The Invisible Hand is Writing:

Walter Russell Mead has been producing a lot of interesting stuff lately. I think I almost wholly agree with this piece, which may be biasing me in judging its quality; but I think it is rightly put.

Doc Russia used to quote Kipling's "The Gods of the Copybook Headings." Yes, I remember thinking: that's right. The old rules, the simple rules, the ones so many thought they left behind with childood -- thought they had become too sophisticated to believe -- are the real rules of the world.



In the recent blanket coverage of the debt crisis, the ongoing story about Congress's failure to extend funding for the Federal Aviation Administration got a bit lost. The limited coverage concentrated on the ping-pong aspect of legislative gamesmanship. Something rang a bell, though, when I read that the House had passed a bill with a short-term extension of funding, which the Senate refused either to vote on or to propose an alternative to, instead demanding that the House try again with something more palatable to the Senate. Hey, that sounds a lot like what happened with the debt ceiling. In my line of work, we call that negotiating against yourself.

Not only does Harry Reid demand that the House negotiate against itself, but he accuses it of taking hostages. I think what he's talking about is the usual process of offering legislative compromises: we'll give you something you want rather desperately, but we intend to exact a price. Senate Democratic leaders are demanding what's come to be called lately a "clean" bill, which is one that extends FAA funding without including two irritating conditions: (1) cuts to subsidies for rural airports and (2) a re-instatement of the decades-long traditional rule for unionizing an FAA facility (recently overturned by regulatory fiat) requiring a majority vote of all workers instead of merely a majority of those voting.

For Senate Democrats, the inclusion of these obnoxious requirements is the equivalent of taking hostages. The tactic strikes me, however, as a pretty ordinary one for both sides of the aisle. The argument can be made that all legislation should address a single issue, to be voted up or down in a "clean" fashion. Indeed, this is the theory behind the often-proposed but never-approved line-item veto. I don't see it going anywhere, though. When the shoe is on the other foot, the attitude most often is that compromise is how the business of government is supposed to get done. I'm not sure it helps to characterize every compromise as taking one issue hostage for the purpose of getting concessions on another.

As things stand, the House approved continued funding for the FAA, which the Senate refused to take up. The Senate has not produced its own proposal, just as it refused until the very last minute to produce its own proposal to the hated House bill on the debt ceiling. Neither chamber is technically in recess this week, but that's only a gambit to prevent recess appointments, because legislators actually have all gone home. FAA workers are left hanging, but is it really because the Republican House has taken them hostage? Or is it because Senate Democrats can't bring themselves to adjust to the new reality that they can't pass legislation without real compromise?

The New Civil Discourse

The New Civil Discourse

"If the budget is balanced, the terrorists will have won."
I need that on a T-shirt.

8 Things Never

"8 Things You Should Never Say to Your Husband"

This is one of those pointless humanizing pieces that news agencies run more for entertainment than for serious reasons. Still, since we often talk about the relations between men and women -- or man and wife -- let's look at it.

They get off to a very bad start here: "One of the best parts about marriage is being so comfortable with your hubby that you can say just about anything to him. But if you don’t watch your mouth, sometimes the ugly truth comes out..."

So, these concepts are supposed to be truths that you shouldn't say to your husband. Ugly truths. About him.

1. "You're just like your father."

I don't know -- this one doesn't seem bad to me. I'd take it as a compliment, in large part because I know I'm not very much like my father (though we look alike); he's a better man than I am in many respects. Though he has his flaws, as all men do, overall I think of him as a shining example of what a good man is like: a volunteer firefighter, a loyal husband and father, a former staff sergeant and drill instructor in the US Army.

2. "When are you going to find a new job?"

Job-related questions are very touchy for any man in modern American society, because they get at the core role that society expects him to fulfill. Unhappily, questions about his job are going to be received by most American men as questions about his whole worth as a human being.

That's improper -- it is also philosophically out of order, as his essential nature is not related to his employment but to his ability to exercise virtue in a vigorous and rational way. Employment can be a way of doing that, or it can simply be a private struggle to provide yourself and your family with the means to exercise virtue in other spheres: as a thinker, or a writer, or a mountain-climber, a horseman, or -- for those with the calling -- a man of God.

Fixing that problem will make it much easier to talk about the employment issues. Once he is in order in his soul, the question of how he makes his living will be of far less importance. As it should be! What a waste of our lives, to focus as much as we do on what Elise likes to call the 'circular' business of just earning enough to get by.

3. "My mother warned me you'd do this!"

I would find this one intriguing. I would like to know what my wife's mother warned her about -- she was a very interesting lady, and I liked her a lot.

4. "Just leave it -- I'll do it myself!"

Since we're talking about the 'ugly truth,' the concept is going to be 'You're incapable of doing a good job here.' This need not be unpleasant to hear: I am always glad to discover that my wife would rather reorganize the pantry without my assistance. However, this certainly could be said in a hateful way, and anything that sounds like "Go away you incompetent idiot" will probably be received as the insult that it was intended to be.

5. "You always..." or "You never..."

Yes, this is wisely avoided in all circumstances, and for all audiences.

6. "Do you really think those pants are flattering?"

The likely answer: "How should I know?" Most men wear pants that conform to the kind of pants they were taught to wear at work or in the military. The question of whether they are "flattering" never enters either consideration: the question is whether they are the proper kind of pants for that environment. If I don't look good in them, it's very likely because I don't look all that good. We can't be blaming the pants for that.

7. "Ugh, are we hanging out with him again?"

I see the point, although in general married couples find it nearly impossible to remain actively engaged with single friends.

8. "Please watch the kids. But don't take them here, or do this, or forget that..."

There is a rule that will serve as a useful guideline for women dealing with men: "You can tell me what to do, or how to do it. Pick one."

There are exceptions, of course, but in general it's best to learn to let go and give your husband some autonomy in how he executes the tasks set for him. Or, if there is something you really need him to do in a particular way (say, you want the house painted, but it's important that it be painted green and not just any color he likes) you should probably find a way to convince him to do the task short of telling him to do it. "If you paint the house, then I'll..." is the kind of strategy that avoids telling him to do it, which means that (if he agrees to do it) you can give him very specific guidance on how you want it done without irritating him.

That, at least, is my advice; you may find that your own experience is otherwise. Feel free to say so in the comments!

Italian Sports

Italy: Home of the Coolest Sports

This seems like it would be fun.

What strikes me about a lot of these sports is that they've been reinvigorated recently -- this one in 1995. That's interesting.

We're Here to Help

We're Here to Help

In "The Compassion Trap," James Delong at The American Enterprise notes the dilemma we create when we obey a compulsion to help without a commitment to bear the cost without grudging. In the Florida version of the lawsuit against Obamacare, for instance, the government justified the individual mandate on the ground that the government had previously decided to make emergency medical treatment mandatory; it followed, therefore, that irresponsible citizens must not be permitted to take a free ride.

The Florida judge countered that perhaps the problem was with the mandate for free emergency care. I think the problem is instead with the double-thinking that permits us to congratulate ourselves for our compassionate extension of free emergency medical care, while at the same time resenting the recipients' failure to make adequate pre-arrangements to pay us back.

So, because we are not willing to let people suffer consequences, we, acting through the government, must control increasingly large dimensions of everyone’s behavior for the sake of our own amour-propre. . . . When anyone tries to call a halt, the trump card is played—the children! We might let you die in the gutter, but how can we possibly let your children do so?

A Pollster Who Gets It Right

A Pollster Gets It Right:

A left, or "center-left," pollster actually listens to what people are saying. It's fairly amazing to realize that they still can hear it, the ones who decide to listen.

[I]n smaller, more probing focus groups, voters show they are fairly cynical about Democratic politicians’ stands. They tune out the politicians’ fine speeches and plans and express sentiments like these: “It’s just words.” “There’s just such a control of government by the wealthy that whatever happens, it’s not working for all the people; it’s working for a few of the people.” “We don’t have a representative government anymore.”

This distrust of government and politicians is unfolding as a full-blown crisis of legitimacy sidelines Democrats and liberalism....

GOVERNMENT operates by the wrong values and rules, for the wrong people and purposes, the Americans I’ve surveyed believe. Government rushes to help the irresponsible and does little for the responsible. Wall Street lobbyists govern, not Main Street voters. Vexingly, this promotes both national and middle-class decline yet cannot be moved by conventional democratic politics. Lost jobs, soaring spending and crippling debt make America ever weaker, unable to meet its basic obligations to educate and protect its citizens. Yet politicians take care of themselves and party interests, while government grows remote and unresponsive, leaving people feeling powerless.
Not quite powerless. We can break it. That is what lies behind the Tea Party's "intransigence" on the debt ceiling: the firm conviction that it is better to destroy this system than to save it.

Read on:
Our research shows that the growth of self-identified conservatives began in the fall of 2008 with the Wall Street bailout, well before Mr. Obama embarked on his recovery and spending program. The public watched the elite and leaders of both parties rush to the rescue. The government saved irresponsible executives who bankrupted their own companies, hurt many people and threatened the welfare of the country. When Mr. Obama championed the bailout of the auto companies and allowed senior executives at bailed-out companies to take bonuses, voters concluded that he was part of the operating elite consensus. If you owned a small business that was in trouble or a home or pension that lost much of its value, you were on your own. As people across the country told me, the average citizen doesn’t “get money for free.” Their conclusion: Government works for the irresponsible, not the responsible.

Everything they witness affirms the public’s developing view of how government really works. They see a nexus of money and power, greased by special interest lobbyists and large campaign donations, that makes these outcomes irresistible.
The list of recommendations for Democrats is refreshing; but it is important that Democrats recognize that the alternative is the end of the system. The public is done with it. Wall Street and Washington are alike, says Ms. Megan McArdle, in being mostly interested in 'what keeps the checks flowing' -- but that option is closed save in the shortest term. The system will reform fundamentally or, if that is too hard, it will burn. The end of the world is not too high a price to break an unjust system, for 'the end of the world,' on these terms, already has happened more than once.
For the White Horse knew England
When there was none to know;
He saw the first oar break or bend,
He saw heaven fall and the world end,
O God, how long ago.

For the end of the world was long ago,
And all we dwell today
As children of some second birth,
Like a strange people left on earth
After a judgment day.

For the end of the world was long ago,
When the ends of the world waxed free,
When Rome was sunk in a waste of slaves,
And the sun drowned in the sea.
If it comes to that, I shall abide it. For the moment, the establishment appears to have given itself one last chance. As they love their lives and fortunes -- I will not speak of their sacred honor -- they had better take care in how they spend it.

The Jacksonian Party has a more hopeful take on the whole business.

Baby Guards

Baby Guards

I'm thinking it would be a bad idea to make a threatening move toward this distant baby relative of mine -- a first cousin twice removed. I haven't seen my cousin (his grandmother) for many decades, but we keep in touch through Christmas cards and photos, recognizing in each other the true dog-madness.