From the Comments: What do progressives think of Hillary Clinton?

This comes from Professor Terry:

I suspect I’m the only one around here that spends significant time on progressive blogs etc so let me tell you what it’s like over there….Progressives seem depressed but resigned. HRC will be the nominee. There are no other viable candidates. Sanders will be entertaining, O’Malley not so much….there’s no one on the sidelines. Prof. P’s [‘P’ is for ‘Pinocchio’ – bc] lust driven fantasy about Sen. Warren aside, no last minute candidacy from her.

Progressives take some solace in not having someone from the Republikan Klown Kar selecting Supreme Court nominees but that’s about it. Progressives take it for granted that the Democratic nominee will win the general election [they can read the electoral map and count]. They aspire to take back the senate but have no illusions about the House of Representatives so no significant new legislation will happen.

In my opinion scenario 3 is inevitable, I will dearly miss the Obama administration and it will happen sooner than I’ll like…

Thanks Dr A. This is excellent insight, and I am curious about the names of these progressive blogs. Who knows: some of them might even end up on NOL‘s vaunted blogroll. Professor Terry, by the way, teaches and researches up at a fancy business school in Toronto.

I still don’t have a solid definition of what ‘progressive’ means, though. It’s Left-wing. It’s anti-racist (or purportedly, anyway, as it can be argued that identity politics is itself racist, but I digress). Aside from those qualities, I don’t see much about it that is progressive. They are protectionists. They love big government except when they don’t. They are Democrats, or at least anti-GOP, but doesn’t necessarily approve of the Democratic leadership (especially when it works with Republicans). This leads me to suspect that progressivism is a political movement rather than ideological or intellectual one. This deduction, in turn, suggests to me that progressives are the US’s reactionaries (conservatives). I would be happy to change my tune about progressives once I get a solid definition of what they actually believe in, but again I don’t have one and reactionaries are usually defined by what they oppose (in this case Republicans) rather than what they stand for.

Anyway, NOL‘s blogroll – one of the best, if not the best blogroll out there in my humble opinion – has a bunch of Leftist group blogs on it, including: Angry Bear, Crooked Timber, Disorder of Things, Duck of Minerva, JHIBlog, Lawyers, Guns & Money, the RBC, Monkey Cage, and Mischiefs of Faction. None have coughed up a definition of ‘progressive’ yet, but Professor Terry has an open invitation to do just that here at NOL.

Every society needs its reactionaries, of course. It would just be nice of progressives to actually, honestly identify themselves as the reactionary party here (and as the Tories do in the UK), rather than deceive themselves by referring to their reactions as “progressive.” The Progressives of the 19th century (different bag of reactionaries than today’s progressives) did the exact same thing when they started calling themselves “liberals” in order to make their policies more palpable to the general voting public, and look how that turned out.

Liberty is what creates progress, not legislation. Just ask all of those progressives currently resigned to voting for HRC because she’s “better than the alternative.”

The Wicked Witch

Ordinary, rational Americans are watching with nervous disbelief the unfolding of the Clinton tragedy and low comedy combined. We all think the same thing: “Can’t last. Something is going to stop them. The Democratic Party will come to its senses eventually.” The columnist Peggy Noonan, who often comes up with original and credible analyses, said in last weekend’s issue of the Wall Street Journal that the Clintons are protected by their well-established corruption: Everyone already knows they are corrupt; there is nothing they do that will add measurably to this knowledge. This is an explanation that makes a sort of perverse sense. I dare not subscribe to it completely because it feels self-indulgent; this is a viewpoint few hard-line Republican partisans would dare publicize. It’s too good to be true! It’s too bad to be true!

Hillary Clinton, so far the only Democratic candidate to replace President Obama, is moving on slowly and apparently unperturbed. It matters not that she is a phony, so phony that she can’t even make her hand gestures match her words. She has told numerous lies, some of them transparent. She has lied on matters that could easily be verified, such as landing on a foreign airport under sniper fire. This kind of lie usually indicates mental imbalance; it’s fundamentally different from the ordinary CYA lie. Hillary Clinton failed to come through to protect her own subordinates and their CIA protectors in Libya. Then, she lied, covered up, and minimized the importance of their deaths. She gave constitutional Congressional authority the finger by destroying her email records. Reminder: This is something that never happens to anyone else that you or I know, right? Even the mid-level Obama IRS executive in charge of persecuting Obamanemies, she who took the Fifth Amendment, had the common decency to state that her emails were lost by mistake.

Hillary Clinton has teamed up with her husband in their family foundation to extract money from the most unlikely sources. The foundation pays out about 10% of what takes in. Its main outlays go to reward Clinton friends and facilitators and enablers, and also to help support the couple’s lavish life style. (This, although they don’t get paid a salary by the foundation; they use it it as an expense account.). The latest reports make it sound like the Clintons used Hillary’s term as Secretary of State to bring the US down to the level of your regular banana republic, where lavish gifts buy you influence for anything. “Lavish gifts ” go to the Clinton Foundation but they also include $500,000 speaking fees for Mr Clinton, for example, all in one single motion. I ask, how he can say anything worth half a million dollars when he is not even able to include the adultery and sexual abuses segments of his past?

When I mention”unlikely sources,” I mean, for example, the likes of the Algerian government, an oil and natural gas-ed state plutocracy. You would think that government would have plenty of worthy causes right at home in Algeria where the unemployment rate is “down to” about 10%. There are even better opportunities to spend Algerian oil money right south of the country, in the miserable Sahel countries. Why would it donate munificently to an ex-president’s foundation unless it were also because it was a current Sec. of State’s foundation? When his attention was drawn recently to such unseemly gifts, Mr Clinton’s only response was that there were no proofs, “no evidence.” How low can you get?

I worked out two scenarios about the future of the Clinton candidacy. Both are nightmare scenarios.

First, the upper reaches of the Democratic Party may be allowing things to take their course with Hillary in a sort of passive bait-and-switch. They let her gather attention on their party in the context of the 2016 presidential election and will persuade her to step down in time for a surprise candidate. That candidate is likely to be Elizabeth Warren. After all, she is a woman too; she is a Senator; she does not carry much baggage. The only significant piece of luggage is her identifying herself as American Indian, 1/16th or was it 1/32th? Democrat voters will easily forgive this whether it’s true or not because that was said to help her obtain an academic job she deserved anyway and that she might have been denied otherwise because she is a woman. Still with me? Besides, self-serving lies that are hard to contradict do not indicate mental imbalance, like an untruth about landing under sniper fire does, for example. Moreover, Ms Warren, unlike Ms Clinton, is a genuine leftist, not a pure opportunist. Besides, some centrist voters might be so relieved to be spared the walking Clinton debacle that they might become blind to Ms Warren’s small pimples. Nothing to lose there.

The second scenario implies that Democrat strategists know something ordinary, politically conscious people like me don’t know. It may just be that they are making the bet that nothing disgusting anyone will bring up or discuss will do any harm to Ms Clinton’s candidacy for president. Just take for granted a union vote of 80% for any Democratic presidential candidate, of 90% for African-Americans (98% for black union members), 65% for Latinos promised a quick path to citizenship for illegals (whom they think – wrongly – are mostly theirs). (All figures made up but entirely realistic.) Then, think of the millions of female voters, and potential female voters who rarely or never vote, who take no interest in politics, who don’t know anything except that the candidate is a woman. How unlikely is it that such people can be made to vote this one time? With the frame of mind I am imagining, it’s even probable that any attack on Ms Clinton, no matter how justified, even direct, open sale of favors will be viewed as bullying, as ganging up on the girl.

Many women, even literate women, actually think that it’s the turn of a woman to be president. The affirmative action fallacy that gave us the Obama presidency may just be about to be repeated.

It may be too late for rational people to do much of anything against the broader fallacy of phony identity politics. It seems to me that they can gnaw at its edge – this time – by tirelessly contradicting the now common false premise that Ms Clinton is well qualified for the job of president. Even ignoring her many failures, she did not achieve anything either as Senator or as Secretary of State, no legislation, no international agreement, no treaty, nothing. Unlike the current president, she was not even good at being elected. She got her Senate seat from the Democratic machine from a safe district where she ran essentially unopposed. Her appointment as Secretary of State was such an obvious debt repayment between Democrat factions that anyone but a Clinton would have been embarrassed.

The pessimist in me nourishes a further nightmare: There will be a time soon when I miss the Obama presidency.

Introducing John Milton: Republican and Poet (1608-1674)

John Milton is one of the major figures in the history of English literature. His poetry, particularly but certainly not only his epic Paradise Lost, has conditioned all of English literature since his own time. He was also a major political writer and advocate of liberty.

In some ways his appeal has become a bit more limited with the decline of religion as a major part of life in Britain and other English speaking countries, but he is still read and has influence on the non-religious no less than the religious. He came from a time when political and literary activity in England (strictly speaking there was no Britain or Great Britain in terms of the legal state until 1707, before which there was a union of three kingdoms or states, England, Scotland and Ireland with no superseding state on top) and across Europe was very tied up with religion. Both of the greatest English political philosophers of the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, were centrally concerned with the relation of the state to religion. The last thinker I discussed, James Harrington, though not very religious in orientation, still discusses the Biblical ancient Jews in his political writing.

Milton was a Puritan in religion and a republican in politics. To say he was a Puritan is to say he was one of the more radical Protestants outside of the mainstream of the state church as it existed under English kings. Puritan was originally a pejorative label associating religious dissenters and radicals with joyless fanaticism. This might have been an accurate description of some Puritans, but not all and certainly not Milton. He travelled in Catholic Europe where he made friends and intellectual interlocutors. He advocated for the right to divorce, which had been no more recognised in Protestant England after the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century than in preceding Catholic England. His learning, including that of ancient pagan classics, was greater than normal for bigoted fanatics. Furthermore, his poetry shows great joy in the pleasure of words and imagination, traits uncharacteristic of the bigot whose greatest pleasure is to think of his enemy burning in hellfire.

Even the more joyless kind of Puritan often showed a spirit of equality in social life, democracy in church government, and the value of all honest work, along with a belief in enough education for children to at least study the Bible carefully and intelligently, which played a large role in the growth of liberty, commercial society and civil institutions in England. This was not an era where complete religious tolerance, or complete independence of the individual from the state, was at all mainstream and even the most tolerant states (the Netherlands being the best candidate) did not have complete equality between faiths or tolerance for open non-believers.  For the time, Milton was at the more tolerant end of the spectrum and so were many other Puritans, despite the forbidding associations of that term.

Milton lived through through the Civil War (1642-1651) between Crown and Parliament and was a strong supporter of Parliament as were Puritans in general, though Milton’s political views should also be seen in the light of his classical learning and respect for the republics of ancient Greece and Rome.

Parliament’s victory lead to the creation of an English republic known as the Commonwealth in 1649, and Milton’s advocacy of republicanism led to an appointment as Secretary of Foreign Tongues, an office which required him to compose correspondence with foreign governments in Latin and continue a defence of republicanism for a European audience. Milton continued in this post as the Commonwealth gave way to the Lord Protectorship of Oliver Cromwell, the most outstanding general of the parliamentary army. This was not an explicit repudiation of republicanism, but did reflect the difficulties of organising parliamentary government in a country used to monarchical governments.

Parliaments were very happy to offer Cromwell powers he was not ready to accept, and even the explicit title of king. Cromwell essentially served as an uncrowned king, making various experiments with parliamentary and military administration. Cromwell is sometimes portrayed as a religious fanatic and tyrant, but he restrained the intolerance of the most radical Puritans and was not religiously intolerant by the standards of the era. His tendency towards more militaristic and personal government reflected institutional failures rather than a plan for absolute personal power. He purged and selected parliaments, but all previous parliaments had presumed the subservience of MPs to monarchical domination and conformity to the state church.

Cromwell’s darkest reputation arose in Ireland, but tales of Cromwellian massacres of Irish Catholic civilians are now agreed by Irish historians to be highly exaggerated. What he was guilty of was completion of a long process of subordinating Ireland to England, and of removing power and landed property from the Catholic majority. Deplorable as this was, it was no more than the standard statecraft of the time. Cromwell did not establish an arbitrary violent despotism in England. He largely operated within the law and reformed the administration of the nation in an efficient and enduring way. He did not acquire spectacular wealth or establish a court of ostentatious luxury. Though Oliver Cromwell’s son Richard inherited the Lord Protectorship, Cromwell had not prepared the way for the dynastic rule of his family, and power returned to the previous royal family.

I have discussed Cromwell’s status as a figure in English history to show how a sincere republican like Milton could continue in his state position. There is no reason to think he did so for reasons of acquiring wealth or addiction to power. He remained true to his principles after the return of the monarchy, unlike many, and was in real danger of very serious legal consequences. Fortunately those who respected him in the new regime, after abandoning the old regime, intervened and Milton was able to live out his life peacefully though in rather simple style for one of the greater writers of the time.

Milton’s writings, along with the failed republican experiment and the Cromwellian administrative reforms, established the conditions for a second concealed republican revolution, the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which under the pretence of restoring a traditional relation between monarchy and nation, in practice established a successful aristocratic-commercial republic under a monarch who could only act in co-operation with Parliament.

Next I will begin the investigation of Milton’s writings.

“Rand Paul’s Libertarian Lecture in New Hampshire”

That’s the title of this short piece of reporting by the Weekly Standard‘s Michael Warren (the Weekly Standard is a neoconservative outlet). I recommend the whole thing, but cannot resist sharing an excerpt:

Without mentioning his name, Paul took on fellow Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who may be running for president and who spoke to the conference just a few minutes after Paul. Paul and Graham were on opposing sides during a 2011 Senate debate on indefinite detention of American citizens accused of terrorism. Graham’s argument was that these Americans ought to be classified as unlawful enemy combatants, and that the rules of war apply so long as Congress has authorized military action. Enemy combatants can be detained for as long as hostilities continue or when Congress otherwise says so, goes the thinking. “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer. You’re an enemy combatant,'” Graham had said during the floor debate.

But Paul didn’t see it that way.

“One of them said, ‘When they ask for a lawyer, you just tell them to shut up.’ Really? That’s the kind of discourse we’re going to have in our country? Tell them to shut up?” Paul said. “You would send an American citizen to Guantanamo Bay without a lawyer, without a trial? He said, ‘Yeah, if they’re dangerous.’”

Paul cracked a smile as he launched into full libertarian lecture mode.

“It sort of begs the question, doesn’t it? Who gets to decide who’s dangerous and who’s not dangerous?” he said, pacing back and forth across the stage in blue jeans and without a jacket. “Has there been a time in our history when we decided who was dangerous based on the color of your skin? Has there been a time in our history when we decided someone was dangerous because of different beliefs, didn’t look like us, or had a different religion? Are we going to give up on our right to trial so easily?”

Say what you will about Paul, but you won’t see anybody else in the primaries discussing the issues he discusses. The rest of the article has a lot more great stuff, and not only about the battle for the soul of the GOP, but bigger issues – thanks in part to Paul’s initiatives in the Senate, but also to the work of libertarian theorists and activists for the good part of four decades – such as asset forfeiture. Also, more subtly, you can find a penetrating insight into democracy itself (and if you find it, brag about it in the ‘comments’ threads, as I’d like to discuss it further). (h/t James Parsons)

Facts vs Narrative: American Peronismo

Anyone who has written anything other than an accident report, maybe even only three letters to his mother, knows or guesses the following: facts often interfere with the quality of a narrative. Only very great writers manage to incorporate all the relevant facts without damaging the beauty of their narratives. Or, they make up facts that will fit without damage into their narrative. I am thinking of Mark Twain among a few others. But that’s in mostly fiction writing, intended as fiction and perceived as such by the reader. The other option is to leave out all the hard facts to the benefit of narrative beauty and then, you have poetry!

Writers in genres other than fiction – old-school journalists, for example – face the same issue, the same dilemma. While they wish to communicate facts, they understand that an attractive narrative helps them in their task. If nothing else, an enthralling story, does keep the reader, and the listener awake; even merely a pleasantly told story Only the un-gifted who face what they think is a captive audience (no such thing, I think) abandon narrative altogether. They insist on bullet points of facts, a method that seldom achieves much of anything, or anything lasting, I believe.

There is thus another, more subtle reason to craft one’s narrative when transmitting facts, a reason to which I just alluded: Facts embedded in a good narrative are retained longer than facts thrown out at random.

Form really matters when you tell others things you believe they ought to know. But facts are often undisciplined, they often refuse to be choreographed into the opera you wish to stage.

Every writer of other than fiction faces the same issue although more or less frequently. The issue is this: what to do with facts that injure an attractive feature, or the whole integrity of the narrative to which it belongs, like this:

“Dear Mom and Dad: I really, really enjoy Camp Iroquois. In the morning, with have this huge breakfast outside with huge omelets and as much bacon as we can eat plus pancakes with syrup and jam. Then, we wash a little and sometimes the counselors make us brush our teeth and we throw wet towels at each other. After that we, play baseball or touch football until noon. (Don’t worry, Mom, I am wearing my cap and lots of sunscreen.) After games, we all have barbecued lunch with hot dogs and lots of relish and cold coke. And then, we rest under a big tree and a counselor reads us adventure stories. After the story, we go and bathe naked in the pond that’s very close. Just the other day, I went to the pond early by myself and I slipped into water that reached above my head. You couldn’t see anything underwater and there was lots of mud at the bottom. So, I forgot that I could swim a little and I swallowed some pond water. Fortunately, Counselor John, the tall one I told you about was just walking by the other side of the pond. He ran and he pulled me out just in time. I coughed a lot of brown water but I guess I am fine, now, so, don’t worry. And, Mom, don’t worry about the laundry either because we hardly wear any clothes most of the time. Plus, I have found a way to make my underwear last for more than one day by just turning it inside out. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you that right after diner, every night, the counselors make a big bonfire and we sing songs until we feel tired and we have to walk to our tents to sleep.

So, Mom, and Dad, you see, I am having a great time at camp so, don’t fret about me.

Your son, Peter.”

You see the problem? The narrative of a happy kid whose parents need not worry about a thing would be improved by the removal of the near-drowning episode. If the child were wise beyond his years, he would leave it out, right?

The same problem arises with every political narrative, including the long-flowing narratives that serve as action guides by default for political parties and for political currents:

Do you tell a good story on an ongoing basis or do you include the relevant facts even if they interfere with its flow?

It seems to me that there is a major difference between political left and right in their willingness to worsen the narrative with facts. I may be wrong. I will listen to criticism and to contradictions. If my perception is correct however this preference for the narrative explains a great deal. It explains the fact that the left everywhere is inured to its own failures and to the success of its adversaries. Curiously, it explains why there is such a preponderance of leftists in practically all the arts, from Hollywood to French singers.

This preference for form over fact even explains the continuing puzzle that is the country of Argentina. I explain: There is no reason why Argentina is not Canada, as prosperous as Canada or nearly so. In fact, three times in one hundred years, the Argentinean standard of living nearly equaled that of Canada. Each time, it was after an important conflict elsewhere. Each time, Argentinians squandered their wealth; each time, they allowed themselves to fall back into poverty instead of taking off and out of underdevelopment for good.

The current government in Buenos Aires is the third iteration of a populist movement called “Peronismo.” The movement is based on a good story: a benevolent, and originally elected dictator, distributes the unjustly acquired wealth of the insolent rich to the poor to the “descamisados,” to those who don’t even have a shirt on their back. Sure the process, is sometimes a little messy but it does not matter; it’s the intention and the goal that matter. And if you stop the clock at any time during the re-distribution process, you will easily find poor families that are better off this year than they were last year.

Peronismo promises to create social justice and a decent life without the rigors and the discipline of communism, for example. The first two times, Peronist regimes ended in economic disaster, the second time, also in a brutal, murderous military dictatorship that lasted for seven years. The current Peronist regime recently had to assassinate a prosecutor in his home because he was about to splash the presidency bloody with a precise, well documented tale of murder and corruption in high places. (Argentina is not a stereotypical Latin American dictatorship however; the current president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was properly elected .)

The thing, when you talk to Argentinians of the middle class is how civilized they are, how courteous, how well educated, how well informed, (much better informed that middle class Americans in general, if you ask me). And they speak a beautiful Spanish that bears lightly the faint echo of the millions of Italians that form the bulk of Argentina’s population. And their songsters and their singers are second to none. I am listening to Mercedes Sosa as I write, whose “Gracias a la vida” would make me shed tears if I could shed tears. Before her there was Atahualpa Yupánqui, a singer and poet of the poor much better than any country music singer I know (and I know many). Even Buenos Aires pimps invented the tango which is more than you can say about pimps anywhere else. And then, there is that gaucho sitting on his skinny horse sipping hierba mate from a silver tube in a gourd. He always looked to me like a more authentic version of Western movie cowboys because he is not that well groomed, if truth be told; he is just more manly.

In brief, Argentina, the nation, has an excellent narrative. It’s all the better because it is not spoiled, it does not contain disturbing facts: Destiny and history favored Argentinians from the beginning but they are poor most of the time. (Currently, the country has a GDP (PPP) per capita of $19,000, against Korea’s $33,000, a country that had nothing in 1955, and $53,000 for the US – CIA Fact Book) Argentines always dive into poverty for the same reason: They insist that dividing into twenty a pie intended for six will be just fine. They give no attention to the requisites for baking a bigger pie. They are quick to endorse concrete injustices committed in the name of abstract justice. (After all, the expressed wish of the sovereign people must take precedence over constitutional formalities.) If all these obvious historical facts were woven into it, the narrative would not be nearly as attractive; it would be disfigured. It might be disturbing enough to force them to pay attention and begin fixing what’s wrong with their society at last.

It seems to me that a preference for the flow, the coherence of a narrative over the inclusion of relevant facts is commonplace but I think it’s routine among the tribes of the left.* Communism killed at least 100 million people. Yes but it fought injustice. Cubans lead miserable lives in Cuba; those who fled with the shirts on their back are twice richer than those who stayed, after only a couple of years parking cars in Miami. Yes, but the Cuban revolution was deserving of a great movie and it ended by providing free medical care for everyone. That is justice.

Even worse, the US is an international bully variously attacking other, weaker countries for their oil or to force them to adopt institutions they don’t like. A sense of decency requires that Americans stop the bullying.

In the US, the Democratic Party, propelled by its energetic left wing, often garners the extra votes it needs to win – beyond the obligatory black votes, union votes and teachers’ votes – by telling a good story: It’s the party holding the fort against the “war on women,” it’s the party of the little guy; it’s the party of the perpetually racially oppressed, of those oppressed merely because of their sexual preference, even of the newly oppressed “middle class.” Its narrative tugs at your heart strings unless you are very critical and very well informed. It’s a narrative that is squarely opposed to facts. Here are some facts that would change the liberal American story’s face, if they were allowed into that story:

  • The War on Poverty may have been a good idea originally. Fifty years later later, we are allowed to take stock. There is no reason to believe it was a success. There are reasons to think it was a failure.
  • The death rate of young black Americans is stupendous. Few die at the hands of police however. Mostly, they kill one another and they succumb to drug overdoses.
  • At any one time, at least half of American adults are opposed to abortion on demand. A high proportion of these think it’s murder plain and simple.
  • There is no evidence that, on the average, women earn less money than comparably situated men. There is a law forbidding this and there is no evidence that it’s often violated.
  • Out-of-wedlock birth is highly correlated with poverty for all social and racial groups.
  • The thesis that human activities (industrial, cars) are causing a rapid rise in global temperature that will cause catastrophes for the environment and, eventually for humans, that thesis is not well established, if it is established at all. Evidence against as a well as evidence in support is amassing quickly.
  • When the US does not act as a world policeman, unspeakable horrors multiply.

I could go on and on, obviously. Liberals don’t want to include these basic facts in their narrative of injustice and of oppression, domestic and international because it would simply destroy it. Absent the narrative, they would lose almost all elections. That’s why it matters to contradict tirelessly with facts the fairy tale in reverse tirelessly propagated by the left and by media now mostly at its beck and call.

Under the guidance of the Democratic Party (today’s Democratic Party), America would become another Argentina. The Democratic Party is not “socialist” as old Republicans are fond to grumble. (“Socialism” is a word that has lost any fixed meaning. It may never have had one. Perhaps, it was always only an incantation.) The Democratic Party is Peronist. Peronism is a form of soft, self-indulgent fascism that drags everyone except the dictator’s buddies into poverty. (See my short essay on fascism on this blog: “Fascism Explained.”)

* Here is an example of a conservative narrative that would be spoiled by relevant facts. Conservative media heads keep repeating that the first thing to do to solve the problem of illegal immigration, is to “secure the border.” Let’s not kid ourselves, they mean the southern border of the US, the border with Mexico. Missing from this concise and manly, energetic-sounding narrative:

The fact that most illegal immigrants today do not come from Mexico, or from elsewhere in Latin America.

The fact that those who do come from south of the Rio Grande don’t actually swim across that river or trudge in the desert at night but that they drive in and fly in and then, overstay their visa.

The fact that arrests of illegal aliens where they are easy to catch, at places of work that concentrate them such as slaughter houses, the fact the number of such arrests is tiny, year after year. (I mean that this requires an explanation.)

The fact that illegal immigrants who are arrested and who, under the law, are supposed to be deported by priority, criminals, often get to stay, mysteriously.

All these facts who detract from the “secure the border” narrative for the simple reason that none of facts above would be altered if the National Guard stood right on the border with Mexico elbow to elbow, fingers on the trigger of their machine guns.

Robert Tracinski on the Left’s Anger Issues

Ooo-weee. I apologize for not being around very much this week. I’ve been bumming around and just got back into civilization in order to enjoy the second weekend of March Madness.

I have viewed Leftists as cowards for a long time now. Now, whether or not being a coward is a good thing is another question, but I nevertheless view them as cowards. Angry cowards are the worst kind of cowards, of course. Here’s Tracinski trying to figure out why Leftists are so angry:

There’s the fact that those of us on the right are accustomed to encountering a lot of ideological opposition. For most of our lives, the left has controlled the high ground of the culture, such as it is: the mainstream media, Hollywood, the universities, the arts. So we’re not used to crawling into a “safe space” and hiding from ideas we disagree with, which makes it easier for us to regard ideological opposition with a degree of equanimity.

The rest of the essay is pretty good, too. What’s that old school term for a coward? The dog who is all bark and no bite? I remember these type of people well, from when I marched in San Francisco against the Iraq War. If tomorrow’s best and brightest Leftists are refusing to even consider the opposition’s arguments, what does that say for the future of the West?

But really, though: How on earth did the government come to be in charge of the roads?

Mexican immigration and the Open Border: Mexicans Go Home and Mexican Kindness

I just returned from a two-plus weeks stay in Mexico for the second time in less than five months. A couple of comments to add to my previous essay on Mexican underdevelopment. Plus, some unrelated political sociology comments.

In 2009, my friend and I published a long piece on Mexican emigration to the US in the libertarian periodical The Independent Review. (Nikiforov and I are both immigrants to the United States.) The article is entitled, “If Mexicans and Americans Could Cross the Border Freely (pdf),” and the full text is available through a link on this blog. In that article, we argued that we would all be better off if the southern American border were open to crossing by citizens of both countries with no expectation of a change in citizenship for either.

Well, the politicians did not listen to us then and their inattention led to the recent Republican fiasco whereas, President Obama used an executive order to more or less legalize five million illegal aliens, most of them Mexicans whereas, the Republican Senate called him out and ended up caving piteously. (Do you remember or have you already forgotten? Stupidly, Republicans tried to use the threat to de-fund Homeland Security at a time when aggravated terrorism news fill the airwaves.) As often happens, the Republican leadership confused the issue of constitutional principle with the substantive issue of limiting immigration. Myself, I would chose total firmness on the first and flexibility on the second, for fear of ending up the A.H., no matter what the outcome. The Republican leadership lost the constitutional arm wrestling and still ended up the A. H. Congratulations, guys!

Our article was long and intricate as is normal for a scholarly piece. Here are two highlights from that piece on which I wish to comment after my two recent stays in Mexico:

A We argued that Mexicans – who constitute the largest immigrant group to the US – should be given special treatment over other aliens. Several reasons for this: They are our close neighbors; they have been joined to us through NAFTA for now 23 years, insuring that our lives are tightly enmeshed economically. Then, because of a long series of past interactions some may find deplorable, Mexicans tend to make very good immigrants. Two reasons for this superiority, in turn. First, nearly everyone agree that Mexicans (in the US) tend to be very hard workers. Even their direct competitors in the work place tend to assent to this judgment. Second, sociologically, Mexicans make good immigrants because they are astonishingly familiar with our society, including with our institutions, before they set foot on American soil. In particular, Mexicans don’t find perplexing our fundamental constitutional principle of separation of religion and government. (That’s, as opposed to immigrants from other areas I could name.)

Nikiforov and I argued that Mexican citizens should enjoy unimpeded passage into the US, and the freedom to take any job for which they qualify, all without any path to American citizenship because, Mexicans already have a citizenship, that of Mexico. We point out that the European Union has used this model for more than twenty years and experienced few downsides. (The current ferment in Europe about and opposition to immigration does not involve neighbors from the EU, with one single exception I will discuss if someone asks me.)

B We proposed that many Americans would find it comfortable to spend their last years in Mexico because of a specific aspect of Mexican culture, to wit, contemporary Mexicans tend to be sweet in general and considerate to older people in particular.

This is what I found in twice two and half weeks in Puerto Vallarta in the pas five months that is relevant to these issues.

First, on the matter of Mexicans wanting to work in the US but not necessarily wishing to live there, we were much more right than we thought when we wrote about this. The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming that this would work. Everywhere I went in Puerto Vallarta , I bumped into people who knew some English that they had learned in the US, mostly as illegal immigrants here working at undesirable jobs. None of those people had been expelled, deported. All had returned to Mexico under their own power after saving some money. Thus, they had chosen to go home because it’s home, just as we predicted in the article.

One middle-aged man sticks to my mind, a taxi driver. He had stayed in the US (illegally) for several years. He had refrained from visiting with his family in Mexico for stretches of two or three years at a time to avoid being unable to return to the US. You might say that he was trapped in the US for longer periods than he wished because of our immigration laws. He finally decided to go back to Mexico and to his family for good after he had saved enough money to build a house for each of his three daughters. He specified that only one of the daughters was of marriageable age by the time he had the three houses standing. To my mind, this is an exemplary story of emigration/immigration. On my query, the man declared himself satisfied with his choice and with his life since his return from the US.

He was earning, driving a taxi, about 1/5 or less of what he earned in the US doing unpleasant work. He liked his job; he enjoyed returning to his family every evening; he liked the schools; paradoxically, he liked Mexican schools. (This is paradoxical because daily life in Puerto Vallarta, including in the schools is much more relaxed, much more genteel than what prevails in the US except in the most elite neighborhoods. In that part of Mexico, the bloody drug traffic-based blood-thirsty banditry is found strictly in the newspapers. It is not at all apparent in daily life. The quality of this daily life is at the antipodes of the impression of Mexico reaching us through the US media. Gangs are not in the school unlike in Salinas, California, for example.)

On point B, the attractiveness of Mexico to older Americans, I find that I tend to censor myself anytime I write about the topic because I fear appearing to be gushing like a teenage girl. During my last stay, of two and half weeks, I did not meet a single Mexican man, woman or child who was not completely pleasant except two. One was a taxi driver and he was morose but, that’s because he was drunk. (Nobody is perfect.) The second was a female merchant who acted displeased because I tried to bargain down an item in which I was interested. Another merchant – from whom I actually bought and whom I befriended – told me later that my bargaining had been reasonable and that the woman was undergoing a painful divorce. Mexico is not perfect and I may have looked like the woman’s soon-to-be ex-husband. You never know; these things happen.

Absolutely everywhere, my gray beard drew the kind of respectful behavior I don’t expect in the US. (And that I don’t deserve, to be honest!)

I can hear the snickering from here: “Of course, he stays in a tourist ghetto were everyone is occupationally obligated to appear nice.” No, I did not spend all my time there; I was forced to go out and I liked to go out. I found that everyone smiles a lot, including at each other, even among perfect strangers, that everybody ceded passage, that waiting lines are always orderly. Being a formerly great social scientist, I yielded, of course, to the temptation to conduct verbal experiment. Unfailingly, I made everyone I wanted to laugh at the drop of a hat. I mean small children, old ladies and adults of all sexes. (Yes, my Spanish is that good. Eat your heart out or learn to conjugate irregular verbs! Those are your choices. There are no others.)

Issue A and B are joined in the strangest way within my latest short stay in Mexico. Puerto Vallarta in the winter is swarming with Canadians. Their flight from the cold may have a great deal to do with this fact but it has a virtuous side-effect. I suspect many flew in to warm up and ended up warmly loving Mexicans for the reasons I depicted above. They beat Americans at it, in that city, at least. Oh, and the only sullen faces around Puerto Vallarta all belong to them. It became a game of pop-sociology for me: guessing from afar who was American and who was Canadian. It soon become embarrassingly easy: The Americans are the loud ones who say hello and who laugh easily. (Besides, I think the presence of Canadians explains much of the bad food there.)

After this last experience, I am very tempted to start a new racist fad: Speaking ill of and persecuting Canadians. It could be fun and they are not (yet) a federally protected minority.