Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt

Winston Churchill:

 Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.

Theodore Roosevelt:

The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.

Go have a look at other interesting quotes: BrainyQuote

Two men, great men many will say, and with great flaws.  But were those flaws…Bugs or just Features…in the time and society they existed in?

Looking backwards without the right perspective can distort more than it can clarify.  Just like the too common view today that Christians have been crushing the poor Muslims ever since the Crusades.  When in fact the Crusades were a rather haphazard and ultimately futile attempt to defend the Christian majority who had lived in the middle east since Roman times. Christians who were being conquered and subjugated by the (at the time) newly minted religion of Islam and the expanding empire it formed the basis of.  It was Christian Europe (with all its faults) and probably modern civilization that was under threat, not the Moslems.

Blue Model and it’s replacement…better not less

Walter Russell Mead at his usual level of clear thinking:

As good quality education and health care become more expensive, it becomes harder for society to provide these goods to those who cannot provide them out of their own earnings. The development of a good $10,000 bachelor program would do more for low and lower middle income families than doubling the size of all student loan programs. Generally speaking, anything that makes education cheaper and easier — shifting from a “time served” model to a skills learned model for awarding qualifications and degrees, breaking the guild monopolies through accreditation and other systems so that more institutions can compete in the market — will make society less blue, but make the poor better off.

Democracy is an Outcome not an Input….

In this months The American Interest is a fascinating perspective article that like any profoundly effective piece opens ones mind to a better way of thinking about a topic, in this case democracy and the ‘liberal societies.’   The Cultural Contradictions of Democracy    The main threats to democracy lie within liberal societies themselves. by Vladislav Inozemtsev

Its more of a monograph than an article, it’s talking to the reader about taking a different perspective on a whole classes of issues. In short as my title says Democracy historically emerges after life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have already emerged within a society not before.  Also he points out that liberal (in the old sense of societal and economic freedoms) societies emerged in homogenous and élite societies and then democracy was implemented to create a stable and responsive gov’t that would last.  Only later as the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly, equality before the law, became ingrained, and the polis became generally literate and self-reliant did the right to vote become general.

But as the right to vote became general its strength became debased.  As the right to vote was given to many without a strong tie to the society it became more and more populist and a tool of those able to manipulate it.  

Some societies have developed that are quite ‘liberal’ in the old and robust meaning of the world without democracy (Singapore is one example.)

Many societies have developed democratic trappings but they are not at all liberal (Russia is one example)

Some societies have had democratic trappings dropped on them and then have started to tear themselves apart because there is no homogenous polis, (Iraq, many of the African states)

If you are at all interested in the topic read the article, its one of those pieces that opens the mind to a better perspective that might lead to insights of importance.  unfortunately its all too likely that the right people won’t get the message…

 

Historical Perspective and Narrative

20120221-220832.jpg

Walter Russell Mead’s blog serial Beyond Blue, currently at #5, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs (from which the pictures in this piece come) is a fascinating monograph putting the changes our society/economy is going through into perspective. Dr. Mead’s explanation goes back to the 19th century:

In the 19th century, government promoted the rise of the family farm, selling cheaply and ultimately giving away millions of acres of farmland, and promoting the rise of railroads (which could carry the produce of western farms to world markets). In the 20th century the government promoted the rise of large, stable corporate employers that offered armies of white and blue collar employees lifetime employment and a bevy of benefits.

And later this:

Currently, the American legal and regulatory system is set up to bind as many people to employers as possible. The government wants you to be a wage slave and sets up a regulatory framework that keeps as many of us as possible yoked to bosses and management. The IRS doesn’t like the self-employed, fearing they many conceal income. Banks and credit card companies view such people with suspicion, and it is notoriously difficult for start ups and part time enterprises to have access to formal finance. Many services are hard for the self-employed to get on terms like those made available to employees of large corporations: from health insurance to retirement planning, many things are harder and more expensive for the self-employed. The payroll tax system is brutal: the self-employed pay both the employer and employee halves of Social Security and Medicare taxes, almost 20 percent of income and likely to go higher. Many cities will tack on unincorporated business taxes, mass transit taxes, and other interesting feudal exactions and dues.

The gov’t used(s) the current ‘Blue Model’ in some senses as a social damping mechanism because it provides for a more hierarchical top down command system (of interest in the Cold War climate of the 50’s to80’s) while also providing a relatively efficient economy and outlets for frustration from the masses. This model has worked since the collapse of the 19th century model….the great depression…but itself is now becoming unstable/unaffordable in its turn because it requires too much command and control.

Too much how? Well now that a high percentage (all high value) workers have been amplified by basic literacy, information systems and other technology, they are capable of much more than the drudge work they used to perform at the command of a ‘supervisor’ and demand / need more autonomy. Many organizations accommodate and move on and up. Others keep the older structure or some bastardized version and sink into the muck. Companies that almost have to operate in the old mode because they deliver one sort of highly regulated good or another, get radically more expensive compared to near peers operating outside the penumbra of regulation and lose relevance and competitiveness at a steadily increasing speed. Look at the post office, once the epitome of efficiency.

HiTech & HiCost why the AirForce can’t afford itself

20111127-141612.jpg
A very good post on Strat Page regarding the F22 and the cost of upgrades, original program and maintenance. It concludes with these two paragraphs which I think clearly state the problem.

New technology gives a weapon, especially an aircraft, an edge in combat. But since World War II, most military technology has been developed in peacetime conditions. This means it is more than twice as expensive, as there is no wartime urgency to overcome bureaucratic inertia (and emphasis on covering your ass, which is very time consuming and expensive) and hesitation (because you don’t have a war going on to settle disputes over what will work best). Developing this new technology takes longer in peacetime, which also raises the cost, and fewer units of a new weapon are produced (driving up the amount of development cost each weapon will have to carry.) If several hundred B-2s were produced under wartime conditions, each aircraft would have probably cost $200 million, or less. In other words, a tenth of what it actually cost. Same deal with the mythical $35 million F-22, or any other high tech weapon.

Other nations have adapted more effectively to peacetime development conditions. But the United States has the largest amount of peacetime military research and development, and this has created a unique military/industry/media/political atmosphere that drives costs up to the point where voters, politicians and the media will no longer support them.

The Parties are dead, What next?

Another great commentary by Walter Russel Mead at ViaMeadia. Parties are becoming more like handles, like conservative, progressive, rather than controlling organizations. A big downside is the rise of populism/direct democracy which i believe to be seriously flawed, we need political damping rods and consensus builders and laws that form a coherent (and simple) system not an ad hoc set of isolated statements of one time (often getting badly aged after a very short time) principle.

Cultivating (social) Conscience

Review of a book by Lynn Stout, Cultivating Conscience: How Good Laws Make Good People. The review provides a synopsis of Dr. Stout’s thesis, she has tied together the results of modern research from a broad range of relevant science threads to present strong argument against the punitive and overly complex laws and rules that are the norm today. 

She argues that  the populist lowest common denominator laws with their no tolerance, zero sum, economic animal analysis of the human mind, far from making us safer and more law-abiding are deeply damaging to the social fabric we all depend on. She points out the mechanisms that lie behind some of the strikingly good results of modern urban policing and that these same mechanisms can be expanded more broadly.  This probably explains why experiments with shaming young drug offenders seems to have better results than time in jail.

Lynn Stout is the Paul Hastings Professor of Corporate and Securities Law at the UCLA School of Law. She is the coauthor of several books and a frequent commentator for NPR, PBS, and the “Wall Street Journal”.

(This is a bit of an update with the book link…and bio from B&N book page)

Cheers