Geraghty Nails It

Over at the Morning Jolt, an NRO newsletter, Jim Geraghty has an epic paragraph.  He is discussing Elizabeth Warren’s comment on John Delaney.  As we see it, Elizabeth is defining the difference between progressives and conservatives when she says:

“I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.” [Emphasis added]

It won’t happen but John versus The Donald would be a hard choice.  As conservatives, we see Elizabeth as both foolish and inconsistent.  We, conservatives, think that an important, perhaps the number one, reason to run for president is to tell folks what the government can’t do.  It takes time because the list is rather long.  We do, however, want them to fight for it.

Jim then gives us one of the great paragraphs in pundit history:

You want to know why you have problems, America? Because you don’t like doing the math. Your checkbook doesn’t add up, you didn’t read the fine print, you didn’t realize how bad the interest rate on your credit card was, you didn’t think your adjustable rate mortgage would adjust so soon, and you can’t believe you agreed to buy that timeshare.

We would add student loans that pay for premium TV services to his list.  We think Jim could have done a better job of connecting his rant to elections and that those financial parts that we keep ignoring: entitlements.  Well, it looks like we are going to financial hell until at least 2024.

Stuck In (The Middle?) With You?

Well, Stealers Wheel’s lyrics often come to mind when surveying the political scene.  The first two lines of the chorus are often apropos but the we have never before felt like the last two lines apply to us.  In case you forgot:

Clowns to the left of me
Jokers to the right

Here I am
Stuck in the middle with you

What has got us in a tizzy is Kevin Drum at Mother Jones is reminding us that National Health Care Is Free.  It is silly but we have read it so you don’t have to.  What is worrisome is the jokers on the right.  Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine reports that:

At the recent National Conservatism Conference in Washington, the crowd voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution calling for the United States to adopt an “industrial policy.” In so doing, the conservative crowd agreed with Sen. Elizabeth Warren who, as John [Hinderaker at PowerLine] has noted, also wants the U.S. to adopt such a policy.

The idea is for the government, through a set of policies — taxes, spending subsidies, regulation, and tariffs — to protect factory jobs against the forces of globalization and technological change.

Paul links to James Pethokoukis at AEI for an evaluation.  The headline is “GOP’s Stupid Swoon For Big Government.”  We are entirely on board on “Stupid” but this was the National Conservatism Conference rather than just Marco Rubio.  As the link shows, serious people were there.

As we are trying to deal with the level of disagreement on the right, we come across this from Rosie Gray in Buzz Feed News:

It’s an odd feature of American politics today that while the Republican party as an institution has never been more unified, the right has never been more ideologically fluid. Intellectual subgroups have had their moments in the sun: neoconservatives, libertarians. But they, and the Reaganites who have decided conservative dogma since the 1980s, have all diminished as Donald Trump has occupied all of the available breathing room on the right.

We can help Rosie with her confusion.  The GOP is as fractious as ever.  Just like the Democrat party.  The right has always had intellectual subgroups.  Each candidate brings a number of those subgroups together.  The Donald created a new one: NeverTrump.

Oh, back to Kevin and our concerns on the left.  Kevin is trying to convince us that national health care is free and he says:

You see, the vast bulk of health care spending goes to providers. This means that the only way to reduce spending is to pay doctors less, pay nurses less, pay drug companies less, and pay device manufacturers less. This will not happen, and anyone who’s serious about national health care would be insane to try. Why put up an enormous barrier to success, after all? [Emphasis added]

We agree with Kevin on the part we have put in bold.  The only problem is that the part above it is a description of national health care.  It is certain

Sidebar: We often envy writers for their certainty about a variety of things.  The outcome of very few events is certain.  End Sidebar.

that national healthcare will pay doctors less, nurses less, drug companies less, and manufacturers less.  As a small example from the left, there is the Obamacare tax (#10) on medical devices.  The Donald, like many politicians, is upset with drug prices.

Then Kevin explains how it is free:

The one thing we probably could do is get rid of insurance companies, which would save a bit of money—probably about enough to make up for the cost of adding the remaining uninsured to the system. So in the end it comes out even after all.

We did not make that up.  Kevin is saying that moving administration largely from the insurance companies to the government is going to save us money.  Not just a few dollars but enough to add all of the uninsured into insured.  What do you think the probability that the government is more efficient that private enterprise?  To be fair, given the government regulations in health care, the chance is very close to but not exactly zero.

The clowns and jokers seem to be more numerous than ever.  Did MWG really end up in the middle?  How many adjectives or prefix will there need to be to make MWG a conservative? Are you with us?  We have received but not read the other Kevin’s new book.  Perhaps reading that we relieve our funk.  We hope to get around to explaining why George Will’s new book is great but we still feel lonely.




Binary Situations

It happens that we are reading Jonah Goldberg’s email and Kevin D. Williamson in the print version of the National Review on the same day.  You should always read all of both of them for the joy of their prose if nothing else.  We don’t have links for either because Jonah’s comes as an email (it is the Goldberg File: Mob Ascendant) and Kevin is, as Jonah says, on dead tree (ODT).  Make sure you read Kevin’s footnotes.

Sidebar One: Yes there is a digital version of the National Review and we do subscribe but there is a paywall.  You should subscribe so you can look.  Frankly, we prefer to read stuff ODT.  End Sidebar One.

We are generally with Jonah that mob-like actions are a big problem in politics and society.  Then he reports (we’ve pasted the tweet):

Sohrab Ahmari tweeted amidst the Trump rally the other night: Every political situation like the one we’re living through is a binary. Would that it weren’t so. But it’s as ironclad as the laws of thermodynamics.

We expected a response like nonsense on stilts or some such Jonahism.  Instead we get the weakest gruel possible from him:

I think this is axiomatically true—if enough people believe it to be true. Then, it becomes true. It’s just not obvious to me that Sohrab doesn’t want it to be true.

Jonah’s first sentence seems to contradict itself.  The tweet is much closer to being axiomatically false.  There are many factions: Trumpers, NeverTrumers, libertarians, social conservatives, crunchy conservatives, and economic conservatives to take a few of the factions from one side of the aisle.  Some folks might be in more than one faction.  Political situations like tabling the impeachment of The Donald, and the steps in their resolutions have a variety of wins, loses, and no impact.

Votes are different than political situations.  Votes by citizens are often binary.  In the general election you generally pick between two choices and hope for the best.  If you were a member of Congress voting on legislation then you can try to game the system.  You might have voted to table the impeachment of The Donald now because you think that chances will improve later.  The spin doctors will work on declaring victory and try to influence future outcomes.  So, for citizens the NeverTrump argument fails because we can’t influence the 2024 GOP nominee.  People arguing that things are binary don’t make it so.

Kevin has a better argument on a similar topic that he puts in the title: A Herd Has No Mind.  Or put another way: Only an individual can think.  He agrees with Jonah that the mob is ascendant but has a better analysis of the challenges we face.  The problems with the mob leads him into a wide ranging discussion of discourse and antidiscourse.  Language is the instrument of discourse while antidiscourse is mob rule.  Kevin didn’t use a hyphen so we will not either no matter what the word processor does.  It is a wonderful rambling, acerbic, and thoughtful piece.

Sidebar Two: Kevin’s footnote eight asks in part who could read the sentences of Moby-Dick?  It is part of his test of the intellectual skills of the electorate to conduct discourse.  We don’t think that is a good test for understanding an argument, political or otherwise.  Before we retired from teaching we used to use a passage from another Melville book, Pierre, to make a point about the difference between types of writing.  We can’t find the passage but our recollection was that it included a 125 word sentence with lots of punctuation.  Our point was that emulating Melville was not an effective way to convince others.  End Sidebar Two.

Kevin comes to a related but different conclusion.  He says that our INSTANT CULTURE that leads to antidiscourse has become neatly binate.  Binate?  Binate: Growing in pairs or couples.  Kevin uses the example of Proud Boys and Antifa as such a pair.  We are not entirely convinced but agree that binate is much closer to our current political reality than binary.





We are experimenting with changing our video watching system.  After a couple of decades (yes, we are conservative in a myriad of ways) on DirecTV we are trying out a variety of apps tied into Amazon Fire TV.  We figure the worst outcome is that DirecTV will be cheaper when we come back a year from now.  One of the reasons that we made the switch is that Shetland season five (the TV series not the place, about 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland) is exclusively on Britbox.

Sidebar One: Britbox is cheap and has interesting stuff but to get some of the historical stuff like the earlier seasons of Shetland you need another app, Acorn, which is fairly cheap too but it was disappointing that we needed to pay twice.  End Sidebar One.

Shetland, the TV series, is one of the great shows on TV.  Wikipedia tells us we are not alone in our opinion:

Douglas Henshall won the 2016 BAFTA Scotlandaward for best actor for his role as Jimmy Perez, and the series received the award for Best TV Drama.

It is based on the books by Ann Cleaves who also is responsible for Vera that you can see on Britbox too.  We enjoyed the Shetland books but not so much the Vera books or the Vera show.  Shetland the first time we can remember we liked the video better than the books. There are substantial changes from the books so if you can’t abide by that then skip the show.

It is a great show because it does so many things and some of them are unexpected.  The most unexpected is giving us a hero in Jimmy Perez.

Sidebar Two: How does a person with a surname like that show up on Shetland?  Jimmy’s ancestor was part of the Spanish Armada (1588) that was shipwrecked on Shetland (or was it Fair Isle?) centuries ago.  End Sidebar Two.

Jimmy is John Wayne in a John Ford Western.  He is a brave, courageous loner that shares the stardom with the scenery.  About five times a show we think that we really, really need to go to Shetland.  Today, most shows are about how damaged the protagonist is.  Jimmy is not flawless but he is a good guy.

It is also a procedural.  They look at the decisions that folks, and especially the police, make and how difficult those decisions are. Everybody, white or black, male or female, gets put under the microscope.  It is thought provoking rather than PC.

It has interesting characters and excellent writing.  You will want to watch it several times when Jimmy compares Duncan to the attempts of the Scottish national team to qualify for the World Cup.  It is amazing and unexpected.

It would be better to watch all five seasons in sequence but you could watch season five first and still figure stuff out.  Either way Shetland is worth watching.  Enjoy!

Shakespeare’s Cymbeline

We escorted the Lady deGloves to the Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) in Winona, MN to see Cymbeline.  We encourage folks to see these types of regional Shakespeare and especially the GRSF.  American Players Theatre (APT) is substantially better, in part because it has its own stage and a larger group of actors, but folks like GRSF provide an interesting take on the Bard.  It is a joy to see how GRSF does a play like Cymbeline on a small stage with actors playing several parts.

Cymbeline is one of Shakespeare’s play that is performed fairly rarely.  Our search of APT only showed it performed in 2004.  We do not know if their online records are comprehensive and searchable.  We do know that we never remember seeing it there.  Our memory is not perfect either.

We enjoyed GRSF’s version of Cymbeline.  And of course, it has the words that make us love Shakespeare.  Although the title is the king, the main characters are Posthumus, an orphan raised by the king, and the king’s daughter Imogen whose name has lots of alternative spellings.  Posthumus and Imogen are married against the king’s wishes and the king banishes Posthumus to Italy to start the action.

As we see it, the play revolves around our favorite theme from Shakespeare: forgiveness.  One critic has a point that the author might be engaging in a bit of self-parody.  The forgiveness at the end will truly blow your mind.  Among some of the things to be forgiven are Cymbeline banishing Belarius, Belarus kidnapping the Cymbeline’s two sons, one of the sons killing Cymbeline’s stepson, Posthumus fighting for the Romans against Cymbeline, and those are the minor items of forgiving. It is a typical Shakespeare ending that is contrived but comprehensive.  We love them.  The Lady deGloves, however, would only be willing to forgive Posthumus posthumously.

Interesting Title Disappoints

We were intrigued by Paul Mason’s title at Unherd: Can [Jeremy] Corbyn Learn From The Greek Tragedy?  Jeremy is the socialist leader of the Labor opposition in the United Kingdom.  Because Unherd has a variety of voices it could have been interesting.  We thought the Greek tragedy was that they elected a socialist government and, as always, it turned out badly.  As always, the people eventually throw the socialists out if they can. Paul thinks the tragedy is the socialist lost.

We thought it was unlikely that Jeremy, a long-time socialist, would learn the lesson that socialism never works. We don’t know Paul so we were worried that Paul would suggest the obvious (but evil and often implemented) solution that the socialists need to get elected once and then take control of the media or the elections or both to maintain control.

Instead, Paul offers some coalition building suggestions.  He starts his suggestions with the problem for him and the mildly good news for us:

In general, overtly anti-capitalist Left parties have peaked below 20% as the memory of the financial crisis fades, while a shift to the Left by traditional social democrats has stemmed their own decline.

His main solution is to work with the Greens.  Does he think that they are not overtly anti-capitalistic already?  Paul then gives it away, climate change is a method to political power.  He says:

The sheer scale of the climate crisis will, as the 20th century recedes and the IPCC’s decarbonisation targets become pressing, change the priorities of the Left. The far-Left is now either in reluctant coalition with its social democrat and Green allies, or resisting even that. For me, the 21stcentury equivalent of the Popular Front would be an alliance of all forces prepared to commit to spending the hundreds of billions we’ll need to combat climate change, plus the absolute defence of democracy and the rule of law, plus the reversal of austerity. The renationalisation of energy and transport infrastructure is implicit in any radical plan to halve net carbon over the next ten years. {Emphasis added]

Sidebar: We don’t believe the sentence in bold above.  It is inconsistent with socialism and climate activism.  We do believe the work in bold (renationalisation) in the next sentence. It is clear evidence that the rule of law is already out.  End sidebar.

Folks turn Climate Change on its head to get political power.  The best solutions are inaction and mild action because of the high costs and low benefits.  We have often suggested a modest carbon tax combined with removal of “alternative” energy subsidies as a useful step to move us to a more market based economy.  Lots of people can learn from the Greek Tragedy even if Jeremy and Paul won’t.

Women’s Soccer Success

We are used to being insulted by Bill Clinton but today’s insult by Allysia Finley was disappointing because she is a member of the WSJ Editorial Board.  She is writing about soccer and Why U.S. Women Rule The World.  The sub headline says America’s democratic ideals deserve the credit for America’s soccer superiority.  The sub is wrong but Allysia is right by imprecise when she says:

Girls in the U.S. are encouraged to play multiple sports. That prevents burnout and helps them develop a range of athletic skills. [Emphasis added]

She leaves it oddly passive on who is doing the encouraging.  She does note that promising athletes are captured by federations or teams in other countries.  In the U.S. it is their families and the organizations they create.  She gets the emphasis all wrong when she says:

Hundreds of thousands of girls play for high-school teams (and some in travel leagues), and colleges recruit the top thousand or so.

We would like to see her data on the item in bold.  We are willing to bet that every woman on the US national team played on a travel team and that at least 900 of the college 1,000 played on a traveling team.  Note that anyone growing up outside the US is not included in our estimates.  Again, this is their families.

Then comes the insult.  We used to hear it from Bill Clinton but Allysia has softened it some by emphasizing college athletics and she could make sense of it.  We will help her out.  First she says:

One reason is the 1972 civil-rights law Title IX, which effectively requires colleges to provide an equal number of athletic scholarships to men and women. The law has forced schools to reduce men’s athletic programs like wrestling, but it has encouraged more girls to participate in sports.

Here is how she could make sense of it.  Families and non-govermental organizations take care of the soccer player (and several other sports) until age 18.  The government has acted to help them after age 18 by giving women more scholarships and denying them to men.  This helps the the US Soccer team because there isn’t a market mechanism for women in soccer.  There is a market mechanism for men in many, but not all, sports.

Where do US women rule besides soccer?  Swimming and gymnastics come to mind.  Here is a list of the top 15 men and women swimmers by gold medals.  Eight of the 15 women are from the U.S.  The men do even better.  Where do we see the most families and traveling teams?  You know.

More On World Cup Pay Comparisons

A.G. Hamilton at the Corner on NRO concurs with us on the World Cup pay comparisons and adds more data.  We checked on about the author and found: A. G. Hamilton is the pseudonym of a licensed attorney.  That makes personal pronouns difficult.  Of course you should educate yourself by reading it all but here is a taste of it with A.G.’s conclusion:

Almost everyone who read about this topic from mainstream press sources came away with the impression that the women’s teams were being treated unfairly in the World Cup despite the numbers clearly telling a different story. That’s a problem with the press, not discriminatory pay.

You will notice that we left it to you to find the relevant data from A.G..

Attacking Straw Men

George Will at NRO has a great article on the silliness of politics.  He mostly indicts would-be Democrat presidential nominees but he shows his displeasure for their likely opponent.  Benjamin Zycher from the American Enterprise Institute is also at NRO with the wildly misnamed The Confusions of The Conservative Carbon Tax showing how silly the right can be.  The first misnaming is in the title.  What would be “the” conservative carbon tax?  We hope it is the MWG proposal but that seems presumptuous.  To remind you, the MWG carbon tax proposal is a modest one, $20 per ton, that includes eliminating the the gas tax and federal support of alternative energy.  After skewering some straw-men

Sidebar: Would straw-men mind being skewered?  We think, like in the Wizard of Oz, they would be worried about fires rather than blades.  Still we are sticking with alliteration.  End Sidebar.

Benjamin starts his conclusion with an exactly wrong sentence:

Once conservatives have endorsed a carbon tax, they will have no principled answer to the endless pressures for more government intervention.[Emphasis added]

The answer is exactly the opposite.  Since we endorse a carbon tax then we have principled answers for reducing government intervention.  Particularly, we have the opportunity to reduce the current government support of “alternative” energy.  In fact, the joy is that we could do both as one deal.

The rest of his conclusion is sensible:

Conservatives cannot defeat climate alarmism and the fundamental threat to freedom that it represents unless we defend first principles. In the context of climate policy, watchful waiting and adaptation over time are the only sensible approaches consistent with them.

One of the first principles of conservatism is to get incentives right or at least move them in the right direction.  A modest carbon tax that eliminated the gas tax and reduced [yes, the principled answer is eliminate every bit of support but we need space to negotiate] alternative energy support would be a conservative step because it gets the incentives closer to right.  If the left is unwilling to make a deal then we do what Benjamin suggests.


More World Cup Economics

We are still celebrating the US Women winning the Women’s World Cup.  And there is lots of stuff about equal pay that we dispensed with yesterday.  Today we want to look a couple of more things: equal pay by team and incentives to keep playing for the national team.  We have a research project for some enterprising sports economics researcher ready to go.

It appears that all members of each national team are paid equally.  They are not equally talented.  Lots is published about men’s club salaries and we know that that soccer salaries, like all major sports, vary widely.  Here are the top twenty earners from 2018 according to Forbes.  The salaries range (they also have endorsements) from Messi’s $84 million to a measly $15.5 for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  There is lots of inequality among the top twenty on the men’s side as there is down the list.  The woman’s list (this one from 2016) has much smaller numbers but substantial variation.  If the reports that all team members are paid equally including bonuses is correct then the unused goalies on the US women’s team are among the highest paid female soccer players in the world.  On the other hand, for Messi the salary impact (the endorsements impact might be a big deal) using US incentives would be trivial.

The research project becomes a comparison of the incentives to men versus women to play on their national team.  There are incentives other than financial to play for the national team.  Do the financial incentives cause men to retire from national teams earlier than women?  Is it different for great players?  There are many parameters to consider but we don’t want to do all the work but it looks like an interesting project.