Two related excerpts from Orson Scott Card’s Duplex. The main character is a sophomore in high school and these are his observations regarding his education:
They all thought they were “Getting an Education.” It was like they were all being taught one set of dance moves, a single piece of choreography. If they worked hard and really got it down, would they be dancers? Absolutely not. Knowing one dance doesn’t mean you know how to dance. All these high school students, including him, weren’t becoming “educated.” They were being trained. For what? to perform tasks that only had meaning when they were performed at school. We are learning the dance of public secondary education. Unless we become high school teachers, God forbid, we will never have to perform that dance again or even think about it.
And here’s the second quote, just a bit later in the narrative:
(School) is just a way of keeping adolescents out of the labor pool precisely when minds and muscles are at their most creative and flexible, so that kids don’t get into the workforce until they’re more nearly untrainable and unadaptible.
It was pointed out to me recently that I don’t post much here anymore. That’s true. I’ve said a lot of stuff over the last nineteen+ years, generally more than once.
A lot more than once.
But it has been my style to excerpt bits and pieces from other people’s work and give them credit in my überposts. (That’s called “research.” Without credit that’s called “plagiarism.”) There are also those times that I link to something and say “RTWT.” But more rarely I will copy an entire piece to the blog to archive it because it’s that good, and I don’t want it to disappear down the bit-bucket.
There’s a gentleman over at Quora who tags himself “The most Down-voted Top Writer.” He writes GREAT pieces, written from decades of experience and study. I want to share a couple with you. Once again, not my words:
Why isn’t American leadership focusing fully on Americans?
Unfortunately, they are!
I’ve learned over the decades that when the political class starts waxing on their grand dreams for society, it pays to pay attention.
What’s on the radar?
A bill swiftly passed Congress to hire 87,000 more IRS auditors. It seems the first order of business for these new hires is military-grade weapons training! And the rationale is that a landscape business somewhere might not have properly explained how it financed its fleet of vehicles, not the deductions for private jets from our billionaires.
There’s a plan that in the near future, most of us, those on the lower scale of things, will be eating cricket protein rather than beef protein.
Since Biden took office, we have in excess of five-million new residents in this country, just random people who crossed our southern border and are now being supported and groomed to vote a certain way.
Bill Gates, a high-tech billionaire, is buying up low-tech farmland like there’s no tomorrow.
Klaus Schwab, George Soros, Mark Zuckerberg, Prince Charles and dozens of other billionaires are enthusing about their plans for us. Seems, not being particularly useful like the exalted ones, we are to be kept under control and milked for what labor we might be good for. We remain docile, or “no deal.”
Our political class is not even hiding its kleptocratic ways anymore. How did Liz Cheney make $34 million during her short stay in Congress? Virtually all of them in both parties are living ludicrously large off their positions of trust!
At the same time, they are brazenly not hiding the fact that we hoi polloi are being treated to inflation, higher taxes, rampant government spending and other growth-reducing tactics, executive decisions and legislative actions that hamper our productivity, supply lines and other critical infrastructure—we now have the worst political class EVAH!
Not only has our standard of living been trending down since the election of Obama (the Trump years mercifully apart), our generations now coming of age, Z and A, will become the first American generations ever to enter adult life with less opportunity and a massive multi-generational debt!
I could add several more bullet points, but that’s plenty to reveal the mess we’re in. But that’s just the political mess. On the intellectual plane, we’re also in Cloud Cuckoo Land.
From the Scientific Revolution through the Enlightenment, we greatly expanded our reasoning tools, our understanding of the world, our prosperity and our freedom. And, in much of the world the sense was that we are all in it together.
Unfortunately, what science revealed was that we are not the center of the universe, we are not divinely created and destined to spend eternity on an exalted plane. In fact, we are not even a unique creation, just a talented species of mammal
Then we got the Counter-Enlightenment, which, instead of simply disabusing us of our vanity and superstitions, started tearing it all up.
Romanticism replaced the increasing sterility of rationalism with the heroic as a poor-born Corsican conquered the jaded aristocracies of Europe. The premium now would be on the heroic, the original, the power of human will.
Karl Marx would gain a huge following with a claim (proved false in his lifetime) of “something for nothing,” and in the process create a worldview featuring class strife and a return to top-down statism but non-aristocratic this time.
Sigmund Freud would portray our one noble discovery—human reason—as lying precariously atop a seething id of perverse sexual desire, anger and other base emotions.
Marx had not talent to get his scheme going, and so it fell prey to the likes of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who used Marx’s social democracy to prop up the Hohenzollern dynasty, or V. I. Lenin who forced communism on Russia and soon began filling the gulags, or Adolph Hitler, who followed other fascist thinkers (including, at the forefront, American president Woodrow Wilson) into updating Marx’s communism into an anti-Marxist totalitarian regime of murderous dimensions.
World War II, with many tens of millions killed, became the war of fascism squaring off against communism and social democracy (even the US was social democratic by that time). With fascism crushed, the Cold War pitted communism against social democracy… only, with the death of Franklin Roosevelt just before the war’s end, Americans began massively to rethink in terms of it having been our original Enlightenment values of prosperity, freedom and equality that had won the war rather than our Rooseveltian redistribution schemes.
After generations of rot and carnage, even as the rationalist industrial revolution kept steadily producing prosperity, life in the US blossomed again. We restored the racial equality of our credo. We restored much of citizen government. Unfortunately, we also restored our progressive movement for a third try at replacing our egalitarian constitutional republican form of government with Bismarckian social democracy.
As we look around now, the elites poised to seal our fate include some who were, long ago, actual Nazis, who are actual Communists, the types of people who filled the gulags and kept the shower chambers pumping out the Zyklon B.
The last thing in the world that I want is for these people to be making plans for me and mine. My plan is not to go gentle unto the night they have planned for us. – Charles Tips
That’s a very succinct evaluation of the current situation, and a very polite “I aim to misbehave.”
There is no growing wealth gap, generally speaking, in the United States. We had the same gap in 1776 and will have the same gap in 2276 (if not us, whoever our successor is). Switzerland has the same gap as do China and Malawi, Trinidad and Tobago. Even Yap has that gap.
All of this was shown six generations ago by an Italian economist stunned to find out as he plowed through mountains of data on income, on wealth, on land ownership and so on, that they graphed out the same in every single instance studied!!! Something bizarrely unexpected was going on.
Peter Thiel in his book Zero to One explains the mystery:
In 1906, economist Vilfredo Pareto discovered what became the “Pareto Principle” or the 80-20 rule, when he noticed that 20% of the people owned 80% of the land in Italy—a phenomenon that he found just as natural as the fact that 20% of the peapods in his garden produced 80% of the peas. [Note: Actually, Pareto studied many different polities and over different time frames and was astonished to see them all come out with the same result.] This extraordinarily stark pattern, when a small few radically outstrip all rivals, surrounds us everywhere in the natural and social world. The most destructive earthquakes are many times more powerful than all smaller earthquakes combined. The biggest cities dwarf all mere towns put together. And monopoly businesses capture more value than millions of undifferentiated competitors. Whatever Einstein did or didn’t say, the power law—so named because exponential equations describe severely unequal distributions—is the law of the universe. It defines our surroundings so completely that we usually don’t even see it.
Pay attention to what I am about to reveal. It is the conundrum of life.
Inputs are Gaussian. They fit a bell curve:
Pick whatever attribute you want—looks, IQ, stick-to-itiveness, drive, number of friends—and it can be mapped on a curve like the one above.
Let’s say you pick the twenty traits that best correlate with getting wealthy, and create a new bell curve reflecting scores on all attributes. Then you perform a longitudinal study of who gets rich and who doesn’t. Outcomes of radically random processes do not fit to bell curves; they follow power laws, in the case of wealth, a Pareto distribution.
Something like one hundred different power laws have been identified in physics, biology, economics and other circumstances where the underlying relationships tend to be complex and stochastic (read: highly random). The highest-ranked person on your curve steps off a curb and gets hit by a bus. The lowest-ranked wins the lottery… stochastic.
This is the conundrum of life. Between what you have to work with and what you achieve falls a very large and random shadow. In the snapshot of life, it is always stark, but when you run the movie for a generation, you are no longer comparing workers just getting their start with those quite older and at their earning peak… much of the difference simply goes away.
But, interestingly, power laws produce quite uniform results. Power laws are of the form Y = MX^B
Where Y is a function (call it the result) which yields from a constant M times a variable X to some exponential value B.
B = 1 produces the linear scaling law and a straight line on the resulting graph. (To double a recipe, use twice as much of each ingredient. M=1, X=2, B=1)
B < 1 produces a non-linear result and diminishing returns. (If M is your training base and =1 and X is the volume of new training you put in and B = 0.5, then put in a 4 mile training run and you gain the ability to run 2 miles at a fast rate. Put in 16 miles and you gain the ability to run 4 miles at a fast rate.)
B > 1 produces non-linear results with increasing gain. Kinetic energy = 1/2mv^2, a second-order power law. Some power conversions are third-order and some heat radiations are fourth-order.
And B can be a variable in some power laws, such as compounding interest.
In a Pareto distribution, B is conventionally referred to as alpha and α = log₄5 ≈ 1.16. Alpha is variable, with 1.16 producing the common 80/20 division. It does vary within limits but not in a way amenable to policy control. In any case, it always tends back to 1.16. And if you are including negative numbers (wealth/debt for instance), a slightly different equation is used [see link].
Here is what happens if you give an equal distribution of money to a large number of people. In not very many transactions, it goes Gaussian (bell curve) and then stabilizes in a Pareto distribution. In other words, it is futile to try to equalize wealth, income, what have you, as long as people are free to transact it, which is pretty much the whole point of money. Take one minute to see how this works:
It doesn’t matter whether you are talking a free economy or socialist, older or modern, if money is being transacted, that is going to be the result.
However, it says nothing about who gets the money and how. Did you know, for instance, that our longtime lowest performing economic sector of almost twenty sectors has, over the last three generations, become our highest performing sector for income? Naturally, our lowest performing sector was the one that generates no revenues, namely, public service.
In the private sector (that is, all the others) non-revenue-producing workers are referred to as “staff,” and they are justified owing to their ability to increase the efficiency of line workers, who are revenue-generating. Accordingly, staff-worker pay tended to be about 80-percent of line workers, and so it always was for “public servants” when compared with workers in the for-profit world. Then President Kennedy issued Executive Order 10988 approving public-sector unions (something even Franklin Roosevelt had said could never be allowed for obvious conflict-of-interest reasons), and WHOA, NELLY!
Here three generations later, working for the government has become the surefire way to get wealthy. How? Government managers set staffing and pay levels with public-sector-union Reps with no taxpayers present. Those unions contribute heavily to the political candidates of one party all but exclusively. They have been over this time, the one segment beating inflation. Finance and Electronics have stayed even with inflation, while the rest of us have been losing ground for three generations—and this was the sad case prior to our present insane levels of Biden inflation. But public-sector salaries have doubled in ratio to private ones over this time!
And this also ignores government workers’ gold-plated defined-benefit pension plans after only thirty years. It also ignores all of the Chinese money that since Clinton reviewed the Chinese Troops in Tiananmen Square on the ninth anniversary of that massacre has been flooding our public sector with a large assist from Joe and Hunter Biden when it came to Hollywood and movie making. And it ignores that there is now so much corruption among elected officials that they rake in millions or even tens of millions over their careers… and they are not even tending to our best interests.
When it’s billionaires at the top who made their money productively, we’re all much better off as their share of the wealth is only ever a small fraction of the social wealth their enterprise created. Personal wealth created by corruption, quite oppositely, is more often a sign that our best interests are being at best ignored if not traded away.
So, the answer is that the wealth gap will always be there and, by itself, indicates nothing about opportunity. In fact, in a productive economy, opportunity grows for all even as the rich get richer! When it becomes such a large-scale corrupt economy, you are almost certainly being savagely robbed of opportunity… something to think about in the coming months leading up to the election. – Charles Tips
I listened to an interview today of historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson by Telegraph journalist Steve Edgington. It started off with this exchange:
Edgington: Victor Davis Hansen is the American Republic under threat?
VDH: It’s said to be under threat mostly by the Left but it’s a pretty resilient form of government. It’s the only one of its type. It’s the oldest democracy or constitutional republic in the (world), whether the Civil War, the Great Depression, the 60s cultural revolution. The problem we’re having right now is that it is not working for the Left, and so when it doesn’t work for the Left they say the Republic is in danger and they want to change the institutions. So they want to get rid of the 180-year filibuster or the 150 year nine Justice Supreme Court, the 233rd year of the Electoral College the 60 years of the 50 state union because they feel that the electorate is drifting away from them, and their agendas – which they’ve implemented the last year and a half especially – do not warrant on any poll 50 percent support. And their president is at a historic low at 29 (%) for first-term president so yeah that’s what we’re told. But when you actually look our elections being held, or that agreed on winners taking power, is legislation being passed, yes yes it is. I think the lockdown, the quarantines, set the Western World in general a little crazy, but I think we’re recovering from that.
Edgington: How how seriously should we take them when they say they’re going to pack the courts, or add DC as a 51st state and change the sort of as you say these historic kind of elements of the American Republican Constitution? Because they’ve been saying these things I guess for a while now, the last few years at least but they haven’t done them yet.
VDH: We should take them very seriously, because if you look at the Supreme Court which was their darling for the last half century because it was a legislative, executive and judicial grand all-in-one, and when an occasional Republican president wished to nominate Justices that would bring a little balance, they flipped. So Earl Warren flipped and all the way to David Suter and John Paul Stevens and Potter (Stewart) they all flipped, and now they don’t, and so all of a sudden they want to pack the court. And to pack the court they just need to eliminate the filibuster and get every Democrat on board. I don’t know if they will or not. And then they can flip it, and then they can vote to restore the filibuster which they said they would do because they’re going to be a minority party and they’ll need it in the fall.
I don’t want times to get any more “interesting” than they already are. But it appears it isn’t up to us.
In my reading of the recent Supreme Court Bruen decision, it seems quite apparent that arms “in common use” are the type specifically protected by the Second Amendment. Excerpt from Justice Thomas’ opinion:
After holding that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to armed self-defense, we also relied on the historical understanding of the Amendment to demark the limits on the exercise of that right. We noted that, “[l]ike most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” Id., at 626. “From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Ibid. For example, we found it “fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons’ ” that the Second Amendment protects the possession and use of weapons that are “ ‘in common use at the time.’ ” Id., at 627 (first citing 4 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 148–149 (1769); then quoting United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174, 179 (1939)).
Color me (un)surprised that the recently passed HR1808, the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2022,” flies directly and deliberately in the face of that ruling. From this link:
During a committee hearing, Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) asked Rep. Nadler to clarify the Democrat position on the proposed Assault Weapons Ban of 2021 (HR1808) possibly banning weapons that are in “common use.”
But Nadler said the quiet part out loud again: “The problem is they are in common use.” For the Left it is the number of guns in private hands that is the “problem,” and and the only “solution” to that is to make the people surrender them, quod erat demonstratum.
And they wonder why we don’t “compromise” and only give up half of what they ask for.
One of the things I found most prescient in Codevilla’s analysis was his prediction of a candidate like Donald J. Trump. Codevilla wrote that, while the Democratic Party enjoys a reasonable amount of support from its constituency, the majority of the rest of us have to hold our noses and vote Republican out of protest, because the Republicans are just Democrats-lite. As he said in an interview, “(T)he Democrats (are) the senior partners in the ruling class. The Republicans are the junior partners. The reason being that the American ruling class was built by or under the Democratic Party. First, under Woodrow Wilson and then later under Franklin Roosevelt. It was a ruling class that prized above all its intellectual superiority over the ruled. And that saw itself as the natural carriers of scientific knowledge, as the class that was naturally best able to run society and was therefore entitled to run society. The Republican members of the ruling class aspire to that sort of intellectual status or reputation. And they have shared a taste of this ruling class. But they are not part of the same party, and as such, are constantly trying to get closer to the senior partners. As the junior members of the ruling class, they are not nearly as tied to government as the Democrats are. And therefore, their elite prerogatives are not safe.”
The electorate recognizes this, and Codevilla observed, “…some two-thirds of Americans – a few Democratic voters, most Republican voters, and all Independents – lack a vehicle in electoral politics. Sooner or later, well or badly, that majority’s demand for representation will be filled.”
And now we know what happens when we get uppity and actually elect someone the Ruling Class cannot control.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, 1871.
“It takes but a little thought to realize that the power to decide when words mean what they say and when they do not is the power to do so whenever one wants, for whatever purpose. After all, the reason that kings have traditionally opposed constitutions is that if a constitution has any meaning at all, it is some kind of restraint on government. But if government can decide that the constitution contains things that it does not, and allows things that it forbids, then adieu to the rule of law.
“By 2010, some in the Ruling Class felt confident enough to dispense with the charade. Asked what in the Constitution allows Congress and the president to force every American to purchase health insurance, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi replied: “Are you kidding? Are you kidding?” It’s no surprise, then, that lower court judges and bureaucrats take liberties with laws, regulations, and contracts. That’s why legal words that say you are in the right avail you less in today’s America than being on the right side of the persons who decide what they want those words to mean.”