Henry Ford wage hike: boon or bust?

A Rube Goldberg machine may be more efficient than a Henry Ford wage hike. | Profound Whatever / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

One hundred years ago, Henry Ford defied his fellow capitalists by doubling his workers’ wages.  It was a profitable boon, enabling his employees to finally afford the product they produced, the automobile.  Daniel Gross at the Daily Beast suggests that employees today should emulate Ford’s wage hike.  Is this a sound recommendation?

“All else being equal”–ceteris paribus–is an indispensable caveat to all economic theories.  A little scrutiny reveals that nothing is equal in comparing Henry Ford to employers today.

Gross literally describes Ford as a “dictator.”  He’s right.  Back then, Ford answered to a few private investors, but major employers today are accountable to open market shareholders.  Ford Motor Company eventually went public in 1956, and it was a good thing, too.  Market accountability makes the difference between CEO-approved assembly lines and Politburo-inflicted bread lines.

Differing labor market conditions also advise against a Ford-like wage increase.  Turnover and its associated costs were higher in 1914.  HR departments have learned a lot since then.  Significant overhead savings have already been captured, unlike in Ford’s pioneering days.  High turnover remains the norm for low-value added jobs like fast food service.  Still, crack open the Wall street Journal, which Gross dismisses as “revanchist,” and one will learn that employers are far from uninterested in improving work conditions.  Think of Google’s work site barbershop and sleep pods.

Not only do market conditions make the Ford wage hike inadvisable, but its accomplishments are oversold with a rhetorical sleight of hand.  Gross credits Ford with achieving an economy of scale, enabling the first “democratic car.”  But prior to the wage hike, the company was already moving 250, 000 cars a year, hardly an elite clientele.

Missing from the heart of Gross’ s case are findings that Ford’s own employees significantly broadened the consumer base.  It may as well have been an exogenous factor; perhaps instead it was World War I that boosted demand and decisively convinced Americans of the automobile’s utility.

In debunking an earlier incarnation of the Ford myth, Forbes writer Tim Worstoll notes another major deficiency.  Take Boeing, another durable goods manufacturer.  Paying a worker more there will not enable her to buy her own 777 airliner to enjoy on the weekend.

The Ford hike is a shot in the dark, an indirect Rube Goldberg way to increase demand.  Not to mention a blunt instrument.  Employers have more precise methods for such ends, like commercial advertising.  Some loathe ads as vacuous and soul crushing, but they increase demand by raising the value of the product in the mind of the consumer.  And the ad industry employs many thousands.

Other ways of increasing consumption include the tried and true coupon, the sales discount, and the rebate.  These only induce voluntary transactions.  Even if government wanted to raise consumption on a macro level, these inducements are much more equitable than the job killing minimum wage increase, which 85% of economists opposed in one recent survey (h/t Wintery Knight).

So it seems there’s no substance to recommend Ford’s wage hike.  What is Gross accomplishing with this piece, then?  He paints a straw man of inexplicably stubborn industrialists, saying that “. . . bosses have been choosing not to raise wages even when they can.”  If Henry Ford saw what employers are doing now, he’d be “shocked and dismayed.”

The straw man ultimately issues from a pervasive, unnamed menace:

There’s something deep in our contemporary and political culture, in the public and private sectors, that supports the proposition that employers should pay as little as possible at all times, at every point in the economic cycle.

He doesn’t say it, but he may be alluding to the misleading Keynesian bogeyman known unflatteringly as “trickle down economics.”

Employers are diverse and face many different circumstances.  Rather than acting as some monolithic cabal, each pays what their market and their bottom line allows.  Second-guessing employers is bad policy, and shaming market competitors into “doing their part” is harmful politics.

Certainly, there are often times when workers should get raises.  And cost of living adjustments are a good way to make sure that a rising tide keeps lifting all boats.  But the Henry Ford wage hike is more like income redistribution agitprop than good business advice.

Study: journalists report think tank leanings selectively

Conservative-leaning think tanks like the Hoover Institution are much more likely to be ideologically identified than their liberal counterparts. | Photo credit: darkmatter / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Reason.com recently highlighted a study in the Journal of Media Economics which suggests selective media bias in reporting think tank leanings:

Leading news outlets were 14 times more likely to identify the Heritage Foundation as conservative than they were to categorize the Brookings Institution as liberal, reports a new study in the Journal of Media Economics. The study, conducted by the Department of Justice economist Wayne Dunham, analyzed 25,000 news articles from six large daily newspapers and the Associated Press over the past couple of decades.

Reason correspondent Ronald Bailey points out the implicit bias in this lopsided ideological identification.  It seems reasonable to me that reminding readers of a source’s ideological affiliation tends to make them dismissive of that source.  It follows then that liberal think tanks get less scrutiny than conservative and libertarian ones.

Free societies rely on some semblance of balance and objectivity from the press. It won’t help for government to intervene, as with the Fairness Doctrine.  Rather, news consumers should signal their displeasure to the editorial boards.  To that end, it would be good to know which major papers Dunham examined.  If the report is accurate, then some of America’s most influential journalists need to explain, or else cop to, their own bias.

Pope pontificates unprofitably on free markets

Photo credit: Catholic Church (England and Wales) / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Pope Francis’s recently released exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel (pdf), has made the news and elicited commentary for its admonitions against the free market economy.  This is not a new stance for the Catholic Church.  Still, this latest iteration of qualified praise (hat tip First Thoughts blog) from commentators across the political spectrum led me to study the primary source itself.  After reviewing the text, I can only conclude that on free markets and the poor, Francis is tragically mistaken.  He gets it wrong.

In a section titled “Some challenges of today’s world,” Francis calls Christians to say “no to an economy of exclusion.”  Consider this passage:

… today we have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.  How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?  This is a case of exclusion.  Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving?  This is a case of inequality.  Today everything comes under the laws of competition and survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless.  As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Herein we get a good sample of the main vehicle of discourse: platitudes.  Pope Francis doesn’t try to marshal any facts or hard evidence that the world is as he says; he takes it for granted that we share in a worldview where the powerful crush the weak and eat them for breakfast.  But is this really the world we live in?

Writing for the Daily Caller, conservative and Christian Matt K. Lewis affirms Francis’s warning against greed.  To me, his acknowledgment of the “tension” between conservatism and markets comes off as a little too contrite.  Lewis appeals to pure speculation by otherwise venerable Christian writer and apologist Francis Schaeffer.  He supposed that employers who sacrificed profits to pay their employees more would demonstrate Christ’s love better than by giving those profits to charity.  This obsession with profits is beyond misguided; it’s destructive to lend credence to the notion that not giving away profits is inherently bad.

Jesus warns us all to refrain from judging our neighbors.  He warns us to remove the log from our own eye before removing the speck from our neighbor’s.  Accordingly, who am I to say that my neighbor is greedy?  It is one thing if I know my neighbor intimately.  But it is uncharitable and an overreach to attribute greed to a general class of people whose trade circumstances I know little about.

As I see it, Francis’s social teaching remains too mired in a Eurocentric, Old World conception of human society.  The Pope himself hails from Argentina, a poster child for the economic development frustrations that are the norm in Latin America.  At one point, Francis sharply rebuts the efficacy of supply-side economic theory:

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.  This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.  Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.

But to say that supply-side stimulation has never been confirmed by the facts is untrue!  In America, Kennedy’s 1964 tax cuts, along with Reagan’s 1986 and Bush’s 2002 and 2003 tax cuts, helped everyday Americans greatly.  Over at National Review, Kevin Williamson details some more of Francis’s economic shortsightedness, particularly his trust of government to ameliorate inequality.

If Pope Francis really wants to lift up the “excluded,” he should look no further than to the tiger economies of South Korea, Taiwan, and most recently, China.  There, real people have been lifted out of poverty and brought into purpose, productivity, and prosperity, thanks to the free market.

Elswhere in his treatise, the Pope offers a thesis that violence will continue as long as inequality prevails.  What supports this idea, given that we’ve always had economic inequality, and there is no political mechanism to eliminate it on the horizon?  We could call upon Stephen Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature to see how violence has declined precipetously over the history of civilization.  We can lay this against our background knowledge that inequality is increasing to say that violence has shown itself to be inversely proportional to inequality.  Truely, may the rich get richer!

The progressive may ask, how could anyone say that?  Well, if life is anything more than a zero sum game, where the only way forward is government enforced redistribution, then that’s something we need to know and lay hold of.  In a Wall Street Journal opinion from 2012, Rabbi Aryeh Spero makes the case:

At the opening bell, Genesis announces: “Man is created in the image of God”—in other words, like Him, with individuality and creative intelligence. Unlike animals, the human being is not only a hunter and gatherer but a creative dreamer with the potential of unlocking all the hidden treasures implanted by God in our universe. The mechanism of capitalism, as manifest through investment and reasoned speculation, helps facilitate our partnership with God by bringing to the surface that which the Almighty embedded in nature for our eventual extraction and activation.

Further, seeking to unlock the hidden treasures of creation brings deep joy.  Spero remarks:

Unlike socialism, mired as it is in the static reproduction of things already invented, capitalism is dynamic and energetic. It cheerfully fosters and encourages creativity, unspoken possibilities, and dreams of the individual.

Where the Pope sees dehumanization and a stripping of dignity, a capitalist who understands economic truth in light of the image of God–Imago Dei–sees joy.  To make room for the invisible hand, to allow suppliers to compete for the benefit of the consumer, and to practice capitalism–under the rule of law, not under the unbridled strawman Francis berates–brings very real material and spiritual benefit not just to the capitalist, but to those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”

If we love God with all our mind, as we’re called to do in Matthew 25, then we can heed Francis’s call to serve as ones “bruised, hurting and dirty.”  But that will mean for someone like myself, refuting a simplistic vision of the world that vilifies entrepreneurship, uncritically trusts government to alleviate inequality, and endows dignity as a wealth transfer instead of a mutually beneficial transaction.  If there is joy in the Gospel, it has to be in knowing the world as it actually is.  As for the economic realm, it looks nothing like Pope Francis sees it.

Remedial economics: Obamacare as teachable moment

Photo credit: peasap / Foter.com / CC BY

Here’s a good news article–from AFP of all places–that highlights the problem when government negotiates prices.  The headline says it all: “Secret pricing spikes US healthcare costs.”   The unflattering description of price negotiation, which is a favorite tool of economic liberals, is remarkable.  The article quotes European health policy experts, who advise the US to follow their lead by turning pricing over to market mechanisms. What a concept!

Meanwhile, a blogger at Values and Capitalism reminds us of the importance of basic economic literacy.  Her mention of “price signaling” triggers that part of me that must lecture everyone: prices communicate information about scarcity.  When government offers subsidies or fixes prices, it distorts that information.  These interventions produce illusion and falsehood.  It’s quite arguably immoral.

The spectacular implosion of the Affordable Care Act that we are now going through is a teachable moment.  Many fiscal conservatives spend a lot of time snarkily tweaking liberals and the Obama administration.  It would be a serious waste not to turn aside for a moment, and soberly remind our fellow citizens that no one can wish away immutable economic realities.  Central planning will never beat a free market.

ENDA’s game: pandering and distraction at high cost

This past Monday, President Obama and Apple CEO Tim Cook released twin editorials urging Congress to pass ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.  Consider this portion of Cook’s appeal, as cited in the Washington Times:

“For too long, too many people have had to hide that part of their identity in the workplace,” he wrote. “Those who have suffered discrimination have paid the greatest price for this lack of legal protection. But ultimately we all pay a price. If our co-workers cannot be themselves in the workplace, they certainly cannot be their best selves.”

Mr. Cook refers to the LGBT community.  But notice that that special class goes unmentioned in the passage. One can easily imagine he is writing about another group of persons who “have had to hide that part of their identity in the workplace.”  Which makes me wonder, would this Silicon Valley captain of industry–a scion of progressive, elite culture–have gone to bat for Republicans, gun enthusiasts, or Evangelical Christians?  In sociologist George Yancey’s 2011 book, Compromising Scholarship, it precisely these groups that face the most bias from university faculty hiring committees.

But that point is not germane to the merits, or demerits, of the legislation.  Earlier this week, Melinda at Stand to Reason noted that while religious institutions are exempted from ENDA, small business owners are not.  It’s the same befuddling logic that granted Obamacare exemptions to big businesses, but not to small ones.  The editors at National Review pointed out some more liabilities, including an increase in bureaucracy and lawsuits.

A factcheck.org piece dismissed as spin House Speaker John Boehner’s claim that ENDA will result in “frivolous” lawsuits.  But in doing so, the factchecker had to affirm a Congressional Budget Office estimate that $47 million will be needed for new oversight and processing of 5,000 new legal claims annually.  The writer couches the real economic cost this way:

As for Boehner’s claim that ENDA would “cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” that may well be the outcome in some isolated cases, but the law specifically applies only to companies with 15 or more employees — which exempts nearly 90 percent of all small businesses (and nearly a third of those employed in businesses with under 500 employees).

This supposedly inquisitive journalist’s lack of concern for “isolated cases” reminds me of President Obama’s now immortal prevarication, “If you like your plan, you can keep it.”  Five million individual market health insurance plans are not good enough.  Off to the exchange you go!  If you are on the wrong side of “history,” as outlets like The Week want to label it, you will get steamrolled under Progress.

Speaking of Obamacare, isn’t this trotting out of ENDA just a timely distraction from the trainwreck?  At least one advocacy group sees the move for what it is: a shameless pandering to a constituency,  but only when it’s convenient.  LGBT activists are right to take the move as an insult.

This is really nothing new for Obama or the Democratic Party.  Manipulating a menagerie of supporters through identity politics is straight from the party play book.  Talk about a wedge issue; our president is the great Divider-in-Chief.

Real people are being thrown under the bus.  With Obamacare and ENDA, we have the Forgotten Man.  Person A takes from person B to benefit person C.  That is, if person C really gains any significant benefit.  The one thing we can be sure of is that person A is looking out first and foremost for himself.

Ronald Reagan’s admonition is timeless: the nine scariest words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Photo credit: Princes Milady / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Obama’s Syria policy: Weak in review

20130914.syriandolls

Whew, it’s been a while since I did an original political cartoon.  We’ve seen some really terrible developments in American foreign policy this past week or so.  President Obama laid down a “red line” on Syrian chemical weapons use more than a year ago.  Then, last week, he denied setting a red line.  Per the Commander in Chief, the international community set it.

This week, Secretary of State John Kerry assuaged domestic doves and foreign foes as to how “unbelievably small” a U.S. strike on Syria would be.  Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal went to town on that one.

In a glowing review of the President’s Tuesday night prime time speech, Walter Shapiro denied cheerleading for Obama.  This is hardly credible given how extraordinarily painful and opaque the White House’s waffling military machinations have been.

The Commander in Chief about-faced when Russia supplied an out consisting in Assad’s vow to allow inspection and destruction of his massive chemical weapons stockpile.  National security expert Max Boot pointed out the dim prospect of such a solution.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled a world leadership coup with his New York Times op ed.  After reading it, New Jersey senator Bob Menendez confessed that, “I almost wanted to vomit.”  I think this graphic is a little more palatable, and totally apt.

Steve Kelly, Townhall.com

America has for her Commander in Chief that kid who gets picked last for sports games, the one who bullies turn upside down to shake out his lunch money.  Putin was a KGB hot shot; Obama was a community organizer.  This is not good.

When I was in college, literally learning about the politics of peace and war, I was introduced to Win, Lose, or Draw: Domestic Politics and the Crucible of War.  After conducting some game theory research, author Alan Stam recommended a simple strategy for dealing with unfriendly regimes: tit-for-tat.  It’s like the eye-for-an-eye of international relations.

The simple lesson that every American president should remember is this: clear and consistent communication is indispensable to the national security interest.  Speak loud, and carry a big stick; make the other side think you’ll use it.  What the Obama administration has done instead is the opposite.  American officials have telegraphed a lack of resolve, betrayed a sense of hesitation, vacillated between options, and came ill-prepared to the bargaining table.  Our Ship of State must survive three more years with an incompetent helmsman.

American foreign policy hasn’t seen such tragedy and disgrace since Jimmy Carter was in the White House.  I mean it when I ask, pray for the wisdom of America’s leaders.

Which Americans in denial about race?

The aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal dominated news and commentary last week.  As the pleas and prescriptions from all corners reverberate, what should Americans of conscience do?  Despite long standing calls to have a national conversation on race, many remain unwilling to confront the more difficult aspects.

Take this case in point.  On the Monday after the six woman Florida jury handed in a “not guilty” verdict, The Atlantic Wire serve up this combative headline: “Richard Cohen Shows Why Racism Makes You Do Dumb Things.”  Later that day, another headline-as-testy-retort: “No, Blacks Don’t ‘Benefit’ from Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.”  The Atlantic brand should bring to mind a measured–if passionate–patrician, East Coast progressivism.  Those were its roots, at least.  But with the headlines it runs these days, The Atlantic is clearly a plebeian outlet for snarky partisan sniping.

Somewhere on the Atlantic Coast. | Photo credit: oefe / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

In responding to Richard Cohen, Elspeth Reeve fails to explain what it actually means for Cohen to say something “racist.”  It’s just an epithet meant to draw her readers into a denial of the violent crime problem in the African-American community.  She cites statistics indicating, in the past couple of decades, a steady decline in violent crimes nationally.  From this, she plucks the fact that violent crimes committed by African-Americans have also gone down.  In the world she paints, conservative commentators are crying wolf about a nonexistent epidemic.  This is a perverse inversion of what was happening six months ago.  Then, conservatives were citing declining national rates to dismiss the hysteria over an epidemic of gun-related homicides.  Now, this good news has become a liberal talking point.

Over the past week, conservative media have consistently hammered away at the issue Elspeth Reeve and her Atlantic Wire colleagues deny: African-Americans, particularly young men, commit violent crimes at a grossly disproportionate rate.  Blacks make up about 10 percent of the population, but are responsible for half of all violent crimes, including murders.  And about 90% of those murder victims are African-American.  It’s simple math then that nearly half of people murdered in America are black.

The Wall Street Journal has run a number of excellent editorials on the problem.  Black conservative Jason Riley opened the salvo by reminding us how far back the problem goes.  Consider his quoting of a prominent black civil rights leader:

“Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58% of its crimes? We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told a congregation in 1961. “We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.”

And this week, Shelby Steele–another Black intellectual off of the liberal reservation–explicated on the concept of “poetic truth,” a cudgel with which today’s morally diminished civil rights leaders try to exercise influence.  Steele authored one of the more compelling books I’ve read.  It’s full title says it all: White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era.

Reading the testy headlines of the The Atlantic Wire, I was reminded of Dr. Steele’s thesis, inasmuch as I understood it.  It’s true, whites helped destroy the promise of civil rights.  It wasn’t bigots in the American South.  Rather, it was privileged whites–read, East Coast progressives–who had luxury enough to quench their feelings of guilt by demanding untenable social policies.

As Steele recounts his college years in White Guilt, it was spoiled white teenagers and militant black youth who worked together to occupy university lecture halls and chancellor’s offices across the country.  Today’s privileged, well-connected, young and idealistic white elites–politically progressive through and through–indulge the same luxury their parents and grandparents did before them.  They can afford to imagine a common cause with minorities.  They can afford to indulge white guilt fantasies with little consequence.  It is the marginalized who can’t.

How does one have real solidarity with the marginalized and the oppressed?  President Obama had a good point in last Friday’s speech.  He implored, “. . . we need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African American boys.”

It turns out, some people have already done that thinking.  The answer doesn’t lie in next entitlement program, or supporting the right to wear a hoodie.  The answer is cultural capital, earned success, a flourishing moral ecology, traditional family values, an opportunity society.  This is not racism or hate speech.  George W. Bush put it well when he warned against the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”  How does America, as one nation, raise those expectations for young African-American men?  That is the challenge.

DOMA decision: judge not, unless you’re liberal

(Sam Howzit/Foter/CC BY)

Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision on Windsor v US is remarkable on a number of levels.  It’s an exceedingly rare instance where liberals celebrate an old, rich white person getting huge tax break.  In this case, it is to the tune of $363,053.  I wonder what principled reason leads the Left to applaud rather than object to the outcome.

In writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy supplies that principled reason.  It seems on his view that President Bill Clinton and a sweeping majority of the 104th Congress were bigots intent on inflicting “injury and indignity” on gay couples, a “politically unpopular group.”  Does this sound a bit . . . judgmental?  It’s hard to believe that gays and lesbians are “unpopular” in 2013, a mere 17 years after the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) came into effect.  Flipping on any random television sitcom, reality show, or talk show indicates the contrary.

So what has changed in that brief span of time in America, in the hearts of Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and Chuck Schumer, high-profile Democrats who voted for DOMA but now celebrate its demise?  Perhaps there was something akin to President Obama’s “evolution.”  A subjective, personal premise for legislation.

This would explain why, when politicians and media throw about “equality” or “discrimination” in the public square, candor and lucidity seem to be in short supply.  President Obama merely asserts that DOMA was “discrimination enshrined in law.”  What is the condition where discrimination obtains?  I didn’t see Justice Kennedy supply it.  If I were to guess, that criteria likely hinges on what the Critical Race Theory professor at Harvard Law had for lunch.

The SCOTUS Windsor ruling is anything but assuring for the integrity of our democratic republic. Especially in light of growing irresponsibility in the Executive.  California Governor Schwarzenegger shirked his duty to defend Proposition 8 without consequence.  Likewise, President Obama and Eric Holder were rather . . . discriminating when it came to whether or not the Justice Department would defend DOMA in court.  This is not the rule of law.  What happened to impartiality and professionalism, let alone charity in disagreement?

There’s a rational basis for government to recognize and enforce marriage as a commitment between a man and a woman.  As a class, heterosexual relationships tend to produce children, and those children need to be protected against the parents’ inclination to terminate that commitment.  To make marriage an issue of equal protection of benefits undercuts that indispensable reality.  Inheritance issues, visitation rights, and so on–there’s an app for that.  It’s called civil unions.

Neither should government dole out marriage as a way to validate feelings or affirm dignity.  Sure, there were real dignity issues in the Jim Crow era.  That was half a century ago.

Sometimes people complain about “legislating morality.”  Never mind the incoherence of that critique; what are laws supposed to be if not moral?  But I get the point; some legislative pushes come off as offensive, judgmental, and needlessly intrusive.  Here we have not just “legislating morality,” but legislating from the bench.

When it comes to making distinctions, it seems we have a one-way street, a double standard in effect today.  Judge not, unless you’re liberal.

Bad news: national security train wreck!

[2] / Foter.com / Public Domain Mark 1.0

As a result of the deeply damaging Snowden leak, I am reminded of the principles that make me more of a security hawk than my libertarian compatriots.

Dan Mitchell at International Liberty staked a respectable position regarding the still-unfolding NSA surveillance story.  But some of the comments from his more ardent libertarian readers are real forehead-slappers.  Like the proposition that our military should consist solely of a Coast Guard and maybe an army reserve.

It seems to me that civil liberties advocates tend to have it half-right.  Judeo-Christian tradition informs the concept of Natural Law in many ways: we are equal in dignity before our Creator because we bear His image.  We ought to be suspicious of those in authority because they, like all created persons, are sinful.  Even the best of us are blinded by pride or tempted to abuse.  Indeed, this is the clearest argument from the Christian worldview against centralized, progressive technocracies.

But the forgotten half of Judeo-Christian anthropology is that there are and will always be actors–states, individuals, movements–bent on destroying our government, killing our people, and weakening our society.

On this myopia, I’m reminded of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  Its villains, who would wreck American civilization, were either bumbling bleeding hearts or  homegrown totalitarians.  Socialism and central planning were alive and well in Rand’s imagination, but the threat of international communism was nowhere to be found.  Rather strange for a book released in 1957, the year Sputnik was launched, the year after Khrushchev barked “We will bury you!” and four years after the Soviets acquired the hydrogen bomb, thanks of course to the traitorous Julius Rosenberg.

There is no Soviet Union today, but between Putin’s desperately declining Russia, the unscrupulous authoritarians running the People’s Republic of China, the bottomless supply of Islamist terrorists, and the Pandora’s box of asymmetric capabilities at everyone’s disposal, today’s world is hardly Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Big data is everywhere, and we sure as well better have the good guys using it, because the bad guys definitely are.

Former attorney general Michael Mukasey couldn’t have put it better when he wrote in a recent op-ed :

The Constitution and U.S. laws are not a treaty with the universe; they protect U.S. citizens. Foreign governments spy on us and our citizens. We spy on them and theirs. Welcome to the world.

I’ve given a piece of my mind on intel leakers in the past.  Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are the bratty poster children for a grave generational defect. The simple reality is that our nation’s security is in the hands of Millennials, whose self-defined attributes include a sharply liberal political bent and “superior intelligence” according to a 2010 Pew poll.

Snowden’s affinities, as revealed in a Guardian interview, gel with his cohort.  He’s more cosmopolitan than patriotic:

“There are conflicts between the United States government and the Chinese PRC government, but the peoples inherently… we don’t care, we trade with each other freely, we are not at war, we’re not in armed conflict and we’re not trying to be. We’re the largest trading partners out there for each other.”

Cue Lennon’s Imagine. The view is gravely misinformed.  Acts of conscience don’t do much good when the premisses are flat out wrong.

And speaking of China, how did President Obama’s California summit with President Xi go?  I’m sure we made a sterling show of strength, unity, and integrity.  Peace through Strength, and the Shining City on a Hill.  That’s Reagan, not our bumbling Obama.

Then again, China may have had a hand in this surveillance program compromise all along.  Or, with publicly aired allegations of US hacking, maybe US-China relations will be severely set back.  Certainly, terrorists have gotten a little wiser about avoiding detection.  Any which way you cut it, nothing good comes out of this fiasco.  There is no way Snowden could possibly be a hero.

It’s beyond frustrating that such undisciplined, uninformed flunkies stumble into treason.  Who knows how many more Mannings and Snowdens have access to secrets and are all-too-willing to spill the beans?  That, not any NSA surveillance overreach,  is what should keep us up at night.

%d bloggers like this: