URLs du Jour

2019-01-17

[Amazon Link]

  • Kevin D. Williamson notes the odd political inversion (probably) in progress: Democrats & Republicans: Trading Socioeconomic Places.

    The Democrats have become the party of snobbery. Consider those endless fights over the treatment of evolution in high-school textbooks. Nobody seriously believes that if a high-school science teacher in Muleshoe, Texas, is legally permitted to mention heterodox views of evolution, in 20 years’ time Stanford and MIT will be intellectual backwaters. Those fights aren’t about science — do you hear progressives hounding the Washington Post about its horoscopes or lamenting Obamacare’s blessing of sundry New Age quackeries? — they’re about the loathing of those people. You know the ones: They care a great deal about football and eat at McDonald’s, love guns and Jesus, and probably voted for Trump.

    The Republicans have embraced a kind of militant inverted snobbery: “Were you born in a barn?” isn’t a question your Republican mother asks you when you’re behaving poorly — it’s a question the Republican National Committee asks, hopefully, when it is thinking about backing you for Congress.

    Things change in politics, and more quickly than you’d think. In 1984, Ronald Reagan won 49 states; Richard Nixon had done the same thing twelve years before him. (Minnesota held out against Reagan, Massachusetts against Nixon.) It is difficult to imagine a Republican doing that today. I blame Rudy Giuliani.

    Well, things change. They may change back, but I doubt they'll do so quickly enough so I'll be around to see it.


  • President Trump had yet another disgraceful "Good Lord, when will he ever just shut up" moment last week, and the disgrace was compounded by how little it was noticed. But Jeff Jacoby noticed: In extolling 'honorable' tyrants, Trump shames America.

    DONALD TRUMP is a compulsive insulter. When faced with any criticism or opposition, he resorts instinctively to taunts and put-downs. His smears and invective are so unremitting that they no longer shock. It's simply a given: If you spar with Trump, you'll be slandered by Trump.

    For all that, the president's jeers still sometimes manage to set a new low for indecency.

    Last Thursday, taking questions from reporters on the White House lawn, Trump was touting his administration's economic record.

    "We have the best job numbers in at least 50 years," he claimed. "The economy is incredible. We're negotiating and having tremendous success with China."

    Then he abruptly pivoted to his budget dispute with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

    "I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin' Chuck and Nancy. I really do," he said. "I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party."

    I am, of course, no fan of either Chuck or Nancy. But to describe murderous Chinese dictators as far more honorable than US politicians is utterly brain-damaged. People who voted for him should be ashamed. Again.


  • Peter Suderman commemorates an ignominious anniversary: The 100th Anniversary of the Ratification of the Amendment That Led to Prohibition Is a Reminder of the Lasting Damage Bad Policy Can Do.

    One hundred years ago [January 16, 1919], Nebraska became the 36th state to ratify the 18th amendment, which set Prohibition in motion a year later. Prohibition is widely, and rightly, remembered as one of the 20th century's greatest policy mistakes, and it contains more than a few lessons that remain relevant today.

    The decision by the states and the federal government to outlaw the manufacture, sale, and transportation of most alcohol in the United States was born of racism, nativism, government paternalism, and moralizing religiosity.

    Yeah, it was bad. But at least back then, the government felt it needed an amendment to the Constitution in order to tell people what substances they could not legally imbibe.


  • At Law & Liberty, Alex J. Pollock has thoughts about financial blind spots. And he's not optimistic, because nearly by definition In Finance, the Blind Spots Will Always Be With You.

    The first reason is that all finance is intertwined with politics. Banking scholar Charles Calomiris concludes that every banking system is a deal between the politicians and the bankers. This is so true. As far as banking and finance go, the 19th century had a better name for what we call “economics”—they called it “political economy.”

    There will always be political bind spots—risk issues too politically sensitive to address, or which conflict with the desire of politicians to direct credit to favored borrowers. This is notably the case with housing finance and sovereign debt.

    The fatal flaw of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) is that being part of the government, lodged right here in the Treasury Department, it is unable to address the risks and systemic risks created by the government itself—and the government, including its central bank—is a huge creator of systemic financial risk.

    For example, consider “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” or SIFIs. It is obvious to anyone who thinks about it for at least a minute that the government mortgage institutions Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are SIFIs. If they are not SIFIs, then no one in the world is a SIFI. Yet FSOC has not designated them as such. Why not? Of course the answer is contained in one word: politics.

    I'm old enough to remember when it was "obvious" than Fannie and Freddie were leftover New Dealisms that deserved to die. Sigh. Good times.


  • And finally a pungent Facebook observation from Robert Higgs.


Last Modified 2019-01-18 6:21 AM EDT