We Wish

David Azerrad from Hillsdale College has an interesting article in the What Is American Conservatism series at The American Conservative.   David’s title says American Conservatism Is Fiddling While Rome Burns.  It is a very strange title.  Is there a reason why David cares about Rome? We got the link from Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine, and like Paul, we find it interesting but lots to disagree with.

Our biggest disagreement comes in David’s second paragraph where he is describing the current state of conservatism:

Conservatism is the seven cheers for capitalism and the deafening silence on demographic change, feminism, and corporate malfeasance. It’s the same tired cast of speakers blathering about limited government almost a century after the New Deal. It’s the platitudinous Reagan quotes and the worn-out Buckley anecdotes. It’s the mindless optimism and the childish exhortations—if something can’t go on forever, it won’t!  [Emphasis added]

We wish there were seven cheers for capitalism.  As the forgotten and ignored capitalistic orphans we would settle for a single cheer.  As we have said before, we want the whole loaf of capitalism but we would take a half a loaf.  We have settled for The Donald because we get a single slice: The heel.  Our most important priority capitalism and the related free markets,  free trade, and rule of law are not a priority for any politicians and few pundits.

Then there is the non-deafening silence.  As a Mark Steyn fan, we get as much demographic change as we can bear.  We are not at all sure how David came to his opinions in the first sentence above.

What we think that David and other folks need to recognize is that each person on the right has a list.  These lists have lots of overlap.  The problem is that our priorities are very different.  We support The Donald in this year’s election because we are hoping for a slice and are almost sure to get a few crumbs from him.  Looking at the candidates in 2024 like Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio we are not sure we will be willing to do that.  We think they need us for a majority.  David and others seems to disagree on that point.  We shall see.

Another Easy Binary Choice

Kevin D. Williamson writes with his usual clarity and wisdom on economic matters at NRO in “[The Frontrunner]: Make America Great Again.”  Of course you should read the whole thing.  You should read everything that Kevin writes.  His article compares the similarities between Biden’s recent speech and The Donald.  He is absolutely right that The Frontrunner and The Donald have much in common on the economic front.  For us capitalistic orphans or friends of economic liberalism, as Kevin calls them, the 2020 election will not be a feast.

Where we disagree with Kevin is on the choice.  Kevin says:

For the friends of economic liberalism, 2020 is going to be a choice between testicular cancer on the left or testicular cancer on the right.

We would like a whole loaf.  We would be delighted with a half a loaf to feed us economic orphans.  With The Donald we get a slice, perhaps the heel, while with The Frontrunner we get nothing.  To paint them both with the same brush Kevin has to stretch the evidence.  For example:

Trump is more of a born-again Republican on taxes today, but in 2016 he complained long and loud about Wall Street traders beating the tax man,

The Donald has reduced taxes, and most importantly corporate taxes, grudgingly renewed NAFTA, and reduced regulations.  He is far from what Keven and MWG wants but he is the dominant solution in a binary choice.  The Donald should be an easy choice for economic liberals and capitalistic orphans in 2020.  It is likely to be a tougher choice for us in 2024 with folks like Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley.

Poirot, Bolton, And Johnson

We watched the David Suchet version of Murder On The Orient Express recently.  It reminded us that Hercule Poirot is perhaps the most conservative character in fiction. He is a rule of law guy.  Even when the Islamist mob stones the adulteress, he says it is their law.  He is a traditionalist in everything he does.  If he knew baseball he wouldn’t like the DH.  The show is about a challenging situation for Hercule’s support of the rule of law.  Can a conservative make exceptions?  Suchet creates an excellent version of an interesting story.  It is as good as the movie versions, 1974, 2017.

Having just seen Hercule, we saw how it applied to Scott Johnson’s PowerLine takedown of John Bolton.  Scott had supported John in the past but John has come into conflict with The Donald and he, John, might not vote for him this year.  Scott says:

I was wrong. I find Bolton’s publication of his new memoir deeply dishonorable. In my opinion, it reflects poorly on his character.

Two things.  First, using the character argument to support The Donald seems ineffective.  Second, and more important, nobody is perfect and nobody is perfectly consistent or perfectly conservative.  Not John, Scott, The Donald or even the fictional Hercule.  We are all imperfect creatures.

What does our imperfect nature mean?  Three things that we see but they are all negatives.  First, don’t spend your time trying to denounce folks.  It is so leftist.  We can’t help but notice the byline but we still need to consider the argument.  Josh Hawley could be right about something.  He has much to say so the probability is that he has been right already.

Second, it doesn’t mean we should all get along.  We need to debate to try to get to good solutions.  One of the reasons for the failure of our cities is the lack of debate about city policies.

Third, don’t take November off.  The Donald is an imperfect choice but your choice in November is binary.  Make the right choice.

Fellow Orphans

As we enter into the endgame of COVID-19 let’s write about something interesting.  Capitalism, and in particular us capitalistic orphans as we find ourselves very interesting, is a great topic.  We use the term capitalistic orphans because there are few of us and we have little influence.  The two fellow orphans are Richard M. Reinsch II at National Affairs and Deirdre Nansan McCloskey at the National Review.  Even amongst us orphans it is hard for our small group to agree.  Deirdre is writing about coercion and COVID-19 while Richard is pointing out the lack of wisdom in industrial policy with particular emphasis on the type proposed on the right by folks like Oren Cass and Josh Hawley.  You should, of course, read them both in their entirety.  You might read Richard twice.

The lack of influence of capitalism seems particularly strange at a time of COVID-19 when it is obvious what what a blunt tool government intervention is and what joy we have lost by restricting capitalism.  Richard gives us the general explanation on why this is true yet makes it hard for folks to accept:

Perfect markets and perfect market competition do not exist, but neither do perfect regulations. The errors made in markets, though, are often rapidly correctable, at least in comparison to wrongheaded government policy. Such corrections in the market come with short-term pain, but state intervention, which spawns a system of winners and losers, tends to harden around special interests whose concentrated benefits are defended tenaciously. This process has been repeatedly documented by public-choice scholars and has led to years of lost growth for countries that pursued robust industrial policies.

To paraphrase Richard, as history demonstrates, capitalism is superior because the imperfections in markets usually self-correct but the imperfections in government policies like industrial policy tend not to exacerbate themselves rather than self-correct.  Socialism is just the virus of industrial policy with a greater infection rate.  Yet we ignore the facts.  Deirdre is on the COVID-19 beat specifically and the nature of government coercion:

Socialism should therefore be called “coercionism.” Sometimes, rarely, what the government coerces us to do is a swell idea, such as coercing parents to inoculate their children against measles. One measles case infects 20 others and the disease is regularly fatal for adults who haven’t had it as children. Ask the Aztecs and the Incas and the Mohicans on that score.

She ought to give The Donald credit for using coercion to stop Chinese from entering the US early.  We are sure Deidre is not surprised by the behavior of the Chinese government.  We hope she likes his federalism approach to reopening the economy.  That happened after her article was published.

Sidebar: The search for “Trump stops Chinese from entering US” is now filled up with “fact checks” of The Donald’s claims on live saved.  It is an astonishing example of the bias of major news organizations.  End Sidebar.

Deirdre reminds us that capitalism is why we are so comfortable:

 The Great Enrichment, 1800 to the present, that factor of 30 in goods and services, was not caused by coercion but by liberty. Its magnitude was further multiplied by the free trade and free migration and free press that [The Donald] and his advisers Peter Navarro and Stephen Miller so disdain.  [Link added]

We are in agreement with Deirdre on her criticism of  The Donald but not sure why she picks only him out.  As Richard says about the left before getting on to the right:

Implementing the Green New Deal’s stated objective of simultaneously eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions and solving economic inequality would result in cultural, political, and economic conditions best described as despotic. Such policies, which have drawn wide support from Democratic presidential candidates this year and from the broader party, would obviously be installed incrementally, forestalling a total capital strike. But they nevertheless entail a striking rejection of free-market capitalism, and represent a remarkable detachment from reality among many leading minds of the American left. [Emphasis added]

The second bold item (despotic) shows that Deidre and Richard are on the same page as orphans.  We love the third bold item because it is exactly right yet ignored by a large portion of the population.  We are less enamored with the first bold item because there is nothing about economic inequality that needs to be solved.

It is the strange story of capitalism and why we refer to ourselves as capitalistic orphans.  We have centuries of data (well, over two is a lot of centuries) to show that capitalism is the solution.  We have just over a century showing us that socialism is not the solution.  Now we have the events relating to COVID-19 to amplify the history.   We deserve a whole capitalism loaf in 2020.  Yet The Frontrunner and the left offer us, at best, the heel.  Like markets, The Donald offers us much more of the loaf.  Like markets, he is far from perfect but he is the best choice we have and us orphans should unite to support The Donald.  We wish it were different but it is not.



Jonah’s Recovery And Terminology

Of course we like our terminology.  It is part of controlling the conversation.  And almost everyone, including us, puts a little pejorative into their terminology to twist the knife or sway the fence sitters.

We have decided to sign up as a paying subscriber for Jonah Goldberg’s new organization, The Dispatch.

Sidebar: Well that was confusing.  We were deciding if we wanted to use “subscriber” or “member” after paying.  At the bottom of the newsletter they used the former but on the signup page we linked they used the latter.  End Sidebar.

Why?  Because Jonah had an interesting newsletter with DDD.  DDD would be Despising Da Donald.  We know The Donald is big news but it is good to see that Jonah is ready to discuss other stuff.

Jonah is discussing another new organization started by Oren Cass.  We get the newsletter as an email so we don’t have a link.  Here is how Jonah starts:

Oren Cass, a very bright fellow and decent guy, has launched a new organization, American Compass. Joining him are some other very bright people—some of whom I know, others I know by reputation. I do not worry that any of them—particularly Michael Needham or David Azerrad —are ersatz socialists or champions of dirigisme (which, I’ll have you know, I spelled correctly on the first try).

Oren’s project is trying to change the economic direction of the Republican party.  Jonah is exactly right except for the last seven words when he says:

I keep hearing people say or imply that libertarians and free market “fundamentalists” have been running the show in Washington. I honestly have no idea what they’re talking about—and neither do any libertarians I know.

We entirely agree we Jonah that the free market folks have not had control of the Republican party.  Read the whole thing.  You must read it if you need a review of the evidence.  Where we disagree with Jonah and Oren is on the term libertarian.  Our own bias is that libertarian just want to smoke weed.  We know that is unkind and over the top but we still think there is a big difference between what we call capitalistic orphans that want policies to emphasize economic growth and libertarians.  So we went to Wikipedia and the Libertarian Party(United States):

The Libertarian Party (LP) is a political party in the United States that promotes civil libertiesnon-interventionismlaissez-faire capitalism, and limiting the size and scope of government.

We think priorities are crucial.  They support capitalism but it is the last on the list.  They don’t mention economic growth.  We think that Oren and Jonah are trying to appeal to folks like us that view the libertarians as a little suspect.  Oren is saying you want to be with us, the sensible people, rather than with the weird folks.  Perhaps we are weird too but we are not with Oren or Josh Hawley, or Marco Rubio, or any of the folks that are trying to create an industrial policy.  We, the capitalistic orphans want free markets to boost almost everyone and a safety net for the few.  We are willing to discuss what part of the safety net should be private and what part public.  And then what part should be local, state, or federal.

Welcome back to the serious stuff Jonah.  We have missed you.  Still you should have seen the misleading term, libertarian, in Oren’s stuff.  We will wait for you to adopt capitalistic orphans.

The Joy And Dangers Of Procrastination

We blog for the joy of it.  We don’t have an editor or deadlines.  We don’t have any financial skin in the game so with have nothing to try to maximize.  Thus we can say what we want when we want.  Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley’s attempts to set themselves up for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 are of great interest to us.  We are not fans of either senator.

The dangers of procrastination include that you won’t get to it or somebody else will get to it first.  The joy is that somebody will do it so well that you just need to say here is the link.  In this case, Kevin D. Williamson is on duty at the NRO Corner.  Of course you should read the whole thing.  Reading it twice would be better.

Sidebar: Jim Geraghty’s new book is great fun.  The fact that one of the heroes is an accountant with a heart as big as Connecticut has us all in.  He (the accountant) says, “NRO is the best.” It is on page 161 in case you missed it.  Of course, he is right but he happens to be talking about the National Reconnaissance Office rather than where Kevin is writing.  End Sidebar.

Kevin is writing about his disagreements with Oren Cass and uses the examples of Marco and Elizabeth Warren.  We think Josh fits in nicely with Marco and Elizabeth.  We agree with Kevin’s summary of what he wants and doesn’t want:

The question is not whether we shall have policy in our . . . public policy . . . but what our policies are to be. I advocate generally applicable rules oriented toward the security of property rights and freedom to work and to trade in a stable and predictable policy environment, as opposed to special-pleading advocacy for this or that politically influential business interest (steel, corn, sugar, “green energy,” AIG, subprime-mortgage lenders, take your pick) based on a model of discretion that empowers politicians, giving them a whip hand over the lives and livings of workers and firms. I do not believe that the best alternative to a left-wing Elizabeth Warren is a right-wing Elizabeth Warren.

Wow! We are glad we waited.   Now there are challenges to creating these generally applicable rules.  For example, would Kevin support a modest carbon tax or not?  But this would give us a framework to debate such issues.

We agree with Kevin that there is a connection among The Donald, Marco, and Josh.  The latter two are trying to find a method of expanding the coalition of the former.  We are not in agreement with Kevin that this problem can be laid at The Donald’s doorstep.  Beyond the judges that Kevin mentions, part of The Donald’s appeal for us was the promise of reduction of corporate taxes and regulation that is very much consistent with the quoted paragraph.  Corporate taxes have been reduced substantially.  Unfortunately they have not been eliminated but beyond MWG and Kevin there is a very small group that supports that.  The Donald has had some success with deregulation.   Yes, the net effect might only be a slowing of regulation but slowing is better than anything we can expect from Elizabeth, Josh, or Marco.

For the Capitalistic Orphans like Kevin and MWG, The Donald has been a mixed blessing but surely a big improvement over his immediate predecessor or the alternative in the general election.  We will vote for him again because he has kept some of the promises that were important to us.  On the other hand, we are considering joining Never-Josh-or-Marco club for 2024 because they have offered us nothing.  Just like Elizabeth.

Considering Never

We are not a fan of Never-The-Donald and the folks of that ilk.  Recent events have led us to a better understanding of them even though we still support The Donald.  Jim Geraghty was trying to explain it at NRO.  We are sure there are folks that support The Donald that meet his description:

And then one day in 2015, this outlandish celebrity came along who seems to agree with you most of the time. He’s a bit of a jerk, but you kind of like that; he treats everybody who disagrees with him with contempt, the same way the other side treats you with contempt. As time goes by, you realize he’s perhaps more than a bit of a jerk, he’s a raging narcissist and maybe a maniac, but you still like the way he responds to everyone you don’t like — the mainstream media, Democratic politicians — with this constantly erupting volcano of scorn. You feel like you’ve been mistreated for decades; now turnabout is fair play.

It is not us.  We suspect there are fewer folks like us than like the ones Jim describes but we are not sure.  We think it is a reasonably accurate description of The Donald but it is not why we support him.  We supported him because he dominated his opponent in 2016.  The things that we didn’t like about The Donald like tariffs and bad behavior but those were points of agreement between Herself and The Donald.  The Donald had no philosophy and, as Jim points out, he acts like a Democrat but he promised to do things like reduce taxes and regulation and nominate serious judges that were at odds with his opponent.  By and large he has kept his promises and the next Democrat nominee seems unlikely to be much of an improvement over Herself so we plan to support The Donald in 2020.

On the other hand, the two senators making noises for 2024 GOP nomination fill us with dread for 2024.  If Marco or Josh is nominated we will need to consider joining the never folks.  Why?  We will explain more in the coming weeks but it may take some time with Thanksgiving and all the family birthdays coming up.  A summary is that The Donald is an ad hoc guy.  We buy many of the things on his list with no serious unifying theme or philosophy.  Marco and Josh claim to have a philosophy.  We don’t buy it.  Thus, we can’t agree with them and don’t trust them.  We don’t know if we can get to never on either one because the opponent is part of our decision process.  Marco and Josh help us understand Never-The-Donald folks because we can see choosing to lose to the left rather than have either one of those as president.

Finding Friends at the Orphanage

We have been feeling left out.  As Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio have been making headlines about creating a more intrusive and authoritarian right in order to match up with the left, us market oriented folks that feel a kinship with the growth fairy have felt left out.  Matthew’s and David’s critiques of Marco are reasonable but neither made us felt like we had much overlap in our Venn diagrams.

Kevin D. Williamson (all of these are at NRO) has helped us feel like less of an orphan with Marco Rubio’s Half-Baked Political Philosophy.  You should read all the links to see what is going on but do make sure to read Kevin.  Here is a  great paragraph that explains why Marco is on the wrong path:

Men such as Senator Rubio desire for themselves the power to overrule markets — to limit trade and property rights, enterprise and exchange — in the service of what Senator Rubio describes as the “common good.” The problems with that are several. For one thing, Senator Rubio does not know what the common good is and has no way of knowing. For another thing, we know quite well, from long experience, how such vague and plastic notions of the “common good” interact with the discrete good. [Emphasis added]

We agree with Kevin why it is a problem.  As Kevin kindly puts it, there are at least several reasons why any modifier to capitalism really become crony as in crony capitalism.  We also agree on the solution:

Capitalism is what happens when government respects property rights, which include the rights to trade and to work. What we need from men in government is not the quasi-metaphysical project of reinventing capitalism in the name of the “common good.” What we need from government is — government.

It is nice to be in the orphanage with Kevin.  We could be a category like Capitalistic Orphans.  We wonder if Dave Barry would like that as a band name?  The problem is that voters (or at the very least political advisors) seem to like quasi-metaphysical projects for the economy and society, e.g., MAGA.  Thus, for Capitalistic Orphans is option is not finding a majority but finding enough support to become a faction on the right.  We hope you will join us.

The Post-The Donald Sweepstakes

We know we are not politically unique.  Yet it is disappointing that the pollsters never have a category for MWG.  The closest we have come so far is being the opposite of Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Conservatives.  We got that feeling again despite the fact the guy is right on our wavelength.

The guy is Matthew Continetti at the Washington Free Beacon.  He asks: What Do Republican Voters Want?  It has the subtitle: Rising GOP Stars Play Pin The Tail On The Elephant.  Matthew is on the same wavelength as us in that:

[Marco] Rubio and [Josh] Hawley are the standard-bearers of a shift against markets among some quarters of the right. They want to integrate the lessons of 2016 into a policy agenda for the years after [The Donald] leaves office. They point to a possible direction for American conservatism.

We should note that Matthew published his connections at 5:00 AM this morning while we slept later so he can rightly claim to be first with The Donald-Marco-Josh connection.  As we said earlier, we agree with Matthew that Marco and Josh are positioning themselves for 2024 and disagree with Marco and Josh on the particulars.  Matthew gets into the polling details by dividing the GOP into four parts: Market skeptics, core conservatives (traditional Republicans), country first conservatives (isolationists?), and new era enterprisers.

Sidebar: As always these categories seem designed to exclude us.  Again, we would only defined by opposition, in this case, opposition to market skeptics.  End Sidebar.

Where we disagree with Matthew is where he goes next.  He looks at how Marco or Josh might appeal to all these groups and wonders how they will get full support in the primaries.  We disagree because as we see it each presidential candidate tries to create a path to the nomination and then the general election.  We expect the primaries in open years to continue as they have.  In 2020, an open year for the Democrats, there are lots of potential nominees and we doubt that there will be a candidate that wins a majority of the primary votes.  Thus, the path for GOP nominee in 2024 will likely have many candidates and the winner will get a plurality just like The Donald earned.  Then the nominee will need to find a path to winning the general election.  Each nominee strives to find a winning Electoral College majority by getting strong turnout from their own party, winning some of the independents, and picking off some of the other party.  Most candidates have different strategies.  His opponent helped The Donald consolidate the GOP.  Perhaps Marco and Josh are counting on that.  We are firmly opposed to either Marco or Josh in the primaries in 2024 but we don’t share Matthew’s opinion that they do not have a path to the nomination.   Subject to the Democrat nominee, Marco or Josh might present a harder choice for us in the general than The Donald did.

No Surprise

David Harsanyi at NRO is covering the senior senator from Florida who recently made a speech on Common Good Capitalism at Catholic University and the text of it showed up at NRO.  David’s review is titled, “Marco Rubio’s Bizarre Turn Against Capitalism.”

We agree with just about every word David wrote except for bizarre.  You should read every word.  Since David takes care of the issues, we will restrict out comments to the trends.  Marco is for sugar tariffs and industrial policy.  As we see it, folks like Marco and Josh Hawley are expanding upon The Donald’s ambiguous support for capitalism.  Why are they doing this?  Because they think it is good politics.  We hope they are wrong but fear they are right.  Why might they be right at a time when capitalism has done so much for so many people and the alternatives have done so badly for so many people?  To pick up on David’s word, it is bizarre that we are even having this discussion never mind that there is a chance of losing the vote.  Why?  The left hates capitalism.  The right doesn’t trust the left but many folks on the right don’t embrace capitalism unless it has a modifier.  Here is a story from earlier this year where the right (National Conservatism Conference) endorses industrial policy.   Thus, the way to a majority is to create something like “Common Good Capitalism.”  It is way worse than Compassionate Conservatism from earlier in the century.

The Donald is not a capitalist but in office he has done some sensible things like reduce corporate taxes and reduce regulation.  He was in the general election of 2016 and will be again in 2020 the least bad presidential choice for us capitalists.  There is every reason to be concerned that the least bad presidential choice in 2024 general election will not be as good.