Mike Munger – reviewing some history surrounding Milton Friedman’s and George Stigler’s great 1946 pamphlet, Roofs or Ceilings? – persuasively advocates “directionalist” (rather than “destinationist”) libertarianism.
A new paper by researchers from Baylor University and the Copenhagen Business School helps shed light on why.
Wokeness, the authors conclude, typically originates from power-seeking middle managers looking to carve out areas of responsibility that enhance their job security. Think of career fields that tend to attract more Democrats, like the human-resource bureaucrats who manage diversity-training programs or advertising teams that design social-justice marketing campaigns. Lower-status employees are somewhat expendable to a giant company, but rather less so if they specialize in wokeness. The diversity, equity and inclusion jargon alone makes such initiatives “difficult for outsiders, including top managers, to understand” and thus to “challenge,” the study explains. The result is that middle-management bureaucrats play an “outsized” role in spreading this leftwing ideology to corporate culture.
After critically detailing Trump’s bonkers pronouncements on trade, Ramesh Ponnuru concludes that, while the economics of protectionism are indeed bonkers, the politics of protectionism are brilliant. A slice:
Biden prides himself, however, on maintaining solidarity with labor unions, and they remain keen on restrictions on trade. He also wants to avoid being called soft on China. Both parties seem to have decided that protectionism appeals to a crucial group of up-for-grabs voters — White people from industrial states without college degrees — and is therefore a winning rhetorical stance.
I grew up in California, moved away in the early Nineties, and moved back in 2019. One of the new things I noticed upon my return was small signs stuck to the side of a car, or printed on posterboard and erected on a street corner, advertising “DMV services”. After some intercourse with a few of these, always conducted in halting, heavily accented English, I came to understand that these entrepreneurs are “fixers”, a species that most Americans are unacquainted with. If you want to get something done in the developing world, you often need to engage the services of a fixer. This is someone who has connections in the bureaucracy, often by virtue of kinship. Being a naïve visitor without connections, you couldn’t possibly know whom to bribe, how to approach them, or what forms must be observed. These things must be accomplished with delicacy. You, brainwashed to believe in the Weberian version of bureaucracy as impersonal rationality, are too naive to navigate a real one in most parts of the world. Too European.
“NYC police want shoppers to remove masks before entering stores.” [DBx: Covidians truly made the world topsy-turvy. I recall just how strange I felt when, sometime in 2021, I had banking business that required an actual physical visit to a branch of my bank. I was admitted into the bank only on condition that I wear a mask. My thought at the time was that, had I entered the bank in this manner before March 2020, I would have been immediately accosted by armed guards and likely slammed to the ground – or worse.]
So now we know, they did seek to terrorise us. They did set out to scare us into compliance. It’s there in black and white in the latest Matt Hancock WhatsApp messages revealed by the Daily Telegraph as part of its Lockdown Files. We should ‘frighten the pants off everyone with the new [Covid] strain’, Hancock said to his media adviser, Damon Poole. ‘Yep that’s what will get proper behaviour change’, Poole chillingly replied. And then came what must be one of the most dire and cynical utterances made by a public figure in recent times. ‘When do we deploy the new variant’, Hancock asked.
When do we deploy the new variant. They were openly talking about using information as a weapon, about ‘deploying’ horror stories on Covid to petrify the public into social obedience. This unnerving chat about manipulating the masses took place in December 2020 when the Kent strain of Covid-19 was spreading. Worried that Brits were tiring of abiding by social-distancing rules, Hancock, then health secretary, looked to his team for ideas on how to re-engineer us all back into a state of unquestioning deference. And their big idea was fear. Fear would be ‘vital’, they agreed, in making us bend the knee once more to the ideology of lockdown.
It is the breezy nature of the conversation that feels most disquieting. It is testament to how much the power had gone to their heads that they could so blithely chat about spreading dread among the people. It is a sign of how imperious the political class became during the pandemic years that they could so casually talk about dropping a bomb of fear on what they haughtily viewed as the unruly populace. We were no longer their fellow citizens, to be engaged with as sensible, free-thinking adults. We were marionettes whose strings had to be pulled; child-like creatures to be swayed this way and that by horror stories from on high. As then cabinet secretary Simon Case said to Hancock in January 2021, ‘ramping up messaging’ will be the only way to ensure lockdown compliance – ‘the fear / guilt factor [is] vital’, he said.
Fear has consequences. It is a debilitating, demoralising force. Often it is used – deployed – for precisely that reason: to induce apprehension among the public in the hope that we’ll be more likely to do as we’re told. We see this in everything from the politics of ‘nudge’ to the ceaseless doom-mongering about the climate apocalypse, all of which circumvents normal democratic politics in favour of socially re-engineering us to think and behave in the ‘correct’ way. ‘Proper behaviour change’, as they tyrannically call it.
The politics of fear is the lowest form of politics. In fact, it isn’t really politics at all. It is the antithesis of democracy. Where democracy entails reasoned discussion, the politics of fear prefers emotional manipulation. Where democracy treats us as citizens whose views matter – or it is meant to, at least – the deployment of fear reduces us to morally inanimate matter to be ‘nudged’ and reshaped and improved by those who know better. And where democracy involves the coming together of citizens to talk and make decisions, the climate of fear atomises us, alienates us, encourages us to dread our fellow man, whose spittle might be diseased and whose daily behaviour might be contributing to the coming heat death of our planet. Democracy requires solidarity; the culture of fear cannot abide solidarity.