Engaging Shaw

We accompanied the Lady de Gloves to American Players Theatre (APT) to see the closing performance of Engaging Shaw.  The play, by John Morogiello, is about George Bernard Shaw’s relationship with Charlotte Payne-Townshend.  We approached it with some trepidation because we feared it would give us some of Shaw’s best lines without being much of a play.  We knew the cast of Colleen Madden as Charlotte, James Ridge as Bernard, Tracy Michelle Arnold as Beatrice Webb, and APT relative newcomer Gavin Lawrence as Sidney Webb would make it interesting.

The opening music told us it was going to be a fun time.  The play turned out to be an excellent rom-com with a conservative heart.

Sidebar: APT is becoming our favorite Wisconsin conservative institution.  True most of their conservatism is about the theatre.  They are, however, fearless with the conviction to freedom of expression and that means they are different from almost every other similar organization.  Experiencing Shaw is a great example.  End Sidebar.

Bernard, Beatrice, and Sidney are (in the play and real life) socialists who are members of the Fabian Society.  Their foolishness is often pointed out.  For example, Bernard and Charlotte are discussing income (in)equality and it goes roughly like this: Bernard says incomes should be equal.  Charlotte inquires as to how much income.  Bernard says just enough to get by.  Charlotte asks who will decide.  It take Bernard awhile but he admits that he plans on deciding.  It is wonderful romp both as a rom-com and skewering socialists.  The latter is something we can never do enough.


Culture Trying To Change Reality

The press, media, writers, and video makers of all kinds try to distort our reality.  There are two problems with this.  First, the majority runs left and it is a distraction if not an influence on all of us.  Two, if you choose to do so in this fractured world, you can limit your exposure to a very limited area.  We were reminded of this as we started Sue Grafton’s novel W Is For Wasted.  Here is Sue on page three:

This was October 7, 1988 ,and it looked like things were as bad as they were ever going to get.

So we are thinking it is tough times for Sue’s anti-hero Kinsey because this is about as good as things have ever been at the end of Reagan’s second term.  We looked it up to check.  Real economic growth in each of the last four quarters was over four percent.  The Cold War wasn’t over but Reagan had made his Tear Down This Wall speech.  Sure the price of stamps had gone up but otherwise it was as close as we will ever see to perfect on the national level.  Instead, Sue was worried about the deficit, unemployment, and stamp prices.  We’re not sure why Sue mentioned unemployment of 5.5% as an item indicating it was as bad as it gets.  It had come down from double digits in the beginning of the decade (here are annual rates) so unemployment reduction was another positive part of the Reagan Revolution.

For a conservative it is hard, but not impossible, to avoid the left because they are numerous, outspoken, and love to generalize.  We are not starting our novel: It was December 2012 and it looked like things were as bad as they were ever going to get.  It does remind us that we should work on that novel and to try to be a little more subtle than Sue was.

The problem is finding a solution.  Our novel won’t do it.  Posting political stuff on FaceBook does more harm than good.  A check to the National Review might help and don’t be afraid of the left in print, film, or in person.


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?