American Elephants


A Day Like All Days Altering and Illuminating the Affairs of Men. by The Elephant's Child

 

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There are times when you look out upon the passing scene — and think if you could just give them all a spanking and send them to bed without any dinner, it might settle them down a bit.  These attacks on our national history and the statues there to remind us, are so ignorant and mindlessly destructive that it is thoroughly disgusting.

There has been a drive-by shooting at the CHOP site on Capitol Hill in Seattle, one 16 year old young man dead, a 14 year old hospitalized. Essentially though, most have moved out. The East Precinct police station is due to be reoccupied next week. The CHOP protesters got some national attention, but not the kind they were hoping for, and when it gets violent with people killed, it isn’t just fun and games any more. Seattle’s feckless Mayor Jenny Durkan had protesters appear at her own house, and she takes it a bit more seriously now.

Seattle’s communist City Council member Kshama Sawant cheerfully blamed “Capitalism’s Brutality” for the murders in CHOP’s autonomous state that Seattle’s government allowed to exist contrary to the law.  Sawant and other council members were expected to vote Tuesday on whether or not to repeal a tax on companies like Amazon and Starbucks that the council intended to combat a growing homelessness crisis.

Seattle does have a statue, a 16 foot tall bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin, but he is privately owned, and rests on private property, so he will continue to inspire the residents of Fremont.  The statue was created by Bulgarian sculptor Emil Venkov. It was completed and put on display in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic in 1988, the year before the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

In 1993 the statue was bought by an American who found it lying in a scrapyard, and brought it home to Washington state, but died before he could carry out his plans for displaying the Soviet era memento. Since 1995, the statue has been held in trust waiting for a buyer for the last 25 years on a prominent street corner in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, unwanted and unloved?

Senator Mitch McConnell weighed in on the civil unrest in the country today, pointing out that “a large statue of Vladimir Lenin remains untouched while protesters topple memorials to Thomas Jefferson” and George Washington.  Does look, though, in some of the pictures, as if someone has painted Lenin’s hands suitably red.



Six Square Blocks in Seattle: Antifa’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone by The Elephant's Child

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What an interesting day! I got up late, but while I was sleeping, apparently Antifa rioters were hard at work, capturing a six-block square territory on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, proclaiming it “The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone“, under their own rules and regulations, seceding from the United States of America and issuing a long list of demands, unsurprisingly silly.

The Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, under attack from rioters, closed the precinct station down late yesterday, and evacuated before somebody got hurt. By early today the separatists had apparently run out of money and had to beg for food from supporters, beg for people with guns to help protect them, and the City helpfully provided them with dumpsters and porta-potties.

Protesters led by activist Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant occupied City Hall downtown last night for just over an hour, called for the resignation of Mayor Jenny Durkan, and the defunding of the Seattle Police Department. They entered chanting “Whose City Hall? Our City Hall!” and a number of speakers on a range of issues spoke on the importance of Black LGBTQIA+ (Not sure that I can translate that, but you get the idea). “It is about building the kind of political representation that brings the voice of the people into the halls of power and grabs power for ordinary people” Sawant said. :Please stop using Black Lives Matter for your political campaigns, also noting the whiteness of many speakers at recent protests.  Sawant also had critical words for her council colleagues who she called “corporate politicians” and “sellouts.”

There are apparently around 500 residential homes in the area, so they have stationed a fire truck there, just in case. While the mayor claimed to keep the area safe, she told the rioters.

“As the Chief takes this operational step, we will continue to remain focused on what we can and must do to address the systemic inequities that continue to disproportionately impact our Black residents,” she tweeted. “Yesterday, we announced a commitment to invest $100 million dollars into community – in addition to existing city programs — and to work with community to create a Black Commission that will help to amplify black voices in City Hall.” She added “With these operational changes, our city can peacefully move forward together.”

The rioters have declared independence from the city itself, and if they are seceding from the United States as well, they will have to negotiate with President Donald Trump. Which might prove interesting.

The Seattle area is home to an enormous number of colleges and universities, which may have something to do with this. There is the University of Washington, Pacific Lutheran, University of Puget Sound, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, Northwest University, Bellevue College, all sorts of Community colleges and Evergreen, a list that does not begin to include all the trade schools and branch locations. And, due to the Corona Virus shutdowns, they are not in session. College kids, having learned protesting in college, have in many cases  been trained in the wonderfulness of socialism as well. There will be lots more excitement, I’m sure, before we can get back to normal life. Some COVID-19 watchers seem to think that because of all the riots and crowds, we’ll  have another bad outbreak in the fall, others don’t think so.

How long our major corporations will be willing to put up with this (Increased taxes for Amazon and Microsoft are a common demand) is an unknown. The rioters seem remarkably free from any knowledge of history, or much of anything else as far as that goes. Certainly young blacks growing up in single-parent households, in bad neighborhoods, don’t see a path to success ahead of them. That is not the fault of the police, who try to keep neighborhoods safe.

Aside from abolishing the police, Seattle protesters have demanded not only amnesty, but free health care and free college. The Black Lives Matter people might pay a little more attention to the young black Ohio teen who walked three miles every day, to go to his public library that offered homework help. He has been offered admission to 12 colleges, including the one he most wants to attend.



In a Disordered Society, A Little Food for Thought by The Elephant's Child

Constitution

In the current situation, I have dragged out some old, but favorite books: Angelo M. Codevilla’s The Ruling Class, and Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. I suspect a great many of us are sick of being confined, bossed around, and lied to. I think of government as a management group chosen to take care of the details that we cannot individually cope with. I vaguely hope that those we have chosen are up to the job, but don’t expect all that much. and I usually turn out to be more or less correct. In his Foreword. Professor Codevilla says:

It is about the fact that America now divides ever more sharply into two classes, the smaller of which holds the commanding heights of government, from which it disposes in ever greater detail of America’s economic energies, from which it ordains new ways of living as if it had the right to do so, and from which it asserts that that right is based on the majority class’s stupidity, racism, and violent tendencies.

A little later, in another chapter, he adds:

Our Ruling Class’ agenda is power for itself. It seeks and exercises that power through unremarkable patronage and promises thereof, as well as by courting supporters and denigrating opponents. These ordinary means, however, are having remarkable effects on America’s body politic, because their practice is wrapped up in our Ruling Class’ peculiar intellectual and moral pretenses. Chief among these is an ideological belief that it has an exclusive, Gnostic grip on modern science’s secrets. Nevertheless, as we look at how our Ruling Class is making our economic livelihood ever more dependent on itself, at how it is running a system of representation and a legal system quite opposite to those bequeathed to us by our founders, as well as at how it is disaggregating our families and dispiriting our souls, let us keep in mind that this agenda is driven primarily by mundane personal interest. This agenda proceeds from claims that our Ruling Class knows formulae for spreading economic wealth, for engineering social happiness, and for legal and constitutional fairness. It claims as well to be more resistant than the rest of us to the temptation to profit personally from power. In short, it  proceeds from the premise of human inequality and leads to even greater inequality. But, pretenses notwithstanding, our Ruling Class was no more present at the creation of our nation than the rest of us, nor are they any less self interested. Its members too put on their pants one leg at a time.

Does that sound a bit familiar, as if it is touching on the world of today? We Americans like to think that we are the freest people on earth, that the rest of the world envies us as they cope with their difficult governments. We find AOC fascinating because of her absolute ignorance of American history and American beliefs. Today she was back with the idea that we kept illegal immigrant children in cages, to boost her support for Biden, completely unaware that it was the Obama administration which did that.

Charles Schumer spoke up to say that the Democrats would present us with a “Rooseveltian” world, as if that was something to yearn for. They still believe in FDR’s Administration, unaware that his efforts with the Great Depression made it last seven years longer than it should have. Two economists from UCLA, Lee Ohanian and Harold Cole proved that conclusively. Don’t need to do that again. We should have learned what a failure FDR was, but it’s hard to give up your heroes.  Michael Moore has a new movie out admitting that wind farms and solar arrays do not work. How this will sit with the Democrats remains to be seen. They are very open to the “Green New Deal,” unfortunately.

Milton Friedman’s book is an essential for every library. He asks on the second page:

How can we benefit from the promise of government while avoiding the threat to freedom? Two broad principles embodied in our Constitution give an answer that has preserved our freedom so far, though they have been violated repeatedly in practice while proclaimed as precept.

First. the scope of government must be limited. Its major function must be to protect our freedom both from the enemies outside our gates and from our fellow citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, to foster competitive markets. Beyond this major function, government may enable us at times to accomplish jointly what we would find it more difficult or expensive to accomplish severally. However, any such use of government is fraught with danger. We should not and cannot avoid using government in this way. But there should be a clear and large balance of advantages before we do.  By relying privately on voluntary co-operation and private enterprise, in both economic and other activities, we can insure that the private sector is a check on the powers of the governmental sector and an effective protection of freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought.

The second broad principle is that government power must be dispersed. If government is to exercise power, better in the country than in the state, better in the state than in Washington. If I do not like what my local community does, be it in sewage disposal, or zoning, or schools, I can move to another local community, and though few may take this step, the mere possibility acts as a check. If I do not like what my state does, I can move to another. If I do not like what Washington imposes, I have few alternatives in this world of jealous nations.

You see, we are not alone in our discontent. It has been recognized by some of our most celebrated minds. If that gives you some comfort in your locked-down situation. They tell us that meat should be more plentiful in the grocery stores very shortly, but that is dependent on getting everybody in the meat-packing plants in masks and protective gear, I think. The government recognizes the problem and is working on it. Nobody has explained why I could not get any eggs!

The books are available from Amazon, and used copies are really cheap.

 

 



A Perpetual Motion Machine called Innovation by The Elephant's Child

British columnist Matt Ridley is always worth reading, but yesterday’s column was special.  He wrote:

When you think about it, what has happened to human society in the last 300 years is pretty weird. After trundling along with horses and sailboats, slaves and swords, for millennia, we suddenly got steam engines and search engines, and planes and cars and electricity and computers and social media and DNA sequences. We gave ourselves a perpetual motion machine called innovation. The more we innovated, the more innovation became possible.

It’s by far the biggest story of the last three centuries—the main cause of the decline of extreme poverty to unprecedented levels—yet we know curiously little about why it happened, let alone when and where and how it can be made to continue. It certainly did not start as a result of deliberate policy. Even today, beyond throwing money at scientists in the hope they might start businesses, and subsidies at businesses in the hope they might deliver products, we don’t have much of an idea how to encourage innovation at the political level.

What’s more, free-market economists have been in a special muddle about innovation for a long time. The economics profession spent a couple of centuries assuming that markets tend towards equilibria, through the invisible hand. Hence John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes and pretty well everybody else in between assumed that we would see diminishing returns come to dominate human endeavour. But instead we experienced increasing returns, accelerating invention. As the author David Warsh put it in his book Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations (2006) some years ago, economists obsessed about Adam Smith’s invisible hand but forgot about his pin factory, where specialisation led to innovation.

One of my favorite histories is by John Steele Gordon, who deals with just that: the “Epic History of American Economic Power” in An Empire of Wealth. It’s a great read, and I recommend it enthusiastically. We are seeing all sorts of articles about the horrors of Socialism in the wake of Bernie Sanders, but this one deals with the other part: why Capitalism works and that a state that advances and encourages innovation is a result of a free people and an open society.

How some people can fail to understand those simple facts is apparently due to the failure of our schools and our colleges and universities. Many of our states do not require basic civics and history for graduation, a situation that drastically needs attention. Our colleges and universities are staffed to a significant extent with those who went for graduate degrees as a way to escape the draft for the Vietnamese War. You can hear that echo in banned or protested speakers on campus, and campus demonstrations.



Why Do the Democrats Hate Trump So Much? by The Elephant's Child

Bernie seems to be the leading Democrat candidate at present, and the Democrats are horrified. The object of the entire Democrat campaign is to get rid of Donald Trump, and they don’t think Bernie has much of a chance to defeat him. The Democrats really, really hate Donald Trump. But the commentary out there is interesting.

The Manhattan Contrarian said flatly:”If You Can’t Articulate A Limiting Principle On Government Expansion, You Get Bernie Sanders.” That was his headline, and he added:

Well, if you’re the party of free stuff, why shouldn’t the guy who offers the most free stuff win? Bernie is clearly willing to outbid all of his rivals in the free stuff auction. What makes you think anybody can beat him by just bidding less?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced her endorsement for the 2020 presidential election. She called for “publicly owned and run health care and education so that we have more freedom over our lives than the private sector provides.”

Brian Riedl, writing in City Journal on October 15, 2019 commiserated with Bernie’s heart attack, and said as long as he remains in the race, it’s worth taking his policy ideas seriously, since he has unveiled expensive new spending proposals on a near-weekly basis. All told, Sanders’s current plans would cost as much as $97.5 trillion over the next decade, and total government spending at all levels would surge to as high as 70 percent of gross domestic product. Approximately half of the American workforce would be employed by the government. The ten-year budget deficit would approach $90 trillion, with average annual deficits exceeding 30 percent of GDP.

And Victor Davis Hanson said yesterday, “Universities Breed Anger, Ignorance, and Ingratitude” “In turning out woke and broke graduates, they have a lot to answer for.”

When you get history and economics all mixed up with “social justice”, you are creating a major problem. I reject the idea that there is any such thing as “social justice” and if you go off chasing it, you are never going to arrive at a destination. It’s nice to dream of a world where nobody is poor, everybody has what they want and need, but that’s not how it works. Life is hard, bad stuff happens, there are accidents, illness, deaths, wars, family troubles, and you have to learn to cope. You don’t succeed by waiting for somebody else to fix things for you. The joy and the pride of arriving at a goal make the coping all worthwhile. We currently have an economy where most anyone that wants a job can find one. The rising is up to you.




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