Category 6. Various Issues

The Perils of Groupthink

In a few years, I will be entitled to collect some very expensive benefits – Social Security and Medicare – by virtue of my age rather than any need. If you are still in the working world, you will be paying for them. Thanks … I guess.

Most people in my position tell themselves that others won’t really be paying for what they’ll be receiving – that they pre-paid them through payroll taxes, over many years.

One little problem with that argument: it isn’t true. The money that those of us who have been paying payroll taxes paid into a theoretical trust fund has been squandered; the government is twenty-three trillion in debt, about $8 trillion of which is to the illusory entitlement trust funds...

Read More

Corbyn’s Position on Brexit – guest post

The fundamental question seems to be – does Corbyn need to articulate a clear in / out position on Brexit?

He argues that he doesn’t, and that once he has negotiated a new deal he will act as an ‘honest broker’ who will remain neutral in a ‘Corbyn’s deal vs Remain’ referendum.

While there are certainly virtues to Corbyn’s Brexit policy (it’s inclusive, economically coherent, and in his words ‘seeks to bring the country together’) Ithink it’s also useful to recognize that there are some contradictions implicit within it too.

Firstly there is the question of democratic legitimacy. The 2016 referendum, for all its faults, produced a result: Leave.

At the time and later in run up to the 2017 election the Labour party agreed to honor the result...

Read More

The Climate Crusade

Although I am a skeptic regarding the extent of mankind’s impact on global warming, I don’t particularly like it when people describe the scare as a hoax or as a fraud on the public. Hoaxes and frauds executed on a grand scale require a concerted intent to deceive, which I think very few, if any, climate alarmists have. There is no global conspiracy to pull the wool over our eyes – the very idea is ludicrous.

Given the usual run of human foibles, however, systematic errors need only attractive theories, dramatically skewed incentives and confirmation bias to present themselves as seemingly unchallengable truths.    

Incidentally, you’ve probably already noticed that in the first paragraph I referred to the focus of climate alarmism as global warming rather than with the more...

Read More

A Dangerous Naïveté

There is a political naïveté on the part of the global business and entertainment elites that might be charming if it weren’t dangerous. Or maybe what passes for naïveté is actually a willful blindness on their parts or, worse, a rancid cynicism. In any event, too many titans of the business and entertainment worlds seem intent on fulfilling the prediction often mis-attributed to Lenin that “The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.”

Many consumer-oriented Western companies now kowtow to the wishes of the Chinese government. With their eyes on a fast-growing market of 1...

Read More

Global Anti-Americanism, Considered

For one of my book clubs, I recently read The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. It’s the tale of a Princeton-educated Pakistani who both falls in love with an American woman (who is emotionally wounded, and thereby doomed), and comes to detest if not America per se, our nation’s global footprint. For reasons that will be obvious from this post, the novel was far closer to home for me than most.

Apart from that gut reaction on my part, the question of general interest that arose from my reading of Hamid’s book is whether the acid conclusion by the novel’s narrator that America has a consistently baleful role in the world is correct...

Read More

Budgetary Nightmares

The former director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, recently estimated that implementing AOC’s Green New Deal would cost about 93 trillion dollars (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/green-new-deal-would-cost-93-trillion-or-600g-per-household-study-says). This figure is so absurd – more than 100 times our annual spending on defense and more than four times our total national debt – that the proposal has no chance of becoming law. Even so, its warm reception among leading Democrats shows that they believe that it is directionally correct, if maybe a little overeager. Given the power to do so, they would presumably enact something more moderate – maybe only doubling or tripling the national debt.

Here’s the thing, though: all such new programs – and, indeed...

Read More

Election Interference

A close friend with whom I have recently been having distinctly adversarial conversations and email exchanges on political topics wrote to me a couple of days ago, effectively daring me to deny that Russia’s interference in our most recent presidential contest had taken place (and, it was implicit, thereby cast a pall over the election’s legitimacy), and asking whether I think our government is doing enough to prevent such acts in the future (the implication being that the Trump Administration, being too friendly with Russia, is not). A longer version of my off-the-cuff email response is presented below:      

Of course the Russians interfered with our election – as they have been doing since the revolution. They are not our friends...

Read More

A Right to Privacy?

In writing these posts, I generally try to present myself as being both surer of my opinions and more eloquent than I actually am. I figure that expressing my thoughts boldly and as elegantly as I can makes them more worthy of your time than they would be if I simply tossed off random ideas. I will only keep half of that implicit bargain in this post, though, because while I’ll try to write it clearly, I’ll be more open about my own uncertainty as to what the right policy or personal responses should be to the dilemmas I’ll describe.

This https://www.the-american-interest.com/2019/05/06/the-new-face-of-tyranny/ article by historian Paul Rahe raises, and gives historical context to, a set of issues that I have been thinking about for some time: how the intersection of modern technology...

Read More

Why So Many Leading Democrats Hate Charter Schools

The moral bankruptcy of much of the Democratic Party’s leadership is nowhere more obvious than in their aversion to charter schools. Democrats hold themselves out as representing the little guy, but many do lasting damage to the very people in whose interests they claim to speak by attempting to strangle the charter school movement. The reason many office-holding Democrats oppose charter schools is quite simple: such schools may be in the best interests of children who would otherwise be stuck in abysmal unionized (and effectively union-run) public  schools, but they are manifestly disadvantageous to the teachers’ unions that are the Democrats’ most important contributors and volunteers.

When Waiting for Superman was released to considerable acclaim by Davis Guggenheim, who had a...

Read More

Habits

Have you ever been in a car with a brand new driver? He or she needs to decide when, and even consciously remember how, to use a turn signal, how to hit the gas or brakes and whether or not to watch that car on the left.  Actions that for an experienced driver are effortless are a complex minuet for a new driver. It’s exhausting – and a little terrifying – just to be a passenger.

Much that we do, we do without conscious thought. Even the larger patterns of our days are mostly based on habit rather than moment-to-moment decision-making.  You regularly have alcohol with dinner, or you don’t. Same with engaging in daily exercise or flossing your teeth. You generally read, watch TV or fiddle with a communications or game device before sleeping, according to the same pattern...

Read More