That Strange Tribe

Mark Sherman of the Associated Press was on the front page of the local paper with an unmarked opinion piece on the outcome of Brett on the Supreme Court.  As we and many others have noticed progressives like Mark approach conservatives like they have never met one.  Whatever the reason, Mark’s discussion seems very odd to a conservative because it is not how we think.

Sidebar: Deciding who is a “true” conservative is a difficult task.  Yes, we are aware of the no true Scotsman problem and that conservative are a small part of the big Republican tent.  We think the critical demarcation for conservatives is process.  To oversimplify, conservatives think about process while progressives think about outcomes.  End Sidebar.

We know it is a long quote but here are Mark’s first three paragraphs:

The moment conservatives have dreamed about for decades has arrived with Brett Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court. But with it comes the shadow of a bitter confirmation fight that is likely to hang over the court as it takes on divisive issues, especially those dealing with politics and women’s rights.

With Kavanaugh taking the place of the more moderate Anthony Kennedy, conservatives should have a working majority of five justices to restrict abortion rights, limit the use of race in college admissions and rein in federal regulators.

The newly constituted court also might broaden gun rights, further relax campaign finance laws and halt the expansion of the rights of LGBT people, who three years ago won the right to marry nationwide with Kennedy in the majority.

Mark has a whole list of outcomes that he is concerned about.  For most of the rest of the article he tries to convince the majority that to use the majority would erode the court’s legitimacy.  We read that part so you don’t need to.

Conservatives are happy because there appears to be an originalist Supreme Court majority.  That majority may lead to some outcomes that conservatives prefer as well as some they don’t.  It will be interesting to see if the progressives continue to vote as a block or will  try to influences outcomes by being part of the majority.  Legal scholarship is not our area but we expect less predictable patterns from the new court.  Perhaps when we have an unhappy outcome we can commiserate with a progressive like Mark.


A Modest Nike Success?

Kevin Williamson and Jim Geraghty at NRO are on the advantages of being a progressive or a Democrat.  Here is Jim:

The concept of membership in the Democratic party being the modern equivalent of an indulgence, instantly washing away sin, is going to be appealing to some citizens and repellent to others.

Kevin has a similar but slightly different take:

Because they think of themselves as a special enlightened caste, progressives care almost nothing about process. Process is for the little people. Elizabeth Warren wouldn’t care if a Supreme Court opinion read “Ooo eee, ooo ah ah, ting, tang, walla walla bing bang” so long as it provided the result she wanted. But, of course, process matters. It is a bulwark against both anarchy and tyranny. [Emphasis added]

Sidebar One: When we read Kevin’s article we thought that the lyric that we noted in bold were great but so obscure that there should be a cite.  We checked Wikipedia and concluded that it is less obscure (Family Guy, Jonathan Creek, Muppets, etc.) than we had thought.  End Sidebar Two.

We like progressive rather than Democrat although the Venn Diagrams have a large overlap.  Social Justice Warriors [SJW] have another similar Venn Diagram.  It is fun to be a progressive.  It is why so many folks who are not progressives enjoy The Donald and other folks who behave like progressives.

Our point is to evaluate Nike.  About 10 days ago they embraced Colin Kaepernick with an ad campaign.  Some conservatives were delighted that Nike market capitalization went down by almost $4 billion.  We were not as enthusiastic.

Sidebar Two: The Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) says the market reacts instantly to all new information in an unbiased manner.  We believe in EMH.  The question is what is new information.  The Colin campaign is one piece of information but other information comes out too.  You also need to look at the direction of the whole market to evaluate an individual stock.  Fortunately the whole market hasn’t made any big moves recently.  End Sidebar Two.

The market gives us prices.  We interpret those prices but there are many possible interpretations.  What has happened is that Nike stock did drop the day Colin was announced but it has rebounded since.  Today it is reaching record highs.  Our interpretation of Nike is consistent with Jim and Kevin’s point on individuals.  Because of the differences in behavior of the left and right, Nike’s biggest risk is with the SJW on the left.  Nike has bought on of the indulgences that Jim talked about.  By supporting Colin Nike has reduced the risk of SJW exposure from its overseas activities.  Nike isn’t home free as Harvey shows but, in our view, the market has concluded that Nike has reduced its biggest risk.  Most information is forthcoming every day.  We shall see.

Who Is A Conservative?

Who is a conservative?  Many recent stories give us reason to discuss The Donald and John McCain.  The editors at NRO add another item to the list of conservative causes The Donald has aided in Goodbye, Clean Power Plan.  Dan McLaughlin follows up on several NRO articles to discuss the relationship between conservatives and The Donald.  There have been too many articles to cite on John McClain since his death.

The Donald’s actions on taxes, especially corporate taxes, judicial nominations, and reducing government as the editors explain would make him the most influential conservative since Reagan.  It is how you think combined with what you do that makes you a conservative.  We appreciate what The Donald has done.  We voted for him in November 2016 and expect to do so in 2020.  He is still not a conservative.

John McClain will forever be connected to McClain-Feingold, perhaps the most anti-conservative legislative action this century.  Yet we think that John should be classified as a conservative because it was about his thinking rather than his actions.

Sidebar: Our explanation of a conservative reason for McClain-Feingold was supplied by another western senator, Jake Garn.  It was at an accounting convention but we don’t remember the details.  Jake said, and we paraphrase and exaggerate a bit, that his friends were losing elections and he wanted to find a way that met constitutional muster [we are pretty sure that is a quote] to keep big money out of elections.  There are some conservative connections to McClain-Feingold even if it is a far from conservative as possible.  End sidebar.

We know that it is impossible to resolve who is conservative conclusively.  It is a big tent.  We think that folks need both the what and the why to make it.  As we see it, The Donald doesn’t have the why to make the grade despite having great accomplishments while John has enough of the what to be classified as a conservative although his conservative accomplishments are more modest.


An invitation came today.  It was from the National Review Institute announcing that the William F. Buckley, jr. Prize Dinner would be in Chicago.  Our heart was aflutter as we love celebrations, the National Review, and WFB.  Chicago is as close as this is likely to get.  Black tie was not a problem.  It was pricy but we are not going to be regular attendees.

Sadly, the date conflicted with an event with kids and grandkids and that made it an easy choice about missing the event.  Life, politics, and economics are about priorities.  We have unlimited wants and limited time and money.  Most of the decisions are easy and routine, and, of course, everyone has a different utility function, but some are more difficult.

Sidebar: Lots of our northern students wanted to decamp to southern climes.  To make a point about different preferences we would tell them that, climate-wise, we would like to spend the Northern Hemisphere summer in Iceland and the Southern Hemisphere summer on the South Island of New Zealand.  Sixty degrees year-round would be heaven for us.  End Sidebar.

None of our elected representatives get their do list done.  They prioritize a few things and hope for the best on the rest.  We think a carbon tax would be a nice replacement to the federal gas tax.  We don’t have a sports car but we do have a tux.  We will probably never get to a Buckley Dinner and it is a great disappointment but one we are prepared to cope with because life is about priorities.  Perhaps we will send them a check.

Good Company On Carbon Tax

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes Fuel-milage Rules Are No Help To The Climate at the WSJ.  As always, read the whole thing.  It ties together two of our pet topics: regulations and taxes.  We recently gave our lukewarm support for The Donald revising his predecessor’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy rules (CAFE).  We preferred eliminating them entirely but recognized that The Donald would make them less negative.  Holman also recognizes the negative political impact on our ability to make climate improvements:

But don’t the fuel-economy rules at least have symbolic value by showing the U.S. leading on global warming? If, in return for zero climate benefit, American consumers and auto makers shoulder hundreds of billions of dollars in inefficiency-producing, consumer-dissatisfying costs, how does this encourage the body politic to be more receptive to further climate policies? It doesn’t.

We have supported replacing the current gas tax with a carbon tax because it is much broader it would raise revenues and get incentives right.  Holman is taking a New York Times Magazine screed to task while he recognizes that the carbon tax is a useful tool for climate change that could appeal to both sides of the aisle:

If the Times is looking for a folly, this is it. The green movement’s resort to hysterical exaggeration and vilifying skeptics buried any hope of enacting the one policy that is nearly universally endorsed by economists, that could be a model of cost-effective self-help to other countries, that could be enacted in a revenue-neutral way that would actually have been pro-growth.

A carbon tax remains a red cape to many conservatives [not us] but, in fact, would represent a relatively innocuous adjustment to the tax code. It could solve political problems for conservatives (who want a tax code friendlier to work, savings and investment) as well as for liberals (who want action on climate change).

Well said.  We are not sure on the number of conservatives against a carbon tax.  Some are loudly against but we are unsure on numbers.  Some of the green movement is equally loud about a large carbon tax.  We are with Holman and have the exact solution: eliminate the gas tax and replace it with an equivalent carbon tax.  Everybody should be happy for a moment.  Then they need to decide what to do with the revenue-positive impact of taxing more transactions at an equal rate.  Tax relief, infrastructure, and entitlements all need work. Our first step (after eliminating the gas tax) would be to tie eliminating CAFE to passing the carbon tax.

Politics is about deciding when to compromise.  Holman has pointed out a great opportunity of both sides.  Why not take advantage of it?


Open And Closed

The folks over at Unherd have a number of articles on open versus closed led by Peter Franklin’s The Deeper Meaning Of Open And Closed.  Many other folks have made our point that leftist claim to be more open minded but really aren’t.  We are sure that Jonah Goldberg has plowed this ground but we are not willing to spend the time to find it.  Peter starts off:

Following Brexit, Trump and the formation of a populist government in Italy, there would seem to be an open-and-shut case for open-and-closed.

Then he follows up with the obvious.  Open and closed terminology is a brush to try and discredit the right:

At least the terminology of left-and-right sounds neutral to modern ears.1 The language of open-and-closed, by contrast, is one-sided in the impressions it conveys – and is intended to convey.

Yup.  The problem is that it isn’t representative or even useful.  Folks that have a consistent world view have effective ways to focus.  In the current terminology, they have closed minds.  The most obvious example of folks with a consistent worldview would be academics.

If you ask a physicist about perpetual motion they will immediately dismiss the idea because it is contrary to the laws of physics.  Well, at least Newtonian physics as we are not up to date on our physics.  The point is that academics, like other experts, have a framework for identifying interesting questions.  They have a closed mind towards others.

Another example would be the opening lead of a king against a three no-trump contract in bridge.  A novice declarer might win the first trick with his ace but a more expert declarer is unlikely to win that first trick.  Here we have a slight difference between the (expert) physicist and the bridge expert.  The bridge expert is open to a couple of alternatives, the most likely concern is if a change of suits on the second lead would cause problems.  It is highly likely but not certain that the expert will quickly decide to refuse the first trick.  If the dummy has two small cards in that suit and the declarer has the ace plus two small cards then the decision to duck approaches certainty.

What is true in our political environment is that folks on the left are open to one set of things and folks on the right are open to another set of things.  It is because they often have a set of principles that they use to think about problems.

Sidebar: Yes there are folks that are unprincipled generally.  Jonah Goldberg writes about principles and bigots at NRO.  Yes there are difficult political decisions that test an individual’s principles.  We think that untested candidates are in vogue because they have not had to make those difficult decisions. It is not our preference but that is what we see.  End Sidebar.

Although there are many ways to slice and dice each wing, those sets don’t have much overlap.  For example, consider Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as Charles Cooke does at NRO.  To the left, her hyphenated name and ethnicity are enticing.  Her socialism is exciting.  Her behavior can be used to castigate The Donald.  To the right, to overstate it slightly, socialist is another word for a fool.  Her behavior that Charlie describes buttresses that initial take.  Neither side has claim to being the open side or the closed side.  When they have principles they are different and that is part of what causes our disagreements.  The other part is lack of principles.

(Re)Defining Liberalism

We saw a leftist on Facebook approving this 1960 quote by JFK:

“If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal”, then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

JFK was running for president at the time.  Of course, his main policies, virulent anti-Communism and cutting marginal tax rates would be most unwelcome by somebody claiming JFK’s position now and even then.  It is reasonable to say that he was firing up the base.  He was a Democrat that wished to run as an unmodified liberal.  To do that he had to define liberal and since the Democrats nominated him and elected him it seems reasonable that they accepted his analysis.  The text, however, shows how much the left has changed in just under 60 years.  Here is his list that he says marks his liberalism:

  1. Looks ahead and not behind
  2. Welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions
  3. Cares about health
  4. Cares about housing
  5. Cares about schools
  6. Cares about jobs
  7. Cares about civil rights and civil liberties
  8. Believes we can break through abroad.

Remember this is about being a liberal versus conservative rather than Republican versus Democrat.  In addition you should note that included in numbers three through seven is the issue of the welfare of the people.  Thus when liberal say they care about something but proceed to enact policies like the healthcare act of the last president they have not reached JFK’s standard.

Our analysis is that JFK’s would-be heirs have thoroughly rejected two, five, six, and seven.  Number seven has become a hallmark of conservatism as Jonathan S. Tobin explains at NRO.  For number two see the left’s reaction to The Donald’s judicial appointments.  Five and six have become conservative only as the left is, at least, partially owned by the teacher unions.