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Texas, California, and the Future of Self-Government

Michael Barone in the Washington Examiner:

In [the last] 10 years, Texas gained 732,800 private sector jobs….The nation overall lost 2 million private sector jobs, with the biggest losses coming in California [which lost] 623,700….

The lesson of the previous decade seems clear:  if you take a previously prosperous and creative state and subject it to high taxes and intrusive regulations, it loses 5% of its private sector jobs; if you take a previously somewhat less prosperous and creative state and govern it with low taxes and light regulation, it gains 9% more jobs, even as the nation’s economy is suffering.

That’s the lesson of the last decade, all right.  To which Michael might easily have added that we had presented to us essentially the identical lesson a decade-and-a-half before that, when Ronald Reagan cut taxes and rolled back regulations, initiating nearly a quarter century of economic expansion, and that we had presented to us, yet again, nearly the same lesson two decades before that, when John Kennedy pushed through a reduction in income taxes that Arthur Schlesinger himself called “massive,” fostering a big burst in growth.

I don’t want to sound overwrought or melodramatic here, but the following couple of propositions strike me as simply true:

1.)  An essential component of democracy–of the ideal of self-governance–is that we will respond to the facts.  That we will examine actual, lived experience, adjusting our preferences and policies accordingly.  That we will learn the lessons of our history.

2.)  What is at stake in the elections next year:  the future of self-governance itself.  For what we have in the administration of Barack Obama is a president and coterie of staffers and administrators who are elitist to the point of representing a kind of high priesthood.  The facts?  The lessons of history?  The place themselves against and above it, insisting that their faith (and, since it is entirely unsupported by any actual experience, it is a faith) supersedes the experience of the American people.  Bigger government, higher taxes, more regulations, looser money, and the proliferation of agencies accountable to none but the executive branch–all this will somehow lead to jobs and economic growth.  

Barack Obama is less a working politician in the American tradition than a shaman.  He asks us–he insists–that we unlearn what we know. “Who you gonna believe?” he asks.  ”Me or your lyin’ eyes?”

Either we Americans reject this demand that we surrender the first prerogative of free peoples–the informed use of our own experience–or–or?  Or we will in some absolutely basic way have proven ourselves unworthy of the ideal of self-government for which those whom we celebrate on this Memorial Day weekend fought and died.

  1. Daniel Sattelberger

    I read somewhere that in the last couple of years Texas created more jobs than all the other forty-nine states combined. Even more concrete proof Texas is rising? People are voting with their feet. Texas gained 4 House seats this census, double the second-highest.

  2. Kenneth

    Who is this “we” you’re talking about, Peter?

    Our chronically-dependent, abominably-educated underclass?  The over 40% of households which now receive some type of welfare benefits?  The 50% of earners who pay no Federal income tax? The hordes of recent Third-World immigrants who have no concept of exceptionalism and no attachment to American ideals?

    If that’s what constitutes “We”, We are already doomed.

  3. Aodhan
    Leslie Watkins:

    SISTER: We just disagree, Me, so let’s stop talking about it.

    My sister is very intelligent. · May 28 at 12:15pm

    Interesting, Leslie, albeit sad.

    One often hears about how similar (idential) twins are. For example, their intelligence is highly correlated. Their political views also show above-chance agreement, relative to regulars sibs, etc.

    Given this general effect, irreconcilable differences are all the more striking.

    But you and your sister are not alone. Another notable instance of twins disagreeing is Shelby Steele (author of “The content of our character”) and Claude Steele (who originated the concept of “stereotype threat”).

    On a lighter note:

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_otfwl2zc6Qc/TPSEFjWFV6I/AAAAAAAAOro/2KqANH89cdI/s1600/mallifert.jpg

  4. Aodhan

    Peter,

    America will learn from history. The only question is whether it will learn quickly enough to avert its becoming history in the process.

    My prediction is that America will approach the precipice complacently but still pull back from it valiantly when the time comes.

  5. TeeJaw
    Leslie Watkins: 

    Here’s an example from my own life. I’m a twin (i.e., we are close biologically). My sister and I hold opposite political views and are always calling a truce on the subject but are never able to because … who knows?

    · May 28 at 12:15pm

    I take from this that you are fraternal twins and not identical twins.  Am I right?

  6. Leslie Watkins

    I did not know Shelby Steele has a twin! That’s great! And thanks for the cartoon. Fabulous!

    Aodhan

    Leslie Watkins:

    SISTER: We just disagree, Me, so let’s stop talking about it.

    My sister is very intelligent. · May 28 at 12:15pm

     Interesting, Leslie, albeit sad.

    One often hears about how similar (idential) twins are. For example, their intelligence is highly correlated. Their political views also show above-chance agreement, relative to regulars sibs, etc.

    Given this general effect, irreconcilable differences are all the more striking.

    But you and your sister are not alone. Another notable instance of twins disagreeing is Shelby Steele (author of “The content of our character”) and Claude Steele (who originated the concept of “stereotype threat”).

    On a lighter note:

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_otfwl2zc6Qc/TPSEFjWFV6I/AAAAAAAAOro/2KqANH89cdI/s1600/mallifert.jpg · May 28 at 2:55pm

  7. Leslie Watkins

    That’s right, Ducatista. We’re fraternal, though people are always saying “you guys look just alike!” It’s only because they don’t really look. We do favor, quite a bit, and we end up manifesting similar physical ailments—and similar fates—but we have obviously different builds. Very much alike we nonetheless tend to take off at ninety degree angles from each other.

    Ducatista

    Leslie Watkins: 

    Here’s an example from my own life. I’m a twin (i.e., we are close biologically). My sister and I hold opposite political views and are always calling a truce on the subject but are never able to because … who knows?

    · May 28 at 12:15pm

    I take from this that you are fraternal twins and not identical twins.  Am I right? · May 28 at 3:58pm
  8. David Williamson

    Indeed, the stakes are high in 2012, which is maybe why some of us are freaking out over the relatively weak (I hesitate to say squishy) Republican field, and hope for some candidates who can put our case forward, clearly and bravely.

    Sometimes I am optimistic, and can’t believe that the USA is finished, as we know it, and sometimes I agree with Kenneth in that we are doomed – it comes back to the tipping point that was discussed a few podcasts ago – have we passed it?

    If we do find such a candidate, they put forward their case clearly, and are rejected in 2012, then we will know we have passed the tipping point – but at least we will have tried.

    Other profits of doom, such as Mark Steyn, often point out that it is a one-way trip towards bigger Government. Margaret Thatcher referred to the Socialist “rachet”, and you only have to look at the “Conservative” Prime Minister in the UK playing ping-pong with Mr Obama to see that she was right.

    Sorry, not very uplifting – we need a Winston Churchill or Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher…

  9. Mel Foil

    The Left doesn’t really care much about prosperity. They want power. Free-market prosperity is no good to them if they can’t get their hands on it. Fidel Castro actually believes his 50-year leadership of Cuba was a big success. He never lost his dictatorial power once. About food rationing, he’d say, “so what?” The prosperity argument doesn’t work with people who don’t care about prosperity. Get them political power, get them a job in the government, and they’ll be personally prosperous enough, thank you.

  10. Jimmy Carter

    “…Texas gained 732,800 private sector jobs…”

    That’s just jobs that can be counted. I don’t think it includes ALL the illegals working off the books.

  11. John Marzan

    The Obama/Democrat strategy for re-election in 2012 is to oppose and demagogue the GOP on almost all issues. And continue to reshape America by regulations.

  12. John Marzan

    Democrats plans to save money in California by releasing 30,000 felons into the streets

  13. Instugator

    God, I hate looking up that man’s nose.

  14. Robert Promm

    Please don’t take this as calling BHO a Fascist but this picture of him reminded me so much of a picture of Benito Mussolini.

  15. concerned citizen
    Peter Robinson:For what we have in the administration of Barack Obama is a president and coterie of staffers and administrators who are elitist to the point of representing a kind of high priesthood.  The facts?  The lessons of history?  The place themselves against and above it, insisting that their faith (and, since it is entirely unsupported by any actual experience, it is a faith) supersedes the experience of the American people.  Bigger government, higher taxes, more regulations, looser money, and the proliferation of agencies accountable to none but the executive branch–all this will somehow lead to jobs and economic growth.  

    Barack Obama is less a working politician in the American tradition than a shaman.  He asks us–he insists–that we unlearn what we know. “Who you gonna believe?” he asks.  ”Me or your lyin’ eyes?”

    You have nailed it. What a nugget of truth.  Now, how do we explain this to Joe Six Pack in a 30 second commercial?

    By the way, that photo of him always makes me groan.  The insufferable conceit of the man, and the attitude that you describe, is all there in that photo.  Ugh.

  16. Ansonia

     kenneth, if we’re doomed anyway, I’d still rather go down fighting.

  17. Leslie Watkins

    My take on Peter’s use of “we” is those of us who want to make informed, even-handed public policy decisions but refuse to have our lives subsumed by the viewpoint of a we that refuses to hear the evidence.

    Here’s an example from my own life. I’m a twin (i.e., we are close biologically). My sister and I hold opposite political views and are always calling a truce on the subject but are never able to because … who knows?

    So, the other day she’s asserting the meme that rich Americans don’t pay enough income tax (never mind that she makes half the dough her party thinks makes a couple rich, which I don’t think she realizes). I said she was wrong and sent IRS tables to prove it.

    ME: You know, the file I sent from the IRS, the one that showed the percentage of taxes paid by each bracket.

    SISTER: Oh, I don’t know. You can always find contradictory data.

    ME: It’s from the IRS. You’re not gonna believe the IRS?

    SISTER: We just disagree, Me, so let’s stop talking about it.

    My sister is very intelligent.

  18. TeeJaw

    There might be a bit of terrible truth in this quote:

    Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”

    — Lazarus Long in Time Enough For Love (1973), by Robert Heinlein.

  19. Sisyphus

    There was once a country where a mere third of the citizens rose against tyranny and dragged their fellow countryman, many kicking and screaming, to a freer place. The good news is that, Frank Zappa voter drives notwithstanding, the shuffling zombies have more excuses to not vote and not lead than most. And there are many more ways to influence the course of a nation than the ballot box.

  20. Michael Patrick Tracy

    At its root, modern Leftism denies history, rejects empirically-demonstrable facts, and fancies human nature an artificial construct to be dispensed with.  It rests on a feelings-based, quasi-religious belief that good intentions, a raging hatred of conservatives, and a ‘couple bucks will get you something more than a small drip, no room at Starbucks.