Thursday, January 19, 2017
UK: The ever-wailing Left
Only 12% of Brits realise that the number of people in extreme poverty has fallen
It's January so it's that time of year when various left-wing campaigning groups, some of which have charitable arms for branding purposes, release their killer statistics that show that the world is crueller and more unfair than ever before.
Today it was Oxfam's turn, with its annual release showing that a handful of tech billionaires own more in assets than half the world's population combined. The implication is that life is getting worse and worse for the bottom half of the world, because robber barons like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are getting richer and richer.
It's almost totally wrong. Life is getting much, much better for the world's poor, however you want to measure it – whether it's in terms of average incomes, life expectancy, child mortality, disease, poverty, or women's rights. Inequality between poor and rich countries is falling, and even inequality here in the UK has fallen to its lowest level in thirty years. (Do click that link for proof – nobody believes me when I tell them, but it's true.)
Oxfam's numbers come from estimating the number of people in debt and who don't own any assets. That includes lots of Westerners who aren't poor by any real stretch of the imagination even though they owe money to a bank somewhere. Hell, if you have a Harvard MBA and a six-figure income to go with it, but a lot of recent student loans as well, you're part of Oxfam's bottom half. On the other hand if you own a semi-detached home in London you're quite likely to be Oxfam's top 1%. This isn't actually the best argument against Oxfam's numbers, because these people make up a small fraction of the 'asset poor' people we're looking at, but it's worth noting all the same.
This all muddies the waters a little, so Oxfam sticks to the big shots: The Oxfam's PR team, because these guys are for the most part household names for creating immensely valuable products that most of us use on a daily basis. Like using Facebook to keep in touch with old friends? Me too – and it doesn't bother me that the man who invented it has made a lot of money in the process. Windows isn't perfect, but I don't mind that Bill Gates has made a lot out of it. And though I always find it a little weird that the founder of Zara is the second richest man in the world, if other people can fit into their slim-fit offerings, more power to him.
And of course all these people have created jobs, paid lots in taxes, and in the case of Bill Gates donated tens of billions of dollars to charity – more than Oxfam has raised in its entire history, by the way. And that's great. But even this is not really the point – these people have made their contribution by coming up with new products and ways of doing business that let people buy and do things that matter to them more cheaply and easily than before. They wouldn't be billionaires if they hadn't created products of enormous value, and it's the products themselves that really count in making the world better.
But the real story has nothing to do with these guys. As we at the Adam Smith Institute keep saying, once we accept that getting rich doesn't have to mean someone else getting poor, you quickly realise that it's not the wealth of the people on top that matters but the welfare of people at the bottom.
Here are two graphs, from Oxford University's Max Roser, of absolute poverty over the last two hundred years. It falls steadily from the early 19th Century (thank the Industrial Revolution for that) but starts falling like a stone from around 1980 onwards. That's the beginning of the neo-liberal era, when third world countries like China, India and Vietnam decided to try something other than socialism and opened up their markets instead.
Maybe you think there's more to life than money. You're right. When we measure things like child mortality, hunger, illiteracy and pollution – and take a minute to read back over those words and think about what they really mean, to the people who suffer from them, and how devastating any one of them would be to you if you experienced them – when we measure things like this we find that they've fallen enormously from where they were just 26 years ago.
Not all of this was because of markets! This isn't a hardcore free market argument, as much as I like making those. It's an argument that the world is getting better, and where these advances have been made because of government or technology it's because markets have created the wealth for governments to tax and created the incentives and resources for innovators to come up with their life-improving inventions.
But it matters, because thanks to groups like Oxfam people are deeply misinformed about the reality of global poverty. Just 12% of Brits realise that the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has fallen over the past 30 years. 55% think it has increased.
I'm fed up with people denying inconvenient truths. Climate change is happening; immigrants aren't stealing our jobs; neo-liberalism is making the world's poor better and better off.
It's probably too much to expect organisations like Oxfam to spend its money actually helping the world's poor. If you want to give to a charity that does so in a cost-effective way, consider supporting some of GiveWell's top-rated charities. But it shouldn't be too much to ask Oxfam to tell the truth about the trajectory of global poverty, and admit that it's neo-liberalism, not left-wing agitprop, that is doing most of the heavy lifting.
SOURCE (See the original for links and graphics)
Absurd Leftist wailing in Australia
Wailing is what Leftists do
Former Labor Treasurer Wayne Swan found the publication of the 2016 OECD Better Life Index late last year to be a great disappointment, saying that it 'shows why we must fight harder to defeat Liberal/One Nation trickle-down agenda' and to focus more on '#inclusivegrowth'. The focus of his ire? Australia placed second -- a rise of two places over last year, but a fall from first in 2013.
I think I might be missing something here. If Australia had rated poorly, or fallen significantly from last year, you may be able to argue that our approach is wrong and fundamental change is needed. However typically when we compare well to other countries it means our policy settings are right!
This is just one example of a troubling trend in politics and public debate -- confirmation bias. All facts are filtered through an ideological lens until they provide evidence for your preferred position, no matter what those facts are.
Australia has plenty of policy problems, but to say the evidence for these problems is our high rating on a quality of living index seems a perverse argument.
I guess this shouldn't surprise. Last year, we were told that the extraordinary growth in Ireland's GDP is an argument against their low corporate tax rate.
The common factor here is that you can't win. Good news is bad news, and bad news is bad news. All evidence, whether good, bad or mediocre is an argument against a disliked policy.
Maybe we would be better off with an index of politicians' consistency, where we pay more attention to coherent and consistent pronouncements. One index where an improvement truly would be an improvement.
Why The Trump Presidency Will Bring A New Era For Racial Equality
Vijay Jojo Chokal-Ingam
In my op-ed for the Independent Journal Review before the election, I predicted Trump’s victory and commended the Republican nominee as “very courageous in his opposition to racism.” No doubt, Trump’s positions on border security, judiciary, and trade resonated with the clear majority of Americans. However, in my opinion, as an Indian American, he won because Americans believed Donald Trump when he told CNN’s Don Lemon, “I am the least racist person that you’ve ever encountered.” The American people understood Trump’s colorful and controversial language did not diminish his commitment to the cause of meritocracy and racial equality in our country.
In his landmark “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned a society in which people are not “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Yet, in the over 53 years since the apex of the civil rights movement, we seem to have thrown that ideal out the window. In our zeal to create racial equality for African Americans and Hispanics, we’ve forgotten white people deserve fair treatment as well.
Somehow, America has become a place where it is perfectly legal to discriminate against white people. In university admissions, public housing, and employment, widespread racial discrimination toward whites (and Asians) is legally tolerated under the auspices of affirmative action. For instance, the National Football League has its Rooney Rule granting interview opportunities to minority coaches that are not granted to whites. Another example is medical school admissions; it is consistently easier (by as much as 57%) for blacks and Hispanics to gain admission to medical school than comparable Asians and whites with the same grades and test scores, according to published statistical data from the American Association of Medical Colleges.
The discrimination is so pervasive that I had to apply to medical schools as an African American to gain admission, an experience I wrote about in my book Almost Black. I discovered many American universities openly discriminated against white and Asian applicants by compromising their academic standards and state residency requirements to recruit minorities. For instance, the University of Wisconsin-Madison invited me to apply as an out of state minority, despite their strict state residency requirements. I also benefited from Case Western’s racially segregated admissions process that favored minority applicants. Despite my low 3.1 GPA, I got waitlisted at the University of Pennsylvania and Washington University, then the country’s third and fourth best medical schools, thanks to their adherence to affirmative action policies.
It is no coincidence that Donald Trump achieved resounding victories in states where local educational institutions practice racially discriminatory admissions policies. From my personal experience, I can assure you that white people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Missouri have every right to be angry that their hard-earned tax money goes into state-sponsored racism against Caucasians. After the election, students at Case Western, Washington University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison vehemently protested against Donald Trump. Ironically, those students fail to acknowledge their schools’ racist affirmative action policies alienated white voters, contributing to Trump’s victory.
Unfortunately, Trump’s defense of equal rights for white people is often misconstrued as racism against African Americans and Hispanics. At a Harvard post-election forum, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri blatantly accused the Trump campaign of “providing a platform for white supremacists.” What Palmieri and other “civil rights activists” fail to recognize is their own hypocrisy – Why should white people be denied equal opportunity? Why are the rights of white people inferior to those of minorities? Perhaps, our country has become so politically correct that advocating rights for white people automatically equates to white supremacy. Even President Obama conceded that people who oppose affirmative action should not automatically be categorized as “being racists” in a recent Exit Interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep. Had Trump run a campaign based on “white supremacy,” he would not have performed as well as his Republican predecessors, Romney and McCain, among minority voters. Who would have thought a “white supremacist” could win almost a third of Hispanic votes?
President-elect Trump has already made strides towards winding down affirmative action and ending legalized racism. He has offered the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to Dr. Ben Carson, one of the most outspoken African American critics of affirmative action. As the head of HUD, Carson could gut affirmative action in public housing (“affirmatively furthering fair housing”). Trump’s Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions has also combatted racism on multiple fronts, acknowledging bias in policing, persecuting violent racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, opposing housing discrimination, and openly criticizing affirmative action. Most importantly, Trump has pledged to appoint a conservative-leaning Supreme Court that will have the power to overturn the narrowly decided Fisher case, permitting racial preferences. That’s why I am fond of saying “Donald Trump will end affirmative action, like Lincoln ended slavery.”
History often repeats itself. In 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace made his famous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door,” blocking black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from attending the University of Alabama. In many ways, Hillary Clinton and President Obama did the same thing in 2016 by supporting blocking a qualified white girl, Abby Fisher, from being admitted into the University of Texas at Austin. Hoping to win more black and Hispanic votes, Clinton and Obama publicly endorsed the Supreme Court’s Fisher case, denying educational opportunities to thousands of qualified Asian Americans and whites. To the credit of American voters, Clinton and Obama’s divisive racial opportunism backfired spectacularly.
After unsuccessfully running for President four times, Governor Wallace later recanted his racist views and publicly asked for forgiveness. After two unsuccessful presidential bids, perhaps one day, Hillary Clinton and her allies will acknowledge that their support of racism toward white Americans led to their crushing defeat.
Barack Obama's Fundamental Transformation
“We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” So declared Barack Obama in Columbia, Missouri, on October 30, 2008, on the cusp of his historic presidential election.
It was a stunning statement, boldly revolutionary, surpassed only by the response of those in attendance, who, rather than pausing to reflect upon such an audacious assertion, wildly applauded. To be sure, these Obama enthusiasts would have ecstatically cheered anything he said at that moment. There was a full-fledged Obama personality cult in motion at that time. He could’ve promised a box of “Lucky Charms” cereal in every home and gotten a giddy reaction. Obama himself admitted to serving as a kind of “blank screen” upon which Americans desiring some warm and fuzzy “hope and change” could project whatever they wanted.
But even then, the words “fundamentally transform” should have alarmed everyone. We Americans generally don’t do fundamental transformation. We make changes, yes, small and large, but who among us — other than the most radical revolutionaries — actually want to fundamentally transform the nation? Many people think that America has many problems, but those can be addressed without a fundamental transformation. Ask professors who teach history or political ideologies (as I have for two decades) and we will tell you that totalitarianism is the ideology that fundamentally transforms. Indeed, the textbook definition of totalitarianism, which I’ve scribbled on the chalkboard every fall and spring semester since 1997, is to seek to fundamentally transform — specifically, to fundamentally transform human nature via some form of political-ideological-cultural upheaval.
So, that being the case, I winced when Barack Obama said that, and then felt sick to the stomach when I watched people blissfully and blindly applaud without question or objection.
But now here we are, at the end of Obama’s presidency, a two-term one, and the question begs to be pondered: Did Barack Obama fundamentally transform the United States of America, as he promised?
The answer is absolutely yes.
That fundamental transformation, however, has not happened in areas where many might have hoped (or feared) in 2008. It has not been a fundamental shift in the attitudes of the vast majority regarding the role of government, taxation, regulations, economics, education, or even healthcare, where Obama had his signature legislative achievement. It hasn’t happened in foreign policy, though Obama has made a seriously detrimental impact in regions from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.
The reality is that the true fundamental transformation has been in the realm of culture, notably in matters of sexual orientation, gender, marriage and family. The shift there has been unprecedented and far beyond anyone’s imagination eight years ago. Looking back, that was where Obama’s heart was, and that was where his deepest impact will be felt. Changes there, more than anywhere, seem irreversible by anything other than the miraculous, than anything short of a religious revival or dramatic shift in spiritual-moral thinking.
Obama’s cultural revolution on the sexual-gender-family front is all around us. We see it in the culture of fear and intimidation by the forces of “diversity” and “tolerance” who viciously seek to denounce, dehumanize, demonize and destroy anyone who disagrees with their brazen newfound conceptions of marriage and family, even as our position (not theirs) has been the prevailing position of 99.99%-plus of human beings who have bestrode the earth since the dawn of humanity. Instead, in the Obama era, we are the ones portrayed as the outliers, as abnormal, as extremists, as “haters.” If you dissent from this new vociferous breed of human-nature redefiners, they sue you, they jail you, they smear you, they boycott you, they harass you, they ruin you — and they do so (with no sense of their hypocrisy) in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity.” Whether you’re a Baptist grandma who bakes cakes or a Catholic photographer who takes wedding photos or a Mormon florist who arranges flowers, they refuse your appeals to your conscience; they steamroll you. Changes by Obama and his allies here have constituted a major attack on religious liberty, where two-century-old First Amendment guarantees have been torched by modern culture warriors discerning heretofore unknown higher rights like “marriage equality” and co-ed toilets.
That is a fundamental transformation of a culture and a nation that did not exist prior to Barack Obama’s ascent.
The manifestations of this are so ubiquitous that laying them out here isn’t necessary, but I’d like to offer just a handful of brief illustrations and images:
The first was the Newsweek cover from May 2012 showing Barack Obama with a rainbow halo over his head above the words, “The First Gay President.” This was in response to Obama coming out for same-sex “marriage,” which for five years he had claimed to oppose. This public shift occurred as Obama was ramping up his reelection campaign, just as Hillary Clinton would do later that year when she announced her 2016 campaign. After that announcement, Obama went wild with an aggressive agenda of fundamental transformation on the sexual-gender-family front, one that picked up speed, depth and arrogance throughout his second term.
The second is another image, more profound than the Newsweek creation/coronation because it was real. It was from June 2015, when the Obama White House, the nation’s first house, was lit up in the colors of the “LGBTQ” rainbow on the day of the Obergefell decision, when a Catholic Supreme Court justice, Anthony Kennedy, led the liberal bloc of the court in redefining marriage and imposing this non-existent “constitutional right” on all 50 states. If ever there was a picture of Obama’s fundamental transformation of America, that was it.
Third was the bathroom fiat, when, according to Barack Obama’s word, all public schools were ordered to revolutionize their restrooms and locker-rooms to make them available to teenage boys who want to be called girls (among other gender novelties). It is hard to conceive a more surreal example of executive overreach. Truly, George Washington is rolling over in his grave.
Fourth is an ironic moment of Obama’s own doing, one that got virtually no press coverage. It occurred at a townhall meeting in London last April, where Obama was scolded by a young man for not doing enough to “recognize non-binary people” such as himself. This young man wanted the British government to “respect pronouns” — using not words like “he” or “she” but rather “hir” or “ze” — in addition to “commit to gender-neutral toilets.” “I really, really wish that yourself and [British Prime Minister] David Cameron would take us seriously as transgender people,” pushed the student. “And perhaps you could elucidate as to what you can do to go beyond what has been accepted as the LGBTQ rights movement, in including people who fit outside the social norms.”
It was almost hilarious to observe Barack Obama, of all people, reprimanded for inadequacies in this area, which brings me to my final example.
That London incident might have prompted a remarkable action by the Obama White House a few weeks later, which also got virtually no news coverage: The White House press office released two extraordinary fact sheets detailing Obama’s vast efforts to promote “LGBT” rights at home and abroad. Not only was it telling that the White House would assemble such a list, and tout it, but the sheer length of the list is striking to behold. It is hard to find any similar roster of such dramatic changes by the Obama White House in any policy area. The list runs page after page.
In short, what we see here is the true Barack Obama legacy, the genuine fundamental transformation. It has occurred not in economics, government or foreign policy but in culture. When we look back at Barack Obama’s eight years, we should visualize not ObamaCare or something in foreign policy but the White House illuminated in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, or a rainbow-haloed Obama coronated as the “first gay president.” Those are the crowning images of the fundamental transformation of America that Barack Obama achieved.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.