Friday, January 21, 2022

P&D and The Week that Was: Week Three, 2022

Thought For the Day - “COVID-19 vaccine mandates are necessary because the vaccinated need to be protected from the unvaccinated — by forcing the unvaccinated to get the vaccine that didn’t protect the vaccinated.” 

By Rich Kozlovich

Political Cartoons by Gary Varvel  

Well, Happy Friday everyone.   This lead cartoon is kind of a catch-all thing as I think this represents the prefect picture of the crisis Biden and his midwits are, not only to America, but to the world.

Here are this week's offerings, and with a few exceptions, by category. Let's start with John Droz and his Media Balance Newsletter: 1/17/22.  His newsletter consistently encompasses every subject in discussion, so I've decided to lead here with it separately. 

If you're not subscribing, I recommend doing so.  If after doing so you're displeased, he offers you double your money back.  Oh, yes, I should mention, it's free, but I assure you, it's more than worth your time. 

My Commentaries

America in Crisis

 Political Cartoons by AF Branco

America in Crisis:  DEI, CRT, Education in America

 Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez

Culture

Daniel Greenfield 

 Political Cartoons by Margolis & Cox

(Note: I'm permitted to publish Daniel's Sultan Knish Blog articles, but not his Frontpage Magazine articles, "The Daily Greenfield" articles posted are from the Frontpage Magazine.  RK)

Economics

 Political Cartoons by Gary Varvel

Energy

Pandemic Hysteria and it's Consequences

 Political Cartoons by Tom Stiglich

Political Cartoons by AF Branco

Deep State Data:

 Political Cartoons by Al Goodwyn

Adverse Reactions:

Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez 

Vaccination Mandates:

Leftism

 Political Cartoons by AF Branco

Radicals

 Political Cartoons by Tom Stiglich

Voter Fraud

 Political Cartoons by Bob Gorrell

Political Cartoons by Al Goodwyn

Voter Rights

The Daily Greenfield

By Rich Kozlovich

And it's only been one year! Imagine that!  Now, imagine what two years will look like.  The nation is fast running into what Victor Davis Hanson calls a systems failure.  The Biden cabal is refusing to obey the law let alone enforce that law.  The maniacs are the heroes and the hero's are the maniacs in this administration, and Biden is making sure the maniacs are in charge.  Immigration is out of control, inflation is rising, energy costs are going up, all of which is going to get much worse in 2022.  Foreign policy is in shambles with no coherent thinking, the military, FBI and the Justice Department are now totally politicized and out of control.  What could possibly go wrong?  

Please enjoy Daniel Greenfield's offerings for today.  

 Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez

Biden's New Soros DA Drops Charges Against Researcher Linked to China

 Soros DAs don't just spend all of their time refusing to prosecute ordinary criminals. Give them a higher status and they'll show you how they can undermine America. You may remember this guy.............Biden however nominated and put into place one of the worst Soros DAs in the nation...............Communist China approves.............1 comment

 

Is America Heading for a Systems Collapse?

By Victor Davis Hanson JAN 20, 2022 @ PJ Media

In modern times, as in ancient Rome, several nations have suffered a “systems collapse.” The term describes the sudden inability of once-prosperous populations to continue with what had ensured the good life as they knew it.

Abruptly, the population cannot buy, or even find, once plentiful necessities. They feel their streets are unsafe. Laws go unenforced or are enforced inequitably. Every day things stop working. The government turns from reliable to capricious if not hostile.

Consider contemporary Venezuela. By 2010, the once well-off oil-exporting country was mired in a self-created mess. Food became scarce, crime ubiquitous.

Radical socialism, nationalization, corruption, jailing opponents, and the destruction of constitutional norms were the culprits.

Between 2009 and 2016, a once relatively stable Greece nearly became a Third World country. So did Great Britain in its socialist days of the 1970s.

Joe Biden’s young presidency may already be leading the United States into a similar meltdown.

Hard Left “woke” ideology has all but obliterated the idea of a border. Millions of impoverished foreigners are entering the United States illegally — and during a pandemic without either COVID-19 tests or vaccinations.

The health bureaucracies have lost credibility as official communiques on masks, herd and acquired immunity, vaccinations, and comorbidities apparently change and adjust to perceived political realities.

After decades of improving race relations, America is regressing into a pre-modern tribal society.

Crime soars. Inflation roars. Meritocracy is libeled and so we are governed more by ideology and tribe.

The soaring prices of the stuff of life — fuel, food, housing, health care, transportation — are strangling the middle class.

Millions stay home, content to be paid by the state not to work. Supply shortages and empty shelves are the new norm.

Nineteenth-century-style train robberies are back. So is 1970s urban violence, replete with looting, carjackings, and random murdering of the innocent.

After the Afghanistan debacle, we have returned to the dark days following defeat in Vietnam, when U.S. deterrence abroad was likewise shattered, and global terrorism and instability were the norms abroad.

Who could have believed a year ago that America would now beg Saudi Arabia and Russia to pump more oil — as we pulled our own oil leases, and canceled pipelines and oil fields?

Our path to systems collapse is not due to an earthquake, climate change, a nuclear war, or even the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, most of our maladies are self-inflicted. They are the direct result of woke ideologies that are both cruel and antithetical to traditional American pragmatism.

Hard-Left district attorneys in our major cities refuse to charge thousands of arrested criminals — relying instead on bankrupt social justice theories.

Law enforcement has been arbitrarily defunded and libeled. Police deterrence is lost, so looters, vandals, thieves, and murderers more freely prey on the public.

“Modern monetary theory” deludes ideologues that printing trillions of dollars can enrich the public, even as the ensuing inflation is making people poorer.

“Critical race theory” absurdly dictates that current “good” racism can correct the effects of past bad racism. A once tolerant, multiracial nation is resembling the factionalism of the former Yugoslavia.

The culprit again is a callous woke ideology that posits little value for individuals, prioritizing only the so-called collective agenda.

Woke’s trademark is “equity,” or a forced equality of result. Practically, we are becoming a comic-book version of victims and victimizers, with woke opportunists playacting as our superheroes.

Strangest in 2021 was the systematic attack on our ancient institutions, as we scapegoated our ancestors for our own incompetencies.

The woke have waged a veritable war against the 233-year-old Electoral College and the right of states to set their own balloting laws in national elections, the 180-year-old filibuster, the 150-year-old nine-person Supreme Court, and the 60-year-old, 50-state union.

The U.S. military, Department of Justice, FBI, CIA, Center for Disease Control, and National Institutes of Health until recently were revered. Their top echelons were staffed by career professionals mostly immune to the politics of the day.

Not now. These bureaus and agencies are losing public confidence and support. Citizens fear rather than respect Washington grandees who have weaponized politics ahead of public service.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, Attorney General Merrick Garland, former FBI heads like James Comey and Andrew McCabe, retired CIA director John Brennan, and Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have all politicalized and vastly exceeded their professional purviews.

They sounded off in public fora as if they were elected legislators up for reelection. Some lied under oath. Others demonized critics. Most sought to become media darlings.

This governmental freefall is overseen by a tragically bewildered, petulant, and incompetent president. In his confusion, an increasingly unpopular President Joe Biden seems to believe his divisive chaos is working, belittling his political opponents as racist Confederate rebels.

As we head into the 2022 midterm elections, who will stop our descent into collective poverty, division, and self-inflicted madness?

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author of "The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won," from Basic Books. You can reach him by e-mailing authorvdh@gmail.com.

Read more by Victor Davis Hanson

 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

There Is No Radical Right

There is no radical Right. And for Democratic Party voters, there is no mainstream Left, either. 

By December 29, 2021

Firebrand Tucker Carlson is the poster boy for the radical Right. His fans are far outside the mainstream.  They’re the “deplorables”: the alt-right, white nationalists, and so on.  Pragmatic politicians should pick positions halfway between Tucker Carlson’s and those of his counterpoise on the Left—say, Rachel Maddow. These middling positions—flowers across the land of the moderates; reeds across the still waters of the independents—will win elections.

That’s what many believe, anyway.  But why? The mere existence of polar opposites does not, in fact, imply a virtuous mean. Some people murder a lot of people. Some people murder no people. Murdering some people is not, however, the good or pragmatic thing to do.  .............To Read More.......


Encountering Thomas Sowell

Thomas Chatterton Williams  – January 3, 2022 @ American Institute for Economic Research

 

The first time I heard the name Thomas Sowell was during that bitterly partisan—though in retrospect, comparatively tame—transition period from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. My mother’s younger sister, a gun-owning, born-again evangelical Christian and staunchly Republican voter from Southern California had by then become an active and vocal Facebook user. In those days, I was half a decade out of undergrad, living in New York City, making my first forays into the world of professional opinion-having. I felt my first (and, it would turn out, my last) stirrings of political romanticism in my exuberance over the candidacy and election of the first black president. Suffice it to say we locked digital horns on a regular basis. “It’s not about color for me,” my aunt said while railing against Obama. “For example, I love Thomas Sowell.”

To that side of my extended family, I became the stereotype of a coastal liberal, writing for the New York Times and wholly out of touch with the real America. In fact, I’ve always prided and defined myself as an anti-tribal thinker, and sometime contrarian, working firmly within a left-of-center black tradition—a tradition populated by brave and brilliant minds from Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray to Harold Cruse, Stanley Crouch, Orlando Patterson, at times even Zadie Smith and James Baldwin. I’d never been a stranger to my own group’s ire, but I’d also intuited this tradition’s ideological limits. I really didn’t even know exactly what else was on offer. Which is to say, it wasn’t that I actively avoided the work of black conservatives, it was that the work existed entirely out of my frame of reference. Conservative ideas in general, and black conservatism in particular, were not things anyone I knew would even think to bother refuting.

To hear my aunt speak approvingly of Sowell put me immediately in mind of the other famous black conservative named Thomas. My brother’s name is Clarence. To pair our names together formed the most ferocious epithet at the playgrounds of my youth. It was exceedingly difficult even for me to arrive at a mental space and degree of curiosity at which I could allow myself to engage with Sowell’s thinking. It took the happenstance of personally meeting and admiring the writer Coleman Hughes, a brilliant young Sowell acolyte, along with the release of a new documentary from the Free to Choose Network, Common Sense in a Senseless World, narrated by Jason Riley, for me to finally give him a hearing.

Riley, a longtime columnist at the Wall Street Journal and fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has made it something of a personal mission to alter the dynamic of prejudgment and casual dismissal I have outlined, or at least to bring the ideas of Sowell to as wide an audience as possible. Last May he published Maverick, a biography of the thinker, now 91 years old and in semi-retirement since 2016. The documentary relies on archival footage as well as hours of interviews that Riley has recorded with Sowell who, since attaining his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago at the seasoned age of 38, has conducted one of the most prolific and long-running careers in public thinking in recent memory, publishing over 30 books on a variety of subjects from Marxist political economy to late-speaking children, and thousands of syndicated columns, despite his near total absence from the mainstream American imagination.

Sowell’s rise was not predestined. His father died shortly before he was born to a single mother in North Carolina in 1930. By the time that he was eight, his mother had also passed away, and he was raised in Harlem by his aunt and uncle—a devastating twist of fate that Sowell insists on describing as a stroke of fortune. “We were much poorer than most people in Harlem or most anywhere else today; it was my last year or two at home that we finally had a telephone; we had a radio, but we never had a television,” we hear him explain in voiceover. “But in another sense, I was enormously more fortunate than most black kids today.” He describes his family as being “interested” in him, and it is that interest and their dedication to developing his obvious talents that was crucial to his future. A family friend exposed him to the public library and lit a fire in his imagination. He won admission to the ultra-competitive Stuyvesant High School, but dropped out to serve in the Marines before eventually graduating magna cum laude from Harvard in the late 1950s.

It was his first job at the Department of Labor that, in today’s parlance, red-pilled Sowell out of the Marxism he’d held onto until that moment. “The vision of the left—and I think many conservatives underestimate this—is really a more attractive vision,” he declares with a wry smile and his thick New York accent early in the movie. “The only reason for not believing in it, is that it doesn’t work.” This idea of contrasting visions—and their comparative efficacy—would become a central facet of his thinking. But it was the period in his life spent teaching at UCLA and Cornell, where a group of black student radicals took over a student center, that seems to have permanently disillusioned him. Like so many aspects of his life and work, the situation feels wildly contemporary. It was not simply the behavior of the student activists but the total capitulation of the administration in the face of a mob that so dismayed him. By 1980, he left teaching entirely and pursued his quiet scholarship at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, shielded from campus politics but also fully ensconced outside the Overton window.

The documentary is an inviting introduction to a fascinating figure many of us have been mistakenly led, one way or another, to fear or ignore, but the film is unable to do for Thomas Sowell what Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro achieved for James Baldwin. It does not crackle with that kind of televisual electricity. That may have as much to do with the ambitions and constraints of the filmmakers as it does with the oratorical talents and demeanors of the respective subjects. Whatever the case, Common Sense will appeal to the legions of Sowell’s conservative fans who are already familiar with his ideas and also serve as an effective means of leading the more curious members of the uninitiated to his books, which I imagine is the film’s real purpose. And it is there, in those bold and exhaustive texts, that one encounters the full, unadulterated impact of Sowell’s ranging brilliance.

In this season of racial reckoning and pseudo-religious panic over identity, it is genuinely shocking to realize that Sowell not only anticipated these same debates several decades ago—he refuted many of the positions now in ascendance. Many people wondered last summer why, for example, on the Black Lives Matter website the organization declared (and has since deleted) a “disruptive” stance on the nuclear family. What did that have to do with mobilizing against police violence? Why did BLM describe themselves as Marxists? In his 1995 book, The Vision of the Anointed, Sowell argues persuasively that, “The family is inherently an obstacle to schemes for central control of social processes. Therefore the anointed [essentially his proto-term for “woke”] necessarily find themselves repeatedly on a collision course with the family.” This is because, he continues, “the preservation of the family” is fundamentally a source of freedom. “Friedrich Engels’s first draft of the Communist Manifesto included a deliberate undermining of family bonds as part of the Marxian political agenda.”

After the death of George Floyd last May, the Minneapolis city council experimented with ill-conceived calls to defund and even “abolish” their local police forces. This was presented—often by white progressives—as being in the black community’s best interest despite that very community’s often vocal opposition based not on conjecture but painful experience. Sowell had already demonstrated the flaws in this form of reasoning with regard to the LA riots of 1992 (which recall Minneapolis as well as Kenosha, Wisconsin). “Many of the anointed justified the violence and destruction by shifting to the presumed viewpoint of ‘the black community’—when in fact 58 percent of blacks polled characterized the riots as ‘totally unjustified.’” You wouldn’t know it from social and much mainstream media, but those numbers have remained startlingly consistent.

One of the most influential and widely cited books on race in the current era, Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, has popularized the notion that any significant discrepancies between so-called racial groups are necessarily indicative of racist policies. Again, Sowell not only anticipates but refutes this newly fashionable line of thinking—some 26 years before it was published:

Many differences between races are often automatically attributed to race or to racism. In the past, those who believed in the genetic inferiority of some races were prone to see differential outcomes as evidences of differential natural endowments of ability. Today, the more common non sequitur is that such differences reflect biased perceptions and discriminatory treatment by others. A third possibility—that there are different proportions of people with certain attitudes and attributes in different groups—has received far less attention, though this is consistent with a substantial amount of data from countries around the world.

And that is the revelation in a nutshell: reading Thomas Sowell has this déja-vu quality. The most important realization you are left with is not that he possesses the final word on every subject but that he wields profound insight and reams of data and comparative research into many of the very debates that still consume us. As a conscientious liberal it leaves you with a nagging question: Why haven’t you or anyone you know ever so much as acknowledged the existence of his output? If we are lucky, this documentary and Riley’s biography will be part of the necessary and overdue work of rectifying the oversight. I suppose I owe my aunt an apology.

Reprinted from Law & Liberty

Thomas Chatterton Williams

Thomas Chatterton Williams is the author of Losing My Cool and Self-Portrait in Black and White.

He is a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine, a Columnist at Harper’s, a 2019 New America Fellow and a visiting fellow at AEI.

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More than half of COVID hospitalizations in New York City now are "incidental"

Allahpundit Jan 07, 2022 

“How many people in the hospital with COVID are actually there for COVID?” That’s a key question at this stage of the pandemic. The stratospheric number of cases from Omicron means we’re destined to see a steep rise in hospitalizations too, but scientists in South Africa and the UK have reported that many patients hospitalized for COVID lately don’t have symptoms. They’re being admitted for unrelated reasons and then testing positive incidentally upon intake. Scott Gottlieb estimated recently that 20 percent or so of all COVID hospitalizations during the pandemic have been incidental, but with Omicron that number has gone way up. The variant is so contagious, and in some people so mild, that they don’t realize they have it until hospital staff forces them to check.

When we say the number of incidentals has gone way up, how far up has it gone? England offers a clue:........To Read More.....

What Is the Great Reset?

December 2021, Volume 50, Number 12

Is the Great Reset a conspiracy theory imagining a vast left-wing plot to establish a totalitarian one-world government? No. Despite the fact that some people may have spun conspiracy theories based on it—with some reason, as we will see—the Great Reset is real.

Indeed, just last year, Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF)—a famous organization made up of the world’s political, economic, and cultural elites that meets annually in Davos, Switzerland—and Thierry Malleret, co-founder and main author of the Monthly Barometer, published a book called COVID-19: The Great Reset. In the book, they define the Great Reset as a means of addressing the “weaknesses of capitalism” that were purportedly exposed by the COVID pandemic.

But the idea of the Great Reset goes back much further. It can be traced at least as far back as the inception of the WEF, originally founded as the European Management Forum, in 1971. In that same year, Schwab, an engineer and economist by training, published his first book, Modern Enterprise Management in Mechanical Engineering. It was in this book that Schwab first introduced the concept he would later call “stakeholder capitalism,” arguing “that the management of a modern enterprise must serve not only shareholders but all stakeholders to achieve long-term growth and prosperity.” Schwab and the WEF have promoted the idea of stakeholder capitalism ever since. They can take credit for the stakeholder and public-private partnership rhetoric and policies embraced by governments, corporations, non-governmental organizations, and international governance bodies worldwide...........To Read More....


Yes, Blame the Federal Student Loans

“As important as all this context is, it does not detract from by far the most important message of Mitchell’s fascinating and highly readable book: federal student lending, often fueled by good intentions, is ‘help’ that has very often hurt.” ~ Neal McCluskey

  Neal McCluskey  – January 14, 2022  @ American Institute for Economic Research

When I began working at the Cato Institute many moons ago, my focus was elementary and secondary education. But early on I came across a report titled “The College Cost Crisis,” from the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The authors seemed exasperated that federal student aid never caught up with skyrocketing college prices—both kept rising. I thought the likely reason was pretty obvious: aid enables colleges to raise those prices. But as I pursued this possibility further, I was informednot always politely—that this had been disproven long ago.

It turns out that no, it had not been disproven. Indeed, there is substantial empirical evidence that federal student aid fuels the ivory tower’s infamous price inflation, including roughly a doubling, in real terms, of sticker prices between the 1991-92 and 2021-22 school years. It also makes logical sense: If you give loads of people easy money to pay for one thing, the price of that thing will rise as people demand more of it, and with greater bells and whistles.

Unfortunately, statistical analyses and logic are abstract. They feel like ones and zeroes more than real people doing real things. Moving away from abstractions is where Debt Trap by Wall Street Journal reporter Josh Mitchell provides an immensely valuable service. It chronicles flesh-and-blood people, driven by combinations of good intentions and self-interest, creating and expanding federal student loan programs, and shows how those programs have distorted higher education and, for too many people, rendered it financially crippling.

Mitchell lays his book out in chronologically ordered chapters that lead with human interest anecdotes—student debtors, federal lending “entrepreneurs”—and that make it easy to comprehend the evolution of federal lending. From student aid champion President Lyndon Johnson’s difficulties paying for his own education at Southwest Texas State Teachers College in 1927—he needed a $75 loan and part-time work to stay enrolled—to the present day, Mitchell takes the reader through the life and times of federal student lending.

As one who was told in the Aughts that no one credible believed that student aid fueled skyrocketing college prices, Mitchell’s revealing that people have seen the problem since essentially Day One is gratifying. After Washington first created a program giving colleges money to lend to students in the wake of Russia’s 1957 Sputnik launch, Mitchell reports that the Eisenhower administration “suspected schools of inflating their needs,” asking for roughly double the amount the feds had projected.

Moving to the present day, the problem is still clear. Mitchell talks to Al Lord, twice-head of the federally created Student Loan Marketing Association—better known as Sallie Mae—who looking back on his career, and his grandkids’ current tuition bills, sees the problem. “Lord considers colleges greedy,” Mitchell writes, “charging exorbitant amounts while building up huge endowments to pay professors to work fewer hours and construct amenities to attract students.” More grudgingly, Lord acknowledges, the “education establishment” has had a “dependence…on government largesse.”

In between these examples, Mitchell writes about U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett, who is important in this discussion if for no other reason than his name adorns the disparaged theory that I and many others think explains much of rampant college price inflation. Writing in the New York Times in 1987, under the headline “Our Greedy Colleges,” Bennett argued that student aid created a vicious cycle of more aid leading to higher prices, leading to the need for more aid. At least for those who spend time analyzing this phenomenon, it has ever since been called the “Bennett Hypothesis.”

When it comes to higher ed’s excesses—and there are many—Mitchell does not tear apart just one floor of the ivory tower. He tackles the terrible value proposition of many for-profit colleges—high prices for degrees of marginal value—as well as “Disney-fied” state universities that feature climbing walls, meticulously manicured lawns, and other pricey gilding. He also lays into putatively nonprofit private colleges, though they do not get their own themed chapters as the other institutions do.

Repeatedly, Mitchell calls federal student lending, which at its peak around 2010 was used by nearly 56 percent of full-time, full-year college students, what it is: unintended consequences run amok. “Many people…played a role in creating this mess,” Mitchell explains. “Most had good intentions, putting their faith in higher education and student loans as they sought to uplift families and the country. Many now say they got it wrong.”

As powerful—and, as a bonus, easy to read—as this book is, it is not perfect.

For one thing, it likely overstates the benefits of greatly increasing the share of people going to college. Mitchell writes that “the education of America’s workforce propelled the U.S. to become the world’s most prosperous nation in the latter half of the 20th century.” He offers little evidence to support that claim, which assumes that more degrees, or time in school, yields greater, more productive human capital.

Significant evidence suggests otherwise.

For instance, while we do not have long-term, comparable-over-time data for what degree-holders know and can do, we do have two small examples of comparable data over time that suggest that rising attainment does not translate into commensurately greater human capital. Both the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, administered in 1992 and 2003, and the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Literacy, administered in 2012/14 and 2017, found decreasing literacy rates for Americans with education beyond high school as attainment rose. This suggests that more college often results in more sheepskins, not more productive skills and knowledge.

We also have evidence that students have spent less time engaged in academic work over the decades. As Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa discussed in Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, the time spent studying by full-time students dropped from roughly 25 hours per week in 1961, to 20 hours in 1980, to 13 hours in 2003. Of course, students need time to soak in the nearest on-campus lazy river—part of that gilding for which Mitchell rightly takes schools to task.

Another indicator that more people spending more time in college does not necessarily represent greater acquisition of economically valuable skills and knowledge is “credential inflation:” a need for higher degrees just to stay in one labor-market place. Mitchell discusses the phenomenon, in which aid prompts more people to attain increasingly hollow degrees, enabling employers to demand credentials for which they did not previously ask and requiring potential employees to get higher degrees to distinguish themselves. It is another reason that we should hesitate to assume more college credentials contribute to greater economic growth.

Substantial existing literature directly addresses the assumption that more higher education produces greater human capital and economic growth. Economic historian Richard Vedder, for instance, has shown that despite a common assumption that the Morrill Act of 1862, which provided federal land-grants to fund public colleges,  spurred major economic growth, growth was greater before the Act than after. Indeed, preexisting economic growth may well have enabled expansion of higher ed, not vice versa.

On an individual level, employers may value degrees as signals of basic personal attributes, such as following rules and personal discipline, much more than as indicators of specific skills and knowledge that degree-holders obtained in school. For instance, as economist Bryan Caplan presented in his 2018 book The Case Against Education: Why the Education System is a Waste of Time and Money, financial returns to education spike considerably when someone completes a credential compared to additional years of education not resulting in a credential. Were employers primarily concerned with prospective employees’ actual skills and knowledge, returns should not spike with a credential, but increase roughly equally for every additional year of schooling.

Mitchell may also give too dire an impression of the impact of federal student loans, a problem that has long marred media coverage of student debt. While the stories of people like “Lisa” and “Brandon” (I’m not sure if those are their real names) put important human faces on student debt, they may also be a bit misleading.

Lisa owed more than $120,000 after completing her Ph.D. But that is not representative of federal student debtors; according to the most recent data, less than 8 percent owe that much or more. Lisa also attended private, nonprofit institutions, which tend to be more expensive than public colleges, for her entire higher education experience. While easily accessible student loans enabled her to do this, the programs cannot be blamed entirely, or maybe even mostly, for her choices.

For his part, Brandon took on $100,000 in debt via a mix of federal loans and Sallie Mae private loans for his undergraduate studies at Howard University. Again, that is outlier debt—the average student with debt graduating in 2020 owed about $30,000—and Brandon could have chosen a less expensive option.

Finally, it is worth remembering that debt for a degree can still be a good investment. If you have a good chance of completing your program, do so in a field in demand in the labor market, and attend an institution with a decent reputation, you will likely do fine. The lifetime earnings premium for someone with a four-year college degree versus someone with just a high school diploma or GED is currently estimated at about $1.2 million.

As important as all this context is, it does not detract from by far the most important message of Mitchell’s fascinating and highly readable book: federal student lending, often fueled by good intentions, is “help” that has very often hurt.


Neal McCluskey

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Rise of the Jacobins: America’s Socialists Want Your Help

“The idea that socialism, other than various forms of voluntary communities in which people choose material privation and seek agreed equality, is the answer to anything runs against human experience.” ~ Doug Bandow

 Doug Bandow Doug Bandow  – January 13, 2022  @ American Institute for Economic Research

 Revolutions are common. Good revolutions, well, not so much. Indeed, the American Revolution was one of the few that yielded a generally free society based on the rule of law and democratic governance. Only a few years later came the French Revolution. Many Americans initially looked with favor at the overthrow of a genuinely despotic monarchy, in contrast to the more constrained British system. The increasingly bloody toll as contending factions struggled for power, however, turned even former fans hostile.

Violence reached its crescendo under the Jacobins, who began as members of the Jacobin Club, initially known as Society of the Friends of the Constitution. With Maximilien Robespierre at their head, the Jacobins created the Committee of Public Safety and Committee of General Security and instituted the infamous Reign of Terror. Heads rolled—literally, as the guillotine was put to prodigious use. By one count 17,000 people were beheaded before the Jacobins lost power a little more than a year later. Then Robespierre and other leading Jacobins suffered the same fate, being dispatched from this world by what revolutionaries termed the people’s avenger.

Although discredited in France, the Jacobins were admired elsewhere as history passed by. The Bolsheviks looked to the Jacobins as models, for example, despite seeing the French Revolution as a bourgeois affair. The lack of sentimentality and determination to eradicate enemies appealed to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin & Co. Leon Trotsky contemplated trying Tsar Nicolas as the French Revolutionaries did Louis XVI. The Soviets even erected statues to Robespierre and his confederates.

The Jacobins really were surprisingly gutless when it came to murdering their political enemies and anybody else who fell afoul of their judgment. It was the Bolsheviks, particularly with Joseph Stalin at the head, who put real terror into “Reign of Terror.” RJ Rummel, author of Death by Government: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900, reported on life under the infamous Man of Steel: “[M]urder and arrest quotas did not work well. Where to find the ‘enemies of the people’ they were to shoot was a particularly acute problem for the local NKVD, which had been diligent in uncovering ‘plots.’ They had to resort to shooting those arrested for the most minor civil crimes, those previously arrested and released, and even mothers and wives who appeared at NKVD headquarters for information about their loved ones.”

Alas, the murderous excesses of the Reign of Terror ruined the Jacobins’ reputation in America. In the US early supporters of the French Revolution, such as Thomas Jefferson, were derided as Jacobins. And it wasn’t just conservatives who used Jacobins to discredit their opponents. In 1964 Sen. Barry Goldwater and his supporters were tagged “Cactus Jacobins.” Jacobin became a term of derision, used to paint someone as an ideological extremist, even a violent radical, certainly someone with no legitimate place in American politics.

Until recently, at least. A decade ago a young Bhaskar Sunkara launched Jacobin, a website, publication and foundation. They continue and he wants your support. It’s that time of the year, of course.

Sunkara appealed for funds: “It’s the best time to be a socialist in the United States since the 1970s. The bad news is that it’s still not a very good time to be a socialist in the United States.” When he talked about socialism, he meant, well, socialism. Not the pantywaist, liberal-faux, pretend-revolutionary silliness espoused by posturing progressives, and not even the Bernie Sanders approach. How revolutionary can a millionaire with three homes, who secretly loves capitalism since it provides the cash that he wants to redistribute to his political supporters, be?

It’s possible that Bernie once was a real socialist. In 1988 he had nice words for the Soviet Union: “The revolution there is far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values.” Eight years before he was an elector for the Socialist Workers Party. Of course, it’s hard to follow all the twists and turns in commie politics, but the SWP was Trotskyite. That meant it nominally followed Leon Trotsky.

He was a critic of Joseph Stalin, which made him look quite harmless, like a typically disheveled, and distracted academic with few skills other than theorizing about how many revolutionaries could dance on a pinhead while singing the Internationale. In fact, Trotsky did not just dabble in violence. He commanded the Red Army—as the People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs—during the Russian civil war and later crushed the Kronstadt rebellion, in which sailors and others demanded freedom and elections. He was a serious thug, theorist, butcher, politician, and terrorist rolled into one.

Bernie may be an obnoxious sanctimonious hypocrite—shouldn’t he give away at least one of his homes?—but he’s no Leon Trotsky. Nor any kind of real socialist.

But it seems that Sunkara is. Indeed, he admitted a fascination with Trotsky and defended the murder of the royal Romanoff children by the Bolsheviks. Sunkara also knows the only way to make a socialist America is to seize power and steal everyone’s property. Though he doesn’t put it quite that way. When Jacobin was created, he wrote, “Our contributors didn’t always agree, but they shared a desire to win a tiny, fragmented left back to fundamentals: a class-based analysis of the world that knew (if not exactly how) that the Left’s task was to rebuild working-class organizations capable of capturing and transforming state power.”

He would, no doubt, like to do good once in a position to send forth lefties determined to eradicate capitalism, essentially political locusts empowered to consume Americans’ wealth. Wrote Sunkara: “Our ideas were marginal, but they captivated us: the dream of a society without exploitation or oppression, without unnecessary suffering, where every person could reach their potential. A world with our animal problems solved, so we could start dealing with our human ones.” Sounds pretty good. But what does any of that have to do with socialism?

Sunkara tried to explain: “We publish pieces that reveal the truth about capitalism: a system based on exploitation and the degradation of the human spirit. Most of our daily online posts don’t seem to go deeper than that. But we also have a vision of a world after capitalism, one built from wealth and abundance around us. We want to radically extend democracy into spheres liberalism has always shied away from—the social and economic realm—and challenge private property in order to foster the type of collectivism that can truly create conditions for individual flourishing.”

He concluded: “Socialism is the name of our desire, but it may not be what the movements that will one day transform the world will use. In the meantime, we hope we can continue to play a role keeping alive the dream of liberty, equality, and solidarity.”

The idea that socialism, other than various forms of voluntary communities in which people choose material privation and seek agreed equality, is the answer to anything runs against human experience. Noteworthy is how little support worldwide there is for the ideology a century and a half after Karl Marx publicized his version of utopia.

That is certainly the case in America. Admitted Sunkara: “We have no illusions about how marginal we still are. Going from a few hundred to 62,000 subscribers in a decade is a nice story, but it only matters if our political mission is advancing.” And it isn’t, if we are talking about real socialism, as opposed to redistributionism, which is more a political strategy than ideological movement.

Nor is serious socialism viable elsewhere in the world. The Soviet Union, its Eastern European satellites, the People’s Republic of China, and a handful of other nations—Cuba, North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia—implemented economic variants which included substantial state ownership of the means of production. And the result was consistent. Catastrophic. Disastrous. Horrendous. And worse.

Indeed, all these states engaged in mass repression. Several conducted mass murder. Many carelessly, inadvertently, or callously killed prodigiously while seeking to create a new man and society. The total number of dead runs in the tens of millions, though we will never have an accurate count. Rummel figured about 109 million killed. The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression estimated between 85 and 100 million dead. The numbers boggle the mind.

No doubt, Sunkara would respond that he does not advocate such a system, though over the years more than a few lefties have shown disturbing fondness for the guys with the guns, including in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and Cuba. Some still do

The only way to impose real socialism, in the end, is by force. Both the Soviet and Chinese communists won power by promising land to the peasants. Only when in power did the newly empowered socialists unveil their true intentions and seize farmers’ lands. Agricultural collectivization and state industrialization in both the USSR and PRC brought extraordinary hardship, including mass starvation, killing tens of millions. This was socialism, real socialism, and its “beneficiaries” paid a very high price.

Even the socialist grandees in these regimes had little idea of the economic world around them. Among the most famous “aha” moments came when Boris Yeltsin, then a former Soviet Politburo member, visited a Houston supermarket in September 1989. Wrote Pacific Legal Foundation’s Mark Hill, Yeltsin “visits a small town in Texas and makes an unscheduled stop in a grocery store. It’s the kind of store where all Americans regularly shop to find everything they could want to satisfy a hunger or household need. What Yeltsin found would not surprise us, but it amazed him. The local Texas newspaper recounted how Yeltsin ‘marvel[ed]’ at the produce, the fresh fish, and the checkout counter. ‘Even the Politburo doesn’t have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev,’ remarked Russia’s future leader.” Such were the consequences of real socialism.

All of this forced most of the hardcore “socialist” regimes to turn toward capitalism. Most dramatic was the experience of the PRC. Ethnic Chinese, among the most entrepreneurial of people around the globe, proved equally adept economically at home when Deng Xiaoping dismantled the lunatic, murderous, inefficient, and impoverishing Maoist state. Without subsidies previously received from the Soviet Union, Cuba’s Castro regime suffered an economic crisis and was forced to abandon its socialist quest. It allowed development of private businesses. At the start such enterprises were to be family owned and staffed, but entrepreneurs joked with me about the many “cousins” they hired, a polite lie ignored by the authorities. Even North Korea has loosened state controls, though Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un recently reversed course, perhaps fearing the politically corrosive impact of South Korean culture on his rule.

Outside of terror systems, what country has implemented anything close to true socialism? Certainly not the Scandinavian countries. They are highly redistributive but have the money to be so because their economic systems remain capitalist. Indeed, in certain ways they represent better market systems than the US, with less special interest regulation used to reward elites with access to political power. Across the world today systems sometimes called socialist are almost always social democracies, Berniesque systems of economic redistribution which rely upon capitalism to produce abundant resources to plunder.

Some non-communist systems made an effort to attain socialism. The post-World War II United Kingdom grabbed control of important industries but fell far short of creating a socialist paradise. In Latin American nations such as Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and most recently Venezuela, politicians seized major economic enterprises but again, the results were not recognizably socialist. Often the looting looked very similar to that of nominally right-wing systems, such as the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos, Indonesia under Suharto, and more. Moreover, the economic results were uniformly dreadful, probably the most important reason such systems did not spread far.

Imagine a “democratic” system of socialism in America, in which the means of production were taken over by the state—essentially, mass theft on an enormous scale. Implementation would not be pretty: many Americans would do all they could to avoid, evade, obstruct, and sabotage such a transfer. Nor would human nature be mocked. Russian and Chinese farmers already have shown that they work harder for themselves than for “the people,” meaning political overseers and commissars. The usual intellectual elites could wring their hands at the “greed” exhibited by people who should be motivated by “solidarity,” but sanctimony piled ever higher would only deepen the cynicism of most people, especially in the working class.

Lack of knowledge and perverse incentives would wreak havoc. Socialism could only work by modeling capitalist systems. How could socialists price anything and produce everything without markets? The notion that labor determines value would fail to sustain a functioning economic system since any calculation of value is inherently subjective. State monopolies rarely perform well, especially when manipulated for political purposes, as they always are. The highly subsidized state sector in China does little for socialism while wasting vast amounts of the people’s resources. The lack of competition, both from existing alternatives and new creations, would ensure inefficiency and waste.

Finally, socialism is most likely to produce what Sunkara blames on capitalism, a system “based on exploitation and the degradation of the human spirit.” Certainly, making economic gain the center of one’s life, contributing to a society that elevates materialism, greed, and envy, risks sacrificing vital aspects of the good life. But these vices have little to do with the nature of the economic system. Human nature transcends capitalism and socialism.

In any case, systems unable to satisfy material needs intensify the desire for a better life. People always queued for the barest human necessities in “people’s democracies.” And elites in socialist systems inevitably used their political power for economic gain. When I visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, I headed to the hard currency store for soda and snacks; the shelves groaned beneath pricey consumer goods, including fancy electronics, available only if you had Western cash to exchange for the foreign, blue and green won, rather than the local, red and pink won. In Cuba a colleague and I, visiting legally on a journalism trip, were tossed out of a similar shop after snapping pictures of what those with access to dollars or euros could buy, but which those with only Cuban pesos could not.

Moreover, when the state extends its control over economic resources, it inevitably limits other human activities. A market economy is but one part of a free society, which is filled with nonmarket institutions: families, clubs, churches, associations, friends, charities, and much more. A free economic system expands their opportunities and scope despite its imperfections.

In contrast, when politicians decide how to allocate resources, they have no objective standards. Experience demonstrates that those in disfavor, whether journalists, clerics, politicians, activists, or anyone else, inevitably come up short. It really doesn’t matter whether anyone intends socialism to act in this way. It will inevitably do so.

Thankfully, I believe Sunkara’s drive to impose socialism in the US is doomed. Young people may talk about socialism without any understanding of what it would really mean. Once they realized someone up the bureaucratic chain would decide what kind of smartphone they could buy and apps they could use—indeed, if they could do so at all—their enthusiasm for the concept would quickly cool.

Still, I hope he keeps Jacobin afloat. It is a serious venture with a serious mission that deals with serious ideas, in contrast to the mostly braindead officeholders in both the Democratic and Republican parties. While serving in the Stanford student senate when I was supposed to be studying law, a socialist coalition took. They were loopy lefties but recognized that America faced serious problems and advocated systemic reforms, in contrast to the squishy liberals who were, well, essentially useless for any and all purposes. America needs a serious debate over its future. I hope socialists—real socialists, like those affiliated with Jacobin—join in.

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties.

He worked as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and editor of the political magazine Inquiry.

He writes regularly for leading publications such as Fortune magazine, National Interest, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Times.

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