America • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Environment • Libertarians • Post • Technology • The Culture • The Left

The Coming Socialist-Libertarian Feudalism

Wishful thinking among many libertarian and socialist idealists is that an alliance might form between them. After all, members of both ideological camps believe that anything goes when it comes to sex and drugs, neither of them believe in national borders, and both are repelled by conservative ideologues.

The problem with such an alliance of idealists, of course, is that at the core, the socialist believes in big government and the libertarian believes in no government. No matter how you further define those core beliefs, they are incompatible. But the powerful special interests behind the libertarian and progressive movements, respectively, are not idealists, they are pragmatists. And in the dirty realm of real-world politics, socialist and libertarian elites have formed a powerful alliance.

Underscoring issues of personal liberty while ignoring the ultimate collision their worldviews portend, socialist and libertarian mega-donors back candidates and causes that share common immediate policy goals: the densification of American cities, mass immigration, alleged “free” trade, and a hands-off policy with respect to Big Tech monopolies.

Urban “densification” is one of the most transformative—and cruel—epic policy trends in American history. And hardly anyone is talking about it.

In a recent article by Joel Kotkin, a moderate Democrat, he refers to “conservative free-market fundamentalists” as the group that’s “advancing plans that would divorce capitalism from the small property owners whose pieces of property secure the system’s popular support.” Kotkin is referring to libertarians who favor “densification” of cities because they support the property rights of those who own the land and choose to build high-density housing.

What these libertarians are supporting, while ideologically pure, is absurd. Just because you own a half-acre property, you’re not necessarily allowed to demolish the single-family home on that property in order to build a 20 story building. For the same reason, you can’t demolish that home and build a rent-subsidized fourplex. In the real world, there are zoning laws that restrict property rights to protect the neighbors and the community at large. These zoning laws are what people rely on when they purchase a home in a neighborhood filled with similar homes.

Kotkin writes: 

That [densification] includes California State Senator Scott Wiener’s effort to force high-density on residential areas by allowing fourplexes on virtually any parcel, which produced one of the strangest alliances in recent political history. Free market advocates—many of them funded by the Koch brothers—linked arms with left-wing and green activists reprising the arguments made in the Soviet Bloc against middle-class single-family neighborhoods.

Densification is going to destroy tranquil residential neighborhoods, everywhere, and it is backed by socialists in the name of providing affordable housing, by environmentalists in order to prevent “sprawl,” and by powerful financial special interests that benefit from an ongoing real estate bubble. 

Libertarians support densification on principle, without even recognizing that they are ignoring—much less opposing—the flip side of densification, which are new policies to suppress land development outside of the “urban containment boundary.” Densification, also known as in-fill, or “smart growth,” will never provide sufficient new housing to make homes affordable unless it is balanced by similarly relaxed approval processes for homebuilding on open land.

The topic of “smart growth” exposes another special interest favoring densification, the Silicon Valley high tech industry. California’s Silicon Valley is an epicenter not only of concentrated political and economic power, but it is also one of the world’s largest ideological fermentation tanks containing potent strains of socialism, progressivism, and libertarianism. 

And in this “do no evil” caldron of visions, plans, and stupefying power, innovators are building the “internet of things,” so that not only shall we live in stack-and-pack housing, we will survive on algorithmically managed micro sips of water and energy. And depending on what time we run our clothes dryer, we will pay a bit more or a bit less depending on the spot market price for electricity and water—such a libertarian concept!

More immediately visible is Silicon Valley’s control over the online universe—search results, video suggestions, remarks on Twitter, posts on Facebook—where two salient facts elude libertarians. First, the companies that now control the online universe are monopolies, and the big five—Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook—are the five biggest companies in the world based on their stock market capitalization. 

Equally important, these companies have been having their cake and eating it, too, insofar as they receive an exemption from liability due to their status as a “platform,” yet exercise biased censorship on platform contributors as if they were a publisher. 

Each of these facts has consequences. Monopolies do not make for healthy market economies. Platforms cannot be publishers. But where are the libertarians?

The vision shared by socialist and libertarian oligarchs alike is what Kotkin calls a “Wall Street-dominated rentership society . . .” where “people remain renters for life, enjoying their video games or houseplants when not coding or doing gig jobs.”

This vision is not only furthered in densification policies that are fruitless in terms of making housing affordable but dazzlingly effective in turning nearly everyone into apartment renters, but also in the internet of things. In the future, you will not own your clothes dryer or any other major appliance, nor will you own your car, much less video games and software services. Instead, you will “subscribe” to these gadgets, so you can receive the latest updates and services. “Subscriptions” will replace lease payments, loan payments, and warranties. Owning anything will become increasingly impossible. Green conservation mandates will ensure compliance. But, hey—you’ll be able to watch algorithmically curated videos on your refrigerator!

It is a fatal misconception to consider pragmatic socialists as indistinguishable from communists. Socialist nations, particularly those in Northern Europe that are frequently cited by defenders of socialism as exemplars distinct from hellholes like Venezuela, are not ruled by politburos. These socialist nations are ruled by an influential cadre of extremely wealthy, propertied elites, who manage public opinion through their ownership of the primary media sources and through their donations to effective politicians, regardless of party. Does this sound familiar?

It is also a fatal misconception to overstate the differences between America’s elite socialist oligarchy and America’s elite libertarian oligarchy. In both cases, they subscribe to the policy of mass immigration, at the same time as they support environmentalist conventional wisdom that condemns Americans to pay taxes to fund the settlement of these tens of millions in rent-subsidized apartments crammed on to every lot that flips, in every neighborhood where people aren’t wealthy enough to hire attorneys to stop it.

Is it even possible for a populist libertarian movement to offer meaningful support to a conservative American political agenda? Or will their “thought leaders” continue to please the donor class, writing predictably bland justifications for free trade, open borders, urban densification, and out-of-control communications monopolies? Will libertarians support privatization to the point where a meter runs every time anyone steps onto a public road, and perpetual subscriptions replace ownership? Why not?

Where do libertarians draw the line? Will they accept Libra, the new cyber-currency that Facebook is about to launch? Will they squawk when cyber-currencies issued by mega-corporations dominate commerce? Will they care when monopolistic “private” companies erase not only the speech platforms of dissidents but their ability to use their proprietary cyber currency? Why not?

Libertarians don’t have a fully realized political ideology, they have a perspective. As a perspective—smaller government—they are a useful part of the mix. But libertarians aren’t recognizing the real-world limitations on libertarianism; if they did, they would choose sides. They would rebel against the donor fueled socialist-libertarian axis. They would ask: Will you fight to preserve your nation and your culture, or won’t you? 

The libertarian and socialist elites have made their choice, and they are working together under the assumption that nations and culture don’t matter, only profit and power do.

The only viable, real-world version of a libertarian ideology ought to be unrecognizable and troubling to the idealist. It is corporate-controlled feudalism that incorporates just enough socialist populist demands to avoid an unpleasant conflagration. The beneficiaries of this political economy are the super-rich and the myriad poor. In this world, nationality means nothing, heritage is irrelevant, and the middle class and mid-sized companies alike are exterminated. Tradition and culture become a commercialized and sanitized afterthought, micro-marketed to the various vestigial niches along with soap and virtual reality.

Idealists do not govern America today. Rather it is a pragmatic axis of socialist and libertarian oligarchs, each with their own gullible constituency, moving together towards a futuristic version of feudalism.

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Center for American Greatness • Donald Trump • Immigration • Libertarians • Post

Mass Immigration and the Subversive Libertarian-Right

President Trump last week announced his intention to impose a 5 percent tariff, effective June 10, on all Mexican imports. The president’s move is a response to Mexico’s apparent unwillingness or inability to stop the flow of illegal immigration from its side of the border into ours.

The official statement from the White House is the gauntlet that Trump supporters have long expected the president to throw down:

If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the Tariffs will be removed. If the crisis persists, however, the Tariffs will be raised to 10 percent on July 1, 2019. Similarly, if Mexico still has not taken action to dramatically reduce or eliminate the number of illegal aliens crossing its territory into the United States, Tariffs will be increased to 15 percent on August 1, 2019, to 20 percent on September 1, 2019, and to 25 percent on October 1, 2019. Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory.

From non-deplorables, however, the outrage was as predictable as it was swift, from the Left and milquetoast Right. But the apoplexy of David J. Bier, a fellow of the Cato Institute, was especially hysterical.

“Mexico should show Trump what actual non-cooperation looks like,” Bier wrote on Twitter. “Immediately stop all immigration enforcement, issue travel visas to all Central Americans, refuse to admit Central Americans returned to Mexico under MPP, and stop preventing asylees from reaching US ports of entry.”

Trump has characterized the state of mass immigration as an “invasion” that has brought our system to a “breaking point.” Plenty of analysts, Left and Right, agree.

Not only do we have troops at the border now, but on the same day Bier called on Mexico to open the floodgates from Central America, a U.S. Marine fired his weapon while on duty along the southern border. The Marine reported he had been attacked inside his vehicle by three people. Around the same time, a mob of angry Hondurans attacked the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa. Technically, this was an act of war. Bier doesn’t seem to mind.

Nevertheless, Bier’s reaction is what we have come to expect from the libertarian-right.

I would happily pay more for my delectable Honduran cigars if it meant avoiding the tragedy of the nanny next door being raped and murdered by a Honduran present in the United States unlawfully. But no such sense of solidarity with their fellow citizens appears forthcoming from the smooth brains at Cato.

Then again, maybe the fairy ring on 1000 Massachusetts Avenue is too smart for their, and our, own good. “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason,” as G. K. Chesterton put it, but “the man who has lost everything except his reason.”

Someone like Spencer P. Morrison could bring in the big guns, eloquently argue why America, in general, needs big, beautiful tariffs. Bier would be not only unconvinced but unmoved.

For Bier, America is a market to which every human value and interest is converged on the economic and productive plane.

America, in this view, has no unique character or culture, therefore to be an “American” is merely to participate in the process of acquisition, consumption, and production. Human welfare is determined by the distribution of wealth and goods. Any impediment—such as tariffs—to market processes is deemed aberrant, sacrilege against the Invisible Hand.

It becomes evident that libertarianism has the same subversive character found in its apparent nemesis, Marxism. Both systems make the economy their standard and main concern.

Libertarianism, like Marxism, is also an internationalist movement. It does not recognize the nation-state, let alone borders, as more than an effervescent unit of human organization, as something to be overcome and assimilated into a “global community” and “global economy,” at the expense of the historic character, independence, and very sovereignty of the United States.

If anyone should reject to this scheme, as Trump has, it appears that the Libertarian-right and Left can agree that mass immigration is an effective vehicle to affect or accelerate the one-worldism they are already lurching us toward.

What libertarianism and Marxism find unpalatable is patriotism. Not the phony, pixelated stuff one will find in Bier’s Twitter bio, but genuine patriotism that recognizes as its heart the sovereign nation-state.

The patriot finds its roots among the Romans, mainly in the terms patria and patrius, which indicate, unfortunately for Bier, “fatherland” (literally) or “what is native.” A patriot without a nation is empty, a nation without borders is nothing.

Trump’s tariffs are the epitome of patriotism. They recognize the imperative of the nation-state, and acknowledge the injustice that his people have suffered at the hands of another. A slight increase in the cost of goods is a small price to pay to this end.

Perhaps what Bier fears the most is that more and more Americans are becoming aware of the subversive similarities of libertarianism and Marxism, and are therefore increasingly inclined to tolerate such measures as tariffs in the struggle to preserve their homeland. Someday soon, Bier and his colleagues might find themselves no less welcome than the Communists who were extirpated from the United States during the early 20th-century.

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American Conservatism • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Defense of the West • Libertarians • political philosophy • Post • The Culture • The Left

Sohrab Ahmari and Our Existential Struggle

Perhaps the most amusing intramural intellectual squall on the Right these past few days has centered on “Against David French-ism,” Sohrab Ahmari’s recent polemical reflection on liberalism in First Things.

I did not think that Sohrab had all that much to say directly about the man who provided him with the title of his essay, but then I am not, so to speak, a French man. I have never met Pastor French, rarely read him, and generally feel about him the way C. K. Dexter Haven in The Philadelphia Story felt about George Kitteridge, man of the people: “to hardly know him is to know him well.”

The outpouring of indignation, fury, and contempt that greeted Sohrab’s column reminded me that opinions about the Pastor vary widely. I group him with Pete Wehner and some other NeverTrump evangelists as a modern incarnation of the Pharos of Alexandria lighthouse, virtue signaling around the clock to the amazement of the world. I know there is disagreement on that score.

As I read it, Sohrab’s essay involved David French only incidentally. There were, I thought, two key passages. The first came near the beginning. “The movement we [conservatives] are up against,” Sohrab writes, “prizes autonomy above all, too; indeed, its ultimate aim is to secure for the individual will the widest possible berth to define what is true and good and beautiful, against the authority of tradition.”

I’ll come to what I think the other key passage is in a moment. First, note what a bold statement Sohrab has made here. Autonomy: aren’t we all for that? Isn’t it the prime Enlightenment virtue? Sapere aude, Kant said: “dare to know!” Priests, superstition, convention, tradition: didn’t the Enlightenment discard all of that for the sake of autonomy? For the sake, that is, of giving the law (nomos) to oneself (autos)?

The Ghost of J. S. Mill
In a word, yes. And it was a project carried on by such Enlightenment heirs as John Stuart Mill, whose On Liberty is a sort of bible of Enlightenment-infused liberalism. I note that Sohrab quotes in passing Mill’s famous line—famous imperative—about the importance of “experiments in living.” “Individual experiments in living,” he writes, “—say, taking your kids to a drag reading hour at the public library—cannot be sustained without some level of moral approval by the community.” Which suggests that the project of autonomy always involves an element of heteronomy: the emancipation from tradition, convention, etc., always seems to yield a new sort of orthodoxy. It was just this tendency, I suspect, that bothered Sohrab.

We see it all around us now. What we call liberalism presents itself not as one view of the world among others but as a neutral (but nevertheless inherently virtuous) state of nature from which no right-thinking (i.e., left-leaning) person could dissent.

The same dynamic was ostentatiously on view in Mill’s radical libertarianism. For anyone interested in understanding the nature of the modern liberal consensus, the extraordinary success of Mill’s rhetoric and the doctrines it advances afford a number of lessons. Above all, it provides an object lesson in the immense seductiveness inherent in a certain type of skeptical moralizing.

Together with Rousseau, Mill supplied nearly all of the arguments and most of the emotional weather—the texture of sentiment—that have gone into defining the liberal vision of the world. His peculiar brand of utilitarianism—a cake of Benthamite hedonism glazed with Wordsworthian sentimentality—accounts for part of Mill’s appeal: it provides a perfect recipe for embellishing programmatic shallowness with a cosmetic patina of spirituality. It is a recipe that has proven to be irresistible to those infatuated with the spectacle of their own virtue.

Mill was exceptionally adroit at appealing to his readers’ moral vanity. When he spoke (as he was always speaking) of “persons of decided mental superiority” he made it seem as though he might actually be speaking about them. Mill said that there was “no reason that all human existence should be constructed on some one or some small number of patterns.” Quite right! Even if persons of genius are always likely to be “a small minority,” still we must “preserve the soil in which they grow.” Consequently, people have a duty to shun custom and nurture their individual “self-development” if they are not to jeopardize “their fair share of happiness” and the “mental, moral, and aesthetic stature of which their nature is capable.”

Mill’s blandishments went even deeper. In On Liberty, Mill presented himself as a prophet of individual liberty. He has often been regarded as such, especially by liberal academics, who of course have been instrumental in propagating the gospel according to Mill. And “gospel” is the mot juste. Like many radical reformers, Mill promised almost boundless freedom, but he arrived bearing an exacting new system of belief. In this sense, as Maurice Cowling argues, On Liberty has been “one of the most influential of modern political tracts,” chiefly because “its purpose has been misunderstood.” Contrary to common opinion, Cowling wrote, Mill’s book was

not so much a plea for individual freedom, as a means of ensuring that Christianity would be superseded by that form of liberal, rationalising utilitarianism which went by the name of the Religion of Humanity. Mill’s liberalism was a dogmatic, religious one, not the soothing night-comforter for which it is sometimes mistaken. Mill’s object was not to free men, but to convert them, and convert them to a peculiarly exclusive, peculiarly insinuating moral doctrine.

This tension in Mill’s work—between Mill the libertarian and Mill the moralistic utilitarian—helps to account for the vertiginous quality that suffuses the liberalism for which On Liberty was a kind of founding scripture.

How Liberalism Corrodes Morality
Mill’s announced enemy can be summed up in words like “custom,” “prejudice,” “established morality.” All his work goes to undermine these qualities—not because the positions they articulate are necessarily in error but simply because, being customary, accepted on trust, established by tradition, they have not been subjected to the acid test of his version of the utilitarian calculus. (Mill elsewhere refers to such calculation as “rational self-conscious scrutiny,” the implication being that anything else is less than completely rational.)

The tradition that Mill opposed celebrated custom, prejudice, and established morality precisely because they had prevailed and given good service through the vicissitudes of time and change; their longevity was itself an important token of their worthiness. It was in this sense, for example, that Edmund Burke extolled prejudice, writing that “prejudice renders a man’s virtue his habit. . . . Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature.”

Mill overturned this traditional view. Indeed, he was instrumental in getting the public to associate “prejudice” indelibly with “bigotry.” For Mill, established morality is suspect first of all because it is established. His liberalism is essentially corrosive of existing societal arrangements, institutions, and morality.

Mill constantly castigated such things as the “magical influence of custom” (“magical” being a negative epithet for Mill), the “despotism of custom [that] is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement,” the “tyranny of opinion” that makes it so difficult for “the progressive principle” to flourish. According to Mill, the “greater part of the world has, properly speaking, no history because the sway of custom has been complete.”

Such passages reveal the core of moral arrogance inhabiting Mill’s liberalism. They also suggest to what extent he remained—despite the various criticisms he made of the master—a faithful heir of Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism. And I do not mean only the Bentham who propounded the principle of “the greatest happiness for the greatest number,” but also the Bentham who applauded the proceedings of the Star Chamber, advocated the imprisonment of beggars, defended torture, and devised the “Panopticon”—a machine, he said, for “grinding rogues honest”—to keep miscreants under constant surveillance. Liberty was always on Mill’s lips; a new orthodoxy was ever in his heart. There is an important sense in which the libertarian streak in On Liberty is little more than a prophylactic against the coerciveness that its assumption of virtuous rationality presupposes.

Such “paradoxes” (to put it politely) show themselves wherever the constructive part of Mill’s doctrine is glimpsed through his cheerleading for freedom and eccentricity. Mill’s doctrine of liberty begins with a promise of emancipation. The individual, in order to construct a “life plan” worthy of his nature, must shed the carapace of inherited opinion. He must learn to subject all his former beliefs to rational scrutiny. He must dare to be “eccentric,” “novel,” “original.”

At the same time, Mill notes, not without misgiving, that

As mankind improve, the number of doctrines which are no longer disputed or doubted will be constantly on the increase; the well-being of mankind may almost be measured by the number and gravity of the truths which have reached the point of being uncontested. The cessation, on one question after another, of serious controversy is one of the necessary incidents of the consolidation of opinion—a consolidation as salutary in the case of true opinions as it is dangerous and noxious when the opinions are erroneous.

In other words, the partisan of Millian liberalism undertakes the destruction of inherited custom and belief in order to construct a bulwark of custom and belief that can be inherited. As Mill put it in his Autobiography:

I looked forward, through the present age of loud disputes but generally weak convictions, to a future . . . [in which] convictions as to what is right and wrong, useful and pernicious, deeply engraven on the feelings by early education and general unanimity of sentiment, and so firmly grounded in reason and in the true exigencies of life, that they shall not, like all former and present creeds, religious, ethical, and political, require to be periodically thrown off and replaced by others.

So: a “unanimity of sentiment” (a.k.a. custom) is all well and good as long as it is grounded in the “true exigencies of life”—as defined, of course, by J. S. Mill.

A New “Theocracy”? Oh, Please
A lot more could be said about Mill’s doctrine and its importance for understanding today’s liberal consensus. But for now, I’ll just say that that I suspect it also informs Sohrab’s criticism of our culture’s habit of elevating autonomy into the highest virtue even if—especially if—it circumscribes the individual’s freedom understood as something that cannot flourish apart from a particular community or outside a particular tradition. Edmund Burke caught an important aspect of this dynamic when he observed, “The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: We ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risque congratulations, which may be soon turned into complaints.”

Again, more could be said about all of this, but let me move on briefly to what I think is the other key passage of Sohrab’s essay. It comes at the end. “Progressives,” he writes,

understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values. They regulate compliance with an established order and orthodoxy. We should seek to use these values to enforce our order and our orthodoxy, not pretend that they could ever be neutral. To recognize that enmity is real is its own kind of moral duty.

This passage was Exhibit A for Sohrab’s critics. Imagine, consigning civility and decency to the status of “second values”! Praising “enmity,” endorsing our own values and (dread word) “orthodoxy.”

Some of Sohrab’s critics seem to think that such passages indicated that he was advocating a new theocracy. I think he is advocating realism when it comes to our opponents in the culture war. What they want is not tolerance but full-throated approbation, whether the issue is bringing children to public libraries to be indoctrinated by sexual freaks, unlimited abortion, radical environmentalism, or the smorgasbord of toxins populating the ideology of identity politics. What they offer is not tolerance, not debate, but an invitation to submit to their view of the world.

In such situations, dissent cannot succeed if it proceeds piecemeal. It must recognize that what is at stake is, in the deepest sense, an anthropology, a view of what man is. We are living among the fragments of a shattered inheritance, morally and socially as well as politically. The so-called liberals (so-called because no one is more illiberal) are bent on scattering those fragments and trampling underfoot the values they represent.

Sohrab Ahmari’s essay is certainly not the last word in how to respond to this onslaught. But it has the inestimable virtue of understanding that this battle is not fodder for a debating club but an existential struggle.

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America • Conservatives • Democrats • Libertarians • Post • The Left

Are We All Libertarians Now?

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No matter who wins the Democratic presidential primary, vice will be on the ballot in 2020.

Almost all Democratic candidates have embraced legalizing marijuana, and one has even expressed support for legalizing prostitution.

These developments are remarkable, but the candidates backing them are not exactly breaking ground. The real surprise is that they’re pandering.

Over the past 20 years, support for legalizing marijuana has doubled, from roughly 30 percent to 60 percent. Support was at a mere 12 percent in 1969 when Gallup first began asking Americans about it.

Attitudes on moral issues have also relaxed greatly. Not 10 years ago, Democrats were ambivalent at best about gay marriage. That chapter is now closed.

If Democrats were once careful when talking about pot, the days of “I didn’t inhale” are long gone. Public opinion on marijuana has shifted to the point that legalization now seems inevitable.

One doesn’t have to appeal to a slippery slope “fallacy” to see a widespread apathy taking hold. A Gallup morals survey found gradual, broad approval for having a baby outside of marriage, gambling, and divorce. (While society has taken a sharp turn against marriage, some monogamous attitudes remain resilient: marital infidelity is still widely frowned upon.)

Perhaps these changes were bound to happen. But is it progress?

A Left-Libertarian Convergence
It is hard not to see in these trends the ascendance of an attitude of indifference, which strangely enough, has been embraced by left and right alike in the form of a philosophy of moral libertarianism.

Perhaps it would be stating the obvious to say that Democrats have embraced libertarianism, at least when it comes to drugs, sex, and other moral questions. It would be simpler to observe instead that libertarianism has always leaned left.

Libertarians have long come to the aid of left-wing causes, from open borders to same-sex marriage. They have also generally been one step behind the left on social change, fighting for the same developments but expressing them in the language of small government and non-interference.

It seems hardly surprising, then, that leftists who support legalizing marijuana or prostitution express their reasoning in libertarian terms. Libertarians have generally defined their morals in contractual language: Anything that is voluntary and consensual is “harmless” and therefore permissible. Buyer and vendor of some vice both want something from each other, and as long as there is no “harm” done, then the state should mind its own business.

Saturated With Ecstatic Individualism
But this reasoning can justify atrocities. In the case of abortion, a voluntary transaction occurs between mother and doctor that overrides the rights of the child, which they say is not actually human, has no rights, and cannot suffer any real harm.

While hardly conservative, this philosophy has long had prominence of place in the wider tent of conservatism among libertarians. A few social conservative critics, such as Tucker Carlson, have singled out libertarianism in describing moral decline. Their line of critique is familiar, simple, and eminently reasonable: small government and “voluntary transactions” are not the end-all be-all. Morality cannot be defined by personal choice alone. Drugs and other opiates numb the population and make people easier to control.

There is nothing illogical about these arguments; they are simply unfashionable. Conservatism has been unfashionable in all times, and that has never been more true than now, as the mindset of moral libertarianism has come to dominate mainstream culture. Mass culture is saturated with ecstatic individualism, encouraged by social media, mass entertainment and the ruling left-wing ideology of the day, with its obsession with individual “rights” over what is simply right.

Perhaps it was inevitable, after the erosion of Christian culture, that society would come to embrace narcissistic individualism. An emphasis on virtue is difficult to justify when personal choice defines morality. The mere idea of “community” seems like a phantasm when people are just individuals in a moral “market” seeking their personal gain, rather than humans bound by obligation, place, and heritage.

The Limits of Choice
Some would claim this gospel of personal choice as the true American destiny. After all, isn’t America all about freedom? Why not live and let live?

But personal choice alone can’t govern society. The social ties that bind people together come with obligations that often require personal sacrifice, whether for the sake of family or the larger community. There might be no discrete harm done to the individuals in a transaction when John and prostitute meet, or when a child is born out of wedlock, but it is nevertheless bad for society to embrace attitudes inhospitable to the formation of strong families.

Those in favor of these changes speak of harm done to individuals, rather than to the community, because they don’t recognize the community or the virtues needed to sustain it. Instead, they see society as an aggregate of individuals with certain rights, abstracted from social ties and obligations.

The fruits of this attitude shift are already apparent in widespread family and community breakdown, which will worsen with time as ruler and ruled alike agree to yield to the appetitive part of human nature. A consensus—one could even call it a contract—is emerging between the ruling class and those in their charge that nothing should be expected of society or the individuals that comprise it.

Liberty and License Revisited
This mindset is difficult to shake off without some underlying social fabric to give society a reason to say “no.” To oppose legalizing prostitution requires shame, an increasingly scarce moral resource in a time when late-term abortion has been embraced by a major political party. The only thing that could counteract these changes—religion—is increasingly suspect, beleaguered, and attacked for preaching “retrograde” ideas.

A side-effect of letting people be whoever they want to be—whether they imagine themselves to be another gender, or whatever—is that they can also choose to not be anything, to not pay anything back to society, to retreat from their neighbors. While this mentality might not be good for society, it is advantageous for ambitious politicians who pander to the crowd with bread and circuses.

Greedy politicians have understood for centuries that a degraded and distracted public is easier to rule. They understand the appeal of this philosophy of indifference, and so have struck a bargain with the public to give up on having moral standards. Perhaps it is patronizing to suggest that society have standards, but it’s also difficult to sustain a civilization that is hostile to the formation of strong families and communities.

Society’s moral attitudes have relaxed significantly, but is it progress? Democrats embracing a vice agenda don’t care. We are all libertarians now.

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Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Donald Trump • Economy • Libertarians • Post

The ‘Red Tory’ Moment

Just a few miles from my hometown sits the Welsh Rust Belt—the south Wales Valleys. Stamped onto those verdant galloping hills is what remains of the industrial revolution’s once convulsing heart. Legions of coal-dusted men once winched down into the pits, day after day after day, chipping away at the other black gold.

Up until the 1980s, the mines employed virtually every man here. Then they closed. And the rot inched toward the bone.

I remember the day she died. Maggie-Maggie-Maggie! Dead! Dead! Dead! was the more cordial of expressions. Margaret Thatcher passed away in 2013. But, here, she’ll never die.

Maggie’s battles with the unions made her name. Depending on your politics, she either saved, or ruined, Great Britain.

Her death blanketed TV screens, papers, and pixels. Grim-faced conservative commentators fought back strange facial contortions. The sinewy flutter of grief. They had never been anywhere near the Valleys. Had they, they’d know that Thatcher, here at least, is immortal.

She is still around. You see it in the deadened eyes of those she left behind. Some shoot Maggie into their collapsing veins. Many swig listlessly on her legacy, as they shuffle around town.

Working-men’s clubs, usually host to a handful, seethed on the day she died. Bedraggled faces of ex-miners, their boys, clotted together. Maggie-Maggie-Maggie! Dead! Dead! Dead!

Of course, this is a wholly one-sided account. Thatcher was one of our most popular prime ministers. And she would shudder at the chaos she created.

But these men paid the price of her creed. Their offspring, tainted by the tumult of the 1980s, remain Maggie’s orphans.

In Merthyr Tydfil, that creed taints every crack. Heroin and super-strength lager lubricate a vague and pernicious malaise. Don’t mention Maggie around here.

One can see why. They never recovered from the “creative destruction” bestowed upon them. They’re now some of the fattest, sickest, and poorest in Western Europe—ailments of the left-behind.

Less than two-thirds are employed. Forty percent of those “on the sick” are signed-off long-term.

Maggie’s orphans were set aside. Their crime was their “inefficiency.” The mines were not “economically viable.”

Perhaps you might see the necessary evil of what Thatcher did. Governments cannot prop up ailing industries. But creative destruction is useless, unless the creative element rewilds the destruction.

The jobs lost here were never replaced. The human cost will never be recouped. Of course, such people just need to move towns. Learn to code. Embrace the gig economy.

Perhaps, this bleak pastiche sounds familiar. After all, I wouldn’t be writing this if Donald Trump was not president. Donald Trump would not be president if not for the Rust Belt. If not for fentanyl.

But there remain those who pretend that Donald Trump is not president. That the economic apartheid he tapped into does not exist. That flat-screen TVs are cheaper now. So, all is well.

Which is why Tucker Carlson’s recent monologue met such derision on the tired-and-busted Right. Tucker dared slaughter the sacred cow of free-market fundamentalism. Suggesting that GDP growth means nothing if siphoned upward.

The swarm of originality missed the point. Tucker’s apparent hostility merely pointed out that we don’t have free markets. And the specter of social rot is not worth the few bucks shaved off of a flat-screen TV. Let them eat Netflix.

Of course, the conservative high-priests charged Tucker with a label featuring less relevance than their shopworn and misguided paeans to the 1980s and Ronald Reagan. Tucker “is not a true conservative.”

But to marry social conservatism with strident criticism of markets gone awry is not new. Here in Great Britain, we would call Tucker a “Red Tory.”

A term coined by political thinker Phillip Blond, Red Toryism, or its cousin one-nation conservatism, occupies a common ground shorn of the extremist libertarian Right, and the pernicious and nihilist socialist Left. The premise: a country has an economy, not the other way around.

What we have right now is the worst of both worlds. A market captured by big business, in communion with an overweening government. Both engorging and fattening the other. And devouring the people forced to play along—and to be thankful.

Discarded in the 1980s, this strand of conservative thought enjoys a renaissance in the post-2008 landscape.

Blond opens his 2010 book, Red Tory, with a bleak diagnosis kindred to that of Tucker’s recent monologue.

The result of the last three decades, he writes, is:

Increasing fear, lack of trust and abundance of suspicion, long-term increase in violent crime, loneliness, recession, depression, private and public debt, family break-up, divorce, infidelity, bureaucratic and unresponsive public services, dirty hospitals, powerlessness, the rise of racism, excessive paperwork, longer and longer working hours, children who have no parents… seemingly immovable poverty, the permanence of inequality, teenagers with knives, teenagers being knifed, the decline of politeness, aggressive youths, the erosion of our civil liberties and the increase of obsessive surveillance, public authoritarianism, private libertarianism, general pointlessness, political cynicism and a pervading lack of daily joy.

Blond’s prescription? To marry the merits of social conservatism, with a “new economics” that “distributes property, market access, and educational excellence for all.” A popular capitalism, if you will.

The final piece in Blond’s jigsaw is for conservatives to cut the umbilical cord of big business. Rejecting the cartel capitalism that allies with the liberal Left to keep borders open and wages down.

Such prescriptions may sound radical. But it is no longer 2012. Surveys show that most Americans are socially conservative, and economically moderate. The Gordon Gekko GOP sits well with few.

Donald Trump knew this. And that is why he is president. And why the Republican party is inching toward the party of middle America.

Republican holdouts, those once convinced Mitt Romney would be president, might want to consider the alternative to fair and level trade, and pro-worker policies.

Though a figure of fun on the Right, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) makes a vocation out of saying silly things and having people take them seriously. Her recent call for a 70 percent tax on the richest Americans sparked a laugh-riot. Yet most Americans actually agree.

And don’t think AOC and company would stop there. Socialism, whether prefixed with “democratic” or not, always ends in penury. Ask the Venezuelans.

Yet to even suggest that unbridled capitalism has many flaws, is met with cries of “Socialism!” Which, perversely, is what those crying will end up with, if they don’t listen.

Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Libertarians • Post • Progressivism

AOC Shows Why a Libertarian-Progressive Alliance Will Fail

Implementing a “Green New Deal” probably won’t happen unless Democrats take control of the White House and the U.S. Senate—but that won’t stop proponents from doing everything they can to shape the national conversation around the topic. And the legitimacy of the Green New Deal, its credibility, its urgency, the entire premise on which it stands or falls, is the theory of climate change.

Therefore it’s no surprise that the youthful congressional standard bearer for climate change action, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is trying to prevent corporations from supporting anything remotely skeptical of that theory. Hence the recent letter the freshman House member from New York sent to the CEOs of Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, as if these companies weren’t already using their almost unimaginable influence to shape that conversation in a way Ocasio-Cortez would like.

The transgression committed by the tech giants was to participate as sponsors of “LibertyCon 2019,” where, as reported in Mother Jones, “the event featured a group called the CO2 Coalition, which handed out brochures in the exhibit hall that said its goal is to ‘explain how our lives and our planet Earth will be improved by additional atmospheric carbon dioxide.’”

It’s more than a little ironic that these companies, Google and Facebook in particular, should find themselves in Ocasio-Cortez’s crosshairs. These are companies that in all areas—their leadership, their political spending, their employees, and, crucially, how they use their near monopoly power to favor or suppress online content—are overwhelmingly partisan in favor of Democrats like her. The fact that these liberal tech giants aren’t partisan enough for Democratic Socialists is cause for alarm. Consider this excerpt from Ocasio-Cortez’s letter:

Given the magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis that we are now facing, we find it imperative to ensure that the climate-related views espoused at LibertyCon do not reflect the values of your companies going forward.

“Urgency.” “Crisis.” “Imperative.” These are powerful, intimidating words. And while it is unlikely the Democratic Socialists in the U.S. Congress could actually do anything to force Google and Facebook to stop sponsoring events like LibertyCon, it’s quite likely that won’t be necessary. Beyond allowing members of the “CO2 Coalition” to pass out flyers that pointed out, accurately, that CO2 is a beneficial gas, not a pollutant, what other transgressions did they commit at LibertyCon?

Back to Ocasio-Cortez’s letter:

We were deeply disappointed to see that your companies were high-level sponsors of a conference this month in Washington D.C., known as LibertyCon, that included a session denying established science on climate change.

Reviewing LibertyCon’s agenda, the offending session was probably the one called “Population, Climate, and the Problem with Externality Arguments.” Here’s the program description: “The existence of external costs is a legitimate economic argument for government interference in a market system. But there are serious problems in applying that argument to an issue, such as population or climate change, where there are both positive and negative externalities of uncertain magnitude with the result that both the size and the sign of the net effect are unknown.”

In plain English, it appears that the panelists in this session discussed why the government should not destroy the energy industry before knowing whether or not it would do any good. After all, that challenges the premise: Climate change is a crisis, urgent action is imperative.

“Progressive Libertarian” Is an Oxymoron
This fight Ocasio-Cortez has picked with big tech illuminates the challenge facing the so-called progressive libertarians. The Silicon Valley is an epicenter of progressive politics. That dominant ideology manifests itself everywhere; the electorate, the politicians, the business community, the philanthropic community, the culture. Yet libertarian philosophy is also popular on the Left Coast. From programmers working for the tech giants to the hipsters driving for Uber, libertarian ideas attract widespread grassroots support. But while libertarians and progressives have much in common, they are not compatible ideologies.

On the one hand, many big tech CEOs and their employees consider themselves libertarians on social issues championed by progressive Democrats. These include legalizing drug use, criminal justice reform, gay marriage, and protecting a woman’s “right to choose.” They also largely embrace libertarian positions on issues such as open borders, cyber currency, innovation, disruptive technology, and maybe even on school choice, police accountability, and military spending. There’s a lot of overlap.

On the other hand, when it comes to other major issues, big tech culture veers away from basic libertarian values. By and large, big-tech culture supports affirmative action, with corporate cultures committed to race and gender “equity.” That these policies have put them on a collision course with the reality of profound disparities in group aptitude is something they have yet fully to confront.

Libertarians, by contrast, object to enforced race and gender quotas in hiring, promotions, college admissions, and the like.

Similarly, big-tech culture is almost monolithically committed to policies and products dedicated to fighting “climate change.” Libertarians have diverse opinions on the question of climate change and object to suppression of dissenting points of view.

For these reasons, it is impossible to be a “progressive libertarian.” For the progressives, the indispensable wedge issues that galvanize the masses and inform the policymakers are social justice and climate change. On those core premises, progressives and libertarians are worlds apart. Yet for progressives, on those core premises there can be no compromise. No cost is too high and resistance must be crushed.

Moreover, reduced to absolutes, progressives seek statist utopia, and libertarians seek stateless utopia. That they happen to agree on some issues, but not others, is incidental to that fundamental schism.

Irreconcilable Differences
From the perspective of a compassionate nationalist, or a Christian, or a secular advocate for the preservation of Western Civilization, libertarians and progressives are both wrong on the most critical issue, which is the sovereignty of nations. Libertarians and progressives may indeed disagree on the fundamentals of governance, but if they are true to their principles—cultural Marxism on the part of progressives, open borders and “free trade” on the part of libertarians—they are two sides of the same globalist coin. As a matter of fact, sadly, what may unite progressives and libertarians despite irreconcilable differences is their opposition to nationalism.

From a practical standpoint, and despite their denials, the ultimate outcome of worldwide progressive political triumph would be a one-world socialist government, and the ultimate outcome of a libertarian political victory would be a world run by multinational corporations. The pragmatists among them both would settle for some hybrid of these competing visions.

What may be worth emphasizing in the here and now, however, is the current disagreement between libertarians and progressives as exemplified by Ocasio-Cortez’s letter to the big tech CEOs. The progressives are trying to shut down any discussion on the critical issue of climate change, just as they’re trying to silence anyone who dissents from their revolutionary agenda on questions of race and gender. Ocasio-Cortez and her comrades are blatant in pursuing this effort, to the point where they are willing to chastise big tech for being a few steps behind and a great deal more refined in their common pursuit of the same goal.

The libertarians, to their credit, are not trying to shut anyone up. For that not insignificant reason, and even if for nothing else, they are to be commended. Libertarians must know that while conservatives and nationalists may disagree vehemently with them on some of the most important questions of our time, nobody on the Right—unlike those on the progressive Left—would ever try to silence them.

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Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

America • China • Economy • Libertarians • Post • Trade

Dear Libertarians: Trade Deficits Matter

Steve Hanke recently set out to prove “why President Trump’s trade message and protectionist policies are rubbish” in a Forbes article. Instead, the Johns Hopkins University economist exposed himself as a word-mincing, logic-twisting sophist—just like every other intellectual mercenary associated with the faux-libertarian propaganda mill that is the Cato Institute.

Hanke’s argument: trade deficits don’t exist, China is not screwing America, and President Trump (the village idiot) is jousting windmills. The real problem is lazy Americans who shop-til-they-drop and demand welfare “gimmies” from Uncle Sam.

Faust’s Bargain
Hanke begins his argument by explaining that trade deficits don’t really exist. Instead, the goods trade deficit is simply one half of the equation:

In economics, identities play an important role. These identities are obtained by equating two different breakdowns of a single aggregate. Identities are interesting, and usually important, by definition. In national income accounting, the following identity can be derived. It is the key to understanding the trade deficit.

(Imports – Exports ) ≡ (Investment – Savings) + (Government Spending – Taxes)

Given this identity, which must hold, the trade deficit is equal to the excess of private sector investment over savings, plus the excess of government spending over tax revenue. So, the counterpart of the trade deficit is the sum of the private sector deficit and the government deficit (federal + state and local). The U.S. trade deficit, therefore, is just the mirror image of what is happening in the U.S. domestic economy. If expenditures in the U.S. exceed the incomes produced in the U.S., which they do, the excess expenditures will be met by an excess of imports over exports (read: a trade deficit).

This is true. In his esoteric discussion of “identities,” however, Hanke neglects to mention the practical consequences of running a goods trade deficit. Although the books are balanced, reality shows us that it matters how they are balanced—there are two sides to every coin, but heads is not the same as tails.

I’ve explained previously how America sold its soul for Chinese trinkets. You should read the full article—it is my personal favorite. If you don’t have time, here’s a quick summary:

When a nation imports (buys) more than it exports (sells) it runs a trade deficit. America’s goods trade deficit was $796 billion in 2017. Sadly, there are no free lunches. To pay for these goods America sells more services than it buys (think banking and tourism). This helps, but still leaves us $566 billion in the red. To balance the books, America also sells assets and debt.

Assets include real estate, artifacts, shares in corporations—anything of value that was produced in the past. Selling assets is not always bad. For example, selling your mothballed Harley to buy a home gym might be wise. However, pawning your great-grandma’s wedding ring to buy groceries is not. Context matters.

On the whole, America’s asset sales resemble pawning great-grandma’s wedding ring. Consider that foreigners bought $153 billion worth of American real estate in the 2016-2017 fiscal year—everything from New York penthouses to Nebraskan ranches. This has the negative downstream effect of increasing housing prices and rents, in addition to the social problems associated with absentee landlords.

The United States also sells billions in equities (ownership of U.S. corporations and the associated profits). As of 2017, foreigners owned roughly 38 percent of American equities, when including foreign direct investments and foreign portfolio investments. This is up from just 12 percent in 2007, and the number is growing fast.

America pays for the rest of the deficit by selling debt. This is reflected in the endless growth of U.S. public and private debt levels. For example, foreign investors own over 44 percent of America’s national public debt, valued at more than $6.3 trillion. Hanke is good enough to mention this figure in his article, but erroneously reverses the causal sequence. Further, foreign investors own nearly 30 percent of all U.S. corporate bonds and a large percentage of America’s (monstrous) private debt.

America pays for foreign goods by selling our inheritance and mortgaging our future. In turn, we surrender control of our nation to foreign masters. Conversely, if America ran a trade surplus we would be purchasing foreign assets and debts—we’d be buying-up the world like Great Britain during the 19th century.

Who cares if the books are balanced? What matters is how they’re balanced.

Hanke’s second line of argumentation is that trade deficits—assuming they exist—aren’t a problem. After all, “the U.S. has run a trade deficit every year since 1976, and the U.S. has done relatively well since then.” Hanke needs to get out more. The sky isn’t just falling. It fell.

Not only is the trade deficit largely to blame for America’s ballooning debt and skyrocketing housing costs, it also costs Americans jobs and increases inequality.

Trade deficits destroy jobs. Consider that the North American Free Trade Agreement displaces a net 840,000 American manufacturing jobs. How? Offshoring led to trade deficits with Mexico. Before NAFTA, tariffs protected American industries from asymmetrical Mexican competition by normalizing price externalities. In other words, tariffs raised the cost of Mexican goods to account for the fact that American businesses were subject to higher labor, environmental, and quality standards. Essentially, tariffs penalized companies that moved abroad to avoid American laws. This resulted in balanced bilateral trade.

NAFTA eliminated many market barriers and forced American workers to compete directly with cheap Mexican labor. This created a powerful incentive to move American factories to Mexico—and move they did. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, estimates that NAFTA redistributed a net 840,000 American manufacturing jobs to Mexico. Meanwhile, the Economic Policy Institute estimated in 2013 that NAFTA displaced a net 700,000 American workers. Finally, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also noted in a press release that NAFTA cost the United States 700,000 jobs. Remember, these are net figures: they include the jobs NAFTA created by boosting American exports.

NAFTA also displaces a large number of service jobs. This is because manufacturing is an anchor industry upon which predicate industries depend. For example, hairdressers and accountants move to towns with mines or factories—not vice versa. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that each manufacturing job supports roughly 1.5 service jobs because of the multiplier effect. In short, NAFTA costs America a net 1.7 million jobs.

This problem is not to specific to NAFTA—the logic of market asymmetries means that whenever America (freely) trades with a poorer country, the inevitable trade deficit will destroy more (American) jobs than it creates because labor-intensive industries are the most-likely to offshore. After all, they have the most to gain from lower wages.

The trade deficit also hurts America by increasing economic—and therefore political and social—inequality. The driving force behind inequality is, once again, offshoring. Moving millions of manufacturing jobs abroad creates unemployment. It also results in more competition for the remaining blue collar jobs—therefore decreasing wages for everyone else. This is basic supply-and-demand in action. It is not a coincidence that wages have stagnated for the vast majority of Americans since our nation began running chronic trade deficits in the 1970s.

Inequality is not merely an economic problem—it’s a political and social problem. Why? Too much inequality destabilizes society. Aristotle recognized this in his Politics, and recommended that the state should be governed by a large, robust middle class. Likewise, the godfather of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, noted that inequality was one of the primary reasons France succumbed to its bloody revolution. The main point here is that societies function best when everyone has something to lose should they collapse. Ipso facto, inequality matters.

A Dragon Fed
Hanke’s final point is “the trade deficit is not made by foreigners who engage in unfair trade practices.” Instead, it is a home-grown problem.

I suppose Professor Hanke has never heard of China before. China’s entire trade regime was designed to fleece American consumers. For example, when China opened its doors to American investment in 1985, it specifically focused on export-oriented industries. Companies that built factories in China with the express purpose of exporting the production were given generous subsidies and access to artificially cheap labor. From the beginning of its resurgence, China’s goal was to be the seller, not the buyer.

A BBC Radio program on which I was featured noted that China meticulously follows the dictates of the World Trade Organization (WTO) today. Although this point is often made by academics like Hanke, it’s not compelling. Who cares if China plays by the rules now? At this point they’ve already secured an insurmountable competitive advantage in manufacturing due to the law of increasing returns—the bigger the factory, the cheaper its production. The Chinese abused the rules when it was to their benefit, and now attempt to uphold them for their benefit. “International law” is meaningless to China. The Chinese only care about wealth.

One of the main reasons America runs a trade deficit with China is that China jealously guards its lucrative domestic market. By and large, Western companies cannot operate in China. Those granted the privilege are often forced into “partnerships” with Chinese companies, which siphon-off a portion of the profits and serve as important vectors for intellectual property theft—this costs America up to $600 billion annually. This practice allowed China to evolve an independent and hugely profitable economic ecosystem. Just look at China’s information technologies sector: by blocking Amazon, China preserved the market niche for a domestic competitor, Alibaba. Today, Alibaba is one of China’s most valuable companies, and is Amazon’s only viable global competitor.

Contrary to what Hanke claims, China is indeed ripping us off. That said, I am forced to agree with his conclusion: China isn’t causing the trade deficit. The shame rests solely with us. America is not a passive actor. We could rebuild our tariff walls to halt offshoring and eliminate the trade deficit. We simply choose not to.

Photo Credit: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Administrative State • American Conservatism • Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Libertarians • Post • The Culture

Market Fundamentalism or Love of Country?

Tucker Carlson’s much-discussed monologue last week leaves much to be desired. But factual errors or rhetorical excesses are not why it attracted vociferous criticism on the American Right. What really set the critics off is Tucker’s underlying moral premise: American republicanism sometimes requires public restraint of private vice, even in the sphere of economics.

The fact that this is even a debatable premise speaks volumes as to why American conservatism has struggled to become a majority for nearly 90 years. And the fact that this is the bottom line of President Trump’s approach to economics speaks more volumes as to why he swept the Republican field and won the White House.

Carlson and Trump agree that American business owners have long since stopped thinking they owe anything to American workers or communities because they are American. They contend too many American executives, responsible only to shareholders who in turn value only the highest monetary return possible, are unconcerned about whom they contract with so long as the contracts are upheld. Nearly everyone concedes this is how business operates today; the question is whether correcting or influencing this is a proper matter for public action.

Conservative dogma has said “no” for about 25 years. Treating economic action as a solely private preserve, any attempt to regulate or interfere in the terms of trade or the allocation of capital has been attacked by intellectual conservatism and its increasingly powerful libertarian allies. The fact that this has made ever more and more of industrial America a wasteland littered with closed factories, abandoned houses, and dollar stores doesn’t matter to these market fundamentalists.

Fallacies to the Right
Any attempt to counter their catechism is too often met with what I call reductio ad socialism. Propose a subsidy or a market intervention and they cry “socialism” or “Venezuela”—which if true means America was a very socialist country indeed for the roughly 75 years when the protective tariff was the law of the land.

Ben Shapiro’s negative reaction to Carlson’s monologue adopts this reasoning. Shapiro claims Carlson’s statement that “we do not exist to serve markets. Just the opposite” means he “sounds far more like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren than Ronald Reagan or Milton Friedman.” But that’s laughable. Reagan himself can be quoted frequently in favor of targeted market interventions, including the many, many times he imposed tariffs during his presidency to protect American producers from Japanese competition.

Trump understood what no other Republican competitor did, that even Republican voters were tired of an economic system that pushed normal citizens into economic competitions that they could not win and that it was time for a change. Carlson’s monologue simply makes Trump’s underlying assumption clear—Americans owe obligations to other Americans that go beyond simple market arrangements. We can and should debate what those are and the extent to which public intervention is warranted. But to dismiss it out of hand, as Shapiro and others on the Right do, replaces America’s public philosophy with abstract ideology. Which, as it turns out, Ronald Reagan warned against in his 1977 speech to CPAC.

Blame Misdirected
Market fundamentalists can’t deny that many communities have been hollowed out and that these places tend to foster social pathologies that once appeared to be the province of inner cities. But if private economic decisions can’t be criticized as a contributing factor, they have to come up with another explanation. And so they blame the people themselves for their plight.

Kevin Williamson’s notorious essay on white working-class dysfunction is the most famous in this genre, but it is far from alone. Both Shapiro and David French argue in response to Carlson that working-class problems like the opioid addiction, increased use of marijuana, dramatic rises in out of wedlock births are simply due to people making bad choices. “There are wounds that public policy can’t heal,” French writes. True in the abstract, but there are also things public policy can heal or at least ameliorate. To throw up one’s hands in the face of this is worse than folly; it is politically destructive.

Conservatives have tried this tack before. In 1932, Herbert Hoover argued that there was only so much he could do to combat the ravages of the Great Depression without destroying American liberty. While even Hoover admitted that nearly a quarter of Americans were out of work, he steadfastly refused to countenance increasing public spending to alleviate the suffering. Indeed, he criticized Roosevelt’s proposal to provide temporary work for the “10,000,000 unemployed” not only as infeasible, but because even “if it were possible to give this employment to 10,000,000 people by the Government, it would cost upwards of $9,000,000,000 a year. . . .”

In the midst of crisis, Hoover showed he cared more about money and form than people’s lives and substance. That image has plagued Republicans and conservatives ever since.

“But Reagan”? Indeed!
Americans rejected this call for fidelity to abstract ideals and a balanced budget over the need to help decent people live decently. They elected Franklin Roosevelt, and he and the Democratic Party remade America so thoroughly that it is unthinkable for all but the most doctrinaire libertarians to speak of returning to the system of “ordered liberty” that existed in Hoover’s time, a liberty that included no Social Security, no public unemployment insurance, and no protection for organized labor. To this day we live in Roosevelt’s garden, trying to replant a tree of liberty that can gain nutrients from this soil rather than raze and replant it.

Shapiro and others will cry “but Reagan!” “But Reagan” indeed. As I showed in my biography of the 40th president, Reagan never abandoned his youthful support of FDR. His conservatism was always an interpretation, not a rejection of FDR’s New Deal. That’s why Reagan could both lower and raise taxes, call for free trade and impose tariffs, call for dramatic spending cuts and for an expansion of Medicare, during his time in office. And it was why Reagan’s eight years in office were the only time since the Great Depression that Republican partisan identification rose dramatically, nearly closing the Democratic advantage that had existed for more than 40 years and that has existed in the 30 years since he left office.

Americans have supported limited but effective government intervention in the economy for at least the past 160 years. They supported the protective tariff, the Homestead Act, and the Land Grant College Act that the first Republican-controlled Congress passed and which helped average people improve their lives. They supported antitrust acts, workman’s compensation laws, and workplace safety laws to prevent monopolies and oligopolies from forcing Americans to work for less or in less safe conditions than they deserved. They supported FDR’s New Deal, which for all of its many faults contained many provisions that even today ensure a depression will never again cause social upheaval and penury. And they continue to support reasonable and targeted interventions when a sector of society can persuade the majority that they have been unfairly treated.

Carlson’s monologue and Trump’s presidency promise to continue that American tradition. They contend that an American prosperity that leaves millions behind is politically unstable. They contend that an American economic system that worries more about the reactions of foreigners than it does the feelings of citizens is unjust. They contend that an American government that enriches those who know how to pull its’ levers and treats election results as mere Kabuki theater is profoundly immoral and un-American. And they are right.

Americans may call themselves conservative, but they do not want ideological conservatism. Americans may call themselves liberals or progressives, but they do not want doctrinaire leftism. Americans want what they have always wanted and what their birthright, the Declaration and the Constitution, promise them: a government that, through its actions, will secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to ourselves and our posterity.

Hoover’s ignorance of circumstance and human nature made Roosevelt possible. Indulging the economic fundamentalist streak in American conservatism as too many in conservatism’s ivory towers want will be the best gift Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her ilk can get.

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Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Government Reform • Libertarians • Post • The Culture

Imagining a Libertarian Society (It Looks A Lot Like . . . )

Here’s a fun game to play with libertarians and anarcho-capitalists.

Ask them how society would organize after the repressive tendrils of government were pared away from the lives of its citizens.

The smarter ones will say the free market would come up with much better answers than they, as mere armchair philosophers, could possibly contrive. But push them a little. After all, they are part of society and the free market. Surely they would have some input into the question of how society would be organized.

Many will start describing how people would voluntarily band together in mutually beneficial alliances and trade with one another to secure their collective safety and livelihood. Private communities would voluntarily pool their resources together in order to pay for basic necessities, like private roads, private schools, private utilities, private police forces, and private fire departments.

Once these private institutions were big enough, they would probably need some sort of apparatus to ensure that their pooled resources were being used properly and efficiently. After all, the free market doesn’t work particularly well without a discerning buyer who wants to get the best value for his money and it is not efficient for the entire community to spend a lot of their time arguing over who should get what contract.

So, the community would voluntarily pool resources to hire a private manager whose task would be the competent management of the private institutions that the community pays for with shared resources. They might also ask this person to write up some ground-rules for how the community should operate—after all, a majority of them might not like seeing naked people freebasing meth on the private roads that they voluntarily and collectively paid for. They would likely have some sort of performance review for this manager every few years and they would encourage potential competitors to bid for the contract.

Now, this community would likely have some working relationship with neighboring communities and they might decide to form some alliances with these other communities. And each community might send a representative to work with representatives from the other communities to maintain a good working relationship. These communities might like each other so much that they decide to form a semi-permanent alliance—a private alliance that is perfectly voluntary . . . and so on.

In most cases, the description ends up sounding an awful lot like our current system. But you know, with a lower “voluntary contribution” level than whatever state they happen to be from and a more efficient “contracted manager.”

But of course, the inordinate political effort, potential bloodshed and strife, and large-scale destruction of the current system is totally worth it so that the new institutions and associations would be completely voluntary . . . until their kids are born. Oh, wait.

You can play the same game with globalists and one-worlders. Ask them to describe in great detail how exactly the unification would occur and the structures that would facilitate cooperation and unity between the countries. The more granular the description, the more it starts looking like . . . well, diplomacy. Except, it’s on their terms. They get to write the rules of how the diplomacy is done and who has the power.

The free market exists all around us. It is continually playing its role in how government works. Libertarians don’t seem to grasp that the government is a solution that communities have put together to address some collective needs. And globalists don’t seem to grasp that international order already exists to facilitate cooperation between countries. Now, both of these institutions could be a lot better. But improving these institutions requires a lot of hard work—thankless, low-paying work.

Improving government and international relations is not glamorous. In fact, it’s very tedious. There are many entrenched interests that will fight you and try to destroy you—after all, many special interests want to control where the people’s money is going. Because, especially in this country, that’s a lot of money. People are happy to spend billions of dollars to try to control the flow of trillions and few citizens are impervious to corruption.

Typically, one can find many ideological shills in this group. They are the snake-oil salesmen who claim they have a system that can run perfectly and needs very little oversight. In the case of the libertarians, the salesmen need a lot of money to educate people about the free-market and freedom and to lobby for lower taxes. In the case of the globalists, they have an entire governmental system that is very complicated and must be run by experts (who, not coincidentally are themselves and their friends)—after all, it’s too complicated to be understood by commoners.

Now these machines can continue to make terrible decisions and produce mediocre outcomes, but they will tell us that it just needs to be recalibrated and that the outcomes are actually not that bad, because . . . well, because we’re experts and we say that it’s good enough, so shut up.

Many people are happy to spend money with these salesmen because very few want to work in public service at all. They are all looking for the miracle pill, the perfect system that will solve all of our problems without civic involvement.

This system does not exist. There are things that societies can do to make their governments better and there are structural features of bureaucracies that can facilitate this betterment, but there’s no way to get around the difficult civic work that citizens must do in order to make sure that our representatives do the job we’re paying them to do and to keep them from wasting our money.

We should think of our government as we think of hiring a contractor—the less you oversee their work, the more they can rip you off. And if they can convince you that you need to be an expert in order to paint a wall, then they’ll really fleece you.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Conservatives • First Amendment • Free Speech • Libertarians • Online Censorship • Post • Technology • The Left

How to Think about Property Rights and Social Networks

Is it true that Twitter, Facebook, and Google are private companies, which can cancel, delete, or ban anyone they want at any time? Short answer: No. Here are some suggestions for how to think about the social media wars, and whether online censorship is simply a matter of private property rights.

A lot has happened over the past few days, as Twitter continues to anoint itself the Censor Librorum of the woke faithful. The latest victim was conservative pundit Jesse Kelly, whose summary excommunication stirred even Ben Sasse to indignation. (The Weekly Standard meanwhile continues its descent into intellectual bankruptcy, with Deputy Online Editor Jim Swift commenting, “If lots of your favorite accounts keep getting suspended maybe consider that your favorite accounts probably suck.”).

Kelly’s account has since been reinstated amidst the uproar. But even in reinstating him, Twitter seems to be dancing around the truth of what happened. “The account was temporarily suspended for violating the Twitter Rules and has been reinstated. We have communicated directly with the account owner,” a spokesperson for Twitter said. But as Sean Davis of The Federalist pointed out:

In response to the week’s events, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame, has opted to leave voluntarily, closing his Twitter account rather than await eventual banishment for heresy.

But as Julie Kelly has noted, conservatives should not give up on Twitter. This is a fight worth having. Think about it this way: Jack is stealing your stuff.

A dry-cleaner can refuse your business, but if he doesn’t want you as a customer any more, he doesn’t get to keep the clothes you dropped off last time. That’s an extreme example, but a similar principle is at stake here. Social networks are not utilities in the sense of using a non-duplicatable physical infrastructure. There’s no actual physical barrier to creating an alternate Twitter.

There may be a practical one, however. The big social media companies gained a huge market share, and have thereby tied people up in a lot of sunk costs, by deceptively advertising themselves as neutral platforms. Very few people would have shared their information and helped these companies build up their networks if they had been told up front there would political censorship once they were big enough to push out any competitors.

A restaurant may have the right to refuse anyone service, but when I make a reservation for a large party to celebrate a special occasion, it’s a breach of an unwritten contract if the restaurant’s management decides it doesn’t like my opinions and cancels my reservation after I’ve already invested a lot of time and trouble. My efforts were based on a reasonable expectation that the restaurant would not act arbitrarily in suddenly deciding to turn me away. The same principle applies to Google, Twitter, and Facebook.

Plenty of journalists, authors, celebrities and just ordinary people with something to say have invested untold hours in writing tweets, sharing links to those thoughts and observations, and building a network of followers. Where does Twitter get the right to kick you off its network and steal or destroy all your content? As a strictly legal matter, there may be something in the fine print of your user agreement that allows them to do so. But none of the libertarians and “conservatives” invoking a strained definition of property rights are referring to this fine print. They are making a principled argument about what private companies more or may not do. Since when does any company get to steal or destroy its customers’ property—intellectual or otherwise?

Consider one final example that relates directly to digital content. Before Zuck and Jack there was Bill . . . Gates, that is. He was extremely aggressive in grabbing market share for Microsoft. But he never tried to tell his customers what they could think or say or write. Many people still use Microsoft for their word processing needs. When you use that program, you don’t actually own the software; you rent it through a license agreement.

Now imagine if one fine day you received a notice from Microsoft saying, “Hey, we’ve been spying on what you write, and your documents contain a lot of ideas we think are deplorable, so your license agreement is cancelled. There is no appeal.” You find that Word is now deleted from your computer, along with all the files that were stored in that format. Boom! Unless you had the foresight to copy all your content into some other format, your inability to open or access Word would mean everything you ever saved as a Word document would be inaccessible. Would any libertarian defender of “private companies” claim that’s legitimate? How does it differ from Twitter kicking you off their platform and locking you out of everything you created there?

What the social networks are doing is wrong. It’s not a legitimate exercise of property rights. It’s deception and theft. We should fight them.

Democrats • Economy • Libertarians • Post • Republicans • Technology

Amazon’s HQ2 Boondoggle Shows Trump’s Impact on the Right

There are strange political alignments on the $3 billion dollar deal that New York State and City just inked to win half the Amazon “HQ2” jackpot for Long Island City, Queens, just across the East River from Manhattan. (The other half is going to the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where officials are only ponying up about one-fifth as much in subsidies). New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will be handing over between $1.5 billion and $1.7 billion to richest-man-on-earth, Jeff Bezos, and his trillion-dollar company on behalf of New York taxpayers. Another $1.3 billion comes courtesy of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Cuomo says the only opposition to the giveaways comes from “extreme conservatives and socialists.”

That’s not exactly true. The New York Times, which is culturally far left but more conventionally liberal on economics, has joined with more fiscally “woke” progressives like openly socialist Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in opposing the deal. As has the Wall Street Journal, which tacks right on economics but could hardly be mistaken for Roy Moore. The widespread opposition from the Right runs the gamut from Trumpian populists like Tucker Carlson to free marketeers such as the Mercatus Center. Meantime, the quasi-socialist de Blasio has deserted his old comrades at the barricades on this one.

Still, Cuomo’s rough shorthand, suggesting that the battle lines are largely drawn between the allied Left and Right on the one hand and the corporate liberal establishment on the other, is close enough for government work. I follow a strict rule of thumb that when the Left and the Right agree they’re wrong except when they’re right. This is one of those exceptions.

The deal is a classic example of corporate welfare and a New Age form of crony capitalism for the socially progressive titans of politically fashionable industries. Bezos, a big donor to liberal causes whose empire includes the left-leaning Washington Post and the trendy Whole Foods Market chain, will get some $2.5 billion in state and city tax credits and abatements (most of them “refundable”—jargon meaning that if, as is often the case, the deal is so sweet that your tax liability is reduced to less than zero after the government pays you) and $300 to $500 million in direct grants. In return, he will provide all of 2,500 jobs per year over 10 years, “a drop in the bucket” of the 700,000 jobs already added by the city’s expanding economy over the last decade, which at the $2.8 billion to $3 billion price tag will cost taxpayers between $112,000 to $120,000 per job. At an average salary of $150,000, these will not be jobs for struggling family breadwinners but for affluent young tech professionals, in a “hot” area that was once a decaying industrial zone but where the median income is now $138,000 and the average rent $3,458 a month.

In other words, the upper-status social liberals who run the city and state will take $3 billion from working-class and middle-income taxpayers and small businesspeople and give it to the wealthiest man in the world to fund 75 percent to 80 percent of the cost of six-figure salaries for other upscale social liberals. The galling result will be to drive up housing costs and commercial rents to unaffordable levels for many of the average taxpayers and businesspeople who are footing the bill—in effect, using their own money to displace them.

But what of the argument that these handouts are necessary to lure Amazon and other corporate giants, and more than pay for themselves through economic stimulus generating increased tax revenue? In fact, as both the Times and the New York Post argue, and as studies document, the subsidies are essentially a windfall: a negligible factor in corporate location decisions dwarfed by such considerations as general business climate and, especially in the case of fashionable industries like tech, the perceived cultural cachet of being in a place like New York. Google just announced plans to add 7,000 jobs in the Big Apple region without a cent in subsidies. And Amazon spokesman (and former Obama press secretary) Jay Carney acknowledged that subsidies weren’t a key factor in the company’s decision. Rather, it chose the New York and D.C. areas because they’re “attractive places to be for people when we want to recruit talent.”

As to paying for themselves, Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy notes in a National Review article titled “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is Right about Amazon’s Corporate Welfare” that there is “a broad body of economic research that shows that targeted state subsidies to private business . . . have little to no net positive effects.” This is likely to be especially true in the case of subsidies from a fashionable locale like New York to a fashionable industry like tech which, as noted, wants to be there anyway. In the analogous case of the the state’s $420 million film tax credit boondoggle, a report prepared for Cuomo’s own tax reform commission decimated the Governor’s rosy analysis of the revenue it supposedly generated, noting that it turned on the absurd assumption that almost no film production would take place without it.

Weighed against the dubious benefits of corporate welfare like the Amazon deal are the equity and resource diversion costs summarized by de Rugy:

blatant cronyism is unfair to local companies who face heavier tax burdens than the favored companies. … New York, with the money that’s now going to Amazon, could have paid for three years of road maintenance or have reduced the corporate income tax rates by 5.42 percent.

“These tax breaks are wrong,” she concludes. “Dead wrong.”

De Rugy’s view is widespread among conservative pundits, even if it places them in uncomfortable alliance with an avowed socialist like Ocasio-Cortez. Of course, it’s not universal. Commentators on Fox Business, for example, sputtered in rage at opponents of the deal while rhapsodizing about how it would set in motion a “virtuous cycle” of state-funded economic growth leading to the “greatness” of more Starbucks outlets. Some of this silliness is just a reaction to the prominence of the silly Ocasio-Cortez on the other side. But it also reflects the historical tendency of many conservatives to let support for the market slip into unthinking support for big business.

What’s striking, though, and may represent a watershed moment, is that the Fox Business line clearly seems to be the minority view on the Right. I don’t think this would have been the case just three years ago, and I think it reflects how the rise of Donald Trump, who (regardless of how he’s actually governed) ran to the left of the Republican Party on economics, has made the party and the conservative movement more responsive to its working-class base. (Some NeverTrump fiscal conservatives may validly object that they have always taken a principled stand against corporate subsidies, but I think it would have been more difficult for them publicly to take on the world’s richest man in the Romney-Ryan era.)

The Trump movement was the culmination of two related trends that have made knee jerk conservative support for big business unsustainable.

First, the GOP, the political organ of conservatism, has become increasingly lower-middle and working-class, as working people have moved right and “educated” professionals have moved sharply to the left. At the same time, corporate America has become the most strident and powerful force for cultural radicalism and elitist contempt for traditional and conservative values. This has led to a bizarre result as the GOP has become probably the only political party in history that looks out for the financial interests of its enemies and opposes the financial interests of its own voters.

But eventually rank-and-file Republicans wake up and realize that it’s time to stop reflexively siding with liberal corporate billionaires who despise them and their voters. They realize that sometimes the right needs to ally with the populist left against the liberal corporate elite. And in opposing the Amazon boondoggle they’ve done so.

Photo Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED25

2016 Election • Donald Trump • GOPe • Libertarians • Political Parties • Post • Republicans

How Trump Challenges Establishment Truths

Once upon a time, The New Yorker indisputably was the finest magazine in the English-speaking world. It’s still awfully good. In its November 5 issue, house music critic Alex Ross treats readers to a wonderful essay on the life and work of Claude Debussy, who died 100 years ago. Although the editors have been reliably liberal from the start, the magazine abandoned its partisan neutrality in 2003 when it took the unprecedented step of endorsing a presidential candidate, John Kerry. Since 2016, the place has succumbed entirely to Trump Derangement Syndrome.

The New Yorker may cover music and the arts with commentary that is as luminous as ever. But when it comes to politics, they’re just a high-brow version of a left-wing alt-weekly—you know, the ones they give away outside liquor stores and dive bars that used to support themselves with the back pages filled with sex service ads and, now that sex ads have migrated to the internet, with page after page of marijuana ads.

David Remnick, who has been The New Yorker’s editor for more than 20 years, opens the November 5 issue with a 1,081-word editorial, a partisan and very predictable screed attacking President Trump. But in his choice of a title for his rant, Remnick gets it right. He writes: “The Midterm Elections are a Referendum on Donald Trump.”

Yes, as a matter of fact, they are. But what are the core criticisms of Trump, and why do his critics wear blinders?

Trump’s detractors alternate between complaints about his character and his policies, which they deem—wrongly—to be inseparable. But they are blind to the positive aspects of Trump’s character. His successful, loyal family. His temperance. His work ethic. His stamina. His flexibility and adaptability. And—always evident if you watch his rallies—his inimitable sense of humor, which is often self-deprecating. Not least, his unswerving commitment to keeping his promises.

Smashing a False Bipartisan Consensus
Which brings us to what really matters—policy.

For decades, certain “truths” have been inviolable. These truths governed the limits of acceptable public discourse, and constituted a tacit consensus between Republicans and Democrats. The consequences of these truths were a gradual but profound decline, over the last few decades, in the prospects of America’s dwindling middle class.

Ultimately, these unchallenged “truths” represented a set of assumptions that guaranteed the eventual destruction of America’s global leadership, if not America’s sovereignty.

Trump has challenged nearly all of these fundamental “truths.” More to the point, he has backed up his talk with action.

If Trump was an offensive scallywag, but never challenged the premises of America’s bipartisan establishment elite, he would be indulged. Instead, he is hated.

So, what are these “truths”?

The first, not front and center during the midterm elections, but promising to reemerge if the Democrats retake the House of Representatives, is climate change. Donald Trump has not only defied the scientific “consensus,” the will of the international community, the environmentalist lobby, and most of corporate America, but he’s taken action. He approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, brought back coal mining, and withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement.

What Trump recognizes is that climate change alarmism has been a means of not just stopping new pipelines and mining, but everything. In California, the housing shortage is caused by environmentalist restrictions. Every development project in the Golden State—all forms of infrastructure, all forms of resource extraction—that doesn’t involve software (exempting the Silicon Valley) is mired in climate change compliance mandates. Without Trump, these mandates would be rolling across the nation, stifling economic growth at a critical time.

Next, Trump challenged the consensus on “free trade.” Unlike his dogmatic opponents, Trump recognized the interplay between trade and national security, technological leadership, as well as the importance of strategic manufacturing. He also recognized the unsustainability of decades-long deficits with China. Trump’s opponents often claim trade deficits help the United States. According to this line, foreign investment makes up for any trading shortfalls. That’s true, but what sort of foreign investment, and from whom?

In the case of China, over the past 25 years the cumulative U.S. trade deficit is a staggering $4.9 trillion. China retains some of its trade surplus with us in the form of T-Bills, to the tune of $1.2 trillion. The other $3.7 trillion? That’s been used to purchase American assets. How is that good? The United States and China may well be on a collision course. Yet while we import Chinese steel, they buy up our technology. Even in overpriced, overhyped Silicon Valley, $3.7 trillion will buy a lot of technology.

Trump’s understanding of America’s long-term national security interests challenge free traders, globalists, libertarians, and naïve politicians from both political parties. None of these critics honestly confront the enduring fact that, as somebody once put it, “the world is a dark alley at three in the morning.”

Without U.S. military and technological preeminence, none of the globalist fantasies of a peaceful and prosperous world would have a prayer of being realized. Trump has increased military spending, with a focus on strategic supremacy. Also, two words: “Space Force.” Say them again. Do it.

Smashing Political Correctness
Perhaps the most heretical of Trump’s challenges is against political correctness. Trump’s accomplishment wasn’t the dark imaginings of his detractors, that a “racist is occupying the White House.” Trump’s accomplishment is to not care if he is falsely accused of racism, sexism, or of being Islamophobic, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, and phobias yet to be invented.

The significance of Trump’s rejection of political correctness cannot be overstated. Suddenly we can have something approaching a rational conversation about immigration, affirmative action, culture, and religion. After decades of retreat, those of us who believe in preserving American culture and American heritage can go on offense. And to the delight of millions of Americans who are open-minded enough to see it, traditional American culture welcomes all Americans to join it.

Finally, behind Trump’s bellicosity, which—given the forces arrayed in unfair smear campaigns against him—is warranted as often as not, there is a moderate-centrist politician. Trump was the only candidate in the second Republican primary debate who was willing to say he would preserve Social Security and Medicare. “I will not let people die on the streets for lack of health care,” he said, as 16 candidates—all beholden to the libertarian donor class—looked on aghast.

Critics on the Right tolerate Trump because he’s made some good Supreme Court nominations. He’s done a lot more than that. He’s turned the establishment upside down. He tossed the old conservative checklist and redefined what truths we take for granted. He has expanded the terms of debate on the most important issues of our time.

While The New Yorker’s well-heeled writers and editors may have gone off the deep end opposing Trump, at least they are, like most liberals, true to their beliefs. And if they fail to see shades of grey, and if they fail to recognize anything good about Trump, at least they are able to wear those blinders in the name of pragmatic solidarity. This is unlike the libertarian utopians and NeverTrump crybabies who would rather see Democrats destroy the nation than close ranks with Trump and his supporters.

Photo Credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Cultural Marxism • Democrats • Donald Trump • Elections • Libertarians • Post • Republicans

Libertarians Are Marxist Dupes

With one of the most critical midterm elections in American history just weeks away, libertarians continue to wallow in denial. Their core membership is comprised of an incoherent, eclectic mixture of hedonists, social darwinists, hyper-intellectuals, and anarchists. They have no coherent political platform, and to the extent libertarians have an ideology, it is one that is as out of touch with reality as the ideology cherished by their supposed polar opposites, the Marxists.

There is one thing libertarians can do, however. They can turn America over to Marxists, or more accurately, to their socialist oligarch puppeteers.

In the 2016 election, the Libertarian Party candidate for President, Gary Johnson, attracted just over 4.5 million votes. The Leftist equivalent, Green candidate Jill Stein, received only 1.5 million votes demonstrating the superior understanding the Left has of political mechanics. Despite being a deeply flawed candidate, this Libertarian moved the national popular vote from a toss-up to a clear Clinton edge. In the Electoral College, Johnson’s influence was even greater.

At the state level in 2016, Gary Johnson very nearly handed crucial states to Clinton. In Pennsylvania, where Trump’s margin was a 1.3 percentage points, Johnson got 2.4 percent. In Wisconsin, where Trump won by 0.6 percentage points, Johnson got 3.7 percent. In Michigan, where Trump won by a razor thin 0.3 percentage points, Johnson got 3.6 percent.

Not only did Gary Johnson very nearly leave the “Blue Wall” intact for Democrats, he also took states out of play that might have been toss-ups. In Colorado, for example, Trump lost by 3.6 percentage points, but Gary Johnson got 4.7 percent. In Nevada, Trump lost by 2.7 percentage points and Johnson got 3.1 percent.

What about “purple states”? Florida went for Republican Trump in 2016 by a margin of 1.4 points, but Johnson got 2.2 percent. By 2020, assuming the biased media can continue to brainwash hundreds of thousands of recent Puerto Rican refugees into thinking Trump deliberately neglected their hurricane relief, Trump will need that 2.2 percent.

Thank God Johnson was an avowed pothead who, at least back in 2016, couldn’t find Aleppo on a map.

The stakes in 2018 could hardly be higher, but Libertarian Party candidates don’t seem to care. In states where the races for U.S. Senate are too close to call, and in similar cliffhanger congressional races across the nation, Libertarian candidates are running. None of them have the slightest chance of winning, but dozens of them are capable enough to attract two-percent or more. If more than a few of them do, Republicans will lose control of Congress.

Libertarians may wish to reflect on a couple of salient points as early voting begins, and obscenely well-funded Democratic political machines across America begin “assisting” millions of people with their absentee ballots.

First—and sorry to have to state the obvious—America is not a parliamentary system. Even if Libertarian Party candidates attracted five percent of the vote, that would not translate into 22 seats in the House of Representatives. These votes for Libertarian candidates will do only one thing: help Democrats win.

We need to quit indulging the preposterous talking point that Libertarian Party candidates siphon as many votes from away from Democrat candidates as they do from Republican candidates. No, they don’t. Libertarians, for all their incoherence, agree on one thing: smaller government. And Democrats, for all their incoherence, also agree on one thing: much bigger government. Get real.

Whatever may be the flaws of the Republican candidates and elected officials out there (and there are many), Libertarians need to grow up, and recognize a painful fact. The lesser of two evils is the lesser of two evils. The real world isn’t perfect. You take what you can get, because if you walk away, you’ll get something worse.

Perhaps one may excuse some stubborn Libertarian voters for being too naïvely principled to recognize that the establishment Democrat platform—import welfare recipients, export jobs, expand government, cede national sovereignty—is so horrific that even a blatantly imperfect Republican coalition is vastly preferable. But libertarian (small and large-L) donors, especially the big ones—and you know who you are—are not naïve. To support Libertarian candidates with big money, or to withhold that money from Republicans at a time like this, is the same as writing checks to Democrats.

After this November, should Republicans lose control of Congress, there will be a time of reckoning and realignment. For now, libertarians, and their donors, need to understand the consequences of their choices. A vote for a Libertarian is a vote for oligarchic socialism.

Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats • Europe • Government Reform • Immigration • Infrastructure • Libertarians • Post • The Left

Immigrants Won’t Pay for Our Pensions—We’ll Pay for Theirs

Ask any Democrat why they support open borders and invariably they will respond with one of two pre-packaged answers: because “diversity is our strength” or “we need immigrants to pay for our pensions.”

The first argument is a sham: if liberals valued diversity they would welcome conservatives to college campuses and tolerate them online. They don’t. Instead, they protest when anyone to the right of Marx dares speak on campus—remember the “progressive” response to Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley? It was an orgy of violence and rioting. Likewise, the Left enthusiastically de-platforms conservative voices on social media.

For Democrats, diversity means intellectual and political homogeneity—with a smattering of ethnic restaurants. Exposing this hypocrisy sufficiently rebuts this nonpoint.

The second argument—that immigrants will pay for our pensions—is far more persuasive. Most people instinctively defer to the “experts” when it comes to economics: “because Milton Friedman said so” is a compelling statement, despite being a perfect example of the call to authority fallacy. Who cares what economists think? What do the data say?

On this point the data are conclusive: immigration will not save America’s welfare system, it will bleed it dry.

Worshipping Ponzi
In an article for the New Yorker, John Cassidy explains why America needs more immigration:

Demographers and economists have been warning that the aging baby-boomer population presents a serious challenge to the nation’s finances, as the ratio of seniors to working-age adults—the age-dependency ratio—rises. The reason is straightforward: Social Security and Medicare are largely financed on a pay-as-you-go basis, which means that some of the taxes paid by current workers are transferred to current retirees. If the dependency ratio rises, the financial burden on the working-age population also increases.

Cassidy’s diagnosis of the problem is correct. America’s population is aging, and this is a problem because our welfare state is structured like a giant Ponzi Scheme. Although taxpayers contribute to the system throughout their lives, they never see this actual money. Instead, they pay for the previous generation’s retirement with assurances that the next generation will pay for theirs. Welfare is a vampire that requires fresh blood to survive. And herein lies the root of Cassidy’s error.

Cassidy proposes three possible solutions. First, we could “reduce the level of retirement benefits significantly—but that would be very unpopular and difficult to achieve politically.” He’s probably right, and any viable reform likely would require a decade of latency in any event.

Second, Cassidy suggests raising the workforce participation rate, which he notes has fallen from 64.6 to 60.4 percent since 2000. (It’s currently around 62.7 percent.) He says this could work temporarily, but it’s just a bandage solution—eventually people will retire. This is also true.

After dismissing the above two options, Cassidy settles upon increasing immigration as the best way forward:

The final option is to welcome more immigrants, particularly younger immigrants, so that, in the coming decades, they and their descendants will find work and contribute to the tax base. Almost all economists agree that immigration raises G.D.P. and stimulates business development by increasing the supply of workers and entrepreneurs.

In essence, immigrants would replace the sons and daughters Americans never had, thus perpetuating the current system indefinitely. This is a bizarre conclusion to draw for the simple fact that immigrants are a net burden on the welfare state—how will they pay for our Medicaid tomorrow when we’re paying for their Medicaid today?

Bloodletting Leviathan
The preponderance of data show that immigration and socialism are incompatible.

A 2017 study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that although America’s immigrant population is (theoretically) revenue-neutral, most immigrants are actually a drain on the system. The economic impact of immigrants follows a Pareto Distribution—commonly known as the 80-20 Rule, this just means that a hyper-productive few immigrants provide most of the economic gains, while the majority of immigrants contribute (less than) nothing.

Specifically, half of all immigrants actually receive more in government handouts than they pay in taxes, while another third contribute roughly as much as they receive. Only around 15 percent of immigrants contribute to the economy in a meaningful way.

Cassidy overlooks the significance of this non-linear data: if immigration as a whole is revenue-neutral then increasing the immigration rate will do nothing to save the welfare system. Instead, we should cut immigration by (at least) half to reduce the strain on the current system, and focus on attracting more high-performers.

When it comes to immigration, less is more.

Other major studies in other Western countries reach similar conclusions.  For example, a study conducted by Denmark’s Ministry of Finance found that immigrants were a net drain on the nation’s welfare state. In fact, non-EU immigrants, and their descendants, consumed 59 percent of the tax surplus collected from native Danes. This is not surprising, since some 84 percent of all welfare recipients in Denmark are immigrants, or their descendants. Immigration is a net burden on Denmark.

Another major study from the University College of London found that immigrants in the U.K. consumed far more in welfare than they paid in taxes. The study looked at the Labour government’s mass immigration push between 1995 and 2011. The researchers found that immigrants from the European Economic Area made a small, but positive net contribution to the British economy of £4.4 billion ($5.7 billion) during the period. However, non-European immigrants (primarily from South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa) cost the British economy a net £120 billion (around $156 billion).

Together, these studies show that mass immigration undermines domestic welfare systems for the simple fact that most immigrants take more than they give. They also show that the economic benefits of immigration are non-linear: a minority of immigrants contribute the majority of the gains, whereas most immigrants contribute little or are a net drag on outcomes. In light of these facts, Cassidy’s conclusion that immigration will save the welfare state clearly is wrong.

Finding Narnia
Not only is Cassidy wrong, his argument is based on a false dilemma: his three solutions are not the only options. In fact, they’re not even among the best options.

To “pay for our pensions” Americans do not need entitlement reform, a higher workforce participation rate, nor do we need especially high rates of immigration. What we need is economic growth—real, sustained, economic growth, the sort that’s driven by the invention and adoption of better technology.

Unlike immigration, which grows the economy in a linear way, technology can result in exponential growth. Consider the Industrial Revolution: Edmund Cartwright’s power loom increased the productivity of British textile weavers by a multiple of 40. To grow the economy an equal amount via immigration, Britain would have needed to import 39 additional weavers for every British weaver. Clearly technology is the better option—and yet Cassidy argues in favor of immigration.

If you want a contemporary example, just look at Japan. Japan has an aging population—it’s even older than America’s. And yet, Japan has no intention of opening its borders to mass immigration. Instead, the Japanese are investing heavily in technology and infrastructure that is designed to make Japan more productive rather than more populous. So far, it’s worked. Consider that despite Japan’s demographic crunch, their economy grew faster than America’s over the last 40 years (when measured on a per person basis). Technology grows the economy, not immigration.

If we want to save America’s welfare state—and that’s a big if—we need to restrict immigration and expand the economy. Everything else is just rhetoric.

Photo Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Cultural Marxism • Identity Politics • Immigration • Libertarians • Post • The Culture

Alex Nowrasteh’s Procrustean Bed

Alex Nowrasteh is many things. He is the Cato Institute’s senior immigration policy analyst. He is a self-described “radical” open borders advocate. And he is Tucker Carlson’s punching bag. But most importantly, Alex Nowrasteh is Procrustes:

Procrustes boasted his inn’s bed was the most comfortable in Greece, fitting all men regardless of their height. A short man came, so Procrustes stretched him on a rack. Although dead, he fit the bed. Then a tall man came: Procrustes severed his legs with an axe. Although dead, he fit the bed.

One day Theseus stayed at the inn. But Theseus was no fool: he saw tracks entering the inn, but none leaving. That night he waited for Procrustes, who crept into his room with an axe. Theseus snatched the axe and severed Procrustes’ legs. Procrustes smiled. Although dying, he fit the bed.

Like Procrustes, Nowrasteh lives to stretch the truth and sever facts from their context, until reality fits his theoretical ideal: immigration is good and more is better. No “fact” justifying immigration can come up short, nor is any confirmatory tale too tall. For Nowrasteh, everything must justify open borders—if not, he wields his rhetorical axe to rationalize or omit the inconvenient incongruity.

Nowrasteh is at his best (read: worst) when he discusses immigration’s impact on American politics. He argues that mass immigration minimally impacts America’s political culture—if anything, immigration makes America more free.

Reality—and (ironically) his own research papers—proves Nowrasteh wrong. Immigration unquestionably changes America’s political climate because immigrants have overwhelmingly voted for Democrats and have done so for nearly a century.

Many Enter, None Leave
Most weary travelers ignored the (lack of) tracks outside Procrustes’ inn, but Theseus recognized the danger—and survived. The lesson here is to always know your opponent: how does Alex Nowresteh argue; can we trust his evidence, or should we be skeptical of his every word?

Nowrasteh is a sophist, content to hide his nonsensical arguments with pseudo-logic. For example, Nowrasteh routinely commits the appeal to authority fallacy (conflating expert opinion with fact). He writes in The Federalist how politicians should “shift towards the opinion of most economists” and support increased immigration. The opinion of “most economists” substitutes for evidence because instinctively we trust experts.

But this trust is often misplaced when dealing with complex systems—particularly the economy. The reason is most economists base their analyses on a number of (obviously) false presumptions, and macroeconomic events unfold too slowly for economists to receive adequate feedback. Unlike chefs, whose performance is calibrated by years of generous tips and disgruntled diners, economists rarely test their skill. This makes them incompetent. In fact, research conducted by psychologist Philip Tetlock shows that experts—including economists, financial gurus, and political specialists—actually perform worse than chance when predicting economic trends.

Who cares what economists think. What do the data say?

On top of this, Nowrasteh’s statement that “most” economists support increased immigration is misleading. The poll he cites from 2006 shows that only 53 percent of economists believe immigration levels are too low—17 percent think they’re too high, while 30 percent are neutral. Further, the poll does not differentiate between skilled workers and non-economic migrants (asylum-seekers, family members, diversity visa lottery winners). How would reframing the question alter the results?

Another of Nowrasteh’s favorite fallacies is the appeal to the masses: substituting popularity for correctness. In his blog item, “The Rising Popularity of Increasing Immigration,” Nowrasteh asks: “if the public is increasingly pro-immigration, why is the GOP so opposed to immigration?” He then justifies his radical open borders agenda with flimsy public opinion data. This is not compelling—the public used to enjoy burning witches, but does this justify Salem’s horrors?

Popular opinion is an imperfect proxy for correctness.

And in typical Nowrasteh fashion, he’s wrong in any event: most Americans oppose mass immigration. A Harvard-Harris poll finds that 81 percent of Americans want to reduce annual immigration rates to less than 1 million people, while just 9 percent of Americans want to increase immigration to more than 1.5 million. Interestingly, this preference cut across racial and political lines: the plurality of whites, Hispanics, blacks, Republicans, and Democrats support cutting immigration to below 250,000.

Harvard’s findings are consistent with research from Pulse Opinion, which finds that voters in “swing states” favor comprehensive immigration reform by a 3-1 margin. Closed—not open—borders is the winning ticket. How Nowrasteh decapitates this fact to fit this theory is a mystery.

Nowrasteh is also a hypocrite. His vitriolic tweets often accuse others of justifying their position based on public opinion data:


Procrustes’ Axe
Nowrasteh’s most important rhetorical trick is to shift the burden. That is, he makes claims requiring justification and demands that his opponent justify his opposite conclusions. In a debate on open borders hosted by the (profoundly unreasonable) Reason Magazine, Nowrasteh contends:

American notions of liberty demand a presumption in favor of . . . the right of people to voluntarily move across borders . . . the burden is upon those who oppose such a right to show why it should be restricted.

Nowrasteh makes the radical claim that America should dissolve its border, and then has the gall to say the burden is on his opponent to show why this is bad. That’s not how logic works. The burden rests on the interlocutor proposing the change to show why it is beneficial. Doing otherwise violates the precautionary principle, which is deeply rooted in both our biology and empirical evidence.

Biological evolution is largely governed by one question: approach or avoid? Approaching something novel may yield a lucrative new food source or reproductive partner, but it might also kill you. In fact, death, maiming, or disease is usually the more likely outcome. For this reason, human populations evolved a genetic predisposition for neophobia (risk aversion) while only a small minority of humanity carries the explorer gene, which predisposes one for novelty-seeking behavior.

Logic also favors the status quo. Consider the Lindy Effect, which implies that what survives is likely to continue surviving because of its proven utility. Meanwhile, most of what is new doesn’t last very long—time separates the weak from the strong. This explains why most new ideas don’t last, while classics have sticking-power. Likewise, it explains why many things that appear maladaptive, like tariffs, are the historical norm.

Edmund Burke adumbrated this in his Reflections on the Revolution in France, arguing that the ancien régime’s institutions, though dysfunctional, were nevertheless valuable in unexpected ways. The subsequent collapse of France attests to that fact. The same is true of the fall of Russia’s czars—the Soviet Union could never hope to approximate the time-tested successes of czarism, no matter how “rational” it purported to be. There is wisdom in tradition.

This brings me to America: borders are the norm. Alex Nowrasteh wants to dissolve them. Ergo, the burden must rest with him to prove his point—not on his opponents.

Interestingly, Nowrasteh seems to be aware of this fallacy, and attempts to preclude it by arguing that open borders is the historical norm. In a 2012 piece for the Huffington Post, Nowrasteh writes:

. . . America’s first immigration and naturalization law, the Naturalization Act of 1790. . . had zero restrictions on immigration. You read that right, the first immigration law passed in the United States, by the Founders themselves, supported open immigration.

The Naturalization Act created few requirements for naturalization. Eligible persons had to reside here for two years, have a good moral character (that is, not be a criminal), and be a free white person. That last provision shamefully excluded indentured servants, slaves, and former slaves. But there were no restrictions on who could come here and work for the American dream.

Confused? #MeToo.

On the one hand, Nowrasteh claims that the Founding Fathers supported “open immigration” and imposed “zero restrictions on immigration.” In literally the next paragraph, Nowrasteh admits that the Founding Fathers excluded all people of color, all people of dubious moral character—not just criminals, but ostensibly homosexuals, Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Muslims—and all slaves and indentured servants. Whether or not this was vigorously applied is a different question, but that was the intention.

In sum, the Naturalization Act of 1790 excluded almost everyone on earth. Nowrasteh’s reasoning is Procrustean: history doesn’t comport with the theory, therefore history must change.

I, Theseus
Nowrasteh’s argument for immigration rests on two pillars: mass immigration is good for the economy and immigration is politically benign—if anything, it will make America freer. As evidence, he cites two research papers showing that mass immigration to Jordan and Israel catalyzed liberal reforms. Having already addressed the question of immigration and economic growth, I turn to the issue of immigration and politics.

To begin with, Nowrasteh’s papers are irrelevant.

Regarding Jordan, Nowrasteh found that the wave of 300,000 Kuwaiti immigrants following the Gulf War made Jordan more prosperous and liberal. Apparently, this “proves” that increased immigration will likewise make America more prosperous and liberal. But what Nowrasteh neglects to mention is that the Kuwaiti refugees shared with Jordan a common ethnicity, language, religion, and many were very rich—Kuwait is one of the Arab world’s wealthiest, and most well-educated and westernized societies.

It is patently absurd to claim that Jordan’s situation in any way parallels the American experience, in which some 60 million polyglot legal and illegal immigrants deluged the nation in the last 50 years. My colleague Pedro Gonzalez writes of the wave of Mexican immigrants:

Lawful Mexican immigrants have the lowest naturalization rates of any group, at 42 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2015, the naturalization rate among eligible immigrants from Mexico was similar to those from Honduras (43 percent) and Guatemala (44 percent). In a survey administered by Pew, 35 percent of Mexican immigrants cited “[a] lack of English proficiency” as the main reason that they have not naturalized. The second most common reason? “Have not tried yet or not interested,” so say 31 percent of all Mexicans.

Nowrasteh is either a fool or a charlatan for drawing this (obviously) false equivalence.

When it comes to Israel, Nowrasteh notes that because the Jewish state “allows for unrestricted immigration for world-wide Jews,” the population grew by 20 percent in the 1990s after the USSR collapsed. He finds that “these immigrants did not bring social capital that eroded the quality of Israel’s institutional environment. We find that economic institutions improved substantially over the decade.” Basically, Israel has something akin to “open borders” and immigration made Israel more liberal. Logically, Nowrasteh concludes that opening America’s border would have a similar effect.


To begin with, Soviet Jews were universally literate and, generally speaking, highly educated—this is not the case for the half of America’s immigrants who arrive via chain migration, as refugees, or come here illegally. Likewise, the immigrants to Israel shared a common culture, history, ethnicity, and often language (Hebrew or Yiddish). And it goes without mentioning that holding up Israel as an example as a state with (limited) open borders is duplicitous. Israel restricts immigration from 99.8 percent of the world’s population—a level far beyond even America’s 1790 Naturalization Act.

Not only is Nowrasteh’s evidence irrelevant, but his own research proves him wrong, and shows that immigration changes America’s political culture because immigrants vote overwhelmingly for Democratic Party candidates and support socialist policies.

Consider the following data from his paper, “Immigrants Assimilate into the Political Mainstream.” Figure 1, which shows that 50 percent of all immigrants lean Democrat, compared to just 18 percent who lean Republican—a much starker divide than we see among native born citizens. Furthermore, Figure 3 shows that these political preferences persist for at least four generations—immigrants’ decedents are more than twice as likely to be “strong Democrats” as “strong Republicans” nearly a century after arriving.

This isn’t really surprising: Boston was flooded with Irishmen during that nation’s emigration epoch. The Irish voted Democrat and supported labor unions 150 years ago, and they still do today. Even the liberal psychology professor Jonathan Haidt notes that political preferences are highly heritable in his book The Righteous Mind. Politics, like many bad habits, runs in the family.

The data from Figure 9 shows that immigrants are twice as likely as natives to believe the “government [should] do more” not less. Tying into this is Figure 18, which shows that immigrants are over 50 percent more likely than native-born citizens to believe the government’s job should be to “reduce income differences” between citizens (31 versus 20 percent), and half as likely to say that no action should be taken (7 versus 14 percent). Also interesting are the data from Figure 22, which shows that 34 percent of new immigrants think the government should provide assistance to the poor, versus just 16 percent for natives.

I could go on, but you get the point: Nowrasteh’s own research shows that immigrants support expansive government. Nowrasteh also notes in the paper that “many immigrants that [sic] self-identify as Republicans or Independents end up voting for Democratic candidates” since the Democrats are the stronger pro-immigration option. That is, most immigrants are actually single-issue voters: they vote for more immigration.

This raises the question: what the hell is Nowrasteh talking about when he says, “every concern about immigrants . . . overturning our culture and institutions . . . [has] turned out to be wrong.” He should read what he writes.

The Return to Athens
Alex Nowrasteh proves Alex Nowrasteh wrong: immigration changes America’s political culture and grows the government. This is because immigrants vote overwhelmingly in favor of the Democrats, who work feverishly to raise taxes and curtail our civil liberties.

Consider that the last Democratic president elected by native-born Americans was Lyndon B. Johnson back in 1964 (excluding the Ross Perot anomaly of 1992). Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton (second term), and Barack Obama won only because immigrants tipped the electoral scales in their favor.

Further, it doesn’t take very many immigrants to tip the scales in a tight race. Remember, President Trump won by just 112,911 votes in Florida and 10,704 in Michigan—both states which could conceivably alter the course of the 2020 election. These are razor-thin margins, and immigration is erasing them.

A net 147,000 immigrants settle in Florida every year. Meanwhile, some 22,919 people immigrate to Michigan annually. If these people vote in line with the national average (which has held steady for decades), then just one or two years of immigration is enough to turn those states blue by 2020. This isn’t an abstract theory. This is reality.

Nowrasteh made his bed and expects America to lie in it. Perhaps we will, but I doubt it. After all, America is Theseus.

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Americanism • Cultural Marxism • Identity Politics • Immigration • Libertarians • Post

Americanization: An American Idea That Works

The Trump Era is iconoclastic as much as it is mythoclastic, with one chimera slain after another. But some lies die harder than others.

Alex Nowrasteh, the Cato Institute’s senior immigration policy analyst, is a self-described “Globalist [and] Elitist.” Who better to lecture Americans on patriotism?

Recently, Nowrasteh joined the chorus lambasting Michael Anton’s Washington Post op-ed against birthright citizenship. Nowrasteh carefully couches the term “assimilation” beside patriotic sayings of Ronald Reagan. Because “assimilation” is as effective a process as it has ever been, argues Nowrasteh, then there really is no reason to fret over mass immigration—let alone birthright citizenship.

But there is nothing patriotic or even “American” about Nowrasteh’s idea of assimilation. This is not a stretch. Assimilation and Americanization are not the same thing to Nowrasteh. He says so himself:

Even though the evidence of immigration assimilation should comfort skeptics, some have proposed massive new government programs to help boost immigrant assimilation. However, evidence from the early 20th century Americanization Movement suggests that such efforts will fail or that they could even backfire and make new immigrants and their descendants less culturally and patriotically American.

“In the absence of empirical evidence supporting the effectiveness of the Americanization Movement,” claims Nowrasteh, “its supporters should be agnostic instead of calling for its revival. There are plenty of anecdotes that the Americanization Movement slowed assimilation by creating resentment among the immigrants who were the intended beneficiaries.”

Assimilation, to Nowrasteh, means how well foreigners can take on the roles of American citizens, regardless of whether they themselves are patriotic—which Nowrasteh does not think we shouldn’t encourage them to be.

In fact, Nowrasteh believes that the Americanization campaign of the early 20th century was an abject failure, so we shouldn’t entertain the idea of reviving it. Further, because he claims that there is no data to support that Americanization worked, Nowrasteh presents a selection of anecdotes in the form of old newspaper clippings from the ethnic press, quotes critics of Americanization, and, of course, throws in the obligatory mentions of the Ku Klux Klan and “Prussianism.”

“The Spirit of America”
Advocates of Americanization held to the traditional American belief that education provides the people of a democracy with the implements they need to become industrious, enlightened citizens. When faced with mass immigration at the turn of the 20th century, these Americans saw public schooling as a means of Americanizing the immigrant masses.

Teaching immigrants English language arts, instilling in them a respect for our republic, for the law, justice, and republican government was once considered an obvious necessity toward the ultimate ends: “To change the unskilled inefficient immigrant into the skilled worker and efficient citizen, to strike at the cause of poverty, to improve the environment and the spirit of America, the knowledge, of America, and the love of America and one’s fellow-men into the millions gathered here from the ends of the earth.”

In cities, where the urban immigrant masses coalesced, night schools for adults and kindergarten programs for children sprang up, along with compulsory-education laws requiring schooling until age 14. As a result, the number of public school enrollments skyrocketed from 6.9 million in 1870 to 17.8 million by 1910.

“The kindergarten age,” wrote one reformer, “marks our earliest opportunity to catch the little Russian, the little Italian, the little German, Pole, Syrian, and the rest, and begin to make good American citizens of them.” He went on:

You know the work of the hands is lifted from boredom and degradation; and that the idea of service—household service and all other—is ennobled. You know that it is instilled into the tender brain that there is a right way to do things, and that it is worth while to do things in the right way. You know how cleanliness and courtesy are taught, and mutual helpfulness; and many other things are useful, joyous, refining.

Millions of students attended parochial schools established by the Catholics and Jews. “The Roman Catholic Church,” wrote Edward George Hartmann, “used its clergy, schools, press, charity, institutions, and fraternal organizations to persuade immigrants to give up their foreign cultural patterns and conform to American cultural customs.”

Archbishop John Ireland . . . an Irish immigrant, was a leader among the Americanization bishops. . . . He struggled against the efforts of immigrant Catholics to preserve their languages and traditions. Jewish settlement houses developed in many cities to encourage jewish immigrant children to learn American ways, to attend public school, and to preserve their identity within American parameters.

What Nowrasteh deliberately neglects to acknowledge is that immigrants, like Archbishop Ireland, wanted to Americanize, because it meant acceptance, prosperity, stability, and because, above all else, they believed in “the American way” that made so many good things possible.

On July 4, 1918, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers turned out to witness more than 70,000 marchers parade down Fifth Avenue, including Indians. No less than 40 national-origin groups from New York’s immigrant community constituted the core of the event, among them: 18 Haitians, 10,000 Italians, 10,000 Jews—drawn from the 50,000 Italians and 50,000 Jews who wanted to participate in the march. Germans carried signs that read: “America is our fatherland” and “Born in Germany, Made in America,” Greeks, Irish, Croatians, Hungarians, Slovenes, Serbs, Lithuanians, and Poles marched beneath a banner proclaiming: “Uncle Sam is our uncle.” Russians wore red, white, and blue outfits, Venezuelans performed the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the Chinese dressed up like an American baseball team.

Covering the event was a journalist for the New York Times, who described the spectacle as a “kaleidoscopic pageant, now bright with splendid costumes, now drab with long columns of civilians, marching with a solemnity of spirit that brought its meaning home impressively to those who looked on, there was slowly woven a picture of fighting America of today, a land of many bloods, but one ideal.”

No doubt Nowrasteh would agree with the miserable ethnic press he cited, that this all “smacks decidedly of Prussianism, and it is not at all in accordance with American ideals of freedom.”

Remembering How Latinos Used to Assimilate
It is curious that we hear the loudest yelps for “American ideals of freedom” from those who would see America divided.

This drive for Americanization, bolstered by a renewed fervor for widespread education, was so effective that by 1920, the United States essentially had achieved universal literacy—a process which was carried on by organizations like the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Founded to assimilate Latinos into Anglo-Protestant culture and the oldest existing organization of its kind, the League’s constitution is modeled on the United States Constitution, it has its official song “America,” its official language is English, and its official prayer is the “George Washington Prayer.” Not only does the League place (or, rather, it once placed) a premium on Americanization, unlike Nowrasteh, but the former president of the League supports Trump, unlike Nowrasteh. Where Nowrasteh is lukewarm when it comes to patriotism, Roger Rocha, Jr. is not—although that patriotism has cost him his executive position.

But LULAC’s work, when it was truly dedicated to the American cause, did much good. According to a Pepperdine study, by 1970, the typical Latino in Southern California spoke only English and had fully assimilated into Anglo-Protestant culture. But times have changed and Americanization is now under attack.

In truth, Nowrasteh’s preferred version of America is one that resembles multiculturalism more than anything else. The multicultural ethos had no salience until the 1960s, and really exploded in the 1990s. Take it from the critics of Americanization.

Harold Cuse—a communistcomplained that “America is a nation that lies to itself about who and what it is. It is a nation of minorities ruled by a minority of one—it thinks and acts as if it were a nation of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.” Cuse lamented that Americanization “effectively dissuaded, crippled and smothered the cultivation of democratic cultural pluralism in America.” So effective was the discouragement of cultural pluralism, that Milton Gordon remarked Americanization of immigrants into Anglo-Protestant cultural patterns “has probably been the most prevalent ideology of assimilation in the American historical experience”—not a melting pot, but a “transmuting pot.” Critics can decry this as cruel, but there’s no denying that it worked. Indeed, until the advent of post-1965 mass immigration, the United States was a nation of some 200 million people who virtually all spoke English.

Naturalization and English Ability as a Marker of Americanization?
We have established that Americanization worked, transforming the immigrant, as one scholar wrote, into a “patriotic, loyal, and intelligent supporter of the great body of principles and practices which the leaders of the movement chose to consider ‘America’s priceless heritage.’” But how does Nowrasteh’s notion of “assimilation” hold up against the truth?

Two of the indicators that Nowrasteh uses as “proof” of assimilation—different from Americanization—of immigrants into American society are naturalization rates and English-speaking ability. But a closer look at America’s largest immigrant group, Latinos, and Mexicans in particular, reveals a very different picture.

There 65.5 million people in America who report speaking a language other than English at home. Spanish is the “other language” for 62 percent—around 40 million people. As of 2016, there are 26.1 million individuals in the United States, ages five and older, who report speaking English “not at all,” “not well,” or “well,” collectively classified as Limited English Proficient (LEP). Spanish speakers account for 64 percent (16.6 million) of the LEP population.

What happens when first, second, and third generation immigrants live in predominantly Spanish-speaking communities in the United States? Consider California, where the largest number of LEP individuals reside—a full 26 percent of the nation’s total—and there is not a single county in which a majority of Latino students are proficient in English. Never before in the history of the United States have so many people spoken a single non-English language in such large numbers, yet Nowrasteh would lead us to believe that this is in keeping with American “principles.”

What of naturalization rates? Lawful Mexican immigrants have the lowest naturalization rates of any group, at 42 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2015, the naturalization rate among eligible immigrants from Mexico was similar to those from Honduras (43 percent) and Guatemala (44 percent). In a survey administered by Pew, 35 percent of Mexican immigrants cited “[a] lack of English proficiency” as the main reason that they have not naturalized. The second most common reason? “Have not tried yet or not interested,” so say 31 percent of all Mexicans.

The foreign-born of America’s top sending country have abysmal rates of naturalization. But what else could be behind low naturalization rates? “Close geographic proximity of origin countries to the U.S. may lower naturalization rates,” reports Pew, “in part because immigrants from countries near the U.S. are more likely to maintain strong ties to their countries of origin.” Immigrants from Latin America have lower naturalization rates because they get to enjoy most of the benefits that citizens do, without having to go through the work of becoming a citizen.

Unpatriotic Globalist
All things considered, one must wonder why it is that Nowrasteh is so misleading about the process by which millions of immigrants became patriotic, English-speaking, prosperous Americans; or why he considers it to be odious that immigrants learn the right way to live as good citizens and amicable members of the community.

Why would Nowrasteh make such misleading claims about what he considers “assimilation”? One thing is clear: Americanization was successful, benefitting millions of immigrants and this nation.

Although Americanization has come under attack in recent history, it lives on, to the chagrin of globalists and race hucksters alike.

In a recent column, Gustavo Arellano laments that in pockets of Los Angeles, as Latinos move into the middle class, they adopt “the same mores as their white peers.” Arellano gripes over the fact that as immigrants assimilate into Anglo-Protestant culture, they are less likely to identify with immigrants who have not; that is to say, he is upset that they will no longer identify with “La Raza.” Arellano duplicitously claims that this assimilation is “destiny” and like Nowrasteh, argues there’s no reason to fret over immigration.

At the core of this argument is nationalism, without which, there can be no patriotism. For what is a patriot without a nation to pledge allegiance to? “To substitute internationalism for nationalism,” said Teddy Roosevelt, “means to do away with patriotism.” If immigrants and their children are Americanized, then they, too, will chant “America First.” This is bad for individuals like Nowrasteh, who, being in the business of keeping Americans divided, would find himself with very few friends in America united.

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Democrats • Elections • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Libertarians • Political Parties • Post • Republicans • The Culture • The Left • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trade

Libertarian God-Kings Throw in With Democratic Socialists

The well-heeled, much-feared Koch network announced from its biannual meeting in Colorado Springs this week that it would withhold support from Republican candidates in three of the eight closest races for U.S. Senate. The news, reported in Politico and elsewhere, probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. Libertarians, who value their utopian principles more than they value saving the political culture that indulges their fantasies, are very likely going to be the voting bloc that turns control of Congress over to Democrats in November. Why should the über Libertarian God-Kings, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, fail to act in accordance with these same fantasies?

And it is fantasy. You can’t shrink government if “free trade” has gutted the nation of jobs at the same time as “open borders” has flooded the nation with destitute immigrants.

That’s the logic that libertarians, funded by the Koch organizations, refuse to admit.

Enemy of Your Enemy is Not Your Friend
Instead, America’s libertarians trumpet a classical liberal dogma, repeating the same phrases almost mindlessly, their vacuity only matched by their certainty. Like glassy-eyed cult members, they seem to think the ideas they regurgitate constitute the only true path. Contrary opinions and cold facts, no matter how supported by evidence and reason, bounce off them like balloons on Mars.

In the case of the Kochs, maybe the agenda of free trade and open borders doesn’t have to connect with principles. It just helps if it looks that way. Because it might also have to do with keeping the Kochs’ foreign-based industries profitable, and it might also have to do with increasing the supply of labor in the United States in order to keep down wages.

And who knows, maybe the Kochs’ war on candidates who are too Trump-like may have to do as well with resurrecting the Koch image, so savaged by the Left. But what they’re forgetting is this: If your enemy (Democratic Socialists) have an enemy (Trump) that is suddenly your enemy too, that doesn’t make them your friend. It just makes them your enemy who is also the enemy of your other enemy. When your enemy, with your help, is done with your other enemy, don’t expect peace. Expect more war.

Was that too deep and convoluted? Sorry. Let’s express this concept in more immediate, concrete terms: the libertarian war on Trump is going to hand America back to the Democrats.

What Would Libertarians Prefer?
While the Kochs pull the plug on Republican Senate candidates 
Kevin Cramer in North Dakota, Dean Heller in Nevada, and Mike Braun in Indiana—presumably for some heresy or another against sacred libertarian “principles”—it is worth asking: How do the Kochs propose we should conduct our trade and immigration policies?

What is the ideal immigration policy according to the Kochs? Open borders? Nearly open borders, which is what we have now? Some other reform—and if so, what? Merit-based legal immigration as the president proposes, or something else? Let’s hear it.

What is the ideal trade policy according to the Kochs? Shall we just allow other nations to cheat, consistently imposing tariffs far greater than our own, and call it “free trade,” all while convincing ourselves there is no downside to allowing foreign investors to buy up American assets in order to balance the current account? How shall the Kochs propose we formulate our trade policies? Stay the course? Or what?

Perhaps the Kochs will please excuse those of us still clinging to the troglodytic notion that it’s bad, not good, for America to continue to import welfare recipients at the same time as it exports jobs. Is it even possible to reason with these God-Kings of Libertarian Land?

Maybe some of us aren’t placated by the fact that the current account is balanced by selling America’s domestic assets to foreigners. Particularly when these foreign investments tend to be concentrated either in real estate—which serves no economic purpose other than further to inflate the bubbly real estate portfolios of investment banks and public employee pension funds while turning ordinary Americans into either renters or mortgage slaves—or in strategic technology companies, at least those companies whose intellectual property they didn’t already steal.

“Starting a trade war.” No. Incorrect. We’ve been in one for years. Their tariffs are bigger than our tariffs. So to get their attention we raise our tariffs. Got a better idea? Let’s have it.

And maybe some of us simply don’t believe the utopian idea that we can import millions of people from medieval, hostile cultures, and magically turn them all into engineering Ph.D.’s who dabble in libertarian philosophy in their spare time. Maybe we recognize it as hubris reminiscent of the neoconservative fantasy that propelled America into Iraq in 2003. That fantasy held that all we had to do was topple a dictator, and everyone living there would suddenly become Jeffersonian Democrats, attending PTA meetings, having bake sales, and voting for safe, sane, moderate, vanilla candidates in an “American-style” democracy.

Oops. How did that turn out? But never mind. Let’s import millions of more refugees, while doctors from South Korea and engineers from Ukraine wait years for their legal visas. How’s that catchy phrase go? “Bomb ’em and bring ’em.” Brilliant.

Policies That Would Ensure Decline
Then there’s the federal budget deficit, and there’s welfare, both anathema to libertarians. They claim the trade deficit enables the budget deficit by giving foreign exporters with trade surpluses incentives to buy T-bills. And they claim that welfare is the problem, not immigrants who “do the jobs Americans won’t do.” But what if these libertarians are looking at a horse, and thinking it’s a cart? What if reducing the trade deficit would force establishment politicians to reduce the budget deficit since there would be fewer buyers of T-bills? What if eliminating illegal immigration would force establishment politicians to reduce welfare benefits since there would suddenly be more available jobs?

Globalism has its place, but America can’t help the world’s less fortunate if it’s culturally disintegrated and economically destitute. Compassionate nationalism depends on a coherent, prosperous nation.

The irony of the Kochs’ failed logic, and by extension, the entire libertarian movement’s failed logic, would be amusing if it weren’t so dangerous. Open borders and weak trade policies guarantee American decline. They guarantee social chaos and economic stagnation, to which the only possible response will be a government that is bigger than ever. Those wicked socialists, the supposed nemesis of the libertarian ideologues, must be laughing especially hard these days.

Photo credit: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

America • Economy • Foreign Policy • Libertarians • Post • Trade

Free Trade’s Faustian Bargain: Selling America’s Soul for Trinkets

Spectators claim that Satan himself appeared on stage during the opening performance of Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus (1588). The grizzly specter, it was said, drove men mad with fear. Some in attendance wanted to demolish the theater, while others wanted to hang Marlowe for his occult summoning. In spite of the controversy (perhaps because of it), the play was a hit. Today Faustus remains one of the greatest works of literature. Why?

Exquisite language?—lines like “the face that launch’d a thousand ships” have haunted readers for centuries. Perhaps. But time rarely preserves art for art’s sake: what survives is useful; it serves a purpose. Doctor Faustus is no exception.

The plot is simple: Faustus sells his soul to Lucifer in exchange for demon Mephistopheles’ service for 24 years. Faustus dreams of wealth: I will “wall all Germany with brass . . . fill the public schools with silk” and “live a life of all voluptuousness.” In the end, Faustus wastes his power and Satan takes his soul.

Faustus’ fate reveals two important lessons. First, avoid asymmetrical trades—never exchange souls for silk (permanent wealth for fleeting luxury). Second, always consider time-horizons: don’t trade heaven for worldly pleasure ($2 tomorrow for $1 today).

Ironically, economists recommend precisely the opposite—which is why America’s economy is so dysfunctional.

Consider the trade deficit: America has run a deficit every year for the last 40 years. Last year alone the deficit cost $796 billion. How do we pay for deficits? We sell America’s soul. Every year, America trades billions worth of land, corporate ownership, and debt for imported “voluptuousness.”

America is Faustus—and we’re running out of soul to sell.

Homo Fuge: Yet Shall Not Faustus Fly
Mephistophelian-minded economists at the Cato Institute claim that trade deficits don’t matter because they don’t really exist. Instead, international trade is best conceptualized as a balance of payments: America’s trade deficit is equalized by a surplus in capital inflows. This is true. But what does a “surplus in capital inflows” mean practically? It means we buy foreign goods, and foreigners buy our assets and debts—we get “voluptuousness,” they get soul.

Unless you’re an academic, this is not very shocking. But for argument’s sake, here’s how trade deficits work: America buys more goods from foreigners than we sell to them. This creates a trade deficit—worth $796 billion in 2017.

Now for the other side of the equation: to pay for the goods, America sells more services than it buys (think banking and tourism). This helps, but still leaves us $566 billion in the red. Thus, America must also sell assets and debt.

Assets include real estate, artifacts, corporate shares—anything of value that was produced in the past. Selling assets is not always or necessarily bad. For example, selling your mothballed Harley to buy a home gym might be wise. However, pawning your great-grandma’s wedding ring to buy groceries isn’t advisable. It’s context-dependent.

As a whole, America’s asset sales resemble pawning great-grandma’s wedding ring, not scrapping an old Harley. Consider that foreigners bought $153 billion worth of American real estate in the 2016-2017 fiscal year—everything from New York penthouses to Nebraskan ranches. This has the negative downstream effect of increasing housing prices and rents—in addition to the social problems associated with absentee landlords.

For example, housing is 73 percent more expensive today (in real terms) than it was in 1973, and many young people can no longer afford homes in their own homeland. Likewise, even highly educated professionals are being priced out of cities like San Francisco. By embracing free trade, Americans swapped “cheap goods” for high rents and big mortgages. Was it worth it? For most Americans, probably not.

The United States also sells billions in equities, that is ownership of U.S. corporations—and the associated profits. As of 2017, foreigners owned roughly 38 percent of American equities, when including foreign direct investments and foreign portfolio investments. This is up from just 12 percent in 2007, and the number is growing fast.

America pays for the rest of the deficit by selling debt. This is reflected in the endless growth of U.S. public and private debt levels. For example, foreign investors own over 44 percent of America’s national public debt, valued at more than $6.3 trillion. Foreign investors also own nearly 30 percent of all U.S. corporate bonds and a large percentage of America’s private debt.

Just as Faustus’ 24 years eventually elapsed, American will soon run out of souls to sell. Remember, our assets are finite, and there are tacit limits on our debt-carrying capacity—the 2008 crisis revealed but a taste of our economy’s structural fragility. Never deal with the Devil.

Lente, Lente Currite, Noctis Equi!
Doctor Faustus contains within it two lessons worth heeding.

First, avoid negative asymmetries. In selling his soul to Satan, Faustus committed the cardinal economic sin of trading his (only) asset for consumables—basically, he sold great-grandma’s ring for groceries. Like Faustus, America only has so much soul (assets) to exchange for imports. When we run out, we will regret having sold our homes, companies, and heritage for Chinese-fabricated Troll Dolls and Made-in-Mexico pet rocks. Guaranteed.

Adding to this asymmetry is the element of control. Foreigners are furiously buying-up our cities and control of our corporations—soon America’s economic future will be in foreign hands. Aligning our economic might with foreign entities that may not have our best interests at heart jeopardizes America’s future. Furthermore, corporate ownership provides a ready-made conduit for industrial espionage. For example, the Chinese have already leached trillions-worth of American technology and intellectual property through corporate takeovers and partnerships.

Of course, America’s Founders were aware of this problem. In fact, the second piece of legislation George Washington signed as president was the Tariff Act of 1789. Its purpose? To secure economic autarky. Washington, like Hamilton and (eventually) Jefferson, knew that political independence could not exist without economic independence. Too often economists forget that economics is not fundamentally about wealth. It’s about power. This is the real reason America needs tariffs.

Adding a layer of nuance: America runs a nearly $400 billion annual trade deficit with China. This money eventually returns to America through the account surplus—but not directly. Because America’s currency is a global reserve currency, China can spend its U.S. dollars in Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa rather than in America. This allows Beijing to buy political influence from local potentates, and to secure natural resource deposits.

In this way, America’s trade deficit is partly to blame for China’s colonial adventures in Africa. Likewise, we fund China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative in Southern and Central Asia, which seeks to realign the region into China’s ambit.

The trade deficit should be America’s number one security concern. After all, nothing has done more to upset America’s global hegemony than China’s mercantile rise and neocolonial antics—and this includes the war in Syria and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Faustus’ second lesson is to always consider time-horizons. When Faustus sold his soul, he traded a temporally distant eternity of suffering for immediate pleasure. Most people are guilty of this sin, albeit on a smaller scale. How often do you snack on candy, or buy something impulsively? If you’re like me the answer is: too often. This is because the human brain instinctually loves instant gratification—especially when the downsides (bellies and credit card bills) are delayed.

Just like Faustus, America chose instant gratification. Over the last four decades, we’ve exchanged trillions in debt for foreign trinkets. These debts eventually must be repaid—with interest. This will be a Herculean task. Consider that in fiscal year 2017 America paid a net $276 billion to service the national public debt, according to Pew Research. That number will only increase, as the United States continues to borrow to feed its trade addiction, and as the structure of America’s debts shift ever-further into the debtor category.

Another asymmetry worth noting lies in the composition of America’s trade deficit. In 2017 America ran a deficit of $110 billion in advanced technology products. This indicates America’s diminishing technological edge and waning industrial base, which is a problem since advanced industries are the engines of long-run economic growth. We need to build the future—not buy it.

Stand Still, You Ever-Moving Spheres of Heaven
In the end, Faustus lamented his fate. He prayed that time would stand still, that he would dissolve into nothingness rather than face eternity—but it was too late. The demons pulled him into the black abyss, but not before he cursed his choice:

Curs’d be the parents that engender’d me!
No, Faustus, curse thyself. . .
[for thou hast] depriv’d thee of the joys of heaven.

Like Faustus, America made a regrettable choice. But the hour is not yet struck—do we abandon our devotion to the false god of “free trade,” and instead return to the time-tested wisdom of tariffs? Or do we spurn our Founders’ advice and continue down the path of import-fueled “voluptuousness?”

Either way, we know what fate awaits.

America • Congress • Conservatives • Declaration of Independence • Identity Politics • Immigration • Libertarians • Post • The Constitution • The Courts • The Left

Dred Scott? Seriously?

The radical Left’s resort to ad hominem attacks and allegations of “racism” against their political opponents has become so commonplace that the charges have become virtually meaningless. Apparently, the open-borders Right now thinks that by joining the catcalls, they can resurrect some of the old sting.

How else to explain the recent spate of scurrilous charges leveled against Michael Anton for daring to state that the 14th Amendment—as the Supreme Court itself has recognized—does not mandate automatic citizenship to children born on U.S. soil to parents who owe their allegiance to a foreign sovereign. Anton is anti-Black, anti-Asian, and anti-Hispanic—indeed, anti all non-white people—and even wants to restore the infamous holding in Dred Scott, claims The Federalist’s Robert Tracinski. He wraps himself in the flag “while loathing the republic for which it stands,” asserts Bill Kristol. His argument “is an offensive dumpster fire,” adds David Marcus, also at The Federalist.

These histrionics are not much different than those emanating from the left side of the spectrum. Garrett Epps, for example, says in The Atlantic that Anton’s position is the “constitutional equivalent of flat-earthism,” even Hitlerism. Mark Joseph Stern at Slate calls Anton’s argument “Racist, Ahistorical Gobbledygook.” What these over-the-top accusations from both the open-borders Right and the radical Left share is a refusal to confront the argument against them, which is usually a pretty good indication that they cannot. Better, then, to try to shut it down with name-calling.

What Jurisdiction Means
The argument they seek to avoid is pretty straightforward, and compelling. The language of the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause contains two components. First, “all persons born . . . in the United States”; “and” second, “subject to its jurisdiction,” are to be automatically citizens. The phrase, “subject to the jurisdiction,” standing alone, can have two meanings: A full, allegiance-owing jurisdiction, and a partial, territorial jurisdiction. Anyone present in the United States (save for diplomats) is subject to her partial, territorial jurisdiction. Think of a British tourist temporarily visiting the United States on vacation, who is subject to the law that we drive on the right side of the road, not the left.

Even those who are in the country illegally are subject to our laws while here. Subject to the full jurisdiction, on the other hand, involves some kind of allegiance, such as arises when someone has become, or is in the process of becoming, part of the body politic. The issue, then, is which of these two meanings was intended by the drafters and ratifiers of the 14th Amendment.

On that, we do not need to speculate, because the question was posed directly to the leading sponsors of the 14th Amendment. Responding to the question whether the clause would mandate citizenship for “Indians” because they were “most clearly subject to our jurisdiction, both civil and military,” Senator Lyman Trumbull (R-Ill.), a key figure in the drafting and adoption of the 14th Amendment, responded that “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States meant subject to its “complete” jurisdiction, “[n]ot owing allegiance to anybody else.”

Similarly, Senator Jacob Howard (R-Mich.), who introduced the language of the jurisdiction clause on the floor of the Senate, contended that it should be construed to mean “a full and complete jurisdiction,” “the same jurisdiction in extent and quality as applies to every citizen of the United States now.”

And what was the “same jurisdiction” that applied at the time? It was set out in the 1866 Civil Rights Act, which the 14th Amendment was intended to constitutionalize: “All persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States.” The slight variation in language was designed to address the issue that Indian nations were not “foreign powers,” but domestic ones; it was not designed to broaden the mandated citizenship to anyone who managed to make it to U.S. soil even while maintaining their allegiance to a foreign power.

Tested in the Courts
In the 
Slaughterhouse Cases (1872), the Supreme Court agreed. This was the first case to come before it after the adoption of the 14th Amendment, and the Court there noted that “[t]he phrase, ‘subject to its jurisdiction’ was intended to exclude from its operation children of ministers, consuls, and citizens or subjects of foreign States born within the United States.” So much for the claim that the “subject to the jurisdiction” clause excluded only the diplomatic corps.

Granted, that was dicta, but it became holding a decade later, in the case of Elk v. Wilkins. There, the Supreme Court held that an “Indian” born on U.S. soil was nevertheless not a citizen by virtue of the 14th Amendment’s citizenship clause because the phrase, “subject to the jurisdiction,” required that he be “not merely subject in some respect or degree to the jurisdiction of the United States, but completely subject to their political jurisdiction, and owing them direct and immediate allegiance.” Hence, the Supreme Court made clear that the phrase, “subject to the jurisdiction,” was used in the complete sense, not the partial, territorial sense. As Thomas Cooley noted in his authoritative treatise, “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States “meant full and complete jurisdiction to which citizens are generally subject, and not any qualified and partial jurisdiction, such as may consist with allegiance to some other government.”

Much is made of the Supreme Court’s later decision in Wong Kim Ark, in which the Court held in 1898 that the child born on U.S. soil to Chinese immigrants was a citizen under the terms of the 14th Amendment. But Wong Kim Ark’s parents were permanently and legally domiciled in the United States, a point that the court went out of its way to emphasize. The holding of that case (as opposed to some of its broader dicta) therefore did not address whether the children of parents who were here only temporarily as visitors (“temporary sojourners,” to use the language of the day) and who continued to owe allegiance to a foreign power, were automatically citizens merely by birth on U.S. soil. And it certainly did not address whether the children of parents who were in this country illegally could lay claim to automatic citizenship. And no case since then has so held, either. Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or lying.

Race Has Nothing to Do With It
The perfectly sensible distinction drawn in the 14th Amendment is between those whose lawful and permanent residence in the United States evidences an allegiance to the United States, and those whose mere temporary presence (or even unlawful presence) evidences no such allegiance. This is true no matter the region of the world at issue. Someone from Western Europe who has illegally entered the United States, or overstayed a temporary visa, has no more claim to citizenship for her child born here than does someone from Asia, or Africa, or Central or South America.

Conversely, a child born on U.S. soil to anyone who arrived legally and has become a lawful permanent residence is a citizen no matter the nation of origin of the parents. Quite simply, race has nothing to do with it. Lawful, permanent residence, sufficient to make the parents “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States in the full and complete sense, does.

More fundamentally, this original understanding of the 14th Amendment is in accord with one of the most fundamental tenets of the Declaration of Independence, namely, that legitimate governments are based on the consent of the people. What constitutes “a people” who consent to a particular government is in turn also based on consent, and it is a mutual consent, not a unilateral one. Just as the United States cannot unilaterally impose the duties of citizenship on peoples in other nations, so too, others cannot unilaterally claim the benefits of United States citizenship. That task is, under our Constitution, assigned exclusively to Congress, which has the power to set the rules for naturalization—which is to say, to define who should be offered citizenship.

Misreading the 14th Amendment to confer automatic citizenship on the children of temporary visitors and, even more troubling, on the children of those who have entered this country illegally, destroys the notion of consent, usurps Congress’s plenary power to set naturalization policy, and undermines the rule of law. Worse, it is a throwback to the old feudal notion that anyone born in the King’s realm is forever the King’s subject. Our Declaration of Independence renounced that archaic claim. We should be appalled that self-proclaimed intellectuals on both the Right and the Left want to resurrect it.

America • Congress • Conservatives • Democrats • Elections • Identity Politics • Immigration • Libertarians • Political Parties • Post • Republicans

How Libertarians Could Hand Control of Congress to Democrats

With control of the U.S. Congress to be decided in less than five months, many factors could affect the outcome. Will voters in California flip five congressional seats from GOP to Democrat? Will the “blue wave” wash across America, emanating from the coasts and inundating flyover country? Will Trump’s gambles on trade and foreign affairs turn out to be triumphs or setbacks? With America’s future hanging in the balance, one perennial (and growing) threat to GOP control does not receive nearly enough attention: Libertarian candidates.

America has a two-party system. That’s reality. When a third-party candidate runs an effective campaign, with rare exceptions, he siphons votes away from one major party’s candidate. In 1968, George Wallace took votes away from Richard Nixon, who won anyway. In 2000 Ralph Nader took votes away from Al Gore, who otherwise would have won. In 2016, pothead Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 4.5 million votes, and nearly handed victory to Hillary Clinton.

There are currently 30 races across the country for U.S. congressional seats that are considered toss-ups by three reputable national political analyst: the Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections. It is important to note that if you widen the search to “competitive races” instead of neck-and-neck toss-ups, that number grows from 30 to around 100. And of just those 30 toss-up congressional races, at least 10 of them have Libertarian candidates taking a significant share of the vote.

Examining the record of some of these candidates reveals just how capable they are of destroying Republican chances for victory. In Colorado’s District 6, Libertarian candidate Norm Olson is running again, after attracting 5 percent of the vote in 2016. In Michigan’s District 11, Libertarian candidate Jonathan Osment is also running again, after getting 2.5 percent of the vote in 2016. In North Carolina’s District 9, Libertarian candidate Jeffrey Scott is running a savvy campaign, having earned 5.3 percent of the vote in 2017 when running for city council in Charlotte, North Carolina. The list goes on.

The battle for U.S. Senate, where the GOP is in dire need of moving beyond their current wafer-thin majority, is also likely to feel the impact of Libertarian candidates. Five of the toss-up races for U.S. Senate have strong Libertarian candidates competing for votes. In Indiana, Libertarian Lucy Brenton got 5 percent of the vote in 2016 when she ran for Indiana’s other U.S. Senate seat. In West Virginia, a poll conducted last month had Libertarian Rusty Hollen drawing 4 percent of likely voters. In Arizona, Libertarian candidate Doug Marks is running, and the last time a Libertarian ran for U.S. Senate in Arizona, he received 4.6 percent of the vote.

Nevada’s competitive U.S. Senate race features Libertarian candidate Tim Hagan, who has the distinction of handing majority control of the Nevada state legislature to Democrats in 2016, when he attracted 5.1 percent of the vote in District 5, where the GOP challenger lost that race by less than 1 percent.

Libertarians are smart enough to know how third parties impact close elections, but many delude themselves into thinking their candidates are as likely to draw votes from Democrats as from disaffected Republicans. They base this preposterous wishful thinking on the fact that many Libertarians consider progressives to be their allies. After all, Libertarians are in favor of open borders, just like progressives. And Libertarians believe that anything goes when it comes to drugs and sex, just like progressives. So it’s tempting for Libertarians to think progressives might be their natural allies. They’re not.

The reality is quite different. Progressives do not support Libertarian candidates. Progressives hate Libertarian candidates. Progressives hate Libertarians because Libertarians tend to be Social Darwinists who want to eliminate welfare spending, privatize Social Security and Medicare, and dismantle public education. Libertarians don’t even want the government to pay for new roads and bridges. They want to kick poor people into the gutter and reduce the government to courts and cops.

Does that sound harsh, Libertarians? It’s paraphrasing your words, not mine. Give it up. Progressives don’t like you. They don’t vote for you. They never will.

Conservative Republicans, on the other hand, welcome Libertarian perspectives, even if they don’t accept all of them. That’s OK. Libertarians aren’t unified, either. Libertarian candidate Ryan Martinez, running in the toss-up U.S. Congressional District 11 in New Jersey, wants to legalize drugs. Libertarian candidate Japheth Campbell, running in the toss-up U.S. Senate election in Missouri, on the other hand, is a self-described “moral conservative.” Why not bring this diversity back into the Republican Party?

What unifies Republicans and Libertarians is a belief in limited government. Maybe some Republicans are hypocrites, but it is better to work with people who lack the courage of their convictions than to work with people whose convictions are diametrically opposed to your own. When you work with the timid, they may eventually step up. When you work with implacable enemies, they will eventually destroy you. Libertarians need to stop running candidates and start participating in the refinement of the Republican platform.

This November, Democrats only need to convert 23 Republican seats to take control of the House of Representatives. There are over 100 competitive seats, with Libertarian candidates running in more than 23 of them. These candidates need to withdraw from these races, for the sake of the principles they cherish. Perfect is the enemy, the mortal enemy, of good enough.

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