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May 22, 2007

Re: Europe's Best and Brightest Flee the Welfare State

Recently in Europe's Best and Brightest Flee the Welfare State,  the Cato Institute blog featured this quote from the article 4 Myths About America-bashing in Europe bused focused on how the “sclerotic welfare states in Europe” were holding back Europe and their best and brightest were fleeing to America:

When I spoke last year with about 50 Germans studying at MIT and Harvard, not one of them expressed a desire to return home. They all wanted to live and work in the United States, where, they said, opportunities are far more abundant.  Many complained that the sclerotic welfare states in Europe punish those who work and reward those who don't. So they're fleeing the crushing tax burden at home for more lucrative challenges in the United States.

My experience, not just talking to students, but living and working in France and later running the US branch of a French company, with many of the employees being French workers here, was different.  Their focus wasn't, as Cato would like us to believe, so much on the “welfare state” in Europe, but on the first issue raised, that “opportunities are far more abundant” here in America.

The welfare states may or may not be rigid and incapable of change, but the problem I saw was much more on the lack of opportunity side.  There were several key factors:

  • much of the economy and politics was run on as an old-boy club including an insider advantage in the stock market (Bourse),
  • there is no venture capital industry to invest in entrepreneurs,
  • the unions exercised so much power in unproductive ways and
  • the burden of workforce reductions was too heavy so that companies were reluctant to hire until it was deeply required because it was too hard to fire later.

Of these, some are amenable to politics and government, some aren't.  Breaking up the old-boy network is tough, except in the area of promoting American-style financial transparency, especially in stock-market related activities.  The lack of a venture capital industry was, and is, a critical gap which could be filled by making it more financially attractive through tax advantages.  (At the time I was there, the government would help fill the capital gap by paying salaries for some time for government employees entering a new company in order help make up the difference.)  Unproductive exercise of union power is something only the people of France can stop -- stop work activities just to “flex their muscles” were not uncommon.  In the abstract, politics can change the excessive workforce restrictions (but see the power of the unions) on business, but it is that “government is the problem” here, it is that the people of France have not been willing to fight for it.

So there are real issues, but only a few of them are really “government” issues, most are the people's choice.

Reducing the rigidity of the “welfare state” would be nice, but if you want to create real change you have to create opportunity, and there are more important changes to be made to do that.

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May 21, 2007

Re: Conservatism and Fascism

[Emailed in response Conservatism and Fascism 5/21/2007]

James Joyner's response was wildly off the mark, and yours a bit so.

What your reader was saying in describing today's conservatives as an “intensely nationalist movement intent on defining membership in the ‘nation’ on linguistic, religious, and (increasingly) ethnic/racial criteria, ”was that he observes the right wing saying that the only “real Americans” -- the nation in quotes as opposed the the nation -- are those that are Christians, that are English-speakers, that are Republicans, etc.

There are two possible definitions of “nation” used -- as the people of a sovereign state, or as some other large collection of people independent of the soverign country -- the Aryan nation, or whatever.  I believe your reader was referring to the nation of the the people of the United States of America as a nation and the fascist right as defining the nation in “tribal” terms, which in fact is the very notion that Joynes rose to defend:

First, by definition, membership in a nation is exclusionary.  Matt Rosenberg’s short description of nations as “culturally homogeneous groups of people, larger than a single tribe or community, which share a common language, institutions, religion, and historical experience” is pithy and consistent with most established uses.  Certainly, in the United States, we have expanded the definition to include belief in certain core values and have removed the racial component given our multi-ethic heritage.

Yes, membership in a nation is exculsionary: it excludes those that aren’t people of that soveriegn state.  America defines itself by that definition, not by belonging to other attributes.  This is the reason your reader put what the fascistic conservatives define in quotes.  What Joynes defends by quoting Rosenberg is a subset of America because Americans are not necessarily culturally homogenous, nor do they share a common religion (which is in fact expressly a forbidden requirement in the Constitution), etc.

Now, to bring that back in more detail to the entire question of fascism, your definition is quite a bit narrower than the standard definitions of fascism or of its common understanding, narrow enough to not represent the accepted definition.  From various dictionaries:

'A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.'“

and

” 1. A political regime based on strong centralized government, suppressing through violence any criticism or opposition of the regime, and exalting nation, state, or religion above the individual.
2. A system of strong autocracy.“

and

”an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.  (in general use) extreme right-wing, authoritarian, or intolerant views or practice.“

Historically this sort of authoritarian political/social system includes a corporatist state.

Joyner, by using Rosenberg’s definition of nation in his defense, instead of refuting your reader, actually proves your reader’s point that fascistic tendencies run deep in the outlook of modern conservativism -- defining the American nation not by the people of the United States of America, but rather as Christianist, English-ist, non-immigrant-ist, War-ish, cronyist, corporatist.

[For more, Every 50 Years - America Fascism in 2004, Reclaiming The Issues: Islamic Or Republican Fascism?, The Ghost of Vice President Wallace Warns: ”It Can Happen Here“Recent Right-wing language manipulation.]

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May 08, 2007

Fix Measure 37

[Letter to the News-Register, submitted 5/7/2007]

I was disappointed that HD24 Representative Donna Nelson voted against fixing Measure 37, and wants to leave the legal mess in place and the threats of industrialization and  subdivisions everywhere in our county and state.

Recent polling (http://friends.org/issues/M37/documents/040307_OregonStatewideVoterSurvey.pdf) shows that only 19% of Oregonians support Nelson’s position to leave Measure 37 as is.  The  testimony at county commission hearings, and at the state legislature (including the Yamhill County Farm Bureau), and letters to the editors, all show that many of HD 24 voters and residents belong to the 69% who believe that Measure 37 should be fixed or removed but in any case not retained as is.

Furthermore, what she claims she wants to see in a revision of Measure 37 (http://www.leg.state.or.us/nelsond/pr_050407.pdf), transferability and quick approval on small claims, are actually part of the bill she voted against!

She may be representing someone or something, but it doesn’t appear to be the broad constitutency of today’s HD 24, which wants to see Measure 37 fixed to keep Measure 37's stronger property rights while also supporting farmers and neighbors and constraining sprawl and industrialization.

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Clip: The New Realism and the Rebirth of American Leadership

Re: Bill Richardson for President Exploratory Committee: The New Realism and the Rebirth of American Leadership

We also must open an ideological front in the war against Jihadism. There is a civil war within Islam between extremists and moderates -- and we need to stop helping our enemies in that civil war. 

We need to start showing, both through our words and through our deeds, that this is not, as the Jihadists claim, a clash of civilizations.  Rather, it is a clash between civilization and barbarity.

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May 03, 2007

Re: Republican identity crisis - The Debates

Re: Todd: Republican identity crisis  -  The Debates - MSNBC.com :

It's not clear what the best medicine is for the Republican Party. Clearly, they need to re-define conservatism back to some simple principles (low taxes, strong national defense, family values).  But the definition needs to be broad enough so that middle-of-the-road voters feel “conservative Republicans” are mainstream.

The problem is far worse than this because they can't go back to the old principles, because conservatism is the problem not the answer

Low taxes?  When are they low enough?  Conservatives have no answer, even as we run debts to the sky for the next generation -- we aren't investing in the next generation, we're saddling them with our debts, like buying a house but sticking them with the mortgage.

Strong defense?  So strong we're breeding terrorists in Iraq?  So strong we can torture and “disappear” people and no one can hold us accountable?  That's a great moral stance!

Family values?  Like hating gay members of our community?

These goals were developed as an insurgency  as a way to get power without having to have principles that wielded that power toward positive ends for America.  Now they have to start over since they can't answer the very questions their principles ask. 

Their worldview lets problems fester, from global warming to globalization to globalized terrorism, their principles don't lead to policies that address problems.

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