Socialism on the Rise: French Election, Round 1, A Post-Mortem

By Clifford Thies

In the velodrome of multi-party politics that is Round 1 in the French Presidential election system, the sprint to the finish can be exciting. This time, not so much. As expected based on pre-election polls, the social liberal, Emmanuel Macron, running as an independent, finished first, and the fiery leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, second.

In retrospect, these results were due to Macron’s bolting from the Socialist Party, taking its social liberal wing with him, and displacing the centrist François Bayrou. With their party rent asunder, many in the socialist wing of the Socialist Party could not resist the siren call of a true believer, and support surged for the unabashed left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Going into the final weekend, four candidates – Macron, Le Pen, Mélenchon and the nominee of the center-right Les Republicans, François Fillon – were indicated to be in contention for the top two spots.

During the final days of the campaign, it is now clear, support for Le Pen waned, shifting to Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of Debout la France (“France Arise”) and other minor right-wing candidates. Debout la France is a Guallist Party or conservative party such as “conservative” applies to French politics. And, support for Macron increased at the expense of Benoît Hamon, the nominee of the Socialist Party. Thus, Macron edged Le Pen for first place.

Polls indicate that Macron will win the run-off in two weeks, in a landslide, although not by as much as Jacques Chirac beat Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002. While out of the Presidential race, Les Republicans are looking forward to taking control of the National Assembly from the Socialists, later in the year.

The U.S. Presidential election of 2016 featured some elements in common with Round 1. The obvious similarity is that, in both, there were anti-establishment candidates of the right and of the left (Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the US, and Le Pen and Mélenchon in France). A second connection is the role played by multiple political parties.

During the run-up to the election, support for Gary Johnson, candidate of the Libertarian Party, ranged from 10 to 14 percent in the polls, and support for Jill Stein, candidate of the Green Party, 3 or 4 percent. Historically, support for minor-party candidates dissipates as voters shift to the more acceptable candidate of those who can actually win. Sure enough, when the votes were cast, Johnson received only 3 percent of the vote, and Stein only 1 percent. The larger shift from Johnson to Trump was perhaps the crucial reason for Trump’s amazing come from behind victory.

[First published at Freedom Pub.]

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Green Energy Poverty Week

By Paul Driessen

April 22 was Earth Day, the March for Science and Lenin’s birthday (which many say is appropriate, since environmentalism is now green on the outside and red, anti-free enterprise on the inside). April 29 will feature the People’s Climate March and the usual meaningless “Climate change is real” inanity.

The Climate March website says these forces of “The Resistance” intend to show President Trump they will fight his hated energy agenda every step of the way. Science March organizers say they won’t tolerate anyone who tries to “skew, ignore, misuse or interfere with science.”

After eight years of government policies that killed jobs and economic growth – and skewed, ignored, misused, obstructed, vilified and persecuted science and scientists that strayed from alarmist talking points, to advance a climate chaos, anti-fossil fuel, anti-growth agenda – that piety is arrogant hypocrisy.

But their theater of the absurd gets worse. Some March for Science leaders were outraged that the recent MOAB bomb dropped on ISIS terrorists shows “how science is weaponized against marginal people.”

The rhetoric also recalls the annual Earth Hour, when people in rich countries are supposed to turn off their lights for 60 minutes, to repent for the sin of using fossil fuel, nuclear and hydroelectric power to electrify our homes, businesses, schools and hospitals. I personally promote Human Achievement Hour, by turning on extra lights, to celebrate humanity’s incredible innovations and advancements these past 150 years, our modern living standards, and the right of all people to improve their lives and life spans.

I was a campus organizer for the very first Earth Day, in 1970, when we had serious pollution problems. But since then we’ve cleaned up our act, air and water. Environmentalist groups, modelers and Obama regulators ignore these advances, real climate science and the Real-World climate outside their windows.

Far worse, while claiming to care deeply about the poorest among us, they ignore the harm their policies inflict: soaring electricity prices, fewer jobs, lower living standards in the West – and perpetual poverty, disease, malnutrition and premature death in developing countries. We pay more and more each year for de minimis further improvements in environmental quality, combined with ever-expanding government and activist control of our lives, and steadfast opposition to reliable, affordable energy in the Third World.

That’s why some folks who actually care about poor, minority, elderly, working class and developing country families again designated April 17-23 as Green Energy Poverty Week.

For industrialized nations, “green energy poverty” refers to households in which 10% or more of family incomes is spent on natural gas and electricity costs – due to policies that compel utilities to provide ever increasing amounts of expensive, less affordable, politically preferred “green” energy. It’s a regressive tax that disproportionately affects low and fixed income families which have little money to spend beyond energy, food, clothing, rent and other basic needs. Every energy price increase hammers them harder.

Beyond our borders, the concept underscores the lot of families that enjoy none of the living standards we take for granted. They have no electricity or get it a few hours a week at random times, burn wood and dung for cooking and heating, and spend hours every day collecting fuel and hauling filthy water from miles away. Corrupt, incompetent governments and constant pressure from callous environmentalist pressure groups in rich countries perpetuate the misery, joblessness, disease, starvation and early death.

In the United States, green energy policies affect the poorest households three times more than the richest households. In fact, rising electricity prices affect all goods and services, for all electricity users: homes, offices, hospitals, schools, malls, farms and factories. With 37 million American families earning less than $24,000 per year after taxes, and 22 million households taking home less than $16,000 post-tax, it’s pretty obvious why wind and solar mandates are unfair, unsustainable and inhumane.

Unbelievably, one million mild-weather California households now live in green energy poverty, the Manhattan Institute reports. In fact, the once-Golden State now has the USA’s highest poverty rate, thanks largely to government requirements that one-third of the state’s electricity must come from “renewable” sources by 2020, and one-half by 2030. No wonder California’s rising rates are already nearly double those in Kentucky and other states that use coal and natural gas to generate electricity.

Tesla electric cars also reward wealthy buyers: with free charging stations, access to HOV lanes, and up to $10,000 in combined tax rebates. They require batteries made from lithium dug out under horrendous or nonexistent environmental, health, safety and child labor rules in Africa. The batteries cost $325 per kilowatt-hour – equal to $350 per barrel for oil (seven times the April 2017 $50.40-a-barrel price).

Spreading California policies across the United States would send the cost of heat, lights, AC, internet, and all goods and services soaring. Jobs would disappear, living standards decline, depression rates increase, drug and alcohol abuse climb, and more people die from poor health, drugs and suicide.

Over in Europe, electricity prices are double California’s current rates: 30-45 cents per kWh! Green energy policies are hammering jobs, industries, healthcare, family budgets and future prospects.

British families pay “a whopping 54% more” for electricity than average Americans. Nearly 40% of UK households are cutting back on food and other essentials, to pay for electricity. One in three UK families struggles to pay energy bills. Up to 24,000 elderly Brits die from illness and hypothermia each winter, because they cannot afford proper heat; many are forced to choose between heating and eating.

In Germany, 330,000 families had their electricity cut off in 2015, because they could not pay soaring bills. In Bulgaria, 50% of average household income is spent on energy. Greeks are cutting down trees in protected forests because they cannot afford heating oil; hundreds of thousands of acres are being destroyed across Europe for the same reason. A tenth of all EU families are now in green energy poverty.

It’s infinitely worse for billions of parents and children in Earth’s poorest regions. In Africa, India and other impoverished regions, more than two billion people still burn firewood, charcoal and dung for cooking. Millions die from lung infections caused by pollution from these open fires, millions more from intestinal diseases caused by bacteria-infested food and water, more millions because medicines are spoiled and healthcare is primitive in clinics that don’t have electricity, refrigeration or window screens.

In Uganda, “entrepreneurs” burned a village down, killing a sick child in his home, to turn the area into new forest so that the country could claim carbon credits to prevent climate change. Chad’s government banned charcoal, the mainstay for cooking in that nation, out of absurd concerns about climate change.

Africa’s desperate families hunt and cook anything that walks, crawls, flies or swims, endangered or not. They have cut down trees and brush for miles around cities and villages – turning cheetah and chimpanzee habitats into firewood and charcoal. Poverty is undeniably the worst environmental pollutant.

For the wealthy and increasingly powerful radical environmentalist movement, it is no longer about addressing real pollution problems, protecting the environment or improving human health. As UN climate officials have proudly proclaimed, it’s really about ending fossil fuel use and capitalism, redistributing the world’s wealth, and controlling people’s livelihoods, living standards and liberties.

Of course, it’s all meant to save people and planet – from exaggerated or fabricated climate cataclysms and resource depletions. But ponder the Real-World consequences during Green Energy Poverty Week.

Environmentalists profess to care deeply about America’s and the world’s poor and middle classes. But their policies and actions too often speak far more loudly than their words. We might be forgiven for asking, With friends and protectors like these, do the world’s poor really need enemies?

[First published at Freedom Pub.]

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Earth Day Has Been Hijacked by the Climate Change Movement

By Tom Harris

All sensible people are environmentalists. We want to enjoy clean air, land, and water and we like to think that future generations will live in an even better environment. These were the original objectives of Earth Day and I am happy to have presented at Earth Day events in the early 1990s.

However, in recent years, Earth Day has been hijacked by the climate change movement. Today, the Earth Day home page starts:

Earth Day 2017’s Campaign is Environmental & Climate Literacy

Education is the foundation for progress. We need to build a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet.

Besides the strategic blunder of focusing so much attention on an issue that polls show the public do not particularly care about, there is a serious ethical problem that will come back to haunt Earth Day if they don’t soon change focus.

Reports such as those of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change illustrate that debate rages in the scientific community about the causes and consequences of climate change. Scientists cannot even agree on whether warming or cooling lie ahead, let alone the degree to which we affect it. Yet, climate campaigners assert that ‘the science is settled.’ We know with certainty, they claim, that our carbon dioxide emissions will cause a planetary emergency unless we radically change our ways.

The consequence of this overconfidence is tragic. According to the San Francisco-based Climate Policy Initiative, of the $1 billion spent worldwide each day on climate finance, 94% goes to mitigation, trying to control future climate. Only 6% of global climate finance is dedicated to helping vulnerable people cope with climate change today. In developing countries, even less, an abysmal 5%, goes to adaptation. Based on a theory about climate, we are letting people die today so as to possibly help people in the distant future.

As the public come to understand how immature the science of climate change actually is, they will regard today’s funding situation as immoral and the focus of today’s Earth Day ridiculous.

That scenario, not hypothetical future climate states, is what should most concern Earth Day organizers.

[First published at Freedom Pub.]

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Earth Day has Become Polluted by Ideology and Ignorance

By Jeff Steier

The first Earth Day celebration was conceived by then-US senator Gaylord Nelson and held in 1970 as a “symbol of environmental responsibility and stewardship.” In the spirit of the time, it was a touchy-feely, consciousness-raising, New Age experience, and most activities were organized at the grassroots level.

In recent years, Earth Day has evolved into an occasion for environmental Cassandras to prophesy apocalypse, dish antitechnology dirt, and proselytize. Passion and zeal routinely trump science, and provability takes a back seat to plausibility.

nstead of a genuine concern for nature, many of those stumping for Earth Day this April 22 will share opposition to environment-friendly advances in science and technology, such as agricultural biotechnology, fracking, and nuclear power. Another pervasive sentiment will be disdain for the capitalist system that provides the resources to expend on environmental protection and conservation. (It’s no coincidence that poor countries tend to be the most polluted.)

Distortion of Science

The Earth Day Network, which organizes Earth Day events and advocacy, regularly distorts science to advance its cynical agenda. This year’s event, ironically enough, is dedicated to “Environmental & Climate Literacy,” which is indeed sorely needed, given Earth Day’s manipulation and misappropriation of our commitment to protecting the environment.

Consider, for example, the network’s disingenuousness about fracking: “Fracking causes a lot of environmental harm and poses a threat to the health of a population near a fracking site due to contaminated water and the increased risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses.” In 2011, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson conceded that she was “not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

In 2013, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he had “not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater.” And just last year, the Obama EPA released the findings of its major report on fracking, which relied on 950 sources and was expected by activists to make the case against the technology.

The report was unable to cite any confirmed cases of water contamination. Under pressure from left-liberal members of Congress in the waning days of the Obama administration, the EPA changed the scientific conclusion of the draft report, which originally stated that there was “no systemic effect” on drinking water as a result of fracking.

Without any additional science or cases of contamination, EPA officials who sought to paint fracking in the worst possible light but who were confronted by the paucity of documented contamination wrote that, in “limited cases,” such as in a rare fracking fluid spill, contamination could take place. In other words, not unlike riding your bike through New York’s Central Park, fracking is not a zero-risk proposition.

Earth Day organizers and others pushing for across-the-board fracking bans rather than reasonable safeguards wish to “educate” us about the environment by suggesting that we should get our energy without any risk whatsoever.

Environmental Indoctrination of Children

Even those who can forgive these activists for pressuring regulators and members of Congress to cook the books on scientific reports may be troubled by their campaign to indoctrinate students.

A few years ago, seventh graders at a tony private school near San Francisco were given an unusual Earth Day assignment: make a list of environmental projects that could be accomplished with Bill Gates’s fortune. This approach to environmental awareness fits in well with the “progressive” worldview that the right to private property is subsidiary to undertakings that others think are worthwhile — the redistributive theory of society.

And how interesting that the resources made “available” for the students’ thought experiment were not, say, the aggregate net worth of the members of Congress but the wealth of one of the nation’s most successful, most innovative entrepreneurs.

Rachel Carson’s Egregious Lies

Another Earth Day assignment for those same students was to read Rachel Carson’s best-selling 1962 book Silent Spring, an emotionally charged but deeply flawed excoriation of the widespread spraying of chemical pesticides for the control of insects. As described by Roger Meiners and Andy Morriss in their scholarly yet eminently readable 2012 analysis, “Silent Spring at 50: Reflections on an Environmental Classic,” Carson exploited her reputation as a well-known nature writer to advocate and legitimatize “positions linked to a darker tradition in American environmental thinking: neo-Malthusian population control and anti-technology efforts.”

Carson’s proselytizing and advocacy led to the virtual banning of DDT and to restrictions on other chemical pesticides even though Silent Spring was replete with gross misrepresentations and scholarship so atrocious that if Carson were an academic, she would be guilty of egregious misconduct. Carson’s observations about DDT were meticulously rebutted point by point by Dr. J. Gordon Edwards, a professor of entomology at San Jose State University, a longtime member of the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, and a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences.

If Carson were an academic, she would be guilty of egregious misconduct.

In his stunning 1992 essay, “The Lies of Rachel Carson,” Edwards demolished her arguments and assertions and called attention to critical omissions, faulty assumptions, and outright fabrications. Consider this from Edwards:

This implication that DDT is horribly deadly is completely false. Human volunteers have ingested as much as 35 milligrams of it a day for nearly two years and suffered no adverse effects. Millions of people have lived with DDT intimately during the mosquito spray programs and nobody even got sick as a result. The National Academy of Sciences concluded in 1965 that “in a little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million [human] deaths that would otherwise have been inevitable.” The World Health Organization stated that DDT had “killed more insects and saved more people than any other substance.”

Meiners and Morriss conclude correctly that the influence of Silent Spring “encourages some of the most destructive strains within environmentalism: alarmism, technophobia, failure to consider the costs and benefits of alternatives, and the discounting of human well-being around the world.” Sounds like the doctrine of the organizers of this year’s Earth Day.

Ecofundamentalism

One of the United Kingdom’s great contemporary thinkers, Dick Taverne, aka Lord Taverne of Pimlico, discusses the shortcomings of New Age philosophy in his perspicacious book, The March of Unreason. Taverne deplores the “new kind of fundamentalism” that has infiltrated many environmentalist campaigns — an undiscriminating back-to-nature movement that views science and technology as the enemy and as a manifestation of an exploitative, rapacious, and reductionist attitude toward nature. It is no coincidence, he believes, that ecofundamentalists are strongly represented in antiglobalization and anticapitalism demonstrations worldwide.

In this, Taverne echoes the late physician and novelist Michael Crichton, who argued in his much-acclaimed novel State of Fear that ecofundamentalists have reinterpreted traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths and made a religion of environmentalism. This religion has its own Eden and paradise, where mankind lived in a state of grace and unity with nature until mankind’s fall, which came not after eating a forbidden fruit, but after partaking of the forbidden tree of knowledge — that is, science. This religion also has a judgment day to come for us in this polluted world — all of us, that is, except for true environmentalists, who will be saved by achieving “sustainability.”

Environmental Alarmism

One of Crichton’s characters argues that since the end of the Cold War, environmental alarmism in Western nations has filled the void left by the disappearance of the terror of communism and nuclear holocaust, and that social control is now maintained by highly exaggerated fears about pollution, global warming, chemicals, genetic engineering, and the like. With the military-industrial complex no longer the primary driver of society, the politico-legal-media complex has replaced it.

This politico-legal-media complex peddles fear in the guise of promoting safety. French writer and philosopher Pascal Bruckner captured its tone nicely: “You’ll get what you’ve got coming! That is the death wish that our misanthropes address to us. These are not great souls who alert us to troubles but tiny minds who wish us suffering if we have the presumption to refuse to listen to them. Catastrophe is not their fear but their joy.”

The tiny-minded misanthropes have enjoyed some dubious “successes.” They have effectively banished agricultural biotechnology from Europe, put the chemical industry on the run, and placed the pharmaceutical industry in their crosshairs.

Lord Taverne believes these are ominous trends that are contrary to the principles of the Enlightenment, returning us to an era in which inherited dogma and superstition took precedence over experimental data. Not only do the practices of ecofundamentalism retard technologies and the availability of products which, used responsibly, could dramatically improve and extend many lives and protect the environment, but they strangle scientific creativity and technological innovation.

A Defense of Science, Reason, and Democracy

With Congress, the administration, and many Americans now firmly on the side of more sensible, more limited regulation, it would behoove the Earth Day activists to collaborate in good faith and to support advances in environment-friendly technologies and business models. Among these, we would include ridesharing services, Airbnb, modern genetic engineering applied to agriculture, and state-of-the art agricultural chemicals, all of which enable us to do more with less but have been vilified by activists.

We are not sufficiently naïve to expect that to happen. Rather, we suspect that activists’ ecofundamentalism will continue to undermine the health of civilized society and of democracy.

Lord Taverne observed that when you defend science and reason, you defend democracy itself. Well said, Milord, and happy Earth Day to you.

[Originally Published at Pundicity]

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Uber-Left Google’s Major Move – Flooding the Right with Cash

By Seton Motley

Google is almost inarguably the dominant company on the Left.  So ensconced are they in the highest of high Left political circles, they basically owned and operated the Barack Obama Administration.

Google and the administration were an incestuous staff revolving door.  And Obama, Inc. was an eight-year Pez dispenser of Google-crony policies.  Whatever Google wanted – Google got.  And Google continues its complete subjugation of the post-Obama Left-Democrats.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump ran against Obama, Inc. – and won.  And has set about doing what he said he would do – undoing lots and lots of Obama, Inc. policies.  Including the raft of cronyism Google received.

Which has the Left-Democrats and their fellow travelers in the media – freaking out.  At Google’s behest, of course.  Speaking of the media, how dominant of…everything is Google?  They and their Silicon Valley cohorts are paradigm shifting the entirety of the media – even further Left.  As sportswriter Jason Whitlock just astutely observed:

“The entire media has moved far left. The media used to cater to New York, the hub for traditional liberal values. Journalists used to be obsessed with working at a New York magazine or newspaper or TV network. Now the entire industry is obsessed with going viral and how words will be received via social media.

“Who determines this? San Francisco/Silicon Valley, the hub for revolutionary, far-left extremism, the home base for Twitter and Facebook. Twitter and Facebook’s employee base is from the area. New York and San Francisco are distinctly different. San Francisco is driving the American media, not New York.

“You have young, microwaved millionaires and billionaires reshaping the American media in a way that reflects San Francisco values. This is a major story the mainstream media ignore. San Francisco hacked the media. Frisco-inspired clickbait is the real fake news.”

Whitlock doesn’t mention Google by name – but he eminently gets their game.

Google has long given lots and lots of coin to lots and lots of Democrats and Leftist outfits. But this is money chasing ideas – dog bites man.  The Democrats and the Left were already where Google wanted them – Google’s massive money just prioritized and amplified the Left-Democrats’ efforts on Google’s behalf.

But Google isn’t stupid.  They can read the writing on the political wall.  And increasingly, that penmanship – belongs to Republicans and the Right.

Thanks to national trends – and the magic of gerrymandering – the House of Representatives looks to be in Republican hands for a generation.  And shorter-term, the already-Republican-majority Senate – looks to be getting much more Republican in 2018.  Throw in the Republican Trump Administration – and all of Google’s work greasing the Left-Democrats is looking like much ado about increasingly little.

Which is why – nearly a decade ago – Google started greasing the Right-Republicans.  And this is where the ideological lines not only blur – they warp and distort.  This is man-bites-dog.

This isn’t money chasing ideas – where Google funds people with whom they already agree.  This is Google hoping their coin – will shift Right-Republican thinking and actions in their Leftist direction.

Sadly, to varying degrees – it is working.  And perhaps the bizarre-est example of this – is California Republican Congressman Darrel Issa.  And that bizarre-ness – is embodied in Issa’s patent policy disconnect.

Issa is a private-sector-made multi-millionaire – the richest member of Congress.  And he made his millions – thanks to patents, and the protections patents afforded his products: “Issa made most of his fortune in the 1990s while leading Directed Electronics Inc., a Vista-based manufacturer of vehicle antitheft devices that he created. His is the voice of the Viper car alarm system, which warns, ‘Please step away from the car.’”

Issa developed effective, attractive new ways to protect your automobile – and then patented them.  Which protected his ideas from thieves.  Which is only fair – they’re his ideas, he alone should profit from them.  And profit he eminently did.

But now, as a Congressman, Issa is bizarrely leading the charge to undermine the patent protections that rightly made him his uber-millions: “Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, struck a defiant tone this morning speaking at the National Press Club. Issa, speaking at Patents in Theory and Practice: Implications for Reform, sponsored by the Technology Policy Institute, explained in no uncertain terms that the patent litigation reforms contained in the Innovation Act will not be watered down, period.”

What does the Innovation Act do?  Nigh nothing good: “The Innovation Act is fundamental transformation of the constitutionally-protected patent process, that doesn’t go through the Constitutional amendment process. All under the (intentional or accidental) false flags of ‘litigation reform’ – to deal with ‘patent trolls.’  But ‘patent trolls’ are almost always nothing more than people with patents – defending them against patent thieves. The patent holders usually have to sue to do that, and this ‘litigation reform’ makes it exponentially more difficult for them to do so.”

Why on Earth would patent-multi-millionaire Issa want to do this?  Enter Google.

Google is a gigantic thief of all things intellectual property – including patents.  It’s why they emplaced as the head of Obama’s Patent and Trademark Office – their very own Michelle Lee. And Google will benefit mightily – should Issa and his Congressional cohorts make it exponentially easier for them to steal said patents.

Not only is Issa pushing Google-crony patent theft legislation – he is the lead advocate of the Trump Administration keeping Google’s Lee in place at the Patent Office.  Or even more bizarrely – wanting Trump to promote her to head up the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  An office created by the Obama Administration – and thus far headed up by three consecutive Google exes.  Now Issa is pushing for a fourth – in a Trump Administration.  That ran on undoing Obama.

Why is Issa engaged in all of this anti-Right-Republican bizarreness?  Perhaps it’s this: Google’s newly-formed parent company – is Alphabet.  Issa’s #1 top contributor in the 2016 cycle?  Alphabet.  Issa’s #1 top contributor in pre-Alphabet 2014?  Google.  Issa’s #2 contributor in 2012?  Bet you’ll never guess – oh wait, you did.  It was Google.

Google has been uber-funding Issa – from just about the very moment they decided to start funding Right-Republicans.

And it’s paying off handsomely.  Issa is almost certainly the biggest Right-Republican advocate of Google’s Leftist policies.

Here’s hoping very few other Right-Republicans fall prey to the Contribution Poisoning to which Issa seems so eminently susceptible.

[Originally Published at Red State]

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Watch the Video and Sign the Petition: Get the U.S. Out of the Paris Climate Treaty

By Paul Driessen

Myron Ebell is Director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment. He provides the following background on what is happening with President Trump’s possibly wavering promise to withdraw the United States from the heavy-handed Paris climate (non)treaty. He urges Americans to watch CEI’s short new video (above) and sign a petition asking the President to keep his vitally important promise.

Informative talking points, articles and blog posts follow the link to the CEI video. Cal Beisner’s article is especially valuable, as it succinctly presents the most important reasons the United States and President Trump should take a seat at the head of the table, and lead the world away from this disastrous agreement – which would destroy modern industrial economies, distribute their wealth to other nations, and do virtually nothing to reduce future global warming or prevent future climate changes or extreme weather events.

Ebell says Trump Administration senior officials will meet at 1:30 this afternoon (April 17) to try to come to a consensus on what to do about keeping President Trump’s campaign promise to withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty.  It is his understanding that the meeting will probably not agree on a recommendation to President Trump, who will make the final decision in the coming weeks.  It is also his understanding that those in favor of keeping the President’s campaign promise and those in favor of breaking it are fairly evenly balanced.  This is contrary to news reports that the promise-breakers are on the verge of winning.  One concern is that Energy Secretary Rick Perry appears to have gone wobbly.

This battle between the American “Deplorables” and the Washington Swamp has monumental consequences for our access to reliable, affordable energy, and thus for our future lives, livelihoods, living standards and liberties.

Please watch the video and sign the petition. Then send the link to friends, family, colleagues and appropriate people you know in the White House and Congress.  Urge them to watch the video and to pass it along to others. For those on Twitter, the President’s handle is @realDonaldTrump.

Here are some talking points and articles about the Paris Climate Treaty:

  • President Trump campaigned on the promise to “cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to UN global warming programs.”  The agreement is designed to transfer wealth from the United States to developing countries, and would cost trillions of dollars to implement.
  • The Paris Agreement is an unfair deal that allows countries like China and India – which have far fewer environmental protections in place than does the U.S. – to continue to increase their greenhouse gas emissions, while we take very costly steps to dramatically decrease ours.
  • The promises made by the Obama administration in entering the agreement would cost American workers hundreds of thousands of jobs, and our economy hundreds of billions of dollars – harming America’s competitiveness in the global marketplace, and handing an advantage to China and other nations.
  • Because the Paris Agreement requires member countries to increase their emission reduction commitments every five years, staying in the agreement would mean even more harm to American workers, families, and the economy over time.
  • This stands in direct conflict with President Trump’s plan to create 25 million new American jobs, re-establishing the United States as a global leader in manufacturing and an engine of economic growth.
  • Some argue that we should remain in the Paris Agreement to keep our “seat at the table.”  However, the fundamental goal of the Paris Agreement is to drive participating nations toward emissions reductions that are mathematically incompatible with economic growth.
  • Furthermore, remaining in the agreement and reducing our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) is inconsistent with the construct of the agreement itself.  Provisions exist only for participating nations to strengthen their commitments, not weaken them.
  • Even providing for a rescission of our current NDC, continued U.S. participation in the agreement ensures a future administration will once again put forward unattainable, economically damaging NDCs.
  • It is also unrealistic to believe that the U.S. could extract concessions regarding the development and use of fossil fuels, particularly given the negative reaction by other members at the recent G7 Energy meeting to a proposal to include reference to fossil fuels in a joint statement of the G7 nations.
  • In stark contrast to the previous administration, President Trump has made clear that his priorities include energy policies that maximize the use of America’s vast untapped resources; environmental policies that focus on protecting and preserving our air, water, and wildlife; and regulatory policies that put Americans back to work, unleashing our nation’s full economic potential.  The Paris Climate Treaty stands as an obstacle to each of those goals.

Required reading:

Heartland’s page dedicated to defeating the Paris Climate Treaty

Cal Beisner, Washington Times

Paul Driessen, Townhall

Chris Horner and Marlo Lewis, CEI

Marlo Lewis, CEI

Sen. John Barrasso, Washington Times

Chris Horner, Washington Times

Bret Schaefer, Heritage Foundation

Nick Loris, Heritage Foundation

Joel Kotkin, Real Clear Politics

Scholarly article by Bjorn Lomborg, Lomborg.com

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Pour the Public Education Kool-Aid Down the Drain

By Teresa Mull

The Obama administration was fond of proclaiming that high-school graduation rates hit record highs during its tenure. A new report shows that those numbers don’t mean much.

“However legitimate the surge in graduation rates—and almost no one contends that they are wholly fictive—the relative value of a high school diploma, as measured by income, college preparedness, jobless rates, and employer confidence, has never been lower,” the74million.org, an education news site, reports. “American schools may have taken praiseworthy strides in helping their students to the K–12 finish line, but there is little reason to believe that they have prepared them any more meaningfully for the challenges ahead.”

The Obama administration, like many of its predecessors, spent billions propping up failing public schools, and what did we get for all our hard-earned tax dollars? High-school graduates are worse off.

But many in the general public, having drunk the pro-public-schools Kool-Aid, mixed mainly by the nation’s corrupt and powerful teachers’ unions, are largely under the delusion that public education is a great and sacred institution worthy of preservation—no matter what.

As the late Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute said in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce in 2011, “we have little to show for the $2 trillion in federal education spending of the past half century.” Math, science, and reading scores, Coulson noted, remained stagnant or declined while the federal government poured trillions of dollars into trying to raise overall achievement. And the federal government’s efforts to realize its other goal of narrowing achievement gaps—between minorities and whites, and between higher- and lower-income students—produced no change either.

“The fact that outcomes have remained flat or declined while spending skyrocketed is a disaster unparalleled in any other field,” Coulson said. “The only thing it appears to have accomplished is to apply the brakes to the nation’s economic growth, by taxing trillions of dollars out of the productive sector of the economy and spending it on ineffective programs.”

It’s been six years since Coulson’s testimony, and federal funding on education remains astronomical. The U.S. Department of Education admitted in January 2017 that the School Improvements Grant program, into which the Obama administration funneled $500 million annually starting in 2009, had “no impact on achievement.”

Meanwhile, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten declared during a press conference earlier in March that President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Education would take “a meat cleaver to public education.”

“Only someone who doesn’t know what public schools do and what kids need would contemplate or countenance these kinds of cuts,” Weingarten said. “These cuts, if enacted, will turn into real-life effects on kids. They do what we feared would happen when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was nominated: defund public schools with the aim of destabilizing and destroying them.”

Weingarten would have us believe “what public schools do” is a great service to our children and our country. Yet the facts—as evidenced by Coulson, the74million.org, and many others—suggest otherwise.

Michael Mulgrew, president of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers, told the New York Daily News recently that he and his cronies “are not going to stand by and let anyone perpetrate the [federal Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos agenda on our public schools.”

“Teachers, parents, and community activists will stand against any attempt to hurt our students and our schools,” Mulgrew said.

Again, why do so many people naively believe “hurting” government schools will concurrently hurt our students?

A report released one week ago shows how the Obama administration’s edicts on discipline reform made New York City public schools more violent. And it’s not just federal intervention that hurts schools. Government meddling in education at the state and local levels restricts creativity and innovation everywhere, and children are suffering because of it.

Connecticut’s governor, for instance, just announced that the state’s school-desegregation efforts have kept minority students from enrolling in better schools because local schools have to reach racial-integration quotas.

If at first you don’t succeed, and if for 50 years you don’t succeed, perhaps you should try, try something different. Something like reducing government involvement in education and giving control back to parents.

[Originally Published at the American Conservative]

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EPA Staffer: We’re Hitting the Bottle Because of Trump

EPA lifers are “in the dumps” about life at the agency under President Trump. The level of anxiety is so high that alcoholism may be on the rise among climate-alarmist lifers, according to one staffer quoted in The Washington Post. If that is true, that’s very good news, because it means the EPA will be getting back to its original — and largely accomplished mission — of cleaning up America’s air, land, and water.

EPA lifer and “climate change advisor” Mike Cox quit recently, and not quietly. The Pacific Northwest staffer issued a public letter stating his reasons, and The Washington Post reported his letter with unwarranted gusto. What the hell did he have to lose, I suppose. Trump is eliminating 25 percent of all EPA jobs. I guess his was one.

This middle-finger story about Cox included the usual nonsense about how if all Americans don’t all bike to work (like him) for the rest our lives, the earth is DOOMED … and so on. But I had to laugh, though, at this wilting flower’s concern about the ski industry on the West Coast.

“ … talk to the ski area operators who are seeing less snowpack and worrying about their future …”

Dude. Mammoth Mountain in Northern California announced in February that its skiing season will be extended to … the Fourth of July Weekend. There hasn’t been skiing at Mammoth Mountain in July for at least 40 years. Tell me more about how humans, globally, are creating “less snowpack” in America. These climate alarmists are so used to peddling BS, they don’t think anyone watches The Weather Channel — which for the first time in memory this morning spoke positively about the end of the California drought, instead of saying, “But it’s not over yet!!”

Anyway, The Washington Post reporter couldn’t get an EPA spokesman to comment on the EPA diva’s walk-out letter, but they did get a hold of Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who led the Trump Administration’s EPA transition team. Myron, a friend of The Heartland Institute — and winner of this year’s Climate Change Awards — delivered a classic quote:

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment on Cox’s letter, but Myron Ebell, who led Trump’s EPA transition team, did.

Now that Trump is moving toward “radically downsizing the EPA,” Ebell said, “employees who are opposed to the Trump Administration’s agenda are either going to conduct themselves as professional civil servants or find other employment or retire or be terminated. I would be more sympathetic if they had ever expressed any concern for the people whose jobs have been destroyed by EPA’s regulatory rampage.”

The reporter didn’t mention if Myron dropped the mic … but it should have.

After reading the story, it was clear that the reporter buried the lead and headline. Theirs was “EPA staffer leaves with a bang, blasting agency policies under Trump.” The headline should have been: “EPA Lifers Hit the Bottle, Because Trump.” From the last paragraphs of the story:

Coping takes different forms.

Black humor and burying themselves in a project’s scientific minutia will work for some.

“For the rest of us,” added one longtime regional staffer, “there probably will be a significant rise in alcoholism.”

Heh. It’s a good sign that words by Trump and actions encouraged by Myron Ebell and the rest of the climate realist EPA team have meaning. But drink up, government alarmists! And then submit your resignations — like Mr. Cox, if less dramatically, so we can start having real science direct federal policy on the climate.

[First posted at Freedom Pub.]

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Universities Invent New Devices to Stifle Speech and Protect Snowflakes

By Robert Holland

Decades ago, the arrival of spring brought with it the return of silly season on university campuses, with such frolics as goldfish swallowing, telephone-booth stuffing, piano shattering, panty raids, and streaking.

In today’s much gloomier climate, silliness has yielded to the serious work of stifling speech and academic freedom in ever-more insidious ways.

March blew in with a dust-up at elite Wellesley College, where faculty members organized as the Commission for Ethnicity, Race, and Equity offered their services as pre-event screeners of campus speakers, operating much like the censorship boards that once determined what movies people could or could not see.

The commission offered its surpassing wisdom after a student group had the temerity to extend a speaking invitation to Laura Kipnis, a feminist critic of the feds’ twisted Title IX interpretations and what she calls the “culture of sexual paranoia” on American campuses.

Filled with righteous anger, the commissioners charged that controversial speakers “impose on the liberty of students, staff, and faculty at Wellesley”—specifically by obliging students to “invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers’ arguments.”

Oh, the horror. Students challenged to weigh opposing perspectives and make a cogent argument? Isn’t that close to the heart of what we call “higher education,” or has that ethos disappeared along with the silly fads?

Concerned that future provocative speakers might enable “the bullying of disempowered groups,” the faculty commission is asking students and others to come in for heart-to-heart chats on who should or should not be able to speak at Wellesley.

Cluelessly, the commish launched this Orwellian foray during Censorship Awareness Week at Wellesley, thereby signaling that its answer to censorship is, well, more censorship.

The upshot of all this figures to be either speakers adhering to the dominant leftist orthodoxy or those with nothing to say.

In an e-mail to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Kipnis offered the acerbic but accurate observation that “protecting students from the ‘distress’ of someone’s ideas isn’t education, it’s a $67,000 babysitting bill.” (Tuition and fees at Hillary Clinton’s alma mater approximates $67,000 per annum.)

Another way some university administrators try to stifle speech is by zoning it into tiny designated areas where students may have their say, often after having to fill out an application and wait their turn. Commonly, these so-called “free-speech zones” are not much larger than the telephone booths college students once packed during silly season.

At Pierce College, one of the institutions within Los Angeles’ Community-College District, the free-speech zone is approximately the size of three parking spaces. In a commuter college, that is precious little room to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution, as student Kevin Shaw wished to do.

Therefore, with FIRE’s legal support, Shaw filed a federal court suit on March 28 contending the college and the district have violated his First Amendment rights.

Ah, but college officials are ever alert for new schemes to keep campus speech from offending fragile souls. Yes, Virginia, there are snowflakes in Canada.

Accordingly, Brayden Whitlock, an academic governor at the University of Alberta, asked in a Toronto Star column why it is—if higher education is supposed to encourage a free exchange and debate of ideas—that “at publicly funded universities across Canada, it’s become acceptable for university administrators to charge a security fee to student groups based on how controversial the speakers they invite to campus are?”

Good question.

Given that many student groups operate on a shoestring, such a sliding scale of security fees clearly operates to discourage student invitations to provocative speakers. It is, in effect, a punitive tax on free speech. Because administrators subjectively decide which prospective speakers are controversial, they become de facto censors when student groups are unable to ante up. Even worse, violent groups can suppress speech by ramping up the level of controversy over particular speakers.

At Western University, a student group called Young Canadians in Action forked over $1,200 in security fees because central-office bureaucrats deemed their invited speaker, University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson, to be potentially controversial.

Peterson, by Canadian standards, is controversial; he dared to criticize political correctness and fretted about the Canadian government’s Bill C-16, which could criminalize speech about issues of gender identity.

However, Peterson is so much more than a political provocateur. For example, he has written more than a hundred scientific papers that transform modern understanding of personality, and his presentations speak right to each individual’s quest of self-discovery. students have rated him one of three truly life-changing teachers.

The guy is brilliant. If you need persuading, go to his website or his YouTube channel and connect with his thought waves.

More than 700 students at Western turned out for Peterson’s address and wound up giving him a standing ovation. Young Canadians in Action should demand a refund of security fees.

The night before, raucous protesters at McMaster University shouted down Peterson’s talk after just a few minutes, which means students who wanted to listen, think, and engage with this amazing speaker lost out.

It is time for universities to stand not just for freedom of speech, but also for the right of their students to benefit from it.

[Originally Published at the Hill]

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Socialism: Marking a Century of Death and Destruction

By Richard Ebeling

In August of 1993 I was in invited to participate in a conference in Vilnius, Lithuania on “Liberty and Private Business.” This was less than two years after the formal disappearance of the Soviet Union as a political entity on the map of the world.

During our time there my wife and I were offered the opportunity to be given a tour of the building that had served as the headquarters of the local KGB, the infamous Soviet secret police. Our guide was a man who had been a prisoner in its walls in the late 1950s. The most nightmarishly part of the tour was the basement containing the prison cells and the interrogation rooms.

Going Through Hell at the Hands of the KGB

As we reached the bottom of the staircase our guide pointed to a small closet-like space and said, “Here was the first stop on the victim’s journey to hell.” The prisoner would be stripped of all clothes, naked, and placed in this windowless, pitch-black closet for several hours. This was the start of the psychology of torture. Left naked in absolute darkness for hours, the victim could only have the most frightening imaginings about why he or she had been arrested, what might be done to them, and whether they would ever see their family and friends again.

Finally, they would be taken out and brought to a nearby interrogation room. The KGB interrogators asked him or her why they were an “enemy of the people,” what acts of espionage or sabotage or dissent they had committed? Who were their accomplices, and what were their names? The interrogators would insist that the prisoner sign a confession, usually already prepared for his or her signature, specifying their “crimes” against “the people” and the Communist Party. They just needed the names of his or her co-conspirators.

There had been active opponents among the Lithuanian population after the retreat of the Germans and the return of the Soviet Army and communist control in 1944-1945 at the end of the Second World War. Some Lithuanians fought a guerilla war in the forests against the Soviet military well into the early 1950s. After all, Lithuania had lost its national independence as a result of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939, which turned over all three of the Baltic Republics – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania –to the tender care of the Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin. And the Lithuanians had wanted to be a free nation again. (See my article, “How Lithuania Helped Take Down the Soviet Union.”)

But, in reality, virtually all of those arrested and interrogated had committed no “crimes against the State,” other than being on the wrong end of the accusations of others, who were, themselves, either informers or who had given names under similar interrogation. Perversely, a claim of innocence by a prisoner was taken as proof that they were obviously hiding something. And, besides, it did not matter if the person was innocent or not; the KGB higher authorities expected “results” in the form of confessions and names to pass on to their superiors in Moscow. So the interrogators had to have them.

The next stage of the process, if the confession was not forthcoming, was the use of physical torture in various excruciating forms until the prisoner met the interrogators’ demands. As further pressure, family members would be threatened with arrest and that they would be tortured or even killed right before the prisoner’s eyes if they did not confess. It might take days or even weeks, but most of those brought to that KGB basement eventually broke.

They would, then, be told that they were being transferred to another prison. Some were, often on their way to a forced labor camp. But many would be taken to another room in the basement, on one wall of which was a meter stick. They would be told that they would be given a physical examination before being moved. Told to stand with their back against the meter stick to measure their height, a small trapdoor would open behind their head and a KGB executioner would shoot them dead.

Their lifeless body would be carried to another room where they would be placed on a steel table and any gold fillings would be removed from their teeth. Their bodies would be carried out of the basement through a back door and placed into a truck to be buried in a nameless mass grave with others who went through the same conveyor belt of KGB horror.

Just three weeks earlier, my wife and I had been in Austria and had visited the Nazi concentration camp at Mauthausen near the city of Linz.  What struck us after our tour of the KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Lithuania was just how similar the Nazi and Soviet methods had been. Indeed, in Mauthausen were the same steps and stages of arrest, psychological terror, interrogation and torture, murder through a trapdoor behind a meter stick, and the removal of gold fillings. The only difference between the German National Socialist and the Soviet communist techniques was that the Nazis threw the dead bodies into ovens to reduce them to ash and bone chips before disposal. The Soviets simply discarded the bodies in mass graves.

Communism Has Reeked of Mass Murder

The entire history of communism in the twentieth century was that of tyranny, terror and torture. Not one country that followed the Soviet revolutionary model in the hundred years after the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917 practiced anything noticeably different in form or content.

The noted Russian mathematician and Soviet-era dissident, Igor Shafarevich, who died on February 19, 2017 at the age of 93, ended his 1975 book, The Socialist Phenomenon, with the following conclusion and indictment:

Most socialist doctrines and movements are literally saturated with the mood of death, catastrophe and destruction . . . One could regard the death of mankind as the final result to which the development of socialism leads.

Is this too extreme a statement? Perhaps not, given that learned historians of the communist experience in the twentieth century had estimated that in the name of building the bright, beautiful socialist society of the future as many as 150 million to possibly 200 million unarmed, innocent men, women and children were shot, tortured, starved, or worked to death in labor camps as “enemies of the people.” (See my article, “The Human Cost of Socialism in Power”)

Estimates suggest that as many as 64 to 68 million people may have died at the hands of the communist regime in these ways during the nearly 75 years of the Soviet Union. Others have suggested that as many as 80 million of such innocent people may have been killed, again, from starvation, torture, labor camp work or execution in China from 1949 when the communist regime came to power to 1976 when Mao Zedong died.

Classical Liberalism’s Liberation of Mankind

For nearly all of recorded history, there have been people who have hoped for and dreamed about a world without want or worry, a world in which cruelty and corruption did not darken the societies in which human beings lived. Power and plunder, indeed, have been the hallmarks of virtually every community of men through the ages. But these dreamers wondered if there was not a better way.

The liberation of humanity from poverty and tyranny only began in any meaningful way a little over three hundred years ago with the rise of what has become known as classical liberalism. A political philosophy of individualism began to take form that challenged and began a process of overthrowing the presumptions and practices of hereditary monarchies, religious rationales for governmental absolutism, and the stranglehold of Mercantilist regulations, restrictions and controls over almost every facet of economic life in such nation-states as Imperial Great Britain and Royal France.

We should take a moment to recall the actual achievements of this earlier classical liberalism, especially in the nineteenth century: It campaigned for and brought about the abolition of the institution of human slavery, first in the West and then through much of the rest of the world. It spearheaded legal reforms that moved society toward a greater degree of impartial rule of law, and an equality of civil rights for growing numbers of citizens in the form of freedom of speech, the press, religion, and peaceful association. It also brought an end to the pervasive practice of cruel and unusual punishments by the agents of law enforcement.

Classical liberalism reined in the powers and prerogatives of kings and princes by transforming political absolutism into either constitutionally-restrained monarchies or by replacing them with republican forms of representative government; and in both, over time, more and more members of these societies were extended the voting franchise until the principle of universal suffrage became the rule.

Classical Liberals Against War and for Rules of War

In international affairs, classical liberals in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were the opponents of imperialism and war. They emphasized that kings and even parliaments may wax eloquent about national greatness, manifest destinies, and white men’s burdens, but it was the subjects and citizens of the imperial and colonial mother countries who had to fight the wars, suffer the human losses and bear the fiscal burdens of conquering and colonizing faraway parts of the globe. In the same process, they said, imperial adventures equally imposed hardships and foreign rule on those people in faraway lands who did not wish for foreign masters dictating and directing their destinies.

One other accomplishment of that earlier era of classical liberalism was the fostering through international treaty a variety of formal “rules of war.” Nations at war were required to provide humane treatment for captured enemy prisoners; an occupying power was expected to respect the life and property of foreign, civilian non-combatants under their control due to the conflict; and there were to be restraints on the types and uses of weaponry permissible among “civilized” nations at war with each other to limit the death and destruction from combat, itself.

Classical Liberalism Freed the Marketplace for Prosperity

Finally, classical liberalism opened the door and ushered in a never-seen-before epoch in a rising material human betterment for all in society, and no longer just for a small privileged few around the monarch or among the privileged religious orders. Modern free market capitalism was set free from the spider’s web of Mercantilist economic planning and control. Individuals were declared to have individual rights to their life, liberty and honestly acquired property as the means to a pursuit of personal happiness.

Classical economists like Adam Smith explained that for there to be wealth and prosperity for the general population all that was needed is “system of natural liberty” under which each individual is free to follow his own self-interest in peaceful associative exchange in an open, competitive marketplace. With an emerging interdependent system of division of labor the only way to improve one’s own circumstances is to apply one’s talents and abilities to producing and offering on the market those things that others want and desire as the peaceful means of earning the financial wherewithal to, reciprocally, purchase from those others the goods and services desired for one’s own goals and purposes.

Respected individual rights, private property, and free markets enabled the beginning of a new dawn for humanity: mass production for the mass of mankind, brought about by the profit-motive as each individual, in their own self-interest, had to devise ways to make new, better and less expensive goods in the peaceful rivalry of market competition. The entrepreneurial spirit was set free from the dead hand of state control. And the economic revolution that has resulted in so much of the economic plenty and prosperity that we so easily take for granted was set in motion.

Of course, the transitional process from general poverty to widening prosperity in the nineteenth century occurred slowly over time in the West, with not everyone simultaneously experiencing the improvements or to the same degree. Rising prosperity and the potential for even more plenty existed side-by-side with highly visible remaining poverty along with those whom the capitalist engine of betterment had not yet noticeably touched.

As a number of historians and others have observed, never do the imperfections in the human condition and the circumstances of society arouse so much indignation and impatience with the pace of improvement as when those imperfections are, in fact, beginning to be widely diminished. Thus emerged one of the appeals for an alternative, socialist way. (See my article, “Before Modern Collectivism: The Rise and Fall of Classical Liberalism.”)

Communism and the Idea of a Malleable Human Nature

The idea of communism – the common sharing of productive property and its resulting output – is as old as the ancient Greeks and Plato’s conception of the ideal Republic in which the guardians all live and work in common under the presumption that a radical change in the social institutional setting will transform men from self-interested beings into altruistic servers to some defined needs of society as a whole.

This gets us to a fundamental difference and distinction in the conception of man in the classical liberal versus socialist worldviews concerning men and mankind. Does man have a basic and invariant human nature that may be multi-sided and complex, but no less fixed in certain qualities and characteristics? Or is human nature a malleable substance that can be remolded like clay in the sculptor’s hands, by placing human beings into radically different social arrangements and settings?

Classical liberals have argued for the former, that human beings are basically what they are: fairly reasonable, self-interested beings, guided by goals of personal improvement and betterment as the individual comes to define those for himself. The social dilemma for a humane, just and widely prosperous society is how to foster a political and economic institutional order to harness that invariant quality in human nature so that it advances human betterment in general rather than used to plunder others.  The classical liberal answer is, basically, Adam Smith’s system of natural liberty with its open, competitive free market order, as earlier explained.

Members of what was emerging as the socialist movement in the late eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century argued the opposite. They insisted that if men were selfish, greedy, uncaring and insensitive to the circumstances of their fellow men it was due to the institution of private property and its related market-based system of human association. Change the institutional order in which human beings live and work and you will create a “new man.”

Indeed, they raised to the ultimate human societal ideal a world in which the individual would live and work for the collective, the society as a whole, rather than only for his own bettered circumstances at the presumed expense of others in society. Socialism heralded the ethics of altruism.

The interested student can read through a huge range of socialist literature by a host of advocates of collectivism. Some longed for a more agrarian and rural paradise; others envisaged an industrial future for mankind in which productivity will have reached the point at which machines did virtually all the work. Humanity would be set free, to use a version of one of Karl Marx’s imageries, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon and sit around the fireplace discussing socialist philosophy with one’s comrades who had all been liberated from work and worry by the arrival of the communist post-scarcity heaven-on-earth. (See my article, “Karl Marx’s Misconceptions about Man and Markets.”)

Changing Human Nature Needs a “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”

But the core conception of the coming paradise-on-earth is that man’s nature could and should be made to change. There are few places in Karl Marx’s writings in which he actually speaks of the institutions and workings of the socialist society that will come after the downfall of capitalism. One is in his 1875 work, Critique of the Gotha Program, the policy agenda of a rival socialist group that Marx strongly disagreed with.

The dilemma, Marx explains, is that even after the overthrow of the capitalist system, residues of the previous system would permeate the new socialist society. First, there would be the human remnants of the now discarded capitalist system. Among them would be those who want to restore the system of worker exploitation for their own ill-gotten profit gains. Equally a problem would be the fact that the “working class,” although freed from the “false consciousness” that the capitalist system under which they had been exploited was just, would still bear the mark of the capitalist psychology of self-interest and personal gain.

Thus, there had to be in place and in power a “revolutionary vanguard” of dedicated and clear seeing socialists who would lead “the masses” into the bright, beautiful future of communism. The institutional means of doing this, said Marx, is the “dictatorship of the proletariat.”

In other words, until the masses, the workers, are freed from the individualist and capitalist mindset that they had been born into and mentally made to act within, they needed to be “reeducated” by a self-appointed political elite that has liberated their minds, already, from the capitalist false consciousness of the past. In the name of the new socialist-era freedom-to-come, there must the reign of a dictatorship made up of those who know how humanity should think, act and associate in preparation for the full communism waiting ahead for mankind.

At the same time, the dictatorship is necessary to suppress not only any attempts by the former capitalist exploiters to restore their power over the, now, socialized property they used to own. These voices from the capitalist past also must be prevented from speaking their self-serving lies and deceptions about why individual, self-interested liberty is morally right, or that private property serves the betterment of all in society including workers, or that freedom means those “bourgeois” liberties of freedom of the press, or speech or religion or democratic voting. The masses must be brought to, indoctrinated in, the “true” consciousness that freedom means the collective ownership and direction of the means of production and the selfless serving of society that the socialist revolutionary vanguard in charge knows to be true.

This also explains why the socialist phase of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” could never end in any of the Marxist-inspired revolutionary regimes over the last one hundred years. Human nature is not waiting to be remolded like wax into a new human form and content. Human beings seem generally not be hardwired to be altruistic, selfless eunuchs. Thus, self-interest always rises to the surface in people’s conduct, and if it is to be ethically denied, there must be political force to keep repressing it and trying to constantly extinguish it.

In addition, as long as there were capitalist enemies anywhere in the world, the dictatorship of the proletariat had to be preserved in the socialist countries to assure that the reeducated minds of the workers already lucky enough to live under socialism were not re-infected by capitalist ideas coming in from outside the people’s collectivist paradise. Hence, the “iron curtain” of censorship and thought control in the Marxist parts of the world, in the name of the people over whom the revolutionary vanguard ruled.

Socialist Economic Planning Equals Commanding People

Also, once private enterprise was abolished through the socialization of the means of production and brought under the control and direction of the socialist government, a central economic plan was now essential. If not the profit-motived individual entrepreneurs in directing the private enterprises under their ownership to satisfy consumer demands guided by the competitive price system, then someone must determine what gets produced, where, when and for which purpose and use.

The direction of “the people’s” collectivized means of production requires a centralized plan concerned with designing, implementing and imposing it on everyone for the good of the society as a whole. This means not only lumber and steel must be assigned a use in a particular place in the socialist society, but so must people. Hence, in the communist economies of the twentieth century the state’s central planning agencies determined who would be educated for what skills or expertise, where they would be employed and the work they would do.

Since the state educated you, assigned you work and served as your only employer in that job, the state also determined where you would live; not only in what city, town or village, but what apartment in which government owned residential building would be made your abode. Recreational facilities, places for rest and vacations, the types of consumer goods to be produced and distributed where and for whom, these, too, were all centrally determined by the socialist planning agencies following the orders of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Not one corner of everyday life – its form, content, quality, or characteristics – was free from the control and determination of the all powerful and all-encompassing socialist state. Its design and attempted implementation was truly “totalitarian.” It may have been Benito Mussolini, the father of fascism, who coined the term, “totalitarianism” as meaning “everything in the state, nothing against the State, nothing outside the state.” But nowhere over the last century was this more insistently, pervasively and coercively imposed than in the communist countries molded on the model of the Soviet Union as created by Vladimir Lenin and horrifyingly institutionalized by Josef Stalin and their successors

From Radical Revolutionary to Privileged Bureaucrat

I would also like to point out that the very nature of socialism-in-practice in communist societies demonstrated the invariant quality of self-interested human nature that Karl Marx and other collectivists insisted in denying. The great German sociologist, Max Weber (1864-1920), offered an understanding of the evolution of socialist regimes in the twentieth century from revolutionary radicalism to a stagnant system of power, privilege and plunder, manned by self-interested Soviet socialist office holders.

Max Weber, in his posthumously published monumental treatise, Economy and Society (1925), defined a charismatic leader as one who stands out from the ordinary mass of men because of an element in his personality viewed as containing exceptional powers and qualities. He is on a mission because he as been endowed with a particular intellectual spark that enables him to see what other men do not, to understand what the mass of his fellow men fail to comprehend.

But his authority, Weber explains, does not come from others acknowledging his powers, per se. His sense of authority and destiny comes from within, knowing that he has a truth that he is to reveal to others and then knowing that truth will result in men being set free; and when others see the rightness of what he knows, their following his leadership emerges as the obvious and inevitable.

Certainly Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) fit that description. While many who met or knew him pointed out his either non-descript or even unattractive physical appearance and presence, most emphasized at the same time Lenin’s single-mindedness of being on a “mission” for which he had absolute confidence and unswerving determination, and due to which others were drawn to him and accepted his leadership authority.

Surrounding Lenin, the charismatic, was an array of disciples and comrades who were called and chosen, and saw themselves as serving the same mission: the advancement of the socialist revolution. As Weber says:

The . . . group that is subject to charismatic authority is based on an emotional form of communal relationship . . . It is . . . chosen in terms of the charismatic qualities of its members. The prophet has his disciples . . . There is a ‘call’ at the instance of the leader on the basis of the charismatic qualification of those he summons . . .

The  “chosen” group renounces (at least in principle, if not always in practice) the material temptations of the worldly circumstances, which the goal of their “mission” is meant to overthrow and destroy. And, this too, marked the often conspiring, secretive and sometimes Spartan lifestyle of Marxist revolutionaries. Max Weber explained:

There is no such thing as salary or a benefice. Disciples or followers tend to live primarily in a communistic relationship with their leader . . . Pure charisma . . . distains and repudiates economic exploitation of the gifts of grace as a source of income, though to be sure, this often remains more an ideal than a fact . . . On the other hand, ‘booty’.  .  . whether extracted by force or other means, is the other typical form of charismatic provision of needs.

But once the charismatic and his followers are in power, a transformation soon occurs in their behavior and relationship to the rest of the society. Now it becomes impossible to stand outside of the flow of the mundane affairs of daily life. Indeed, if they do not immerse themselves in those matters, their power over society would be threatened with disintegration.  Slowly, the burning fervor of ideological mission and revolutionary comradeship begins to die. Said Max Weber:

Only the members of the small group of enthusiastic disciples and followers are prepared to devote their lives purely and idealistically to their calling. The great majority of disciples and followers will in the long run ‘make their living’ out of their ‘calling’ in a material sense as well . . . Hence, the routinization of charisma also takes the form of the appropriation of powers of control and of economic advantages by the followers and disciples and the regulation of the recruitment of these groups . . .

Correspondingly, in a developed political body the vassals, the holders of benefices, or officials are differentiated from the ‘taxpayers.’ The former, instead of being ‘followers’ of the leader, become state officials or appointed party officials . . . With the process of routinization the charismatic group tends to develop into one of the forms of everyday authority, particularly . . . the bureaucratic.

I would suggest that in Max Weber’s analysis we see the outline of the historical process by which a band of Marxist revolutionaries, convinced that they saw the dictates of history in a way that other mere mortals did not, took upon themselves to be the midwives of that history through violent revolution.

But as the embers of socialist victory cooled, such as in Russia after the revolution of 1917 and the bloody three-year civil war that followed, the revolutionaries had to turn to the mundane affairs of “building socialism.” Building socialism meant the transformation of society, and the transforming of society meant watching, overseeing, controlling and commanding everything.

Self-Interest and the New Socialist “Class Society”

Hence, was born in the new Soviet Union what came to be called the Nomenklatura. Beginning in 1919, the Communist Party established the procedure of forming lists of government or bureaucratic positions requiring official appointment and the accompanying lists of people who might be eligible for promotion to these higher positions of authority. Thus was born the new ruling class under socialism.

Ministries needed to be manned, Party positions needed to be filled, nationalized industries and collective farms needed managers assigned to supervise production and see to it that central planning targets were fulfilled, state distributions networks needed to be established, trade unions needed reliable Party directors, and mass media needed editors and reporters to tell the fabricated propaganda stories about socialism’s breakthrough victories in creating a new Soviet Man in his new glorious collectivist society.

Contrary to the socialist promises of making a new man out of the rubble of the old order, as one new stone after another was put into place and the socialist economy was constructed, into the cracks between the blocks sprouted once again the universals of human nature: The motives and psychology of self-interested behavior, the search for profitable avenues and opportunities to improve one’s own life and that of one’s family and friends, through the attempt to gain control over and forms of personal use of the “socialized” scarce resources and commodities within the networks and interconnections of the Soviet bureaucracy.

Since the state declared its ownership over all the means of production, it was not surprising that as the years and then the decades went by more and more people came to see membership in the Nomenklatura and its ancillary positions as the path to a more prosperous and pleasant life. In the end, the socialist state did not transform human nature; human nature found ways to use the socialist state for its own ends.

The system of privilege and corruption that Soviet socialism created was explained by Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007), the Russian Communist Party member who, more than many others, helped bring about the end of the Soviet Union and an independent Russia in 1991 that at first tried democracy. In his book, Against the Grain (1990), Yeltsin explained:

The Kremlin ration, a special allocation of normally unobtainable products, is paid for by the top echelon at half its normal price, and it consists of the highest-quality foods. In Moscow, a total of 40,000 people enjoy the privilege of these special rations, in various categories of quantities and quality. There are whole sections of GUM – the huge department store that faces the Kremlin across Red Square – closed to the public and specially reserved for the highest of the elite, while for officials a rung or two lower on the ladder there are other special shops. All are called ‘special’: special workshops, special dry cleaners, special polyclinics, special hospitals, special houses, and special services. What a cynical use of the world!

The promised “classless society” of material and social equality was in fact the most granulated system of hierarchical privilege and power. Bribery, corruption, connections and favoritism permeated the entire fabric of Soviet socialist society. Since the state owned, produced and distributed anything and everything, everyone had to have “friends,” or friends who knew the right people, or who knew the right person to whom you could show just how appreciative you could be through bribery or reciprocal favors to gain access to something impossible to obtain through the normal channels of the central planning distributive network for “the masses.”

And overlaid on this entire socialist system of power, privilege and Communist Party-led plunder was the Soviet secret police, the KGB, spying, surveilling and threatening anyone and everyone who challenged or questioned the propaganda or workings of the “workers’ paradise.”

Communist Contradictions and the End to Soviet Socialism

It is not an exaggeration to say that everything that the Marxists said was the nature of the capitalist system – exploitation of the many by a privileged few; a gross inequality of wealth and opportunity simply due to an artificial arrangement of control over the means of production; a manipulation of reality to make slavery seem as if it meant freedom – was, in fact, the nature and essence, of Soviet socialism. What a warped and perverted twisting of reality through an ideologically distorted looking glass!

It all finally came to an end in 1991 when the privilege, plunder and poverty of “real socialism” made the Soviet system unsustainable. Indeed, by that time it was hard to find anyone in any corner of Soviet society who believed, anymore, in the “false consciousness” of communist propaganda. The Soviet Union had reached the dead-end of ideological bankruptcy and social illegitimacy. The “super-structure” of Soviet power collapsed. (See my article, “The 25th Anniversary of the End of the Soviet Union.”)

In 1899, the French social psychologist, Gustave Le Bon (1841-1931), looked at the, then, growing socialist movement at the end of the nineteenth century and the soon to be beginning twentieth century, and sadly said in his book, The Psychology of Socialism:

One nation, at least, will have to suffer . . . for the instruction of the world. It will be one of those practical lessons which alone can enlighten the nations who are amused with the dreams of happiness displayed before their eyes by the priests of the new [socialist] faith.

Not only Russia, but also many other countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America have been forced to provide that “practical lesson” in the political tyranny and economic disaster that socialist society, especially in its Marxist permutation, offered to mankind.

It stands as a stark demonstration of the disastrous consequences when a society fully abandons a political philosophy classical liberal individualism, an economic system of free market, competitive capitalism, and an acceptance of self-interested human nature functioning within a social arrangement of voluntary association and peaceful exchange.

Let us hope that with this year marking the one hundredth anniversary of the communist revolution in Russia mankind will learn from that tragic mistake, and come to realize and accept that only individual liberty and economic freedom can provide the just, good, and prosperous society that humanity can and should have.

(The text is based on a presentation delivered as the John W. Pope Lecture sponsored by the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism at Clemson University on March 1, 2017.)

[Originally Published at the Future for Freedom Foundation]

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