It’s Not That You Believe, But Rather Your Coalescence Around Certain Beliefs-For Your Consideration, Dear Reader

Roger Sandall’s book: ‘The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism And Other Essays‘ here.

A follow-up essay here springing from a discussion: ‘The Culture Cult revisited’

Sandall:

‘But in the year 2000, with Fascism and Communism both discredited, why, I wondered, were so many turning back toward Rousseau? What was the attraction of romantic primitivism? How had ethnic culture become a beau ideal? Cities certainly have their problems, but why did New Yorkers see tribal societies as exemplary and tribespeople as paragons of social virtue?’

Trending On Twitter today via Bloomberg:

Update: A reader links to another tweet:

 

Tyler Cowen At Bloomberg On Automation And Displacement

In A Robot Economy, All Humans Will Be Marketers

Cowen:

‘This shift toward marketing, in the broad sense of that term, isn’t just about bank tellers. More legal work is done by smart software, but cultivating client relationships has never been more important. Some functions of medical assistants are being automated, but hospitals and doctors are still trying to improve the patient experience and reach new customers. Amazon Inc. warehouses use robots to pull goods down off the shelves, but someone has to persuade consumers to buy the stuff.’

I’m sure this will strike some people as deeply unfulfilling, others as threatening, and others as just fine.

I think automation is the key word, here.  Many tasks you do are repetitive, and the hardware and software is being developed to automate many of these tasks depending on complexity, feasibility and profitability where big business and technology meet (current revenue streams are directed by big players into areas where it’s too expensive and too costly not to compete (or try), and by start-ups trying to enter markets and disrupt).

This innovation shows up in our daily lives bit by bit, as consumers, as users, and as employees, but also in more personal and intimate ways (finding love online, suddenly having access to a book that changes your life etc.)

We already live within thousands of years of good and bad design all around us, and that is continuing, just perhaps more rapidly at the moment.

As to personal, social and political consequences, I’m reminded that old ideas die hard.  Many I see as worth conserving.

It’d be nice if Americans were competing more robustly with India and China in producing people ready to hit the ground running in STEM fields, but we’re doing alright.

It’d be really nice if American universities’ humanities and social science departments weren’t dealing with the postmodern and ideological problems of radical liberation politics.

Ah, well.

Hold on, keep learning, and don’t lose sight of the important things.

 

How Deep Is Your Identity? Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg On Immigration

Virginia Postrel at Bloomberg: ‘Pro Immigration? Then Support All Who Came Here

Postrel:

‘As I wrote long ago, “Americans care, of course, about their economic interests. But they care first about their identities. … If voters feel personally attacked — because they are Latinos, or working women, or housewives, or evangelical Christians, or gays — they will bolt the party that serves their economic interests.” Or, given the opportunity, back a presidential candidate who promises to blow it up.’

I worry about the lifestylization of politics in America, which I see as eroding the distance between private and public, civility and coarseness, respect and its lack.  Such niceties do a lot more work than we realize.

Merely seeing individuals as members of voting blocs and identity groups misses crucial pieces of a larger puzzle, and also much of who and what we are.

As I see it, if the ideal uniting a group of people in common cause demands immediate action and/or allegiance to a group, expecting politics to become another means to an end, then we shouldn’t be surprised when people start drawing lines, making friends and enemies, and fighting over who belongs to which group under which ideal, and fighting over politics.

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That said, I agree with Postrel on the worn-out ideas and worn-out views from many traditional pulpits and parapets throughout the country.  Apparently, the higher you go into the lofty heights of opinion and influence, the thinner the air.

As a conservatarian on immigration (the people here first should be able to decide which kinds of rules will govern who come later through debate, politics, and legislation), I think we’ve gotten away from many simple, constitutional and civic basics from grade-school on, and it shows all throughout our lives.

People don’t simply open up borders, workplaces and economies, they open up their eyes, minds, and hearts over a longer period of time when united by common ideals, beliefs, principles and shared sacrifices (civic duties, Constitutional understanding, becoming an American and all the freedoms/responsibilities that come with being an American).

I believe these shared bonds will allow us to better ride the waves of rapid technological change, global economic and labor market pressures (immigration included), and the potential necessary and unnecessary conflicts that will arise going forward between competing interests (nations included).

We’ve got to sail the ship smart.  There’s work to be done.

Let me know if you disagree.

 

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘A Sign That Obamacare Exchanges Are Failing’

Full piece here.

‘Molina’s losses suggest that instead of stabilizing, the exchanges are getting worse. There is no way to fix Obamacare without fixing the pool so that younger, healthier people buy insurance.’

For the most part, there’s no way to induce younger, healthier people into a system working against so many of their interests except by force of law and punishment; force which was barely concealed by particularly daft and short-lived political promises.

Pools of risk must deal with reality, and if you start from the idea of health-care as a right to be promised and guaranteed by a group of people in charge of government (claiming to speak for all People), rather than starting from the idea of health-care as a resource to best be distributed by price signals and market forces; by individuals making hard choices and sacrifices for themselves and their loved ones, then you’re more likely to get worse outcomes.

There’s also probably no way to really get the people who designed this law, the people who have pretty high IQ’s, trained at many of the best schools, to ever really examine the beliefs and principles that likely led to such failures, because that’s not how most people, most of the time, really operate.

More politics, and more people fighting over more politics to come…

Epstein on Obamacare’s Moral Blindness, the Obamacare Quagmire, and Watching Obamacare Unravel.

Still Looking For Alternatives-Charlie Martin At PJ Media: ‘Obamacare vs. Arithmetic’

Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums’Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Health-Care Costs Are Driven By Technology, Not Presidents’

Megan McArdle On Obamacare’s Uninsured And Those Lizard-People Seeking To Devour Your Tasty, Human Flesh

-Megan McArdle at Bloomberg: ‘How Many Are Insured Because Of Obamacare? Great Question

The expansion of Medicaid plays an important role:

‘I think the number of would-be-uninsured people now covered by Obamacare is almost certainly north of 10 million. I’m not sure exactly how far north. And I’m not sure we’ll ever have a better estimate than that, either.’

At what cost?

Overall, I see the ACA as akin to forcing people in the suburbs, with good habits and who are reasonably successful, into only ever having the option of attending a few tiers of public-schools, paying through the nose in subsidizing the people at the worst schools, while no-one ever has the option of leaving the school-system, no matter how bad/good they think it is.

The epistemological claims as to why a few people (economists, academics, bureaucrats) can design such a system from the top-down is closely aligned with the politicians using similar claims to constantly expand their own political power and influence.

The government is the only thing we all belong todisplays a profoundly sad lack of moral imagination, as well as a narrow understanding of the nature of human freedom.

Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums’


Hey, let’s keep it light.

Radical Nudists?  Gun-toting ‘peace-forces’?

Via David Thompson: ‘The Illustrated Map Of America’s Worst Utopias

You can’t join ’em all!

Around Seattle, I’ve heard talk of the Ramtha School Of Enlightenment:

‘Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment (RSE) is an American spiritual sect near the rural town of Yelm, Washington. The school was established in 1988 by JZ Knight, who claims to channel a 35,000-year-old being called Ramtha the Enlightened One.’

Let’s just say if you don’t believe there are lizard-people out there, waiting to remorselessly devour tasty human flesh after the impending and catastrophic eruption of Mt.Rainier, well, buddy, you’re the one with problems.

If you’re going down to Jonestown, don’t drink the Kool-Aid (and don’t worry, kids, it’s just Powers Boothe forbidding all sexual relationships but his own)!

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Health-Care Costs Are Driven By Technology, Not Presidents’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Quaqmire’

From The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’

 

Michael Moynihan jihad.com.

Majid Nawaz on Jihadi John.

Repost: Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Aetna’s Retreat From Obamacare Is More Than It Seems’

Full piece here.

McArdle:

‘Insurers cannot simply go on eating those losses forever. They certainly won’t do so for free. Unless the exchanges get a rapid infusion of healthier customers who pay substantial premiums without using much care, insurers are going to keep pulling out of the areas where they are losing money. Or at the very least, they will demand benefits from the government to make it worth their while to stay.’


Sigh.

As previously posted:

Pascal Emmanuel Gobry here.

‘One ray of sunshine might be an involuntary heightening of the contradictions: The structure of the Affordable Care Act, by removing health care decisions even further from consumers, all but ensures that costs will escalate even faster. At some point, most employers in America will only be able to afford catastrophic health insurance for their employees. If and when that irony busts onto the scene, perhaps real consumer dynamics will emerge, and perhaps America will stumble backward into a Singapore-style system.’

Or it might make this country stumble into the single-payer model after those who wrote the law ridiculously stretched the truth in order to sell it to the American people.

Sally Pipes has had experience with this kind of thing in Canada.

Once you make a scare economic good a ‘right,’ you’re just fighting over who controls the good, which, in most cases, leads to less for a vast majority, and the most advantage for those who need your money most in order to gain political power and influence.

Charlie Martin from a while ago:

‘Whatever solution we look for though, the really important point is this: the whole basis of Obamacare, the notion that we can have more people, getting more benefits, and pay less, is just impossible. The arithmetic doesn’t work. And if you think that’s “unfair,” I’m sorry.’

Related On This Site:  Avik Roy At Forbes: ‘Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums’Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Health-Care Costs Are Driven By Technology, Not Presidents’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Quaqmire’

From The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘A Few More Arguments Against Obamacare’

Full piece here.

A thoughtful piece:

‘This is not a tedious rehash of my reasons for opposing Obamacare, though two years in, perhaps such a rehash is due. If it is, I will provide it in a different post. This is just a post on why I don’t think that the argument for Obamacare can rest very securely on the argument that we are simply cleaning up some ugly negative externalities, in much the same way that we do with noise ordinance and anti-pollution laws. That is not what we are doing, and if it were, we wouldn’t be doing it’

You don’t have to be libertarian to find some of Richard Epstein’s suggestions…reasonable:

As I have noted before, there is only one type of reform that can make progress in meeting the three goals of a sensible health care system: cost reduction, quality improvements, and public access. That reform requires massive deregulation of the many market impediments that are already in place. Lower the costs, drop the excessive mandates, and thin out administrative costs, and people will flock back to the system voluntarily.’

Related On This SiteFrom The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’From AEI: ‘Study: ‘Obama Healthcare Reform Raising Costs, Forcing Workers Out Of Existing Plans’

Some Saturday Links On Education And Foreign Policy

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg-Spending More Money Won’t Fix Our Schools:

‘And, of course, middle-class parents will say that all that spending on tertiary education is breaking them. And perhaps we should spend less on college. But that’s not a problem you attack with more subsidies, because paying for college out of tax dollars doesn’t make the cost go away; it just means you have to send a check to the IRS instead of the bursar’s office. In general, providing government subsidies does not lower the price of goods; if anything, it increases them, by insulating consumers from the cost of their educational decisions.’

Richard Epstein-‘Hesitating, And Lost:

‘The president suffers from two fundamental flaws. The first is that he is unwilling to make decisions. He much prefers to play the role of a disinter-ested observer who comments on a set of adverse events that he regards himself as powerless to shape, of which Bashar al-Assad’s carnage in Syria is the prime example. The second is that he fundamentally misunderstands the use of force in international affairs. He handicaps himself fatally by imposing unwise limitations on the use of American force, such as his repeated decla-rations that he will not send ground troops back into Iraq.’

Related On This Site:   Big cities, especially New York, tend to over-regulate business, you can hope for efficient corruption: Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

Link From A Reader: ‘Richard Epstein Introduces Chicago’s Best Ideas To Students’

Some Monday Links: The Left, Money & The New Republic-Garry Kasparov & Christopher Walken As ‘Max Zorin’

I think the only man who can save us from Silicon Valley as it currently stands, is the strange Nazi/Soviet funded superfreak, Max Zorin:

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Now that’s a plan, but we probably don’t need to be saved.

Megan McArdle discusses the reality of trying to monetize not only writers and journalists, but intellectuals.

Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook bought the New Republic:

‘Every new owner looks at media and thinks, “This is insane and inefficient. Obviously, this is a dinosaur industry ripe for rationalization by someone who actually knows how to run a business.” When you get inside, however, it turns out that the industry is not actually staffed, as previously assumed, by archaic snobs who wear suspenders and spats when they sit down with a glass of sherry to read the latest Dos Passos epic. Instead, most of the seemingly inexplicable inefficiencies are driven by the peculiar nature of this business.’

Tech-industry business models producing deliverables out of high-end, labor-intensive coding and programming work in ‘the Valley’ don’t necessarily translate successfully for East-coast, establishment ‘bookstore’ intellectuals, apparently.

Writers and academic refugees, political theorists and idea people tend to think differently than engineering types, especially when those writers are coated with the dust of the marketplace, harbor the skepticism and suspicion of journalists on the beat, and are busy just being the lone-wolf, creative, artistic and introspective types they often are (software engineers can be highly creative, but in a generally different way).

Of course, the New Republic was a space where the progressive Left, and some genuine radicals and true Leftist ideologues gravitated, and where they were often pushed against by and for practical purposes by more moderate, establishment liberals and other thinkers.  They will continue to have a lot of influence.

We’ll see what happens, but nowadays the New Republic appears to my eyes more like Upworthy, Salon, the Huffington Post and other Left-leaning sites in the marketplace.

Visit the Upworthy generator if that’s your thing.

Libertarian editor of Reason Matt Welch took a look at the change of ownership at the New Republic under Hughes, and the move further Leftward:

‘The great irony is that The New Republic is repudiating contrarian neoliberalism precisely when we need it most. Obama proposes in his State of the Union address to jack up the minimum wage to $9 an hour, and instead of surveying the vast skeptical academic literature, or asking (pace Charles Peters) whether such liberal gestures are “more about preserving their own gains than about helping those in need,” TNR columnist Timothy Noah declares, “Raise the Minimum Wage! And make it higher than what Obama just proposed.”

Adam Kirsch, Simon Blackburn, Martha Nussbaum, John Gray.  Here are a few links on this site to the New Republic:  Leon Wieseltier At The New Republic: ‘A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher’Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’

****Tech money and technology are affecting not only old media.  Kids starting out now have touch screens all around them, staring at their smart phones, games etc. for hours on end.  They aren’t necessarily idle.

The NY Times, the Ivy League, lawyers and law schools and various, assorted guilds in our society…take note.

This is probably more important than just debates about politics, ideas, and political theory.

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On that note (yeah, I don’t think the New Republic is full of totalitarians):

From a Thomas Sowell piece, the Legacy Of Eric Hoffer:

‘Hoffer said: “The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”

People who are fulfilled in their own lives and careers are not the ones attracted to mass movements: “A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding,” Hoffer said. “When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people’s business.”

What Hoffer was describing was the political busybody, the zealot for a cause — the “true believer,” who filled the ranks of ideological movements that created the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century.’

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As sent in by a reader for Reason magazine:

Chess-great Garry Kasparov grew up as part of the Soviet empire, in its waning days, and is now a human-rights activist in addition to his chess-work.  He is calling for many in the West to have the courage of their convictions, which also challenges many on the Left, liberal-Left, as well as the libertarian anti-war crowd and activists of all stripes.

This is the stuff out of which neo-conservatives can be born.

Yes, the Soviet days are over, but don’t just fold and walk away from the table (poker, not chess, as Kasparov points out).  Putin is bluffing, but still playing a dangerous, destabilizing game, from Ukraine to China, from the Baltics to his influence in Tehran, and this requires strategy and leadership.

(And, can you trust an activist?: What are his interests aside from his ideals, what truths may be be telling and why might they appeal?)

Not necessarily breaking things, just strategy and leadership:

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That’s more of what Kasparov was likely driving at in this tweet from a while back:

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I suppose we’ll also see what happens.

Stay tuned, and if you’re interested in supporting this blog, just read it, because it’s probably never going to make any money.  It’s a labor of love.

Related On This Site:  Are we still having the same debate…is it manifest destiny?: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Some Friday Links-Your Data Has Been Massaged & Foreign Affairs

The Hoover Institution looks at the late Fouad Ajami’s book of essays:

‘Writing on Iraq, he suggests that many troubles in the Arab world can be linked to America’s limited understanding of the region, thirst for oil, and need to deal with terrorism. He provides a chilling look at the life of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah, asserting that “the very normalcy of his upbringing and the old hedonism giving way to a sudden need for absolution are much more unsettling than the warning signs and the zeal of a true believer.”

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Megan McArdle At Bloomberg, Obamacare inflates its numbers. I feel sick:

When reality doesn’t line up with political promises, massaging the data to the point of absurdity becomes necessary.

‘The administration counted stand-alone dental plans in order to claim that 7.3 million people had signed up during the first open enrollment period. Without the addition of the dental plans, enrollment would have very slightly missed its target of 7 million enrollees. Moreover, simple arithmetic indicates that it is still counting them in its current claims about enrollment.’

Perhaps even some big data folks and (S)cience driven realists are realizing that when it comes to ideology and politics, technocracy and bureaucracy, the pursuit of truth is often left to bad masters.

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Andrew Michta At The American Interest: ‘Putin Targets The Scandinavians:’

Not a Cold War, really, but let’s have some strategy:

If you’re in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, you’re looking at Georgia, Ukraine and you’re own Russian populations, Putin’s actions and you’ve probably been thinking a lot lately.

‘As 2015 approaches, NATO finds itself confronted with the urgent need to address the fundamentals of deterrence and collective defense in general, and to go beyond the important symbols of “persistent rotations.”