his production company in 1991. At the time, she was in her 20s and he was 53.

Jeremy Piven interview pulled from The Late Show amid sexual harassment allegations

Jeremy Piven, who currently stars on CBS’ Wisdom of the Crowd, was supposed to appear on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Friday; however, that’s no longer happening.

EW has confirmed that the network decided to pull a pre-taped interview with the Entourage alum given recent allegations of sexual harassment against him.

38 Women Accuse Director James Toback Of Sexual Misconduct

In a new Los Angeles Times report, 38 women accuse director James Toback of sexual harassment.

The allegations against Toback somewhat resemble those against producer Harvey Weinstein, who was fired from his own company earlier this month after scores of women said the career-making mogul assaulted, harassed or intimidated them. Toback, 72, stands accused of harassing women he employed and women he approached on the street.

Roy Price, Amazon Studios Head, Quits Amid Sexual Harassment Claim

Roy Price resigned as head of Amazon Studios on Tuesday, just days after a producer for one of the company’s hit shows went on the record to say he’d harassed her.

An Amazon Studios spokeswoman confirmed Price’s resignation to HuffPost, but said “there is no statement at this time.”

In a story published last week, Isa Hackett, a producer for “The Man in the High Castle,” told The Hollywood Reporter that Price had repeatedly propositioned her for sex after she’d spent the day promoting the show at the San Diego Comic-Con in July 2015.


What did I say just a few days ago?

The Left has engaged in a systematic war on religion–and while the bad parts of religion (such as tribalism and elitism) certainly deserve to be attacked, the aspects which teach “original sin” (that is, when we are all born we are all blank slates unknowing of what it means to be a good person) and how to be a better person (that is, how one can improve oneself morally and ethically) certainly did not deserve to be tossed in the trash heap.

Because without striving to make ourselves better–without the constant individual pursuit towards personal knowledge, self-discovery and self-improvement–what is left? People as cogs in a political machine? Piling up money and political connections? Claiming “#metoo” so you can feel good about your victimhood status and your position on the victimization totem pole?

…[W]ithout such a framework, all that is left is politics: we make moral proclamations not because we have any moral principles, but as a political tool to gin up outrage in order to force political change.

But politics cannot affect morality when political believers do not believe in morality.

All politics can do is rearrange the deck chairs: to give more political power to one group, to take political power away from another group. And worse: politics can only provide the illusion of morality–which is why Harvey Weinstein was able to thrive so long. Because as a major donor to the Democratic Party he had the perfect fig leaf, in the form of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to pursue his own sexually abusive appetites amongst the glitterati of Hollywood, all of whom knew for decades what sort of a predatory asshole Mr. Weinstein was.

Note that David Corn, Keven Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, and Jeremy Piven [*] are all liberal Democrats.

Remember: if you are flying a drone, YOU ARE A PILOT and are responsible for flying safely.

But what if there is no middle?

On Safari in Trump’s America

The trip was predicated on the optimistic notion that if Americans would only listen to each other, they would find more that united than divided them. This notion—the idea that, beyond our polarized politics, lies a middle, or third, path on which most can come together in agreement—is Third Way’s raison d’etre. It is premised on the idea that partisanship is bad, consensus is good, and that most Americans would like to meet in the middle.

But what if there is no middle? What if, beyond policy prescriptions and ideas how to help the country, lies a fundamental philosophical schism which can never be bridged any more than matter and anti-matter can be mixed?

Of course the problem with the Third Way folks is that they wanted to find political consensus, and they “found” it:

… The Viroqua representatives were eager to extol the virtues of their community. It was an oasis of sanity, an organic farmer in a pink-and-blue plaid shirt said—unlike the dismal city where he’d grown up. “There was no culture with which to identify, just television, drinking, maybe sports,” he said. “There’s nothing to aspire to. You’re just going through life with a case of Mountain Dew in your car.”

The cafe owner—a bearded man in a North Face fleece—had recently attended a town hall held by the local Democratic congressman, Ron Kind, a Third Way stalwart and former chair of the House’s centrist New Democrat Coalition. “I’m not, like, a jumping-up-and-down Berniecrat,” the man said. “But what you see in these congressional meetings is a refusal to even play ball” with ideas considered too extreme, like single-payer health care. “All these centrist ideals,” he said, “are just perpetuating a broken system.”

This was a direct attack on the very premise of Third Way’s existence. These were not the ideas of the middle 70 percent. These were not the voices of an America that wanted to find mutual understanding with its neighbors. They were, essentially, separatists, proud of their extremism and disdainful of the unenlightened.

That moment of doubt does not appear in the report that Third Way released, which distills the group’s conclusions from the tour I joined. …

The report surprised me when I read it. Despite the great variety of views the researchers and I had heard on our tour, the report had somehow reached the conclusion that Wisconsinites wanted consensus, moderation, and pragmatism—just like Third Way.

But if you don’t examine your own ontological stack–if you don’t examine the core assumptions and core philosophies which motivate your own thinking–then really you have few lessons to learn:

“I’ve come to the conclusion that most of our divisions have to do with lack of understanding,” [Nancy Hale] told me. “And I don’t mean in some kind of academic way, I mean in a very human way. …”

A true Democratic operative.


But what, at the bottom of the ontological stack, is a fundamental schism?

What if there is no compromise between “top-down” solutions and “bottom-up” solutions? What if there is no middle ground between The Divine Right of Kings and The Will Of The People? What if there is no such thing as “partial-enslavement”, what if you can’t just be sorta pregnant?

When I read stuff like this, my mind goes back to Thomas Sowell’s excellent book A Conflict of Visions, Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. In his book, economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell postulates two fundamental underlying visions of humanity:

The Unconstrained Vision (generally held by liberal-progressives)

Sowell argues that the unconstrained vision relies heavily on the belief that human nature is essentially good. Those with an unconstrained vision distrust decentralized processes and are impatient with large institutions and systemic processes that constrain human action. They believe there is an ideal solution to every problem, and that compromise is never acceptable. Collateral damage is merely the price of moving forward on the road to perfection. Sowell often refers to them as “the self anointed.” Ultimately they believe that man is morally perfectible. Because of this, they believe that there exist some people who are further along the path of moral development, have overcome self-interest and are immune to the influence of power and therefore can act as surrogate decision-makers for the rest of society.

and the Constrained Vision (generally–but not always–held by conservatives in the US).

Sowell argues that the constrained vision relies heavily on belief that human nature is essentially unchanging and that man is naturally inherently self-interested, regardless of the best intentions. Those with a constrained vision prefer the systematic processes of the rule of law and experience of tradition. Compromise is essential because there are no ideal solutions, only trade-offs. Those with a constrained vision favor solid empirical evidence and time-tested structures and processes over intervention and personal experience. Ultimately, the constrained vision demands checks and balances and refuses to accept that all people could put aside their innate self-interest.

It is a coincidental but oblique confirmation of this idea that the constrained vision of man as unchanging, self-interested, and flawed that Justice Janice Brown makes in her excellent speech “A Whiter Shade of Pale”: Sense and Nonsense — The Pursuit of Perfection in Law and Politics when she refers to the U.S. Constitution and her discomfort in Justice Holmes dissent in Lochner:

That Lochner dissent has troubled me — has annoyed me — for a long time and finally I understand why. It’s because the framers did draft the Constitution with a surrounding sense of a particular polity in mind, one based on a definite conception of humanity. In fact as Professor Richard Epstein has said, Holmes’s contention is “not true of our [ ] [Constitution], which was organized upon very explicit principles of political theory.” It could be characterized as a plan for humanity “after the fall.”

(Emphasis mine.)

“The fall,” of course, refers to the Fall of Man from the Garden of Eden, after Adam ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And it refers to the idea of Original Sin, which in some corners is interpreted not so much that man is evil, but that free will gives us the capacity for evil.

In other words, “human nature is unchanging and man is inherently self-interested.”

Also, keep in mind “self-interested” is not the evil horror that is sometimes suggested. Many on the Unconstrained Left consider the idea of self-interest as inherently destructive and evil: consider the number of times we hear about “greedy” companies and the horrors of “greed” and self-interest.

Yet, in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”, Adam Smith’s prequel to the more famous “Wealth of Nations”, observed:

The administration of the great system of the universe … the care of the universal happiness of all rational and sensible beings, is the business of God and not of man. To man is allotted a much humbler department, but one much more suitable to the weakness of his powers, and to the narrowness of his comprehension: the care of his own happiness, of that of his family, his friends, his country…. But though we are … endowed with a very strong desire of those ends, it has been entrusted to the slow and uncertain determinations of our reason to find out the proper means of bringing them about. Nature has directed us to the greater part of these by original and immediate instincts. Hunger, thirst, the passion which unites the two sexes, and the dread of pain, prompt us to apply those means for their own sakes, and without any consideration of their tendency to those beneficent ends which the great Director of nature intended to produce by them.

The rich only select from the heap what is most precious and agreeable. They consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity, though they mean only their own conveniency, though the sole end which they propose from the labours of all the thousands whom they employ, be the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires, they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life, which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants, and thus without intending it, without knowing it, advance the interest of the society, and afford means to the multiplication of the species.

In other words, mankind is finite, unable to comprehend much beyond our own immediate sphere of influence. We were then created as “self-interested” and “selfish”: determined to help ourselves and our families–yet in this great system where I produce your daily bread for my own benefit and not yours, somehow we are lead by an “invisible hand”, which is, in a real sense, the invisible hand of God.


I point out these two examples (though there are countless others ranging from the Federalist Papers to modern-day economists and philosophers) to illustrate the idea that Thomas Sowell’s notion of the constrained man as burdened Original Sin is not a new idea unique to Sowell’s writings, but reflects a range of ideas from Locke (and his idea of the mind as tabula rasa, with knowledge determined only by experience), through Hume and Smith to Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind,” which establishes belief in transcendent order and natural law as a cornerstone of conservative thought.

(The one place where I depart from Russell Kirk is in his apparent belief that Western Civilization can only hold if it is held by Christians. To me, the idea of a constrained vision of man, led by self-interested people who are unable to conceive of those beyond our own line of sight, but somehow organized by the spontaneous chaos of billions of people seeking to live our lives in freedom–is a universal one. The constrained idea of man and the idea of “original sin”–that is, that we are born with free will but no understanding how to act, that we are finite beings only able to understand what we experience–is one that can be understood as true by Atheists and Muslims and Jews alike, even as they reject the more technical concept of Christian “Original Sin.” And it is Russell Kirk’s mistake he could not separate the philosophical idea that man is finite from his own deeply held Christian faith.)


The thing about this theory, of two conflicting visions–one of a perfectible man which can strive towards Utopia, be it Marx’s communist paradise or the paradise of a Socialist Utopia, another of mankind “after the fall” who may aspire to the better angles of our nature but are forever groveling in the dirt–is that this conflict can never be reconciled.

You either believe mankind can be elevated: that we can create a better society by improving mankind as a species. Or you do not.

You either believe growth and salvation is a personal affair, or a societal affair.

You either believe there are “the anointed”, those Bodhisattvas who can lead us as a society to salvation–whose very presence cause “the rise of the oceans … to slow, and our planet … to heal”.

Or you believe there are no anointed, no Bodhisattvas who can take our pain–and all that is left is for each of us to cut our own way through the jungle. That it is for us alone to find our own full potential as individuals, to use our freedom to express ourselves, to discover ourselves, and to pursue contentment and stability and pass those values as we find them to the next generation.

There is no middle ground.


Sadly for The Third Way who went on a safari in Middle America to help chart a course for Democrats to follow, this lesson was lost on them.

But then, they weren’t even looking.

It was gratifying to Nancy Hale to find, in the end, that America wasn’t lost. To be sure, there had been moments that made her wonder. But as she looked back on it, she had managed to edit those moments out of her memory. The American people, she concluded, were not as divided and irreconcilable as the election made them seem. Progressive neoliberalism was not a lost cause. The world she believed in before—the world she preferred to inhabit—was the one she and her fellow American explorers had managed to find: not a strange land at all but a reassuring one.

And so liberals go back to the same old thing: to chart a new course to Utopia that can be successfully taught to the rubes of Middle America, to find a new Bodhisattva who can teach that new way, and for those Bodhisattvas to walk amongst the common people rather than stay in the ivory towers and think tanks within the Beltway.


How frustrating it must be to be a liberal today.

To see a country embracing what they see as a fundamentally divisive President who tweets all sorts of nonsense at 3 in the morning. To see a country turn its back on “compromise”–compromises which seem based in the notion that there is, indeed, an obvious way forward. To see a country systematically reject the calm Bodhisattvas and technocrats capable of lowering the level of the seas and healing the planet, and embrace someone who seems bent on destroying their noble works.

How frustrating it must be to encounter people who seem to be fighting against their own self-interest–rejecting policy prescriptions and taxpayer assistance which are designed to help communities in trouble.

And if only they would listen; if they would only allow themselves to be changed, to find the compromise position that could lead us to a better world, to a better Utopia.

But they don’t.

And as a liberal, you can’t help but conclude that most people are just fucking stupid.

 

But sadly most Liberals seem unwilling to look at themselves, and recognize that to those like myself who believe in a constrained vision of mankind, what lurks at the bottom of the liberal ontological stack seems unrepentantly evil.

Not just “incorrect,” not just “uncomfortable”–but evil.

Because if you consider that in order to reform society you must fundamentally remake mankind (through education, through limiting choices, through force if needed), and remake mankind in your own vision as a people able to appreciate those beyond our own line of sight as you explain them to us, to instinctually sacrifice for the betterment of The State, what you are really arguing is against freedom. You are demanding I follow your Gods and Bodhisattvas and Leaders, and stop thinking for myself.

You’re demanding enslavement.

And to those of us who are believers in the Fall of Man, what you are doing is complaining that we are refusing to follow you into slavery for “our own good.”

Fuck you. I’d rather go hungry than be a well-fed slave.


Don’t believe me that this is what lies at the heart of a Liberal–the unconstrained view that mankind can be made better if only led by the right Bodhisattvas? That the modern liberal-progressive movement doesn’t care about freedom as a fundamental concept, but only in a limited idea of “freedom” as picking from a State-approved menu of choices?

Just look at the move by the Workers World Party–a Socialist front group reportedly funded by Russia–pull down the statue in Durham. Look at the Left as it shuts down free speech by using violence.

And understand to a conservative these do not look like the exception. They look like the drive to Utopia and the desire to improve mankind, but with the soft glove removed and the bare knuckles exposed.

What we hear is that “you will be improved and society will be made better. And while we want to do this through education and pursuasion and by eliminating ‘bad-think’, we will make you better even if we have to beat you to an inch of your life and send you to the Gulag.”


Sadly the Third Way doesn’t see all of this, doesn’t recognize the ideological and ontological burden they bring when they seek “compromise.”

They don’t realize their prescriptions won’t work because they are unwilling to look at themselves. They are unwilling to find compromise because to find compromise you must be willing to admit that perhaps you are wrong, perhaps your assumptions are incorrect.

And at the end of the day, their attempts seems more about figuring out a better way to lead the lambs to the slaughter.

Some thoughts on the “me too” campaign.

I managed to miss a good chunk of the feel-good hash-tag du’jour “#metoo”, where women are encouraged to share their stories of victimization in order to illustrate their victimhood status.

Okay, let’s make one thing very clear before I go into why all this makes me uncomfortable.

Sexual assault is bad.

That I even need to clarify this illustrates just how fucked up the public discussion on the abuse of women (which I would consider a superset of sexual assault rather than identical) has become. And that I need to clarify this illustrates just how fucked up the public discourse on generally abusive behavior (which again, I would consider a superset of misogyny rather than identical) has become.

It’s almost as if we’ve forgotten what it means to act with manners, treating each other with respect. We’ve forgotten what it means to seek the seven virtues for ourselves and hold them in our hearts as we interact with others: to practice chastity and temperance as we interact with strangers, to act with charity and patience, to show diligence, kindness and humility.

In some quarters, we have deliberately forgotten these virtues–dismissing them as something only religious zealots do. After all, these seven virtues (literally “a habitual and firm disposition to do good”) are a Christian teaching–and as we all know, in these modern post-religious times, anything religious is bad and deserving of being dumped as trash.

And once you dump religion (and its teachings on what it means to be a better person), what is left to govern our interactions with each other?

Politics?

I mean, it’s not like leaving it in the hands of individuals works very well, especially when there is a power disparity.


But I’m not very comfortable with the #metoo thing, for two reasons.

First, we’ve had this conversation before.

We’ve done the whole “women, by show of hands, how many of you have been sexually assaulted?” Like #YesAllWomen, #WhenIWas, #ShePersisted, etc.

And have they helped do anything to actually reduce the instances of sexual assault? Have they done a damned thing other than to devolve into a pointless exercise of victimization reaffirmation?

I mean, shouldn’t we use a different strategy?

#MeToo named the victims. Now, let’s list the perpetrators

It’s true that telling our stories can help – it can help victims not feel quite so alone and make others understand the breadth and depth of the problem. But the truth is that nothing will really change in a lasting way until the social consequences for men are too great for them to risk hurting us.

Why have a list of victims when a list of perpetrators could be so much more useful?

But I suspect part of the problem with the newfound approach of women standing up to abusers, perhaps by getting the police involved, is related to my second reason why all this makes me uncomfortable.


Second, we can’t seem to agree on what sort of “abuse” qualifies one for the #MeToo campaign. And in the process it’s slowly devolving away from talking about physical assault, through loutish behavior, and ending at outright misandry.

Take, for example, this article which seems to conflate sexual assault, abusive behavior and loutish behavior–that is, behavior that is obnoxious but not necessarily abusive: #MeToo. To me there is a sharp distinction between “predator” and “creep”, between “sexist remark”, “rape jokes” and “rape”–yet the article uses them as interchangeable terms.

It’s not to say any of these behaviors are acceptable. But when we live in a world where a suggestive conversation is considered under the same umbrella as a violent rape, when some guy who was told “no” asks for a date a second time is considered under the same umbrella as Harvey Weinstein–haven’t we devolved the later by lumping them under the same umbrella as the former?

Don’t we do a disservice to rape victims by equating their violent rapes with the discomfort of being in the same room as two men share an inappropriate joke?

Can you imagine someone going in a hospital room where a woman, half beaten to death after her rape, lies in recovery and telling her “sister, I know exactly how you feel; once someone called me a ‘bitch'”?

I mean, it’s gotten so bad that the #MeToo campaign has spawned another campaign–from men: #HowIWillChange, which presumes men are guilty of sexual “abuse” until proven innocent.

Again, it’s not to dismiss loutish behavior. Remember my premise above: we have forgotten the seven virtues–and an inappropriate joke in the workplace is a violation of the principle of temperance, of voluntary self-restraint in the face of others.

But the Left, many of whom have latched onto the latest fad of claiming #MeToo (and worse, #HowIWillChange), want nothing to do with this religious mumbo-jumbo, having declared it obsolete.

So what is left? Unprincipled handwringing hasn’t worked; just look at the countless other hashtags going back decades which have done nothing to resolve issues of misogyny in the workplace. Neither has the misandrous attempts at forcing men to confess their sins (but without a framework for “sin” other than deconstructed feminism), which often turn into victim blaming when men point out that, in some instances, they’ve been on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior by women.

(Hell, I’ve been on the receiving end of workplace sexually inappropriate behavior; first, by an overly flirtatious woman when I was working at JBL who wanted to show me her boob job in private, second, by an overly flirtatious QA woman at Symantec at a Christmas Party who suggested we go find a room somewhere to have sex. When I pointed out I was married, she said “me too”; it gave us something in common.)

And it’s why, by the way, we won’t change tactics and provide a list of perpetrators: because doing something like that could backfire. Yes, Harvey Weinstein deeply deserved to be outed decades ago. But the poor sap who asks you out on a date at an inappropriate time: would including his name on a master list of “male predators” really solve anything?


Personally I believe the problem is that in our modern day and age we’ve been systematically dismantling all the cultural frameworks of what it means to be a better person.

The Left has engaged in a systematic war on religion–and while the bad parts of religion (such as tribalism and elitism) certainly deserve to be attacked, the aspects which teach “original sin” (that is, when we are all born we are all blank slates unknowing of what it means to be a good person) and how to be a better person (that is, how one can improve oneself morally and ethically) certainly did not deserve to be tossed in the trash heap.

Because without striving to make ourselves better–without the constant individual pursuit towards personal knowledge, self-discovery and self-improvement–what is left? People as cogs in a political machine? Piling up money and political connections? Claiming “#metoo” so you can feel good about your victimhood status and your position on the victimization totem pole?

By the way, the drive to understand what it means to be a better person is not exclusive to Christianity. All major religions address this problem, to help those find “salvation” of a sort. Islam teaches Zakaat, the responsibility we have to help others, including the poor, the destitute and travelers in need. Judaism teaches the mitzvahs, commandments which require avoidance of certain bad behaviors and the performance of certain good deeds. Buddhism provides tools to its followers designed to help find samadhi, oneness. All the major world religions have something to say about how to be a better person, from literal commandments to spiritual practices.

Even the seven virtues of Christianity have their roots in earlier pre-Christian teachings.

Do away with all this teaching–do away with the ancient question of what it means to become a better person–and what is left?

Certainly Karl Marx had nothing to say about justice or morality. Marx’s work, off of which progressive liberalism owes a hat tip to, was only descriptive of historic evolution and economic issues. He had nothing to say about the *morality* of capitalism or communism. Later writers certainly interpret his works this way–and clearly liberals, when talking about unjust wealth inequality, are making a moral proclamation. But all these moral proclamations are being made absent a consistent moral framework of any kind.

And without such a framework, all that is left is politics: we make moral proclamations not because we have any moral principles, but as a political tool to gin up outrage in order to force political change.

That’s what the #metoo campaign really is: a political attempt to gin up outrage to force political change.

But politics cannot affect morality when political believers do not believe in morality.

All politics can do is rearrange the deck chairs: to give more political power to one group, to take political power away from another group. And worse: politics can only provide the illusion of morality–which is why Harvey Weinstein was able to thrive so long. Because as a major donor to the Democratic Party he had the perfect fig leaf, in the form of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to pursue his own sexually abusive appetites amongst the glitterati of Hollywood, all of whom knew for decades what sort of a predatory asshole Mr. Weinstein was.


Ultimately political attempts to fix morality without any sort of moral framework–which is where the Left currently sits–cannot work. Because there is no “there” there that can be fixed.

Which is why in the end, the “#metoo” campaign will join earlier attempts in the trash heap of history, having done nothing in the end beyond ginning up some outrage about how horrible men are.


You want my “#HowIWillChange”?

Here it is.

To better understand the idea of Original Sin.

To better understand the principles of the Seven Heavenly Virtues and to faithfully attempt to better represent these virtues when interacting with others or when working on my own meditations.

And to demand the cardinal virtue of Justice (that is, righteousness and fairness) in part, by pointing out the hypocrisy in the world around me. A practice which is exemplified in a very small way by this blog post.

And if you don’t see how the seven heavenly virtues leads to an eschewing of misandry and misogyny, to a demand for workplaces free of sexual abuse and sexual favoritism, to a call for women to stand up for themselves rather than to meekly hide in the face of injustice only later to share sad little stories about being offended by jokes told by loutish men who have been raised in a modern culture which teaches us to “feel good” about ourselves and to know no personal limits from that awful old-fashioned religious bullshit–then you are part of the problem.