France’s Meltdown, Macron’s Disdain | Gatestone Institute

  • “The French say, ‘Mr. President, we cannot make ends meet,’ and the President replies, ‘we shall create a High Council [for the climate]’. Can you imagine the disconnect?” — Laurence Saillet, spokesman for the center-right party, The Republicans, November 27, 2018
  • The “yellow jackets” [protestors] now have the support of 77% of the French population [by some reckonings, 84%]. They are demanding Macron’s resignation and an immediate change of government. The movement is now a revolt of millions of people who feel asphyxiated by “confiscatory” taxation, and who do not want to “pay indefinitely” for a government that seems “unable to limit spending”. — Jean-Yves Camus, political scientist.
  • European elections are to be held this Spring, 2019. Polls show that the National Gathering [a.k.a. National Rally, the party of Marine Le Pen] will be in the lead, far ahead of La République En Marche! [The Republic on the Move!], the party created by Macron.

Source: France’s Meltdown, Macron’s Disdain | Gatestone Institute

Europe is struggling, but Europe is also beginning to awaken from its long sleep, or at least, lethargy. This is still more evidence of that awakening. Will it awaken enough, and soon enough?

It’s like watching the Titanic churn toward that iceberg, but you can both see and sense the turning of the rudder and the backing of the screws beginning to bite. Will they turn the bow fast enough, far enough, to prevent a fatal collision? These are tense times, to put it mildly!

“Marine Le Pen, president of the right-of-center National Rally (the former National Front party, and today the main opposition party in France), said, ‘There is a tiny caste that works for itself and there is the vast majority of French people who are abandoned by the government, and feel downgraded, dispossessed.’https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7f/Marine_Le_Pen_%282017-03-24%29_01_cropped.jpg/220px-Marine_Le_Pen_%282017-03-24%29_01_cropped.jpg

“The ‘yellow jackets’ [named for the yellow safety vests worn by the protesters] now have the support of 84% of the French population. They are demanding Macron’s resignation and an immediate change of government. Those who speak on radio and television say that Macron and the government are hopelessly blind and deaf.

“At the moment, the ‘yellow jackets’ have decided to organize a third national protest – today, Saturday, December 1st – with another march to Paris and the Elysée Palace. The revolt in the country is intensifying and shows no sign of slowing down.”

As Dr. Guy Millière, professor at the University of Paris and the author of this piece, points out,

“The ‘populist’ wave is now hitting France; it could well mean the end of Macron’s term as president.”

Au nom du peuple.

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The Left Case against Open Borders – American Affairs Journal

The destruction and abandonment of labor politics means that, at present, immigration issues can only play out within the framework of a culture war, fought entirely on moral grounds.

Source: The Left Case against Open Borders – American Affairs Journal

To say that the Left has “painted itself into a corner” on the topic of open borders and mass migration is to say no more than the truth:

“The destruction and abandonment of labor politics means that, at present, immigration issues can only play out within the framework of a culture war, fought entirely on moral grounds. In the heightened emotions of America’s public debate on migration, a simple moral and political dichotomy prevails. It is ‘right-wing’ to be ‘against immigration’ and ‘left-wing’ to be ‘for immigration.’ But the economics of migration tell a different story…

“While no serious political party of the Left is offering concrete proposals for a truly borderless society, by embracing the moral arguments of the open-borders Left and the economic arguments of free market think tanks, the Left has painted itself into a corner. If ‘no human is illegal!,’ as the protest chant goes, the Left is implicitly accepting the moral case for no borders or sovereign nations at all. But what implications will unlimited migration have for projects like universal public health care and education, or a federal jobs guarantee? And how will progressives convincingly explain these goals to the public?”

As this article points out in stark terms, the American Left in general, and the Democratic Party in specific, is going to have to wrestle with the fundamental question that leftist and center-left parties in Europe are already grappling with, namely, what does it want to be when it grows up? What are the core values, and the core constituency, on which it wishes to focus?

Ultimately – and probably sooner rather than later – American Democrats are going to have to choose:

Do they want to be the party of mass migration and open borders, or do they want to be party of a social safety net that assists the disadvantaged (and really, anyone who is not part of the infamous “1%”) and those struggling here at home? They are going to have to choose one or the other, because there is not enough money, and there are not enough resources, to do both.

Lofty ideals and stirring rhetoric aside, we simply cannot “feed the world.” There is too much world out there. So are we going to do what we can to help, while focusing our finite energy, attention, and resources on the plight of our own people? Or are we going to tear down the borders, and lay prostrate at the feet of a wave of economic migration that will diminish if not destroy everything we have built here over the last several centuries, for little if any improvement in their own situation?

The time of choice is drawing near. Indeed, it is already upon us!


N.B.: I am looking at this from the perspective of my own country – the U.S. – and the West in general, but the article also makes the point that mass migration is actually harming rather than helping the migrants’ countries of origin:

“Despite the rhetoric about ‘shithole countries’ or nations ‘not sending their best,’ the toll of the migration brain drain on developing economies has been enormous… Developing countries are struggling to retain their skilled and professional citizens, often trained at great public cost, because the largest and wealthiest economies that dominate the global market have the wealth to snap them up… It is not difficult to see why the political and economic elites of the world’s richest countries would want the world to ‘send their best,’ regardless of the consequences for the rest of the world. But why is the moralizing, pro–open borders Left providing a humanitarian face for this naked self-interest?”

“According to the best analysis of capital flows and global wealth today, globalization is enriching the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries at the expense of the poorest, not the other way around…. Global wealth inequality is the primary push factor driving mass migration, and the globalization of capital cannot be separated from this matter. There is also the pull factor of exploitative employers in the United States who seek to profit from non-unionized, low-wage workers in sectors like agriculture as well as through the importation of a large white-collar workforce already trained in other countries.”

But what do we hear about this from the Left, traditionally the defenders of workers and the poor, against rapacious capitalists? Nothing. Nada. Crickets.

I have often talked about the unholy alliance between Washington, DC, and Wall Street; an even more unholy and damaging one may be between the corporate capitalists, profiteers, and neo-robber barons, and the supposedly “moral” Left, with its apparent desire to welcome anyone who is not of Western (read: European) origin.

In their desire to pull down what they see as “oppressive” structures of Western civilization, the Left is willing to make common cause with their greatest historic enemy – capital – and sell out their own natural constituency, labor. Want to talk about “collusion”…? There’s your collusion!

In any case, read the article, all of it. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest! Much that’s worth thinking about in it, although it’s far from comforting.

A generation plans an exodus from California | Orange County Register

Today even some of the state’s determined progressives understand that taking the “California model” national seems implausible when significant numbers of Californians are headed in large numbers to red Texas or purple Las Vegas.

Source: A generation plans an exodus from California – Orange County Register

Some of us do not find it surprising that California is, as this article puts it, continuing to “hemorrhage” people at a high rate: “Since the recovery began in 2010, California’s net domestic out-migration… has almost tripled to 140,000 annually. Over that time, the state has lost half a million” of its residents to out-migration – people leaving the state.

More significant than mere numbers, though, is the demographic those numbers represent:

“The key issue for California, however, lies with the exodus of people around child-bearing years. The largest group leaving the state — some 28 percent — is 35 to 44, the prime ages for families. Another third come from those 26 to 34 and 45 to 54, also often the age of parents.”

Many, in other words – in fact most, almost two-thirds – of those leaving California are those of family-rearing age: that is to say, those who are most important for the future of the state.

There is no question that a lot of this is due to, as the article again points out, the high cost of living there, and particularly the high cost of housing:

“Over 90 percent of the difference in costs between California’s coastal metropolises and the country derives from housing. Coastal California is affordable for roughly 15 percent of residents, down from 30 percent in 2000, and 30 percent in the interior, [down] from nearly 60 percent in 2000. In the country as a whole, affordability hovers at roughly 60 percent.”

It’s hard enough to afford housing here in Maryland (also a coastal state, of course); the situation is much worse in California. But housing costs alone might not tell the whole story; indeed, this article itself hints – cautiously – at the likelihood that California has got its priorities screwed up, and many Californians (or former Californians, or soon-to-be-former Californians) know it.

The author – Joel Kotkin, R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism – notes that (in the quote with which I opened this),

“Today even some of the state’s determined progressives understand that taking the ‘California model’ national seems implausible when significant numbers of Californians are headed in large numbers to red Texas or purple Las Vegas,”

and continues,

“California’s media and political elites like to bask in the mirror and praise their political correctness. They focus on passing laws about banning straws, the makeup of corporate boards, prohibiting advertising for unenlightened fundamentalist preaching or staging a non-stop, largely ineffective climate change passion play. Yet what our state really needs are leaders interested in addressing more basic issues such as middle-class jobs and affordable single-family housing.”

So long as California’s leadership continues to value political correctness over improving the practical quality of life – indeed, the ability to live in the state at all – of ordinary folks, the more California seems likely to to continue hemorrhage people.

This should be a wake-up call for the “chattering classes” in other (currently) “blue” states. It should be. But will it? Or will they continue to be blinded by an ideological agenda that is at best irrelevant, and often off-putting, to the majority of ordinary people?

True believers will continue to be true believers, no matter what, of course. Ideologues are ideologues because it is their mentality to be so. But there have to be at least some adults in the crowd, don’t there? Don’t there…?

Mike Rowe: Lending money to kids who can’t pay it back to educate them for jobs that don’t exist anymore is a bad idea.

I think Mike Rowe is quite on-target with this. As a friend of mine put it, when she posted this on Facebook earlier today,

“I don’t regret college, I believe it was the right choice for me, but I do regret not being more thoughtful about the degree I chose. I love history but if I had it to do over again, I would double major in something a little more employable.

“Let’s stop telling kids if they get a college degree they won’t have a problem getting a job. We have too many college graduates with the equivalent of a mortgage at the age of 22 who are under- and unemployed for that to be true. Seek all options and find what works for you.”

Indeed. I have said for years that we as a society make a mistake when we try to sell “college for all.” For any reason, but particularly as a ticket out of poverty!

First and foremost, not everyone has the intellectual gifts and temperament for college. Actually getting them through it – which we must, if we are claiming that anyone can go to college, and everyone should – means that a) academic standards are being “dumbed down,” and b) colleges themselves are refashioning themselves into glorified vocational institutes, which is unfair both to them, and to genuine vocational institutes, which have for a long time gotten a great deal less credit and support than they deserve.

On a related note, it fosters the greed and expansionism (both part of fallen human nature) to which colleges and universities – no less than any other large human institutions – are prey, leading them to seek to recruit more and more students (whether they are what was once called “college material” or not), thus exacerbating the problems.

Speaking of problems, when more and more students are (by hook or by crook) graduating, diploma in hand, we have a growing issue of degree inflation: in which an Associate’s, or even a Bachelor’s, degree is needed to perform jobs which once could be filled by a qualified high school graduate, a Masters to fill what were formerly Baccalaureate positions, and a Doctorate to fill what used to be Masters-level positions.

Which of course means that now more and more people are trying to go to college or “uni,” because what used to be a helpful bonus is now a necessity! And once again the problem grows…

From the standpoint of economic success, the reason a college or university degree used to be a pathway out of poverty is precisely because it was RARE. It was indicative of a person with an unusually high degree of intellect, drive / determination, or simple sticktoitiveness, either singly or in combination. That is obviously not the case when a degree is simply another ticket to be punched, on one’s way (hopefully, but less certainly all the time) up the ladder.

It was also viewed by those tasked with hiring as a major plus because a college or university graduate could reasonably be considered to be a person who had both a certain broadness of perspective, and who had received training in broadening and fostering his or her critical thinking skills.

With colleges and universities morphing into vocational training schools, the classic liberal arts breadth of perspective is increasingly becoming a thing of the past; while even a brief survey of the level of political – or if there even was such a thing any more, philosophical – discourse in this county by folks who theoretically are the beneficiaries of higher education leads to the inescapable conclusion that critical thinking can no longer be counted upon as one of the fruits of such education.

But the root problem is this: if everyone has a thing, it is no longer special. Would anybody care about having a Porsche, if everybody had a Porsche? Businesses aren’t going to pay someone more for a college degree if everyone has a college degree! So the more people who seek one as a means of getting hired, or paid more, the less likelihood there is that any particular degree-holder is going to be hired, or given a raise.

The most they will do is refuse to consider anyone who does not hold a degree, transforming what – as I mentioned above – used to be a selling point, into a necessity. It is difficult for me to see how this is an improvement in the situation!

On a personal level, I agree with you, Olivia: I am the holder of a B.A. in medieval studies, and a Masters in theology. While I do not (usually) regret either degree, I also have to be honest enough to admit that cool as they are, neither has proven particularly salable! They have not brought me the level of financial stability – forget about “success,” whatever that means – that the salesmen for universal college education would like people to believe.

If I could do it over again, I, too, would have chosen my major(s) with more care, taken a second and more salable major, or at the very least gotten my teaching certificate when I was in college the first time. Or perhaps better yet, learned a trade, to fall back on. Degree inflation was already a “thing” when I graduated in 1991, and the intervening almost 30 years have increased the problem exponentially!

That doesn’t mean that those degrees weren’t worthwhile in other respects: they were, and are. I am very glad, from a personal and philosophical standpoint, that I got the education I did. But as money-makers? Not so much. Thank God I didn’t go on for Ph.D. study, and come out with that level of debt, and not much more chance of finding employment!

If I had dictatorial powers, I would make colleges and universities smaller, not larger; shrink, rather than increase, their enrollment; and return them to what they used to be: places for those who wished to grapple with the larger and deeper existential questions of life – for the pursuit of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. At the same time, I would strengthen opportunities for vocational / technical learning, which is badly needed, and which can be done more efficiently and economically in other contexts than a college or university environment.

Higher education and vocational training are not the same thing, and it’s time we stopped pretending that they are.

Education, the arts, metaphysics, and robber-barons – inspired by “I’ll Take My Stand”

https://i1.wp.com/solidarityhall.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/takemystand1.jpg?resize=202%2C300Here’s another excerpt from Donald Davidson’s essay, “A Mirror for Artists,” in I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (1930), with my thoughts inspired thereby, following:

“Education can do comparatively little to aid the cause of the arts as long as it must turn out graduates into an industrialized society which demands specialists in vocational, technical, and scientific subjects. The humanities, which could reasonably be expected to foster the arts, have fought a losing battle since the issue between vocational and liberal education was raised in the nineteenth century…’

“The more they indoctrinate the student with their values, the more unhappy they will make him. For he will be spoiled for the industrial tasks [and the same could be said of technology, or the “service economy”] by being rendered inefficient. He will not fit in. The more refined and intelligent he becomes, the more surely he will see in the material world the lack of the image of nobility and beauty that the humanities inculcate in him.”

Maybe this is the true reason that so many colleges and universities seem to be trying to re-envision themselves as glorified vocational schools! The proximate cause may be the (arguably laudable, on the face of it) desire by institutions of higher learning to make themselves more “relevant” and help their students get jobs with their diplomas.

But it may be that the ultimate cause is the desire of the puppeteers that pull the strings in so many aspects of society – the globalist, corporatist plutocrats, the vulture capitalists and profiteers, the robber-barons of the 21st century – to suppress aspirations toward the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, in favor of their (un)holy trinity of Production, Consumption, and Profit.

It certainly would suit those whose goal in life is to make money by selling “stuff” (whether goods or services) to promote the creation of a society of mindless drones who are numbed by the technological equivalent of “bread and circuses” into a passive existence where getting said “stuff” and being entertained (mostly electronically, which doesn’t even require a person to leave the house) becomes the goal of an otherwise largely futile and nihilistic existence.

They certainly wouldn’t want people to be seriously wrestling with questions like “what is the Good?” or “how do we reach it?” or “what is the proper end of a human being?” Or struggling with attempting to discern the meaning of Truth, or which volitional (self-willed) acts of a human being are ethically virtuous, and which are ethically vicious. Or even grappling with the characteristics of genuine Beauty, and the relationship between and among Beauty, Truth, and Goodness, the classical Three Transcendentals.

Best not to even admit that there might be such a thing as transcendence. Certainly under no circumstances should they be led down trails which might lead them to the consideration that there may be some sort of actual, objective Divine Reality, outside the constraints of our physical-sensory universe (although in significant ways immanent within it) – and especially not one which is personal, concerned with humanity, and which has both plans for, and expectations of, us humans!

Human beings concerned about such matters would be lousy consumers of “stuff,” since they might begin to suspect that there may after all be higher aspirations which are, in the long run, more important…

The Blowback Against Facebook, Google and Amazon Is Just Beginning | Charles Hugh Smith: Of Two Minds

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“The theory of the happy union of capitalism and democracy rests on capitalism creating secure middle-class employment for millions of citizens. Once capitalism only creates a peon-debt-serf class and a 5% technocrat / manager / financier / entrepreneur / speculator class that harvests 70% of the wealth and income, then democracy dies by the slow poison of rising inequality and ever greater asymmetries of wealth and political power.”

Source: Charles Hugh Smith: The Blowback Against Facebook, Google and Amazon Is Just Beginning

Politics, my late grandfather used to say, makes for some mighty strange bed-fellows.

Capitalism was a logical ally for our American (and more generally, Western) representative democratic-republican system during the Cold War, when our enemies were based on a vicious combination of totalitarian political systems and state-controlled economies – and when capitalism was indeed creating secure middle-class employment for millions of citizens.

But this is no longer happening; indeed, quite the reverse. What we are seeing is increasing polarization into “haves” and “have-nots,” into wage-slaves and wealthy overseers. Which leads to the question, is today’s capitalism an ally of freedom, (representative) democracy, and self-determination, or yet another – and apparently voracious and implacable – adversary? At the least, as the above quote makes clear, democracy (or, as in the U.S., a Constitutional Republic) and capitalism are not always or necessarily allies.

This is true in part because of a difference in philosophy and ethos.

Capitalism is, at base, about competition and dominance: various companies, corporations, entrepreneurs, etc., are are in competition to attract consumers, acquire customers, and in the process, accrue wealth and the power that comes with it. Those entities that are most successful eventually dominate the marketplace, at least until a more successful competitor comes along and knocks them off their hill. People are viewed basically as units of production, consumers of goods and services – sources of either labour or money – or both.

Democracy, on the other hand – or again, more properly, representative republics (because a true popular democracy is perpetually dancing on the edge of demagoguery and dictatorship) – is about power-sharing, checks and balances, and the common good. While competition is not absent (particularly during campaign season!), a properly-functioning representative republic is more about cooperation than competition and dominance. People are viewed as citizens and members of society, with a common stake in the success of the enterprise.

Thus, both the methods and the aims of representative democratic–republicanism and those of capitalism – at least, in its current dominant form – are actually quite distinct. But it is also the case that not all forms of capitalism are created equal.

There is a great deal of difference between the kind of extreme crony capitalism, economic oligarchy, or corporate plutocracy in which neo-robber-barons like the aforementioned Google, Facebook, and Amazon are able, by their extreme wealth and the power that wealth purchases for them, to manipulate the machinery of democracy itself, and the capitalism of the Jeffersonian ideal, in which a nation of yeoman farmers, shopkeepers, craftsmen and artisans, merchants and tradesmen, working largely for themselves, own pieces of a widely distributed network of capital and means of production.

I have commented previously on the fact that the present, voraciously predatory form of capitalism is a relative latecomer to humankind, and even within the American experience: the massive shift that took place from the Antebellum (pre-War Between the States) period to the Gilded Age (from c. 11850 to just before the First World War) was a cataclysmic course-change, here in the U.S., from a culture and society in which most Americans worked for themselves (most of those on farms, the rest in the kind of Jeffersonian businesses I mentioned above) to one in which the vast majority of Americans worked for others, for wages.

The modern form of plutocratic capitalism is not the default form, for America – and furthermore, it is not, I think, healthy for any society.

The question, of course, is what can be done about the present crisis; and although the linked article points out – accurately, I think – that blowback is beginning, what form it will take, and what effect, it will have, remains to be seen. But that something needs to be done is, I think, an unavoidable conclusion; lest we end up governed by “Avatar”-style quasi-governmental administrative entities (QGAEs) that are accountable to no one – except, perhaps, their stockholders!

A full return to the Jeffersonian ideal is (sadly, in my opinion) probably pretty unrealistic, in today’s world. But something like Chestertonian distributism may be, as I have posited on more than one occasion, the only route to a system of economics which is human both in scale and in ethos. Every alternative I can think of is frightening.

The Big Pile of Work That Must Get Done – by John Horvat

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While both sides [Left and Right] clamor for jobs, they fail to call for work. The old distinction between “job” and “work” could well shed some light on where we need to go to solve our economic problems.

Source: The Big Pile of Work That Must Get Done – by John Horvat

John Horvat precisely articulates the real problem with that oft-repeated refrain by some on the economic right – or who think they’re on the economic right, which usually means they are neoliberal, a school of thought which is only (very) questionably conservative, and not traditional at all – that people should just “get a job”:

The word “job” is recent, dating from the Industrial Revolution. Its original meaning was “a pile of things to be done,”  and now insinuates something done indifferently for hire. On the other hand, the word “work” is a very old word dating back to medieval England. Its first appearance is in the eleventh century Aelfric Homilies which stated that “work was begun under God’s will.” Work refers to an activity done for its own sake, motivated by a pleasure or passion for that which is done, as in a work of love or a work of art.

And that is the problem with so many well-intentioned people calling for jobs – they don’t call for work. They create “piles of things to be done,” which once done leave us looking for further piles… What is missing is the human element that has been hollowed out of the economy. Our economy has taken on a mechanical character where people really don’t matter anymore since they are but numbers in bureaucratic databases or statistics in political campaigns.

Of course, there are times when people need “jobs” as temporary avenues to secure sufficient income to live. But the job should not be the norm. It cannot become a panacea for all our economic ills. Indeed, creating jobs for jobs’ sake tells people they are expendable.

Work is something different; it confers dignity and value. Because work involves a passion for something, it goes deep into the soul. Work is not all about money. It involves relationships, honor and loyalty that bind together employer and employee, producer and consumer, and even families and generations. Work looks for craftsmanship, profession and calling. It includes God since real work takes on a prayer-like character…

The problem is so many are unwilling to even consider moral issues in the context of economic problems. They refuse outright to make the link between human relationships and business transactions. They prefer to reduce everything back to jobs.

Our efforts to rescue the present economy will be to no avail unless we look beyond the “piles of things to be done” and help those who will work to follow the desires of their hearts.

So “get a job” (frequently delivered in a sneering tone of voice) means exactly what it sounds like it means: do something, anything, to get paid, and never mind whether it has anything to do with your vocation, or even the larger good of society – two concepts which, in a healthy society, ought not to be at odds. Horvat is right: there are times when that is a practical necessity – but it should not be the norm. “Get a job” is a mindset which may, in the short term, get people off the streets. But it is not the way to build, long-term, a healthy society, still less a culture of lasting value.

Much to think about!