Archive for the ‘#change’ Tag

Dark Currents   1 comment

It’s strange the thoughts that go through my head while I’m writing Transformation Project. It’s an apocalyptic series set the day after tomorrow, when terrorists have fried several US cities to a crisp with suitcase nukes. A Threatening Fragility is about to go into rewrite and I’m thinking about how the headlines affect the plot.

When I’m on the exercise machines at the gym, I listen to the Communist News Network (CNN) and the Fanatics News Network (Fox) and I think “this is the exact right time to write this series because we are witnessing the collapse of social democracy.”

It’s not a new crisis. It’s been swelling gradually for decades like a cancer that started years before and has just been discovered. We see the symptoms in the extremist parties in Europe and the sometimes violent political confrontations in the United States. The times cry out for a complete rethinking of the relationship between the individual and the state and between society and its governing institution. I get to do that fictionally, but there’s a real world comuppence headed our way.

I was surprised to discover the other day that our son didn’t know what a social democracy was. He’s getting As in Government and Economics and he didn’t know the term. Wow! That really speaks volumes about how bad the American education system has become. I daresay his sister only knew it because I told her. For the record, we live in a social democracy. Put aside the notion that this is socialism or even democratic, because it’s not. A social democracy is the unlimited rule of self-proclaimed elites who think they know better than the rest of us who to live our lives.

Image result for image of the breakup of social democracy

Quick history – end of World War 2, the intellectual and political elites in the United States decided that ideology should die. This wasn’t a new thought for them, but they decided that after two devastating world wars with high rates of American deaths, they could introduce the concept to American culture and we’d not object to their plans. I suggest reading 1960: The End of Ideology by Daniel Bell. A self-described “socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture,” he said that all wild-eyed visions of politics had come to an end. They would all be replaced by a system of rule by experts that everyone will love forever. They believed the world would be a safer place if nobody believed anything too deeply and we all agreed on some system of public administration that controls every aspect of our lives so that conflicts aren’t possible. To this end, they would build a cradle-to-grave welfare system so that scarcity would no longer be an issue, an administrative state wherein objective and scientific experts would be given authority to build and oversee large-scale state projects that would touch on every area of life. This would involve a regulatory apparatus to make all products and services perfect, a labor agency to achieve the perfect balance of capital and labor, huge infrastructure projects to inspire public awe, all while fine-tuning the economy along Keynesian line, administering a foreign-policy regime that knew no limits to its power and empowering a central bank to act as the lender of last resort.

Although they claimed they wanted an end to ideology, these central planners codified an ideology that wasn’t socialism, communism, fascism or capitalism. They called it “social democracy”, a gigantic invasive state, administered by elite bureaucrats drawn from the intellectual class and given the cover of consent through the use of ill-informed universal suffrage. After all, democracy will assure that no oppression occurs. Right? Uh, ….

A funny thing happened on the way to social nirvana. During the Cold War, the threat of Soviet communism kept many people from questioning the institutions around them. Yeah, they didn’t match what we read in the Constitution, but if they kept us safe from the Soviets …. We were taught in school that it was best to be post-ideological, but we still needed to be on guard against the ideological extremism of Russia and anyone who might sound like Hitler, so ignore these contradictions. You wouldn’t be able to exercise the former right as a government-regulated privilege if the government weren’t protecting you from Vladimir Putin … I mean, Nikita KhrushchevThe threat of nuclear annihilation was enough to keep mass discontent with government institutions at bay until the Cold War abruptly ended in 1989, beginning a new attempt to impose a post-ideological age as the elites had wanted for so long.

“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” (The End of History, Francis Fukuyama)

Yet, it was now safe to question the post-war social-democratic consensus. We no longer needed to put aside our differences to face an existential threat. Over the last 25 years, every institution of social democracy has been discredited and the middle class now faces the grim reality that the American dream is failing.  The moon landing was the last time a government program really seemed to work well. As government became a symbol of inefficiency and waste, heavily ideological protest movements began to spring up in all corners of American public life: the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Bernie, Trump, and whatever comes next.

Intellectuals today fret about the fracturing of American civic life, expounding about what has gone wrong and why. Social media reflects this anxiety, certain that this leader or that program is the answer to our problems, that which will pull us back together in cohesion. Alternatively, this leader or that program is said to be “a sure fired way of destroying all that America stands for.”

Bull! Our government institutions have grown bloated and imperious over time and are becoming increasingly untenable. The experts didn’t know what they were doing after all, and this realization is shared widely among the people who were supposed to be made so content by the existence of these institutions. This is because they have discovered that most programs are failures.

Many forms of welfare only work because they borrow from the future to support the present. Nobody asked my children’s generation if they wanted to support other people’s grandparents and sometimes their great-grandparents in luxury for 30 years after retirement. Social Security worked so long as the few in older groups could pillage the numerous in younger groups. Now that the demographics are flipping so that there are many on the receiving end and few on the paying end, young people know that they will be paying their whole lives and either get nothing in return or net a terrible return on investment. Medicare and Medicaid are beset by the same problem. The welfare state became a way of life rather than a temporary help. Subsidy programs like housing and student loans created unsustainable bubbles that burst, causing fear and panic.

All forms of government intervention presume a static world without change and institutions that operate in certain predictible ways. Public schools today operate as they did in the 1950s, despite access to a new global information system that has otherwise transformed how we seek and acquire information. Antitrust regulations deal with industrial organization from decades ago even as the market has moved forward. There is a huge variety of programs open to the same criticism: labor law, communications regulations, drug approvals and medical regulations, and so on. All this red tape costs and those costs grow and grow, while the service and results deteriorate.

The bailouts after the 2008 financial crisis were indefensible to average people. Both political parties participated in this. What was started under Bush was repeated under Obama. Neither party can say “Oh, it was the other guy.” Nope, it was both parties.

I don’t know how to justify using all the powers of the federal government to provide well-connected elites billions in bailout money for the crisis they created. Forget about too big to fail or concepts of fairness. Capitalism is supposed to be about profits and losses, but in 2008 it became about private profits and socialized losses. The sheer injustice of it staggers the mind, but that’s just the surface. How can you pillage average Americans of 40% of their income then blow the money on programs that are either terminally inefficient, financially unsustainable, or just plain wrong? The US government administers a vast spying program that violates any expectation of privacy held by American citizens. Meanwhile, wars now last decades and leave only destruction and terrorist armies in their wake.

People have been discontent with inefficient, low-quality, or morally questionable government and not neared revolution before. So what’s the difference now?

“Government by agreement is only possible provided that we do not require the government to act in fields other than those in which we can obtain true agreement.” (FA Hayek, 1939)

Exactly. For public institutions to be politically stable, they must at least enjoy some agreement of opinion in the population. There must be some minimum level of public consensus to elicit consent. That’s possible in small countries with homogeneous populations, but it becomes far less viable in large countries with diverse populations, as represented by the United States and the European Union.

Diverse opinion and big government create politically unstable institutions because majority populations begin to conflict with minority populations over the proper functions of government. Under this system, some group will always feel oppressed and exploited by others, which creates large and growing tensions in the key ideals of social democracy, that of government control and public services.

Our vast array of public institutions are predicated on the presence of agreement, but we no longer agree on much. We currently live in a political environment divided between friends and foes, and these fault lines increasingly open up along lines of class, race, religion, gender identity, and language. If the goal of social democracy was to bring about a state of public contentedness and confidence that the elites will take care of everything, it appears they have failed. Discontentment is growing, as is a sense that everything is spinning out of control.

In 1944, F.A. Hayek warned that when agreement breaks down in the face of nonviable public services, strongmen come to the rescue. He was explaining Hilter and Mussolini (or for that matter, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt), but he could just as easily have been describing Donald Trump. President Trump won for a reason. He’s the canary in the coal mine, warning us that the old order is sinking fast. It was already too late for Europe when Hitler came to power, so I’m thinking there’s big trouble headed our way sooner rather than later.

With dark and dangerous political movements festering all over the Western world, seeking new forms of command and control, social democrats must make a choice. Will they keep their liberal ideas of multiculturalism and jettison their attachment to rule by an administrative elite that cannot tolerate diversity of opinion or will they jettison their multicultural ideals and keep their beloved unitary state?

Social democratic partisans can fight a hopeless battle for the restorations of their ideas, but they’re working against human nature as they do so, so they might wisely prefer not. They might consider joining the classical liberals to rally around the only real solution to the looming crisis — freedom itself.  The ultimate end-of-ideology system is liberty. Genuine liberalism doesn’t require universal agreement on some system of public administration. It tolerates vast differences of opinion on religion, culture, behavioral norms, traditions, and personal ethics. It permits every form of speech, writing, association, and movement. Commerce, production, and trade are the lifeblood of liberalism, allowing everyone who wishes to participate a means to live a better life. It only asks that people – including the state – not violate basic human rights. Live your life the way you see fit, so long as your actions do not harm someone else.

Voluntarily choosing your own path in life … isn’t that better than distant bureaucrats deciding how we should live our lives regardless of our own thoughts on the subject?

The future battle lines of ideology will not be left versus right, but freedom versus all forms of government control. The social-democratic dream of widespread consensus has been defeated by human nature, which yearns to put self in control of one’s own choices. Might it not be better to work with human nature rather than to attempt to explain it away?

Still Looking for Your Cheese?   1 comment

Image result for maze with cheeseThe Trump administration blocked some liberal media outlets from a press conference and the blocked ones are freaking out as if this has never happened before. Apparently, they’ve forgotten that the Obama administration routinely blocked access of some media outlets.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2013/10/10/cpj-report-on-obama-press/2960607/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/10/27/usa-todays-susan-page-obama-administration-most-dangerous-to-media-in-history/?utm_term=.3e230376f3aa

Note these articles are dated 2013 and 2014. The both center on the opacity — the lack of transparency — of the Obama administration.

Trump is incredibly transparent. Just read his tweets — though I wouldn’t believe everything he tweets. If you don’t feel him tweaking your strings, you’re really not that sensitive. Reporters from some media outlets don’t like that they are no longer the gatekeepers of information. They don’t get to manipulate the message and put their own spin on it and then claim that anyone else with another take on the message is not a legitimate news source.

The Trump administration has moved the liberal media’s cheese and they’re so busy protesting that it’s been moved that they don’t seem to be seeking where it might have gone.

May I make a suggestion? Try being balanced. Instead of presenting your opinions and the half of the facts you like and screeching about how the sky is falling, try presenting the entire story, leaving your opinion at the door and digging for some actual evidence rather than just dealing in half-truths.

I think if you did that for six months or a year, you might get your press passes back.

Posted February 25, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Media

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Who Moved the Liberal Media’s Cheese?   4 comments

This week, I get the distinct feeling that the American press needs to read the book Who Moved My Cheese? They clearly don’t know how to handle change.

In Spencer Johnson’s thin book, he tells the story of four characters who live in a maze: the mice Scurry and Sniff, and two ‘littlepeople’, Hem and Haw. All is going well because they have found a huge source of their favorite food, cheese. Hem and Haw have even moved their houses to be near it since it has become the center of their lives. They don’t notice that it is getting smaller, and are devastated when find the cheese is gone.

Image result for image of cheese in a maze

This is where the story splits in two. Scurry and Sniff quickly accept the loss of the cheese and go off into the maze in search of other sources. The littlepeople, because they have built their lives around the big cheese, feel they are the victim of some kind of fraud or theft. Rather than helping their situation, it feeds their victimhood and assures they go hungry. Meanwhile, the mice find more cheese.

The fable captures that moment after we have lost a job or a relationship and we believe it is the end of the world. All the good things were in the previous situation, and all the future holds is fear. Yet Johnson’s message is, instead of seeing change as the end of something, we must learn to see it as a beginning. To make himself accept reality, Haw writes this on the wall of the maze: “If you do not change, you can become extinct.”

The media appears to be playing the part of Hem and Haw before Haw recognizes his need to change. This particular president of the United States isn’t treating them with the respect Obama did. He is instead returning their intense disrespect of him right back at them. He’s not scheduling press conferences around their calendars, but around his own. He argues with them when they’re rude.

They act like this is a horrible situation and aver that it is a sign that Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing. Go back in history, however, and you will see that government and the press have frequently been at odds with each other. I was trained in journalism courses at college that we were supposed to have contention between us. The job of a political reporter is to hold politicians’ feet to the fire.

Conversely, government should be highly suspicious of the press because the press is not their friend. Our modern media seem to have gotten used to the “big cheese” of occasional press conferences where the President answered their questions as if they had a right to the answers. Their cheese has been moved.

They need to get over it. Just because Trump isn’t acting like Obama — who was rarely challenged by the press — doesn’t mean he’s evil or in crisis or incompetent. It simply means that he not bound by  the behavior of previous administrations.

Go look for new cheese. Learn new (or really old) ways of doing your job. Stop acting like the change in the air is the burning of the world. Change can be painful for those who fight it. Sometimes there are principles worth fighting for, but the methods of the modern presidential press conference is not one of them.

Posted February 18, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Media

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Good Intentions Won’t Save the Ruling Elite | Marian L. Tupy   Leave a comment

As I walked to work on Wednesday morning, having slept all of 4 hours, Washington, D.C. seemed even grumpier than usual. The marble-clad Parasite on the Potomac was under a cover of dark clouds and cold rain intermittently poured down.

The sense of impending doom was palpable and many Washingtonians suspect that they are about to get it in the neck.

My fellow residents were walking their dogs (as the saying goes, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog), protectively hunched over their smart phones and Starbucks coffee, ingesting the news – Donald Trump had been elected President of the United States a few hours earlier.

Washingtonians are not a friendly bunch on the best of days, but on Wednesday, their scowls seemed more piercing and voices more hushed. Like citizens of an ancient Greek metropolis, who went to bed safe in the knowledge that theirs was a pinnacle of refined existence, they awoke to find their city besieged by an army of bloodthirsty barbarians led by an orange-haired giant with a spear in one hand and the severed head of a newborn child in the other.

The sense of impending doom was palpable and many Washingtonians suspect that they are about to get it in the neck. I sure hope so.

Washingtonians take their politics seriously and personally. And they are very good at it – they have to be. Climbing up the greasy pole is difficult, especially if you are on your own and suspect that the person offering you a helping hand today will become a mortal enemy tomorrow.

Becoming “somebody” in “this town” requires years, sometimes decades, of scheming and schmoozing. A good deal of lying and backstabbing is compulsory. And then there is the relentless ass-kissing of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of people who might be of immediate or future use to one’s career.

A typical resident of our nation’s Capital, needs to shower twice a day, even on those rare occasions when it is not 110 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Just look at the tortured life of the Democratic Party’s nominee for the presidency.

An Air of Superiority

Yet, in spite of all the moral compromises they make in the course of their daily lives and vices they commit in the furtherance of their careers, Washingtonians are convinced that they are better than the rest of America.

Looking down at what the East Coast jet-setting elite calls “the flyover country,” they sneer at the strange customs and primitive values of ordinary Americans. They look at these deplorables, as Hillary Clinton recently put it, like strange animals in the zoo.

If there is one thing that your typical Washingtonian is unambiguously bad at doing, it is introspection.

As far as the elite is concerned, the hoi polloi are good for only two things – to pay their taxes and to keep their mouths shut.

America’s ruling class is different. Washingtonians eat at some of the best restaurants in the nation, drive the best cars available and live in the swankiest neighbourhoods in the country.

Fourteenth Street, which is the thoroughfare of my neighbourhood, my real estate agent tells me, is the fastest growing property market in the United States. And why should it not be? The DC area has the highest median income in the country.

If there is one thing that your typical Washingtonian is unambiguously bad at doing, it is introspection. No amount of money spent and hours wasted sitting, as they so often do, on worn-out sofas in psycho-therapists’ offices, will make Washingtonians acknowledge this terrible, but simple, truth – they are the ones who are responsible for the rising of the “unwashed masses” who are now scaling the walls of our fair city.

Don’t take me the wrong way. Washington means well. When it tells the rednecks in “flyover” America what food to eat, what healthcare to buy, what to teach their children and what bathroom to use, it does so for their sake. You see, Washington knows better. And this is how the plebs repaid the Capital? The news on Wednesday morning was enough to make your typical health-conscious Washingtonian choke on his honey-coated granola bar.

So, what now?

Well, Trump has won the presidency. The Republicans have kept control of both chambers of the US Congress and increased the already high number of GOP governorships. The party has not held this much power at the state and federal levels in a hundred years. This is what the Republicans wanted and worked very hard to accomplish.

Freedom and opportunity are not privileges to be enjoyed by a few inhabitants of the Capital.

The nation expects action and by that I do not mean getting mired in a culture war. Trump is a socially moderate man and he should not waste his time re-litigating gay marriage and abortion.

Instead, he and his party should use their (temporary) power to unleash the productive capacity of the American economy by engaging in a bacchanalia of deregulation. They should empower the states to do all the things that the federal government does not have to do or does poorly – always mindful that the federal government must enforce equal treatment of all citizens before the law, as dictated by the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Freedom and opportunity are not privileges to be enjoyed by a few inhabitants of the Capital. They are the key ingredients of a dignified life for all Americans

Source: Good Intentions Won’t Save the Ruling Elite | Marian L. Tupy

Posted November 14, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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Serenity Courage Wisdom   5 comments

Change – how do you feel about it, what are some big changes you’ve undergone, what are some changes you’d like to make or that you see coming?

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Change is a big issue with a lot of moving parts. It’s “change” after all. It moves, it shifts, it is in flux.

This was a perfect topic for the week after a national election because “change” is on parade and being rioted against in the streets. Since I didn’t vote for either Clinton or Trump, I get to stand above the fray without ownership in the outcome and note the irony that those who demanded that the rest of the country accept their version of change in 2008 are now faced with the other half of the country’s version of change. The difference is that the Teaparty peacefully protested the actual policies of Barack Obama and the impacts they were having on them personally while the current “protesters” are rioting in the streets against the outcome of a constitutionally-provided democratic process.

I didn’t want Trump either, but I don’t think the world ended. The ill-conceived idea of granting one person power over 350 million people for four years took place and this is the outcome. It may represent a change of direction for the country. To quote the progressives in 2008 “Elections have consequences.” The electorate has chosen a different direction. They rejected the status quo candidate (Hillary Clinton) and selected … the Donald. Will anything actually be different? I don’t know. I’m not sure it matter.Just because the voters opt for change does not mean the deep state will allow it to happen.

Image result for god grant me the patienceReinhold Niebuhr lived in a time when the world was being torn apart by the evil of Naziism. As a Christian opposed to Naziism, he looked at the world around him, and penned that prayer. Notice that he didn’t pray “Lord, let me change the world, destroy Naziism and change human nature.” His ambitions were lower. “Lord, let me be able to accept the things I cannot change and have the courage to change the things I can,” but more, he asked for the wisdom to understand that there is a difference. Reinhold spent the rest of his life trying to teach people why God was a better choice than Adolf Hitler. It didn’t stop the murder of 10 million people (I don’t just count the Jews), but it perhap changed the hearts and minds of millions, so Niebuhr may have had a greater reach than those who died trying to kill Hitler in the early part of his reign of tyranny. We remember him. We chant his prayer at 12-Step meetings. We whisper it quietly in our hearts as we watch yet another change election.

Like Niebuhr, I can’t control people who are outside of my sphere of influence. I certainly can’t control the electorate. If I could, neither Clinton or Trump would be the president-elect. But here’s something for all the rock-throwing election-outcome deniers trying to set aside this election result to understand. YOU can’t control the electorate either. You’ve got one vote. For everyone of you who showed up at the polls and voted for the status quo, another someone showed up a the polls and voted for change. I voted for change that was very different from the change half the country voted for. My ideal change will not be represented in the White House for the next four years and I have the serenity to accept that outcome because I recognize when I can’t win a battle, so it’s better not to fight it. I cast my vote. My ideal lost in the court of popular opinion and I’m moving on … not to change my ideology, but to continue to influence people in the way that I have the courage to act.

Instead of investing my change ideology in an election that I can’t control, I choose to show up here on my blog to advocate for change in a different way … by educating people on their choices. I can’t change the world. I might be able to change one or two or a few dozen minds and maybe those changed worldviews can influence one or two or a few dozen minds each who can influence ….

Image result for image of libertarian not allowed to driveYou get the picture.

Wisdom teaches me to not fight battles I can’t win, but courage teaches me to continue to act where I have hope of making progress and to have serenity about those things that are out of my control. I trust that God has a plan and that He’ll let me in on the details in His good time … if He needs my help.

 

Elections often are about change. If people like the status quo, they choose to keep the incumbent. If people are angry about the condition that they’re living in, they choose the challenger. In 2012, the encumbant and the challenger both represnted the status quo. In 2008 and in 2016, there was no encumbent, but there were candidates who represented the status quo of the outgoing administration and candidates who represented change. Change can be a good thing. If the ideology in charge is providing evidence that it isn’t working, then selecting another path is a good thing. It’s rejecting misery for the hope of something better.

Image result for image of change for change sake

So, Hillary Clinton (status quo candidate) lost the election because people want change. They want change because they’re tired of being mserable and from their perspective the policies of Barack Obama have increased their misery. Donald Trump, who was promising change, won because the electorate wants change and they think that what he is offering represeents change they want to see. Maybe they’re right. Maybe they’re wrong. They made their choice.

The world didn’t end. Power transferred peacefully … as it does every four to eight years in this country. This is no different than when Barack Obama was elected, promising change that half the country did not want. Sometimes your version of change is selected and sometimes it’s not. That’s how democracy works. Sometimes the change that is selected scares the hell out of you, but if your alternative is violent protests in the street, then maybe you’re actually the scary one.

 

Image result for image of being torn apart by change

There are those who are determined to reject the change that this election represents. They’re tearing up cities around the nation, threatening physical violence on those they disagree with, destroying private property, trying to force a rejection of the constitutional election of a change agent they voted against. Apparently, they were happy with the mounting debt, growing welfare system and diminishing incomes of the Obama administration. What’s not to love about increasing medical insurance premiums and reduced access to care? They were happy with the election process so long as it favored THEIR ideology. They voted to reject change and embrace the status quo and, DAMN IT, their way is the only right way. Change is GREAT only when the bore tide flows in their direction. If it goes in another direction, violent revolution is allowable.

So, here we stand on the cusp of another change era. Hopefully, things will move in a better direction this time. Maybe this time, the “winners” will listen to the “losers” a bit and we can direct the change toward something that is good for all of us.

Hopefully … doubtfully … hopefully … doubtfully ….

“God, grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the DIFFERENCE.”

 

Posted November 14, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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