Saturday, March 17, 2018

Unions, Parties and Killing Golden Geese

I have a friend who is a union man and we tend to get into some lovely conversations. I'm a conservative as you've probably figured out. Unions are NOT conservative and union men take a particular delight in vilifying the president and the Republican Party, so sometime the conversations get lively.

Let me make this clear. I feel about Unions the way I feel about Donald Trump. They both are doing some good, but sometimes they are their own worst enemies.  The idea of unions started out to be a good thing. The railroad union, in particular, to give it credit was able to work with the railroad companies to solve some of the problems of the economic transition that occurred in the twentieth century. The railroads were dying until finally the unions and the company figured out how to work together. That's how it should be done. 

But there are unions that don't do that. They ossify procedures, hiring and firing and pay rates. Unions can become so busy protecting specific jobs (and the Union income stream from dues) that the companies they work for keep folding. Hostess Bakeries was killed because their Union refused to budge. The union dug in its heels, the company couldn't adapt and folded along. Retirement plans went away. So did a lot of jobs with the death of company and along with it, our supply of Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes. Eventually someone else bought the brand but it was a near thing. 

Unions can do a lot of good, but too often in their blind hatred for the companies they work for, they kill the golden goose. I fault Unions for being so in the tank for Democrats. They do that because as in the case of Chrysler and then GM, the unions protect their turf so vigorously the frequently help drive their companies to the brink. Let's face it, if a company can't make a decent profit, why should the continue to do business. Then when the company is on the brink, unions expect taxpayers to swoop in and bail them out, saving union jobs. 

It's the same problem with environmentalists. These people want to somehow prevent the climate from changing or the job market from changing. We are passing through a titanic shift, as disrupting as the shift from a largely agrarian economy to an industrial economy. We are moving from an industrial to a tech-based information economy. Rather than preserve outmoded buggy whip manufacturing jobs, we need to be finding ways to adapt to the new reality.

The climate? Climates change. Get over it. We just have to deal with it. Clean up messes - absolutely. Stop polluting as far as possible. Of course. But do we have to create some vast centrally planned economy with an attendant huge army of bureaucrats to try and manage from Washington, a nation of 350 million individuals? That's absurd. The only way to do that is to simplify everything, stuff every peg, square, round or triangular into the same shape holes. That's why Marx was so in love with the idea of a homogeneous proletariat. If everybody (or at least most of us) were treated the same the theory was that they would be easier to manage for the leader class.

A nation of individuals is tough to make steady and predictable. Things change rapidly in a free market economy. Some businesses will close. Some will adapt. We're not asking mom and pop hardware stores to suddenly sell dresses because Walmart set up shot next door. But they can adapt  maybe sell hardware items that Walmart doesn't sell. They can offer higher levels of service that Wally World cannot offer because they have to sell such a huge volume of stuff.

In a time of upheaval, we have to change and adapt. In the past 200 years the world has changed in a profound way.  Two centuries ago we could be certain that, barring an attack by the nation next door and being carried off as slaves, for the most part however it was for your parents, it would be the same for you. After the huge scientific revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries, we came to believe that our lives would inevitably better than the lives of our parents.

It's ironic that the "progressive" movement that rose up seems to be attempting to reverse that course by making "progress" stand still. By insuring that everything from the jobs we work at to the very climate we live in stays the same, progressive behavior impedes progress. It's a losing battle. The world is changing and huge monolithic organizations and governments cannot possibly keep up. The reason America has thrived in this The future does not belong to those who learn something and then do that same something all their lives. That type of job is going away. The future will require us to learn how to learn, unlearn, and relearn something different. It will call for education that harks back to the old liberal arts education where we learn basic skills like math, writing, logic and computer skills and then layer on that first skill set you need to enter the workforce.

After that the worker has to stop worrying about fairness and start looking at what works to make that worker valuable to his employers. Here unions could play a role so long as they don't become the monolithic organizations, an image to the "beast" corporations they hate. If instead of propping up dying companies and industries we let the ones which try to kill themselves go ahead and die. We could spend that same money encouraging new companies to step in and start clean. We could train workers to do the new jobs using the new technologies and to meet the needs of a changing market.

The world is changing. There was a reason Chrysler was dying in the 80s and GM in the 00s. They probably should have. Someone or several someones could have bought the good parts and started clean. If the unions had been smart they'd have focused on working with newer, smarter, leaner companies. Sadly, too often the unions over time can become about accumulating power and fat budgets for the bosses instead of what they were about in the first place - a fair shake for workers on wages and safety.

There's a reason Detroit is rotting away.
If you keep an industry barely alive and never get beyond treading water, an industry will rot and along with it the community that depends on that industry. Can corporations become corrupt? You bet, especially when the hook up with corrupt government which protects them. If one could allow a partnership of workers and the markets their labors provide goods and services to work as free markets can, we could keep corporations in line. But corruption doesn't just happen in board rooms. It can be found top to bottom. 

When owners and workers finally realize they are both on the same team and we get over envying the wealth of people who risk everything to start these companies, we might just see a greater sharing of the wealth. There's a reason Ford wasn't involved in the bailout. Henry Ford started the 40 hour week and assembly line and took care of his workers in ways no other corporate magnate did. Oddly enough he was very popular with people like Hitler because he was a socialist. Fortunately, his focus on his employees and treating them well hung with the company for a long time and kept them from falling into that adversarial relationship despite Ford's folly in embracing socialism.

It's amazing to me that very wealthy people cannot do the decent thing for very long, before they hook up with the government to try to take some of the responsibility for being decent people off of themselves. This protects their wealth, but puts the lion's share of the tax burden on the middle class through confiscatory taxation. Back in the 50s, when the upper tax rate was like 70%, very few of the 1%ers actually paid that tax rate. The rich were famous for hiring staffs of tax attorneys who helped them navigate the loopholes that the Democrats they support put into the tax codes. In the 50s and 60s the fat cats were supposed to pay 70%, but very few paid anything near that rate and some paid almost no taxes at all. 

There is no simple solution so long as we have vast complicated piles of regulations, laws and rules that hide the true intent of the government from the governed. It's not just evil corporations, it's evil government bureaucracies.

think the devil's purpose is to keep us divided and fighting among ourselves. And what better way than to sling slogans at one another and lash ourselves to the mast of our ideology. I used to do community organizing and it's so hard to get people to look beyond their pet ideologies and listen to each other. Sometimes you can figure out how to fix the problem. Usually, you just get pushed aside if you start talking sense because the leaders on both sides of the ideological divide need to keep the strife going in order to keep their jobs they think.

It's heartbreaking to watch the land that I love destroy itself from within. So good that Jesus is coming soon.

© 2018 by Tom King

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Would Regulating the Media Stop Mass Shootings?

Mass shootings should be illegal, except where
the population has been safely disarmed first..


A guy who commented on a Scientific American article complained that he didn't get enough of a "reaction" to his suggestion that we create laws to limit media coverage of mass shootings and suicides in order to reduce the number of mass shootings and suicide. To be fair, there is some research that seems to say that coverage of such events creates a kind of "contagion" that stimulates others to emulate the behavior. And it's true. Right after the recent Parkland High School shootings in Florida, police stopped four potential mass shootings and/or bombings aimed at high schools by disgruntled kids. The media pundrity's reaction was predictable. They covered the guns. They didn't cover the bombs. And they didn't give much time to the story if no one died. In the media, if it bleeds it leads they say.

In the wake of the Parkland High shootings, even the venerable "Scientific American" put up a pro gun control article entitled "Why are White Men Stockpiling Guns?" It was a blog to be sure but it lacked any pretense of being anything more than a politically motivated anti-white male hit piece with a lot of gun control and racist talking points. It made little effort to maintain the pretense that the article's conclusions were based on science. Some might object to my calling the article racist, since the racism was aimed at white guys. It could be considered sexist too as it absolved blame from women as well as non-whites placing the blame for gun fever directly on males. The blog was an incredible bit of white guy shaming for having been published in an ostensibly serious scientific journal. It basically intimates that white guys are (1) less intelligent (2) are fraidy cats and (3) racist and that's why they are stock-piling guns, a fact that should make you very afraid. That is to be expected. It's the progressive narrative after all. The guy who suggested muzzling the media is at least closer to a method of solving the problem than the traditional hand-fluttering gun control lobby.

The truly ironic thing about the guy suggesting that media were exploiting acts of violence to get attention was that his big complaint was that he wasn't getting enough attention for his comment, especially from the conservative right. He is, in point of fact, trying to get the same kind of attention he's complaining about the media getting. He utilizes a subtle kind of bullying hoping people will pay attention. Okay, he wanted a reaction from the right? Here I go, though not in the way that he'd probably hoped as it won't get him many likes on facebook or hits on his comments on Scientific American..

First off, mass shootings and suicides cannot be solved by making more laws. Both behaviors are already against the law. No one who commits a mass shooting or kills themselves cares what the law says about it. While I myself have railed against the media for encouraging copycat behavior with their nonstop coverage (i.e. glorification) of those who kill others and/or themselves, writing laws to prevent media coverage of these events will not solve the problem. At least it won't solve the problem without causing a whole bunch of those dreaded "unintended consequences" that central planners almost always cause when they try to create top-down solutions.

As soon as you begin to restrict the freedom of the press, you set in motion some very bad things. The rights retained by the people are not permitted to be infringed by the government. These rights are, according to the Constitution, rights we hold first and foremost. The government we formed is expressly forbidden to touch those inalienable rights. Touch one right and you set a precedent to infringing them all. Remember, lawyers and judges are very big on precedents.

Here's the deal. The US murder rate is dropping steadily in the United States (Except, of course, in stronghold Democrat Party run cities), but we are told we have a "gun problem" and need to "do something about it." In other words make some more laws. But the problem is not a legal problem. It's a cultural one, a social problem and even a religious problem.

In embracing progressivism's assumptions, we've wound up in a trap of our own making. While our attention-starved commentator is right, the media does exacerbate both suicides and mass shootings, if we as Americans (especially millennial-Americans didn't feel entitled to be catered to and paid attention to by our fellow citizens, we wouldn't feel the need to shoot them in large numbers. You could have said romantic poetry in the 17th century led to more suicides. It probably did. It's likely that Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet led to more teenage suicides. The Bard went a long way toward making suicide attractive to teenaged star-crossed lovers. 

That said, this would not have been so had the cultures of the time not embraced certain foolish ideas about the relative value of emotion over reason. The old Renaissance romanticism had a pernicious effect on culture. It made us too trustful of our own emotions and far too easily swayed by emotion-based propaganda. Emotion became a tool for adjusting the beliefs of the gullible ignoramuses that make up the unwashed masses - Marx's "proletariat". So now the propagandists are suggesting that gun control laws, which make us feel good and morally superior about ourselves for supporting them, will somehow solve the mass murder and suicide problem.

It won't!  The solution to reducing mass murders and suicides is not to change people's feelings but to restore a cultural that values reason
. Restoring reason to its former glory is something today's intellectuals really don't want to do though. Most of our post-modernist intelligentsia seem to firmly believe that cultural attitudes are going the right way. All is according to the progressive plan for re-inventing America. It is no surprise we've raised millions of youth to believe their feelings are of far more value than their reason. Obiwan Kenobi even told kids to "Trust your feelings, Luke!"

Perhaps if we could somehow address the cultural imperative that says your Facebook post needs to have a lot of likes lest your feelings be hurt, maybe kids wouldn't feel so deprived if they weren't the center of attention all the time. Perhaps if we created a culture where truth was valued above approval by your peers, where work yields rewards far better than just showing up for a participation trophy, then perhaps we might eventually get to the point where we have a media that values the truth above ratings.

Take the White Men story in Scientific American. The author makes this startling statement:

  • A white man is three times more likely to shoot himself than a black man—while the chances that a white man will be killed by a black man are extremely slight.
Okay, let's examine that. FBI data show that while 500 black-on-white killings and 229 white-on-black killings were reported in 2015, 2,574 homicides were committed by whites against other whites, and 2,380 by blacks against blacks. Somehow the author made it look like black-on-white killings were "extremely slight". And few of us will notice this pretty heavy shading of the truth. This is truly remarkable given that more than twice as many black men shoot white men as the other way round. The author leaves out the fact that these kill rates he dismisses as "extremely light" are not adjusted for the percentage of the population represented. Black men make up less than 8% of the US population. White men make up a good 31% and total white people more than 60% if you don't count Hispanics as white, which they kind of are.

So black men murder white men at a rate of more than two to one in actual numbers while being less than 1/4 as numerous in the population as white men. The narrative our kids are getting from the media, though is that white men are cowards (that's why they have guns in the first place), that they are slaughtering black people with their nasty guns and that they are pretty much more dangerous and more stupid than anyone else, especially if they own guns.

The truth is that it's the education system that needs to be "fixed", both at home and in schools. In CS Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", old Professor Kirk complains, "What are they teaching in schools these days?" Lewis himself pointed out the dangers of teaching young people that truth was about how they felt about it in his essay  "Men Without Chests". In looking at "modern" education Lewis complained that while the old system was a kind of propaganda, men teaching boys to be men. The new system is entirely propaganda, substituting a subjective standard of "whatever I feel about a thing" for objective reason. “Another little portion of the human heritage," says Lewis, "has been quietly taken from them (children) before they were old enough to understand.” 

If parents and educators will not teach children to think for themselves as individuals, if we role model slavish devotion to the herd in our own daily lives, we raise children to be lemmings and not American individuals. When that process becomes complete, the proletariat will become a tool for government to manipulate as it will. We will have exchanged one form of relatively ineffective mass murder for another form far more powerful and effective at slaughtering people in large numbers. Check the history of collectivist proletariats in just the past century. It's not a pretty picture. The rate of slaughter in these progressive collectivist states puts American school shooters and mass murderers in the shade. And I bet the Russians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodians and Venezuelans didn't think it could happen in their countries either.*

© 2018 by Tom King

* And by the way, in all those nations the media was regulated BEFORE the mass executions got to rolling along and usually after the citizenry had been disarmed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Politics and Puppies

Be happy my progressive friends.*

Lately I've gotten tired of all the negativity on Facebook, especially around the discussion of politics.
So, I've been posting pictures of puppies on my timeline, hoping puppies doing happy puppy things would help to promote peace and harmony with my progressive friends. 
Well that didn't work.

Now one of my progressive friends has criticized me because of my puppy pictures**.
He says the puppies in the pictures I've posted probably come from puppy mills.


Man if a puppy can't make you happy, you must really must need to be miserable.

© 2018 by Tom King

*This puppy is a rescue dog named Daisy who blessed our home for six years. I miss her very much. She is certifiably NOT from a puppy mill.

**In all fairness to my friend we were in the middle of a fine old very political debate and neither of us were giving an inch. The snipe was in the neighborhood of an "Oh, yeah, so's your mother!" comeback. I don't blame him. Heat of the moment and all. It is very tempting in the middle of one of those heated debates to impugn your interlocutor's ancestry. I do my best to resist doing that, though - especially when there are puppies in the room.