Why have liberals become so intolerant? They think nothing of denying someone as prominent as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from speaking on a college campus. They embrace activists who shut down speakers. They publicly shame people for the slightest deviation from liberal orthodoxy.
Their mindset is the very definition of closed-mindedness.
For them everything from science to the law is “settled” once they get into power. Progress is a one-way street. Their mindset is the very definition of closed-mindedness.
The easy answer would be “they are all bad people.” But frankly that’s a cop-out. Not all liberals are bad people, any more than all conservatives are angels. No doubt among the fevered minions of liberal activists there are people with, shall we say, psychological issues, but that doesn’t explain why so many otherwise reasonable people are so beholden to liberalism as an ideology.
The short answer is that it pays. A lot of people in and out of government benefit. Liberalism also makes people feel good. Whether you are politician dispensing government benefits or the citizen receiving them, liberalism hides the self-interest and sometimes even greed that motivate people.
But the devolution of liberalism into something now openly illiberal has causes far more complex than these familiar explanations provide.
For one thing, liberalism is no longer mainly about ideas. It is about power—as in who has it and who doesn’t. Believing they already know the answers to all questions, liberals view politics and governing as mopping up operations.
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Academic research is about proving a point rather than discovering the truth. Science is treated as the private preserve of a certain ideology, not to mention a political weapon to justify preferred policy outcomes. Mistaking as they do their ideology for morality, they see no reason to shun the most cynical of political tactics to get their way. For them, the end justifies the means.
Second, liberalism today is not the liberalism of yesteryear. It’s not Franklin Roosevelt’s or John Kennedy’s liberalism. It’s not even the liberalism of Bill Clinton. It has become something much more radical. Bill Clinton talked about the “era of big government” being over.
It’s not Franklin Roosevelt’s or John Kennedy’s liberalism.
Today, there is virtually no government program that liberals won’t embrace. Clinton had his Sister Souljah moment when he repudiated extremism in his party. Today liberals can’t get close enough to the “black lives matter” movement.
Third, liberals have surrendered to (some would say created) the nasty culture of intolerance that infuses our popular culture. To this extent, they are not at all different from some self-proclaimed right-wing people who do the same. But the difference is—or at least is supposed to be—that liberals profess to be the party of the open mind. They have become anything but.
Now that they control so many of our institutions—our universities, high-tech corporate board rooms, the entertainment industry, and increasingly even mainstream churches—they are closing the door behind them, making sure that no one, especially conservatives, will sneak in the back door.
Finally, liberalism has become hostile to open inquiry. Liberal intellectuals used to love open-ended debates because they thought they could win people over with their intelligence and wit. No more. Today’s liberal intellectuals are much more interested in stifling debates than having them. After all, who needs debates when all the big questions have been answered by their ideology? Liberals are no longer the scruffy radicals of Washington Square, but a tenured Mandarin class hotly competing for government research grants.
As I argue in my forthcoming book, “The Closing of the Liberal Mind,” to this Mandarin class:
Knowledge, like human progress, must be created and managed by state policy, bureaucratized and forced on all people equally despite the infinite differences that exist between individual human beings. It is a sad state of affairs, especially for intellectuals who are expected to know better.
There’s an old saying, he who controls knowledge controls power. Liberals get this adage instinctively. They treat truth not as wisdom—as something to be discovered—but as a will to power to be imposed by law and governmental fiat.
In this quest for power, they have become masters at controlling not only knowledge, but popular culture. For example, when Americans watch entertainers like Jon Stewart, they don’t see an ideologue channeling liberal clichés. They see just a really funny guy. The ideology is completely buried. Young people respond in lockstep not because they were indoctrinated by some boring Maoist, but because they think the whole thing is great fun.
What we have here is nothing less than a new and highly attractive form of illiberalism—an illiberal liberalism, if you will. Intolerance is championed in the name of tolerance, closed-mindedness in the name of open-mindedness, and hatred in the name of compassion. It’s classic double-think, and the deception is precisely the danger. Americans don’t expect liberals to be authoritarian wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are not prepared to be on guard all the time because liberals are supposed to be the good guys—the guardians of freedom of speech and the like.
Alas, they are not. Just ask Condi Rice or anyone else who has been denied the opportunity to speak on an American campus.
January 26, 2016 by Dan Mitchell
The Congressional Budget Office has just released its new 10-year fiscal forecast and the numbers are getting worse.
Most people are focusing on the fact that the deficit is rising rather than falling and that annual government borrowing will again climb above $1 trillion by 2022.
This isn’t good news, of course, but it’s a mistake to focus on the symptom of red ink rather than the underlying disease of excessive spending.
So here’s the really bad news in the report.
- The burden of government spending has jumped from 20.3 percent of GDP in 2014 to 21.2 percent this year.
- By the end of the 10-year forecast, the federal government will consume 23.1 percent of the economy’s output.
There are two obvious reasons for this dismal trend.
- Notwithstanding laughable claims from the White House, Obamacare is contributing to rising spending on healthcare entitlements.
- Republicans keep capitulating on the BCA spending caps, enabling more wasteful outlays for so-called discretionary programs.
Here’s a chart that shows what’s been happening. It shows the rolling average of annual changes in revenue and spending. With responsible fiscal policy, the red line (spending) will be close to 0% and have no upward trend.
Unfortunately, federal outlays have been moving in the wrong direction since 2014 and government spending is now growing twice as fast as inflation.
By the way, don’t forget that we’re at the very start of the looming tsunami of retiring baby boomers, so this should be the time when spending restraint is relatively easy.
Yet if you’ll allow me to mix metaphors, bipartisan profligacy is digging a deeper hole as we get closer to an entitlement cliff.
Now let’s shift to the good news. It’s actually relatively simple to solve the problem.
Here’s a chart that shows projected revenues (blue line) and various measures of how quickly the budget can be balanced with a modest bit of spending restraint.
Regular readers know I don’t fixate on fiscal balance. I’m far more concerned with reducing the burden of government spending relative to the private sector.
That being said, when you impose some restraint on the spending side of the fiscal ledger, you automatically solve the symptom of deficits.
With a spending freeze, the budget is balanced in 2020. If spending is allowed to climb 1 percent annually, the deficit disappears in 2022. And if outlays climb 2 percent annually (about the rate of inflation), the budget is balanced in 2024. And if you want to give the politicians a 10-year window, you get to balance by 2026 if spending is “only” allowed to grow 2.5 percent per year.
In other words, the solution is a spending cap.
Here’s my video on spending restraint and fiscal balance from 2010. The numbers obviously have changed, but the message is still the same because good policy never goes out of style.
Needless to say, a simple solution isn’t the same as an easy solution. The various interest groups in Washington will team up with bureaucrats, politicians, and lobbyists to resist spending restraint.
P.S. A final snow update. Since my neighbors were kind enough to help me finish my driveway yesterday, I was inspired to “pay it forward” by helping to clear an older couple’s driveway this morning (not that I was much help since another neighbor brought a tractor with a plow).
It’s amazing that these good things happen without some government authority directing things!
Do you know what socialism is? Hillary Clinton struggled to find an answer when recently asked. Socialism is a system in which the government owns or controls the means of production, and allocates re
“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” – Winston Churchill quotes
January 25, 2016 by Dan Mitchell
Well, it’s becoming an issue in the 2016 presidential race, with some folks criticizing Donald Trump for siding with Bush and Obama on the issue. I suppose I could make a snide observation about the absurdity of Trump being perceived as an anti-establishment candidate when he supported a policy that had unanimous support from political insiders.
But I would much rather focus on the policy implications. So when Neil Cavuto asked me to comment on Chris Christie’s rejection of bailouts, I took the opportunity to stress (once again) that it wasn’t a TARP-or-nothing choice and that there was a sensible, non-corrupt, way of dealing with failing financial firms. Simply stated, only bail out depositors and let bondholders and shareholders take the hit.
For the geeks who are reading this, you’ll recognize that the policy I’m advocating is often called the FDIC-resolution approach.
And it’s worth noting that this was used at the beginning of the financial crisis. As I pointed out in the discussion, two of the big financial institution that first got in trouble – WAMU and IndyMac – were liquidated.
But once Bush’s execrable Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, took control of the process, decisions were made to rescue the fat cats as well as the depositors.
Yet that’s also what happens with the FDIC-resolution approach. The only real difference is whether financial institutions should be rescued along with depositors.
Well, my view is that capitalism without bankruptcy is like religion without hell.
P.S. The other guest in the interview made a very good point about America becoming “bailout nation.” I fully agree. To the extent that we have private profits and socialized losses, we’ll have bigger and bigger problems with moral hazard. After all, if you’re in Las Vegas and someone else is covering your losses, why not make high-risk/high-reward bets.
P.P.S. If anyone cares, my driveway is finally clear. A special thanks to the family next door. Not only were they smarter than me (as I wrote yesterday, they parked their cars near the end of their driveway), they’re also nicer than me. They came over and helped me finish when they were done!
Actually, I like to think I’d be equally thoughtful. I’ll have to look for a chance to repay their good deed.
By the way, I should add that the father next door works for a social conservative organization, which is one more piece of evidence for my view that so-cons and libertarians should be allies.
Tim Carney explains that natural alliance much better.
When government gets to pick winners and losers, it’s highly probable that those who get the handouts, bailouts, and subsidies will be rich, powerful, and politically connected. Heck, just think of the Ex-Im Bank.
As noted by my former colleague, Will Wilkinson, “…the more power the government has to pick winners and losers, the more power rich people will have relative to poor people.”
I realize that statists won’t agree with me that it’s wrong for the federal government to redistribute from rich to poor. But I hope they’ll be on my side in fighting against redistribution from poor to rich!
January 21, 2016 by Dan Mitchell
Remember the cluster-you-know-what in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina? Corrupt and incompetent politicians in both the city and at the state level acted passively, assuming that Uncle Sam somehow should be responsible for dealing with the storm.
And we’ve seen similar behavior from other state and local politicians before, during, and after other natural disasters.
The obvious lesson to be learned is that the federal government shouldn’t have any responsibility for dealing with natural disasters. All that does it create a wasteful layer of bureaucracy, while also inculcating a sense of learned helplessness on the part of state and local officials who should be responsible for dealing with storms and other local crises.
In other words, the answer is federalism. State and local governments should be solely responsible for state and local issues.
But not just because of some abstract principle. There’s a very strong practical argument that you get more sensible decisions when the public sector is limited (as Mark Steyn humorously explained) and there is clear responsibility and accountability at various levels of government.
And this is why the biggest lesson from the scandal of tainted water in Flint, Michigan, is that local politicians and bureaucrats should not be able to shift the blame either to the state or federal government. Which was my main point in this interview.
To be sure, it is outrageous that state and federal bureaucrats knew about the problem and didn’t make it public, so I surely don’t object to officials in Lansing and Washington getting fired.
But I do object to the political finger pointing, with Democrats trying to blame the Republican Governor and Republicans trying to blame the Democratic President.
Nope, the problem is an incompetent local government that failed to fulfill a core responsibility.
The Wall Street Journal has the same perspective, opining that the mess in Flint is a failure of government.
…the real Flint story is a cascade of government failure, including the Environmental Protection Agency.
More specifically (and as I noted in the interview), we have a local government that became a fiefdom for a self-serving bureaucracy that was more concerned with its privileged status than in providing core government services.
…after decades of misrule: More than 40% of residents live in poverty; the population has fallen by half since the 1960s to about 100,000. Bloated pensions and retiree health care gobble up about 33 cents of every dollar in the general fund.
And the WSJ editorial also castigated the state and federal bureaucrats that wrote memos rather than warning citizens.
MDEQ and the EPA were chatting about Flint’s system as early as February. MDEQ said it wanted to test the water more before deciding on corrosion controls, though it isn’t clear that federal law allows this. …the region’s top EPA official, political appointee Susan Hedman, responded… “When the report has been revised and fully vetted by EPA management, the findings and recommendations will be shared with the City and MDEQ and MDEQ will be responsible for following up with the City.” She also noted over email that it’s “a preliminary draft” and it’d be “premature to draw any conclusions.” The EPA did not notify the public.
The lesson is that adding state and federal bureaucracy impedes effective and competent local government.
The broader lesson is that ladling on layers of bureaucracy doesn’t result in better oversight and safety. It sometimes lets agencies shirk responsibility for the basic public services like clean water that government is responsible for providing.
Here’s the bottom line.
Federalism is about getting better government by creating clear lines of responsibility and accountability in an environment that allows state and local governments to learn from each other on best practices.
The current system blurs responsibility and accountability, by contrast, while also imposing needless expense and bureaucracy. And we get Katrina and Flint with this dysfunctional approach.
January 12, 2016 by Dan Mitchell
Even before it was enacted, it was obvious that Obamacare was going to have a negative economic impact.
From a fiscal policy perspective, the law was bad news because all the new spending and higher taxes increased the fiscal burden of government.
From a regulatory intervention perspective, the law was bad news because it exacerbated the third-party payer problem.
Form a jobs perspective, the law was bad news because it increased the attractiveness of government dependency compared to employment.
But those were just the slap-you-in-the-face impossible-to-overlook problems.
And the more we learn about the contents, the more evidence we find that (as shown in this poster) that more government is never the answer.
A new empirical study by scholars at Harvard and Stanford finds that “free” goodies from the government actually have a hefty price tag.
The dependent care mandate…one of the most popular provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act…requires that employer-based insurance plans cover health care expenditures for workers with children 26 years old or younger. …there has been little scholarly work measuring the costs and incidence of this mandate and who pays the costs of it. In our empirical work, ….we find that workers at firms with employer-based coverage – whether or not they have dependent children – experience an annual reduction in wages of approximately $1,200. Our results imply that the marginal costs of mandated employer-based coverage expansions are not entirely borne only by the people whose coverage is expanded by the mandate.
Wow, this is worse than I thought. I assumed the pejoratively nicknamed “slacker mandate” wasn’t a big issue because the types of kids getting coverage (ages 19-26) presumably had very low health expenses.
But if average wages at affected firms are $1200 lower than they otherwise would be, that’s a big hit. Maybe Pajama Boys have physical health problems in addition to their mental health problems.
Now let’s look at another higher-than-expected cost, except this time the victims are taxpayers and other health care consumers rather than workers.
Politico has a depressing story of how people have figured out how to game the system
Obamacare customers are gaming the system, buying coverage only after they find out they’re ill and need expensive care… No one knows precisely how many might be manipulating the system, but the plans say they run up much higher medical bills and then jump ship, contributing to double-digit rate increases and financial losses. Health plans also complain some customers are exploiting a three-month “grace period” — when they can keep getting subsidized coverage even if they’ve stopped paying their share of premiums.
In other words, Obamacare is so poorly designed – thanks to subsidies, mandates, and other forms of intervention – that many people can basically wait until they’re sick before signing up.
Then they incur expenses that are covered by taxpayers and/or passed on to other healthcare consumers.
…those trends make the risk pools skew toward sicker, costlier customers — and under Obamacare, plans can no longer deny coverage to those with expensive medical conditions. That problem has been exacerbated by the large numbers of healthier people who are choosing to stay uninsured rather than shell out money for coverage.
Yup, I experience a warm glow of schadenfreude after reading that passage. But I also know that it won’t be good for the American economy and the American people if the market for private health insurance entered an Obamacare-driven death spiral.
That being said, I also don’t want them to get any bailout cash.
In any event, if the health insurance companies have a meltdown, you could bet your last dollar that the crowd in Washington somehow will blame capitalism and say that the solution is single-payer health care (even though that system is so dysfunctional it was repealed by Bernie Sanders’ Vermont and even though that system leads to endless horrors in the United Kingdom).
P.S. In the interest of fairness, I will admit that there is a group that has benefited from Obamacare.
P.P.S. Actually, there’s another group, so we can say there are two winners from government-run healthcare.
January 10, 2016 by Dan Mitchell
I’ve written about how statist policies help the rich and hurt the poor.
Now let’s mix those two issues (though I hasten to add that this isn’t like math…two negatives don’t make a positive.
Here’s an infographic from the American Enterprise Institute showing how farm programs are a (yet another) perverse example of poor-to-rich redistribution.
I particularly like the part about 42 cents of administrative cost to give away 90 cents of other people’s money.
Actually, let me rephrase. I’m horrified and upset that we have this horrible system, so I only “like” that part of the infographic in the sense that it’s an effective way of showing the inefficiency, venality, and stupidity of government redistribution programs.
And don’t forget that if it’s bad to redistribute from rich to poor, it’s downright evil and despicable to redistribute from poor to rich.
P.S. On a different topic, I can’t resist sharing a few excerpts from a story out of Missouri.
Lobbyists who have sex with a Missouri lawmaker or a member of a lawmaker’s staff would have to disclose it to the Missouri Ethics Commission under a bill introduced Wednesday in the Missouri House. …sexual relations would have to be included on monthly lobbyist gift disclosure forms.
And you thought this cartoon was merely satirical.
January 8, 2016 by Dan Mitchell
Okay, the title for today’s column is a bit grandiose. It implies weighty and ponderous analysis of America’s ever-growing entitlement state and potentially dour predictions about when we reach a tipping point of too much dependency.
But let’s focus on the short run, which isn’t quite so depressing. I was one of John Stossel’s guests as we looked at what happened in 2015 and gave a sober assessment of whether the United States is moving in the right direction or wrong direction.
If you don’t want to watch 30-plus minutes, here are the highlights.
I’ll start with what has me worried and/or glum.
According to the political betting markets (which I feel are more accurate than polls), Donald Trump’s chances keep increasing. I don’t feel confident, however, that he would shrink the size and scope of government if he made it to the White House. And he’s using up the oxygen of candidates who (while imperfect) seem more sincerely interested in advancing economic liberty.
Speaking of which, as government gets bigger and bigger, it becomes even less competent about fulfilling legitimate responsibilities such as thwarting people who want to kill us.
Here’s what I’m happy and/or optimistic about.
People are displeased about what’s happening in Washington, and it’s healthy for there to be hostility and distrust toward government.
There’s a real opportunity for genuine entitlement reform in 2017.
American society is becoming more tolerant. As I argued on the program, I don’t care whether people approve of gays or pot smoking, but I do want to be part of a society that (unlike Iran!) doesn’t persecute or harass people for behaviors or beliefs that don’t harm others.
So some good things are happening.
Though I reserve the right to be really depressed later this year.
Governor Greg Abbott today delivered the keynote address at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Annual Policy Orientation where he unveiled his Texas Plan to restore the Rule of Law and return the Constitution to its intended purpose. In his plan, Governor Abbott offers nine constitutional amendments to rein in the federal government and restore the balance of power between the States and the United States. The Governor proposes achieving the constitutional amendments through a Convention Of States.
“The increasingly frequent departures from Constitutional principles are destroying the Rule of Law foundation on which this country was built,” said Governor Abbott. “We are succumbing to the caprice of man that our Founders fought to escape. The cure to these problems will not come from Washington D.C. Instead, the states must lead the way. To do that I am adding another item to the agenda next session. I want legislation authorizing Texas to join other states in calling for a Convention of States to fix the cracks in our Constitution.”
Governor Abbott went on to explain that dysfunction in Washington, D.C. stems largely from the federal government’s refusal to follow the Constitution. Congress routinely violates its enumerated powers, while taxing and spending its way from one financial crisis to another. The President exceeds his executive powers to impose heavy-handed regulations. And the Supreme Court imposes its policy views under the guise of judicial interpretation. Governor Abbott urged action by Texas – and other states – to restore the Rule of Law in America.
Governor Abbott offered the following constitutional amendments:
- Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.
- Require Congress to balance its budget.
- Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.
- Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
- Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.
- Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.
- Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
- Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.
To view Governor Abbott’s full plan, click here.