George Sarant

A raw feed of material that may be updated or appear elsewhere.

Archive for the ‘government’ Category

WHERE THIS BLOG IS GOING

leave a comment »

I had an unexpected, surprising reaction to what was basically an aside I wrote recently about fashion classics, particularly from chic young women regarding clueless young men today. I am far from a fashion maven (indeed in some ways you could consider that piece anti-fashion, at least in terms of ephemera). But what I do have is some intimate knowledge and experience over the years with time-tested, classic men’s clothing, which consistently weathers the vicissitudes of change, so I’ve decided to do a limited spin-off blog on that subject, which in the longer term won’t be ongoing but will lay down some basics, since it appears that some guys really are in the dark. 

That will join a couple of others that reflect my more esoteric interests, as I doubt many people would share all of them. Another has to do with vintage electronic synthesizer instruments, and another on a topic I call rational conservatism, which I’m writing a book about. I’ll list the links when they are fully up. 

As far as this blog goes it will continue, although my interest is more in overall political philosophy rather than day to day events at this point, which are either ephemeral or involve ongoing issues that aren’t going anywhere soon. Everyone else writes about current events and the day’s headlines, so I don’t see much point in repeating what is already ubiquitous. Furthermore, now that we are in an election year in the US I don’t really want to be part of that. I’ve been through too many, and you can see things already heating up even though the election is still six months away. I continue to maintain that we have a really lousy system for picking a President as I wrote here, given the endless campaigning we are subject to all the time. Don’t get me wrong. This will be a critical election in terms of the future of this country and if things don’t change we are headed for disaster. But as far as I’m concerned November is too far off to be engaged at this point. 

Advertisements

Written by georgesarant

April 29, 2012 at 10:19 PM

NO WAY TO PICK A PRESIDENT

leave a comment »

A year before the election the news is dominated by the presidential race, and has been for months. Nowadays campaigns begin years before the election date and cost huge amounts of money, so it is no wonder that politicians spend more time running for office than they do actually governing. While Republican candidates have engaged in an endless series of debates, the current occupant of the White House has all but given up on governing in favor of campaigning. The chronic campaign produces two results- a dysfunctional government and elected officials who are good at campaigning rather than governing.

Permanent campaigning is a relatively recent development largely due to primary elections spread out over many months and geographic locations. Primaries are a result of the efforts of the progressive movement in the early part of the twentieth century, but only became decisive in 1960 when John F. Kennedy used them to prove his viability as a candidate and win his party’s nomination. But it is worth noting that Kennedy did not even declare his candidacy until January of that year. Nowadays it has gotten to the point where the next campaign begins the day after election day. We are subjected to all politics all the time. Is there any way to end this electoral cacaphony?

Contrast this with Britain, where campaigns are brief once elections are called. I am not suggesting we adapt a parliamentary system, but rather find some way to limit campaigns to a set time in order to end constant campaigning. There are of course parties with a vested interest in extended campaigns, including the media, campaign consultants, pollsters, fundraisers, political junkies, and activists. But how long should we allow the system to be hijacked by these groups?

One way to reform the process would be to have candidates nominated by elected officials such as members of congress, the Governors, and representatives of state legislatures. Who after all best constitutes the party if not elected officials? This would likely produce better candidates who would also be better able to work with other elected officials. Those having the respect and confidence of their peers would be in a better position to lead the country. Primaries also give too much weight to activists who are ideologically rigid, when government of necessity requires consensus and compromise. Would scrapping the primaries not limit the chances of outsiders? Not necessarily. Dwight Eisenhower was nominated and elected president despite never having served in public office. Generals were often nominated in the 19th century long before primaries. Any charismatic figure who could garner support could be nominated, but for the most part we would be better off with public officials who are known to others holding office. We might, in the process return to some of the character displayed by our first five presidents, who would find openly seeking the presidency unseemly, relying instead on the regard and respect of their peers.

Under these circumstances campaigns would be much shorter and the cost of elections much lower. It would also give rise to people whose main talent is not in raising money and running for office, but in governing effectively.

Written by georgesarant

November 28, 2011 at 11:02 PM

Posted in government, Politics

ECONOMY AND SOCIETY IN 2011

leave a comment »

These are the gloomiest times we have seen since the Carter years. This is confirmed by survey after survey showing a lack of faith in institutions, a lack of confidence in the future, and dismal economic statistics. The stock market dropped 450 points last week, or 1300 so far this month and 2000 for the year, wiping out $3 trillion in wealth. The previous week the market finished its wildest week in history, with four 400 point or more daily swings in a row. Though a lot of this was pure silliness, and an overreaction to the slightest scrap of news, mostly from overseas, it is clear the economic fundamentals are not good. Unemployment is over 9% and underemployment is 18% plus. One in five males are out of work, with profound social consequences.

Gold is up 30% for the year. What does it say when gold is a better investment than productive assets that would actually provide growth? There is fear and uncertainty across the land. 47% believe the future is only going to get worse, 73% say the U.S. is on the wrong track, while the number of people satisfied with the way things are going has hit a new low at 11%. Deficits are running at 10% of GDP, with debt over 100%. In short the economic outlook is bleak.

There is an even chance the economy is tanking again as anemic growth sputters towards a double dip recession. We are constantly bombarded with a frenzy of bargains deals to try and increase sales without much effect. Yet despite so much slack in the economy prices are rising and may get worse thanks to all the money the Federal Reserve has pumped into the economy. So far the government response has been, if anything, counterproductive. The last time I used the title Economy and Society was in 2009, ending with the question what if it (the then proposed trillion dollar stimulus) doesn’t work? Clearly it didn’t work and government policies have brought us to our current circumstances.

The news from Europe is even worse, souring markets around the world, as countries struggle with debt problems and their banks appear shaky. But in the big picture what is really going on is a wave across the western world, as the realization begins to set in that unsustainable spending, borrowing, and entitlements cannot continue without sufficient population growth. This is not really news as it has been predicted for years, but unfortunately governments ignored the problem and failed to deal with long-term arrangements, instead reacting to short-term, day to day headlines. Now they are running out of options.

Given chronic government mismanagement there is nothing a change in policies would not correct by, i.e. returning to balanced budgets and sound money. Everything will not go down the tubes unless we let that happen. It is still within our power to correct these conditions, if the vision and will can be found. For the question is whether we still believe in the future, or whether we will bury our heads like the Europeans and slowly fade away. Americans are usually the most optimistic of peoples, and that dormant positive outlook needs to be rekindled. Unless we think the world is going to end, things will turn around sooner or later, depending on when we take the right actions. Economic forecasting is about as reliable weather forecasting so dire predictions need not trouble us. There are always gloom predictors and boom predictors, but most of the time we manage to muddle through somewhere in the middle, as neither the very worst or the very best often happens.

Written by georgesarant

August 20, 2011 at 9:08 PM

Posted in economy, government, society

US ECONOMY AND THE WORLD

leave a comment »

Vladimir Putin described the United States as a “parasite” on the world economy due to the pre-eminence of the dollar, which presumably provides certain advantages. This comes from someone late to the world economic party, considering that Russia still can’t even qualify for the World Trade Organization and remains an economic backwater. But then Putin is nostalgic for the Soviet Union, the Cold War, and great power status. He thinks by being antagonistic to the US he elevates Russia, but no one wants to play his game on this end. The long-suffering Russian people deserve better than the gangster government they have, and attempting to deflect blame for life’s miseries via ultra-nationalism will not rescue a grossly mismanaged state. Given that he’s not exactly buff he should also keep his shirt on.

It is easy to understand resentment of American dominance, although this comes at the expense of no other country. Indeed in all of history there has never been a more benevolent world power. Since World War II the American military has kept the world at relative peace not only for the US but for everyone else, thus providing stability and prosperity. This has come at huge cost to the American people, and the US has the burden of carrying a load for the world in other areas as well. The American economy is still the engine driving the world economy, and if it sputters so does everyone else. Americans are also subsidizing the rest of the world in terms of innovation across the board, but particularly in health via new cures and drugs. For example, the Nobel Prizes in medicine has been awarded to more Americans than to researchers in all other countries combined. Eight of the 10 top-selling drugs in the world were developed by U.S. companies. With this, however, come all the development costs, which are largely born by the US market. So the US is hardly “leeching” on the world economy but rather is carrying a heavy burden.

But the extent to which American problems are displaced across the world can be overstated. The stock market dropped over 700 points this week not due to anything domestic but rather because of fear of defaults and economic collapse in Europe. So while markets crashed and even gold went down, where did money from around the world flow? To US Treasuries, for safety and security, actually driving down the yield. In this context the S&P downgrade of US debt from AAA makes no sense. True the government has to rein in borrowing and cut back on debt, but that process will work itself out. The momentum is all in the direction of cutting spending and debt reduction over time. The economy may be doing poorly at the moment, in no small measure due to the federal government, but this will be set right. After all change is coming; change you can believe in.

Written by georgesarant

August 6, 2011 at 6:04 PM

ECONOMIC MISMANAGEMENT

leave a comment »

The ideology of the left recognizes little distinction between the state and society, and this view pervades the current administration. Decisions that properly belong in the private sector are being second-guessed or usurped by government officials. The most egregious case involves the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) and the Boeing corporation. Boeing has substantial facilities in Washington state and recently expanded by creating a second production line in South Carolina for its 787 Dreamliner. You would think that expanding capital investment and jobs is a good thing for everyone, but not for administration bureaucrats.

The general counsel of the NLRB has issued a complaint against Boeing on behalf of the International Association of Machinists union, which if successful, would actual compel the company to move its South Carolina operation back to Washington State. The reason for this is that South Carolina is a non-union, right-to-work state, i.e. you aren’t forced to join a union to work. Never mind that, as it turns out, this expansion will also lead to an increase in jobs in Washington State as well. This is an outrageous and fundamental abuse of government power for which there is no possible justification. It is an entirely political move, which is not surprising, given that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka boasted during a February news conference that he’s “at the White House a couple times a week, two, three times a week.” and that he has “conversations every day with someone at the White House or in the administration.” It is just as bad when a crony-capitalist corporate executive has similar influence.

Politicians are inept enough at running the government, never mind trying to run the economy. This is the sort of state direction you would expect in Russia and China, where state-directed capitalism prevails, not the United States. But apart from the sheer stupidity of trying to manage business decisions, badly, either we are a free society or we aren’t. Either individuals and corporations are free to make decisions about their own affairs or they are not. It is not the business of the state to arbitrarily favor one group over another, or determine how they will conduct their affairs beyond established law and regulations. No wonder the economy continues to falter.

Written by georgesarant

July 31, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Posted in economy, government

BYPASS THE CONSTITUTION?

leave a comment »

The overriding philosophy of the left demolishes the distinction between state and society, in the belief that broad political direction of things is justified by what are, presumably, higher ends. From this standpoint the constitution becomes a nuisance to the extent that it explicitly limits government power. Thus today we have people on the left calling on the President to extend the debt limit on his own, allegedly based upon the 14th amendment. This would empower the President bypass the congress, where there are sharp disagreements reflecting the will of the people, and unilaterally dictate an expansion of the debt limit. This is typical of a left that chooses to ignore the constitution and substitute the rule of men.

We share a constitutional republic with people we often disagree with. Civil society is only possible if we agree on the basic rules. But things begin to unravel if a significant element does not. The constitution limits power; by any reading that is clear, as inconvenient as that may be to some. If the constitution is superseded by Ideology, the result is arbitrary power. In its extreme form this becomes revolutionary- consider those who want to eliminate Fox News, which is reflective of a totalitarian mindset.

The irony is that it is the liberals that are most protected by the constitution. They are far outnumbered by conservatives, and any devolution to arbitrary power would not serve them well. Those who would go so far as to employ the force of the state to get their way are laughable, for this ultimately means violence in the service of some idea. But when it comes to the means and ability to employ force, use guns, and fight, such capabilities are found on the right, not the left. Thus those on the left who would upend the constitution for their own aims should think twice before abandoning its principles.

Written by georgesarant

July 28, 2011 at 6:44 PM

WEENING THE GOVERNMENT

leave a comment »

Anthony Weiner is a man without honor, prudence, decency, or shame. Anyone with a sense of propriety would have resigned after the revelation that he had exposed himself online. But the standards of rectitude seem to apply only to Republicans, who consistently step down when a misdeed is uncovered. Weiner, a liberal hypocrite, was promoting himself to be the next Mayor of New York City before these revelations, and he still intends to hold onto his congressional seat. More mind-boggling is the fact that a majority of the voters in his district believe he should stay in office. What kind of people are they?

This country has the misfortune to have its major institutions dominated by a rotten elite- people without standards, who are contemptuous of the traditional values of the mass of the people. They control the media, the education system, the entertainment industry, and virtually all forms of communication. It is not so much that they are “liberal,” as that they are nihilists. They don’t believe in anything and ridicule anyone who does. But a person who believes in nothing will believe or fall for anything. Thus we find them forever attracted to radical propositions designed to upend society in order to “improve” it, and especially stand firm against “intolerance.” So apparently, due to the moral and intellectual failings of some people, we must tolerate Anthony Weiner and his ilk.

Given the myopia of his constituents, and the unlikelihood that he will be ejected from congress, the only way to get rid of Weiner is to eliminate his district in redistricting. New York is losing two congressional seats as it continues to hemorrhage people, so one of them might as well be his.

The other unpleasant thought is that people like this actually have power in this country. Do we really want to be ruled by such unprincipled scoundrels? The only way to protect ourselves and our children is with less government. The framers designed the constitution along these very lines, which have largely been abrogated, wherever possible, by the “liberals.” We need to return to basic constitutional principles that devolve the concentration of power in the federal government and restore decision-making to the lowest possible level; that is to say the community or the individual. We should be jealous of ceding control over our lives to government, given the imperfections of man, ideally to the point where government doesn’t matter.

Written by georgesarant

June 11, 2011 at 4:09 PM