The Old-Fashioned Regulatory State Has Failed

Today, in pitching the Democrats’ new economic plan, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) claimed that “old-fashioned capitalism has failed“. In discussing the plan further, it became clear that corporate concentration was a key concern to Democrats. This should be a concern for all Americans. The question is, can the Democrats own up to the fact that they are responsible for the problem?

Capitalism and competition do not create monopolies. Far from it. Capitalism kills companies that fail to adapt. Blockbuster? Gone. Kodak? A shadow of its former self. Sears? Hemorrhaging money and shedding valuable assets in a death spiral. Motorola? Sony? Borders? Blackberry? Sun? Circuit City? Radio Shack? The list goes Here's lookin' at you, Comcast!on.

Then there are companies that are so awful to their customers that they deserve to be run out of business. Comcast. AT&T. Wells Fargo. Charter. Sprint. Bank of America. Look at the most reviled companies in America and you’ll notice the visible hands of government shielding them from competition.

Wonder why cable companies are so routinely hated? They’re literally the only game in town. In most parts, localities have granted cable companies monopolies. Even when there is competition, new entrants have to negotiate for access utility pole by utility pole due to Federal regulations, though this latter may be changing.

Even when regulators aren’t directly handicapping new entrants, regulations still favor the incumbents. To put it very simply, the bigger the company, the more lawyers it can afford. A startup has to run very lean, focusing all its money and energy into pulling market share away from an established name. Every time they have to spend energy filing paperwork, every time they have to consult a lawyer, the incumbents win a round.

Nobody likes this state of affairs more than progressives. Comcast is exactly the sort of company progressives want: big, stable, and focused on keeping the regulators and politicians happy. It doesn’t matter that their customers hate them with a passion and are desperate for alternatives.

By putting more power in the hands of progressives and regulators Democrats are promising more Comcast, AT&T, and Wells Fargo. A better deal indeed.

Today, I lift my glass, to celebrate our Independence Day

Today is not veterans day, or memorial day, or remembrance day…

 

It is not a day of mourning, or of thanks, but a day of recognition, celebration, and exultation…

Today  is the day we recognize, and celebrate our independence, as the only nation in all of history founded on the notion, that the only form of legitimate government, is that which is based on recognizing, securing, protecting, and defending; the fundamental, inherent, and pre-existing, unalienable individual rights of man…
… and deriving it’s just powers from the same… 
… a government of the people, by the people, for the people…
A government of the people, by the people, and for the people, AS INDIVIDUALS…
...all created equal, and with equal and unalienable rights…
…Not to secure, protect, and defend, society, or collective, or even nation… 
…but the individual rights of man…
To my knowledge we remain the only nation so dedicated.
Our revolution began April 19th 1775, at Concord and Lexington…
…a day we in New England celebrate as Patriots Day…
Our independence was officially declared July 4th 1776…
…the day we celebrate today, as independence day…
Our revolution was won, with the surrender at Yorktown, October 19th 1781…
…six years and six months, of mud, blood, and toil, from the day it commenced…
Our new nation was made whole, and strode forth under our Constitution, March 4th, 1789…

In the last 242 years,  millions of service men and women have fought, and over a million of them have died; fighting to secure, protect, and defend, those fundamental, inherent, and pre-existing individual rights of man.

 

…Every single day in this country…and around the world…
…millions still fight for those rights…

 

…in whatever way they can, according to their own gifts and abilities, and their own circumstances, whatever they may be…

 

…whether by bullet and blade, by badge or by ballot…

…whether by words on a page, or spoken on stage…

 

For all of my brothers and sisters who have fought, and all who have died…

 

For all who are still fighting today, at home and abroad…

 

Whether you’re here today celebrating with family and friends…

 

Whether you’re lost and alone out there…

… and if you are, rest assured we are coming for you brothers and sisters, to bring you home…

 

Whether we’ll meet again the other side of the veil, and share this toast with those who live forever, on fiddlers green…

 

Today, I lift my glass, in honor of those who fought…

Today I lift my glass in honor of those still fighting, at home and abroad…

Today I lift my glass in  honor of absent companions, and fallen comrades… 

Today, I lift my glass, to celebrate  our independence day!

Why Liberals should support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court

What have we learned in the last week? First, the President of the United States is a man who has embraced progressive tactics and sees little restraint on his own power. Second, there is not much will in the Republican Congress to push back against a Republican president, even if he more resembles Barack Obama than Ronald Reagan. That leaves the Supreme Court as the last line of defense for the American people.

In this light, avoiding the confirmation of Merrick Garland to the court must be viewed as a tremendous win for the American people. Despite being a centrist on the politics, Garland’s key qualification in the eyes of the left was his deference to the other branches of government. He would have been the fifth vote for deferring to the competence and good will of the executive and the legislature.

For the left, and especially progressives, I can see the attraction so long as their president was in the White House. No pesky Supreme Court opposing progress! What could be better?

Whoops, the wrong guy got voted in by a regressive white minority! That’s what my left-wing friends tell me, anyway. Arguments about the electoral college aside, the left is now going to be fighting the agenda in Washington rather than driving it—and they’ll need the Supreme Court’s help.

So far, the left-wing reaction on Gorsuch is focusing on two things aside from straight up partisanship: abortion (naturally) and the Hobby Lobby case. It is, as usual, a case of tunnel vision. To his credit, Ian Millhiser at Think Progress goes deeper than most, and focuses on two additional topics: Gorsuch’s views on Chevron v. NRDC and his libertarian leanings on crime.

Even still, Millhiser and the rest of the left manage to miss the big picture on Gorsuch: He has an internally consistent judicial philosophy that embodies the same skepticism of power that our system of checks and balances is predicated on. His positions on Hobby Lobby, Chevron, and criminal law enforcement are all outgrowths of the same core belief. They all look at government exercises of power and ask if they are allowed by the Constitution.

Let me say it again: They all look at government exercises of power and ask if they are allowed by the Constitution. Who is exercising government power nowadays? Donald Trump. Looking at government exercises of power and asking if they are allowed by the Constitution seems like a pretty good idea now, doesn’t it?

This is where we need to split the left into two groups: liberals and progressives. Progressives will never support Neil Gorsuch for the court. He opposes, more than anything, their belief that the progressive agenda should be implemented with whatever power is needed.

Liberals, on the other hand, still care about things like individual rights and due process despite sharing some goals with progressives. It is liberals who need to take a fresh look at Neil Gorsuch. There are issues far more important in this Supreme Court appointment than abortion and birth control. The very concept of limiting executive power is at stake.

In nominating Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump has put forward a justice who will be an impediment to his agenda. He is doing this now because he has not yet felt the yoke of the court come down upon him. In a year or two, once Trump has really figured out the way Washington works, we will not see a nominee like this. We will see another John Roberts or Merrick Garland, who put judicial deference first. Remember, in 2017 judicial deference will be deference to Donald Trump.

Liberal friends, support Neil Gorsuch while you have the chance.

Keep Your Friends Close, But Don’t Unfriend Your Enemies Either

This was a bitter election. The candidates were bitter. The media fanned the flames. And it stretched many friendships as people realized that those they knew and loved supported a bad candidate. Because both of them were pretty bad.

But political polarization has been rising even beyond the terrible candidates that were put up for President, and it’s exposing an ugly side of this new internet world. And the reaction I’ve seen from many in places on Facebook–unfriending anyone who supported the other candidate–is only going to make this worse.

In the old days, you had 3 major networks, and the newspapers. While one can certainly claim that some of those outlets were biased, we each had the same news. We each saw the same stories. At the end of the day, we each worked under the same–albeit flawed–reality.

But in this new world of fragmented media, blogs, alternative news sites, it has now become possible to construct our own reality around ourselves. It’s not hard to get sucked into reading only the news sites with which you agree, watching only the cable news station that supports your side, and surrounding yourself only with information which conforms to your views. And that’s extremely dangerous, because it turns anyone who disagrees into “the other”. Once we lose that shared connection of humanity and start seeing our political foes as fundamentally different from ourselves, it will destroy us.
Trump & Clinton
And this is where unfriending people comes in. We used to make friends through all sorts of ways. Maybe it was through college. Through work. Through shared social activities. And there are of course the bonds of family. You formed friendships and bonds based on things completely orthogonal to politics. And you learned that even though you and your friends didn’t share the same political views, you shared the common bonds of humanity. You could learn to disagree without discord.

But as we’ve become increasingly marginalized and living in “virtual” communities, we’ve increasingly made it possible to turn our private lives into an echo chamber of people who only agree as well. If you only surround yourself with mirrors of agreement, your beliefs are never challenged, never reconsidered, and never truly examined. If your response is to unfriend or mute someone on Facebook simply because they disagree with you, you’re decreasing your own ability to understand what you believe and why.

And that’s confirmation bias, one of the most dangerous ideological filters in the world. Surrounding yourself with only friendly sources of information makes it impossible to figure out when you’re wrong. And we’re all wrong about something. If you can’t figure out when you’re wrong, you can have NO real confidence that you’re ever right.

I’m somewhat lucky in that I’m a libertarian. I didn’t vote for Trump or for Hillary. I don’t agree with Republicans or Democrats. Heck, if you pay any attention to libertarians, you’ll realize that half the time, I don’t agree with libertarians either! If I unfriended everyone on Facebook with whom I disagreed, my feed would be really goddamn quiet.

So I don’t do that. I refuse to insulate myself from those with whom I disagree. I actively read not only the Trump and Clinton supporters in my feed and worked to understand and humanize them, but I try to read ideologically diverse blogs and news sources to insulate myself from confirmation bias. Am I 100% successful? Undoubtedly, no. But I make the effort.

And I highly recommend you all do the same thing. Seek out those friends of yours with whom you disagree. Accept them. Humanize them. Engage them (in productive and non-vitriolic ways) in discussion. You might learn something.

We all need to do this, for two reasons:

  • Despite my provocative post title, we’re not enemies. If you voted for Clinton, a Trump voter is not your enemy. If you voted for Trump, a Clinton voter is not your enemy. We’re all part of the shared society aboard a rock hurtling through space. We’re all trying to do our best, to raise families, to have happy, productive lives. I know great people who voted for Trump, and great people who voted for Clinton. I’m pretty f’ing great, and I voted for Johnson. If we’re friends, I don’t care who any of you voted for. I’ll still happily sit across the table from you, hoist a beer, and toast what makes us friends. (Then I’ll tell you why you’re wrong. Respectfully, of course.)
  • Because the fight against confirmation bias is the hardest fight for any person attempting to remain a free and independent thinker. It’s one of the most insidious forms of bias, and one of the the worst because it lets us believe that we’re right, we’re enlightened, and our ideological opponents are dumb, craven, and wrong. It allows us to turn the opponent into “the other”. And if you’ve studied the most heinous and terrible aspects of human history, bad things happen when we allow our tribal instincts to be manipulated into turning someone who doesn’t look like us, doesn’t talk like us, or even looks and talks just like us but believes differently, into “the other”. That’s an instinct that must be guarded against at all times, for the good of human history.

If you voted for Trump, or if you voted for Clinton, I may not agree with you. But you’re always welcome at my table, at my door, or in my Facebook feed. Because the bonds that connect us as humans and friends are FAR stronger than political ideals.

An Open Letter to Democrats on the Day After

Dear Democrats640px-barack_obama_takes_one_last_look_in_the_mirror_before_going_out_to_take_oath_jan-_20_2009,

I get that you’re in shock right now. You’re wondering how and why this terrible calamity has befallen the country. And I need to tell you something you’re not going to like: Look in the mirror.

As a libertarian, I have had the luxury of watching this horrid presidential campaign play out from a distance. While both major parties were fighting dirty, while both Hillary and Trump are awful, untrustworthy people, I saw one really disturbing trend: Trump and the Republicans went after Hillary, Hillary and the Democrats went after Trump’s supporters. This cost Hillary the election.

Economics played a large role in this election. Over the last eight years, Democrats and the media have touted certain numbers as key indicators that the economy was recovering. The stock markets, the number of jobs created, and the official unemployment rate told us things were better, they said.

It turns out that the real story of the American economy was under the surface. A deeper look shows the effects of the recovery were concentrated in certain demographics and regions. Highly-educated people in urban areas have done pretty well since 2008. Those less educated and those in the middle of the country have not. They are, if anything, worse off than they were eight years ago.

Now imagine you are someone who has a high school education in a state like Ohio or Nebraska. Listen to the way you’re perceived by Democrats. You’re bitter clingers, you’re rubes, you’re deplorables. Your work is mocked. Farmers are ignorant rednecks who couldn’t do anything better. Coal miners are so evil it’s better for the country if they’re put out of work entirely. Not even the land you live on gets any respect. It’s flyover country, mere scenery to be observed on the flight from SFO to JFK. How exactly do you feel about that?

Imagine now that a candidate comes along who feels your pain, who promises to make America great again, to bring back the jobs and prosperity to desolate communities. Yes, he might be an awful human being, a sociopath, someone who has time and again failed to deliver as a business man. You’re not dumb, you know this. You see Trump for exactly what he is–a charlatan.

Then you look back at Hillary and the future she and the Democrats promise. You see nothing but more poverty, more despair, and more marginalization at the hands of the urban elite. You realize that even if Trump is a charlatan, he is the lesser of two evils for you.

Now, if you’re a Democrat and you’ve made it this far, look in the mirror. Look. Did you nod knowingly when Hillary described Trump’s supporters as deplorables? Have you cracked jokes about rednecks? Did you cheer when Hillary talked about putting coal miners out of work? Do you talk about everything between the coasts as flyover country?

On the other side of the coin, did you try to understand where Trump supporters were coming from? Did you try to understand what might be motivating them other than presumed evil and stupidity?

Look in the mirror again. Were you part of the majority of Democrats that created a tidal wave of hate that pushed rural Americans right into Trump’s camp? Be honest here, because it’s time to learn.

Every time you are tempted to look down on someone because of the color of their skin (white), their gender (male), their sexual orientation (straight), their education (less than yours), where they’re from (the country), or the work they do (manual labor), stop. Stop and picture Donald Trump in the Oval Office. That is the consequence of your elitism over the last eight years.

The time for change is now. Stop talking and start listening. When people you look down on are concerned for their future and livelihood, take it seriously. Make the effort to look behind the convenient narrative to see if there really is something there. Question the numbers that look conveniently positive.

Or don’t. Stick to the narrative, keep piling on Trump supporters as stupid evil morons who make you so angry you want to punch them in the face.

Whether Trumpism is a short-lived fad or the new normal is entirely in your hands, my Democrat friends. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

Sincerely,

A Disappointed Libertarian

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