May 14, 2006

THERE'S NO THERE THERE

This list of positions common to lefty bloggers (from Atrios via Kevin Drum) is bouncing around the internet, with libertarian bloggers using it as a test of whether they are really left-libertarians. I took the test, and it turns out that I'm not a lefty. The really interesting thing, though, is how weak, colorless, contentless, label-driven and reactionary modern liberalism is. The test, and my comments, follow:

  • Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration.
    I don't care very much, but, being conservative, I'm against change for change's sake, so I'll go with "no." On the substance, I have two friends who are both experienced bankruptcy lawyers. One is liberal and the other is more conservative than I am. Both dislike the bill because it tilts the field from the bankrupt to their creditors. On the other hand, I haven't been hearing any horror stories since the bill passed. Note, however, that the only reason given for opposing the bankruptcy bill is that it was passed by "this administration." Actually, the administration had very little to do with the bankruptcy bill, which has been bouncing around Washington for at least a decade. It passed with a substantial minority of Democratic votes in both the House (73 votes for) and Senate (17 for, plus Jeffords, and with Senator Clinton not voting). Liberalism is reactionary.
  • Repeal the estate tax repeal
    Again, liberalism is reactionary. The estate tax is a small tax that is hated by those who have to pay it and thought to be unfair even by those who will never have to deal with it. It is also an incredibly wasteful tax, with billions of dollars (more, probably, than the tax collects) spent every year in attempts to avoid it. Again, liberalism is reactionary, but liberals also love this tax because it targets their bete noir, the undeserving rich. It is a nice example of how far removed the left is from mainstream America that they find popular resistance to the estate tax baffling and irrational.
  • Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI
    An incredibly stupid idea, unless the left really is dedicated to remaking the US in the image of 70s era Latin America. A recipe for high unemployment, inflation and stagnation and a way to ensure that the CPI becomes even more overstated than it already is. A prime example of the Democrats continuing war on African-Americans.
  • Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)
    The devil is in the details? All that matters is the details. Apparently, the left is more impressed by titles than ideas. Say that something is the Civil Rights Restoration Act, or promotes universal health care, and the left will be for it. I fully expect that, if the Democrats ever retake the government, the Economic Justice Act of (say) 2050 will re-institute slavery. In any event, "universal" "healthcare" would be neither. It's a bad idea that would be badly executed. It is also the left's only big idea, now more than 40 years old.
  • Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation
    "Some other environment-related regulation." Because, you know, if it's called "environmentalism" there can't possibly be a down side. CAFE standards, of course, set up perverse incentives by reducing the cost of each mile driven. The left complains that the American people have avoided past CAFE standards by buying more loosely regulated trucks, but that's the point. CAFE standards are the poster child for unintended consequences.
  • Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there's probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise.
    Ah, the theme song of the left: "Death, death, death. Death. Death, death, death. Death." Chorus: "Death. Death. Death. Death."
  • Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code
    Leaving aside the easy point that you can't do both, let's note that taking 34% of income tax revenue from the top 1% of earners (who earned 16% of all earned income) just isn't progressive enough. (Numbers are from 2003) In fact, there's no such thing as progressive enough, because the left isn't interested in using the income tax to raise revenue. It wants to use the income tax to take as much money as possible from the rich, apparently a good in and of itself. The left is so mired in its European socialist redistributionist past that it's as if they've never met a modern American.
  • Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.
    Here we have the left at it's truest. "We hate religion, so we're not going to fund efficacious programs, the beneficiaries be damned." Of course, if religion were to return the favor, the left would come down on them like an avenging ang ... like an IRS agent with a hang-over.
  • Reduce corporate giveaways
    Again, a contentless slogan, not a program. It might as well be a lefty goal to "Be excellent to each other" or not be evil. I'm all in favor of reducing corporate giveaways, but I certainly don't trust the left to identify them. We'll score this one a "no."
  • Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan
    That would be the Medicare drug plan that the left is denouncing as a confusing corporate giveaway? This, too, is reactionary. It is, in fact, defensive, as the Medicare drug program is going to be an arrow in the heart of government run healthcare.
  • Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.
    This micro-management is the best they can come up with? They might as well agree that red lights should be 10 seconds shorter. As Jane Galt and others have noted, this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how the problem arose, and of the financial markets. The best one could hope for is that this would have no effect. One thing I haven't seen mentioned is that a lot of pension funds -- the well-run ones -- would be against this, too, because it would complicate their operations and increase their costs.
  • Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too.
    As we will see in the hodge-podge of miscellanea that follows, the left couldn't care less about states' rights. If any other drug was being pushed on the public in the face of an FDA conclusion that it wasn't efficacious, the left would be up in arms about big business and the profit motive betraying poor sick Americans. Drug dealers are different, apparently. (I've always been amused by the left on the one hand running on and on about Alar and pesticides and additives and organic farming, and on the other hand celebrating the snorting, smoking, shooting up of drugs cut with unknown substances processed under unknown conditions by unknown people.) In any event, the medical marijuana movement is meant to lead to the legalisation of marijuana and serves no other purpose. There can be no effective national prohibition on marijuana use at the same time there are medical marijuana programs in the states. As Americans have enough vices to be going on with, I vote no here, too.
  • Paper ballots
    Because that's how Democrats steal elections. (Note that states' rights suddenly take a back seat.) I have no problem with making elections more secure. Let's start with a requirement that all voters show proof of citizenship to register and government issued photo ID to vote.
  • Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obviously details matter.
    Gee, I didn't realize that government was blocking access to daycares. Again, without details, this is not a policy. "Let's be pro-family." Blech.
  • Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
    Because nothing is more important than that we continue to lie to the electorate about how social security works.
  • Marriage rights for all, which includes "gay marriage" and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens.
    States' rights? Did anyone mention states' rights? As far as federal questions are concerned: Again with the miscellanea. Foreign spouses should be able to come here immediately, but should have to qualify for citizenship in the usual way. (Is this really something that all lefty bloggers agree on? Have they also agreed on the amount of time federal workers should get for lunch?)
    So, there you have the completely pathetic, uninspiring clap-trap that all lefty bloggers can agree to. I understand that this is supposed to be least common denominator stuff, but it is really sad that American liberalism has been reduced to this contentless drivel. Saddest of all is the one issue that is not mentioned: National security and the war in which we are currently engaged. Not a word about the biggest issue of our time. The party of the left needs to spend more time in the wildernes. The left can not yet be trusted with our security, which they see as a distraction from income tax progressivity and letting foreign spouses become citizens in three years rather than five.

    Finally, can the right do any better? What do all righty bloggers believe in, and is it any less anodyne? Here's my proposal: Righty bloggers all believe in American exceptionalism. The Devil is in the details.

    Posted by David Cohen at May 14, 2006 5:35 PM
  • Comments

    HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

    Liberte!, Egalite!, Fraternite! (the devil is in the details obviously).

    From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs (the devil is in the details obviously).

    Etc.

    Posted by: Pepys at May 14, 2006 8:17 PM

    Power and money for me! The details are in the Devil.

    Posted by: Peter B at May 14, 2006 8:33 PM

    Mr. Cohen, I would take issue with that. I think it's the Left that believes in American exceptionism. That's why they only hold the U.S. accountable, and why they are so willing to socially engineer our institutions. To the Left, it's not our habits, history, istitutions, or traditions that make us special and unique, and so they can be disposed of on a whim.

    Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 14, 2006 8:34 PM

    All the conservatives are for change and all the "liberals" are reactionary, and we live in the last line of Orwell's Animal Farm.

    Conservativism means continuing the unproken progress of mankind, and the left in all its manifestations desires to return back, back to some earlier condition before the Christians or the Jews, or the Patriarchs (Ye holy patriarchs and prophets, pray for us), or the Bourgiosie, or the White race or all of them ruined everything.

    Posted by: Lou Gots at May 14, 2006 9:01 PM

    Mr. Cohen;

    While most of your essay was excellent, I have to call "silly boy" on this one:

    I've always been amused by the left on the one hand running on and on about Alar and pesticides and additives and organic farming, and on the other hand celebrating the snorting, smoking, shooting up of drugs cut with unknown substances processed under unknown conditions by unknown people.
    Ah contraire, legal recreational pharmacueticals are over-regulated recreational pharmacueticals. It is precisely the latter that would be eliminated by legalization. You may argue that it's wrong on the larger merits, but it's not inconsistent. It's been noted elsewhere the real legalization would also entail reducing the FDA to a purely advisor state, which seems like a better locus for claiming inconsistency.

    Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 14, 2006 9:24 PM

    Mr. Mitchell: To believe in American exceptionalism, one must first believe in G-d.

    [Having thought about this over night, I withdraw it. One need not believe in G-d to believe in American exceptionalism, althoug it is certainly easier. American conservative atheists, who are basically Christians lacking self-awareness, can also believe in American exceptionalism.]

    Posted by: David Cohen at May 14, 2006 9:26 PM

    Hmmm...what is the tune for that "Death" song? Perhaps the Imperial March? It sounds grimly fascinating. It's like the "Zoom Zoom" advertising jingle I can't get out of my head, or the junior senator from California that we can't get out of the Senate.

    Let's momentarily adopt the doubtful premise that these liberal economic ideas wouldn't immediately tank our economy and leave us collectively sending out a Republican SOS. Still, the absence of national security from this list is telling -- it illustrates the absurd Democratic belief in economic electoral determinism (bedeviled by that wicked Republican ogre of false consciousness, which keeps people from voting for what's good for them as determined by academics and professional scribblers).

    George Will said about Thomas Frank's book that it was unusual to have the left arguing that people weren't materialistic enough, but indeed that seems to be the point: in an electoral pinch, liberals can quite easily argue that people ought to be less high-minded and more selfish. The trick with Americans, who certainly tend to care about the welfare of their nation instead of just themselves, is to make them support a "gimme" agenda plainly and obviously designed as such. That's a tougher sell than it sounds.

    The idea that this economic leftism works in America of all places is just riotously funny. One poster here recently pointed out that, ultimately, this sort of thing didn't even pan out a hundred years ago, when conditions were much worse. President William Jennings Bryan, over to you.

    Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 14, 2006 9:27 PM

    AOG: I'm not sure I understand your point, but I would have no problem with getting rid of the FDA.

    Posted by: David Cohen at May 14, 2006 9:28 PM

    Mr. Cohen, I remind you of the quote 'If you don't believe in God, you will believe in Anything'. (I know it's not complete, I can't remember the rest of it.) Because the Left will not lift it's eyes up to the heavens, they can't see the horizon. They can't believe the U.S. would ever fall, because they don't believe in history, not really.

    Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 14, 2006 9:47 PM

    re: voting

    Talk about being reactionary on the wrong issue.

    How do you show photo ID (and get your finger stained with purple ink) when you can only vote by mail? Will they include one of those little pillows like the ones of ketchup that come with your fries, but filled with ink? Will you show your photo ID to the mailman when he delivers or when he picks up? How do resist the pressure of your union steward or your faculty chair or dorm rep or nursing home staff from attending their "voting party"? (Bye bye secret ballot.)

    Anyone who thinks voting problems will go away so long as Diebolt doesn't get the contract is a fool.

    re: Devil in the details

    From back in the '80s, I remember some Senate hearing about some abortion related law, and the illustrious senior Senator from Chappaquiddick was asked several questions about the interpretation of vague parts of his wonderful law. His reply in every case was, "the courts will have to decide."

    Otherwise, my only reaction to your entire posting is "me, too."

    Posted by: Raoul Ortega at May 14, 2006 9:49 PM

    Mr. Cohen;

    Sorry for being so obtuse again.

    (1) It's not inconsistent to call for legalizing recreational pharmacueticals in the case you cite because that is precisely how one could impose the same regulatory control as you describe them as enjoying elsewhere.

    (2) You may be fine with eliminating the FDA, but the pro-legalization Leftists are most certainly not. And you'd have to eliminate the enforcement power of the FDA or it would necessarily re-ban recreational pharmacueticals because of their dangers and lack of efficacy.

    Hmmm. Is there some link between the Left's desire to use American power only where it doesn't benefit America, and their desire to encourage the free use of pharmacueticals only when there's no benefit to the user?

    Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 14, 2006 9:50 PM

    Reduce corporate giveaways

    OK. This thought is not original to me, but how 'bout let's start by eliminating giveaways to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

    Posted by: Mike Morley at May 14, 2006 9:53 PM

    Regarding the estate tax, I've read that it often had the unintended consequence of destroying family farms. Today it's not hard for small farms to be worth $1-2 million or more, so when the owner dies and wants to give it to his kids, they can't afford to pay the estate tax without selling all or part of the farm, often to the developers the left hates so much.

    Posted by: PapayaSF at May 14, 2006 10:07 PM

    AOG: 1. But isn't it inconsistent to use illegal drugs while insisting upon organic food, or decrying corporate farms and industrial animal husbrandry?

    2. Agreed.

    That link is interesting. It must have something to do with the belief that profit is evil.

    Posted by: David Cohen at May 14, 2006 10:28 PM

    In the 1970s, it was common for potheads to claim that marijuana was completely natural.

    They're oddly consistent for people with no brain cells left.

    Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at May 14, 2006 10:42 PM

    "One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic". Sums up the doctrinaire left pretty well, although they'll engineer that one death, too. Stalin (and Hitler) would have made good use of George Felos.

    And, as David points out, no mention of national security. I guess it isn't surprising they don't mention genocide or Africa at all. However, even as recently as 15 years ago, that would have been near the top. And no direct mention of AIDS - another item that would have been near the top even 6 years ago.

    Excellent title, BTW.

    Posted by: jim hamlen at May 14, 2006 10:43 PM

    "Death, death, death. Death. Death, death, death. Death." Chorus: "Death. Death. Death. Death."

    Catchy tune--what's it called?

    "Righty bloggers all believe in American exceptionalism. The Devil is in the details."

    Exactly right. This explains, for example, the 66% approval for the NSA phone numbers program (and the number would be even higher but for the slanted question used).

    Whether it's just from watching "24" or from deeper analysis, most Americans know in their gut this one salient fact: we're the good guys. Hence they do not automatically assume the worst about their government the way the Blame-America-First-ers do.

    This is also why you'll occasionally hear a Clinton or an Albright use the formulation: "When we're no longer the biggest nation on the block"--they wish it to be so; America cannot be trusted with power, you see.

    Even without a Republican president to stoke their mental disorder, the Left believes that America is the Indefensible Nation, not the Indispensible Nation.

    "Thank you...and God Bless the United States of America."

    Posted by: Noel at May 15, 2006 12:20 AM

    The Left can afford to believe America indefensible only because America is exceptional.

    Posted by: ratbert at May 15, 2006 12:26 AM

    There was no mention of national security, the war in Iraq or immigration. That says it all, doesn't it?

    Posted by: sharon at May 15, 2006 12:50 AM

    Noel:

    I've got it! Play it to Fanfare for the Common Man...

    Death, death, deeaaatttthhhh....
    Death, death, deeaaatttthhhh....
    Deeeaaattth..deeeaaattthhh...deeeaaattth...deeeaaattth...

    And so forth.

    Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 15, 2006 12:51 AM

    sharon:

    They're trying to propose a legislative agenda while massaging their egos with the amusing delusion that they can get an electorally significant portion of the American people to care for their ideas longer than one election. They don't have time to get real.

    Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 15, 2006 12:54 AM

    What the heck is a left-libertarian?

    Posted by: Pepys at May 15, 2006 2:15 AM

    "Left libertarian" is another term for libertine socialist. One who is content with a command economy, and a politically correct public sphere, so long as the bedroom remains a pristine wilderness.

    Posted by: joe shropshire at May 15, 2006 2:37 AM

    Is there a test to see if you are a constitutional monarchist?

    Posted by: Mike Beversluis at May 15, 2006 8:46 AM

    Matt,

    That would give the game away--they'll use "Don't Stop (Thinkin' About Tomorrow).

    joe,

    Those who howl loudest about "Get government out of our bedrooms!" of course wish to insert their bedrooms into the government. And force it on impressionable schoolchildren, which, in their view, includes most adults.

    Posted by: Noel at May 15, 2006 9:29 AM

    Music lovers:

    Wagner wrote the 'Liebestod', which Hitler wanted to hear immediately after being released from prison (following the Putsch). That should suffice.

    Posted by: ratbert at May 15, 2006 10:02 AM
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