Sons of Liberty vs. National Front

Sons of Liberty

Sons of Liberty

[First published on Sarah Hoyt’s blog 3-7-2016, with excellent comments]

I’ve tried to concentrate on the next book, but events conspire to suck me into the current mess re Trump. Like a lot of observers, so long as he was a sideshow I could see his almost-daily newsmaking as colorful and perhaps useful in allowing others to speak more freely some of the things that needed to be spoken. By doing so he was expanding the Overton Window and giving a voice to sentiments held by large segments of the population that had been suppressed by the MSM, like nativism and the desire to see immigration laws enforced.

But he’s primarily a demagogue who tells the formerly voiceless what they want to hear and promises to defend them against the dangers the privileged “respectable” politicians want to cover up while they continue business as usual — managing the decline of the over-regulated economy and spending the tax money of citizens to bring in new dependent populations who will presumably vote to keep them in place. Having mined this vein of formerly-voiceless anger at the sale of their country to outsiders, Trump has used it to gain the lead in the Republican race despite having no apparent grasp of most policy issues and some frighteningly authoritarian instincts. He has been called a Jacksonian man on a horse, which has some resonance with Osama bin Laden’s remark: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” Trump’s rise has opportunistic pols and job-seekers endorsing him as a strong horse who can take charge.

The US was founded by several different groups from diverse parts of Britain, and greatly expanded by immigration from Europe. There was no control over immigration — everyone was welcome to pay their own way here, try to survive and fit in, succeed or fail as their abilities and luck allowed. Many returned to their native lands, but most worked hard and helped to settle the land, build the railroads, and grow the cities. In the mid-1800s, just before the Civil War, large numbers of Catholic immigrants from Ireland and Italy flooded Eastern cities and were seen as a threat. The Know-Nothing Party gained power in some Northern cities on a platform of controlling immigration of Catholics, who were thought to be culturally unsuited to freedom and likely to take commands from their corrupt and foreign Pope. Riots between Catholics and Know-Nothings erupted; 22 died in a riot in Louisville, Kentucky before a contested election.

Lincoln needed the support of the remaining Know-Nothings in the election of 1856, when Republicans began to pick up Know Nothing support to oppose the Democrats who supported slavery. But in a private letter, he said:

I am not a Know-Nothing — that is certain. How could I be? How can any one who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.’ When it comes to that I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.

These nativist movements were defused by the tensions over slavery and the approaching Civil War, and the Know-Nothing Party faded after 1856. Irish took over the police forces of most Northern cities, and Democratic political machines used the Irish and Italian immigrants as a base to take over most big city governments. Over generations, these supposedly bloc-voting groups splintered, and the rough and ready disciplines of capitalist employment encouraged integration.

Immigration began to be restricted after a flood of Chinese workers to the West. Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 which targeted a single ethnic group by specifically limiting further Chinese immigration. In 1907, a “Gentleman’s Agreement” with the Japanese government limited visas for immigration from Japan. Restrictions on the number of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were imposed in 1924, and in 1932-33 immigration was nearly shut off. Local and state authorities, assisted by Hoover’s and then FDR’s Labor Department, coerced repatriation and deportation of between 500,000 and 2 million Mexican Americans, mostly citizens, in the Mexican Repatriation.

In 1965 the immigration law was rewritten, with tight quotas for Eastern and Western hemispheres. Separately, “family class” immigrants were favored outside of the quota system, so one immigrant could settle then sponsor others, who sponsored others, and so forth, allowing entire culturally foreign communities to immigrate over time to create enclaves — which slowed integration into American culture. While intended to be humane, family class preferences did not choose the immigrants that would be most likely to be valuable additions to the country and its economy.

In recent years, immigration has become a political third rail. One side views the US as “social worker to the world” — just as they see it as the duty of government to supply housing, food, and healthcare for poor people in the US, they see a moral duty to accept poor people from around the world, especially refugees from war-torn countries. The other side is partly motivated by the remaining nativist impulse — keep the special privileges of being a citizen for current citizens and deny outsiders work and social welfare spending to preserve these benefits for natives.

As a part-time economist, I support free trade generally, and would like to see a reformed immigration policy that takes advantage of the attractiveness of the US to recruit the best of the immigrant candidates. The current system blocks the immigrants most ready to contribute and tolerates illegals from Mexico and points south. The US loses many highly-beneficial immigrants to Canada and Australia and other countries that are less difficult about legal immigration for the high-skilled, and allows in large numbers who are unskilled and likely to be dependent on social welfare services for at least two generations. The H-1B visas enable employers to take advantage of highly skilled immigrants and use their low salaries to keep down the salaries of US citizen engineers and scientists. The system is rotten from top to bottom and badly needs a thorough reform.

It’s also important that those new immigrants accept the guiding principles of the Constitution and quickly integrate into the polity of free individuals and voluntary associations that allows the US to contain multiple religions and cultures to the benefit of all. There is nothing wrong with screening immigrant candidates for beliefs inconsistent with the principles of Americanism — specifically that no government will enact into law specific religious precepts. Thus devout Muslims who are Islamists (believe government must be Islamic and implement Sharia law) should be barred. It is not a violation of any citizen’s rights to ask all candidates for citizenship to pledge to uphold the Constitution and refrain from working to impose their beliefs on others. This point of view would have been seen as mainstream as little as one generation ago, but now is considered politically incorrect by our coastal ruling class.

Donald Trump’s rise is due to the backlash from the bipartisan failure to do anything about the failure of immigration policy. His promise to build a wall and deport the millions of Mexican illegals is viewed as outrageous by the same Democrats who idolize FDR — that heroic New Deal president who started Euro-style social insurance schemes, continued deportation of as many as 2 million Mexicans (some of them legal citizens), refused most Jewish refugees, and interned over 110,000 Japanese-origin US citizens during World War II. Trump’s suggested immigration and trade policies closely resemble FDR’s!

We the People - by Sarah Hoyt

We the People – by Sarah Hoyt

Trump has opened up discussion and encouraged speech from reasonable nativists, but also from formerly muzzled white supremacists and bigots of all kinds. His appeal is similar to the National Front in France: he has attracted nativists and middle and lower class people who have felt shut out by “respectable” social democratic parties. To analyze the commenters of a blog which shall go unlinked, responding to Sarah Hoyt:

[Sarah Hoyt] “Whether we were born elsewhere or here, Americans — those of us who are proud of the name — are rebels, revolutionaries, something new under the sun: a people who believe people should be equal in their right to life, the right to liberty, the right to pursue their happiness undisturbed by either inimical neighbors or oppressive “betters.””

Equality and Egalite are French Enlightenment abstractions designed to finish off the last of the Church, and to rationalize the totalitarian impulses and actions of The Mob . . . people like Sarah Hoyt.

Equality is a satanic concept and provides, in practice, the exact opposite of equity and fairness. Without ‘equality’ people like Sarah Hoyt don’t become successful, much less famous. They become instead what they merit, which isn’t much. They damn well know it, too, which is why they’re so full of vitriol — afraid of losing their vast, unearned privileges. Which they are going to lose, anyway.

Equality, like Women’s ‘liberation’, permits Sarah and her fellow traitors to crush their betters — yes, they DO have betters, and boy do they HATE HATE that — and take over nations under cover of helping the downtrodden and oppressed’. That’d Themselves and their friends, in case you’ve been asleep the past half-century.

Think you have Equality? Sistahood Sarah threatens to punch a mere male, and will not be punished if she does. Try punching Little Miss Virtue Signal and see what happens.

Liars and cowards selling their popular, self-serving lies, while patting themselves on the back for being Brave Rebels who are standing up to The Evil (non-existent) Patriarchy.

This is an interesting mix of “truthiness” and bigotry. Sarah is American by belief and choice, accused of being a “traitor” by people who think their ancestry and presence on the landmass of the US since birth make them guardians of the US nation-state. Aside from the incoherence (how can she be a traitor if she is not a member of the tribe?), the commenter attempts to other her by lumping her in with the virtue-signalling SJWs.

This commenter is sadly unAmerican in his resort to racist and sexist issue framing, completely misapplied to Sarah Hoyt. It’s unfortunate that the loud outpourings of these people, few in number but egging each other on in the fever swamps of sites like this blog-which-shall-go-unlinked, can so easily be used by progressive scribblers elsewhere to tar all dissenters from the Progressive program of thought control as racists, misogynists, and neo-Nazis (or worse!)

Which brings up a valid point these people have made: if Americanism is a bundle of individualist beliefs and attitudes, what about those with deep roots in the US, born and raised for generations there, who don’t accept those beliefs? If tolerance of difference is a watchword, then should those who don’t tolerate differences be suppressed or removed?

Our answer starts with looking at how we got to this point, where government has expanded and encroached on the private sphere of business and social organizations to the point where private action is viewed with suspicion, and a significant percentage of the population believes democracy means subjecting every action of business to the political process and regulation.

Americans were formerly known for their commitment to private charity and self-help organizations; the America of Alexis de Tocqueville in 1835 teemed with churches and private social organizations and lacked the inherited privilege and concentrations of unearned wealth and power seen in Europe. But he worried that “… a despotism under a democracy could see ‘a multitude of men’, uniformly alike, equal, ‘constantly circling for petty pleasures’, unaware of fellow citizens, and subject to the will of a powerful state which exerted an ‘immense protective power’. Tocqueville compared a potentially despotic democratic government to a protective parent who wants to keep its citizens as ‘perpetual children’, and which doesn’t break men’s wills but rather guides [them], and presides over people in the same way as a shepherd looking after a ‘flock of timid animals’. He also wrote that ‘The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.'”

He was prescient. We have arrived at that state. Half the US population believes they are victims of the “malefactors of great wealth” demonized by FDR; FDR’s experiment in Democratic Socialism was derailed by his own nominally Democratic-controlled Congress by 1938, but enough remained of his expanded regulation of business and greatly-increased size of the Federal government to send the US down the road to permanent bureaucracy and a Deep State that constantly seeks to expand its power and resources. Eisenhower warned of the “Military-Industrial Complex,” but it’s no longer just defense contractors in league with Congress to pork-barrel spend, it’s a much larger group of special interests influencing legislation and regulation to give themselves protection from competition as well as direct access to public money. As governments have increased their control of all sectors of the economy, growth has slowed, prices have risen, and young people have found themselves in debt to an education complex which graduates them with few useful skills, then forced to buy health insurance at higher-than-market prices to subsidize wealthier old people.

Americans are largely still believers in the principles of Americanism — live and let live, equality under the law, free enterprise, and a civil society that ideally doesn’t discriminate by color or sex. But several generations of public schools, originally introduced on a Prussian model and intended to mold a population to more uniformly accept direction as cogs in a military-industrial machine, have weakened their resistance to collectivist thought. The Wikipedia entry on the Prussian education system says:

Early 19th-century American educators were also fascinated by German educational trends. In 1818, John Griscom gave a favorable report of Prussian education. English translations were made of French philosopher Victor Cousin’s work, Report on the State of Public Education in Prussia. Calvin E. Stowe, Henry Barnard, Horace Mann, George Bancroft and Joseph Cogswell all had a vigorous interest in German education. The Prussian approach was used for example in the Michigan Constitution of 1835, which fully embraced the Prussian system by introducing a range of primary schools, secondary schools, and the University of Michigan itself, all administered by the state and supported with tax-based funding. However, e.g. the concepts in the Prussian reforms of primordial education, Bildung and its close interaction of education, society and nation-building are in conflict with some aspects of American state-sceptical libertarian thinking.

In 1843, Horace Mann traveled to Germany to investigate how the educational process worked. Upon his return to the United States, he lobbied heavily to have the “Prussian model” adopted. In 1852, Mann was instrumental in the decision to adopt the Prussian education system in Massachusetts. Governor Edward Everett of Massachusetts instituted a mandatory education policy based on the system.[33] Mann persuaded his fellow modernizers, especially those in the Whig Party, to legislate tax-supported elementary public education in their states. New York state soon set up the same method in 12 different schools on a trial basis. Most northern states adopted one version or another of the system he established in Massachusetts, especially the program for “normal schools” to train professional teachers.

Americans were especially impressed with the Prussian system when they set up normal schools to train teachers, because they admired the German emphasis on social cohesion. By the 20th century, however, the progressive education movement emphasized individuality and creativity more and opted for a less European-inspired curriculum and lower social cohesion and uniformity. The Progressives faced a major setback with the Sputnik crisis, which led again to more focus on quality education and selectiveness of the school system. The derogatory use of the term may contrast 19th-century pedagogy (see the poisonous pedagogy debate in Germany) with the introduction of new technology into classrooms during the Information Age. While Joel Rose appreciates Horace Mann’s commitment to a public education but is aiming at renewing how to deliver it, authors like Conservative Party of New York State activist John Taylor Gatto and further home-schooling activist Sheldon Richman claim that illiteracy rates in the USA were lower before compulsory schooling was introduced.

Those “normal schools” to train educators are a primary source of the substandard teachers of today, taken from the bottom third of college applicants and trained to promote “correct” social thinking. Big city schools, especially, are run for the benefit of union teachers and not the students. Parents get little or no choice in their children’s education, children get limited instruction, and disciplinary problems detract from study.

But even in the better districts, a uniform Progressive ideology has gradually been impressed on the students. The elementary teaching generation after World War II was still fairly high-quality, and many bright young women went into it as a caring career which would allow children and family interruptions. The advent of both expanded professional opportunities for women and social pressure to go after higher-paid professional careers removed many of the most-competent people from elementary school teaching, and the newer generations of teachers have been trained to promote social ideals over knowledge, with less time for Western classics, civics and history, science, and economics, and more time for environmentalism and “corrective” diversity training. As a result, graduating students, while more sophisticated in some areas, lack the basic knowledge of government and history needed for American citizenship. They have been trained in Progressive ideals, including the notion that passing a new law can address every social problem.

Another import from Bismarck’s Germany: State Socialism. Bismarck set up the basic social welfare state as we know it, with state health insurance, pension, and disability programs, in the 1880s. Social Security was FDR’s similar effort to defuse the tide of full socialism in the Depression; by borrowing from the future, it could provide state support for the elderly at seemingly little current cost in payroll taxes.

These efforts to protect and provide for citizens via state programs have enfeebled private efforts to save and enter mutual support agreements. Half the population now believes they are owed a good job and a living through government action. Politicians speak about “creating jobs” as if that is their proper role, interest groups unashamedly lobby for more subsidies for their particular interest from the money tree of tax receipts and government borrowing, and the common political response to high-priced and low-quality housing in the coastal cities is public housing subsidies, rent controls, and “inclusionary zoning” (the requirement to build “affordable” housing as part of every market-rate project.) All of which drive down supply and increase costs further.

Many people see what’s happened and have tried to sound the alarm. But dissent from the program has been suppressed for decades. And now we have Trump and others feeding off the anger of those who have suffered under a system which rewards the connected and wealthy at the expense of the hard-working, blue-collar citizens not enjoying privileged coastal lifestyles. Our politics has suffered from the sound of silence — the supposed racist and sexist origins of all anti-Progressive efforts, the Conventional Wisdom of the mass media which filters out anything nonmainstream, the gradual corruption of the academy by government funding and directives.

The antidote to this encroaching tribal collectivism is electing representatives willing to return focus to the core function of government — defense, justice, and enforcement of contracts. Returning power to decisionmakers closer to the decision — state and local governments and private citizens — reduces the rewards of corruption and empowers the people to take responsibility for their own and their children’s welfare. Education should be funded by parents and local associations, not mega-school districts and Federal bureaucrats. Parental desires for their children’s upbringing should be respected.

What should not be respected are the non-American “isms” — belief systems incompatible with the Constitutionally limited government that made the US the desirable place to live for productive people. Racism, sexism, classism, Communism, Socialism, etc., should never be tolerated in the action of law. Dividing up citizens by skin color and tribe and doling out affirmative action rewards to the favored may have been justified for one generation, but now create more division than they alleviate. Islamists and other religionists who believe that government should enforce their religious laws even without the consensus of other citizens should never gain a foothold in our politics.

There will always be people living in America who disagree with one or more aspects of Americanism. If they follow our laws and support themselves, the US can accommodate some number of them short of a majority. But we should seek to screen them out when they apply for immigration, and refuse to support them with welfare payments and subsidies. If they find it more comfortable to live in a country that supports their beliefs, they should move there. And we are under no obligation to associate with them, employ them, or be kind to them.

As Sam Adams said on August 1st, 1776: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


Men of Honor vs Victim Culture

Calvin on Victimhood

Calvin on Victimhood

The widely-noticed blog post by Jonathan Haidt, “Where microaggressions really come from: A sociological account,” starts out this way:

I just read the most extraordinary paper by two sociologists — Bradley Campbell andJason Manning — explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years. In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim. This is why we have seen the recent explosion of concerns about microaggressions, combined with demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, that Greg Lukianoff and I wrote about in The Coddling of the American Mind…. The key idea is that the new moral culture of victimhood fosters “moral dependence” and an atrophying of the ability to handle small interpersonal matters on one’s own. At the same time that it weakens individuals, it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.

This is very obvious to anyone paying attention to college campuses these days. And as he and the authors of the paper he discusses point out, this new culture of victimhood thrives only where there is very little actual victimization or inequality — under the umbrella of a micromanaging government or university administration who can be called on to recognize your victim status.

As we dissect this phenomenon, then, we first address how it fits into a larger class of conflict tactics in which the aggrieved seek to attract and mobilize the support of third parties. We note that these tactics sometimes involve building a case for action by documenting, exaggerating, or even falsifying offenses.

And an epidemic of falsification has occurred, with many of the most publicized cases of rape or hate crimes on campus having been revealed to be hoaxes or fabrications. In a world where young people are encouraged to think of themselves as members of oppressed minorities, some of the most privileged — affluent students on university campuses — demand more subsidies and more recognition for their special snowflake natures, and agitate for more grants and more programs to allow them to avoid repaying student loans and to work after they graduate at activist nonprofits.

In the settings such as those that generate microaggression catalogs [ed. note: I call these settings grievance bubbles in my writings], though, where offenders are oppressors and victims are the oppressed, it also raises the moral status of the victims. This only increases the incentive to publicize grievances, and it means aggrieved parties are especially likely to highlight their identity as victims, emphasizing their own suffering and innocence. Their adversaries are privileged and blameworthy, but they themselves are pitiable and blameless. [p.707-708] [This is the great tragedy: the culture of victimization rewards people for taking on a personal identity as one who is damaged, weak, and aggrieved. This is a recipe for failure — and constant litigation — after students graduate from college and attempt to enter the workforce]

One issue which is going to be more and more obvious with time: these students are leaving permanent records of their entitled and litigious attitudes in social media and online; I would not blame employers for looking these up and not employing those who have lied or exaggerated their grievances to demand special action.

But let’s return to the cultures of individual morality identified in the paper. Honor culture makes every person responsible for maintaining their boundaries with others and acting as necessary to punish aggression against them or their reputation; it is the prevailing system when interpersonal aggression is the dominant form of social control. In societies with hierarchical organizations as in feudal Europe or Japan, persons much above you in status were deferred to while persons much below you were deferential toward you, or else.

A) A Culture of Honor
Honor is a kind of status attached to physical bravery and the unwillingness to be dominated by anyone. Honor in this sense is a status that depends on the evaluations of others, and members of honor societies are expected to display their bravery by engaging in violent retaliation against those who offend them (Cooney 1998:108–109; Leung and Cohen 2011). Accordingly, those who engage in such violence often say that the opinions of others left them no choice at all…. In honor cultures, it is one’s reputation that makes one honorable or not, and one must respond aggressively to insults, aggressions, and challenges or lose honor. Not to fight back is itself a kind of moral failing, such that “in honor cultures, people are shunned or criticized not for exacting vengeance but for failing to do so” (Cooney 1998:110). Honorable people must guard their reputations, so they are highly sensitive to insult, often responding aggressively to what might seem to outsiders as minor slights (Cohen et al. 1996; Cooney 1998:115–119; Leung and Cohen 2011)… Cultures of honor tend to arise in places where legal authority is weak or nonexistent and where a reputation for toughness is perhaps the only effective deterrent against predation or attack (Cooney 1998:122; Leung and Cohen 2011:510). Because of their belief in the value of personal bravery and capability, people socialized into a culture of honor will often shun reliance on law or any other authority even when it is available, refusing to lower their standing by depending on another to handle their affairs (Cooney 1998:122–129). But historically, as state authority has expanded and reliance on the law has increased, honor culture has given way to something else: a culture of dignity. [p. 712-713]

The Enlightenment and the end of feudalism brought in a new kind of moral order, based on law and individual rights, which the authors call a “culture of dignity.” Most developed countries have adopted this model, where each person is deemed to be equal under the law and enjoys individual rights that law and state forces will enforce against others. The honor culture continues as an element of many subcultures, notably in the military, law enforcement, and areas where order has broken down, but the boundaries of allowable violence and retaliation are constrained; duelling and violence for retribution is now illegal. Offenses are now to be brought to authorities for resolution and punishment, and grievances below a minimal standard are to be dealt with socially.

B) A Culture of Dignity
The prevailing culture in the modern West is one whose moral code is nearly the exact opposite of that of an honor culture. Rather than honor, a status based primarily on public opinion, people are said to have dignity, a kind of inherent worth that cannot be alienated by others (Berger 1970; see also Leung and Cohen 2011). Dignity exists independently of what others think, so a culture of dignity is one in which public reputation is less important. Insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery. It is even commendable to have “thick skin” that allows one to shrug off slights and even serious insults, and in a dignity-based society parents might teach children some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – an idea that would be alien in a culture of honor (Leung and Cohen 2011:509). People are to avoid insulting others, too, whether intentionally or not, and in general an ethic of self-restraint prevails.

When intolerable conflicts do arise, dignity cultures prescribe direct but non-violent actions, such as negotiated compromise geared toward solving the problem (Aslani et al. 2012). Failing this, or if the offense is sufficiently severe, people are to go to the police or appeal to the courts. Unlike the honorable, the dignified approve of appeals to third parties and condemn those who “take the law into their own hands.” For offenses like theft, assault, or breach of contract, people in a dignity culture will use law without shame. But in keeping with their ethic of restraint and toleration, it is not necessarily their first resort, and they might condemn many uses of the authorities as frivolous. People might even be expected to tolerate serious but accidental personal injuries…. The ideal in dignity cultures is thus to use the courts as quickly, quietly, and rarely as possible. The growth of law, order, and commerce in the modern world facilitated the rise of the culture of dignity, which largely supplanted the culture of honor among the middle and upper classes of the West…. But the rise of microaggression complaints suggests a new direction in the evolution of moral culture.

Highly “evolved” settings are encouraging the culture of victimhood, where one maintains one’s status and reputation by competing to be recognized as a victim — the victim Olympics, it is sometimes rudely called.

C) A Culture of Victimhood
Microaggression complaints have characteristics that put them at odds with both honor and dignity cultures. Honorable people are sensitive to insult, and so they would understand that microaggressions, even if unintentional, are severe offenses that demand a serious response. But honor cultures value unilateral aggression and disparage appeals for help. Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor – tantamount to showing that one had no honor at all. Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.[p.714-715]

A culture of victimhood is one characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization. … Under such conditions complaint to third parties has supplanted both toleration and negotiation. People increasingly demand help from others, and advertise their oppression as evidence that they deserve respect and assistance. Thus we might call this moral culture a culture of victimhood because the moral status of the victim, at its nadir in honor cultures, has risen to new heights.[p.715]

The culture of victimhood is currently most entrenched on college campuses, where microaggression complaints are most prevalent. Other ways of campaigning for support from third parties and emphasizing one’s own oppression – from protest demonstrations to the invented victimization of hate-crime hoaxes – are prevalent in this setting as well. That victimhood culture is so evident among campus activists might lead the reader to believe this is entirely a phenomenon of the political left, and indeed, the narrative of oppression and victimization is especially congenial to the leftist worldview (Haidt 2012:296; Kling 2013; Smith 2003:82). But insofar as they share a social environment, the same conditions that lead the aggrieved to use a tactic against their adversaries encourage their adversaries to use that tactic as well. For instance, hate crime hoaxes do not all come from the left. [gives examples] … Naturally, whenever victimhood (or honor, or anything else) confers status, all sorts of people will want to claim it. As clinical psychologist David J. Ley notes, the response of those labeled as oppressors is frequently to “assert that they are a victim as well.” Thus, “men criticized as sexist for challenging radical feminism defend themselves as victims of reverse sexism, [and] people criticized as being unsympathetic proclaim their own history of victimization.”[p.715] [In this way, victimhood culture causes a downward spiral of competitive victimhood. Young people on the left and the right get sucked into its vortex of grievance. We can expect political polarization to get steadily worse in the coming decades as this moral culture of victimhood spreads]

I’ll point out that these environments tend to be artificially maintained — they are not natural outgrowths of business and commerce, where every participant has to cooperate with others to thrive and make a living. They are more like cloistered institutions of the past, supported by exterior economies, like convents and monasteries, or royal courts. When we say something is “academic,” we often mean it’s not important in the real world. And the money supporting it all is partly from parents, but mostly from government, which pays for research and subsidizes the loans that have allowed the schools to charge more than ever and hire all the administrators that make work for themselves by policing student activity.

So I suspect we’re seeing peak influence of the culture of victimhood, and natural corrections — like the refusal of businesses to degrade their competitive edge by further kowtowing to identity politicians — will push back. Part of this may be a repudiation of the Democratic party, which has co-opted much of the third-wave feminist and identity politics sentiment. Having used it through several election cycles, they are now so identified with it that any backlash will damage them. Trump’s current support is a result of decades of suppression of populist speech, and his un-PC style is actually being rewarded in polls.

Lastly, I’ll point out some similar classifications in Jane Jacobs’ Systems of Survival. She identified two syndromes — we might call them meme-complexes, systems of ideas that are internally consistent and self-supporting:

Moral Precepts
Guardian Syndrome Commerce Syndrome
  • Shun trading
  • Exert prowess
  • Be obedient and disciplined
  • Adhere to tradition
  • Respect hierarchy
  • Be loyal
  • Take vengeance
  • Deceive for the sake of the task
  • Make rich use of leisure
  • Be ostentatious
  • Dispense largesse
  • Be exclusive
  • Show fortitude
  • Be fatalistic
  • Treasure honor
  • Shun force
  • Compete
  • Be efficient
  • Be open to inventiveness and novelty
  • Use initiative and enterprise
  • Come to voluntary agreements
  • Respect contracts
  • Dissent for the sake of the task
  • Be industrious
  • Be thrifty
  • Invest for productive purposes
  • Collaborate easily with strangers and aliens
  • Promote comfort and convenience
  • Be optimistic
  • Be honest


The Guardian Syndrome roughly corresponds to the culture of honor, and it naturally evolved in a state where roaming bands of warriors — warlords — compete to control territory which (through agricultural populations or hunter-gatherer bands) generates food and wealth. As agriculture advanced, the warlords became a separate military and governing class, and cities began to develop. Trading and commerce flowered, and the ethos of the Commerce Syndrome developed as technology and trade overtook the produce of the land as a source of wealth. Cities grew, and classes of scribes, accountants, and religious orders became important. Law as a codification of wise rule, and then as recognition of individual rights, became a reliable way of settling grievances without taking up arms. And in the US, the idea of regulating the state itself via a Constitution allowed a free people to coexist with others who believed quite differently by enforcing a neutral code of law.

Interactions between victimhood activists and others are especially vicious because of the mutual misunderstandings of the importance of honor, dignity, and truth to the older cultures. Any disagreement with the claim of victim status is recast as another microagression, and only complete submission to their claims is accepted. When action is taken to address their concerns, it is only satisfying for a brief period before new outrages are identified — there must always be something to complain about, or they would be required to justify their existence and self-esteem via some real accomplishment. Meanwhile, lies and personal character assassination of those deemed incorrect or of the class of oppressors make people who are steeped in the honor or dignity cultures violently angry, and their angry outbursts are used as more evidence of the need to suppress them.

The culture of complaint and victimhood thrives only in those insulated bubbles where government supports institutions detached from customer demand. This includes government itself, especially those bureaucracies which have gained the power to maintain themselves regardless of party in power, but also includes public schools and all the universities which derive most of their funds from government grants and student loans — which is nearly all of them. One way of reducing this detachment from reality and accountability is to cut funding for these institutions and encourage individual and entrepreneurial solutions to the problems they were assigned to address. What we have now is sometimes called the clerisy — a quasi-religious governing structure of scribes and functionaries who act to increase their own power from some protected perch of authority, directing the lives of others with what they think is superior intellect and morality. And there are now so many of them living well on the borrowed and taxed dollars taken from the real economy that their rules and demands are strangling the economy that supports all of us.


Vox just ran a piece by Oliver Lee, who’s quitting his job as a professor to find more meaningful work:

All of these issues lead to one, difficult-to-escape conclusion. Despite all the finger-pointing directed at students (“They’re lazy! They’re oversensitive! They’re entitled!”), and the blame heaped on professors (“Out of touch and irrelevant to a man”), the real culprit is systemic. Our federally backed approach to subsidizing higher education through low-interest loans has created perverse incentives with disastrous consequences. This system must be reformed.

He suggests a smaller, more accountable higher education system, stripped of the excess federal loan funding.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral

Phall-o-meter, Intersex Society of North America

Phall-o-meter, Intersex Society of North America

From the beyond-the-Onion department:

CUNY’s Graduate Center now believes the use of gendered salutations like “Mr.” and “Mrs.” might offend some students. What’s more, administrators think federal non-discrimination law requires the university to prevent its faculty from inadvertently giving offense. Therefore, professors have been instructed to wipe the contentious words from their memories and cease using them in any and all forms of communication.

Full Reason story here.

Some young reviewers of Red Queen: The Substrate Wars think it portrays some unlikely future thought-control state. It’s actually about RIGHT NOW in many universities, which is why it bugs me I can’t get a conventional publisher to look at it in less than a year.

Notes on Politics and Bureaucracy

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

[This is from an appendix to Red Queen: The Substrate Wars.]

What is fascism?

From Wikipedia, where the definition focuses on the 1930s fascisms seen in Italy, Germany, and Spain:

Fascists sought to unify their nation through an authoritarian state that promoted the mass mobilization of the national community and were characterized by having leadership that initiated a revolutionary political movement aiming to reorganize the nation along principles according to fascist ideology.

The Wikipedia definition goes on to list other characteristics, notably that fascism of that day “replaced socialism’s focus on class conflict with a focus on conflict between nations and races.”

As Mark Twain noted, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” The fascism of Substrate Wars is built on exploiting tribal divisions, but not between states so as much as between races and the sexes, and between an anointed class of academic and government-class progressives (“the Clerisy”) and the private economy. The scapegoating of some groups and relentless attacks on them as manipulators who are harming the oppressed and stealing from the common people is aimed at different groups, but the basic mechanism remains.

We see this today in schizophrenic demonization of the wealthy “one-percenters” at the same time there is continuing support by many of the same politicians of Wall Street’s artificially high share of the economy. The Federal Reserve’s efforts to limit the stock market crash of 2000 and the 9/11 panic produced a real estate bubble and ensuing debt crisis, but instead of reforming the systemic problems that caused the crash and paying down the bad debts, the world’s central banks and politicians have tried to artificially reflate the economy with even more debt, and as of this writing the US debt has climbed to $18 trillion. When actuarially sound and realistic accounting is applied to pension and Medicare obligations of state and federal governments, future taxes to pay the debts down at more realistic interest rates would have to rise to over 50% of incomes, closing on 100% in some states, a level so high it would depress actual tax revenues collected. Meaning some sort of debt repudiation—either hyperinflating it away or default—is likely.

And in the US, the two parties are deeply entrenched in local and state politics and election supervision, and the law is written to discourage any new parties or independent candidates. The increasing partisan warfare has set people of good will who largely agree on most matters against each other, with the worst behavior of each party presented as entertainment to partisans of the other. The hatred and obsessive preoccupation with demonization of the other party disguises an important fact: if it were not for that party you hate so much, full of stupid, evil, and ignorant people you disdain, your party would become as corrupt as it is in those states where one party dominates. And the chances of governments run by one party investigating and reforming themselves are low. Some pundits admire China, where one party rules and Gets Things Done; but corruption is an enormous problem there, and will likely bring them down eventually. So, partisans, be grateful for those jerks in the other party—they keep your people honest.

I have many friends who work for government agencies—teachers, scientists, managers. They tell me they work hard and do valuable work, and I know they are conscientious and well-meaning. But when they spend much of their time in meetings and fighting other parts of the bureaucracy; when they write thousands of pages of reports and laws that no one reads; when their function is not essential to defense, law enforcement, or some other core function only government can handle, it’s a tax-funded, permanent bureaucracy that squeezes out private alternatives and ensures that competition can never improve efficiency. I salute my hard-working friends who are public servants—but most of their time is actually spent serving the interests of the state and not the people.

In the sectors of the economy that aren’t run or heavily regulated by governments, efficiencies constantly increase as competition and innovation combine. In sectors run by politicized regulation or directly by governments, innovation is very slow and relative costs of services continue to rise. Examples: education, medical services, defense, social services. Student loan debt is breaking the backs of young people; college administrators are higher-paid than ever, and there are more of them. Hospitals expand and merge and pay administrators huge salaries while charging astronomical fees for simple services. Military contracting is padded and turned into pork for Congressional districts. The space shuttle boosters blew up because they had to be made in segments to allow the contracts to be spread across districts. These are all consequences of politicized decisionmaking processes.

A notable example is universal public schooling. No one thinks education is a bad idea, and local public and private schools competed in the US until the mid-1800s. Then states began to take more control, aiming to raise standards and make the curriculum more uniform, on a Prussian model which viewed children as raw material to be molded into good workers and citizens with allegiance to the state.

The public education system evolved, and local control was reduced. Families found themselves taxed heavily to pay for the public system, which was “free” to them, and naturally chose not to pay twice to get education that was more directly tailored to their children’s needs or family desires. Thus an important link between parental concern and schools was broken—schools, like all other institutions, ultimately serve the concerns of those who fund them, not their clients. In many school districts now, parents are given lip service but opposed whenever they try to support reforms.

And schools beholden to politicians and unions of their workers can be both expensive and truly awful. The worst result of this is that children are now learning very little history, economics, or science, and rigor has suffered. The least damaging solution is vouchers—give every student the money now being spent on their education to spend on any school their parents deem fit that passes reasonable standards. Public schools would have to compete with private and charter schools, and all would benefit—except possibly overpaid public school administrators. Resistance to this idea is fierce, of course.

So that was a key mistake which allowed the population to be programmed with the idea that more government is the solution for every problem. Fixing it will take time, and the system will most likely crash before rebooting.

And as recent graduates of this political indoctrination system have taken most of the positions in government, academia, and mass media, the commitment to truth has suffered. An entire society has been dumbed down.

“Red Queen: The Substrate Wars” First Part

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars, Cover

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have noticed my rate of posting has declined lately. This is because I’m working on a novel, my first venture into fiction in years. It’s science fiction and adventure; my effort to write a good story the kids will both enjoy and learn from, as I did in my youth.

I have criticized modern “politically correct” science fiction for its grim view of progress and its conformist political content. This is my answer to books for young people like Pills and Starships. And the resemblance to Hunger Games is intentional — what Hunger Games gets right is that young people can remake the world to be a better place.

The world of Red Queen is post-terrorist disaster, repressive and regimented — rather like China today, but poorer. In that sense it is a dystopia, though not so far from our own day and time; only a few steps beyond where we are now. The kids are cowed but not unaware, and they seize the opportunity to make a difference when their smarts and courage allow it. And so they change the world.

I’m putting the first section out for beta readers. I’d appreciate any thoughts and error corrections you might have. The science gets more fully explained in the next section, for those of you into physics.

I’m doing a Hugh Howey and publishing this myself. I’d be most interested in hearing from agents or publishers who are interested, but I expect to finish in three months and the legacy publishing timetable is simply too slow, even though a good editor would be very helpful.

So I’m counting on you folks. If you read the first section, send me your comments at, and also email me if you want to be on the beta reader list for the full draft version. I apologize in advance for getting you interested and involved in the story, then making you wait to finish it!

[edit: removed drafts since full book is available]

The Curriculum of Freedom

The Library

The Library

I’ve put up a permanent page with suggested readings on how to think about economic and political questions. Just a start so far:

While I went to some great schools like MIT, I was primarily self-educated. Anyone can pick up the ability to think through problems independently and do the research needed on the Internet, but it helps to have a base of organized knowledge to give yourself a head start on your individual contribution to the world’s knowledge. A great book on a subject area will allow you to quickly reach the level of understanding needed to start your own research; then a bit of reading on the more recent research results available online will catch you up to the current edge of the field and where you can contribute.

If you or someone you love want to have a deeper understanding of how the world works, these books are a great way to start. I’ve read all of them and guarantee that reading them will boost your understanding of what you may have learned in school, where textbooks are watered-down, homogenized committee efforts and subject to political bias.

Many of these authors are prolific and have written more than one book amplifying their thoughts. If one turns you on to a topic, you may want to go on and read others they’ve written. I’ll be filling in my take on each book later, but for now you can read the Amazon description to get an idea.