Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lawyers Running Everything

The FBI is preparing criminal charges against the Somalian pirates. This is reassuring too: "[O]ur Justice Department has said that it would favorably consider prosecuting such apprehended pirates." That's kind of them.

Of course, there is ample precedent for such criminal prosecutions. When Jefferson dispatched the Navy to the Mediterranean to stop Muslim pirates from enslaving Americans and others, he told them to make sure to bring the pirates back alive so they could stand trial. And above all, he instructed the Navy not to step foot on the Shores of Tripoli without a search warrant.

This is what happens, I suppose, when you have lawyers running everything. National defense becomes just another type of litigation. Let's hope this isn't a harbinger of the Obama administration's approach to the problem of piracy.


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The Ice Age Cometh

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Fig 5 also shows that the whole debate about MWP is irrelevant. Imagine there was no MWP. Practically ALL of the Holocene period the eath appears to be between 0,5 and 1,5 K warmer than today. The little ice age does resemble a mini ice age or at least it appears to be the coldest period in over 10.000 years.

Finally, the overall picture from the graph is an almost perfect mathematical curve that tops around 5-6000 years ago. These Data tells the story quite clear: We are on a down trend in temperatures globally, we should not fear warmth by now. How much lower can the temperatures on earth go before we reach a tipping point to much colder temperatures at earth?

That Habeas Thing

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Earlier in the week I pointed out that the Obama administration was defending their assumed right to continue the wiretaps they so roundly condemned when the Bush administration did them.

And, of course, we all remember the consistent condemnation by candidate Obama of Guantanamo Bay and the denial of habeas to prisoners there as a horrible denial of rights.

Of course that was then and this is now, and it appears what was considered a principled stand now appears nothing more than election year rhetoric.

The Obama administration said Friday that it would appeal a district court ruling that granted some military prisoners in Afghanistan the right to file lawsuits seeking their release. The decision signaled that the administration was not backing down in its effort to maintain the power to imprison terrorism suspects for extended periods without judicial oversight.

But that was a mortal sin when BushHitler was in charge, wasn’t it?

Friday, April 10, 2009

CEObama's Freaking Jet Pies

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When you're the president of the United States, only the best pizza will do - even if that means flying a chef 860 miles.

Chris Sommers, 33, jetted into Washington from St Louis, Missouri, on Thursday with a suitcase of dough, cheese and pans to to prepare food for the Obamas and their staff.

He had apparently been handpicked after the President had tasted his pizzas on the campaign trail last autumn.

Hey, you guys know what says you are really sincere about this whole Global Warming thing that you want to use to justify an economy crushing cap and trade program? Jetting a dude across the country to make you a freaking pie.

And you know what says you have a real solid handle on the economic concerns of citizens who are struggling through the recession? Jetting a dude across the country to "hand toss your dough".

Redux: Investment And Denunciation

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If you were a rising young executive with a promising future, would you be more likely or less likely to go to work for a company where politicians can fire you?

We have become such suckers for words that politicians can spend our tax money like a drunken sailor, provided they call it "investment." At least the drunken sailor is spending his own money but people look down on him because he doesn't call it "investment."
Socialists believe in government ownership of the means of production. Fascists believed in government control of privately owned businesses, which is much more the style of this government. That way, politicians can intervene whenever they feel like it and then, when their interventions turn out badly, summon executives from the private sector before Congress and denounce them on nationwide television.
Did I forget to mention that Thomas Sowell is one of the few people actually qualified to be President. And smart enough not to be of course.

Without A Trace

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The author goes on to complain about FISA, and the way that the current administration is apparently arguing for much broader definitions than the last one ever did over what the government can and can’t be held liable for when it comes to surveillance. This is done without a trace of visible irony, or with any indication that we - not to mention Glenn Greenwald, who this guy is apparently holding up as an example of moral rectitude* - knew all along that the President wasn’t going to be the anti-FISA warrior of the Left’s dreams. We weren’t exactly shy about saying so at the time, either. A bit odd, don’t you think?

Of Course

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CONNECTIONS BETWEEN the Stevens case and the Libby case? “So, it was with great interest that I read that the Department of Justice attorney, Brenda Morris, already held in contempt by Judge Sullivan in the matter involving the wrongful prosecution of Senator Ted Stevens, and now under investigation by both the Department of Justice and the special prosecutor chosen by the Judge, was also a supervisor in the Libby case.”


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CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Under tyranny of everyday hypocrisy.

The fatal flaw in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s alleged schemes of pay-to-play politics could come down to the quid being too close to the quo.

•Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania unilaterally awarded a lucrative no-bid contingency fee contract to the Houston law firm of Bailey, Perrin & Bailey, which had contributed more than $90,000 to the governor’s 2006 re-election bid.

•Michelle Obama was employed by the University of Chicago Medical Center. Her husband, as a U. S. senator, requested a $1 million earmark for the center.

The gazillion dollars spent on earmarks for bridges back home are rife with quid separating quo just long enough to appear as constituent democracy in action. When Dodd, organized labor, Rendell, Obama and Congress do it, it’s called “democracy,” or “lobbying” or “free speech.” When Blagojevich does it, with the quid too close to the quo, it’s called “a crime.”

Read the whole thing.

Pessimism Update

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Where Are The Apoplectics Now?

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Civilian libertarians were apoplectic over former President George W. Bush’s “warrantless wiretap” program, which sought to monitor communications from terrorist networks overseas. So why are they not screaming bloody murder now that President Barack Obama appears slated to receive unprecedented power to monitor all Internet traffic without a warrant and to even shut the system down completely on the pretext of national security? The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 - introduced by Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, and cosponsor Olympia Snowe, R-ME - bypasses all existing privacy laws and allows White House political operatives to tap into any online communication without a warrant, including banking, medical, and business records and personal e-mail conversations. This amounts to warrantless wiretaps on steroids, directed at U.S. citizens instead of foreign terrorists.

Well, if it’s not aimed at terrorists, I guess it’s okay.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

COTD: Jumper Cables

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This post reminds me how my father tried in vain to convince me not to buy the $400 car that came with jumper cables….And i tried in vain to convince my teenage son not to buy the $800 car that came with jumper cables.

My money is on my grandson continuing this great tradition one day.

Santayana And Shaw

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Poor Santayana. Didn’t have a clue. Whether you remember the past or not, you will relive it, because some other SOB doesn’t.

George Santayana—for those of you who know your history—was the philosopher who declared, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (And by the way, according to Wiki, Santayana had a mother named Josefina BorrĂ¡s, “better known as Jo Bo”—could this be someone having a little fun with history and Wiki at our expense?)

In public matters, it’s the aggregate of the population—and/or the leaders—who must remember the past in order to prevent a recurrence. For the individual who remembers and even foresees but is relatively powerless, all he or she can do is protest, endure, emigrate, or in extreme cases try to stage a revolt.

Perhaps that’s why George Bernard Shaw was able to offer another pithy observation about history: “We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”

Gramsci's Wages

Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.

Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.


But deeper still, he found the European hypocrisy a greater obstacle even to its self-understanding than the American resentment of it. For here was an entire continent that had become, through terrible wars, morally confused and dysfunctional, even while it contained great numbers of vigorous, able and, indeed, very civilized people.

Hutchison said things were getting worse, and might require a miracle to reverse; but that the cure "will not be found in the present attempt to hush up the unpleasant truth by diplomatic postures, after-dinner oratory and transatlantic cargoes of soft soap." These remain the cures proposed, and on view once again this last week at the G20 summit.

The current popularity of President Barack Obama in Europe is another mask: Europeans adore him because they think he shares their "sophisticated" contempt for the American people.

Think Again

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For those thinking that the real-estate bust is all over with — think again. The residential market has hit the ditch and continues to sink lower, but now the commercial property market is rolling over and will take many lenders down the drain with it. America's small and regional bankers are pointing their fingers at the big banks, claiming the big money center banks "have tarred and feathered us," City National Bank chief executive Bill McQuillan told the Wall Street Journal during the Independent Community Bankers of America convention in Phoenix. But banks — large and small — all over the country are loaded with commercial real-estate loans, and that collateral is heading south according to a Deutsche Bank report.
Despite being inexperienced and clueless, at least bank workout officers understand what's going on, according to Miller, however the rose-colored-glasses-wearing bank senior managements are counting on real-estate values to turn around by year's end.


Head of the Presidential Strategic Studies Center Ali Reza Zaker Isfahani said on Wednesday that enemies of Iran have given in to the Islamic Republic and accepted the country's nuclear realities.

"Fortunately, revolutionary steps of the Iranian people pave the ground for the enemies' failure as well as acceptance of Iran's nuclear realities," Zaker Isfahani stated.

He underlined that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government could break the dominating international order by following the Late Imam Khomeini's path, adding, "This has led to the acceptance of Iran's nuclear energy right by the new US president, Barack Obama."

Meantime, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on Wednesday that his country views the nuclear issue as a "closed case".

I'm not sure whether Iran's interpretation of Obama's submissive attitude is correct, but I am quite certain that it was foreseeable.

Did I Forget To Mention Love?

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As he points out in a wonderfully compact paragraph, the greatest novels about modern tyranny “all powerfully depict totalitarian society’s assault on…personal love.”  But as Huxley, Orwell and Zamyatin all remind us, total tyranny is impossible; subversion invariably sets in. 

The compulsion to extinguish spontaneous love, as Jamie tells us, is the point of intersection between the ideologies of the Left and the jihadis.  Some of the most fascinating pages of United in Hate spell out the details.  Jamie reminds us of things we failed to appreciate at the time, as for example the details of the will of the leading 9/11 terrorist, Mohammed Atta.  No women were to be present at his funeral, and were to be banned from ever visiting his grave.  Moreover, his shame about his own body was spelled out: “He who washes my body around my genitals should wear gloves so that I am not touched there.”

It Ain't Your Money To Spend

Is found here.

Who Is John Galt?


Guess Who Loses?

Game theory tells us that a risk neutral gambler would pay $50 dollars for a coin flip that paid $0 for Heads and $100 for Tails. Game theorists would call $50 the value of the bet.

Suppose someone is willing to fund your gambling problem, and lend you $80 at zero interest. Better still, if you lose the bet you don’t have to pay him back. Under that scenario, the same gambler would pay $90 for the bet, giving him an even chance of winning or losing $10.

This is a microcosm of what the Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP) is intended to do: create an incentive for investors to pay $90 for a bet that is only worth $50. It is bad economics and bad public policy and it is probably fraudulent. Congress should act pre-emptively to halt Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s latest scheme.

Paul Krugman pointed out that the plan is a “disguised way to subsidize purchases of bad assets.” Josef Stiglitz commented that Geithner’s plan “only works if the taxpayer loses big time.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


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Judging from Greenspan's description, the reader would think that the federal-funds rate (which the Fed directly targets with its open-market operations) and the mortgage rate moved along in sync, when all of a sudden Greenspan tried to jack up short-term rates in 2004, and yet those pesky mortgage rates refused to move up. Hence, he did what he could to slow the housing bubble, but alas, it was precisely when he tried to help that the markets rendered him impotent.
So it's true, the red and blue lines in the chart above moved pretty much in lockstep up until 2002, as Greenspan claimed. But the disconnect occurred when Greenspan slashed short-term rates while mortgage rates held steady.
To repeat, Greenspan's defense of his policies made it sound as if he tried to push up mortgage rates, but that they wouldn't budge. Yet, as the chart above makes clear, Greenspan didn't really push up very hard on rates.

When Men Shall Revile You

Another hero, though a man I did not at first appreciate, is the late Martin Luther King Jr. Read him and one finds that he is no mere politician, selling illusions to advance a career, or to promote any party agenda. His unambiguously Christian apprehension of the world is visible to all who are prepared to take seriously what he has to say, for instance against moral failure, against broken families, against the evil of abortion, against radicalism and violence. The black man must stand, not as a black, but as a man. King is accepted today as a hero, across all political classes, yet his message is often reduced to that of a "community organizer." Yet he was, in reality, the opposite of that.

In this Holy Week, facing towards Good Friday, we should remember what lies deeper than politics: Truth. "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you." Yet what goes deeper than politics, applies also to politics. It is to stand on truths for which you won't be thanked, to stand alone if you must

Sowell On Today's 30s

One of my living heroes, the American journalist and economist Thomas Sowell, wrote a column a couple of days ago consisting of "random thoughts" -- aphoristic remarks about things as they now are. His points ran from the generality of:

"Perhaps the scariest aspect of our times is how many people think in talking points, rather than in terms of real world consequences."

To the specificity of:

"Barack Obama seems determined to repeat every disastrous mistake of the 1930s, at home and abroad. He has already repeated Herbert Hoover's policy of raising taxes on high income earners, FDR's policy of trying to micro-manage the economy, and Neville Chamberlain's policy of seeking dialogues with hostile nations while downplaying the dangers they represent."

Criticize By Creating

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If not inspired, those who absorb Be the Solution may come away feeling a little sick. Our society wastes so much time and resources on tit-for-tat politics. I know. Game theory says "they force our hand." But we must acknowledge that the decline of Tocqueville's America is due in large measure to diverting resources and manpower to titanic tug-o-wars over which party gets to be our masters. Be the Solution represents a radical new paradigm of social change—one that eschews politics. Apart from the title, that paradigm can be distilled into three words attributed to Michelangelo: "Criticize by creating."

Nationalized Health Care Update From The Brit Who Should Be President

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OAustrian Trifecta

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At a news conference afterward, Obama said his debut on the international stage had convinced him that “political interaction in Europe is not that different from the United States Senate,” where he served before entering the White House.

“There’s a lot of — I don’t know what the term is in Austrian — wheeling and dealing, and people are pursuing their interests, and everybody has their own particular issues and their own particular politics,” he said in response to an Austrian reporter’s question.

The preening buffoon continues his march across Europe, impressing everyone he sees.

For those of you from Kentucky that don’t know (and for those of you from posh Hyde Park suburbs of Chicago that also obviously also don’t know), Austrians speak German.

Let me count the ways:

1) If Bush ever said anything this ignorant about Europe it would be front page news for months on end worldwide.

2) If Austrian was a language, there would be a near certainty that this guy would never have had the opportunity to lead Germany, since he was born you know where. He would have likely been considered a funny-sounding a--hat. This is an elemental point of modern history that Ogabe somehow missed in his illustrious Ivy League "education".

3) And to our eternal detriment, he wouldn't know Austrian economics from a hole in the wall. You know, the only group of economists who predicted the meltdown. Oh, and the Great Depression also. Funny how that's been kept from you, isn't it?

Bear Rally

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bring Back The Dodo Birds

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It is the unusual that grabs the attention, and the ideas and beliefs of the majority of our ancestors on how best to clean up the mess of 1819 are vastly different from almost everything I see and hear today. From CNBC's cute little money honeys to newspaper op-eds to my coworkers on the trade desk, all cry that the government must do something. Many of the elite from 1819 believed the exact opposite — that government must do nothing.

The newspaper editors of 1819 in particular led the fight against continued government intervention in the market and, most surprising to a denizen of 2009 America, many politicians at both the state and federal level joined them. Dodo birds of a political kind once roamed our nation's capitals.

In 1819 America, nobody blamed the effects for the Panic of 1819, they rightly blamed the cause; they blamed (in Caroline Baum's words) the "friendly central bank." As Professor John Dobson points out, "the [central] bank's policies fueled inflation

Postmodern Discourse

BTW, Here is how Stephen Hicks in Explaining Postmodernism put forth the concept of using contradictory discourses as a political strategy:
In postmodern discourse, truth is rejected explicitly and consisteny can be a rare phenomenon. Consider the following pairs of claims:

- On the one hand, all truth is relative; on the other hand, postmodernism tells it like it really is.
- On the one hand, all cultures are equally deserving of respect; on the other, Western culture is uniquely destructive and bad.
- Values are subjective--but sexism and racism are really evil
- Technology is bad and destructive--and it is unfair that some people have more technology than others.
- Tolerance is good and dominance is bad--but when postmodernists come to power, political correctness follows.

There is a common pattern here: Subjectivism and relativism in one breath, dogmatic absolutism in the next.

Ogabe Takes Back The Internet For Algore

Private or not, Federal or not, according to Section 18, if the President says something is critical, he can shut it down. Furthermore, Section 18 (6) gives him the power to “order the disconnection” of any designated network “in the interest of national security”.

Oh, and you computer geeks will love reading Section 6, which compels the government to develop a standard security software configuration for all critical sites plus “a standard testing and accreditation protocol” for all software running on those systems that have any security component at all. Additionally, if you’re in the cybersecurity business, you’ll have to be certified under a new government program and, if you aren’t, you won’t be able to do business within three years of the bill becoming law.

Because we all know just how great the government is at computer security and writing good software, right?

Elections have consequences.

Stuck With The Bill

Oxymoron Update, Armageddon Edition

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Manhattan’s District Attorney plans to unveil an indictment of a Chinese national on 118 counts relating to the transfer of technology and material for nuclear weapons to Iran.  Several New York City banks unwittingly took part in the vast laundering ring, which allowed Iran to acquire critical material for its nuclear-weapons program.  This comes just on the heels of Barack Obama’s pledge to “engage” with Iran and rid the world of nukes:

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has smashed a sinister plot to smuggle nuclear weapons materials to Iran through unwitting New York banks, the Daily News has learned.

Officials plan to unseal a 118-count indictment Tuesday accusing a Chinese national of setting up a handful of fake companies to hide that he was selling millions of dollars in potential nuclear materials to Tehran.

What?  Why, the American intelligence community declared that any such talk of Iran continuing its pursuit of nuclear weapons to be mistaken.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Enron Deja-Vu "Mistake"

I'm not qualified to judge this assessment by a Bay-area based "quant," but if he's right, the Geithner plan is more or less a reprise of Enron. You really have to read the whole thing, but here are a few excerpts:

A friend of mine, who used to be on an energy trading desk back in the early 2000s, was listening to me talk about the government plan. He couldn't believe what I was telling him about letting the banks that are selling auctions also bid on them. In the middle of my explanation, he had his own wave of nostalgia: "Man does that bring back memories...."

So why did my energy trading friend get all nostalgic? "Because what you are telling me brings back some great memories from what Enron was up to back in the day. All of us energy traders back then watched with our jaws on the floor. 2000 was a hell of a year."
Or maybe it's not a mistake; maybe this is his way of paying back all those contributions he got from Wall Street.
Don't forget that Enron was pushing the global warming scam. Somehow the press kept forgetting to mention that. I wonder why?

And A Deafening Cricket Comment: On Idiotic Power Consolidation

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Here’s where it should start to sink in that I’m not a “lefty”… I’ll stand by everything I’ve said on this subject. Obama can go !@#$ himself just as hard as I advised Bush to.

There are precious few humans capable of resisting great power. That’s why it’s idiotic to consolidate so much power into a single office.

Deafening Crickets

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I can’t wait to hear how, after all the whining about how evil Bush was invading our privacy, the left will defend Obama on this. The ACLU will be absolutely unable to. They’ll stab a democrat in the back every time if it even appears they might care about national security. Fun stuff!

The Obama administration is again invoking government secrecy in defending the Bush administration’s wiretapping program, this time against a lawsuit by AT&T customers who claim federal agents illegally intercepted their phone calls and gained access to their records.

Will the ACLU suddenly become silent on this issue while trumpeting the issue of Gitmo, or will they call Obama out as a fascist that hates civil liberties? Change, baby, change!

Hear the deafening silence from the civil liberty loving left? No, thats crickets.

The Collosal Screwup

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OOPS: “The government’s official view that toxic assets are incorrectly priced due to illiquidity ‘fire sales’ is wrong, a new study by Harvard and Princeton finance professors suggests. . . . The striking conclusion is that the low prices of toxic assets actually reflect the fundamentals, rather than being driven by an illiquidity discount.” If they’re right, the whole enterprise is a colossal screwup. Are they? Beats me.

Hard To Argue With That

It didn't take 100 days for us to see that Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan.
This week Obama promised to weaken our national defense, bashed America while in Europe, told the world we were torturers, and handed over our rights at the G20.
If anything, Barack Obama proved himself to be just the opposite of Ronald Reagan.

Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama share several things in common: Both were lawyers; both served in the Illinois legislature; and both were elected president of the United States. When it comes to the issue of slavery, however, the men share nothing in common.

While President Lincoln worked hard to earn a place in modern history books as the man most responsible for ending slavery in the United States, President Obama seems focused upon returning today’s Americans — as well as generations of future Americans — into a different kind of slavery known as financial bondage.
It's hard to argue with that.

20 Fools

The first foolish idea is that, given the black holes opened by the financial crisis, we should throw money into them. This is called, I believe, "the new Keynesianism." To be fair to the late Lord Keynes, who made at least one successful prediction ("in the long run we are all dead"), every Keynesianism has been a new Keynesianism, including the first. This is because politicians have invariably selected the easy part of his common-sensory proposals ("the government should spend when the economy falters"), while ignoring the hard part ("the government should save at all other times").
The second foolish idea is that, given the abject failure of national regulation to prevent financial institutions from giving bad loans, and leveraging themselves to perdition, we need vastly increased, international regulation.
Where once the purpose of regulation was to assure the public that banks were solvent, it is now to assure the authorities that banks are doing good deeds.

The Disintegration

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The Charles Murray of the Bell Curve fame argues in an WSJ article called “The Europe Syndrome” that the real effect of increasing dependence on the state is that communities, families — and individuals — begin to atrophy like disused muscles. “Europeanization” isn’t a cosmetic change, but a fundamental one. The effect is that we eventually expect things to be “guaranteed” to us by others and stop learning how to do it ourselves. But, from a systems point of view, this is sleight of hand. We are the “others” we’ve been waiting for to save us, and we are also the atrophied.

The problem is this: Every time the government takes some of the trouble out of performing the functions of family, community, vocation and faith, it also strips those institutions of some of their vitality–it drains some of the life from them … it inevitably takes some of the action away from families and communities, and the web frays, and eventually disintegrates.