Author: James E. Miller

James E. Miller is the editor-in-chief of Mises Canada. He works as a copywriter in Washington D.C.

Paying people to not work still means they won’t work

There’s an old economic saw that goes: If you pay a couch potato to sit on his ass, he’ll keep his rear-end parked firmly in front of the TV.

OK, so maybe the proverb didn’t mention slothfulness and prat. The more well-known version concerns fish and pedagogy. But I think the lesson needs an update in light of an increasingly popular welfare ruse.

In the pages of the Wall Street Journal, social theorist Charles Murray proposes the ultimate form of the dole: a guaranteed income for all adult Americans. “The UBI [universal basic income] is an idea whose time has finally come, but it has to be done right,” he writes. How does one give away loads of free money “right,” you ask? By eliminating the entire welfare state, including Social Security and Medicare. Rather than have the less-well-off jump through bureaucratic hurdles trying to get food stamps, Medicaid, section 8 housing, and Obamaphones, just cut them a check and cut out the middleman.

“Under my UBI plan,” Murray notes, “the entire bureaucratic apparatus of government social workers would disappear, but Americans would still possess their historic sympathy and social concern.” The concern would be replaced with a faceless monthly bank deposit, presumably debited on the “1st of tha Month.”

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Dear Sanderistas: Your candidate is a pushover

Burn it down, Bernie!

Liberal allies turning on Bernie Sanders after Nevada donnybrook,” ran a Washington Post headline. After a public snubbing of Bernie supporters during the Nevada State Democratic Convention, the senator’s groupies are learning a hard lesson: The Democratic leadership hates their guts.

The animus was on full display last week when, according to NPR, “Sanders supporters allege they were denied being seated at the convention and that the state party chairwoman, Roberta Lange, was slanting the rules in favor of Clinton.” This led to a violent uprising, as Hillary was awarded five more delegates than the Vermont socialist, even though she narrowly won the state.

The Bernie Bros. weren’t having it and reportedly created a ruckus after being slighted by party leadership. When Hillary proxy Senator Barbara Boxer got on stage to woo the crowd, the Bernie Brigade let loose a torrent of boos and jeers.

A few thrown chairs and death threats later, the Nevada Democratic Party filed a formal complaint, accusing Sanders of initiating violence. DNC Chairbitch Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the senator’s response to the mayhem “anything but acceptable.”

To his credit, Sanders didn’t take the charges lying down. “At that convention, the Democratic leadership used its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place,” he shot back. Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver accused Wasserman Schultz of “throwing shade on the Sanders campaign since the very beginning.” Bernie even endorsed Wasserman Schultz’s primary challenger – sparking headlines about the senator going rogue and threatening the ability of the Democrats to unify behind Queen Hillary.

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The importance of gatekeepers

Blogger Andrew Sullivan is back, and his latest offering in New York magazine is a doozy. Here’s a quick (and predictable) synopsis: Donald Trump is an existential threat to the American system of constitutional order.

Trump Derangement Syndrome gets tiring, even from a sharp guy like Sullivan. But T-Man Sully does get one thing right about the Donald and our fragile Republic. Citing Plato, he argues that the populist swell that propelled Trump to the GOP nomination is a real danger to something our country is losing supply of: legitimate authority.

I know what you’re thinking: Talk of “legitimate authority” usually comes from puritan witch-burners or Stalinists. It’s true that if taken too far, authority can corrupt. But as sociologist Philip Rieff wrote in his book The Triumph of the Therapeutic, the culture before our modern era “was embedded in a consensus of ‘shalt nots.’” The America of yesteryear had “creedal hedges” in place around “impulses of independence or autonomy” that detracted from “communal purpose.” Our country used to have a shared set of standards regarding sexuality, religion, race, and working life. It wasn’t perfect; but at least it kept grown men out of the little girls’ room.

Those informal limits are long gone. Explanations are legion for the collapse; yet one factor in particular stands out: A lack of gatekeepers on truth and knowledge.

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Mother

Louanne Miller obit picture_smallOn Mother’s Day, I’m honoring Mom, who died two months ago – and you should honor yours, too

My mother, Louanne Vorba Miller of Middletown, took her last breaths on Friday, March 11, in Room 2044 of the intensive-care unit at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. It’s unreal watching your parent, especially your mother, die in front of your eyes.

Within a 10-minute span, everything went from OK to terminal. It was impossible to register what was happening: The woman who created, nurtured and cared for me for 28 years (mothers never stop looking after your well-being) suddenly ceased to be.
No more holiday visits. No more check-in phone calls. No more walking in the door, seeing her reading in her favorite recliner. No more arguing about politics over e-mail.

Those moments are gone. They live on only in memory. As Sir Henry Harcourt-Reilly said in T.S. Eliot’s play, “The Cocktail Party,” “We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them.” Mom, being an English major in college, would appreciate the literary reference.

Eliot’s truth never left my mind in the weeks following my mother’s untimely death. Her passing helped me realize just how precious our relations to others are. During our lives, we leave an indelible mark on those around us. We create ripples in life’s ocean that spread out, touch and interact with others, creating a web of connection that binds us, turning us from selfish creatures into beings capable of love and compassion.

Whether they be our friends, family, coworkers, or complete strangers, our essence is made whole by the people we bond with in our short time here.

Louanne Miller lived a simple life. But she, too, left an impression on those closest to her. Here are a few particularities I’ll remember her by:

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America’s Thinning Cohesion

If someone says that America is the one nation based on an idea and not an identity one more time, I swear I’ll…..

Eh, probably complain about it online before moving on to more practical matters. Anyway, here’s my latest Taki’s Mag piece about why Mexican immigrants need to assimilate or go home. An excerpt:

I can’t think of a better example of the “propositional nation” concept so enjoyed by the left. Liberals love to crow about America being an open, welcoming society for all. Mainstream conservatives, who wet the bed over the possibility of being called xenophobic or hateful, have foolishly given in to this abstraction. In a recent address to a group of congressional interns (read: a publicity stunt), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan contended that “America is the only nation founded on an idea—not an identity.”

Not by a mile, Mr. Amnesty.

The late Harvard professor Samuel Huntington has covered this ground before, but let’s recap: America is a country founded by men of English descent, informed by Protestant theology and Enlightenment ethics. The founders didn’t create a country and system of government that was meant for pygmy hut-dwellers. It was made for what John Jay called in Federalist No. 2 “a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs.” These “people” just so happen to be predominantly Anglo-Protestant. Over time, other creeds and ethnicities have adopted, sometimes imperfectly, the American identity, including Germans and Catholics. But we still remain a weird breed compared with, say, the goat-lovers in Syria.

So why is Ramirez so clueless about the historical roots of the country he was born in?

Read the rest here. And please, don’t put guacamole on your burger, unless you truly want to see America die.

Chopping Down Old Hickory

Contra my man Rob, I think ol’ Andy Jackson should stay put on the Twenty. I make my case in Taki’s Mag today. An excerpt:

The anti-Jackson bromides are not only wrongheaded but ignorant of the president’s impact on American democracy. Jackson was a man of ferocious ambition, of unworldly perseverance, and of seemingly unbreakable grit. He went from orphaned teenager to the highest office in the land, battling enemies far more powerful than himself along the way. His honor-driven frontiersman style is an American motif that has popped up periodically through our history. His effect on how we view government is reason enough to keep his saber-scarred face on our money.

The first time Jackson ran for president he won the popular vote but was denied the office by backdoor finagling between John Quincy Adams and then-Speaker Henry Clay. The corrupt bargain ignited a defiant spark in Jackson, who ran a populist campaign the next go-around, formally ushering in a democratic shift the founders warned against. He derided the political class as corrupt and in the pocket of elite interests (sound familiar?). He gave a voice to the farmers and laborers who had yet to experience political influence in the short history of the republic. The campaign was an incredible success. Jackson won a landslide victory with the backing of poor, newly enfranchised whites.

Read the whole defense here. The story of Andrew Jackson should be embraced, warts and all. Was he a dick? Of course. But, like Donald Trump, he was a dick to the right kind of people. And that’s good enough for me.

Oh, and why do you hate America so much, Rob?