September 29, 2008

The Dark Lord Has Spoken

Few on the right are more hostile to the perverse appeal to “creative destruction” than I am when it is used to justify de-industrialization, the displacement of people, the transformation of local communities or demographic upheaval through mass immigration, but what we are faced with this week is the victory of Hamiltonian collusion between finance and government to use the latter’s apparatus of power to shore up the former’s wealth. Central government is robbing the people to prop up concentrated wealth, and claiming in the process that it is doing us a favor. Never mind that the government’s alarmism may well be wrong.
People have been cajoled into submission through fear and intimidation, and above all by the threat that life might become less comfortable. In other words, advocates of the bailout are quite happy to say that liberty has a price and they are very happy to pay it so long as it avoids most of the unpleasantness. “Give me liberty or give me a comfy retirement!” is not exactly a phrase that will live forever. Thus an abject abandonment of liberty is here being implausibly dressed up as a defense of liberty. Burke and Kirk would, I suspect, feel like retching if they had lived to see their understandings of constitutional government and social order used in this way.
It is easy to talk about principle when there is no crisis happening and no risk attached to standing on principle. The real test comes when holding fast may actually cost something. Holding to a principle, if it means anything, means that you value it more than mere self-interest, satisfaction or comfort. A lot of Americans want to have it all–the pretense that they are free, with none of the responsibilities or dangers that go with it. In reality, you can either have the latter and remain free, or you can cease being free and then be kept free (temporarily) from responsibility and danger.

Marcy Kaptur Says It All

Marcy Kaptur's usually too "progressive" for my reactionary tastes, but here she's on a roll!
HT: Juan Cole, another strange bedfellow.

September 28, 2008

Morandi Timeout

There's a Morandi exhibition at the Met.

Quiet, brilliant paintings. Slideshow here.

Bailout Haiku

Government, they said--
A problem, not solution.
Now they lick its shoes.

Man from Goldman Sachs
Says he can cure the crisis
He's rich from causing.

Give away the store
Investment bankers care less
If your children starve.

The Republic's dead.
Laugh, then set yourself ablaze;
Nothing left to do.

Bailout Rant No. 2: Ten Reasons to Oppose the Bailout

Some talking points on the bailout:
  1. Moral hazard. The prattle from the economic punditocracy was that bailing out the poor slobs that borrowed on teaser terms would create a "moral hazard," that is, reward the grasshoppers, not the ants. All this has been forgotten. When the grasshoppers are powerful enough, forget about moral hazard.
  2. True prices.  If the gummint buys this paper at the market price, it's no help to the paper holders--they could sell the paper on the market. If the gummint buys the paper above market price, we're nationalizing the losses. The market provides feedback, we are instead politicizing the determination of values. We are entering a permanent economic fantasy world.
  3. Precedent.  If we start rescuing failed enterprises, where does it end?  With a nation of Amtraks?
  4. Fairness. In the Jewish and Christian moral traditions, we are supposed to care for the widow and the orphan. Apparently we are caring first for the rich, and let the devil take the hindmost.
  5. Universal Subsidy. The underlying fallacy of the welfare state is that everybody cannot subsidize everybody, while the gummint takes its cut. Someone must be productive. The Chinese will not be productivity surrogates for us forever.
  6. Short-stopping Recession.  It's political poison to acknowledge, but recessions have their uses. They tend to eliminate badly managed businesses and illusory valuations of goods. If we try to head off a recession whose origin is founded on poor management and misallocation of resources, we are preventing the system from self-correcting. 
  7. Our Children. We're borrowing the money for this exercise. Guess who's paying? 
  8. Opportunity Cost. The more money we spend on this exercise, the less is available for everyone's pet projects. When it comes to welfare state programs, it's just as well. When it comes to fixing our crumbling infrastructure, think again.
  9. Shattered Hegemonic Dreams. Some may not regret it, but spending this much money on the economic crisis will make the notion of American hegemony even more impractical. Bail out a bank, scratch a weapons program.
  10. Constitutional Destruction. We are building an ever-more centralized, unaccountable gummint. Remember "gummint isn't the solution, it's the problem." Once we has a constitution. Fuggedabadit. The man from Goldman, Sachs, with minimal oversight, is guarding the henhouse.
In short, my gentle friends, this is larceny and folly on a Herculean scale. 

Another bailout haiku:
Give away the store
Investment bankers care less
If your children starve.

September 26, 2008

Liveblogging the Debate

The OC Register asked me and  5 others to liveblog the presidential debate tonight.

I was the most logorrheic. It's here.

Bailout Rant No. 1

I actually emailed my Congressman--not a bad guy, John Campbell--to tell him, 'No bailout."

Until they pardon every shoplifter and chicken thief in this country, not a penny for the Masters of the Universe. OK, maybe food stamps.

Remember all the prattle about “moral hazard” if we help out the poor slobs who bit on the hook of teaser mortgage rates? Sauce for the ganders, sez I.

I grew up in New York and live in California, but I remember with nostalgia the bumper stickers from the Carter oil shortage days–”Let the Yankees freeze in the dark.” Let the investment bankers get real jobs cutting grass and stocking shelves at Wal-Mart.
“Once I built a railroad, I made it run
I made it run against time
Once I built a railroad, and now it’s done
Buddy, can you spare a dime?

“Once I built a tower way up to the sun
Of bricks and mortar and lime
Once I built a tower, and now it’s done
Buddy can you spare a dime?”
Of course, if I remember my history, the Great Depression ended when a patrician demagogue led us into a war.

One more song that’s been running through my head:
“This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

“Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
Ill never look into your eyes…again

“Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need . . .of some . .  . stranger's hand
In a . . . desperate land . . .”
Let us end by quoting the Boy Orator of the Platte: "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."

September 13, 2008

Another Post That Made Me Cry

This is right out of a Russian novel.

I am a sentimental old fool, for which I am grateful.