Via Youtube-Victor Davis Hanson On California-About That Utopia, You’re Going To Have To Get Back To Basics

Dream big, Californians, but plant your dreams in real gardens.

Victor Davis Hanson offers some suggestions which may or may not guide policy on a mid to longer-time horizon (water projects, roads, and an awareness of the economic and cultural bifucation which has occurred).

The short-term’s looking messy, indeed.  The mid- and longer- terms, of course, are still in doubt:

As posted:

Part of what’s happened is cultural:

Louis Menand’s piece at the New Yorker: ‘Out Of Bethlehem:‘ (he’s still dealing with the idea of multiculturalism).

The radicalization of Joan Didion?:

‘After the Old Sacramento moment, Didion came to see the whole pioneer mystique as bogus from the start. The cultivation of California was not the act of rugged pioneers, she decided. It was the act of the federal government, which built the dams and the weirs and the railroads that made the state economically exploitable, public money spent on behalf of private business. Didion called it “the subsidized monopolization” of the state.’

Much is downstream of culture:

Virginia Postrel here.

‘When Robert J. Samuelson published a Newsweek column last month arguing that high-speed rail is “a perfect example of wasteful spending masquerading as a respectable social cause,” he cited cost figures and potential ridership to demonstrate that even the rosiest scenarios wouldn’t justify the investment. He made a good, rational case — only to have it completely undermined by the evocative photograph the magazine chose to accompany the article.’

In my experience, it’s not much about economics (those rationalizations tend to come later), but more about many people finding solidarity, common-cause, identity and group-identity through a set of shared interests and ideals. My major complaint is that basic human needs met under such ideals become met through politics and often non-delimited theories of political power.

To say nothing of other people’s money.

Utopias, progressivism and new-age explorations still have to answer to time, truth and reality.

From California’s High Speed Rail Authority Site:

‘California high-speed rail will connect the mega-regions of the state, contribute to economic development and a cleaner environment, create jobs and preserve agricultural and protected lands’

What could go wrong?

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Much left and left-liberal idealism finds expression through high-speed rail: If you build it, the ideal society will come.

Unions and union-elected government representatives tend to get contracts, money, power and influence, if they play the game right. Many environmentalists and environmental groups can get contracts, money, power and influence, if they play the game right. Everyone somewhat invested in the ideal of a better, shared, collectivist society (especially those further left into anti-capitalism and diversified into identity groups by ‘race, gender and class’) might get money, power and influence…if they play the game right. The winners aren’t always so ‘sharing.’

As I see it, much political stability and individual liberties are lost as these political and social arrangements become reflective of both actual human nature as it is and the economic scarcity of reality.

Update And Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Delving Into The Mind Of The Technocrat’

Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’

A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California

The people who promise solutions to poverty and homlessness seem to be engaged in a utopian cost-shifting exercise which favors their interests and overlooks crime, violence and personal responsbility…hardly a way to balance the budget: Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

Some concentrated wealth on top, a stalled legislature with members who know how to play the game…and a service sector beneath…that probably can’t go on forever: …From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’

Repost-From Fora.tv Via A & L Daily: Bjorn Lomberg @ COP15

Full video here .

Don’t argue the science, Lomberg has been saying for a while now, but try and allign the problems more with the science, because much of it suggests that CO2 warming will likely present problems.

We’re cramming way too much into a tiny idea (capping carbon emissions), and the media coverage absurdly demonstrates this.  We don’t want to end-up with European-style policies restricting our economy.

I still reserve the right to be entirely skeptical (what if it isn’t happening at all?), but the more time I’ve spent with data, the more I think.

How to separate reasonable environmentalism from the authoritarian impulses, the Malthusians and various other people who “know” how many people is enough?  Now that environmentalism is a primary focus in our schools, it’s probably worth thinking about.

Here’s Bob Zubrin on the rather pseudo-religious and dangerous roots of much environmentalism:

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Related On This Site:  Bjorn Lomborg saw this coming a while ago, pricking the mighty Al Gore (who is moving beyond satire):  From The WSJ-A Heated Exchange: Al Gore Confronts His Critics

Andrew Revkin In The NY Times: Global Warming Moderation From Bloggingheads: On Freeman Dyson’s Global Warming Heresy…From The WSJ-A Heated Exchange: Al Gore Confronts His Critics…From The Literary Review–Weather Channel Green Ideology: Founder John Coleman Upset.

From Charlie Martin: ‘The Arithmetic Absurdity Of Obamacare’

Full piece here.

I’ve gotten a few emails suggesting there’s been a lot of ‘partisanship,’ on the site lately.  I agree there’s more than usual, but in the face of such a pork-passed monstrosity of a law, with so many bad incentives, so much adverse selection, and young people being forced to work in a system that makes so little sense for them, it’s good to have certain ideas boiled down:

Thanks for any concern.  I assume the risk of driving some people away with all this political talk.

Martin:

Now, what’s the point of this little fable? Basically, this is the story of health insurance. We started off with “major medical,” which was a way to protect yourself against big medical bills that everyone hoped they wouldn’t have; now what we’ve got is that major medical — but we’re also paying for snow-shoveling, er, we’re paying for everyone’s day to day medical care, and we’re paying for it in pretty much the most expensive and complicated possible way: through a federal government agencyand insurance companies.

Related On This SiteRichard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Train Wreck’

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’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘Watching Obamacare Unravel’

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’

Eli Lake At The Daily Beast: ‘Congress Receives Confusing Benghazi Briefing From Administration’

Full piece here.

‘While the video was at times confusing, the briefing corroborated earlier administration accounts of attempts to provide military back-up on the evening of the attack. The Daily Beast reported on Thursday that CIA director Mike Morell testified that his agency did not request lethal military assistance like special operations teams, platoons of specialized Marines, or armed predator drones.’

Bureaucracy in action?

What isn’t clear to me is the overall Middle-East strategy, and how well it’s being executed, come what may here.  Obama seems to be operating partially under a liberal internationalist doctrine; aiming to get a plurality if not a majority of Americans, and a vast majority of Muslims where he wants them to be, which is not necessarily where they are now:  Bound under international law, courts, and a community of nations.   This Western vision attempts to direct and subsume American power to these ends and tries to appeal to the Muslim on the street and offer carrots and sticks to Muslim nations.  I suspect this is why we saw the apology tour during the riots, and the potential playing down of the Benghazi affair (if something worse hasn’t happened).

-Walter Russell Mead had an interesting piece about this doctrine a few years ago.

In practice for Obama, this has led to a real gap between his vision and many of his actions.  He has continued and extended many of Bush’s policies on wiretapping and enemy combatants to deal with the threat at home and abroad.  He’s admittedly set a timeline for Iraq and also a timeline in Afghanistan after his surge there, and undergone a dramatic escalation in drone strikes in Afpak and Yemen (Al Qaida is likely returning to AfPak as we speak, and disrupting them is still our objective which he never discusses as he just counts on the base to turn out).

It has meant helping to overthrow Gadhafi without Congressional approval and admittedly much more cheaply and without boots on the ground, helping France and Britain maintain their own backyard and oil supply, and making a kind of client state which is still volatile with extremists around as Benghazi showed.  It remains to be seen what will happen there, and Libyans have a long way to go after the tyrant, wherever they’re headed. Our security may still be at risk.

It has meant assisting in the “Arab Spring” (I’ve still got my hand on my wallet).  It has meant questionable leadership on Syria where a civil war is likely occurring.  There were few to no good options, but possibly a few worse ones by waiting for the U.N.. putting any faith in Russian interests in the region, and waiting for Iran to play power games and Turkey, the Kurds, and Lebanon to become more enflamed.  It has meant sanctioning Iran heavily and apparently still not preventing them from getting closer to having nuclear capabilities.  On Israel, and the escalating tensions with Hamas, the seemingly intractable claims to the land, and the existential threat one of our closest allies faces, it remains to be seen what Obama will do.

It’s still not clear where the rise of Islamism is headed, and doubtful that America can really succeed on the back of this doctrine, given the fact that our public support in the region is still abysmally and unsurprisingly low.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.  Any thoughts and comments are welcome, as it’s not clear to me where there’s anything near a majority or strong plurality of people in any Muslim country who want freedom and democracy as the West defines them, and was ready on their own for the demands and sacrifices required to build institutions which maintain such freedom and democracy.

Related On This Site:  Via Reuters: ‘U.S. Ambassador To Libya Killed In Benghazi Attack’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest Online: ‘Obama’s War’From The WSJ: “Allies Rally To Stop Gadhafi”From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanFrom The New Yorker: ‘How Qaddafi Lost Libya’

The modern State awaits, with a more efficient bureaucratic class overcoming the corruption and earning the public trust here in the West?:  Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest-’The Two Europes’

Repost-Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: ‘Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy’

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

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From Bloggingheads: “Michael Lind Discusses His New Book ‘Land Of Promise'”

Full diavlog here.

Lind, a co-founder of the New America Foundation, advocates a return to thinking about America in terms of the  Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian traditions, particularly in the hopes of resuscitating a Hamiltonian nationalism for Democrats (he used to be a conservative some decades ago).

A brief summmary of the discussion:  -At the time of our founding, Hamiltonians wanted government to intervene on behalf of business (Hamilton was the 1st secretary of the Treasury and had a big hand in the Federalist Papers). Big banks and a strong central institution managing the banks was the model. Hamiltonians were generally more cosmopolitan and wanted a stronger Federal structure on many levels, including many more taxes and tarriffs to regulate most economic activity. They weren’t generally advocates of free trade either (partly because Hamilton thought free trade gave the Crown too much power, and the colonies needed to be protected and organize a stronger response to it).

-Jeffersonians, on the other hand, wanted government to intervene mostly to protect individual liberty and smaller entities.  They thought the Hamiltonians were too comfortable with the aristocratic and monarchic methods they were implenting through Federalism (re-creating the conditions that led the colonies to revolt against the Crown).  Jeffersonians were more agrarian (the city corrupts, banks abstract people from honest labor) and generally supported States and individual rights against the Federalists.

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On Lind’s view, both groups have used the government to serve the interests of the people throughout our history and it’s the Hamiltonians who primarily have been successful.   Furthermore, we’re on the cusp of a Fourth Republic (he explains his reasoning, of which I remain skeptical, here).  So, in addition to being at the end of the third incarnation of our Constitutional Republic (incarnations which have always begun after a war) from which a fourth will be born, we’re also ending a cycle of Jeffersonian ascendancy and we need a team of Hamiltonian-types (Democrats, presumably) to build anew.  Lind is ready with some policy prescriptions as well.

In fact, at the end of the diavlog, he advocates permanent federal employment programs for low skilled people in order to get back to where we were in the 1950’s regarding income inequality.  The jobs that aren’t coming back need to be created and subsidized by government in our globally competitive economy.  He also advocates for federal work subsidies in say, the mining industry, which has lost jobs due to automation (now much less labor intensive) in order to get people working where we’ll need them in, say, home health-care.

For Lind, government is the lever to direct individuals’ lives by directing economic activity and ultimately managing and driving economic growth. Deep down, it seems the social contract is one for Lind in which he might have trouble with people voluntarily directing their own lives, and managing their own self-interest, apart from these structures.

Here’s a line from David Leonhardt’s NY Times review of the book:

‘The chapters on the most recent years are a fairly standard liberal version of events, with deregulation and modern finance as the main antagonists.’

Indeed.

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Lind also has little patience for libertarians, regards them as extreme, and busy importing the struggles of Central Europe through Friedrich Hayek, the Austrians (heavy on philosophy and metaphysics), and the Chicago School to the detriment of where the real action is:  the two party American system which can revisit previous economic successes through greater government direction within a Hamiltonian federalist structure.

Many libertarians I know understand themselves to be inheritors of the true classical liberal tradition (there is an anarchic libertarian tradition as well), because socially, politically, and economically, the modern American Left has unable to uphold the values libertarians see as central to a liberal society.  Partially, this is because the Left has also been deeply influenced by Continental ideas, including many actual Communists, Marxists, Neo-marxists, the New Left and the “personal is political” crowd.  Such folks are not exactly Hamiltonians.  We’ve also seen the rise of modernism, post-modernism, and moral relativism especially in our universities, all of which have done much to erode many religious and cultural traditions that tend to preserve individual liberty and the Jeffersonian outlook.  Perhaps such libertarian bulwarks are needed against the collectivist and sometimes authoritarian impulses within much of modern liberalism.  I don’t think Lind has convinced me at all such thinking isn’t useful, at the very least.

Generally, these classical libertarians also champion individual liberty, the autonomy of the individual and the vital connection between economic and personal liberty.  This often puts them in greater alliance with modern conservatives (in the Jeffersonian, Republican tradition) than liberals.  It also puts them at odds with religious conservatives in many cases, and anyone who would use the laws to infringe upon their definition of liberty.

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This blog remains skeptical of the political and philosophical ideas that promote a redistribution of wealth or resources beyond a very limited scope for government, because it’s not clear that less injustice results, nor more equality, nor even more freedom, except for some who are in charge as they pursue their own self-interest and others in their wake becoming dependent upon and molded by that system.  Lind argues otherwise.

Any thoughts and comments are  welcome, as I’m aware I haven’t responded directly to much of what is essentially, a book on American economic history and current politics, but it has policy implications, especially for the Left and where Lind might want to take the Democratic party.

A review at the New Republic here.

Thomas Jefferson closed his inaugural address of 1801—which was made possible by Hamilton’s continuing influence over the defeated Federalist Party—by reminding his congressional audience that “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” It may also be the case that we are all Hamiltonians, all Jeffersonians, and that, for better or worse, this is a part of the genius of our American system.

Related On This Site:  The voluntary exchanges that occur between people pursuing their own self-interest in the marketplace has been the greatest driver of human freedom and the greatest liberator from the natural human conditions of poverty, privation and want, according to Milton Friedman.  He merges Adam Smith’s invisible hand and Thomas Jefferson’s liberty and separation of powers, including other influences:  Free To Choose

Noam Chomsky also shares a view that the individual ought to be free to enter into voluntary cooperative action (community councils or faculties in universities), but believes that to be achieved by perhaps only anarchy (where he retreats) or anarcho syndicalism, or libertarian socialism.  I don’t find anarchy to be tenable in protecting individual liberty.  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge.

Leo Strauss may not have been a believer, but he did want the individual to be free from the structures that developed in Europe these past centuries.  The triumph of Reason (historicism and positivism which lead to relativism and nihilism) over some form of Revelation, or revealed truth.  From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke into a strong, libertarian defense of the individual, and also responded to Rawls distributive justice: A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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From Foreign Policy: ‘Inside Talibanistan’

Full slideshow here.  (Each photos has stats on each group)

A breakdown of the different groups in AfPak who are fighting our military.

Related On This Site: From Foreign Policy: ‘Reading Woodward In Karachi’

From Michael Yon: ‘General Petraeus Letter’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Greg Mortenson On Charlie Rose: Afghanistan And PakistanFrom Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?

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