Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, a historian and scholar of classical times, a man whose opinion I respect, worries that we may now be in The Last Generation of the West and the Thin Strand of Civilization. Excerpt:
Over 90 million Americans who could work are not working (the “non-institutionalized” over 16). What we take for granted — our electrical power, fuel, building materials, food, health care, and communications — all hinge on just 144 million getting up in the morning to produce what about 160-170 million others (the sick, the young, and the retired who need assistance along with the 90 million idle) consume.
Every three working Americans provide sustenance for two who are not ill, enfeebled, or too young. The former help the disabled, the latter take resources from them. The gang-banger has only disdain for the geek at the mall — until one Saturday night his liver is shredded by gang gunfire and suddenly he whimpers (who is now the real wimp?) that he needs such a Stanford-trained nerd to do sophisticated surgery to get him back in one piece to the carjackings, muggings, assaults, and knockout games — or lawsuits follow!
Given that the number of non-working is growing (an additional 10 million were idled in the Obama “recovery” alone), it is likely to keep growing. At some point, we will hit a 50/50 ratio of idle versus active. Then things will get interesting. The percentage of workers’ pay deducted to pay for the non-working will soar even higher. So will the present redistributive schemes and the borrowing from the unborn.
Why does Dr. Hanson’s opinion matter?
From his biography: Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.
Dr. Hanson is a scholar with few peers, a dedicated student of history with a deep background in the rise and fall of past republics, including the Rome and Greek republics – two nations which were in large part the inspiration for our own republic. And it is familiarity with the manner in which those republics self-destructed that makes one pessimistic about our own future, for reasons Dr. Hanson articulates very plainly in this column many of his other works.
Dr. Hanson concludes:
Each day when I drive to work I try to look at the surrounding communities, and count how many are working and how many of the able-bodied are not. I listen to the car radio and tally up how many stories, both in their subject matter and method of presentation, seem to preserve civilization, or how many seem to tear it down. I try to assess how many drivers stay between the lines, how many weave while texting or zoom in and out of traffic at 90mph or honk and flip off drivers.
Today, as the reader can note from the tone of this apocalyptic essay, civilization seemed to be losing.
I wish I could find more reason to disagree with him.
From Gallup: 65% Dissatisfied With How Government Works. No shit. Excerpt:
Republicans and independents are largely responsible for the overall decrease in satisfaction with government effectiveness in recent years. Satisfaction among Republicans and independents began to wane during President George W. Bush’s final year in office. This may have reflected mounting public dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, coupled with the Democratic takeover of Congress after the 2006 midterm elections. Both groups’ satisfaction plummeted still more between 2008 and 2011, and has since dipped further.
With the performance of the Imperial Federal government over the last decade or so, what’s really amazing is that the number that are satisfied is still as high as it is. Is it possible that 35% just aren’t paying attention?
Related: Obama’s Polls Fall As Middle Class Gets His Number. Excerpt:
Are you dazed and confused by Barack Obama, the nominal Democrat, whose conduct as president since 2009 has seen him sink from nearly 70 percent to 40 percent or less in the national polling, from which he has seemed to learn nothing, but still marches on?
Fear not, the doctor is in: Fred Siegel of the Manhattan Institute, whose latest book, The Revolt Against The Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class, explains all you wanted to know about Obama, and much else. It explains why he never became the new Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy or Lyndon B. Johnson at his best, as he and they belong to quite different wings of their party.
Read the whole thing. It’s worth the time.
Finally, a science note: CoGeNT Gives Further Backing to Annual Dark-Matter Variation. Excerpt:
A long-standing and controversial claim by the DAMA collaboration in Italy that it has observed dark matter has received fresh support from a US-based experiment. Like DAMA, the CoGeNT collaboration says that it continues to see a seasonal variation in the number of events registered in its detector. Such a variation would be expected if the Milky Way galaxy were shrouded in a “halo” of dark matter, but several other dark-matter searches have failed to see the effect.
Dark matter is one of the great mysteries in physics; now, we may be a bit closer to understanding exactly that that mysterious substance is.
And, on that note, we return you to your Thursday, already in progress.
Here tonight, for your cultural edification, is one of my favorite country songbirds, Miranda Lambert. First, one of her breakthrough hits, New Strings. Second, a favorite of mine, Only Prettier. Enjoy.
This just in from the always-worth-reading Dr. Thomas Sowell: Fact-Free Liberals. Excerpt:
Someone summarized Barack Obama in three words — “educated,” “smart” and “ignorant.” Unfortunately, those same three words would describe all too many of the people who come out of our most prestigious colleges and universities today.
President Obama seems completely unaware of how many of the policies he is trying to impose have been tried before, in many times and places around the world, and have failed time and again. Economic equality?
That was tried in the 19th century, in communities set up by Robert Owen, the man who coined the term “socialism.” Those communities all collapsed.
President Obama and various other pols, most (but not all! Oh, no, not all!) on the left side of the spectrum, have been whinging on quite a lot lately about “income inequality.” Dr. Sowell has repudiated the notion in a number of forums, including in his recent work The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy. (I highly recommend it.) The problem with bemoaning inequalities in income or wealth – they aren’t the same thing – are legion, but the most simple refutation is simple. I’ve done so before in these pages, but that post has vanished into the ether, so here it is again.
Let’s say I invent something new, something sure to appeal to a broad swath of the consumer market. My invention, the Super-Kool Hyper-Gizmo, sells in the millions and makes me a billionaire.
Now, where did that money come from? From millions of voluntary transactions, millions of individual people who decided they wanted my Hyper-Gizmo more than the $109.95 purchase price. Millions of voluntary transactions, in which both parties gained value – both parties walked away feeling they’d come out ahead.
Oh, and during the realization of the product, I also employed a few hundred or a few thousand people, and did business with suppliers, shippers, and many, many others along the way. All of these things were again voluntary transactions in which both parties gained value.
It’s the rare pol that understands that, or any matter involving economics. They don’t understand that the economy is not a zero-sum game; it grows.
Now, let’s consider the pols arguing that income inequality is a problem, and that something must be done about it. No matter what the pol claims, no matter what he proposes, all government solutions boil down to one thing: Taking wealth away from those who have earned it, and giving it to those who have not. No matter what the pol’s claims, no matter what the pol’s promises, it must come to that.
And government – government is the only entity that can deprive you of your property without recompense, with the implied threat of force. (Try not paying your taxes and see how long it takes the government to send men with guns out looking for you.) Free citizens, legally, can only engage in economic activity voluntarily. If a citizen takes another’s property by force, that is robbery; if he takes it by deceit, that is fraud.
The proper way to address this issue is through economic growth, but for the last decade or so the Imperial Federal government has been pursuing policies that may as well be deliberately designed to squash economic growth.
Theodore Dalryrimple asks: Should The Age to Buy Cigarettes Be 21? Excerpt:
While Colorado permits the use of marijuana by those over 21 for any purpose, New York City prepares to prevent sales of tobacco to anyone under the age of 21. An article in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine comes out strongly in favor of this more restrictive approach to the sale of tobacco. The arguments it uses and those it refutes are instructive.
Those who go on to smoke throughout their lives generally start at an early age: earlier, that is, than 21. Thus if adolescents could be discouraged from smoking, rates of smoking among adults would decline markedly.
My answer? Not only no, but hell no. In fact, since we seem to have established the legal age of majority at 18 for the purposes of the franchise, then there is no rationale argument, morally or ethically, for raising the bar higher for any other reason. If at 18 a person is deemed too irresponsible to drink a beer, hold a concealed-carry permit or buy a pack of smokes, then why the hell do we let them vote?
Enough of the incremental-adulthood bullshit. If you’re an adult, you’re an adult. That age will always be somewhat arbitrary, but it has to be set somewhere. Since we have a Constitutional amendment setting it at 18 for voting purposes, then that’s our bar. When you’re 18, you should be able to:
- Buy a handgun and apply for a carry permit, subject to the same requirements as any other adult.
- Drink a beer, or a shot of whiskey, or a martini. Or, in Colorado, buy some weed.
- Join the military.
- Sign a contract.
- Buy smokes.
- And anything else that requires legal majority.
Sure, 18-year olds are sometimes (OK, frequently) immature, impulsive, irrational, irresponsible. And sometimes they aren’t. 18 is an age of transition, where you have one foot each in two different worlds. So, once again – why do we let them vote?
The point isn’t so much where the age is set – the thing is to have it set at the same bar for everything. No more incrementalism. You’re an adult or you aren’t.
Alice said it best.
Like many men, I enjoy the occasional beer or two. And here’s the thing about beer; How many really great stories have you ever heard that began “a bunch of us were sitting around eating some salad, when…”
But many, many great stories have begun with the words “Hold my beer and watch this!”
Food – and drink – for thought.
Thanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five linkage!
An interesting weekend here in the upper Midwest, passed in my possibly-futile quest for one of two items: a Browning Sweet Sixteen (the small-frame version of a 16 gauge Auto-Five) or a 1940s vintage solid-rib Model 12 Winchester in 16 gauge.
Why those two guns? And why in 16 gauge, a bore size many American shooters consider all but obsolete?
As for the two guns, I do have 12-gauge versions of both arms. My Auto-Five is a 1943-44 American-made (Remington) version, originally a plain field gun, picked up with little or no bluing left and a badly worn stock. With a polish and reblue, refinished stock, a Simmons ventilated rib and Carlson choke tubes, the 70+ year old Browning is now as modern as an iPad while still retaining it’s 1940s – era craftsmanship. My 1940-made Model 12, bought with slightly worn bluing, a barrel cut for an old Poly-Choke and a rather ugly stock, is now in the process of being polished and deep blued. A new American black walnut stock is in the works, and that gun will also be cut for choke tubes to replace the bulbous Poly-Choke – a touchy proposition, as Model 12s have notoriously thin barrel walls.
And why the 16 gauge? One of my oldest friends is a 16-gauge nut, and Mrs. Animal shoots trap and birds with a 16-gauge Browning White Lightning. The 16 is a great mid-range gun – large enough to pack nearly 12-gauge wallop, but often found in smaller-framed, lighter guns, like the Sweet Sixteen. It’s one of those rare things in the gun world; a compromise that works.
To carry on this search on this weekend just past, I visited several local gun shops and a 300-table gun show up in Elkhart.
Now, mind you, I have no particular sense of urgency in finding either of these two sporting arms. If and when I stumble on the right example of either, I’ll probably buy it. But since I can think of fewer more enjoyable ways to spend a weekend than bumming around gun shops and shows, talking with people who like guns and like to shoot, I took the opportunity.
The 300-table Gunslinger show in Elkhart was a tad disappointing. While Mrs. Animal and I each own an AR-15, we have both resisted the “tactical” craze that seems to be sweeping the country. The gun show circuit, however, has largely been taken over by the proponents of all things “tactical.” That’s fine; the market is at work. But it makes it a bit frustrating for those of us who prefer old shotguns. I’m something of a traditionalist; I like old shotguns, large-bore revolvers and precision bolt guns for big-game work, although I do favor my Glocks as carry guns.
Back to the weekend: While I didn’t in fact find any prizes, I will give a shout to a couple of fine gun shops here in northern Indiana that are well worth patronizing if any True Believers are in the area. The first is Gun Town, on Highway 30 in Grovertown. They have an extensive selection of used and new guns, including a 1942 small-frame 20-gauge Auto-Five that tempted me for a few long moments. The second, right here in Warsaw, is the very fine Eagle Creek Firearms, who also have a decent selection and whose owner is a Model 12 aficianado no less than yr. obdt. – and, again, while there I was briefly tempted by a very nice 1897 Winchester, but I resisted.
It’s always fun, popping around to old gun shops. Who knows what treasures you might find?
“A woman’s legs should be just long enough to reach from her hips to the ground.” – Abraham Lincoln.
“I like the way they come together and make an ass of themselves.” – Cheech Marin
I had originally intended to spend today’s bandwidth talking about secular arguments on gay marriage, but something else captured my attention – something breathtakingly stupid. It seems Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein and actress Meryl Streep are planning a movie taking aim (use of metaphor deliberate) at the NRA. Excerpt:
Movie producer Harvey Weinstein announced for the first time on Howard Stern’s radio show that he is making a full feature drama to try to destroy the National Rifle Association.
Mr. Stern asked Mr. Weinstein on Wednesday whether he owned a gun. The Hollywood heavyweight replied that he did not and never would. “I don’t think we need guns in this country. And I hate it,” the producer said. “I think the NRA is a disaster area.”
Mr. Weinstein then revealed his secret project about the gun rights group. “I shouldn’t say this, but I’ll tell it to you, Howard,” he said. “I’m going to make a movie with Meryl Streep, and we’re going to take this head-on. And they’re going to wish they weren’t alive after I’m done with them.”
If you’ll allow me to make a prediction, Mr. Weinstein (and even if you won’t) I will make one, and also an observation:
- The NRA will be just fine, in fact they may gain members because of you, and
- You’re an idiot.
In the first place, political movies never go down well, whether they are Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth or the right-of-center American Carol. The American movie-going public wants to be entertained, not to be lectured or harangued – yr. obdt. included. These kinds of movies attract pathetically low audiences made up almost exclusively of viewers who already agree with the political statements being made in the film.
In the second place, the NRA is nothing like the silly caricature Mr. Weinstein seems to have in mind. (Full disclosure: Mrs. Animal and myself are both Life Members of the NRA.) The NRA is not a sinister organization run by a cabal of masterminds; it is, honestly and in every sense of the word, a true grass-roots organization boasting more than four million dues-paying members. The NRA’s officers and Board are elected by their members, and the organizations by-laws and organization priorities are likewise decided by the members.
How many other civil-rights organizations can make that claim?
So, the NRA is powerful because its members give it the power. Through memberships starting at $35 a year, they empower the NRA to act on their behalf, not only to provide training, insurance and a host of services but also to protect their Second Amendment rights in Washington and the several state capitols, because they believe it’s the right thing to do.
So, this film, assuming it gets made, will amount to naught. But it’s worth examining Mr. Weinstein’s credits as a producer, which include violent, gun-filled films like Django Unchained and Grindhouse. Weinstein is a hypocrite of the worst sort.
And, incidentally, this won’t be his first act of cinematographic futility. Does anyone remember 2009’s Capitalism – A Love Story?