Phone it in Friday XII: Good Reads

It’s been awhile (3 April 2020) since I’ve written a Phone it in Friday, which means I’ve been doing my job and writing actual content on Friday, not just slapping together listicles of random thoughts (that link is not intended to diminish Audre Myers, a far more engaging random thinker than me).  That said, today seems like a good opportunity to phone it in—after a day of baby wrangling yesterday, and a fitful night’s sleep (thanks in part to some heavy, but delicious, meals).

I’m also planning on unveiling my 2020 Summer Reading List in tomorrow’s SubscribeStar Saturday post (subscribe for a buck to read it!).  Ergo, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to highlight some good Internet reads from the past couple of weeks.

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Free Speech in the Private Sector

Assaults on free speech may be the most pressing issue of our time.  Anyone reading this blog has surely witnessed the deplatforming of conservative figures under nebulous “community guidelines,” as well as the personal and professional ruin that tend to follow.

Indeed, I occasionally fear that my dashed-off ramblings might, in some none-too-distant Orwellian America, be misinterpreted or misapplied as “hate speech”—all it takes is the wrong person complaining.  Of course, this blog’s obscurity is perhaps my best defense—I’m too small to matter.  That said, that fear is one reason I’m pumping up alternative income streams and attempting to boost my SubscribeStar subscriber base; the authoritarian maw of the SJWs grows ever wider.

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The Future of Barbecue

The good folks at the Abbeville Institute have a great piece (originally published at The American Conservative) about the most beloved and controversial of Southern foodstuffs:  barbecue.

Barbecue, as author John Shelton Reed points out, is highly localized.  For me—and any true South Carolinian—the One True ‘Cue is mustard-based pulled pork barbecue from South Carolina.  It’s definitely not beef brisket or anything with ketchup.  It should come from a place that’s only open three or four days a week, and is served with hash and rice.

Unfortunately, much like the “old, weird America” whose passing John Derbyshire regularly mourns, traditional barbecue—regardless of the regional variety—is being shoved out by “mass barbecue,” the kind served up in chains that look like the inside of Uncle Moe’s Family Feedbag.

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The Price of Freedom: A Good Attorney

A common observation on the Right is that the process is the punishment.  Leftists understand this premise well:  the power of an accusation and an attending lawsuit is that, even if the allegation is ultimately untrue, their opponent has endured costly legal battles.  That battle can cost them even more, including their livelihoods and their families.

Few people are able or willing to pay the costs, both financial and psychological (and, increasingly, physical) of Leftist attacks.  Those that do can look forward to years of grueling court appearances and legal fees, as the Masterpiece Cakeshop case demonstrated.

Conservatives know that story well:  the Christian owner of the Colorado bakery refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission trampled all over his religious convictions.  Rather than knuckle under to the social justice tyrants, the owner won a case in the Supreme Court after years of litigation… only to return home and have a man request a cake for a “gender transition” party.  The CCRC pounced on Masterpiece Cakeshop again.

The Left, in this regard, is relentless, as we saw last week with the Carlos Maza incident.  There is no pretext of fair play beyond the flimsiest, airiest of rhetoric—and, increasingly, the Left doesn’t bother with that.

Case in point:  a small, family-run bakery, Gibson’s Bakery, in Oberlin, Ohio, won a three-year suit for $11 million in damages against ultra-progressive Oberlin College.  The bakery was robbed the day after the 2016 election by three young black men, students at Oberlin.  The owner reported it to the police, and the three men were arrested.

But, because the burglars were black and the owners white—and, as the Breitbart piece reporting on the case implies, the progressives of Oberlin wanted to vent their tear-soaked anger at Donald Trump’s presidential victory on some unsuspecting white folks—the arrests soon became about race.

Not only did students protest—their professors and administration gave them time out of class to do so (and snacks)!  A college vice president, Meredith Raimondo, distributed flyers denouncing the bakery as racist, and which recommended other bakeries in the area.  The college also severed its business relationship with the bakery.

Like a medieval pope demanding criminal bishops be tried in ecclesiastical courts instead of civil ones, Oberlin further demanded that “first-time” offenders who are students at the college be turned over to the school for punishment.  Ignoring the glaring problem of how a shopkeeper is supposed to intuit if thugs in his store are first-time or repeat-offenders, that move to skirt the law through extralegal college tribunals smacks of the campus “rape” scare and its kangaroo courts—young men found guilty on flimsy charges of “retroactive rape” and the like.  Of course, in this situation, we all know that the college “courts” would sweep the criminal indiscretions of its students under the rug.

The result:  Gibson’s Bakery laid off most of its employees and nearly went out of business.

Justice was served in this instance with the much-deserved settlement (which has the potential to triple in value, pending a further hearing), but to quote commenter “mercury” on the Breitbart piece:

Unfortunately, there are probably 1,000,000 other cases that didn’t end so well for urban grocery stores, gas stations, convenience markets, clothes stores, and so on. This is where the perps got away with the theft, harassed or stole from customers, or shot the owners for resisting the theft.

Consider, too, the thousands of establishments that sucked it up and took one on the chin to stay in business.  Freedom, sadly, isn’t free.  Gibson’s Bakery defeated the Goliath of Oberlin College, but many Davids wither before progressive dominance.

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.

Pizza Paving Potholes

I love pizza and politics, and writing about both runs in the family.  So while looking for South Carolina’s primary election results this morning at thestate.com, I was intrigued to find the following headline:  “Tired of potholes? Domino’s Pizza helps pay for road repair. How to nominate Columbia.”

The State‘s article links to Domino’s Pizza’s Paving for Pizza program (how’s that alliteration?).  Here’s the gist of it:  nominate your town using your zip code, and Domino’s might pitch in some dough (tee hee) to fill its potholes.  They’ve already done it in several cities around the United States, from California to Texas to Delaware.

Every South Carolinian knows that one of our major issues is the poor state of our roads.  Indeed, last year the legislature passed a gas tax hike, the first phase of which kicked in at the beginning of 2018.  That tax will raise the tax by $0.02/gallon each year for six years, ultimately topping out at $0.12/gallon by 2023.

It also introduced increased fees for registering vehicles from out-of-state, and raised registration fees for hybrid and electric vehicles (which put more miles on roads using fewer gallons of gas, meaning hybrid and electric owners pay less in gas taxes—ergo, the State wants to get their cut from those drivers, too).

(Remember, South Carolina drivers, you can save your receipts from the gas pump starting this year—2018—and deduct what you paid in gas taxes from your SC income tax when you file for FY2018.  It has to be gas purchased in South Carolina—of course—and the receipt has to show the number of gallons purchased.  Hold on to those bad boys!)

So, what does this have to do with pizza?  Domino’s—like many companies in South Carolina and throughout the nation—needs good roads to deliver its gooey pies safely and efficiently.  Bad roads, littered with potholes, negatively impact Domino’s business, incurring expensive tire replacement and vehicle repair bills (and preventing your mushroom-and-pepperoni pizza from arriving in thirty minutes or less).

As such, Domino’s has a vested interest in seeing that roads are repaired.  Rather than lobbying for more roads funding or pushing for a gas tax, though, Domino’s decided to act directly in its economic interest—that is, to have better roads—and has committed to helping communities fill their potholes.

This kind of public-private partnership is innovative (and good marketing—I’m dedicating an entire wall-o-text to Domino’s Pizza!), and it demonstrates that free-market principles can work to the benefit of all parties.  Domino’s and its drivers get safer roads; residents of a “Paving for Pizza” town also enjoy safer roads; State and local governments save on astronomically expensive road repairs (I once heard a Florence County, SC Councilman say that it costs $1 million to repave one mile of road—yikes!); and taxes on gas or property don’t have to increase, which hurts everyone.

Kudos to Domino’s for taking a proactive approach to solving a public problem.