Cortez on Gutenberg

Some of you expressed an interest in the history of Cortez in the New World once it was finished and came online.

Excuse me, Effendi...

Since we're going back into Iraq...

Here's a Woman with Something to Say

When I hear people talk about sex as if it’s no big deal, as if it’s no different than eating a steak or going for a drive on the freeway, when I see ads comparing voting to losing your virginity, or when I hear social conservatives slapped down when they voice their objections to a licentious culture, my heart grieves.

That’s because I’m picturing the girl walking home alone after having sex on the beer-drenched floor of a fraternity house with a guy too drunk to remember her name. The tears on her cheeks. The tightness in her chest, the sick feeling deep inside, and the already-hardening effect of knowing she will do it again.

I’m remembering a young girl who came to me with scars on her wrists and tremors in her soft voice as she told me about the day she aborted her baby. She wept uncontrollably in my arms for an innocence, a life, she would never have again, her dark eyes filled with a sorrow that only the greatest amount of love and grace could ever wash away.

I’m thinking of the boy who sits in a bathroom, alone, staring at a lab report that says he is HIV-positive. A sense of hopeless desperation wells up within him like a flood of dark water as he tries to breathe, to fight back the overwhelming fear that threatens to drown him. His life is forever changed. A precious gem exchanged for a handful of dust. I hear his sobs as he leans on the side of the tub begging for comfort no human can fully give.
It's not a toy. It's not a game. How strange we have forgotten that so obvious, so terrible a truth.

More gender charts

This time, on the crucial distinction between "uh" and "um."  As a bonus, a Facebook analysis that shows men are humorless, angry policy wonks while women are ditzy Polyanna shopaholics.

My Facebook verbal analysis would look about like this:

It'll come to me

H/t Bookworm Room.

Trayvon redux

I don't know what to make of this bizarre police shooting at an Ohio Walmart. It's got a lot of the Trayvon Martin dilemmas in it, right down to the tearful accounts of the dead black man's girlfriend, who was on the phone with him when he died, but with a lot more witnesses this time. The guy is said to have been driven to the Walmart without having a gun on him. At some point he was spotted wandering around the Walmart with a scary black gun and pointing it at people, perhaps trying to load it. Or else he simply picked up a toy gun and was carrying it to a cash register. Police shot him when he refused to surrender the weapon. Or else he was innocently turning to reply to a challenge, and answering "it's only a toy." In any case, it will be a relief to have a little more evidence to go on this time.

How to pick 'em

Suppose you're a young woman in college, trying to follow Salon's advice to pursue that M.R.S. degree. You might gravitate to a young man who "had a high GPA in high school, was his class valedictorian, was on [a sports] team, and was ‘from a good family.’” Or you might find that you'd just profiled a potential rapist, by the standards of Occidental University.
LAPD Detective Michelle Gomez interviewed the parties and witnesses. In a charge evaluation worksheet dated November 5, Deputy District Attorney Alison A.W. Meyers declined to prosecute, writing, “Witnesses were interviewed and agreed that the victim and suspect were both drunk, however, that they were both willing participants exercising bad judgment …. It would be reasonable for [Doe] to conclude based on their communications and [the accuser’s] actions that, even though she was intoxicated, she could still exercise reasonable judgment.” This decision ended police involvement in the case.
Meanwhile, Occidental pursued its own investigation by hiring the firm of Public Interest Investigations, which produced an 82-page report about the incident. Among other evidence, the report examined text messages between Doe and his accuser leading up to the sexual encounter. In the messages, the accuser asked Doe, “do you have a condom,” texted another friend “I’mgoingtohave sex now” [sic], and, in an exchange spanning 24 minutes, coordinated with Doe to sneak out of her dorm and proceed to Doe’s dorm to have sex with him.
Obviously a rape, but then she should have known better than to hang out with a valedictorian.


Adding "--eering" to a noun is a handy way to disapprove of the activity without explaining what's wrong with it.

Dipping a toe

Richard Fernandez doubts the efficacy of the pro-Yazidi airdrop and limited strikes:
In Obama’s gesture is an implicit lie. Nobody ever comes to a war “to help”. It’s not like stopping by a picnic or helping a neighbor move house, where you can participate as much or little as you want and then walk away. The only valid object of joining a conflict is ‘to win’, or at least, be on the winning side. Fighting to look good is neither moral nor does it work. You don’t ever want to “help” and be among the defeated. For those in the field, defeated means dead.
Bombing once started makes enemies and kills people. Unless it is done for a definite object and terminal state in mind, then it is better not done at all. Any action sufficient to ‘stop the genocide’ requires defeating ISIS. Either Obama aims to defeat ISIS or he is merely prolonging the agony. Lyndon Johnson was a great fan of “targeted airstrikes” in Vietnam. Johnson famously boasted of his fine grained control over the USAF.
“LBJ liked to pick bombing targets himself”. More strongly expressed in Vietnam Magazine, December 1997, by Air Force Major John Keeler (Ret) – who quotes LBJ as saying: “Those boys can’t hit an outhouse without my permission”.
Lyndon Johnson was in Vietnam to ‘send a message’. Ho Chi Minh was in it to win. How did that work out?

"Hold on; we're winning"

George Will reports on Ken Hughes's theories about what Nixon was really asking his "plumbers" to cover up:
On Nov. 2 at 8:34 p.m., a teleprinter at Johnson’s ranch delivered an FBI report on the embassy wiretap: [unofficial Nixon agent] Chennault had told South Vietnam’s ambassador “she had received a message from her boss (not further identified). . . . She said the message was that the ambassador is to ‘hold on, we are gonna win.’ ” The Logan Act of 1799 makes it a crime for a private U.S. citizen, which Nixon then was, to interfere with U.S. government diplomatic negotiations.
Setting aside the Logan Act violation for a moment, should we see this as an act of treason? Something along the lines of "I'll have more flexibility after the election"?   Some will argue that Nixon deliberately prolonged the Viet Nam War for the purpose of positioning himself politically as the only man who could end it.  I wouldn't put it past him, but I wonder if it isn't more fair to imagine that he believed that the war must be ended justly if at all, and that he was trying to send a message of encouragement to some desperately besieged fighters to have courage in the knowledge that reinforcements were on the way.  Whether he was right or wrong in this conviction, it's not clear to me that he was sacrificing lives in war for petty personal political gain.

Is it really "private diplomacy," let alone treason, to send a clear message about what you'll do if you're elected president in a few months?  I objected to Obama's "flexibility" statement, not because it was secret or improper diplomacy (and of course he wasn't a private citizen at the time, either), but because the message I got was "I'll be in a better position to compromise my own country's best interests in a few months, when I have this pesky domestic political competition out of the way."

Where's the outrage against ISIL?

I saw this yesterday, linked by a friend online:
And the real pull quote for me was the following:

"I don't see any attention from the rest of the world," a member of the Yazidi minority in Iraq told the New Yorker. "In one day, they killed more than two thousand Yazidi in Sinjar, and the whole world says, 'Save Gaza, save Gaza.'"

So why is that?  What is it about Gaza that draws the world’s attention and ire, that seems to be lacking in the case of the Yazidi in Sinjar?

Well, the first and most obvious answer is that the Yazidi aren’t being killed by Jews.  Anti-Semitism is alive and well across the world.  Since the outbreak of the latest fighting (I will NOT use the term “Gaza War”, because Hamas is not engaged in war, this is just a continuation of their ongoing terror campaign), we’ve seen anti-Semitic riots across Europe, with Jews fleeing France.  I bolded that, because can you imagine violence directed at you being threatening enough to force you to flee the land you were born in, all because a nation that shares its ethnicity with you is engaged with terrorists?  The only thing I can compare it to is the Japanese Internment camps of WWII.  Germany has seen an uptick in anti-Semitic violence as well.  Mostly from Turkish and Arab immigrants, but the local skin heads are in on it as well.  Much to the embarrassment of Establishment Germany.  They’re not really stopping it, mind you, but they’re very embarrassed all the same.

But not everyone is opposed to what’s happening in Gaza due to anti-Semitism.  I actually know people who are not racists but still take the side against Israel.  They all happen to be Leftists, and I think their objections are racist, but not in the same vein.  They see Israel as a modern European democracy.  As in, “white”.  And for these people, “white” and “European” are just synonyms for “oppressor” and “racist”.  “Brown skin good, white skin bad” type stuff.  So therefore, by opposing Israel, they’re showing what good, caring people they are.  It’s still racist, but not because they’re Jews, but because they’re pale skinned and European in outlook.

But I think the reason most overlook is that it’s easy to deal with the conflict in Gaza.  Israel, regardless of what is said about it in the UN and international press, is not a pariah nation.  Nor is it willing to be one.  It actually cares (within reason) about international opinion.  If it didn’t, then the IDF would roll into Gaza, slaughter every living thing there, tear down the buildings, salt the earth, and dare the world to come do something about it.  That’s what a pariah nation does when faced with an existential threat and the means to deal with it.  But they will not ever do that.  Sure, they’re not so suicidal as to let Hamas keep flinging rockets at their civilians.  Hell, if Canada or Mexico started doing that to us, it’d be an act of war, and we’d roll over their military, occupy their capitals and put a stop to it permanently.  And we’d be right to.  But Israel recognizes that doing what they would be justified to do will come with far too high a price politically.  So they act (and have acted) with inhuman restraint.

So why not Sinjar?  Why does no one care about the Yazidi?  Because it’s not easy.  Because while Israel will eventually stop fighting due to international pressure, no amount of talking is going to stop ISIL.  They simply do not care about international opinion.  At all.  Put them in Israel’s position, with a comparable army to the IDF, and they absolutely would sow the fields with the blood of their enemies.  Words cost nothing.  But they can influence Israel.  To stop the slaughter of the Yazidi, it’s going to take combat.  Troops, on the ground, fighting ISIL in cities.  It will take wealth.  Driving out the ISIL troops will not be cheap.  And it will not be quick.  The problem with organizations like ISIL and al-Qaida, is that routing them in the field simply shatters their operational command.  The individuals will keep fighting on, until you root them out and destroy them.  There’s no one to “sign a cease fire” with.  If you were to capture al-Baghdadi, and tried to force him to sign a surrender, no one in ISIL would abide by it.  They’re not an army.  So destroying them root and branch will take years.

So it comes down to laziness.  It’s easy, cheap, and quick to talk-talk at the Israelis, and it will eventually lead to a cease fire (long enough for Hamas to refill its supply of Katyusha rockets).  Stopping ISIL, not so much.

A Non-Controversy

Apparently a restaurant up north is "facing heat" and has set off a FaceBook "firestorm" by adding to its receipts an explicit surcharge to cover the minimum wage increase that local voters have approved.

This seems like the sort of thing that both sides of the debate should love. If you are opposed to the minimum wage increase, you can say: "Good! This way all those do-gooder customers who voted for this increase have to face up to the costs they have imposed on everyone else. They can't hide from the fact that every single customer who comes in here now has to pay a higher price in order for the business to remain in operation. That'll teach them."

But if you're for the minimum wage, you can say: "Good! This shows everyone that the cost of providing these workers with a better life is just thirty-five cents per meal. I'm happy to pay that, and I think you should be too. If I eat at this restaurant twice a week every week all year, I'll still only be out an extra thirty-five bucks! That'll teach those minimum-wage opponents that their arguments that the costs will be ruinous is ridiculous."

Another front over the minimum wage regards the second-order effects of the thing: it turns out that, after every business has adjusted its prices, the minimum wage increase ends up doing no good at all for the worker. But if this is what you believe, then you too should enjoy seeing the information made explicit on the receipt. "See? If a minimum-wage worker wants to eat here, it now costs them an extra thirty-five cents every time. Once you increase every transaction they make by about that amount, how much is that increase really helping them?"

There's nothing here not to like. Everybody should be happy. Nobody is happy.


It's getting to where White House press conferences should just come out and say "we're deeply concerned and are closely monitoring the situation."  Any followup questions about plans for specific action can be met with, "Yes, as I said, we're deeply concerned and are closely monitoring the situation."



China will create own Christian belief system amid tensions with church, says official.
Well, it's worked before.

A River Flows in London Town

Poppies, for World War I.

Ponzi and education

I miss Richard Jeni:
Imagine my surprise when it turned out the main thing that I was qualified for was to get another degree and teach Political Science to other people, who would, in turn, teach it to other people! This wasn't higher education, this was Amway with a football team!
No disrespect intended to poli sci majors. My own undergraduate degree was in Fine Arts.

Rose Tattoo

The Dropkick Murphys have what they are calling a "hair razing time," as part of a fundraiser for a child with a deadly disease.

Maybe sometimes we do get better as we get older.

Gimme the cure

Richard Fernandez ruminates on the unfairness of first-world medicine:
The UK’s top public doctor says the failure to find a cure for Ebola represents underscores “the moral bankruptcy of capitalism”. Does that mean we can expect an Ebola vaccine from a socialist country any day now?
. . .
Whenever you discover a new cure, you have a problem. When most diseases were incurable, health care was cheap because you hired a grave digger and that was it. It’s when a cure is discovered that one can start ranting about the unfairness of it all. Ebola doesn’t illustrate the moral failure of capitalism; if anything it underscores the creative dilemma of private unreasonableness.

Tactical guide to mate selection

A Corporatist Constitution

Mickey Kaus has an interesting complaint about the way the administration looks at American society.
Special privileges for reporters (they’re “society’s eyes and ears”!) or big banks (they’re “too big to fail”). Corporatism’s acutely fascinating because it’s insidious, anti-democratic, sclerotic and perhaps inevitable....

The vision is “corporatist” because it analogizes society with a body, or corpus, with different institutions and sets of people performing different specialized, orchestrated roles, like bodily organs (as opposed to, say, seeing U.S. society as 300 million free, individual citizens exercising equal liberties and moving in and out of the marketplace in various unpredictable roles of their own choosing).
The system is characteristic of the Middle Ages, in which one had rights and duties chiefly determined by which part of the 'body' one belonged. If one was an abbess, one had certain privileges; if one was a master member of a trade guild in a major city, other privileges. The abbess was absolutely not free to move to your town and start selling your goods in a shop in the market! Nor was anyone else not in your guild -- your position ensured access to substantial wealth. By the same token, you had to pay some taxes from which she would be exempt, and you might be compelled into some sort of military service to defend the town. You were both expected to dress in a specific fashion proper to your role, in part so that everyone would understand how to treat you when they met you on the road.

Two things to say about the system: in the short run, this approach provided those with the power to license new corporate parts with some significant control over the structure of society. If (like Edward I) you wanted a town somewhere to provide you with a base for military operations and increased tax revenue, you could offer special privileges to people who would become part of that town. In Medieval Spain, these systems were critically important to the conquest of Spain from the Muslims: many special rights were offered to those who would come settle (and defend) the disputed land, including elevation to knighthood if you came with a horse and could fight on it, liberation from any existing bonds on you, freedom from certain taxes for a period of time, and more. If you moved to one of these 'new towns' as an unfree serf but could find a way to live there for a year and a day, you would be free and a member of the town from then on.

In the long run, then, these corporate bodies increased human liberty a great deal. Not only could people move from one body to another as they pleased, but desirable privileges came to be claimed by more and more bodies. Sometimes they were enacted by law into general rights of the class of those who were free; for example, the right to a trial by one's peers originally pertained to the barons and perhaps the knighthood, but came to belong to everyone (who are, now, also the peers of everyone). The privileges that pertained to any of these special classes are now general rights possessed by all free Americans, with few exceptions (freedom of churches from taxes still pertains chiefly to churches, although other 'corporations' can get special tax breaks in return for moving their business to somewhere that desires it!).

So clearly it is a short-term interest in control of society that motivates the President: for example, by giving journalists special privileges he is propping up the prestige of a dying industry, and obtaining a sense from them of being on their side that will benefit him in his public relations.

In the long term, though, these special rights are likely to become general rights. Banks are too big to fail? So is everyone! Mortgages must be bailed out! No one can be suffered to lose everything through bankruptcy.

It's only fair, after all.

The upside is that sometimes there are improvements in the relationship between the government and the citizen that might still exist. So if we see journalists being granted a shield law, don't worry: sooner or later that law's protections will belong to everyone. Sooner these days, given the American model of everyone being leveled into a single class with equal rights before the law.

The downside is that many of these special privileges are special just because it would be harmful 'if everyone did it.' Likely as not, eventually everyone will.

I Think Mine Are Up Close To Twenty-Five

"Florida Premiums to Jump 13% for 2015."

Really, That Was My Favorite Part


Oaths and Pledges

While arguing that corporations should have to take a loyalty oath in order to do business here, a Daily Beast author muses:
Because oaths and pledges are a little creepy, this effort needs something else—something that comes out of the legal and business worlds: a contract.
I have several things to say about that.

1) Could we possibly confuse the distinction between an oath and a contract any more? One of the most damaging things that happened to marriage was that people started thinking of it as a contract -- which, of course, can be renegotiated at will by the parties to the contract, and which may even have breach clauses just in case it doesn't work out -- instead of the sacred oath in which God unifies man and wife into one flesh, until death do they part.

2) Why should an oath or a pledge be "creepy"? Does the language of honor frighten you so much? There is an honor interest at stake, actually, because the corporation wishes to join the polity in the sense of obtaining legal protections and at least property rights. That means that the company takes the business of the polity -- protecting the rights of its members -- to be a common good of which it would like a part. Why, then, should the corporate person not be bound in the same way as the ordinary person: that is by honor, so that loyalty is owed if (and only if) the state does its duty in protecting the rights it was constituted to protect? What makes corporations special, that they should not have to take an oath that properly expresses the relationship between citizens and the polity of which they are a member?

3) Perhaps your real concern is that corporate loyalty to the state sounds like fascism. So, you're a fascist to some degree. But the American project has used the fasces in its iconography from the very beginning. This kind of proto-fascism is not the same as the full-throated Fascism of Mussolini -- for example, it admits of limits such as the right to renounce citizenship, the right of revolution in the cases where the state ceases to perform the duties for which loyalty is the reciprocal reward, and that some of the rights the state is duty-bound to protect include freedoms of association, religion, the press, etc. That we intend to bind everyone together, 'E Pluribus Unum,' does not mean that we shall have 'everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.' Our version creates several areas that are meant to be outside the state, where the state is supposed to be bound not to interfere.

4) Of course you understand that this demand for loyalty raises the price of doing business somewhat: what you are imposing is an opportunity cost. That will have economic as well as political ramifications. You had better be clear on just what you are offering in return, and the deal had better be fair if you want the corporate citizens to accept it. For example, I've heard a lot of noise lately about trying to overturn Citizens United via legislation. If you do, you had better think carefully about what you will use to replace it. If corporations are citizens, they won't get a vote (unless we change the Constitution to permit corporate citizens one vote, in addition to the votes of their members who are American citizens). Nevertheless, you have yourself proven that they will have a legitimate interest in being able to express opinions about the government and its policy. That's one of the traditional parts of loyalty oaths, going back even to the feudal loyalty oaths: in return for loyalty, you have the right to advise on policy.

Further Considerations on Impeachment

Dr. Codevilla, who has written some thought-provoking pieces on American government in the recent past, has a new piece treating the history of the impeachment clause. Just what was it supposed to control?
Connecticut’s Roger Sherman, “contended that the legislature should have power to remove the Executive at pleasure.” Nobody agreed. Virginia’s George Mason expressed the general sentiment when he argued that, while “the fallibility” of electors and “the corruptibility of the man chosen” makes indispensable “some mode of displacing an unfit magistrate,” nevertheless he “opposed decidedly making the Executive the mere creature of the Legislature in violation of the fundamental principle of good government.” New York’s Gouverneur Morris agreed, but was wary, lest impeachment “render the Executive dependent on those who are to impeach.”

Having agreed to provide for the president’s impeachment, the question became how to define the occasions of it so as to prevent impeachment from becoming a mere tool of political control. Everyone agreed that “treason and bribery ” ought to be causes. But George Mason noted that “Treason as defined in the Constitution will not reach many great and dangerous offenses….He movd. to add after “bribery” “or maladministration.” Mr. Gerry seconded him. Virginia’s James Madison objected: “So vague a term will be equivalent to a tenure during pleasure of the Senate.” Seeing the sense of that, “Col. Mason withdrew “maladministration” & substituted “other high crimes and misdemeanors”
Dr. Codevilla is worried that partisan politics have rendered this system nonfunctional, as recent Congresses have been unwilling to act to defend Congressional power per se if either house is controlled by the President's party. So in the Clinton administration we saw the House but not the Senate act in impeachment; now the House but not the Senate is suing to try to compel the President to keep his oath regarding 'the faithful execution of the law.' If Congress won't act to defend Congressional powers, but pursues partisan outcomes first and the Constitutional separation of powers second (if at all), the controls no longer function.

It turns out that Alexander Hamilton was worried about this at the time:
Alexander Hamilton warned that [nonpartisanship] would be in short supply. In Federalist 65 he wrote: “A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective.” That is because the “subjects of its jurisdiction…are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL… The prosecution of them…will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”
So it seems to have proven.

By the way, what constitutes "bribery," that offense which the Founders coupled with treason as a clear-cut case? The President spends very much of his time flying from one fundraiser to another.

Bank Run

Credibility is the currency, and sometimes currencies collapse:
This flouting of a U.S. red line by [the Republic of Georgia] might seem relatively inconsequential — Saakashvili, after all, is not under arrest but in Ukraine advising its new pro-Western government. But it is part of a larger trend. Ally after ally of the United States, including regimes that, like Georgia, depend heavily on Washington for military and economic aid, have begun openly defying the Obama administration and, in a few cases, deliberately humiliating its envoys.

Just in the last two months, Egypt sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to long prison terms on flagrantly bogus charges the day after Secretary of State John F. Kerry announced that he had discussed their case with Cairo’s new strongman, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi. Bahrain, the Persian Gulf host of the U.S. 5th Fleet, expelled the assistant secretary of state for human rights after he met with members of a legal opposition party. Even tiny Aruba, whose foreign policy is run by the Netherlands, blindsided Washington by releasing a senior Venezuelan general it had arrested on a U.S. drug trafficking warrant. Apparently, it was considered easier to offend the Obama administration than the Chavista regime in Caracas.

Then there is Thailand, a “major non-Nato ally” of the United States, where the army carried out a military coup against an elected government even though it knew U.S. law would mandate a cutoff of military aid; and Burma, which backtracked on political reform promises its president made personally to Obama last year.

“It’s like a bank run,” one congressional foreign policy staffer told me last week. An international consensus seems to have gelled that the United States can’t be counted on to uphold its commitments and red lines, even with allies; the result is a free for all that can be seen as much in the nose-thumbing of Georgia as in Israel’s high-profile rejection of U.S. diplomacy.

What if We Don't Want Anti-Poverty Programs?

A writer at no less than the National Review worries that the Deep South can't be trusted with Federalism, because states there don't tend to enact anti-poverty programs like other states do. He posits that this is because Southern Republicans are white and above-average in income, so that the constituents who vote for Southern governors and many legislators don't want to pay the taxes because they wouldn't benefit from the programs.

Yet even in the Solid South, the Republicans are not always in charge (and have only been in charge for a generation anyway: it was a Democratic stronghold through most of its history).
Did the Democrats who controlled legislatures in the Deep South, black and non-black, play any role at all in the creation and governance of anti-poverty programs? It seems important not to neglect this part of the story. Bouie references the history of the region: “In keeping with their histories as low-tax, low-service states,” Bouie writes, ”places like Alabama and Mississippi have aimed for the minimum, providing as little as possible to poorer residents.” To be sure, Bouie’s point isn’t exactly a partisan one. It could be that it’s not just Republicans in the Deep South who can’t be trusted with anti-poverty efforts, but rather all elected officials in the Deep South, including the Democrats, including the African-American Democrats, who controlled the legislature until relatively recently. (It’s also true that Republicans proved more competitive in races for governor in recent decades, and governors have a great deal of power.) This seems like a dispiriting conclusion to draw, particularly for those of us who have at least some faith in the public-spiritedness of southern lawmakers. Though I would concede that southern policymakers of the past have much to answer for, it seems excessive to discount even the possibility that future southern policymakers will learn from the mistakes of the past.
As a Southerner who has written quite a bit about concern for the poor and the working class in the South, let me suggest that perhaps you're missing the point. There's more than one way to use the government to help the poor and the working class. The Southern way has traditionally been to encourage business development (a tradition that dates to the Reconstruction-era "New South" programs of the Bourbon Democrats who ran the region before, during, and after the Civil War). This is not done by establishing programs that have to be funded by higher taxes, because taxes tend to cause businesses to flee or not to form at all. It is done through a combination of tax brakes and deregulation, that is, by making it cheaper and easier to run your business here. This is the standard wisdom, and it is why the South has been growing at the expense of the Rust Belt for quite a long time now.*

I'm not sure the wisdom is exactly correct, but it is at least partially correct. Having good work is an important part of any anti-poverty program. Where the South has flourished, around cities like Atlanta and Charlotte, it has done so in this way. By attracting major corporations and investors, you create an environment in which small business creation is also encouraged: some small businesses that support the corporations directly, and others that provide services to their employees (or, at a second order, services to people who provide services). I know a young man who recently quit his job at a business that does pressure-washing of trucks (on contract to Federal Express, Pepsi, and others) to take another job at a company that does trimming and cutting trees for subdivisions that house those who have come down during Atlanta's growth over the last several generations. He's working-class, uneducated but energetic and willing to do a hard day's work, and even this terrible economy has provided him with a couple of opportunities from which to choose.

Additionally, the South has not had a good experience with Federally-led anti-poverty programs. Where such programs have had flourishing enrollment, poverty has not declined, but morality has (as a writer at the National Review should know). This had led to a general degradation of the culture in those areas, as well as the people who become wrapped up in this culture of dependency. Where traditional moral structures have held strong, in spite of Federal enticements, rural poverty is not obviously worse yet people live better lives.

Where the Southern anti-poverty strategy falls down seems to me to be in three broad areas:

1) Federal intrusion: It can't defeat Federal regulations, which have badly hurt the working class -- especially the Obamacare regulations, which have lately turned most unskilled workers from full time employees into part-time employees, suppressed business growth and formation, and generally created an atmosphere in which it is harder to create work. Likewise it was very vulnerable to the disruption caused by the housing bubble, which was created in part by Federal regulations on mortgages that destabilized the risk market. No Southern legislature could pass a law countermanding the Federal law that mortgages be issued to people who probably couldn't pay for them, and if they had tried they would have been suspected (and accused) of being racially motivated for it. Yet it would have protected workers in the region from the vastly negative effects of the bubble's formation and collapse.

2) What do we do about people for whom jobs aren't the answer? This strategy gives workers a measure of independence by encouraging the formation of lots of job opportunities, which means that they can elect to move from one job to another. Thus, they aren't quite in the situation of having their lives dominated by a corporate master: they can go work for someone else. But what about those who are getting older and can't work as hard or as long (if they can find an other-than-part-time job, or enough of them); or who lack the resources to train for new skills; or who happen to lack the intelligence to be useful to anyone; or who have developed chronic illness; or, really, anyone else for whom employment isn't the answer? When new technologies alter the playing field for workers, how do we ensure they can adapt to it? What happens if we just need fewer workers because of technological changes -- what do we do about people who can't work though they would? We seem not to have a good set of answers here.

3) Corruption: National and international banks who are protected by lobbying relationships with the Feds are impossible to hold to account locally. Federalism is supposed to be our method of protection here -- it's supposed to provide a level of government that is better able to handle larger-scale actors who may be beyond the reach of a state. Instead it has been captured by the people it was supposed to regulate. The danger of the South's model is that it is inviting state-level corruption of the same kind that has already captured the Federal government. It is a short walk from offering tax breaks and fewer regulations to offering special protections from torts or lawsuits, or to structuring regulations in a way that actually allows bad behavior by the wealthy corporations you'd like to court.

Of these problems, only problem #2 even conceptually might be amenable to solutions of the type this author would like to see. Yet solutions of that type have failed -- see the links under 'such programs have had flourishing enrollment,' above. There isn't a general agreement about what the solutions ought to be in any case; and there's a balance to be achieved between any solution and the general strategy of encouraging the growth of the private sector.

So it could be that the reason there aren't more anti-poverty programs in the South is that the South doesn't want them. That doesn't mean there are no problems, and poverty is certainly a serious issue. It just means that we don't agree about how to address the issue or solve the problems. Government at any level isn't helpful if you don't know what you want it to do; and if you just start screwing around and trying things, you're apt to upset that general strategy of business development. We are only willing to do something that damages the general strategy in the rare case that it has come to command broad democratic agreement that the cost would be worth the benefits.

None of that has anything to do with race.

* This begs the question of why the South didn't grow instead of the Rust Belt, or begin its upswing earlier. After all, the policy is very old. The answer is partially one of infrastructure development: the South was deeply impoverished by the Civil War, and had less money for the infrastructure on which an industrial economy depended; impoverishment only got worse outside of the city centers, because the South's economic structure postwar was a cotton monoculture, which meant that the economic activity was wealth-extracting rather than wealth-creating from the perspective of the region. (It created lots of wealth for those down the line, who were buying cotton cheaper every year and turning it into finished products: but that was done outside the South.) Broad educational attainment was less for a long time for similar reasons, and an industrial worker must be basically educated.


A thoughtful post from David Foster explores the mental gymnastics we sometimes engage in to tolerate the sins of our friends (and ourselves) and avoid the duty to forgive our real enemies.  It includes this passage from C.S. Lewis:
“All Christians know that they must forgive their enemies. But “my enemy” primarily means the man whom I am really tempted to hate…. If you listen to young Christian intellectuals talking, you will soon find out who their real enemy is.  He seems to have two names–Colonel Blimp and “the businessman.”  I suspect that the latter usually means the speaker’s father, but that is speculation.  What is certain is that in asking such people to forgive the Germans and Russians, and to open their eyes to the sins of England, you are asking them, not to mortify, but to indulge, their ruling passion.”