The trouble with anti-semites today

From UK Op-Ed: ‘The Trouble With Jews Today’.

For Zizek:

the trouble with Jews today is that they are now trying to get roots in a place which was for thousands of years inhabited by other people.

“The trouble with Jews today.”

Yes you read that correctly.

Not to mention, of course, that Jews have inhabited and have had historical roots in today’s Israel going back thousands of years themselves.

Anti-semitism on the left is no longer a form of racism nor is it a matter of disgust and shame. It is now becoming part of the brand, a return to the National Socialism of the past.

Personal beliefs are the new status markers

For a long time I have noticed that among my friends and associates, those with seriously more money don’t seem to have a seriously better or more interesting life. We holiday and travel to the same destinations, watch the same movies, go to the same kinds of theatre, eat out just as nicely, live in comfortable homes, and more or less enjoy the same kind of lives. They spend much more and they live better, but not in such a way that I envy all of the things I miss that they can do. I therefore think this article is dead on: Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class—A Status Update. This is the point:

In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements. But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before. And people are less likely to receive validation for the material items they display. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But they have come up with a clever solution. The affluent have decoupled social status from goods, and re-attached it to beliefs.

They can show their affluence by holding idiotic beliefs that because of the cushion of wealth that surrounds them never wreck their lives. Anyone else on lower incomes without that cushion would court personal disaster if they tried to follow in their own lives what the rich say they personally believe about life. An example:

Top universities are also crucial for induction into the luxury belief class. Take vocabulary. Your typical middle-class American could not tell you what “heteronormative” or “cisgender” means. But if you visit Harvard, you’ll find plenty of rich 19-year-olds who will eagerly explain them to you. When someone uses the phrase “cultural appropriation,” what they are really saying is “I was educated at a top college.” Consider the Veblen quote, “Refined tastes, manners, habits of life are a useful evidence of gentility, because good breeding requires time, application and expense, and can therefore not be compassed by those whose time and energy are taken up with work.” Only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.

Or this:

The chief purpose of luxury beliefs is to indicate evidence of the believer’s social class and education. Only academics educated at elite institutions could have conjured up a coherent and reasonable-sounding argument for why parents should not be allowed to raise their kids, and should hold baby lotteries instead. When an affluent person advocates for drug legalization, or anti-vaccination policies, or open borders, or loose sexual norms, or uses the term “white privilege,” they are engaging in a status display. They are trying to tell you, “I am a member of the upper class.”

None of this idiocy will ever affect them which helps to separate themselves from the plebs.

Censorship is not a form of free speech

Should a carrier of information be allowed to do this? ’60 Minutes:’ More Than 300 Ads by Trump Campaign Taken Down by Google and YouTube. That is, should a carrier of the views of individuals who have signed up to discuss issues with their friends and with anyone else who would like to join in, be censored by the platform on which their views are expressed?

More than 300 of President Donald Trump’s political ads have taken down by Google and its video platform YouTube, mostly over the summer, according to a report by 60 minutes.

The CBS reporters were unable to find specific reasons for the mass takedowns of Trump ads, a common problem with social media companies, which are often reluctant to explain precisely why a ban or other act of censorship has happened. “We found very little transparency in the transparency report,” concluded 60 Minutes.

They are not just publishers, they are also censors. Why is this allowed? Let me also draw in Wednesday’s editorial in The Australian: Tech titans Google and Facebook want to rule your world, wherein we find:

In July, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission issued a report on the devastating impact of digital platforms. It was the deepest dive yet by a regulator into the predatory business models of Google, Facebook and Twitter, exposing monopoly powers, cavalier approaches to user privacy, pathological secrecy and parasitical freeloading on businesses such as News Corp Australia, our parent.

No doubt News Limited has its own interests at stake, but more importantly so do the rest of us. Moreover, Australia is being looked at as a test case:

The question is: can these giants be brought under control, their dominance checked for the common good? Authorities around the world are watching what happens here. The government’s move will have a profound effect on the future of news media and the lives of all Australians.

This is the reverse of a free speech issue in the usual sense. People didn’t sign up to twitter, facebook and youtube expecting the content of their posts to be heavily censored on behalf of massive corporate entities whose politics is embedded on the far left. We would be mad to let them get away with it, and in the long-run would pay dearly for allowing these censors to pretend they are on the side of free speech.

“Trump should stay the course”

This is a link to an article with the title, Trump’s Foreign Policy: The Popping Point of Maximum Pressure. In case you cannot tell from the title, it is very pro-Trump and is written by Victor Davis Hanson. It starts:

Donald Trump promised to shake up U.S. foreign policy. He has certainly done that from the Middle East to Asia. The U.S. is currently engaged in a three-front, maximum-pressure standoff with China, Iran, and North Korea — involving everything from tariffs to possible military action and the strictest sanctions in memory.

If you are in the Deep State, nothing could be worse. Until then, it was Eastasia v Oceania v Eurasia but with the fall of the Soviet Empire, great uncertainty remained. And for some reason, the rising star was China, beloved of the Deep State. Back to VDH.

At first, Trump critics saw these policy recalibrations as either impotent or counterproductive. Pessimists asserted that China, with a population four times the size of the United States’, was fated for world hegemony. Why antagonize those who might soon control our political and economic future?

Bipartisan experts talked not of the heresy of “stopping” China’s ascendance, but of “managing” America’s relative decline. Translated, the implicit policy conceded that the U.S., in its trade concessions, should overlook systematic Chinese trade surpluses, flagrant violations of world commercial norms, neocolonial provocations throughout Asia, stealing U.S. patents and copyrights, product dumping, currency manipulation, and technological appropriation. Supposedly, the more we appeased China through acts of magnanimity, the more they would reciprocate by becoming like us.

The fact is, a centralised economy cannot perform at the highest level. China is no longer full-on communist, but it is more than full-on totalitarian. In the West, there is at least a smidgen of a trace of a memory that economies work best, and innovate more, and raise living standards more certainly and reliably, if the economy is left to the market. So how’s this working out?

The canard was that there was no alternative to appeasement, given China’s more dynamic economy and cold-hearted efficiency — so beloved by progressives when it came to Beijing’s construction by fiat of high-speed rail, shiny airports, and solar and wind farms. Trump, we were told, was a ridiculous Quixote tilting at Chinese windmills, with his 19th-century talk of counterproductive “tariffs” and ossified “trade wars.”

Not now. The U.S. economy is still humming. The stock market is at record highs. Unemployment stays at near-record peacetime lows. Oil and gas production is beyond anyone’s wildest imagination just a few years ago. The Chinese economy, from what we can tell from its state-controlled media and censored state agencies, is slowing down. Human-rights activists are coming out of the shadows to damn China’s reeducation camps. Riots continue in Hong Kong, along with Orwellian surveillance of China’s own citizens at home.

So here we are, Deep State in dismay.

We are entering dangerous territory not because we are losing our trade war with China, but because we are beginning to win it. Xi Jinping not Trump has overplayed his hand. The Chinese know that they cannot end the standoff by returning to the former asymmetrical status quo. Nor can they embrace a new fair relationship — it would be antithetical to the very means by which China obtained its enormous wealth in the first place. Something then has to give.

Continues with a look at Iran and North Korea, both of which are similarly under extreme pressure to conform to Western norms. The conclusion:

In the next few months, we should expect a major provocation from either an increasingly beleaguered Iran or a flummoxed North Korea — and some sort of desperate quid pro quo from China presented as a last chance, a rare and magnanimous offer to stop the tariffs so “we can all just get along.”

Trump should stay the course and not let up until he achieves the original aim of his maximum pressure campaign. Nothing is more dangerous than to enter an existential standoff, feel momentum accruing, and then appease and grant concessions that destroy all prior sacrifice that heretofore had been finally paying off. Instead, he should expect our strapped adversaries at some point to do their worst, and then meet that challenge with our best — and ensure that our adversaries in their decline lack the power to take us down with them.

We shall see. Totalitarian states are hard to remove, and the love of power among those who have it is very strong indeed.

Productivity is dead

Just got to the AFR at the end of the day, and what do we find: Falling productivity numbers cloud economic recovery. The headline front-page story too.

The weakest productivity numbers in at least 25 years have unsettled the outlook for an economic recovery, a pick-up in wage growth and a string of budget surpluses predicted by the Morrison government and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Former Productivity Commission chairman Gary Banks said that while he was cautious about the poor productivity reading, it “caps off what has been consistently weak productivity performance” in Australia and the serious need for structural reform to lift economic output.

“Trying to stimulate demand through monetary and fiscal measures won’t cut it, I’m afraid, and these pose risks of their own,” Mr Banks said. “The causes of [economic weakness] require regulatory and other reforms to enhance the supply side of the economy.”

Public sector spending is notoriously non-value-adding. You can have all the fake GDP growth you like, building train lines in Melbourne and streetcars in Sydney, and who know what everywhere else, but if they do not repay their production costs in higher levels of output, they are taking your economy backwards. And like with the trains and the trams, since neither is even carrying a single passenger as yet, there is absolutely nothing on the ground taking place that creates any value whatsoever. All for very classical reasons, but you’d have to read Mill and not Mankiw to see the point.

Liked this bit too, also for very classical reasons:

While the figures are likely to reflect strong jobs growth at a time of weakened economic activity, including a drop in farm production because of the drought, many economists blame structural problems, such as a distinct lack of business investment, especially outside the resources sector.

My favourite line from Mill, the most radicalising phrase I ever read, was “demand for commodities is not demand for labour”. To translate: there is no connection between the level of demand and employment. With real wages there is a major connection, but with employment none at all.

Economics is stale and worthless

This is the abstract for a paper on “The Focus of Academic Economics: Before and After the Crisis”.* As is quite obvious from watching Treasuries and central banks around the world, no one learned a thing. In fact, no one even tried to investigate. Economics as now taught is stale and worthless.

Has the global financial crisis of 2007ff had a visible impact on the economics profession? To answer this question we employ a bibliometric approach and compare the content and orientation of economic literature before and after the crisis with reference to two different samples: A large-scale sample consisting of more than 440,000 articles published between 1956 and 2016 and a smaller sample of 400 top-cited papers before and after the crisis. Our results suggest that unlike the Great Depression of the 1930s the current financial crisis did not lead to any major theoretical or methodological changes in contemporary economics, although the topic of financial instability received increased attention after the crisis.

Moreover, given the dating of the papers examined, no one has learned a thing from the absence of a recovery anywhere in the world in the decade following the GFC. Of course, what they learned after the Great Depression was Keynesian economics, which was a universally-understood fallacy among the entire mainstream of economic theory before 1936, accepted only by Marxists and economic cranks, but I repeat myself.

I might mention that I have just been sent the book description being used by my publisher for my next book which is on classical economics and how to understand it.

Economic theory reached its highest level of analytical power and depth of understanding in the middle of the nineteenth century among John Stuart Mill and his contemporaries. This book explains what took place in the ensuing Marginal Revolution and Keynesian Revolution that left economists less able to understand how economies operate. It explores the false mythology that has obscured the arguments of classical economists, providing a pathway into the theory they developed.

On this, let me again quote Senator Cameron from when I appeared before the Economic References Committee in 2009.

Why have the IMF, the OECD, the ILO, the treasuries of every advanced economy, the Treasury in Australia, the business economists around the world, why have they got it so wrong and yet you in your ivory tower at RMIT have got it so right?

Best question ever. My book will provide the answer.

* Ernest Aigner (Vienna University of Economics and Business); Matthias Aistleitner (Johannes Kepler University); Florentin Glotzl (Vienna University of Economics and Business); Jakob Kapeller (Johannes Kepler University). “The Focus of Academic Economics: Before and After the Crisis.”

“Testosterone is the chemical engine for risk-taking, reciprocity, generosity and competitiveness”

The quote is from David Solway’s Where Have All the Alphas Gone? and this is the para in which the words appear.

In an important talk delivered at the ICMI conference held in Chicago in October 2019, the video of which is soon to be released, former vice-chair of the Maryland Commission for Men’s Health Tom Golden pointed out that testosterone levels are markedly declining among Western males. As is well known, testosterone is a male sex hormone that stimulates the production of sperm and the growth of muscle mass. But it is less well known that testosterone is also genetically engineered for status-seeking. University of Zurich neuroscientist Christoph Eisenegger in a major research paper, “The role of testosterone in social interaction,” suggests that testosterone “might be best conceptualized as bringing motives for social status to the fore.” Eisenegger showed that those who maintain that high level of testosterone lead only to corruption, aggression and emotional sterility have not adequately considered the evidence; such studies have been “clearly refuted.” Testosterone is the chemical engine for risk-taking, reciprocity, generosity and competitiveness.

Read it all. Might pair it with this, also from Instapundit this morning: Mothers Push Gender Stereotypes More Than Fathers, Study Reveals.

Prof. Kristel Thomassin found mothers may be more gender-biased than fathers when it comes to encouraging or discouraging their child’s expression of sadness and anger.

However, mothers likely aren’t even aware they have these gender biases.

“We found that on an implicit level, moms tend to show a bias, and this bias considers girls expressing these emotions to be more favourable than boys expressing the same emotions,” said the psychology professor and lead author of the study.

I suppose if they are the kind of woman that marries and has children, it makes sense that masculinity is the sort of trait they would be looking for in the kind of male children they would want to raise. Naturally, the author sees her results as a warning to parents, and especially mothers.

Thomassin said there are deeply held gender-based beliefs about which emotional expressions are acceptable for girls and which are acceptable for boys. Parents may hold these beliefs implicitly, without being aware they are doing so, she added.

“In contemporary Western society, there is the attitude that every child should experience the full spectrum of emotions, so long as they know how to deal with them. But deeply embedded, socially constructed beliefs may undermine that ideal.”

“If you know that those attitudes exist, you can activate your own thought process and examine whether you are, for example, punishing your child for expressing sadness because those are the messages you heard from your parents, movies or other sources. You can ask yourself, ‘Is it consistent with what I want to be teaching my child?’”

If you want identikit children, why not start getting girls to stop crying instead?

The ABC is ecstatic: “free market capitalism is facing a challenge”

From the economically-illiterate ABC: Modern monetary theory is gaining traction. But can it knock out free market capitalism? Socialist grifters that they are, they have zero understanding how wealth is created and therefore think it’s just there to be parcelled out by governments, the same way the ABC is funded. Let’s listen in to their profoundly ignorant discussion:

MMT points an accusing finger at Neoliberalism, blaming it for rising economic inequality and corresponding reductions in the quality and scope of essential services — both public and privatised.

MMT’s proponents argue that the current “surplus obsession” is at best misconceived and at worst ideological — a deception to justify reductions in government spending in order to fund taxation cuts for the wealthy.

They argue that governments shouldn’t be afraid of pushing the economy into deficit if that deficit helps fund further economic growth.

Ah yes, the deficit. Who’s afraid of deficits today? Trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, and hardly a voice of caution to be heard. E.g.

Democrats have a strong policy basis for their position. Early this year, the two most prominent Democratic economists — former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, both under Barack Obama — wrote an influential article citing structural declines in interest rates. This means that “policymakers should reconsider the traditional fiscal approach that has often wrong-headedly limited worthwhile investments in such areas as education, health care and infrastructure,” they said.

“Politicians and policymakers should focus on urgent social programs, not deficits,” they advised.

Keynesian airheads every one of them. Then this: Corporate debt nears a record $10 trillion, and borrowing binge poses new risks. Did they say “risks”? What sort of risks would these be?

The root cause of the debt boom is the decision by the Federal Reserve and other key central banks to cut interest rates to zero in the wake of the financial crisis and to hold them at historic lows for years.

The low rates were needed to encourage companies to invest and hire as the nation recovered from the worst economic collapse in 70 years.

Cutting interest rates is the standard answer to a troubled economy. But rates have never been this low for this long, and the side effects from too much easy money are becoming clear as central bankers struggle to return interest rates to traditional levels.

Since it’s the Washington Post it is looking for the gloomy side in the story, but for a change I agree with them and not the President.

An artificial environment of near-free money is masking serious underlying ailments and may be storing up problems for a future reckoning. This era of perpetually cheap money has kept alive some debt-ridden “zombie” companies that would have failed if rates were at traditional levels; widened the wealth gap between rich and poor; and distorted financial decisions.

The dangers are immense but between MMT and the traditional Keynesian ignoramuses, there is virtually no one around to turn things around.

But if you want to know what needs to be done, don’t bother with the ABC.

A heartwarming story about 911

Canadian musical Come From Away is showing at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre. The uplifting tale that also reflects on how the 9/11 attacks punctured the west’s illusion of invulnerability.

Here’s the review from The Guardian: Come From Away – a feelgood 9/11 musical? Believe the hype. I went because everybody I knew who had seen it told me not to miss it. And it’s Canadian, to its bootstraps. No one else could even conceive of such a story. Everyone’s nice and in spite of the significance of the specific day in history that surrounds the story, there are no bad people. I will say as much about it that is positive that I can bear, but then get into the politics and morality.

The story is upbeat, it is sweet and kindly, and it is one more effort to bring to life The Enlightenment Project which would not be all that bad an idea if it could actually be done. The Enlightenment Project was in large part a call for tolerance, which really means, I will make an effort to get on with you, if you will make an equal effort to get on with me, even though we cannot stand each other and do not like each other’s beliefs. This is the minimum requirement both for social peace and democratic politics. “Tolerance” has now transmogrified into a mandatory requirement to actually think positively about everyone else in spite of what they do, except, it seems, white males, who are never to be tolerated no matter what they do. This is the definition of “tolerance” that comes up at Wikipedia:

the ability or willingness to tolerate the existence of opinions or behaviour that one dislikes or disagrees with.
“the tolerance of corruption”

Given their wording, what they seem to mean is putting up with bad things you cannot do anything about, since “corruption” hardly fits into an acceptance of other people’s beliefs and ways of life, although perhaps looking at our politicians, that is probably what it now does mean. I might also note that there seems to be very little tolerance shown by the left for conservative points of view.

All that said, Come From Away is an upbeat musical that takes place on September 11, 2001 when dozens of passenger planes attempting to cross the Atlantic were diverted to the airport at Gander, where every transatlantic flight used to land in days gone by before you could fly London-New York non-stop. It’s one of those feel-good-about-themselves stories made just for the left since going to the play, shelling out hundreds of dollars for the night and then applauding wildly at the end demonstrates what a tolerant and liberal person you are.

And just so as not to spoil the mood, no one during the entire performance discusses the use of airplanes as incendiary bombs at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. No one discusses the thousands of deaths that had caused these planes to be diverted. And I need hardly point out the cultural identity of the only person to feel victimised during the hour and forty minutes it took to get through it all.

I could make the analogy worse, but try this. What would you think about a cheerful and upbeat musical comedy about people meeting up and getting to know each other following the attack on Pearl Harbour.

No one on the left is any longer serious about any major issue not even ones that involve their lives and the lives of their children. Anyway, the video below is how less than two decades after the event we remember 911. You will see how positive the audience reacts, which is what we now expect from the media and arts alliance.