XXXIX. on cultural isolationism

A short plugging of the American Conservative University Podcast, first, which is a fountain of knowledge. It is rarely “fair”, as “both sides of the argument” are not considered on much of the excerpts that the podcast publishes, but if you have an interest in truth and justice (and parenting. I am 24 and I’ve got a number of years before raising children, but I have listened to probably ten hours of parenting tips over the past few months just because they are so radical and intriguing), you should listen to the podcast.

Anyway, cultural isolationism in all forms is harmful to a people, a society, and ultimately all of civilisation. All cultures nowadays are amalgamations of a traditional essence of a people (of which there are many forms) and a massive number of borrowed traits. Most of the time these traits can be mixed up and switched out depending on their effectiveness. For example, if an immigrant to another country can swallow his pride enough to learn the language and culturally appropriate the mannerisms of that country, while also keeping his own culture in his heart, he is more likely to succeed in that new home (look at the Jews, the Chinese or the Lebanese). This is not to say that one culture in essence is better than another, just that there are more preferable and less preferable traits within those cultures, an understanding which is ignored or intentionally suppressed in modern society.

The data is out there—for anyone interested, please read Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective by Thomas Sowell—but I will give just one obvious example of cultural isolation: Spain translates more books into Spanish in one year than the sum of all the Arabic nations have translated books into Arabic in the last thousand years. This wide dispersion of culture teaches tolerance within western society over the past two hundred years has brought overwhelming equality, respect and insurmountable progress, things which a number of Arabic nations do not have, and even vehemently oppose. Nowhere is this clearer than in America, where positive cultural traits were adopted by all and negative traits were forgotten, in the Melting Pot, that experiment which has led to human prosperity, well-being and freedom the like of which no one on the Earth ever thought possible just one hundred years ago. The trick, which America (and all of humanity) is still learning, is how to know which cultural traits are good and which cultural traits are bad. The fact that there are drawbacks with this system (lost culture, diffusive minorities) does not always mean there is a better option.

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XXXVIII. on changing conservatism

This post was conceived to be mainly about British politics, but really applies to conservatism everywhere. In short: America has saved the world.

At a medium length: the explosion of positive, fact-based conservatism that has arisen from America’s classic liberalism has created in the world a widespread revolution in conservative thinking. Conservatism in most places, Britain being my firsthand example, until very recently in history, meant royalism, elitism, and a return to class systems—the latter arising from the others; social mobility was very difficult if not impossible for most.

Then came liberalism, and the American way, and the Great Experiment, and individualism, and self-rule, and the world’s first modern republic arose. There were inalienable rights that were universal for all men (eventually). For a long time, rights were understood to be given to you by the king, or by the law, or by your keepers, but rarely by a creator (take from that what you will, of course). And then over the next two centuries, America, through agriculture and industry, became the greatest nation to have ever existed (in terms of economy, welfare, culture and militaristic benevolence).

Then Marxism gripped the world, or tried to, three or four times (1890s, 1930s, 60s, and now), and anti-historicity became the way of the world; what was old was unjust, and tried, and there must be something better. There was no individual, only community; no individual rights, only the welfare of the society. And this new idea was not conservative. In fact, somehow, it became liberal.

Over the years, then, classic liberalism became known in America as conservatism, and socialism became known as liberalism. American conservatism, in its best incarnations, is still as radical and moral as it was almost two hundred and fifty years ago; perhaps more properly seen as constitutionalism. And this conservatism, perhaps because of its historical context and economic validity, or perhaps because of its compatibility with other historical, economically valid principles: free market capitalism and freedom of the press, has gradually seeped into worldwide culture.

The royalism of old conservatism has receded into arguments about tourism, the elitism has become solidarity, and the class warfare has become class-blindness. At least in the modern strains of conservatism, those newer parties or those smarter leaders, those following the American brand, politics is being saved. My point becomes clear when we compare that to modern liberalism, where there are a number of truths that are not true: all royals are inbred and ancient: evil and corrupt, all elites are right-wing: they control the media, all the upper class are pigs: eat the rich. By these mantras and a few others, socialism is once again rearing its ugly head, but it seems that American values have safeguarded us to some extent, and may still yet save us.

XXXVII. on the current state of the GOP nomination race

I come at this with a certain amount of what some might call bias, — I, of course, would say that it is a political philosophy built only on facts about the welfare of humanity and the world — but if the American people elect a Democrat next year, or maybe even an establishment Republican, they deserve what is coming to them: a shrinking workforce, no more meaningful allies on the world stage, a proxy war with Russia, trade capitulation to China, and a much stronger north-south secession argument inside the country.

For me, it is between Cruz and Trump. Cruz would be a dream come true for the country. I’m not sure they deserve him after electing Obama twice, but everything I see of him just makes me like the man more. Carson is levelheaded and seems a “good man”  but has the dodgy connexions, Rubio seems sincere but is for amnesty and illegal sanctuary cities, Christie is about as two-faced and yellow-bellied as a politician can be, Fiorina seems good with numbers and rhetoric but light on policy.

Trump is a wildcard. He will do what is best for Trump, and always will, but Smith’s Invisible Hand comes into play here. For 8 years (he has hinted he wants two terms), he will give the American people what they want in order to become more adored and to boost his ego even more, but what’s really wrong with that? He will look at being President like being CEO of a business: he will make decisions as if the American people were his clients. There are a number of slippery slope arguments that can be made against this, but I don’t think they have much ground. He wants to be the best President ever, that means numbers, that means jobs created, better trade deals made, security maintained, borders secured, international strength grown, economy balanced, and most of all, it means he wants the People happier, and feeling like the government they pay taxes for (goods and services, remember) is worth it, so they will firstly re-up in four years, and then look back fondly on him, and buy his (endless, I’m sure) books about his time in office.

On stage he rambles and obsesses with polls and rhetoric, but he has no Teleprompter, each sentence is true when he says it, and he seems sincere.

Cruz is a straight arrow. He will act according to his principles. His whole career he has been steadfast and moral, and acting first to what the Constitution says, and then to what his God says. He plays the game, of course; he knows exactly how many times to say “tedcruz.org, tedcruz.org”, how long his pauses should be, how to phrase a point, and where best to pool his (substantial) resources, but again, what’s wrong with that? If there are undecided voters, or Reagan Democrats, he needs to get their attention, to get his name and face recognised, but more importantly, to get his personality and policies recognised.

This seems a very important election, and I would have liked this to be the first American election I could vote in, but no luck. But sometimes this election does seem like a foregone conclusion: Republicans win this time… surely?

My last point is between Trump and Cruz: although Trump would be a net good for the nation, he might continue the pattern of American presidents ruling, as opposed to leading. This is an important philosophical difference; while in theory there are only flowery, superfluous differences, in practise it can be the difference between deciding what kids should learn, or leaving it to the parents; between deciding drugs laws, or leaving it to the states. I do not know enough about Trump to say he fully falls into the supremacy trap of “knowing best”, but he does seem like he would step in to appease a crowd during a crisis, rather than relying on history and fact.

XXXI. on Black Lives Matter, & class divide

I’ve not posted for a while, so as a gentle return to it I think I’ll talk about something sensationalist, factually murky, & violently controversial. If you’ve read this blog (there’s a possibility) you might have guessed that I’m not into the whole divisive rhetoric that is prevalent in politics nowadays, & has been for fifty years. A good contemporary example is the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement—a reaction to a recent string of white policeman-related fatalities amongst America’s black community.

As an Englishman, & one from the Midlands, I have run into similar sorts of divisiveness before, but in England it is much more to do with class than race. (Though much of the media here denies that social mobility is possible in this society, so the two are very comparable.) All it leads to is misunderstanding and anger on both sides. One party (the proponents of such a movement) are furious that the other side would even question their truth, how could they be so bigoted? how could you not wish to further equality? The other party (those against or indifferent) are furious for their values being misrepresented, for the unnecessary backlash, how could they think this? how could they react like this?

Black Lives Matter is painted as a positive force; an awareness movement attempting to force society to change in a direction which, if realised, would lead to equality. The reality, of course, is that it is as divisive as any other such movement; branding oneself as the Other, inventing challenge where none exists, and ignoring all other aspects of society which led to the situation America allegedly faces.

I don’t want to get into the facts or fictions behind the individual cases that B.L.M. bases its premises on; I’m making the argument that as a movement, from the outset, it does more harm than good.

And while much of the media would have you think otherwise, luckily, the American people agree with me. That includes the African-American population. Turns out they prefer the slogan ALL LIVES MATTER.

So, proponents of this movement, please stop and reconsider your position, because divisive rhetoric goes nowhere good.

XXVII. on coffee and James Joyce — II.

Making my very—very, very—slow way through James Joyce’s Ulysses, & coming to a lot of conclusions (or I suppose they are tentatively putaside questions) about my own writing, & about life in general.

—History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake.
From the playfield the boys raised a shout. A whirring whistle: goal. What if that nightmare gave you a back kick?
—The ways of the Creator are not our ways, Mr Deasy said. All human history moves towards one great goal, the manifestation of God.
Stephen jerked his thumb towards the window, saying:
—That is God.
Hooray! Ay! Whrrwhee!
—What? Mr Deasy asked.
—A shout in the street, Stephen answered, shrugging his shoulders.

What is God? If there is no belief in Him—and there is, clearly, worldwide belief in Him, but I mean personally—then what do we strive for? I believe it is a form of human perfection that is only temporary in concept and likely impossible in form and matter, but the concept and the strife and the striving is important. we create ourselves; & in doing so our society, our history, our God. I do not believe in God, but I believe Joyce speaks truth. / I wish I had a greater understanding of this God.

XIV. on the Laffer Curve

Prager University is a very pro-free enterprise thinktank, — read capitalist, greedy, rightwing, conservative, or whatever other buzzword you associate with that term — but the University of Chicago isn’t; this is a very interesting video that everyone should watch.

ADMISSION: My rendition of the economic principle, & the outcomes I draw from it, come from a very limited understanding of economics. I’m not unlearned, but I’m definitely not qualified to pass off what I say as fact. So I’d recommend just watching the video. . . .  / DISCLAIMER: I’ve done no research further than watching the video, reading some of the comments on that video, skimming the Romer & Romer paper online, & reading one other liberal review of the paper.

Anyway, if you can’t — or are not in the mood to — watch the video, the Laffer Curve is the relation between tax rates on a population & the amount of tax revenue received from that population. At 0%, the government receives £0 of the national income as taxes, and at 100%, there is no incentive to work, so the government eventually receives £0 as the national income of becomes £0. / All economists agree with this principle. The disagreement comes from where the hump sits. / For example, it would be to the Capitalist‘s benefit if the hump sat at 10%: — this would mean that if the government takes >10% of the national income as taxes, the government would begin to lose revenue. And it would be to the Socialist‘s benefit if the hump sat at 90%: — this would mean that the government can set taxes all the way to 90% of the national income and still continue to gain revenue.

The Romer & Romer paper, by leftist economists and commissioned and published by a leftist university (are there any that aren’t?) found that the hump is about 33%.

So, from what I can gather, technically, in a nation with a flat tax rate, it makes perfect sense; the 33% is the flat figure across all demographics that will give the government the most amount of money. BUT every country I know of employs a progressive tax rate, so depending on the bracket you fit into, it might be 50% for the high earners but only 20% for the low earners. So does the 50% cancel out the 20% and meet at 35% overall — almost perfect? It seems that this isn’t the case. What drives the drop in the Laffer Curve is lack of incentive to work. By taxing the high earners >50%, it gives people a smaller incentive to aim for that final tax bracket; and seeing as the richer people are, — & the higher the number of rich people is — the government suffers because the demographic suffers. / This would also happen if the low earners were taxed 50% and the high earners were taxed 20%. Because the majority of low earners are young people, or unskilled workers, it makes them less likely to enter the workforce.

CONCLUSION: If you are the biggest socialist ever, & want the biggest government possible, you should want a flat rate of tax at 33%. This means you should want the rich as well as the poor to be taxed 33%.

P.S. This is strictly talking about the money the government takes in, & not the growth of the economy. From other sources, — Britain in 1700s, the U.S.A. in 1800s, Israel in the 80s, Hong Kong, Russia after the fall of the U.S.S.R. — the ideal rate of government spending in respect of overall national income growth (and therefore government income growth, if that is actually important to you), has been about 10%.

Lower Taxes, Higher Revenue: http://youtu.be/FqLjyA0hL1s