Mexican Gas

Instapundit linked to this interesting piece in the New York Times today about economic stagnation in Mexico, despite positive improvements in recent years. 

I’m no economist, but my initial reaction would be to add that Mexico may not be making much more progress yet because they had gone so far down into the doldrums of socialism.  I don’t think most of us Norteamericanos realize just how leftist Mexico has traditionally been. 

A few years ago, my wife and I got to go on a short cruise, which stopped for a day in Mexico.  We did the tourist bit, even going on a bus tour of local civic landmarks.  At one point on the tour, the guide pointed out the sign by a gas station and crowed about how cheap gasoline was in Mexico, compared to the United States.  She explained that this was because the Mexican government had nationalized that industry and controlled the prices to keep them low. 

It was deeply worrisome just how many of the people in our tour group oohed and ahhed over that little tidbit.  Maybe they were the beneficiaries of rent control or some other such similar scheme in the U.S.  The problem, of course, is that such artificial control is profoundly unnatural, and ultimately does far more damage to the larger economic engine than good. 

Gas might be dirt cheap in Mexico, but look what their socialist philosophy has done to the country as a whole.  If anything, that big picture should be a stark cautionary tale for Americans who favor the steps we’ve been taking in that very direction…

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Fascism of the Left and Right

I just checked out Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism from the library again–every now and then I’ll pick it up and read whatever chapter or two grab my interest at the time. 

One theme in the introduction is that “fascism” is difficult to define, and a simple, universally recognized definition doesn’t exist.  He puts together a usable understanding, but I noticed something about each of the eras and events he discussed that might lead us to see a clear sign of fascism: it always implies force. 

Although this is not a complete picture of fascism, I think the presence of coercion is a major trait that must be recognized to spot and prevent it.  Fascism, then, is not necessarily a political ideology (although, as in the case of Italy’s Mussolini, especially, it can be) so much as it is a means of promoting an ideology. 

On the left, fascism, seen in this way, classically manifests itself in communist governments: the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, North Korea, etc.  The use of (indeed, reverence for) centralized, collectivized, government control is a key danger of a leftist government run amok. 

The biggest myth about fascism (and Goldberg spends a great deal of time analyzing this one) is that it’s also a feature of an extreme, hard right government.  Actually, the logical warping of conservatism wouldn’t be fascism, it would be anarchy; fascism of the right would be less common, particularly in the west, not because it is inherently more virtuous, but because an emphasis on limited government would naturally have the effect of decreasing the opportunities for and acceptance of fascist tactics.  However, that is not to say that it doesn’t exist.  The best examples of conservative fascism that I can think of are all theocracies: Iran, ancient Egypt, Puritan New England, etc.  The reverence for tradition and order can be so elevated that it becomes primary even over freedom itself. 

So what’s the warning here for America?  Are we in danger of socialist-dictator fascism or theocratic fascism?  I suppose the potential for both exists, though one silver lining of a country so polarized down the middle is that neither half would let the other get that out of control. 

One observation, though, about a hybrid danger we might term “liberal theocratic fascism:” Continue reading

Amy Bishop May Be A Psycho, But At Least She’s A Popular Liberal

I just read about Alabama biology professor Amy Bishop’s shooting rampage that killed three of her colleagues.  Curious, I looked her up on RateMyProfessors.com, and found a few dozen reviews of her posted by former students.  Though there are some negative reviews, the majority are glowing, as seen from the screen shot below (I suspect the page will be taken down soon).  So she’s a homicidal maniac with a history of problems, but on the other hand, “she is hot but she tries to hide it.” 

Note that the Boston Herald article linked above (also posted today at Drudge Report) mentions that she is “a far left political extremist who was obsessed with President Obama,” and the same student review I just quoted from (visible below) also shares this: “she is a socialist but she only talks about it after class.” 

A Pair of Pessimistic Political Predictions

I’m not saying that these things will happen, but the way our society is going, I think it’s likely that they might happen. 

1.  Any straight people who get married will be seen as inherently oppressing gays who can’t marry.  This came to mind as I heard recently about a growing slew of celebrities who refuse to get married, saying they won’t do it until everybody can do it.  The logical end of that train of thought will be stigmatizing anybody who doesn’t get in on this “boycot.”  Cohabitation will explode even further as marriage rates drop drastically.

2.  The concept of nationality will come to be looked down on as narrow-minded, old fashioned, and akin to racism.  Under the guise of embracing all of humanity and “celebrating diversity,” many will decry those who assert that being an American–or any other nationality–has some intrinsic meaning.  Valuing your country over other countries will be the new “racism,” as the more “enlightened” among us will disavow their allegiance to any one nation and declare themselves “citizens of the world.” 

I know, I know–the seeds of both of these are already well sown into our society.  My fear is that they will become far more prevalent, that within a decade they will be the mandatory mantras of the mainstream, the same way that gay marriage, amnesty, and socialism suddenly became orthodox doctrines during the last ten years.

Freedom in the 50 States

I just found out about a recent study of how much relative freedom still exists in each of the 50 American states.  Rankings are presented for individual categories, covering financial and civil liberty factors, and then an overall aggregate ranking.  Here are the top five:

  1. New Hampshire
  2. Colorado
  3. South Dakota
  4. Idaho
  5. Texas

No surprise seeing Texas in the top five.  Utah just missed the top ten.  And my home, Nevada?  Nearly half way down at #24.  Earlier this week, New Hampshire legalized gay marriage, but did so with language that protects the rights of religious objectors to oppose it and not participate if they so desire.  Will this compromise be the way the legal aspects of this controversy are resolved?  At the very least, kudos to New Hampshire for their unflagging dedication in trying to preserve the freedom of every individual, not just a popular special interest. 

In my neck of the woods, the legislative session that just ended has raised taxes and saddled us with plenty of new regulations and nanny state laws.  Thanks to all of you California refugees who moved here and promptly started voting in the kind of socialist fools who ruined your state.  Good job. 

Texas and Idaho are looking better all the time.

California was #47.  New York came in dead last.

Alexis de Tocqueville On Potential American Despotism

Just when I thought Mark Steyn had used all his A-game material, when he couldn’t possibly come up with anything else to add to his greatest hits canon of jaw-dropping, earth-shattering work, I read this essay in The New Criterion where he quotes Alexis de Tocqueville on that observant post-revolutionary Frenchman’s prediction of how America’s sanguine freedom could be corrupted into the kind of tyranny that American and France had so recently both thrown off.  Steyn quotes him as follows:

I would like to imagine with what new traits despotism could be produced in the world.

 

I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls.

 

Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood … it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs…

 

The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute, and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way… it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own … it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

 

Steyn follows this up with a very droll, “Welcome to the 21st century.”

Now, I assume he’s quoting from Democracy in America, but for the life of me I can’t find that quote to underline it!  There doesn’t seem to be a decent online text I can search.  Can anyone out there please, please find for me which chapter this comes from?  If I find it first, I’ll update this post.

Recent Reactionary Readings

Perhaps I’m so taken with conservative thought not only because it’s the most rational political philosophy, but also because it’s being articulated by some of the most talented sculptors of felicitous prose out there today.  The only things I like more than quality products in an area of my inetrest are quality products that combine multiple areas of interest.  Mark Steyn, for example, is conservative, a talented writer, and funnier than that satirical farce written by Lewis Carroll’s and Dave Barry’s genetically enhanced clone. 

Three things I’ve read in the last couple of days are prime examples of this elementally effective commingling of content and style with which I’m so gleefully taken, like a passive-aggressive, effeminate egomaniac with Twilight

First, screenwriter Burt Prelutsky’s essays in WorldNetDaily have been a staple of my intellectual intake for years.  He keeps within a fairly narrow range of topics, but his anecdotes and quick, witty disarming of liberal bloviating are so refreshing that they function as my morning pick-me-up each midweek morning. 

The money quote from this week’s essay:

Liberals are in favor of open borders because they feel sorry for those people sneaking across. It doesn’t occur to liberals that American citizens suffer from the influx of millions of impoverished illiterates. They are not concerned with the drain on schools, hospitals, jobs and prisons, because what’s important for liberals is that they feel good about themselves. It’s a unique type of selfishness because it’s disguised as an altruistic concern for others. It’s the same reason they oppose capital punishment. They don’t care about the victims or their loved ones. Any schmuck, after all, can sympathize with innocent people. But it takes a very special kind of individual to hold a candlelight vigil for a monster who had raped and murdered a child. A very special kind, indeed.

Next, the inestimable Mr. Steyn himself, who returns from his sabbatical with essays such as this one, typically full of caustic insights somehow so good-natured that they vivisect current events like a surgical laser but leave a fresh, pine-tree scent afterwards. 

Example, on the long-term value implications of last month’s election, namely, that a majority of Americans appear to be enamored of increasingly imitating a European-style socialist state:

Continue reading

Repeat: Ask The Founders

In the wake of yesterday’s nationwide socialist revolution (Nevada, long a conservative bastion [check here for proof], is now officially a blue state at almost all levels of government–thanks to everybody who moved here from California!), my thoughts turn again to what America is supposed to be. 

Yes, supposed to be.  There are things that America is designed to be, and things that it is not.  The best thing I can think of to say on the subject now is to reprint this piece which originally ran on July 1

**********

The Federalist Papers are a collected series of essays that originally appeared in New York newspapers during the period of debate and ratification for the new Constitution.  In them, the series’ three authors–Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay–very clearly explain the nature of the Constitution and how it was to implemented. 

Their authority is, of course, unimpeachable.  Hamilton would become the first Secretary of the Treasury.  Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the United States.  And Madison, the primary architect of the Constitution itself, would go on the become our 4th president.

Here are some of our most auspicious Founders’ answers to the pressing issues of the present day:

  • Is America a multicultural society, or a basically homogeneous Christian nation?

Answered by John Jay: “Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country, to one united people, a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs…”  –Federalist #2

  • Should American government be more Democratic (populist) or Republican (representative) in nature?

Answered by James Madison: “A pure Democracy, by which I mean, a Society, consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischief of faction.  A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole….A Republic, by which I mean a Government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”  –Federalist #10

“In a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents.  A democracy consequently will be confined to a small spot.  A republic may be extended over a large region.”  –Federalist #14

  • Can America ensure that its citizens have equal success and comfort?

Answered by James Madison: Continue reading

An Old Man Looks Back On The Obama Administration

“Grandpa, tell me again about the Hard Times.”

“Oh, Jimmy, I love telling you stories, but I just told you that one yesterday!”

“I know, Gramps, but that was just the same stuff they tell us at the new school–the constant experimenting, the violence, the confusion and chaos–but you were there.  Tell me what it was really like, please.”

Grandpa sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair as he sank into his comfortable chair by the window.  “The Hard Times?  You know, nobody thought of calling it that until it had been around for years.  The name first popped up on the underground web sites of traditionalists–‘the haters,’ most people called them at the time; people who ‘hated’ subversion, hedonism, socialism, who wouldn’t ‘tolerate’ the demands of others for radical, unprecedented change in the name of ‘fairness.’  The government took a cue from China and shut down most of those sites just as quickly as they shut down the talk radio shows those rebels started out on, but still, the resistance lingered.

“I was never a part of that resistance.  It wasn’t that I was too young to join in, but that I was too young to know that I should join in.  Especially when so many of my elders sanctioned that radicalism with their zealous endorsements, also all in the name of ‘progress.’  I was taken in by the idea of generations, centuries, of wrongdoing about to be undone by an earth-shattering revolutionary who would finally get everyone what they had been taught by the media their whole lives they deserved.  It was exciting, it felt righteous, it was this mass mob mentality that you just can’t understand unless you were part of it–totally convinced that the more you taunted and censored the ones you labelled the ‘enemy,’ the more just you were.  It was like a contest to see who could be coolest by being the most extreme.”

Grandpa paused for breath and rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, seeming to search for words to give his thoughts form.  His face looked lost.  “Good grief, how did we get so far that the majority of a country could fall for such a childish scheme and think we were saving the world?”

He leaned forward and rested his hands on his knees, and when he didn’t speak for a minute, Jimmy tried to get him to continue with a question: “So President Obama was evil?”

Grandpa’s face instantly looked up.  “Evil?  Heavens, no.  Not ‘evil,’ just very, very wrong.  He genuinely thought he was doing the right things, there’s no doubt that he sincerely wanted to do the most good for the most people, with no ulterior motives for his own aggrandizement…but they say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  No, Obama wasn’t evil…but his policies had that effect.  And some of the people around him…yes, some of them were evil.

“They haven’t taught you in school yet about the law of unintended consequences.  That’s one of the very best reasons to be cautious when people want to change what has obviously worked for hundreds of years.  You never know what all the effects of a new action will be.  But in retrospect, I think we should have seen what would happen.  Yes, the chess pieces were all moved into place by 2008.  When the last of our defenses was removed, endgame was ready.

“As soon as Obama was elected, the marginalized anti-social goons came out of the woodwork.  Up until then, there were restraints on public conduct; the leftist fetishists almost reveled in being underdogs.  But the minute they sensed that, after forty years of seeping into the American consciousness, the reigns of power were theirs, what with the Unholy Trinity of Obama-Reid-Pelosi in power, they sprung the trap.

“By the end of the first year, bills fast tracked through the legislative and executive branches mandating that we would never fight another war for any reason, because all violence is always a tool of corporations to exploit peace lovers, that nobody would ever be able to be excluded from anything–especially marriage or citizenship–for any reason, because setting any criteria for anything is discrimination, and that’s an ugly word and always bad, and that everybody would always be able to call on the government to have the exact same quality of life that the most well off Americans could conceivably enjoy, because, again, anything less was clearly evidence of some kind of discrimination, and if ‘all men are created equal,’ then nobody should have to suffer anything that everybody doesn’t have to suffer.

Continue reading

Cycle Of Civilizational Decline Illustrated By American Southwest

It’s no secret that for a decade Southern Nevada has been the fastest growing area in the country.  Why?  What makes the Las Vegas valley so great?

The answer might lie in this sign (courtesy of http://www.lifeinthepast.com/renotah.html), which stood at the border between Nevada and California at Lake Tahoe in the 1940’s:

 

It reads: “No income tax, no sales tax, no inheritance tax, no corporation tax, no gift tax” and “A debt free state welcomes you.”

That sign isn’t there any more.  Cue Bob Dylan: “The times they are a changin’…”

To answer our question, Nevada became such a great place to live because it was founded on conservative, libertarian principles that built a solid economy here.  Now, among many other things, a decade of refugees from the People’s Republic of California has eroded that success.  Las Vegas is not nearly as friendly to individual freedom and entrepreneurship as it used to be. 

This is hardly the only place where such things happen.  Next door in Utah, the Salt Lake Valley was settled by Mormon pioneers.  Today, the astonishing success of Utah’s socio-politcal climate has attracted the usual hordes of leeches: in recent elections, while the rest of Utah is still solidly red, Slat Lake County has turned blue. 

America itself follows this pattern.  Award-winning historian Joseph Ellis has called our nation’s founding a “conservative revolution.”  Today, our government makes the small, simple world of the Constitution look more anachronistic than Paris Hilton at a Mensa meeting. 

Southern California has long since turned into a wasteland (for example: http://www.city-journal.org/html/17_1_mexifornia.html).  Over the last couple decades, property values in Southern Nevada have skyrocketed as swarms of disgruntled Los Angelinos sought shelter here.  In the last few years, a building boom has erupted in Southern Utah as forlorn Nevadans flee the crumbling infrastructure of their once-safe haven.  My advice: invest in land in Idaho and Montana while it’s still cheap.