Senate Border Bill: Malice or Incompetence?
it's the end of a dynasty
When Victor Davis Hanson asks “Is Biden Malicious, Incompetent, or Conniving?” it is well to remember Napoleon’s famous maxim:
Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.
So what are we to think about the Senate’s mammoth 370-page $118 billion omnibus bill that is a combination of not-really immigration reform and Ukraine and Israel aid?
As per Napoleon, I think it is more incompetence and hiding the ball than malevolence.
See, I think that our current ruling class, the educated class, is trying to avoid facing the fact that pretty well everything it has advanced over the past century and a half is a failure.
Blacks. We fought a civil war to free the slaves only to end up with a century of Jim Crow discrimination only to replace it with reverse discrimination, and still blacks murder at about 8-10 times the rate of whites. And the black family is a wreck. And now with unrestricted illegal immigration…
Workers. We have done everything from pretending to excuse workers from the market with union legislation to government education to government healthcare to government welfare. But high-paid union workers have lost their jobs to cheap foreign labor anyway. And now with unrestricted illegal immigration…
Women. Women were going to be liberated from the patriarchy and become, as Simone de Beauvoir assured us, “independent women.” In fact women have been buried in conflicting demands: to have sex outside marriage, to get rid of unwanted children, to work and raise a family at once, to get into male warrior culture with corporate and political leadership. And women are miserable.
LGBT. “Does it really matter what these affectionate people do — so long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses!” But since Mrs. Pat’s comment in 1910, the whole point of the anti-heterosexual movement has been precisely to frighten the horses. And now the transgenders are frightening feminists.
Regulation. It may have seemed like a good idea a century ago, to restrain capitalism and regulate land use and direct manufacturers to make safer products. But now it’s become saving the world with the fight against climate change, which creates jobs and subsidized solar panels and EVs for the educated class.
It’s my belief that we got each of these problems because the educated class glommed onto some semi-religious belief to save the world: save blacks; save workers, save women, save the planet. And then if you oppose their beliefs you are literally Hitler or Satan. Thus incompetence transforms into malevolence.
And so, with each accumulating failure the educated class gets more and more anxious to implement its agenda, because for sure the Promised Land is just round the corner.
So I think that almost everything we experience in politics is a consequence of the anxiety in the educated ruling class that something is wrong.
And I believe that the rise of the omnibus bill in Congress is related to this. Some people want to reform immigration; others want to help Ukraine; still others want to help Israel. So the idea is to ram it through by having the passionate supporters of each issue go along with the others to get their issue passed.
In a better world, we would all sit around and discuss issues and come to agreement. But in a late-stage dynasty there is no longer the time and the occasion to develop consensus. Problems pile up — the consequence of previous errors and follies — and “something has to be done.”
And then there is the phenomenon of the “luxury belief.” Because activism is experienced by our liberal friends as the highest form of life, our ruling class is riddled with passionate activist groups determined the save the world, if only their issue gets implemented next week.
I believe that the way to understand the Biden administration is that it is too weak to prioritize the dozens of activist movements and their agendas in order to occupy the safe center in politics and the culture. So willy-nilly it finds itself pushing every item in the progressive agenda from immigration to climate change to 15-minute cities to systemic racism. I’d say that the current course in the Democratic Party will lead to a train wreck. But what do I know?
Yes, of course our liberal friends are malevolent. People get desperate when things keep going wrong. The notion of Satan, or the Evil One, is common in religion because all humans seem ready to experience their troubles not as their own fault but as somebody else’s fault.
But our troubles really are the fault of our rulers and their belief that all would be well in our modern age if only educated and knowledgeable administrators could run the trains on time.
But human society is not like that. Nor are our own bodies. Nor the universe. It is instead a chaotic non-system that manages to make everything work using every means except top-down administrative orders.
I close with my Four Laws:
Socialism cannot work because it cannot compute prices (Mises).
The administrative state cannot work because the Man in Washington does not have the bandwidth to run the economy (Hayek).
Regulation does not work because “regulatory capture” (Stigler).
Government programs cannot work because you can never reform them (Chantrill).
Plus, Activism cannot work because shouting slogans cannot solve anything.
And let’s not forget Art Laffer’s Five Pillars:
low-rate broad-based flat tax;
Of course it would also help if government got into fewer wars.