Ingratitude

Goose

As I was power washing our home’s siding and deck with the help of my family this Memorial Day weekend, my daughter turned to me and said “a family working hard to clean the OUTSIDE of their house….such a bougie thing to do”.  She was referring to bourgeoisie values.  Some believe bourgeoisie values have a negative connotation but I am proud (as are my friends, clients and family) to embrace these values.  A lot of public intellectuals, however, do not – scorning our family values as they exhibit a profoundly ungrateful attitude towards the incredible prosperity made possible only through capitalism and the moral values of the bourgeoisie social class.

 

Ingratitude is obviously a bad thing – a cognitive enemy of sorts. The introduction of Jonah Goldberg’s new book Suicide of the West (2018) points out two types of ingratitude in order to sharply delineate the one that is more threatening.  There are two version of the fable “The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg”.  In one, a farmer asks the Goose to lay more golden eggs, and the Goose politely refuses.  The farmer then becomes enraged and kills the goose – no more golden eggs – moral of the story, as every child knows, be happy with what you have – ingratitude and greed are bad.  In a different version, a farmer and his wife reason that the Goose must have a big chunk of gold in its gut, so they cut open the Goose only to find no such source of gold – no more golden eggs – same moral of the story but this version illustrates a more dangerous type of folly from ingratitude.  The farmer and his wife deploy reasoning.  Their reason for killing the Goose seemed plausible to them.

 

Goldberg’s point is that intelligent people who attack the Golden Goose of capitalism, seeking to undermine bourgeoisie values, utilize their “reasoning” in attempts to kill what has been a wildly successful philosophy, lifting millions out of poverty and enabling the flourishing lifestyle we enjoy today. The current level of global wealth was completely unimaginable just centuries ago.  We enjoy an economic Miracle – or what Deidre McCloskey calls “The Great Enrichment”.  Her book Bourgeois Equality (2016) articulates successful family values.

 

Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness.  Go the extra mile for your employer or client.  Be a patriot, ready to serve the county.  Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable.  Avoid coarse language in public.  Be respectful of authority.  Eschew substance abuse and crime.

Two law professors publically agreed with McCloskey’s cultural observations in 2017 (Amy Wax and Larry Alexander quoted above) only to be accused by the Goose killers as racist – peddling the “malignant logic of hetero-patriarchal, class-based, white supremacy that plagues our country today. These cultural values and logics are steeped in anti-blackness and white hetero-patriarchal respectability”.   That criticism is such an ungrateful, hateful, resentful way of viewing the world and our values.  Beware of the Social Engineers (Hayek warned us about them in 1944 – see my 12/20/16 post) who want to cut open the Goose of capitalism that’s been laying golden eggs.  Our War Chest remains chock-full of gratitude for the Miracle of western civilization.  Keep those golden eggs coming!

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Statist Thought Disease Spreads to Sex

RetroCouple

Have you heard about this Incels” thing?  Unbelievable.  Apparently, there is an internet subculture of men who are involuntarily celibate (“Incels” for short), and they are not just complaining but also making elaborate plans for what Government should do about it.  Most people were unaware of this nonsense until one of these losers murdered 10 people in Toronto last month.

 

It’s relevant here as yet another manifestation of pathological statist thought. People fail to achieve their goals in life and so they try and use State power to force the result they want.   It’s a philosophy of envy, like Socialism.  Instead of forced property confiscation and redistribution, these bozos want to force women into sexual relationships so that no man has to go without his proper quota of sexual intercourse.  It sounds ridiculous until you think about the parallels that this twisted reasoning has with Socialism.

 

Incels are angry that other men are in sexual relationships with woman and they are not. Like Marxism – some people have too much, some people have too little, and so I will decide how to redistribute.  It’s pure statist evil – from each according to her ability, to each according to his needs.  It highlights the ridiculousness of the utilitarianism argument for wealth redistribution, which unlike the Incels, is still seriously advanced.  Coerced utilitarianism is a never ending quest for utopia that is always doomed to fail.  Money is more valuable to a poor person than it is to a wealthy person, so society will be made better by forcibly confiscating wealth and giving it to the people who “need it more”, the argument goes.  The greatest good for the greatest number…..or else!  But Hayek and many others have already thoroughly dispensed with that bad idea.

 

Our War Chest can count this as yet another cognitive torpedo in an array of armaments that sinks the already sunk idea of radical collectivism.

 

Here’s the article by attorney Kyle Sammin upon which the above is based:

http://thefederalist.com/2018/05/11/involuntary-celibates-next-manifestation-sexual-socialists/

 

Oh and here’s an entertaining article using the new Marvel Comics Infinity War movie to illustrate the moral folly of relying on the utilitarianism to make public policy.

https://www.dailywire.com/news/30880/rymer-infinity-war-and-utilitarian-quandary-henry-rymer

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Acquiring Capital is Critical

EmptyWarChest

Families whose War Chests are empty are in dire straits these days because of an increasingly brutal political economy. Acquiring, maintaining and controlling capital is absolutely vital to human flourishing; without it, the current liberal social order relegates millions to a helpless, miserable, seething underclass.  It’s getting really bad.  If your family is able to maintain capital, thank your lucky stars and keep working hard to build, protect and transfer it as you wish.

 

Don’t take my word for it – here’s a Jonah Goldberg summary from his new book Suicide of the West (2018): writing about how the new “cognitive elite” aristocracy of good test takers are re-writing the rules of the game for their own selfish benefit:

 

Pg. 206 [Liberal Elites] are making the rules of the game more complex….Complexity is a subsidy.  The more complex government makes society, the more it rewards those with the resources to deal with that complexity, and the more it punishes those who do not…. “people without lawyers are mistreated by the legal system”.  [Goldberg citing Judge Posner]… “the legal system had erected a system that was attentive to people with expensive lawyers and treated people with no lawyers at all as ‘trash’.”…nice…

 

People of good faith disagree about which resources or “capital” are key to success in life – political, financial, social, genetic, educational, professional, cognitive, or just plain old luck (which technically isn’t capital). Those are all interesting disagreements, but utterly irrelevant to the point at hand.  If you are lacking in any, most, or all of these kinds of intangible capital, the more complex the rules get, the more you are left out in the cold.  A dumb rich person with good lawyers or social connections will always jump over the hurdles laid down by government more successfully than dumb poor people lacking lawyers or connections.

 

[Liberal Elites] are deeply invested in this project. And the more success they have, the more the arrogant and condescending elitism of the progressives becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you start from the assumption that people are too stupid to understand what’s in their interests, and then you proceed to make society a byzantine maze of hurdles, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to claim you’re right.

 

All of the educated liberals who cannot fathom why so many working-class Americans voted for Donald Trump need to undertake some vigorous moral – and policy – introspection. For modern progressives have not only helped set up a system that millions of Americans believe is dedicated to making their lives more difficult and their path to success more daunting; the progressives also heap scorn on them for complaining about it.

 

I hope you know a good lawyer and belong to a family that has packed plenty of capital into its Estate Planning War Chest – financial, social, genetic, educational, professional, cognitive and just plain old luck. Families who are not in such a position are at the mercy of conceited, corrupt policy makers seeking to ever expand their power.

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The Luxury of Enjoying the Way Things Are

BeachLuxury

Sometimes I wonder how astounded future generations will be by the absolute absurdity of public discourse in this day and age. A vast swath of public rhetoric is completely preposterous.  Mainstream thinkers terrifyingly recognize and painfully lament the continuing erosion of their power and influence over both moral and intellectual matters; public lunacy is at shocking levels.  The ruling elite are in full panic mode.  Fortunately, we are safe, comfortable and protected from the sea of arrogant stupidity on our island of awareness.

 

The crux of present discontent stems from radically differing values. Fairness is in the eye of the beholder – or the politician or the economist or the lawyer.  No one will ever convince me that it is fair to soak the “rich” (my clients) in order to hand out their wealth to the poor.  And no one will ever convince crazy Bernie Sanders that it’s fair not to (free everything, for everyone!).  It’s not an opinion, or even a belief – it’s a personal value.  And it’s OK for people to have differing personal values.  The menacing threat, however, for the few of us who are lucky, responsible, hardworking, etc., is that any system of taxation, confiscation and redistribution necessarily interferes with freedom – it’s coercive violence against our interests.  Socialist values must be forced upon people – imposed from above – men with guns declaring ‘it shall be thus’.  Wealth redistribution is theft – the immoral seizure of private property to be resisted with every legal, economic, moral and philosophical weapon we wield.

 

From my vantage point, we are clearly winning (the couple on the beach in the image above is making a “W”). Like the luxury of patient capital (see my 5/13/16 post), we enjoy the luxury of the status quo, and the status quo is such that if you control wealth, you get to keep it.  Published arguments for wealth redistribution, even heartfelt pleas from the smartest of the smartest (I seek them out here every week), are tiresomely vapid and obviously ineffective because things are staying the way they are.  We are fortunate to be in a good position, free from the angst and anger that the majority of Americans feel.  Alexis De Tocqueville warned us in 1835 that Americans are “forever brooding over advantages they do not possess”.

 

The Estate Planning War Chest will continue to reload and fire its weekly barrage at our enemies in the war of ideas as we enjoy a safe, comfortable position, without fear that the ruling elites will attack our lifestyle. We need not engage those enemies directly – however, we should be aware of the hegemonic war. Now, let’s go find a nice beach to visit on vacation.

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Lampposts

Lamppost

Princeton economist and political advisor Alan S. Blinder in his new book, Advice and Dissent – Why America Suffers When Economics and Politics Collide (2018), uses a metaphor that politicians rely on economists the way drunkards rely on lampposts:  “for support, not for illumination”.  Blinder argues that greater public policy making power should be vested with expert economists (technocrats).  Politicians could be illuminated by the wisdom of economists and guided by a spirit of “hard heads and soft hearts”.

 

Politicians should not, as they do now, drunkenly lean on lamppost economists for support in battle. Politics and economics is brutal tribal warfare.  It all boils down to a question of who gets what from whom.  Blinder is honest about the wealth redistribution debate (he favors more confiscation of wealth from the rich so it can be passed down to the poor) reiterating all the classic arguments of inequality vs. efficiency (e.g. Okun’s Bucket post here on 11/15/16);   but he’s clearly a highly partisan Democrat blaming those mean, unreasonable Republicans who “systematically oppose virtually every policy that would reduce inequality, whether it’s Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, or whatever… actively seeking to widen inequality”.

 

Blinder’s a bit of a smart ass referring to the Republican Party’s leading thinker (he puts the word thinker in quotes) Paul Ryan in 2012 who said that we require a “safety net for people who cannot help themselves, for people who are down on their luck, so they can get back on their feet but we don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives”.  He then sarcastically references the hammock comment several times and claims Republicans refer to those who are too poor to pay income taxes as “lucky duckies”, reveling in their good fortune.

 

Sarcasm aside, more power should NOT be given to technocrats. The power, credibility and illuminative wisdom of our elites has eroded for good reasons.  Jonathan Kirshner (Cornell Univ.) puts it well in a Washington Post review of Blinder’s book – “in the 1990’s and 2000s the technocratic class became ensconced in its own hubris and seduced by intimacies with power”.   There is no monopoly on truth.  Those of us “experts” whose minds are deployed by others for legal, economic and political battle are hired intellectual guns.  We are always leaned upon for support.  No matter how much we’d like to think of our ideas as illuminating – there’s always someone who disagrees.  Truth is like a trial – each side trots out experts to testify to the veracity of their opposing points of view.  Experts are not the source of the irrefutable light of wisdom.  We are weapons in the War Chests of our patrons, clients or constituents.

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The Degradation of Citizenship

CitizenMeritBadge

Chapter 7 of Why Liberalism Failed (2018) walks us through the intentional and expected progression of the break-down of American civic virtue.  There’s a reason why the Boy Scouts mandate that 3 of the 13 specified merit badges required for Eagle Scout are for citizenship (Citizenship in the Community, Nation and World).  The scouting program instills not just knowledge and skills, but more importantly, morality.  Citizenship is a lost, dying virtue slipping farther away from our thoughtless population.  And this ongoing degradation of citizenship was purposely built into the American system of Government by its architects.

 

Deneen points out profound concerns that the founders of our nation had while structuring government around natural anti-democratic constraints. Civic ignorance, incompetence, indifference and misinformation have always been around.  So they built a republic, not a democracy.  James Madison believed strongly that the best interest of the nation was protection of “the diversity in the faculties of men”, manifested in unequal and varying attainments of property.  This unleashed self- interested private ambition of individuals was sewn into the deepest fabric of the U.S. and it is the source of both our country’s material success and its utter failure to foster and perpetuate civic virtue and morality among citizens.

 

Deneen’s book concludes with some thoughts on the future, which I enjoyed but those ideas are speculative, unlike his historical and current events analysis buttressed with  extensive endnotes and a bibliography. We shall end our tour through Professor Deneen’s ideas at chapter 7.  The most important point is clarification of the true and correct meaning of the word Liberty.  It is so undeniable (despite enemy Liberalocrats’ opinions to the contrary) and powerfully important that I’ll repeat what I wrote here on 5/30/17:  Alexis De Tocqueville citing Cotton Mather (1663-1728):  “There is a liberty of a corrupt nature, which is affected both by men and beasts, to do as they want. This liberty is the grand enemy of truth and peace.”

 

Our primary War Chest defensive weapon is the correct understanding of liberty and its grand enemy manifested by a corrupted view of liberty advanced today by both political parties – an undisciplined, unvirtuous ethic of doing whatever one wants without self-restraint, duty or honor.

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The New Aristocracy – Part 3

HandsOff

Our final glimpse into Chapter 6 of Why Liberalism Failed (2018) illuminates the sad state of affairs that liberal philosophy has produced.  It’s why we need a War Chest to protect our family’s well-being.  In Deneen’s words:

A society can be shaped for the benefit of most people by emphasizing mainly informal norms and customs that secure the path to flourishing for most human beings; or it can be shaped for the benefit of the extraordinary and powerful by liberating all from the constraint of custom. Our society was once shaped on the basis of the benefit for the many ordinary; today it is shaped largely for the benefit of the few strong.

 

America has always been permanently designed to secure economic winners. We are the fortunate few strong – an island of strength in a sea of weakness.  There was a “secession of the successful”.  Both political parties regard generational inequality as something that can be fixed – either by Government economic intervention (with the lifestyle liberalism of Mills) or Market economic liberalism (with the laissez-faire policies of Locke).  It’s not.  Generational inequality is now structural and the vast chasm separating your family from the masses of querulous and contentious, who sadly bear the cost of liberalism, grows wider every day.  If this is so obvious, why do so many allegedly smart people not see it?

 

They are self-deluded by a veneer of social justice – a fake concern for the disadvantaged. Plato’s proposed “noble lie” has been adopted by our elites whereby people are led to believe in the legitimacy of inequality backstopped by a myth of fundamental equality. Citizens are told a tall tale about the nature of our regime and more insidiously, the ruling class also believes it.  “Liberalocrats” (as Deneen calls them) are educated in deep self-deception to believe that we do not live in an aristocratic order.  They are militantly arrogant and stupid; intellectual and moral enemies to be avoided, not to be engaged with directly.  Thankfully, we have sufficient financial, moral and cognitive capital so there is no need to engage them.

 

Our Estate Planning War Chest does not confront stupidity head on. It’s a dangerous enemy that we evade, not battle.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) warned:

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

Bonhoeffer’s full quote is at

https://religiousgrounds.wordpress.com/2016/05/11/bonhoeffer-on-stupidity-entire-quote/

(It’s an interesting notion that stupid people can be mentally adroit – stupidity is a sociological not psychological phenomenon – people are “made stupid”, in Bonhoeffer’s words).

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