Feeling So 1938

History doesn’t repeat – but it rhymes.

The world’s major powers are rattling their sabers as they spar in secondary theaters.

The economies are in the hands of people who love to tinker with the levers and buttons of the Big State.

And young intellectually over-stimulated but underendowed bobbleheads are romping and playing:

Everything old is new again.

Poorer Minnesota

Minnesota used to significantly outperform the rest of the US in germs of gross and per capita GDP growth.

Today?

[Since] 2019 — the last pre-COVID year — Minnesota’s real GDP growth has ranked 36th out of the fifty states, coming in at 4.0%, less than half the national rate of 8.1%.

The gross GDP growth comparison is bad. The per capita numbers, even worse:

Minnesota’s recent performance is relatively poor. As Figure 2 shows, between 2019 and 2023, Minnesota’s real, per capita GDP growth ranked 39th out of the fifty states. Again, with growth of 3.1%, Minnesota’s real, per capita GDP growth was less than half that of the United States, 6.6%.

The Walz regime will respond, no doubt, as it always does; with a selfie of “Lieutenant” Governor Flanagan feeding Governor Klink a pronto pup.

Capital, productive citizens and the college kids who are the productive citizens of the future are fleeing. Businesses have been moving their non-white-collar operations out of MInnesota for decades.

Reality Always Wins

You may not win along with it, but that’s your fault for denying reality.

Speaking of denying reality: we warned MInneapolis about the inevitable end results of rent control, high taxes and onerous regulations (aka “everything the Met Council does re housing and transit policy”).

And yet every $%#$%$@# time their chickens come home to roost, they act surprised and angry:

The comments in that thread are lit, by the way; every metro housing advocate’s inner Lenin is showing.

Theory

A significant chunk of the far-left clacque that runs politics in the metro are Marxists, either overtly or under the hood.

And an amazing number of them subscribe to the “Labor Theory of Value” – the idea that labor, as opposed to the other three factors (Capitol, Management and Land) is the dispositive factor of production.

I have been challenging adherents for years – test the theory by taking a group of fast food workers, plopping them on a vacant lot, and seeing if a Hardee’s springs up around them.

It’s an absurd test – exactly the one the theory deserves.

I used to say nobody had taken the challenge.

But it appears that, at least indirectly, someone just might.

A Cold Detroit

Hennepin County’s population – which is mostly Minneapolis – is down. And while that is not the only factor depressing home values for the first time since the 2008 recession.

This is affecting the funding of (what we will still refer to as) public services in Minnesota’s largest county and city.

In fact, the demographics of Minnesota as a whole are a little troublesome.

The annual “natural change” in Minnesota’s population (births minus deaths) is not enough to compensate for the number of people moving out of the state. In the little over three years from the last census (April 1, 2020) to July 1, 2023, Minnesota saw a natural increase in residents of about 40,400. These gains were wiped out by the net domestic outmigration (people leaving Minnesota for other states) of 46,000. If not for the net “international migration” of 34,600, Minnesota’s overall population would have fallen over this period.

Young people are leaving the state – which is a huge change from when I first moved here, when the Twin Cities were a destination to a lot of recent grads stepping out into adult live.

But hey, maybe protecting criminals while jamming people into ticky-tack multi unit boxes will fix the problem:

That’s the problem with progressive politics. Reality always wins.

Where’s The Money?

The Minneapolis City Council’s vote on minimum wages for independent contractor drivers has driven Lyft out of Minneapolis, and Uber out of both cities.

A friend of the blog emails with an initial reaction very close to my own:

The Minneapolis City Council doesn’t actually understand a lot. They want affordable options, but they want people to be paid high wages. It doesn’t always work that way.http://apnews.com/article/minneapolis-uber-lyft-ridehailing-minimum-wage-d60db6a2e2580dc1d93c438a8cffa5ee

That being said, Uber and Lyft were never affordable here in the Twin Cities like they are elsewhere. That is likely because the market here doesn’t support it like it might in cities with higher density populations. 

This article mentions that “Seattle and New York City have passed similar policies in recent years that increase wages for ride-hailing drivers, and Uber and Lyft still operate in those cities.”

Yes, well, the cost to use those services was lower to start with because they actually could make money there. So, they are likely still making money even if passengers are paying more to ride. I would bet those services were barely making it here as it was. It’s not hard to drive most places, it’s not even particularly expensive. The downtowns of MSP are mostly dead anyway, so who is using Lyft and Uber at this stage anymore? As far as I can tell, the council’s stupid ordinance just gave them the excuse to pull out. 

That was pretty much what I thought; it was yet another case of a prog city council demanding the world violate the laws of economics to give them what they want.

But wait. There’s more.

It’s the current DFL – so one must always check to see if there’s an ulterior motive involving transferring wealth from taxpayers to the DFL’s non-profit/government complex.

And of course there is:

There you go – Soviet-style ride sharing.

Because the DSA needs to make sure they get a cut of all that ride-share money.

Agenda

Joe Doakes, formerly of Como Park, emails:

Notice the list of priorities does NOT include: “Build The Wall and Make Mexico Pay For It.”  

Nor does it include: “StopPissing Away Money in Ukraine.”    “Lock Up Criminals” is mostly a local issue but then, so is abortion (now that Roe v. Wade is gone).   And I don’t know one single person who favors canceling student loan debt, not even the people making payments on their student loans, who routinely tell me, “I paid my loans, they can pay their loans.”

Comparing this list of priorities to mine, I have to ask: how far out of touch with reality am I?

Who, indeed, is out of touch?

More on that next week.

Gala

By the way – the Legislative Evaluation Assembly’s annual gala is coming up – and the deadline for tickets is Monday!

My former network-mate Steve Deace is the keynote speaker – and he’ll be talking about a subject not just near and dear, but dispositive to this blog’s heart, the evolution in Conservative media.

Check it out and sign up here!

Ask And Be Answered

Last week, I asked “why all the hate for National Review?”

Joe Doakes, formerly of Como Park, responded:

I had a subscription to National Review for decades.  I let it lapse when I realized O’Sullivan’s Law applied to his own magazine.  The writers I admired – who stated my views better than I could – were no longer welcome there.

Samuel Francis.  John Derbyshire.  Mark Steyn.  Conrad Black. Theodore Dalrymple.  Victor Davis Hanson.  Some of their names still appear on the website but they haven’t had an article published in years.  The views of the magazine have shifted.  Look at the articles in the last few issues, the most conservative guy is . . . James Lileks.  I love his writing but he’s not the successor to William F. that I would have chosen to write insightful political commentary.   I didn’t leave the magazine, the magazine left me but it’s worse than that.

“National Review is now run by a nest of never-Trumpers,” said Francis Sempa in 2021, and his comment is still on-point today. The man who is far and away the most popular candidate for the Republican nomination for President isn’t classy enough for National Review.   He’s a boor.  He doesn’t lose gracefully.  And those tweets!  He’d never get invited to one of National Review’s cruises.

Neither will I.  My views are too extreme, too conservative.  Like their former columnists and the former President, and the 80 million people who voted for Trump last time and the 120 million who will vote for him this time, I’m not good enough enough for National Review.  Which puts me in mind of Grocho Marx:  “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

Joe Doakes, former National Review subscriber, no longer in Como Park

Well, I do subscribe to the National Review. Some of my favorites are gone – Derb, Kevin WIlliamson – and others like Charles CW Cooke and Andrew McCarthy remain.

“Never Trump?” Some are. Some are, like me, Trump skeptics, or from the “what have you done lately?” crowd. Not sure if Trump isn’t classy enough for the NR, but I’ve never gelled with his personality, even back when he was a Democrat.

I didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. I did in 2020, although his behavior between the election and Biden’s coronation was almost as stupid as, well, the system he fought. I’ll be in Team Ron ’til the bitter end, but I won’t be voting, directly or indirectly, for a fourth Obama term. Make of that what you will.

But the Trump era is going to end – next summer, next November, or perhaps in January of 2029. And I want the GOP that picks up at the end of all that to be more like the GOP of 1994 than the Matt Gaetz clown car of 2023.

And the National Review, whatever else you say about them, is about the same thing.

I hear what Joe’s saying. I understand it. I even agree to a point. I’m also a conservative before I”m a Republican. There will be a post-Trump era, sooner or later. I’d like whatever replaces Trump to reflect beliefs I can get behind. Love Trump, hate him, or fall somewhere in the middle,

The Conversation We Need

I’m going to commend you to this particular episode of Ben Shapiro, from a couple weeks ago.

He’s talking about the Republican Candidate debates – comparing the debates Republicans deserve with the one the nation needs.

The one we deserve? Well, the donnybrook between DeSantis and Newsome was a great one. In another time and place, it might have been a classic, like Reagan/Mondale.

But it was just another chapter in this nation’s formerly biennial and now permanent ritual of the tribes ceremonially throwing rhetorical (for now) bricks at each other, immune to any reason the other side may be throwing back.

The debate we need, on the other hand?


It’s a bit of a cartoon – whenever you suggest that maybe it’s time to discuss, even think about, how this nation approaches the subject of perhaps having a “National Divorce”, leftists immediately chant “That was settled in 1865!”.

The only response to that that matters is “Well, no – it was settled in 1776”.

We’ll come back to them.

From the center right, the response is probably more rational, and definitely more frustrating: “we have to preserve the union”.

Why?

If the union’s moral and political compass decays to the point where “the union” has completely trampled on the Constitution, the RIghts of Man and the whole notion of Government being a free association of equals, what is the point?

Put another way – what is more important: The nation’s founding principles, or its political union.

I’ll take founding principles, and ditch the parts of the country that disagree, every time.

There are those on all sides who shy away from the topic, saying any national breakup will inevitably look more like Bosnia or Kosovo or Belfast than some Trulbert-like organic readjustment.

Again – why? If one had asked a typical political thinker in Europe in 1770 what would happen if a people threw off the monarchy and established a constitutional Republic, what do you suppose they’d have predicted?

Chaos. At best.

And given the moral and intellectual midgets who set the standards for our culture, the idea of the “peaceful divorce” just might be harder than it needs to be.

But as Dennis Prager correctly notes, America was less divided in 1861 than it is today. I believe a renewed commitment to federalism is the only hope to maintain a nation.

And a renewed commitment to federalism would require a huge bounce-back resurgence in Federalists in politics. We’re out there – but we’re nowhere near power, even in the GOP.

So our culture is rolling the dice. And the best way to assure that any future, uh, “civic readjustment” is absolutely a bloody debacle is to shame the conversation into the shadows, were only the crazies and the extremists will own, and consider, and be ready, for the split when and if it finally happens.

Don’t Cry For Milei, Argentina

As Don Surber notes, suddenly everyone’s an expert on Argentina.

We’ll come back to that.

Libertarian-Conservative Javier Milei crushed his center-left opponent, showing Argentina’s crushing dissatisfaction with over a decade of center-to-far-left politics.

Big Left is, predictably, unhappy:

“A radical libertarian and admirer of Donald Trump rode a wave of voter rage to win Argentina’s presidency on Sunday, crushing the political establishment and bringing the sharpest turn to the right in four decades of democracy in the country.

“Javier Milei, a 53-year-old far-right economist and former television pundit with no governing experience, claimed nearly 56% of the vote in a stunning upset over Sergio Massa, the center-left economy minister who has struggled to resolve the country’s worst economic crisis in two decades. Even before the official results had been announced Sunday night, Massa acknowledged defeat and congratulated Milei on his win.

“Trump also congratulated Milei. ‘I am very proud of you,’ Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform. ‘You will turn your Country around and Make Argentina Great Again!’”

Don Surber’s response – “don’t anoint him yet, but the vote matters more than the candidate – isn’t wrong at all.

But he adds:

I don’t recall Argentina being great before but diplomacy requires a certain suspension of reality. It’s the 1970s chant of I’m OK, You’re OK updated for international relations. I’m Great Again, You’re Great Again.

Thing is, Argentina was, if not “great”, at least doing really, really well not that terribly long ago:

So what happened?

As Paul Johnson pointed out in Modern Times, socialism – in this case, populist socialism in the form of Juan and Eva Peron – happened. Argentina went from relative wealth to decay and authoritarianism, and all it got was a lousy musical.

Huh – a great political entity that got sucked into a vortex of authoritarianism, stagnancy and decay by leftists who just kept winning elections?

Huh. Weird.

Clarity

Since I have the place to myself for the moment, I figured it’d be time to do a little intellectual spring cleaning. Call it “20-odd Theses”, if you want.

I don’t care what you put on your pizza. Pineapple? Shrimip? Kale? Put whatever you want on your pizza. And I’ll do the same. Keep your nose outta my food. I’ll do the same for you.

Same goes for hot dogs.

If you’re not a lawyer, the “Oxford Comma” is an affectation.

I, and to the extent it matters, this blog, stand for a few things I think are worth upsetting the apple cart for, above and beyond the above:

I support free speech. Not just the gauzy, “Question Authority” bumper sticker type that disappeared from every Subaru in Marcy-Holmes when Barack Obama was elected. The real thing – Communists standing on soapboxes, Nazis (pardon the redundancy) marching parades, Klansmen jabbering away freely – and all the good people confronting, refuting, and best of all mocking and taunting them back to the stone age. Because defending speech you agree with wouldn’t need a Constitutional amendment.

Human freedom and dignity, and the inalienable, unabridgable right to defend it.

The whole panoply of small-“l”l liberalsm (aka movement libertarian conservative) thought. You say it’s obsolete? Then so is my Christian faith. I’m not burying either of them for the sake of false polity, much less temporal swings in public mood.

Moral order. All humans are equal before just laws and God alone. Beneath that, it’s all about talent and merit.

The injunction to be kind to “love one another as God loves you” and to be charitable to oen’s fellow human is not a contradiction to the above.

Exploiting and swindling that sense of charity is a moral crime carried out by moral algae.

Christian Humanism, fundamentalist chanting points aside, is not a contradiction. Western civilization sprang from Judeo-Christian Humanism – applying the principles of both faiths to civil society. Not “theocracy” – but a society guided by generally-accepted principles drawn from that faith.

Truth is a virtue. Supporting truth is a calling. Upholding truth over lies is a mandate. Good and evil both exist, and being incisive, critical and honest about the differences is Right and Good vs, Wrong and Evil. Being honest about the differences is a colossal burden and supreme good.

On the subject of good and evil, truth versus lies? It’s a fact:

  • That the Holocaust happened. It wasn’t fictional, it wasn’t exaggerated.
  • That as a result Jews get angsty about talk about systematic extermination. Those who are irate about “demographic replacement” but don’t recognize that Jews have been dealing with it on a kinetic rather than sociological level for centuries – and never moreso than this past 100 years – – are beyond me. Not that I won’t try.
  • That Palestinians may have legitimate grievances with Israel.
  • That their response – along with, and maybe at the behest of, the rest of the Arab world – in 1948, tearing up the original “two state solution” and launching a war of extermination against a people who were a little salty about the whole “exterminating Jews” thing, may have made those claims a lot less sympathetic
  • That litigating these grievances by invading Israel and slaughtering innocent civilians, including children, on top of decades of doing the same, isn’t a legitimate way to resolve grievances, ever
  • That the grievances of the Palestinian people are in fact nothing but a stage prop in this current crisis – the massacre was launched not to affect Israeli-Palestinian policy, but to try to derail the Israeli-Saudi peace negotiations, at the behest of Iran.
  • That every single Palestinian civilian killed is the fault of Hamas – who on the one hand try to pass themselves off as a “military”, and then violate the rules of war by using civilians as human shields, which is an actual war crime.
  • Hamas is in fact the very definition of “fascist” in every meaningful way; an authoritarian statist regime that co-opts society’s institutions toward its end, and

If you don’t believe all the above? I’m not going to say “unfriend me, go away, leave me alone”. I will in fact say “stick around, because I’m going to engage the sh*t out of you”. But it’s gonna be sporty.

Multiculturalism In Action

Scene from a “mostly peaceful demonstration” in Dacca, Bangladesh on Veterans Day:

Nah. It’s New York.

I’ll work 60 hours a week for the Presidential and Congressional candidates who will build a wall, deport any miscreants with anything less than or including a Green Card, and make naturalization 100% contingent on loyalty to American small-l lliberal principles. .

Because ss Bari Weiss points.out, this isn’t just antisemitism:

When a nation built on small-l liberalism turns its back on small-l liberalism – especially that nation’s “elites” – what does that leave the nation?

All Talk

Back when I was working in bars, I was working at this toilet bar in North Saint Paul. It was a boring Friday night in the middle of summer. Once of the bouncers left early, leaving the bar with one bouncer – a big guy with a curly perm that was trying to get into professional wrestling.

The other bouncer apparently went out to the parking lot and hoovered up a line of bad Bolivian Marching Powder, maybe spiked with PCP – because he came back into the bar, started bellowing at the room, and then throwing punches. He smacked the bartender, cutting his lip and knocking out a tooth or two. He also tangled with a couple of customers. throwing tables and chairs and bottles all over the place.

The rampage went on for a while. Five minutes? Ten? I’m not sure.

But the entire time, as the coked up loony was on his rampage, the Wrestler guy bouncer stood and bellowed “You want a piece of me? HEY! Do you want a piece of me?” over and over, like he was filming an interstitial bit for a pro wrestling tournament.

Nothing at all useful, mind you. Just bellowing ” You want a piece of me? Yeah, you! You want a piece of me“, as the guy trashed the bar and a few of its employees and patrons.

I wonder if that wannabe-wrestler isn’t working as a consultant for the GOP these days.

Conservative groups have been very susceptible to the siren song of tough, unyielding talk combined with poo-poohing actually affecting policy. One example particularly near and dear to my heart – “Minnesota Gun Right”, a group that’s not from Minnesota and will never affect gun rights, but does make a lot of tough-talking videos.

Democrats are phenomenally vulnerable nationwide – married to exploding debt, economic stagnation, genocide against Israel and “woke” decay.

And far too much of the GOP, appears to be heading to the election focused not only on talking the talk and ignoring the walk, but saying “the walk” is stuff “Establishment RINOs” do.

Ben Shapiro talked about this in the first couple of segments of his podcast a few days ago:

To much of the GOP, politics is a (picking adjective carefully) vicious cycle:

  • “The swamp” needs to be drained.
  • But the swamp has rigged the system to prevent us from draining it.
  • “The Swamp” is the product of policy – which, like any policy in a democracy, can be changed, provided you win enough elections to push policy in the direction you want.
  • But getting elected to office, and having to do the inevitable horse-trading and make the inevitable compromises that come with actually having to make policy in a divided government makes you “the swamp” (see: Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy). Indeed, talking in terms of “Moving the Needle”, as opposed to “draining the swamp” or otherwise “burning it dall down”, is itself considered being “part of the establishment”.
  • But bellowing against the Swamp feels good (and is good for fundraising). Because…repeat from the top.

Conservatives used to be able to play the long game – indeed, conservatism used to be about society’s long game. The Left sought their immediate gratification.

Maybe it’s the most toxic possible result of the collapse of the societal attention span – “conservatism”, or at least the GOP, has become the party of emotion.

Crush Your Argument, Have A Snack

I give Pierre Poilievre – conservative candidate running against Justin “No Way He’s Castro’s Son” Trudeau” about a thousand style points for this response:

Initially I thought Poilievre was being a little brusque in dealing with a potential voter.

I was informed the person “asking” the “questions” is, however, a journalist – someone who’s supposed to explain things clearly to people, who can’t ask a clear question.

Choose wisely, Canada. It’s never too late.

Well, almost never.

Back Door To Federalism?

Chicagoans demand the government get serious about the borders.

Of Chicago. To keep illegal immigrants out of Chicago:

I’ve said for a while now that the way to save this nation, short of outright secession and breakup, is to re-embrace federalism.

This wasn’t exactly the scenario I had in mind, but maybe it’s a start.

A Thousand Points Of Laser Focus

The DFL did so much damage this past session, it’s hard to track all of it.

Rep. Hudson did a pretty good job of cataloging it – and why it matters (expand the tweet to see it all).

I’ll be talking about this extensively on the show this Saturday.

You’re Being Gaslit

When trying to win a rhetorical or political battle, the idea is when the fact reflect the proposition that you are winning, and that your victory is inevitable. Not only does it show you are on track to win, but it sucks the morale out of your opponents as the contest slogs to its miserable, inevitable end. Sort of like a Timberwolves season.

The next best thing?

To paraphrase the old law school trope: when the facts are against you, argue the ideals. When the ideals are against you, argue the facts. And when the facts are the ideals are against you, convince the enemy that they favor you anyway.

And that’s what Big Left is trying to do; convince Real America that the game is already over.

It’s nothing new – it’s why they parroted twaddle about “the emerging Blue majority” and “Texas will turn blue!” over the past 20 years, as if all political trends are linear.

But there’ve been a few hot ones lately.

“Minnesota Is Irreversibly Blue!”

The DFL outspent the GOP 18:1 in the 2022 elections – and flipped the decisive seat by less than 400 votes.

Fewer than 1,000 votes would have put the House in GOP control.

But for a pretty dismal showing by the Jensen campaign, and the overturning of Roe (which can’t happen again), the Attorney General and State Auditor were on the cusp of winning.

Yes, statewide races are a problem – and I despair of the current MNGOP cracking that code, not that I’m not gonna try to push it.

But saying “Minnesota is pure blue!” is premature.

“Millennials Are Eternally Progressive!”: Maybe not so much anymore.

In the 2020 presidential election, voters who were 18 to 29 in 2008 backed Joe Biden by 55 percent to 43 percent, according to our estimates, a margin roughly half that of Mr. Obama’s 12 years earlier.

The exit polls show it even closer, with Mr. Biden winning by just 51-45 among voters who were 18 to 27 in 2008 (exit polls report results among those 30 to 39, not 30 to 41 — the group that was 18 to 29 in 2008).

And last fall, the young voters of ’08 — by then 32 to 43 — preferred Democratic congressional candidates by just 10 points in Times/Siena polling.

Nobody stays young and stupid forever (DFL communications staff notwithstanding).

“The General Public Is Embracing The Transgender Ideology”: Sincie 2021, the public perception that there are more than two genders has shifted six points.

Away from the transgender narrative.

Sack up, campers. This fight is just beginning.

The Awesome Power Of Logic, Reason And Rhetoric

Is there nothing in the worlds of negotiation, of convincing people to think and do things they aren’t entitled to, with the elegance, the power, the pure majesty of simply capping off one’s argument with a jaunty “full stop”?

If Abraham Lincoln had told Jefferson Davis “abolish slavery and rejoin the union, full stop!” there would’ve been no Civil War.

Had RIchard Nixon said “I am not a crook – full stop“, there’d have been no Watergate, no impeachment, no resignation.

If WInston Churchill had punctuated the Dunkirk speech – “…we shall fight on the beaches and the landing grounds, we shall never surrender, full stop!”, Hitler would have pulled back from France, abdicated, and fled to Mongolia.

Had the Pope responded to Martin Luther with a decisive “Iustificamur ex operibus, plenus finis” (“We are justified by works. Full stop“), there’d have been no Reformation, no 100 years war. \

If the guys in Milli Vanilli had simply said, “We are the real singers! Full stop!”, they would be bigger than Madonna, Elvis, the Beatles, Taylor Swift and Slim Whitman today.

So pity the poor Minnesota GOP. Who can stand in the face of such remorseless logic and deft rhetoric?

For example – I, personally, started out believing that “Rights” are inalienable, non-material things with which one is born, and from which one can not be legitimately separated except by very solemn due process.

But then I read this:

And voila! I’m convinced! A “right” is a bit of material swag bestowed on the deserving by the political process!

Even “Lieutenant” Governor Flanagan, who punctuated one of her (very, very few non-risible) arguments with this…

Is there nothing that phrase can’t do?

A Hell “We” Can Make Happen

I came across this tweet last week.

At first blush, I thought it was parody, and not especially good.

I moved from there to Assumption B – a chuckleheaded sophomore political science major from Austin, or Seattle, or maybe the University of Saint Thomas. It can be hard to tell parody from reality with them, sometimes.

That’s what I thought. Or, let’s be honest, that’s what I hoped. Parody, or young lefty dolt.

But no. Mr. Lee is a California state assemblyman, detailing the world he and most of Big Left hold out as their idea.

No mention of that social credit score you gotta pass to get into your “public bank account”. No mention of who’s going to be teaching at those “awesome public schools” or building, maintaining and operating that “green transit”, or even why either would exist if people get Universal Basic Income. No mention of how in a world without the generation of value and wealth, the “UBI” will pretty much inevitably devolve into ration tickets, to buy…what? Who’s doing the producing, the farming? Robotic cricket mills creating insect paste is about the only logical option.

RIP Paul Johnson

No single book has shaped not just my understanding of modern history, but my own journey from adolescent leftist to conservative more than Modern Times, Paul Johnson’s epic history of the world from 1918 to about 1980 (and, in a revised edition, through the 1990s.

It wouldn’t be a great exaggeration to say that Johnson was the most important modern historian, thinker and writer in my life – not least because he, in starting out on the left before seeing the light and becoming a libertarian-conservative, more or less as I was doing at the time. He went from being an editor at the New Statesman to an adviser to Margaret Thatcher and leading public intellectual of the right, bringing his intellectual and historical gravitas with him.

And few books explain the debt modern society pays to a brief period in history, from 1815 to the mid-1840s, when self-educated men laid the groundwork for most of what makes modern society modern (from the steam engine and electric communication to the popular vote and pants) than Johnson’s Birth of the Modern .

And on, and on. through dozens of books. I still have 40 to go.

Johnson passed away last week at 94.

Modern Times shaped a generation and more of people who had studied history as interpreted by the Left. His explanation of the Great Depression drew greatly on the works of libertarian economists and provided a strong antidote to the conventional wisdom that FDR has saved capitalism from itself…A culture that produced Paul Johnson and others like him explains why British literary writing and journalism, on the whole, is so much better than most of what is produced in America. As Stephen Glover of Britain’s Daily Mail explains: “Even readers who thought they might disagree with him looked forward to his next offering. He never penned a dull sentence or had a dull thought.”

This blog, in its own way, started out as my little way of trying to repay my debt to Johnson .

He’d certainly be canceled with extreme prejudice, were he in his prime today.

NPR’s War On Things That Just Work

I listen – as rarely as I can – to NPR’s “On the Media”. The show is basically an unthinking cheerleader for America’s “elite” media.

And their latest theme is participating in the war on “Nostalgia” – particularly, against the notion of looking to the past for lessons that might help with the present and the future.

The first segment was keynoted by a fellow – some sort of historian – who declaimed in an adenoidal ,mid-Atlantic voice no different than a thousand others on NPR “What does nostalgia for the fifties get you? It gets you dead, sooner! The life expectancy was 66 years! Now it’s 78!”

That’s right – if you think society could gain by returning to some of the social and moral stanards of the past, you also have to roll back science! And bring the Klan back too!

Not really exaggerating that last bit – because nostalgia isn’t just wanting to derive some wisdom from another time. Nosirreebob, it’s bringing Hitler back to life!

You’re not learning from the past. You’re begging to repeat it, all of it, especially the worst of it.

We can not defund NPR fast enough.

The Real Authoritarians Debate, Part 1: Defining The Terms

Last week, this blog received something of a challenge: A debate on “who the fascists actually are in modern American society”. \

But one of the key tenets of a meaningful debate is to make sure you agree on your terms.

What is…

…well, let’s start with the state that each side in American politics accuses one another of – “Fascism”, “Communism”, “Naziism”, “Socialism” – all of which have much in common, all of which are subtly different in some contexts and utterly indistinct in others.

The left’s self-indulgent rhetoric has denuded terms like “Fascist”, “Nazi”, “Racist” and “White Supremacy” of much of their meanings, and usefulness as debate yardsticks. The right did the same with “Socialist” (although the left has played its part in sapping that term of its zing as well).

So I’m going to try to settle on one of two terms to use as yardsticks; “Authoritarian” and “Totalitarian”. They are more pedestrian and academic than the list above – no mortal enemy of our nation has rallied behind either of them, so (let’s be charitable) neither side has seen fit to devalue them yet.

And yet, America – or parts of America – seems to be turning into an authoritarian society.

To wit:

  • Authoritarian: one who seeks to have their government control society
  • Totalitarian: One who seems to have one’s rule become indistinct from society

So – how do we define either of ’em?

John Miltimore has a decent start in this blog post; he defines “totalitarianism” with fourteen criteria. It works as a matter of . I borrow and adapt them below:

Once we have the definitions nailed down, we’ll debate each point. Then, victors, losers and maybe even draws will be declared.

So I started with Miltimore’s list, added and rewrote a few things, and reorganized them:

Co-option of Institutions

Society’s formal institution are convinced to support the goals of the regime, or gotten out of the way, willingly or not.

  • Media is controlled, directly or indirectly, by the state
  • State police (and the laws and processes that guide its actions) protect the regime, not the people
  • Power is concentrated in inner ring of elite institutions and people

Co-option of Society

An authoritarian society co-ops the institutions, not only of government, but of society itself. Government deploys carrots and sticks to create a society that complies – willingly or not. .

  • Dissent is actively demonized (e.g., equated to violence)
  • Mass conformity of beliefs and behaviors is demanded
  • The ruling caste leverages divisions in society to multiply their power

Eroding Rule of Law, Uplifting Rule of Men

Free peoples laws observe a process over a goal. Authoritarians laws have goals – not always stated clearly in the text.

  • The legal system is co-opted by the state
  • State exerts power to quash dissent
  • Rights—financial, legal, and civil—are contingent on compliance

Perverting Society’s Norms

While the institutions squash dissent, the co-option of society gradually makes dissent not only too costly, but unthinkable.

  • Private and public levers of power are used to enforce adherence to state dogmas

Creating Official Boogeymen And Enemies

A state of war hysteria keeps peoples minds from what they’ve lost to the regime – it even makes them happy to sacrifice wealth, freedom and autonomy. Authoritarians need enemies.

  • Entire classes singled out for persecution
  • Harsh legal enforcement against unfavored classes
  • Extra-legal actions are condoned against internal regime opponents
  • Semi-organized violence is permitted (in some cases

So what needs to be added or removed?

Denialists

Berg’s Seventh Law (“When a progressive issues a group defamation or assault on conservatives’ ethics, character, humanity or respect for liberty or the truth, they are at best projecting, and at worst drawing attention away from their own misdeeds“) was written long before I first read Saul Alinski’s “Rules for Radicals”, so I didn’t know that Alinski’s Rule 4, “”Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules”, is more or less the same idea.

The most tiresome, and omnipresent, meme of this election is “a vote for Republicans is a vote against Democracy”, combined with labeling any call for scrutiny of election laws and processes on any level as “election denialism”.

It’s a way of “othering” people – for, in most cases (shaddap about Marjory Taylor Greene – for defending a system of self-government …

…that is under constant attack by the left themselves.

It’s time to start calling out:

  • Electoral College Denialists
  • Minoritarian Senate Denialists
  • Enumerated Powers Denialists
  • Checks and Balances Denialists…

…as the threats to self-government that they actually are.