Better to be Feared…

Francis hits one out of the ballpark today, expanding on an earlier Kurt Schlichter column. The money quote:

Prior administrations have foolishly attempted to purchase North Korean cooperation with carrots: thousands of tons of free oil, a light-water nuclear reactor, and so on. What those administrations failed to realize was that once the oil, the reactor, etc. had been delivered, their power to maintain the agreement lapsed. But a credible threat of invasion and regime decapitation has enduring influence over the mind of the satrap of a lesser power…even one with some notional nuclear capability.

Foolishly, liberals have long sought to purchase not merely cooperation, but approval also. There is a subtle difference. Satraps of lesser powers, as Francis describes them, may be made to avoid troubling us through judicious application of leverage. Stop waving around your nukes, or we’ll kill you all. However, this does not purchase likability. The enemy will resent you and hate you (not that I particularly care – he’s the enemy, after all).

Leftists often lament that America is not well-liked by various powers and peoples around the Earth. We are supposed to care about how much the French approve of us, or the Pakistanis, or even some random country in the middle of nowhere. The approval of the Muslim world is of endless importance to Leftists. And so, when dealing with tyrannical regimes, the Left requires a solution that theoretically will both work, and make the other side like us more. Bribery of the sort Francis and Kurt describe is the oft-used tactic. After all, who doesn’t like being given heaps of free shit?

Naturally, the tactic fails to achieve a long term balance of power. Foreign aid money must continue to flow to purchase cooperation and approval. Disapproval becomes leverage the other country may use against us. “Sorry, America, our people just don’t like you much anymore. Perhaps if you gave us more, they might approve of you once more.” The market price for political approval grows, the incentive to crap on America likewise grows. Few get heaping piles of money and free reactors by being our friend, after all.

Incentives are such that it is more profitable to disapprove of America. Indeed, America-hating is so profitable now that Americans themselves are agitating for a slice of that action. Yell from the rooftops that America is the worst nation since Nazi Germany, and you’re likely to get a cushy gig as a political adviser, a journalist, or as a tenured professor. On the other hand, wave an American flag, and you’re the worst bigot since Leonardo Dicaprio’s character in Django Unchained.

The obsession with approval runs deep in Leftist circles. Tolerance of homosexuality, for instance, was a good and decent thing to ask for. After all, it is not us who are inclined to exterminate gays by throwing them off of buildings (see the people Leftists want to suck up to for examples of that behavior). Yet tolerance was insufficient for the Left. They required approval also, a wholly different affair. To tolerate you means that I must merely leave you alone to do as you will so far as you likewise leave me alone. Quid pro quo still applies. Smoke the sausage if you want, but do not cause trouble for me because I do not share your proclivities, nor have any particular wish to be involved in them. Yet the “bake the cake” and “cater the pizza” examples show us that tolerance was not their game. Approve of it, they demand. Participate in it or you are a bigot and we will ruin you.

Approval is everything to them, because approval is the high; the aphrodisiac of politics. One is made to feel popular, loved, and worshiped by such. Feelings like those reinforce a notion of superiority, the idea that one is better than everyone else. In reality, it merely makes the narcissistic wimp vulnerable to sucker tactics. Power flows the other way. The person expressing disapproval controls the entire situation, and once the great big pile of free shit is accepted, the disapproval begins anew. Bake the cake, they will say. Next it might be “gays should get an oppression discount on the cake.”

It is no different from the Oppression Olympics in our domestic politics. The offended person possesses all the power. Thus we get more offended people, not less. Similarly in international politics, we get more posturing assholes demanding free shit from America, not less.

Trump, at the very least, has restored some level of balance to this. He is willing to brandish the Stick, long covered in cobwebs and dust. And what’s more, his enemies know well his willingness to use it. They will grumble, they will not approve of us. But what does that matter? Toleration is all that is required. That Kim II ding-dong whatever doesn’t love us certainly doesn’t bother me. That China is probably irritated with Trump’s trade negotiation tactics is irrelevant. I don’t even care if NATO members like us. I’m not losing any sleep over any of this.

Remember your Machiavelli:

It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.

Bureaucracy is Designed to Suck

Nassim Nicholas Taleb summed up in a simple aphorism what most of us instinctively know about bureaucracies:

Bureaucracy is a construction designed to maximize the distance between a decision-maker and the risks of the decision.

When something goes wrong, the bureaucrats play the blame-shifting game. Musical chairs will begin, and some poor fool will be stuck without a chair. When something goes right, of course, executive management will take credit. Your job as a bureaucrat is to be an implicitly political creature; to make your boss look good and, for yourself, to evade blame.

Bureaucracies become much worse when they are divorced from the profit motive. At least a large corporation must theoretically serve its customers in some positive manner, or they won’t remain in business for long. So while the internal politics of a large corporation are likely to suck like a Hoover, the external face of the company is often still somewhat pleasant for the customer.

With government bureaucracy, even that small consolation is lost. Go to the DMV, or any large government bureau. Long lines, smelly ‘customers’, and agents with extremely unpleasant attitudes abound. The motive is not to serve citizens well, or even to serve them quickly, but rather to meet the bare minimum necessary to avoid blame – and sometimes not even that.

Blame games now extend to the customer. You can offload risk to the average citizen. If you run out of money, it’s not because anybody in the government did anything wrong, it’s because the citizens did not part with enough of their wealth.

Within most bureaucracies, there are a few hard-working, talented people who keep the machine limping along. A committee of two dozen people will decide what that one poor productive person is actually going to do. Naturally, if he does not perfectly satisfy all two dozen, the blame is on him.

This is why I’ve long distrusted top-down approaches to almost anything. Beyond the waste; the useless people drawing down salaries, the incentives are all wrong. Decision makers are insulated from the consequences of their decisions. Productive people are commanded by committee. Political considerations outweigh results. As Taleb would say, none of these people have skin in the game.

We are frequently told that bureaucracies are wiser than us; that they understand better than we do how our lives should be lived. Indeed, we must ask them permission for various activities. We must explain ourselves to them, justify our needs and desires. Yet wisdom is not their trade. Knowledge is not their purpose.

Risk management and blame shifting is why they exist. And Leftists wonder why we are skeptical of their claims of wisdom. I see them as tools; political shields, only. Otherwise they have little use.

I submit that no man is free if he must explain himself to a bureaucrat.

 

Easy Rhetoric is Easy

Surfing around Instagram, you will find a large number of scantily-clad women travelling the world petting cute little animals, talking about “body positivity” and posing provocatively, generally with the juicy bits only barely covered enough to avoid attracting the attention of the censors. Invariably, every cause spouted by these Instagram ladies is boilerplate Leftism. Save the whales, maybe, or fat is beautiful, or white men are vaguely shitty and probably shouldn’t even exist. Also, Christianity is crap, and Atheism is morally superior to the zombie sky wizard.

Now, we roll our eyes at this and go about our business. Why, after all, should we worry excessively about near-porn fusing with idiotic Leftism?

Truthfully, this is a massive problem. Leftism is seen, even by most Rightists, as the default position. It’s the ‘no thinking required’ setting. If you want to spout some kind of philosophical nonsense to make yourself look smart and cultured while your boob is falling out, you do Leftism. It’s easy rhetoric. Hey look, there’s a man with no fish. Saying “somebody should give him a fish, look he’s starving” is the easy rhetorical answer. Defeating this argument is simple with dialectic, but few people care about dialectic. It’s boring. Nerdy. Too many words. Better to just call somebody a bigot and move on.

Defeating Leftism with rhetoric is much more difficult. For not only must you use a convincing argument, that argument must be truthful and honest. The Leftist may use deceit without remorse, because to him the end justifies the means. You may not. Furthermore, Leftism itself is tailored toward sounding good. Rightism is full of unpleasant truths about human nature and the how things work in the real world. People don’t like to hear these things. Only when it comes to money does Rightism have a rhetorical advantage. Even the most ardent Leftist feels the pinch of the tax man.

This means superficial Instagram would-be porn stars are going to spout Leftism. It requires minimal intellectual investment. And in order to please these attention-seekers, hordes of thirsty men will likewise spout Leftism. After all, they want some of that boob that’s falling out. Sure, baby, climate change is a horrible tragedy. Want some dick? This effect is amplified by the constant Leftism spouted both blatantly and subtly by the media and entertainment establishments. Remember V for Vendetta? Or the Handmaid’s Tale? These are the caricatures bandied about by the establishment. You can have semi-nude Instagram girls, or you can have some kind of twisted theocratic dictatorship. Framed that way, who would choose the latter?

Delusional rhetoric is the centerpiece of Leftist thought. These people believe – or at least act like they believe – that we live in the most oppressive, terrible society ever, when it is far closer to the exact opposite. If a more tolerant society has existed, it certainly wasn’t for very long. Usually tolerance at the level we’re at today results in societal collapse – indeed, it may be heading that way now. But either way the point is, the oppression they crave, the oppression they rant about (not the contradiction it first seems) does not exist.

Bend over and let your thong bikini ride between your ass cheeks, snap a picture, and rant about how Trump is a racist… and you are rewarded with thousands of followers, likes, and comments mentioning “goddess.” Which, as a side note, has become something of an irritant to me. As a man, I don’t expect to be referred to as a “god” and, furthermore, would be somewhat pissed that somebody would refer to me that way. I’m not that arrogant. So what’s with this “zOMG you’re such a goddess” crap?

Anyway, I digress. Just notice how much society rewards people who claim oppression. It’s actually a benefit. People compete and jockey for oppression points, because the more you have, the more attention you get. Pop out a boob, and you get even more. Don’t have a boob? No problem. Call yourself trans – you don’t even have to shave the beard – and now you’re a goddess too. Stunning and brave, of course. Just make sure to tell everybody that Barbara Bush was a horrible racist and deserved to die. Then pop out a non-existent boob, and you’ll be flooded with positive comments.

Of course, if you’re trans and anything but a raging Leftist, expect the Blaire White treatment. You’re no longer stunning and brave, you sexist, transphobic transsexual. The contradictions don’t seem to bother them much.

It’s all mass delusion, but it’s a strange sort of self-reinforcing mass delusion. It’s like a brain virus, and once you have it, obtaining a cure is exceedingly difficult – because you have to realize that you are sick in the first place, something Leftism explicitly tries to avoid. Don’t question the narrative heretic… er… I mean racist. If there is any sort of religious dictatorship threatening to micromanage every facet of our lives, it’s coming from the Left, not the Christian Right. Of course, their dictatorship doesn’t make women wear strange red bonnets, but it does make you sign a consent form to have sex, so there’s that. The boob on Instagram is free, though.

All of this is simple rhetoric. And it all stems from something Francis at Liberty’s Torch said some time ago (I’ll have to dig up the link again later). White Christian men are the last group for whom hatred is celebrated. That, in polite company, you may trash and insult without mercy, and expect to receive accolades for it. The people of the in-crowd can take dumps on a God-fearing farmer of Podunkville, pat each other on the back, and go drool over Instagram girls saying they are going to end the objectification of women by wearing see-thru lingerie on the Internet. It’s easy rhetoric. There’s no social cost to it, and plenty of social benefit.

It is the ease of this rhetoric, the reward for it, that really pushes people into Leftism. Oh, sure, there will always be welfare queens and hardcore Marxists who spout this crap, but the regular Joe is responding to a need to be accepted. The middle manager trying to angle for promotion to the upper tier is saying what he thinks people want him to say. And yes, even the flaky Instagram girl is just responding to what will get her the most likes and comments.

It is the ease of this rhetoric that must be defeated more than the rhetoric itself. Even if a Milo or Ben Shapiro gets in a slick comeback; even if Thomas Sowell comes to the party armed with every economic statistic known to man and has them on immediate tap, it won’t be enough. Such victories are short-lived, and the culture at large goes back to ‘if you want upvotes, talk about Islamophobia!’ Rightists are fighting an enormous cultural current, and are doing so admirably. But it is the current itself that must be changed.

The bikini girl on Instagram should be at least as likely to talk about taxation as theft as she is to take rhetorical dumps on Donald Trump. Only then will the rhetorical battle be on level ground.

Moral Courage and Moral Arbitrage

Every good capitalist is on the look out for imbalances in the market, opportunities to earn a profit off of a thing that either the market lacks completely, or current businesses do very inefficiently and ineffectively. You can consider it a form of arbitrage.

Today’s politicians, media talking heads, celebrities and the like are moral capitalists, even though they are economic collectivists. That is to say their morality is a form of arbitrage, always for sale to the highest bidder, where each statement they issue is calculated to profit them personally.

Take Marco Rubio, who today issued a series of tweets condemning Donald Trump for suggesting that the Charlottesville attack, and other similar incidents between Antifa and White Supremacists, was equally the fault of both parties. Donald Trump’s position is that both are hate groups, and both are quick to resort to violence to further their political goals, and that putting them together like that was surely going to stir up violence.

Personally, I think Trump is somewhat understating the case. White supremacists are exceedingly rare, even if they’ve received a shot in the arm from SJWs harping on white people all the time (hint: that tends to manufacture more supremacists, not less). What happened in Virginia may very well represent peak white supremacism, the very most such groups are capable of. Antifa and militant Marxists, meanwhile, enjoy far greater support from media, financiers (oh, the irony), and society-at-large. Antifa dwarfs Klansman and Neo-Nazis. Militant Marxists are, by far, the greater threat currently.

But that being said, Trump did put his finger on the central point: both groups espouse violent ideologies that are incompatible with freedom.

Marco, meanwhile, in his own words, pins 100% of the blame onto the supremacists.

rubio

This argument is remarkably similar to Antifa and other Marxist groups saying that mean words justifies violence, that speech they don’t like justifies burning down cities and attacking people. It is okay for them to violently shut down anybody right-of-center on college campuses around the country, but it is not okay for anyone right-of-center to speak.

Marco is on a continuum with the SJWs on this matter. He concedes the central point, that violence is an acceptable response to speech deemed offensive. Yes, in the case of Neo-Nazis and Klansmen, the speech actually is offensive. But it is still speech. Until it isn’t, anyway.

But if you’re a regular reader of The Declination, you already know my position on freedom of speech, and how speech alone does not justify violence.

To be fair, a lot of people are saying this, though, so let’s analyze this a little differently. Why does Marco denounce the white supremacists so readily, yet lets militant Marxists off the hook? As a man of Cuban ancestry, he ought to be very familiar with the depredations and dangers of Marxists. Why is he so willing to assign them 0% of the blame?

There is moral arbitrage here. When some politician or celebrity denounces Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other assorted white supremacists, he is cheered. He is called stunning and brave. He is bashing the fash, taking a brave stand against the most evil ideology of man. In other words, he gets a huge moral bonus in the eyes of the media. It is easy to denounce white supremacists, who probably represent less than a tenth of a percent of the population. And it is profitable to do so, as well.

If it’s cheap and profitable, expect everyone to jump on the bandwagon. The explosion of Nazi denunciations is like the proliferation of those little fidget spinners that cost 10 cents to make and sell for $7.99 in every convenience store from here to Seattle. Everybody wants a slice of that action.

Meanwhile, taking a similar stand against Marxism is expensive. If a politician or celebrity stands up and denounces Marxism as a hateful, murderous ideology that is at least as evil as Nazism, he is often shot down. Real Marxism, of course, has never been tried. Real Marxism is a good theory, a good idea that maybe just hasn’t been implemented quite right. It’s morally true and righteous, and even if it has some problems, surely bashing the fash has to take precedence, right?

Except Marxism has a much higher share of the population. Marxism is celebrated openly on college campuses around the country. Marxists trash cities, riot, commit acts of violence with frightening regularity, and Marco assigns them 0% of the blame, because somewhere, there is an inbred Neo-Nazi off his meds tweeting from his mother’s basement.

Marco obtains a moral profit from denouncing white supremacism. He incurs a moral cost from denouncing Marxism. Playing the moral arbitrage for profit thus demands he pin the blame for political violence on only one participant. Then he is “stunning and brave” in the eyes of the body politic.

Marxists have been doing this as long as I’ve been alive. It is correctly seen as stupid and disgusting to wear an Adolf Hitler t-shirt. Yet somehow Che Guevara t-shirts are absurdly common. The Nazi swastika is correctly seen as a hate symbol, yet the Soviet hammer & sickle is given a pass. It is a historical tragedy that Communism was not discredited with the same vigor as Nazism was.

It is socially cheap to oppose Nazism. It is socially expensive to oppose Communism.

Donald Trump, whatever his other faults, possesses enough moral courage to speak the truth: both groups are hateful. And he paid the price for speaking that truth. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, lacks the stones, even though as descendant of Cubans, he ought to know better than most.

I’m very disappointed in him. I expect this from Democrats who have lacked moral courage as long as I’ve been alive, I even expect it from Republicans who have no history with Marxism. But I do not expect it from a Cuban Republican. Of all people, Marco, YOU should know better. Stop playing the moral arbitrage and speak honestly.

After all, even Donald Trump is showing more honesty and integrity than you are, right now.

Weaponized Empathy and the Edge Case

Weaponized Empathy has long been a topic of discussion here. Today, let’s break down a very common use of it in private circles, in debates between regular folks on social media.

The tactic looks something like this:

Conservative: I believe in [insert policy here].
Progressive: Here is a sad story about someone (or even a hypothetical someone) who would be affected by the policy. Do you want this person to suffer?
Conservative: Well, no, of course not…
Progressive: Well then, you shouldn’t believe in [the policy]. It’s immoral.

This is an exceptionally low bar to clear for the Progressive. No matter what political positions a person might have, at least some people, somewhere, can be found who would be negatively affected by it. If, for instance, the tax code were simplified, the poor IRS agents auditing people with a microscope for violations of their arcane system might lose their jobs. Or, perhaps some poor person somewhere might end up with slightly less from the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Clearly the Conservative then wants poor people to starve, and IRS agents to be unable to feed their families. This is, of course, a rather blatant example, but read on for a more subtle and more powerful version of the argument.

Once a negative example is trotted out, the Progressive declares moral superiority and thus victory in the debate. Clearly he is more moral, because he wants to make sure nobody slips between the cracks, and everyone gets their fair share of… whatever.

A classic example can be found in this debate with Ron Paul, wherein the liberal moderator trots out a hypothetical person who has “a good job” but somehow has no money, decides not to buy a healthcare plan, has no existing government aid, can obtain no charitable aid, and possesses no friends willing to help him, and is experiencing an expensive health problem. What would happen, asks the liberal?

The absurdly unlikely (but theoretically possible) scenario is thus implied to be proof that we need government-managed universal healthcare.

Conservatives need to stop accepting this low bar as evidence of anything. Time after time, I’ve witnessed Conservatives argue these types of absurd positions by positing equally unlikely ways the free market or charity will cater to all such edge cases. Once dragged down to this position, victory is impossible. The best debaters may score a draw, edge case vs. edge case. Everyone else will lose, and the Progressive will trumpet his moral superiority over the evil, greedy Republican Uber-Nazis until he is blue in the face.

Ron Paul, being a very smart man and a doctor himself, argued this thing to a draw. I doubt many others could have pulled this off.

This is the wrong way to argue the point. It is, in fact, tacitly accepting that the Progressive’s position that the edge case means anything about national policy in the first place. Progressive policies, even if they are theoretically universal in scope, will also be subject to edge cases, as the Charlie Gard incident demonstrated. In fact, one essential truth about government micromanagement is that it is likely to result in more such edge cases, not less. Bureaucracies aren’t known for their intellectual flexibility. More people will fail to get the care they need, not less.

But even that isn’t quite the right way to argue the point. Leftism is demanding a sort of universalism that simply isn’t possible in any human institution. And, invariably, when the institution falls short of universal perfection, it is excoriated by the Left and used as justification for giving them (as in the Progressives themselves) more power under the excuse that they are morally superior. It is nothing more than a blatant power grab, thinly disguised as a moral argument.

This must be challenged immediately in any debate with them that goes down the edge case path. “Are you demanding perfection? That every single person receive 100% of all needed care? If so, you are a lunatic. Hard cases make bad law.”

This moves the bar up a notch. Now the Progressive must demonstrate that his system is better at a meta level, not just an individual hard case level. Weaponized Empathy can still be deployed at higher levels, but this is generally much more difficult, especially given the fact that Socialism generally produces very poor results when taken as a whole. However, expect the next rung on the Progressive argument ladder to be something along the lines of “well, Nordic Socialism is just great.”

More on that argument later.

A Friend Encounters the Left in DC

Lately, the political world has narrowed. It has become small. When the shooting happened at Pulse, in Orlando, I saw folks I knew distraught over the affair. I knew people who lost friends there. I’ve DJed in that area many times. It was too close for comfort. It is one thing when such violence is far away, and quite another when you realize how near to you the lightning struck.

Well, it’s happened again, and even closer this time.

My friend Louis, who lives less than a block away from me, has now been a subject of national news after an altercation over his support of Trump.

Because of ongoing legal matters, I cannot tell all of the details. What I can say is this: Louis acted in defense of himself and his family.

He brought his Trump “Make America Great Again” hat with him on his vacation to our nation’s capital. Louis has been a strong supporter of Trump from day one. In this, we sometimes disagreed, on occasion, as my support for Trump was somewhat more grudging and less enthusiastic. But nonetheless, he wanted to support our President on his trip to DC, and I can’t blame him for that. While in a restaurant with his wife and two daughters, he was heckled by three men over his hat. There were threats made in front his family. I won’t repeat them here, but note that they were targeted at his wife and daughters as much as at him.

Louis tried to leave the restaurant, not wanting to deal with that sort of thing while on vacation, but while waiting for an Uber ride to pick him and his family up, the three came outside and continued with their heckling and threats. And then one of the men struck him.

Suffice it to say, once they turned the situation physical, it did not go so well for them. 3 on 1, and they got their asses handed to them.

DC Police, of course, sided with the Leftists immediately. After all, it’s not exactly a bastion of Trump support. They tried to charge him with a hate crime, despite the fact that it was the anti-Trumpers who kept following him (this much has already been proven from cameras inside the restaurant), and it was them who struck first. Fortunately, it appears that his lawyer got the hate crime charge struck down, at least. But Louis’ defense will be expensive, and victory is not at all assured, unless camera footage from outside the restaurant can be found covering the incident. The punishment is the process, and he’s suffering it now.

Our political world is narrowing. Or, at least it sure feels that way to me. Used to be I didn’t know anyone who had been through political violence like this. Now, it’s becoming routine. Not to mention Antifa has been calling Louis and his wife continuing with various threats, and trying to post bad reviews of his business. Standard operating procedure for them, I suppose. Our block is ready for them, of course, should they try anything particularly stupid.

But, being cowards who only attack with 3 to 1 superiority (and still lose), I doubt we have much to worry about. Until the next such incident, anyway. Next time it could be you, dear reader, or even me.

Be ready.

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