Lazy Sunday X: Economics, Part II

Last week’s edition of Lazy Sunday—“Lazy Sunday IX: Economics, Part I“—featured four pieces about economics.  As I wrote last week, my thinking on economics has evolved by degrees over the past decade.  To summarize:  I used to think that (mostly) unbridled capitalism could solve most of society’s problems through ever-more-efficient allocation of resources.

Now, I’d argue that capitalism is a great system that should benefit people, but which we shouldn’t worship as a panacea.  Put another way:  we shouldn’t be sacrificing people’s livelihoods and communities on the altar of efficiency.

Naturally, there’s a great deal of room for nuance in that position, and it opens up a tricky question:  who gets to make the decisions that ameliorate some of the excesses and disruptive side effects of capitalism?  What’s the limiting principle at play?

These are important questions, but their difficulty should not lead us to resignation—to worship efficiency by default.  This week’s three pieces are my small contributions to that discussion:

  • TBT: Capitalism Needs Social Conservatism” – this piece dates back to the old TPP website, from the TPP 2.0 Era, and I consider it one of the most important essays I’ve ever written.  Social conservatives are the punching-bag of the modern Right, and the least-respected “leg” of the traditional Republican Party “tripod” coalition between social, economic, and national security conservatives.

    That’s a shame, because without the values of social conservatism, capitalism cannot long endure.  Without traditional morality, capitalism becomes an asset-stripping free-for-all:  employers have no obligation to their employees beyond a crude economic exchange of value; businesses can cheat on contracts when they coldly calculate it’s worth the potential costs; and human life, especially unborn life, is valued in dollars, not spiritual worth.

  • Tucker Carlson’s Diagnosis” – Fox News host Tucker Carlson eloquently and forcefully expressed some of the ideas implied in the previous bullet point in a powerful monologue back in January 2019.  Carlson has become a major paleoconservative voice, one that offers a much-needed counterbalance to the capitalism-as-highest-good mentality dominant in the Republican Party.

    That Carlson’s show is highly popular demonstrates that these ideas have legs politically.  Again, Carlson doesn’t have a beef with capitalism, per se, but believes it should work for us, not the other way around.  This monologue powerfully points out how our elites have thrown the rest of us over the bus, and are enjoying the fruits of their corporatist, globalist schemes.  It’s a must-watch.

  • April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective” – this piece is a bit of a personal essay, looking back to 1 April 2009, the day I found out my teaching contract would not be renewed for another year.  It’s easy to forget how awful the years of the Great Recession were, and how bad the “recovery” was under President Obama.  This piece also serves as a nice counterbalance to the other two:  it shows how important robust economic growth is to sustaining strong societies.  If social conservatism is necessary to foster economic growth, that growth makes it easier for families to gain self-sufficiency (so long as we avoid the easy traps of prosperity).

There you have it—more essays on economics, a field we should consider a human science—part of the humanities—not a cold, deterministic hard science (the essay linked in this sentence, “Economics: A Human Science,” is another strong contender for today’s compilation).

Get out there and hustle!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Lazy Sunday IX: Economics, Part I

I followed a fairly standard political-philosophical trajectory to where I am now. Back in my salad days, I was a big Milton Friedman fanboy (in many ways, I still am).  His works, particularly Capitalism and Freedom, compelling made the case for many things I already believed, and made me love liberty even more.

I skewed heavily into libertarian territory (without every fully becoming a capital-L Libertarian), and came to believe that, in most cases, free markets could (and, in some golden future, would) solve virtually all of humanity’s problems, as history Whiggishly improved more and more with each passing year.  Efficiency would free humanity from drudgery, and we’d all have plenty.

Indeed, that is, in many ways, the story of the modern West:  greater efficiency and economic fluidity has yielded material wealth unparalleled in human existence.  Capitalism works quite well at alleviating material misery.

But there’s the rub:  as I’ve grown older, gradually amassing a nest egg and hustling constantly, I’ve come to understand that, as nice as material abundance is, it is a false god (as is the neoliberals’ lust for ever-greater efficiency).  Despite our great wealth and our cheap, shiny, plastic baubles from China, America’s are culturally, morally, and philosophically miserable.

So, for the next two Sundays I’ll be featuring posts on economics, a topic I believe should be regarded as one of the humanities, rather than a social science.  I still believe capitalism is the best possible economic system ever devised, and does a great deal to secure liberty for individuals and nations (as Milton Friedman wrote, economic freedom is a necessary precursor to political freedom).  That said, I’ve adopted Tucker Carlson’s formulation that capitalism should work for us, not the other way around.

To that end, here are this week’s pieces on economics:

  • 4.8% Economic Growth?!” – this very short post relaunched this blog.  The TPP 3.0 Era, as I call it, kicked off with my move to WordPress.  It trumpets the incredible growth of the Trump Administration and its economic policies. After years of sluggish “recovery” under President Obama, the Trump Renaissance breathed fresh life into our moribund economy.
  • Q&A Wednesday – Tax Cuts, Trade Wars, Etc.” – I adapted this post from a response I wrote to some Facebook comments from two of my most loyal readers.  It details my evolving views on tariffs—essentially, that instead of opposing nearly completely, I now see their utility.Towards the end of this essay, I address an idea I’ve been kicking around:  that it’s better to subsidize workers through protective tariffs (thereby giving them work, and a sense of purpose) than simply to hand out money or administer costly welfare programs.

    I developed that idea more fully in the next essay on this list.  It goes to the idea that people—and, I would argue, specifically men—derive a great deal of their sense of self from their work.  This understanding is closer to the term vocation than it is merely to “work,” the distinction being that vocation is work that is both productive and fulfilling—it’s work in a higher sense, beyond merely providing for one’s basic needs.

  • The Human Toll of Globalization” – this post was inspired by a lengthy Breitbart piece about the costs of globalization, and is of a piece with the previous essay.  Therein I explored the idea, mentioned directly above, that work is ennobling, and its benefits go beyond a paycheck.  There is a quiet, affirmative satisfaction to doing something and doing it well.  Why else would I blog daily with zero revenue?
  • Global Poverty in Decline” – lest you think I’ve jettisoned the old Friedmanian views completely, this short post—based on a Rasmussen Number of the Day—deals with the decline in global poverty in the last few decades.  That decline is, truly, astonishing.  A good chunk of it came with economic liberalization in China, which has come, in part, at the expense of the United States, but it also reflects the benefits of economic liberty across the globe, particularly in the former Soviet bloc countries.For all the potential moral hazards of excessive material wealth, there’s no denying the inherent morality of a system that prevents starvation, malnutrition, and homelessness, all with only minimal government coercion and interference.  That’s pretty remarkable, and one reason we should be careful to protect capitalism, even as we seek to rein in its more destructive tendencies.

That’s it for this XXL (that’s “Extra-Extra-Large”) edition of Lazy Sunday.  Enjoy!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Trump’s Economy and 2020

There’s been a spate of good economic news lately, largely thanks to President Trump’s economic policies.  US GPD grew 3.2% for the first quarter of 2019, blowing away economists’ projected 2.5% growth.  Of the 231 companies in the S&P 500 to report their Q1 earnings so far, 77.5% of them have exceeded analysts’ expectationsUS consumer spending increased 0.9% (0.7% when adjusted for inflation) during a quarter that is usually slower after the Christmastime rush.  All of that growth has occurred without a substantial increase in inflation.

That economic news is good for President Trump, but it might not be enough in and of itself.  In better times, any president with those economic numbers would breeze into a second term, but the perception among Democrats (no surprise) and some independents (more troubling) is that the economic growth we’re witnessing isn’t benefiting everyone, but instead favors the rich and powerful.

To be clear, Trump is in a strong position at the moment.  Having emerged battered but unbeaten from the Mueller investigation, he’s bested the greatest existential threat to his presidency.  Construction on the border wall has begun, and even progressive economist Thomas Friedman endorsing a “high wall” on the border.  And loony freshman Congress members like Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continue to commit bone-headed, unforced errors.

That said, the scuttlebutt on the Dissident Right is that economic success alone won’t secure Trump’s reelection, and that excessive focus on it might actually alienate the blue-collar workers that delivered Trump victory in 2016.  The general argument is that, unless Trump doesn’t come down hard on immigration, even economic growth won’t save him.

I don’t fully buy this argument, but there might be some truth to it.  When the economy is already good, voters begin looking at other issues more closely.  If a worker loses his job to an illegal immigrant, or if the plant moves to Mexico, it doesn’t matter how good the economy as a whole is doing.

One alarming sign of trouble:  former Vice President Joe Biden and Texan weirdo Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke both are competitive against Trump—in Texas!  Granted, it’s very early in this process—the 2020 election is an eternity away, politically speaking—and the media loves to trumpet Democratic victories in historically deep-red States.  But the situation in Texas, like other border and high-growth States, illustrates the importance of the immigration issue.

A quick summary:  ultra-progressive California taxes and regulates its most productive citizens out of the State, while importing cheap labor illegally (supporting it with sanctuary cities, etc.) so the uber-wealthy Silicon Valley tech titans have gardeners and nannies at slave wages.  Enough Lefties bleed out into Arizona, Texas, and other reddish States with low taxes and good law enforcement.  Those States also struggle with illegal immigration, and are demonized for trying to protect their borders.  The result:  the purpling of Texas.

To clarify:  I think President Trump is well-positioned to win in 2020, especially if the Democrats nominate a wacko or a blatant race-baiter (like Kamala Harris).  He’s got a tougher fight against a perceived moderate like Biden or Pete Buttigieg, but momentum and incumbency are on his side.

Regardless, it is vital that President Trump return to his key campaign promise from 2016:  securing the border.  Not only is that crucial for tapping into the populist discontent that catapulted him into the Oval Office, it’s the only way to preserve the United States we know and love.

TBT: Mark Sanford’s Ideology

Today’s #TBT mines the depths of my 2009 scribblings, during the “TPP 1.0” era of the blog.  Yesterday’s post about the “The State of the Right” got me thinking about how much the state of play has changed in the last decade, particularly since the Trump Ascendancy in 2015-2016.

One example of that change is former Congressman and South Carolina Mark Sanford.  Sanford was the first Republican I ever voted for in a general SC gubernatorial race, and I loved his fiscal conservative grandstanding (he once walked into the General Assembly carrying two piglets under his arms to oppose “pork barrel spending”; he allegedly barbecued the two oinkers later on).

He always took largely principled stands.  He refused to expand Medicare during the worst part of the Great Recession, knowing that once federal dollars were withdrawn, South Carolinians would pick up the tab.  He opposed the seatbelt law (you can now be pulled over specifically for not wearing a seatbelt in South Carolina, whereas before it was only ticketable if you were pulled over for some other infraction), arguing that adults can make their own decisions about their safety, and that traffic officers have enough to deal with already (it has to be difficult to spot through a window).

So, in my youthful naivete, I wrote a letter to my hometown paper, The Aiken Standard, showing my support for Mark Sanford.  He was under intense pressure to accept federal “stimulus” dollars, and when he relented, the opponents who argued he should take the money gleefully noted his inconsistency (a rule here:  the Left will never be satisfied).  Governor Sanford sent me a letter thanking me for the op-ed, which I still have somewhere on my bookshelf.

Then, less than a month or so later, Sanford was caught in a major sexual scandal (and I learned an important lesson about not overly-idealizing political figures).  After disappearing from the State, an aide told the press the governor was “hiking the Appalachian Trail” to clear his head.  A reporter with The State newspaper happened to see Sanford at the Atlanta airport at the time, and within days the whole sleazy story came out:  Governor Sanford had been in Argentina with his mistress (now wife), and his cloyingly sentimental love e-mails to her were blasted all over the news.

Sanford refused to step down as governor—a good call, as snake-in-the-grass, power-hungry, loafer-lightener Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer would have taken over—and finished out his term.  Everyone was sure he was done with politics… until he ran for US Congress for SC-1, his old district during his tenure in the 1990s.

He won against incredible odds.  His opponent, Elizabeth Colbert-Busch (the sister of Comedy Central hack Stephen Colbert), received huge fundraising donations from Democrats all over the country, including from the national party.  Sanford—deprived of his wealthy ex-wife, Jenny Sanford—urged supporters to make homemade yard signs out of plywood, cardboard, or whatever they had around the house.

Outspent 4:1, Sanford won.  He successfully painted his opponent as a hollow stand-in for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and his grassroots, DIY campaigning worked.  Of course, as one of my former students put it, “Jesus could run as a Democrat in that district and lose.”

Sanford returned to Congress for a few terms, then lost in a primary battle against Trumpist Katie Arrington.  Sanford always had one foot firmly planted in the Never Trumper wing of the GOP, and Arrington gobbled up his support in the primary.  She would, unfortunately, end up temporarily wheelchair bound due to a bad car wreck, and lost a very tight race to her Democratic opponent in 2018, a loss that still stings.

That’s enough history lesson for today.  Here is 2009’s “Mark Sanford’s Ideology“:

There has been much discussion lately about Governor Mark Sanford’s resistance to accepting federal stimulus money.  In the face of enormous public and political pressure, the governor has accepted these funds but will exercise considerable authority in determining who gets it.  For the purposes of this letter, I am not interested in whether or not this was the right thing to do.

I am more concerned with how the governor’s opponents have characterized his decisions.  Sanford’s rivals have accused him of political posturing.  Ignoring the vehement protestation against the governor’s actions, I find this interpretation lacking.  While the cynic in me is willing to acknowledge that there might have been an element of posturing to Sanford’s resistance, it seems highly unlikely that this was his only, or even a major, motivator.

His month-long battle against the federal stimulus, however, is much more readily explained by taking a look at his ideology and his record both as governor and as a congressional representative.  Sanford is perhaps the most ideologically consistent politician in contemporary American politics.  Since entering the political arena in 1994, Sanford has been the quintessential Republican; at least, he has been what the quintessential Republican should be.  By this I mean Sanford has sustained an unwavering faith in free enterprise and the free market while also endorsing socially conservative measures.  He is not quite a libertarian, but he has the general ideological bent of Ron Paul when it comes to the economy without the gold standard baggage.

A cursory glance at a website like ontheissues.org demonstrates how consistent Sanford’s ideology is.  In fact, the only inconsistency in his voting over the past 15 years is on affirmative action in college admissions.  While in Congress in 1998, Sanford voted against ending preferential treatment by race in college admissions, but in 2002 he said that affirmative action was acceptable in state contracts but not in colleges.  A closer examination of his voting history in Congress might reveal a few more inconsistencies, but I would wager any additional irregularities would still be far less than the typical congressman.

Regardless, Sanford’s commitment to fiscal conservatism and government accountability is astounding.  Sanford has repeatedly supported term limits (for example, he imposed one on himself while a representative to Congress), a balanced budget, and lower taxes, as well as pushing for choices for citizens in education.  Therefore, if we view Sanford’s struggle against the federal stimulus through the lens of his voting record and his statements as a congressman and governor, it is clear that his position derives from his sincere belief in his ideals.

Whether or not the governor is right is another matter.  That is not the point I want to make.  Agree or disagree, Governor Sanford is not taking a stand for political attention.  He is taking a stand because he believes it is right.  And, after all, isn’t that the important thing?

The State of the Right

A major topic of discussion among conservative and/or non-Left thinkers, bloggers, and political theorists is what exactly makes one a “conservative” (or, perhaps more accurately, what combination of values and axiomatic beliefs constitute “conservatism”).  For the philosophically-minded, it’s an intriguing and edifying activity that forces one to examine one’s convictions, and the sources thereof.

I’ve written extensively about the Left and what motivates it.  To summarize broadly:  the modern progressive Left is motivated, at bottom, by a lust for power (the more cynical of Leftists) and a zealous nihilism.  These motivations take on a Puritan cultural totalitarianism that cannot tolerate even the mildest of dissent.  Witness the many examples of how Leftists across time and nations have devoured their own.

That said, I haven’t written too much lately about what it means to be a conservative.  One reason, I’m sure, is that it’s always more difficult to engage in the oft-painful exercise of self-reflection.  Another is that the lines of conservative thought have been shifting dramatically ever since Trump’s ascendancy in 2015-2016, and the cementing of his control over the Republican Party—the ostensible vehicle for conservative ideology—since then.

As such, in the kind of serendipitous moment that is quite common in blogging, today’s post shares two pieces on the lay of the conservative landscape, and the various factions within the broader conservative movement (and, politically, the Republican Party).

One is, by the standards of the Internet, an old essay by Gavin McInnes, “An Idiot’s Guide to the Right.”  Written in 2014, one month before Republicans would win control of the US Senate, McInnes’s breakdown of the Right is still fairly prescient, although it’s always interesting reading discussions of the conservative movement pre-Trump (McInnes, like many conservatives, hoped and believed that Ted Cruz was the last, best hope of the movement; that was certainly my view well into 2016).

The other is a post from Tax Day, “What’s Right,” by an upcoming blogger, my e-friend photog of Orion’s Cold Fire.  He gives a detailed breakdown of the shifting coalition of the Right at present, and his own “red-pilling” is very similar to my own (indeed, photog and I both fall somewhat on the fringes of the “civic nationlist” camp, with toes cautiously dipped into the parts of the “Dissident Right,” a term itself coined by VDARE.com‘s John Derbyshire).

Traditionally (since the end of the Second World War, that is), the old Republican coalition was a three-legged stool, bringing together economic/fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and national security conservatives.  In the wake of the Cold War, the first two legs ceded more ground to the national security conservatives, some whom consisted of the much maligned “neoconservatives,” themselves reformed progressives who had been “mugged by reality.”

The neocons would enjoy their ascendancy during the George W. Bush administration, and they tend to be the major proponents of the dying Never Trump movement.  Their vehement hatred of Trump (see also: Bill Kristol, Senator Mitt Romney, and George Will) has largely discredited them, and they’ve shown that their true loyalty is to frosty globalism, not the United States.  They also pine for a mythical form of “decorum” in politics that never truly existed outside of the immediate postwar decades.

photog characterizes this group as essentially less strident Leftists, a group that “doesn’t shrink or grow.”  They were the “we need decorum” crowd that went big for the Never Trumpers, but who have largely made an unsteady cease-fire with the president—for now.  Bill Kristol and Max Boot, the extreme of this group, have essentially become full-fledged Leftists (making Kristol’s latest project, The Bulwark—to protect “conservatism,” ostensibly—all the more laughable).

These are the people that don’t want to vote for Trump, but might anyway, because he’s “morally reprehensible,” which is just their way of saying they think he’s icky and boorish.  These are the upper-middle class white women of the Republican Party, the ones I constantly implore to get over their neo-Victorian sensibilities and stop destroying the Republic from their fainting couches.

The biggest group, per photog, are the Conservative Civic Nationalists.  These are the people that love God and country, and like Trump because he represents the best hope to defend those very things.  McInnes, less perceptively, just calls this groups “Republicans,” although his “Libertarians” might fall into this group, too.  To quote photog at length:

The next big class of people are the Conservative Civic Nationalists.  This is the bulk of the Non-Left.  These are the normal people who have always believed in God and Country and that America was the land of freedom, opportunity and fairness.  They believed that all Americans were lucky to be living in the greatest country on God’s green earth.  They believed that the rule of law under the Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights is what made this the closest thing to heaven on earth and anyone living here should be supremely grateful to the Founding Fathers for inventing it and his own ancestors for coming here.  This is the group that has had the biggest change occur in the last couple of years.  But to define the change let’s break this group into two sub-divisions.  Let’s call them Sleepwalkers and the Red-Pilled.  Back in the early 2000s all the Civic Nationalists (including myself) were Sleepwalkers.

The “Red-Pilled” and “Sleepwalkers” dichotomy is one of the most interesting interpretations I’ve read about the Right lately, and it’s certainly true.  Trump awoke a large group of these Civic Nationalists, people that were disgruntled with the government overreach of the Obama era, but weren’t certain about the way forward.

Like myself, photog is cautiously optimistic that these folks will continue to wake up, bringing along non-political Centrists—the squishy, non-ideological middle—to bolster Trump’s reelection in 2020.  The Left’s relentless push for socialism and transgender bathrooms have done much to red-pill these folks, who find themselves struggling to articulate values that they just implicitly know are good, but which the Left insists on destroying.

There’s still much to be said about the current state of the Right, and I will be delving into it in more depth as the weeks progress.  For now, read these two essays—particularly photog’s—and begin digesting their ideas.  American politics are undergoing a major realignment, and we need people of good faith and values to stand for our nation.  Understanding the state of play is an important part of arming ourselves for the struggle.

Symbolism and Trumpism

Blogger photog at Orion’s Cold Fire often links to noteworthy pieces on American Greatness, the premiere blog for the Trumpist Right.  American Greatness does real yeoman’s work to articulate what Trumpian conservatism is.

His American Greatness Post of the Day for this foggy Monday morning is Robin Burk’s “What Trump Understands that Kevin Williamson Doesn’t.”

Kevin Williamson, you’ll recall, is the house globalist/libertarian for National Review (despite a brief, one-article stint at The Atlantic).  In 2016, he infamously wrote that “dysfunctional, downscale communities… deserve to die.”  He argued that communities like Garbutt, New York—a gypsum boomtown in the nineteenth century that ran its course when the gypsum was gone—have outlived their economic usefulness, and its inhabitants should move elsewhere for opportunity.

There is something to this perspective, but, as Tucker Carlson eloquently noted in an exchange with Ben Shapiro, the neoliberal order and its notions of economic mobility are hugely disruptive to communities.  Families are told, essentially, to leave behind their grandparents’ graves, their Little League teams, their memories, in order to work in service to the gaping maw of some efficiency-maximizing corporate conglomerate.

What Trumpism understands is that, while economies are dynamic, they require strong communities and stable families to maintain.  So it is that Robin Burk argues that Williamson’s libertarian approach lacks any sense of a narrative or symbols.  Williamson is testy because Trump is planning a big military parade (and, presumably, because Trump has been a far more effective advocate for conservatism than Williamson’s angry brand of libertarian orthodoxy).  It seems like wasteful agitprop to him.

What Burk explains in her piece, however, is that a common people need some unifying symbols.  That’s why the NFL National Anthem controversy revealed such deep splits in our culture.  It’s why Americans don’t particularly like it when protesters burn the American Flag.  Yes, it’s constitutional, but that doesn’t mean it’s good—and it’s the literal destruction of one of the most unifying national symbols.

Burk’s focus is more on the local, though, and it’s what makes her piece so interesting.  Communities are built between friends and neighbors.  Yes, the mills shutdown, and some people have to move to look for opportunity.  The mills shutting down also mean some people lose their way, and resort to opiates to numb the pain.

But not everyone can or wants to become economic mercenaries, shifting about rootlessly in search of the highest bidder—or just a job, for that matter.  Some folks want to build a life and a community where their ancestors did.

The implication from neoliberal and libertarian types is that, at best, that desire is unrealistic; at worst, it’s bad:  your loyalty should only be to efficiency!  Efficiency is morality!  While I love efficiency as much as the next cog, efficiency-for-its-own-sake is not and should not be our god.

As Carlson puts it (to paraphrase), we shouldn’t work for capitalism; capitalism should work for us.  Burk adds that we need symbols, formed from and interpreted by our individual experiences and memories, to create a society that fosters the good life.

More Good News: Tom Rice on the State of the Economy

My Congressman, Tom Rice of SC US House District 7, laid out the incredible impact President Trump and the Republican tax cuts have had on the American economy.  It’s worth taking five minutes to watch his testimony to the Ways and Means Committee of Congress, in which he discusses how dramatically the economy has improved in two years—after ten years of moribund “recovery”:

Congressman Rice gives a shout-out to Florence-Darlington Technical College and its diesel mechanics program, as well as Horry-Georgetown Technical College.  Our education system is a complete mess, but if we can get over our fixation on sending everyone to college, we’re poised to train skilled workers for high-tech manufacturing jobs, which are exploding in demand for qualified employees.

Most notably, he points out that Marion County—the poorest county in South Carolina—has seen its unemployment rate fall from ~9% to a little over 4% in two years.  Marion County is ~56% black, so that directly benefits the quality of life of black Americans in the county.

It’s little wonder that a recent Rasmussen poll put President Trump at a 52% approval rating.  President Trump’s reforms—passing tax cuts, fighting for better trade deals, and slashing regulations—have energized the American economy dramatically.

America’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Scott Rasmussen, writing for Ballotpedia, reports that 62% of American adults say their dream job is owning their own company.  That’s encouraging news, as it suggests that, despite decades of welfare state decadence, Americans still possess our entrepreneurial spirit.

That spirit has been with Americans going back to the colonial period.  Textbooks tend to focus on the Puritan planting of the Plymouth colony, which was certainly important, but the first permanent settlement in colonial British North America was Jamestown.  That settlement, and the entire colony of Virginia, was founded as a commercial enterprise, the efforts of joint-stock company in England.

French aristocrat and political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in Democracy in America (1840) over two centuries later (during the height of the Jacksonian Era), noted Americans’ keen interest in commercial matters, and the pulsing energy and enthusiasm of always hustling.  He also noted the positive effect of trade upon liberty:

Trade is the natural enemy of all violent passions. Trade loves moderation, delights in compromise, and is most careful to avoid anger. It is patient, supple, and insinuating, only resorting to extreme measures in cases of absolute necessity. Trade makes men independent of one another and gives them a high idea of their personal importance: it leads them to want to manage their own affairs and teaches them to succeed therein. Hence it makes them inclined to liberty but disinclined to revolution.

Despite enthusiasm about the idea of starting a business, Rasmussen’s findings show that only 5% of Americans are “very likely to start their own business” in 2019, while 11% are somewhat likely.

Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see that the desire to hustle is prominent among Americans.  The economic mojo of the Trump economy no-doubt improves Americans’ optimism (although I should note that many Americans started businesses during the Obama stagcovery, albeit for a different reason—they couldn’t find work).  That optimism likely fuels some desire to get in on the action.

On a personal note, I will say that even I, a high school teacher—teaching being a job uniquely suited to the risk-averse in general—have caught this bug (don’t worry, loyal readers—I’m not going to try to sell you massage oils with untested healing properties).  I’m excited to expand some of my side-hustles in 2019, including writing, performing live music, and teaching private lessons.

Regardless of how those pan out, the thrill of applying effort towards ones passions is exhilarating.  What could be more American?

Global Poverty in Decline

Regular readers know that I frequently cite pollster Scott Rasmussen’s #Number of the Day series from Ballotpedia.  I do so because a.) his numbers often reveal some interesting truths about our world and b.) blogging is, at bottom, the art of making secondary or tertiary commentary on what other, smarter, harder-working people have thought, written, and done.

Yesterday’s #Number of the Day dealt with global poverty; specifically, Americans’ ignorance to the fact that global poverty has declined substantially over the last twenty years.  Indeed, global poverty has been reduced by half in that time.

I’ll confess I was ignorant of the extent of this decline, too, although it makes sense that poverty has decreased, especially when you consider the rise of post-Soviet market economies in Eastern Europe and China’s meteoric rise since the 1980s.

I suspect that the perennial culprit of the Mainstream Media is to blame, in part, for this ignorance, coupled as it is with progressive politicians.  The rise of “democratic socialist” candidates—as well as the lingering effects of the Great Recession—would have Americans believe that the global economy is in terrible shape, and that “underprivileged” parts of the world labor in ever-worsening poverty (so, let’s just move them all here—that’ll solve poverty!).

It’s refreshing to see that capitalism is working its economic magic, and people all over the globe are lifting themselves out of poverty.  If representative republicanism and strong civil societies can take root and flourish in more places, the ingredients will be in place for continued economic and cultural growth.