Not Too Good To Be True?

The Green New Deal (GND) is hot.  You can just google if you have been off-planet but to give you a feel for it our newspaper recently had two front page stories on it: Cleaner Energy Adds New Jobs To State (above the fold) and Green New Deal: Kind (our local Congress critter) Urged To Support Measure.  The latter reported that about ten residents showed up to lobby for the GND.

Sidebar: We love the phase about ten residents.  We are pretty sure that reporters can count the exact number when it might be single digits.  End Sidebar.

Clearly foolishness is on the rise.  But not everywhere.  We have held back our joy at Clifton Ross in Quillette because it seemed too good to be true.  You should read it all several times to get the full impact.  Clifton appears to be a dyed-in-the-wool socialist that came to an informed decision that brought conflict to his mental processes and his life.  Very few people can challenge long-held assumptions but Clifton was able to do that.  He says:

An early supporter of the Revolution, I had traveled to Venezuela in 2013 to cover the April presidential elections. By the time I returned to the US, I was disillusioned and depressed. I decided I needed to start writing and speaking about what I had seen there. In an article I wrote for the radical magazine Counterpunch around that time, I argued that “the so-called ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is bankrupt: morally, ideologically, and economically,” and I asked what we, as leftist solidarity activists, should do in response. “Should we continue to make excuses for incompetence, corruption, and irresponsibility and thereby make ourselves accomplices?” I asked. “Or should we tell the truth?”

He has a message for supporters of GND and The Donald.  Not only has Clifton rejected socialism in Venezuela but he has come to an overall conclusion on socialism:

I don’t like to admit that I once believed Jesus rose from the dead, but I did. I also believed that socialism would make everyone brothers and sisters and end what my comrades and I called “capitalist oppression.”1 The available scientific and statistical evidence (not to mention common sense) weighs strongly against belief in bodily resurrection from the dead. History has delivered a verdict of comparable finality about socialism.

Wow.  That is about as dramatic a change as you can make.  You can probably guess how he was received by his fellow travelers:

 As a result of my voltafaccia, former comrades and friends contacted my editors and publishers in (occasionally successful) attempts to have my articles spiked. I was denounced and slandered online and in print. Phone calls and emails to people I had thought of as friends now went unanswered. On those occasions when I encountered one of them in public, they looked the other way. Abruptly, I found myself excommunicated, and people I’d known for 30 or 40 years made it clear that they no longer wanted to be part of my life.

While it is a time to talk about foolishness like the GND or arguing over spare change for the wall in the US, Venezuela is trying to undo some serious foolishness.  Let’s let Clifton describe it:

If the Venezuelan regime falls—and I hope that it does—it won’t even be possible to credit (or blame) the United States. It is the Venezuelan people who finally are taking their destiny in hand and rejecting an intolerable status quo.

We hope that Venezuela finds economic and political freedom.  It is up to the Venezuelan people to do it.  The have an epic challenge in front of them but if Clifton reject socialism then so can Venezuela.  We wish them both good luck.

 

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Venezuela Insight

As had been said, there is a lot of ruin in a country but the socialists in Venezuela have done it.  Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is Swedish journalist and political advisor.  She lists herself as a lover of freedom, meat, and smooth cigars.  If she could change the last word from cigars to whiskey she would be perfect.

Sidebar:Wikipedia weighs in on the distinction between whiskey and whisky.  The Scots would like us to believe that they have exclusive rights to whisky.  Perhaps.  That is why we use whiskey because we want to be inclusive, especially when whiskey is involved.  End Sidebar.

Annika showed up at NRO with: The Fight For Venezuela’s Soul.  Do read all of it but her ending quote from the Caracas coffeeshop reflects our view of the challenges:

“Guaidó is a great politician, but we have made the mistake before of believing that one man would have all the answers. Venezuela won’t be saved by one man, but by one people, and I won’t believe things will change until we realize that.”

It is not just true for Guaidó or Venezuela.  Perhaps we can discuss that with Annika over some meat and whiskey.

Venezuela Spring?

We love Mary Anastasia O’Grady and not just for her name.  She factual and insightful about the world and especially Latin America in a way few people are.  Her latest piece is Venezuela Spring in the WSJ and although we support much of it we need to respectfully disagree about part of it.  Mary says:

Not since the fall of the Soviet empire has a nation risen with such fury and determination to throw off the yoke of socialism. And not since then has Marxist misery been so clear for all the world to see. Venezuelans are experiencing what millions of Russians, Chinese, Cubans and countless others have suffered. Destitute and angry, they want it to end.

How ironic that some American politicians, like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and newly elected New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez want socialism for the U.S. The tide of history is going the other way.

We are completely on board with the first paragraph. To be explicit we support connecting socialism and Marxism.  The differences are trivial.   But it also points out that many of the folks suffering under socialism don’t want to or can’t find a way out.  We are completely on board with the first sentence in the second paragraph.  We hope Mary is right about the last sentence of the second paragraph but we are not convinced.  We are not convinced that Venezuela will end well despite the suffering of almost everyone and the bravery of so many.  We applaud what The Donald is doing but the US can only do so much.

Sidebar: The silliness of The Donald as a Russian supporter shows up again.  The most important single thing to Russia is the price of oil.  Higher is better for them.  The Donald is the sworn enemy of supporting the Russians by raising the price of oil as his actions in Venezuela, with LNG, and fracking show again and again.  His opponent in the recent election was the supporter for actions to raise the price of oil.  End Sidebar.

We hope that the tide of economic and political freedom is rising but Mary’s first sentence in the second paragraph reminds us that we need to fight socialism everywhere and every time.  Once socialism wins it takes decades to ruin a country and then a ruined country is hard to rehabilitate.  We hope that Mary is right and capitalism runs rampant in the twenty-first century but we wouldn’t bet on it.

Venezuela Revolts

Speaking of socialism, as we were recently with the Media Darling, the place that tried it, Venezuela, it trying to undo it.  We wish them luck because it will take much good luck along with insight and guts to oust the socialists.  It is good to see The Donald, unlike his immediate predecessor, siding with the good guys.

We agree with the WSJ:

There may be a lot of ruin in a nation, as Adam Smith said, but Venezuela now lies in ruins. It’s tempting to think the U.S. should send in troops, a la Panama in 1989, to assist the rebellion. But Venezuelans have to win their freedom themselves, and if they do they are likely to prize it all the more.

What a great paragraph.  Do read the whole thing.  A country rich with oil lies in ruins because of socialism.  But they voted in the socialism that ruined them.  Although recent elections were fixed at least one was not.  Venezuela needs to pick political and economic freedom for themselves.  We can’t do it for them but we can and should do it for ourselves.

 

The Joys Of Socialism

In the coming presidential primaries some of the candidates are going to advocate socialism.  They need to be asked many questions about their advocacy.  One of them is: “What about Venezuela?”  Here is part of an update from Reuters:

Childhood hunger, decrepit schools and shortages of medicine and vaccinations already were problems amid the collapse of an economy once renowned for abundant oil wealth. With more parents migrating, experts interviewed by Reuters said growing problems facing Venezuelan children now include slumping school performance and malnutrition of newborns separated from would-be nursing mothers.

As always you should read the whole thing.  Venezuela is a country rich with natural resources but incredibly poor with socialism.

Of course, we get into a problem of trying to label everything.  Socialism is bad so folks try to label X as socialized X to defeat X.  Smart News might be the antidote to such thinking.  We hope it is but you still need to ask the avowed socialists what they mean by socialism and how they think socialism is going to work.  Yes, math is still required.

 

Geo-political Examples

As the Art of Blogging says writing posts takes time.  A couple of days ago we said we were going to have two posts linking Kevin Williamson and maps but each of them proved more time consuming than we thought.

Alert: We are heading off continent to places that might make blogging difficult.  Any post could be the last one until about Christmas.  End Alert.

Maps were one of our first loves.  We still love them and we especially love the paper kind that we grew up with.  We remember getting the state road atlas and checking for new Interstates because they were new then.  We checked to find the town with the smallest population in each state.  It was no surprise that we got Prisoners Of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About The World by Tim Marshall as a birthday present.  Here is his website where you can buy the book.  It is worth buying and reading.

Sidebar: We take expertise very seriously.  Some parts of this review are a bit speculative.  We will try to keep you informed.  End Sidebar.

Tim has written Geo-politics 101 without the theory.  Despite our love of maps we tend to see the world economically so it was worthwhile for us but we need another book to extend our education.  Tim’s book will be interesting and useful to lots of folks because it is exactly about ten maps.  Whoever wrote the subtitle that the maps explain everything is way overstating Tim’s case.  He thinks that geography is important but just that.  He uses ten maps as examples.  On page 7, Tim talks about obeying and ignoring the rules of geography but the only one he seems to give is when the land is hard to defend the leaders push outwards.  Then he gives Russia as the example of the rule.  Rules need more than one example.

A minor quibble is the quality of the maps.  They are sometimes hard to read and sometimes leave off some of Tim’s main topics.  For example, the maps of Pakistan on p. 188 and p. 194 leave off Gwadar.  The Chinese investment in Gwadar is a major issue in both the China map and the India and Pakistan map.  Gwadar does show up in the map that opens India and Pakistan on pp. 180-181.  We know the problems about the economics of publishing but better maps would help.

Here is where will will push the limits of our expertise to try and help you understand Tim’s book.  We don’t want this post to be book length so we can’t be very academic.  Consider Ann Coulter, Jonah Goldberg, and Kevin Williamson as authors.  Although one might try and excommunicate the others from the conservative denomination, most of us recognize all of them as very different but still conservative.

Our take is that Ann is a prosecutor.  She is marshaling the evidence to try and prove her case.  If there are any weaknesses in her arguments you will not hear it from her.  She keeps herself on task and deals with a specific subject for a popular audience.  Given her legal background her writing style is not a surprise.

Jonah is an academic at heart.  The appendix in Suicide of the West is one piece of evidence.  The second is that he wants to generalize but he recognizes the difficulty of generalization and so he often considers alternative arguments.  He wants to write a popular book that an academic could enjoy.

Kevin loves controversy.  He tweeted some things that got him fired at The Atlantic.  That he went to The Atlantic in the first place tells you something about him.  He has amazing insights that he thunders down upon us in wonderful prose.

Tim isn’t interested in being Jonah.  He wants to be Kevin but he will have to settle to be Ann.  An example of why he isn’t the other two is Tim’s discussion of Venezuela in Latin America.  It is brief but it leaves out that Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.  That is a big part of its geography.  To convince the unconvinced you must deal with the obvious problems in argument you are trying to make.

We recommend Tim’s book.  It gave us much to think about and changed our perspective in some areas.  If you don’t take every word as the gospel you will be better for reading it.  We are.

 

A Tale Of Four Countries

To adapt Dickens to our current situation: It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.  That is what Liam Halligan is telling us at UnHerd in [Theresa] Should Set Her Sights On Crony Capitalists.  Liam says the Brexit is not the most important topic for the Tories. It is rebooting capitalism and part of that is fighting crony capitalism.  We tend to agree.

We are only mildly supportive because we don’t like the term crony capitalism (CC) and Liam is really vague about how to fight it.  CC is when the government alters the market to favor certain parties.  A classic example is taxis.  We see the cronyism but not the capitalism.  The best way to fight CC is by reducing regulation.  Liam is vague about what he wants yo do to fight CC and his only real suggestion seems to be more regulation for big entities:

Big companies across the Western world have become far too powerful. Our political, business and media elites are much too intertwined. Such cosy relationships have resulted in an enfeebled competition policy, which is further increasing the might of a small number of corporations, to the detriment of consumers, smaller firms and broader society. [Emphasis added]

We are not sure where Liam is going but if he really wants to fight the cronyism in CC then we are with him.  On the other hand, more regulation will make these entities even more intertwined.

It is the best of times.  Liam reminds us that capitalism has enriched everyone everywhere it has been applied:

Or that, since the late-80s fall of the Berlin Wall, the spread of capitalism has enriched billions – with the share of the global population in extreme poverty plunging from two-fifths in 1990 to under one tenth today.

It is the worst of times as socialism has been tried repeatedly and devastated wide areas of the globe:

No matter that the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its economic contradictions. [here is remembering the start of the terror]

Of course, Venezuela is a current example that socialism always fails.  The talented and beautifully named Mary Anastasia O’Grady tells us a story of Why Central America Stays Poor in the WSJ.  We are unsure if we disagree with Liam because he is so often vague about evidence and recommendations.  We disagree in part with Mary but we are sure about it because she writes so clearly:

Nature can be cruel in underdeveloped countries. Yet it wasn’t fire, flood, mudslide or volcano that served this economic gut punch. This is a man-made travesty, courtesy of Guatemala’s Constitutional Court. It is a saga worth recounting because it goes to the heart of the country’s intransigent poverty.

Mary lays the problem at the feet of Guatemala’s Constitutional Court for their interpretation of a treaty:

[T]he United Nations International Labor Organization’s Convention No. 169 states that indigenous peoples living in the area of development projects need to be consulted. Guatemala is a signatory to the convention.

We think some of the blame should go to Guatemala for approving the treaty.  Conservatives recognize the folly of vague treaties, laws, and regulations that sound good because they can come back to bite you just like they did for Guatemala.  Even Progressives can become textualists when it benefits them.

To get back to Dickens is the worst of times because of public and media attitudes.  Liam reports that:

A recent YouGov poll suggested around 60% of voters think the railways and Royal Mail should be renationalised. Over half want the water and energy companies back in public sector ownership. A ComRes survey earlier this year showed that young British adults now think capitalism is more dangerous than communism.

Liam seems to think we should accept such foolishness rather that try to educate folks.  It is true that socialism doesn’t work but folks need reminding.  The attitude towards communism is astounding and another reason for education.

It doesn’t help that the Labor party is headed by Jeremy Corbin.  Liam describes Jeremy’s proposals:

And that’s [what we would call bad reporting] allowing [Jeremy] to present, with some success, his programme of aggressive renationalisation, sweeping trade union powers and highly punitive taxation as “the new common sense of our time”.

The next part of Dickens applies even more: It is an age of wisdom, it is an age of foolishness.  The USSR, Venezuela, and Guatemala offer lessons for the UK.  The first two remind us that socialism, government control of the economy, doesn’t work.  Liam reminds us we need reminders.  Guatemala reminds that treaties, laws, and regulations are written and need interpretation and application.  Much of CC lies in the interpretation and application of such documents.  Some is in the creation of such documents.  If we mean to fight CC we should be at least judicious in the creation of such documents and recognized the need to revise them as necessary.

We’d like to say that it would be a far, far better thing than they had ever done before if the Tories really fought CC but the Tories saved Western Civilization from fascism under Churchill and saved the UK from another form of socialism under Thatcher.  But it is still a really good idea and fighting CC will be a worthy challenge.