January 26, 2016
I wanted to call attention to two blog posts by Science Fiction author Sarah Hoyt. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s a naturalized (and fanatical) citizen of the U. S. A. originally from Portugal.
In this one she’s reflecting on experiences in her native land and how they relate to current events here.
People were angry. They were upset about their kids being indoctrinated in the schools. they were pissed over mandated prices, mandated salaries and massive government interference AND the attendant financial crisis. So–
People were ripe to pick a government that interfered less with private rights. Now keep in mind that the furthest right Portugal would go (then or now) is social democrat. But people were pissed and primed enough to give the social democrats a landslide victory.
Only none of the social democrat candidates were saying QUITE what people wanted to hear. They certainly weren’t reflecting people’s anger at them, and weren’t calling out the press which was pulling things left.
Mind you, of course, if they’d come out and said something against the press, the press wouldn’t have reported it, and if they’d come out… oh, against rent controls, say, they would have been called insane and destroyed.
And then this man showed up, running for one of two Social democrat parties. He was fearless. He said all the things people wanted to say that no one dared say. He said them, and he got away with it. I remember one pivotal scene, in which his demonstration was invaded by extreme left hecklers and he called them out. He asked who sent them, he yelled that they were clearly paid, look at how they’d all arrived in a bus.
People cheered. There were some rumors that in his previous career, as an army officer, he’d been a left-socialist. We didn’t believe it. He said he’d had a change of heart. He stood for the things people wanted someone to stand for.
So he won in a landslide. And he got in power. And the press switched immediately to fawning. He governed as a left-socialist. Decision after decision, was what a left socialist would make. And the press fawned on him, his private life, his upright nature.
And there we come to the walking pneumonia that’s killing our country.
It’s taught in our schools. It’s the church our elites pray at. It’s what every immigrant imbibes from day one. He’s asked where he comes from and encouraged to say how his land is better than America.
It takes a stubborn and determined person to hold off against the temptation to let memory and homesickness gild the place they came from with all virtues. And it takes even more determination to acculturate despite the pressure NOT to.
I’m a stubborn cuss. I have will power to spare. Even so it was difficult and painful to adapt to a new way of living, of thinking, to a new language, to a new frame of cultural reference. In a way it was like dying a little.
No one will do it without incentive, and we give them no incentive.
Our problem is not immigration. It’s that most of these people never immigrate. They just come over and live here, and take advantage of our systems, but they remain loyal to “back home” and never think of themselves as Americans.
Both of these are worth reading.
January 19, 2016
Eric S. Raymond, What Amending the Constitution Cannot Do
An underappreciated fact about U.S. Constitutional law is that it recognizes sources of authority prior to the U.S. Constitution itself. It is settled law that the Bill of Rights, in particular, does not confer rights, it only recognizes “natural rights” which pre-exist the Bill of Rights and the Constitution and which – this is the key point – cannot be abolished by amending the Constitution.
He goes on to show how that’s still true even if you don’t believe in God (as he doesn’t) which I guess is important to point out in this day and age. But I totally agree with his main point, which is that the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are prior to the Constitution and cannot be legitimately taken away.
January 5, 2016
At some point I’ll post more than just some links, but these essays were too good not to link to. If you don’t know who Paul Graham is, after building one of the first e-commerce sites and then selling it to Yahoo! he founded Y Combinator, that invests in and nurtures tech startups; some of the companies he invested in include Reddit and AirBNB. (He’s also an expert on Lisp.)
One advantage of being old is that you can see change happen in your lifetime. A lot of the change I’ve seen is fragmentation. US politics is much more polarized than it used to be. Culturally we have ever less common ground. The creative class flocks to a handful of happy cities, abandoning the rest. And increasing economic inequality means the spread between rich and poor is growing too. I’d like to propose a hypothesis: that all these trends are instances of the same phenomenon. And moreover, that the cause is not some force that’s pulling us apart, but rather the erosion of forces that had been pushing us together.
Worse still, for those who worry about these trends, the forces that were pushing us together were an anomaly, a one-time combination of circumstances that’s unlikely to be repeated—and indeed, that we would not want to repeat.
The two forces were war (above all World War II), and the rise of large corporations.
The effects of World War II were both economic and social. Economically, it decreased variation in income. Like all modern armed forces, America’s were socialist economically. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. More or less. Higher ranking members of the military got more (as higher ranking members of socialist societies always do), but what they got was fixed according to their rank. And the flattening effect wasn’t limited to those under arms, because the US economy was conscripted too. Between 1942 and 1945 all wages were set by the National War Labor Board. Like the military, they defaulted to flatness. And this national standardization of wages was so pervasive that its effects could still be seen years after the war ended.
The most common mistake people make about economic inequality is to treat it as a single phenomenon. The most naive version of which is the one based on the pie fallacy: that the rich get rich by taking money from the poor.
I’ve included some quotes to give the flavor, but you should read the whole thing for both of them.