Political Realignment?

Over the last couple of months, I have been doing a lot of thinking about President Trump and our country’s bitter partisan divides.

As longtime Civil Horizon readers know, I have mixed feelings about our new president – in whom, from a policy perspective, I see strong positives and equally strong negatives; my conflicted feelings mirror those of columnists and editorial writers I respect from what might best be described as the voices of the establishment right – particularly, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and National Review. I would describe these views as not NeverTrump, but a distinct mixture of hopes and fears.

At the same time, the voices of the establishment left – particularly the “news” pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post – and in mainstr...

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Perverse Incentives

New York Magazine published an article today touting the seemingly scandalous revelation that Judge Gorsuch once said in class that women sometimes manipulate maternity benefits (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/03/gorsuch-women-manipulate-maternity-leave.html).

Well, duh. To me it would have been more scandalous – much more scandalous, as well as profoundly sexist – if he had asserted the exact opposite.

We should never be surprised by people acting in their own interests. Each of us is smart enough to figure out what’s good for us in the contexts we face, and we almost always act accordingly (with one caveat: the poorer we are, the more short term considerations dominate our decision matrices. The well-off can better afford to take the long view).

We look for ways to pla...

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Abuses of Power

A formula for tyrannical behavior:

  1. Pick a politically unpopular company or, better yet, industry.
  2. Very publicly investigate allegations – they can have come from anywhere – that a company or companies engaged in vaguely defined crimes.
  3. Use the threat of prosecution, civil litigation or adverse regulatory action to extract billions in settlements.
  4. Use as much of the monies received in the settlements as you wish to fund a) your political allies and b) things that Congress refused to fund.

(Note: for the politician intent on playing this game, it’s a bonus, but by no means a requirement, that there have been actual bad behavior by the party from whom the settlement is to be extracted. The important things are that they have the money and you have the power).

Doesn’t sound much like Ameri...

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Obama Smiles

It has been my view from the start that Obamacare would surely fail economically because of the perverse incentives it created, but might well succeed politically if the goal was to create a bigger constituency for fully nationalized healthcare. This bifurcation explains the dishonest manner in which the bill was promoted, of which Jonathan Gruber, who was one of Obamacare’s principal architects, boasted on TV (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G790p0LcgbI – watch the clip, it’s amazing).

That Obamacare is failing in economic terms is now clear. Some exchanges are shutting down as insurers that have received billions in subsidies from the federal government find that notwithstanding those subsidies they are losing enormous amounts of money...

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Against Multiculturalism

Take a moment to think again about one of the most important sentences ever written:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, the Founders set out a proudly universalist vision of natural rights. If all men are created equal, then preferences for one tribe, sect or class over another, whether in law or custom, are wrong.

This statement was a (literally) revolutionary rejection of the caste systems – and tribe-based identities – of other nations of the world. It spoke of universal natural rights...

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Abortion and The Role of Government

I really don’t think you care what I think about abortion and, for the most part, I’m ok with that. Most likely, either you think it is a morally neutral medical procedure and every woman’s natural right, or you think it’s murder, straight up. It is, ah, unlikely that a blog post is going to convince you to change positions.

Even so, I might be able to convince you to rethink the role of government as regards abortion and other matters of widespread and profound disagreement.

***

I recently had a conversation with someone who is terribly afraid that the new Administration will defund Planned Parenthood. I told her that I think that the government should defund Planned Parenthood – for the exact same reason, ironically, that I wouldn’t support an outright abortion ban; I also told...

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Under a Steel-Gray Sky

Two days ago I slipped in some mud while carrying my kayak up a hill. I caught myself, but in doing so I seem to have hurt something deep in my right shoulder. Since then the right side of my torso has ached.

This morning, at the suggestion of my Beloved Spouse, I went outside to sit in the hot tub by our pool. I am not really a hot tub guy – I have probably used it a dozen times in as many years – but she thought the heat and bubble jets might help lessen my shoulder pain.

So I sat in the steaming water under a steel-gray sky; to my surprise, my thoughts turned to an old friend.

***

Doug and I went to boarding school together. We got to know each other through rowing; he was a big, athletic guy – a gentle giant. Though we were two years apart, we became fast friends.

For we were n...

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Babies, Cultures and Politics

Last weekend, the Beloved Spouse and I took care of our four month old grandson for about twenty hours. He is a beautiful, generally happy baby, but he is quite capable of letting everybody know when something isn’t right. It turns out that twenty hours is a pretty good while.

In the decades since we had babies of our own, I had forgotten just how needy and vulnerable they are. Caring for one is very nearly a ’round-the-clock activity.

Helping to take care of the young prince (well, to us) for even that brief period brought some thoughts to mind. The first was that it’s amazing that our ancestors in the hunter-gatherer days survived infancy. Their parents had to have been unbelievably tough and no less loving than parents are today. Indeed, arguably they had to be more so.

The second is ...

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Rich State, Poor State

Many people consider Connecticut to be one of the richest American states; if you google “wealthiest states by income” it comes up in the top three. Lots of wealthy – or, to be more precise about what’s being measured – high-income people live in Connecticut. Well, fewer every day, but I’ll get back to that.

The state itself, as distinguished from the people who live there, is broke. Really broke. It ranks last among the states in fiscal solvency (http://mercatus.org/statefiscalrankings); its debts – on and off balance sheet – dwarf reasonable estimates of its ability to pay them.

Ah, you might think (especially if you are a Democrat or a member of a public employee union) – the state will just have to squeeze more taxes out of its wealthy residents to meet its future needs...

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A Possible Explanation

I generally write about things that I understand, or at least think I do. There are some things, though, that I have wondered about for ages without having come up with an answer that truly satisfies.

Many, perhaps most, of the posts on this site lament the obvious dangers of the leftward drift in our governance and, more fundamentally, our cultural moves away from a perspective grounded in individual rights toward one based on group-based grievances and claims. I have long pondered the underlying causes of the undeniable political and cultural shifts away from this country’s founding principles – but I have never really been able to explain why these changes are taking place.

Our government is taxing – and controlling behavior – in ways that would have been astounding to the colonists...

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