Sunday, April 3, 2016

Seduction Into Slavery

     North Carolina was recently in the news for a law the New York Times says “eliminated local protections for gay and transgender people.” I hope some Gentle Reader will correct me if I’m wrong, but “gay and transgender people” in North Carolina still can’t be legally assaulted, stolen from, defrauded, raped, killed, or involuntarily tattooed, can they? All such actions remain forbidden by North Carolina’s penal code. So what “protections” do North Carolina’s homosexuals and transgendered persons lack?

     Perhaps that doesn’t much matter, as I’m fairly certain that smart homosexuals and transgendereds will observe the ancient guideline for the preservation of social peace: “Don’t go where you’re not wanted.” That guideline would seem to apply to sex-segregated facilities just as to all other modes of human interaction. As for the less-than-smart individuals in those categories, there’s the Niven / Pournelle categorization: “Think of it as evolution in action.” Either way, reasonably wise individuals will behave with reasonable wisdom; the rest of us will have to live with the consequences of our stupidity.

     One of the great stupidities au courant today is that if “we” want to mold human behavior in some desirable way, all “we” need to do is pass a law about it. The late, great Milton Friedman had something to say about that:

     The view that if there is a problem, if there is something wrong, the way to deal with it is to pass a law, set up a governmental agency (staffed, of course, by the intellectuals urging this solution), and use the police power of the state to correct it is, as Mr. Simon demonstrates so well, superficially appealing view. It is simple, as well as simpleminded, and appeals to our natural impulse to take personal credit for the good things that happen and blame a “devil” for the bad things. [From the Preface to William E. Simon’s A Time For Truth]

     (Being a snarky sort, I’d have sneer-quoted the words “problem” and “intellectuals” in the above. Being a scholar, Dr. Friedman refrained. Whether he was tempted to do so is unrecorded.)

     But police power isn’t the only instrument at hand. What North Carolina must face is the consequence of having been seduced by federal money:

     The Obama administration is considering whether North Carolina’s new law on gay and transgender rights makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways and housing, officials said Friday.

     Cutting off any federal money — or even simply threatening to do so — would put major new pressure on North Carolina to repeal the law, which eliminated local protections for gay and transgender people and restricted which bathrooms transgender people can use. A loss of federal money could send the state into a budget crisis and jeopardize services that are central to daily life.

     Although experts said such a drastic step was unlikely, at least immediately, the administration’s review puts North Carolina on notice that the new law could have financial consequences. Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina had assured residents that the law would not jeopardize federal money for education.

     Federal funds are offered to state governments for a host of reasons. All such funding is wrong on principle. Funds collected by the federal government through taxation are Constitutionally applicable only to activities legitimate under one of the enumerated powers of Congress. The structure of Article I, Section 8 makes that quite clear. Of course, the Constitution is of only historical interest these days, but I thought it might make an interesting sidelight to the issue at hand.

     Federal funding of state-level activities is a reliable technique for coercing state governments into compliance with federal wishes. At this time, the federal powers-that-be are propitiating every activist group within the Left’s coalition. Thus, homosexuals and transgendereds are receiving political obeisance.

     The withdrawal-of-funding club has been applied to other socially divisive subjects as well. A couple of states have come under fire for legislatively protecting the right of individuals not to be coerced into participating, directly or indirectly, in phenomena that offend their religious beliefs, such as same-sex “marriages.” Such “marriages” have been a subject of controversy that has enveloped merchants with no possible connection to it – not even a hypothetical one. States that have attempted to protect those merchants’ religious freedom have been threatened with the loss of federal funds, just as has North Carolina.

     The key here is that governments grow addicted to their sources of revenue. If a state government’s revenue stream includes a sizable contribution from Washington, it takes very little time for the state to think of that contribution as vitally necessary, regardless of the ostensible reason for the award. Money is infinitely fungible; funds awarded to the state for “flim” make it easier to find funding for “flam.” However, after a year or two, those involved with “flim” will howl at the very thought of losing the subsidy. It will become a “right.”

     Two-hundred-plus years of political devolution, emphatically including the devolution of political language, have rendered states and localities incapable of declining funds from a higher level of government. Do their legislators and executives foresee the consequences? Unknown. What’s quite plain is that the funds are always accepted and put to some use that will later be termed a “necessity” and a “right.”

     Federalism was supposed to make this sort of thing impossible as well as unthinkable. So much for federalism. The Constitution, as noted above, forbids it. So much for the Constitution.

     Since 1933, seduction by the wallet serves federal power better than any other technique. Yet not one candidate for the presidency has had a word to say about this devious contravention of the federal idea. Perhaps they would protest that no one has asked them. So much for the trade of journalism.


daniel_day said...

Constructing more "unisex" toilets marked for either men or women won't satisfy the sexually conflicted (to use the nicest terminology that comes to my mind), who demand public approval and enabling of their psychological conditions. There really is no compromise I can see. Either we erect legal protections for biological men to enter women's toilets, or we continue forbidding it.
As a man, I'm slightly less disgusted by the prospect of women, or females-becoming-fake-males, in "my" public toilets than by the opposite invasion of my wife's and daughters' toilets. I don't really believe most cis-females, no matter how strong their allegiance to HRC's party, would be enthusiastic about opening up their toilets.

Anonymous said...

You wrote, "reasonably wise individuals will behave with reasonable wisdom; the rest of us will have to live with the consequences of our stupidity."

I couldn't agree more, but there is, I think, an additional consideration: we must all also live with the consequences of Other People's Stupidity (O.P.S.), or, at least, some of those consequences. This is obvious, and part of the human condition.

It occurs to me, though, that in addition to redistributing wealth, overweening over-large socialist governments such as ours are immense engines for the redistribution of stupid.

Now, I don't know about you; but even as a man of above-average intelligence, I can barely keep my nose above the flood of stupid that I produce all by myself. As government perpetually burdens me more and more with O.P.S., the future doesn't look bright (and that's aside from the whole legal plunder and out-and-out forceful tyranny angles). Of economics, it is said that a rising tide lifts all boats; but a tsunami of stupid swamps all ships regardless of whether said ships are firmly anchored to reality or, drifting fantastically, are smashed against its rocky shore.

It also occurred to me that the governmental engines of stupid redistribution need not obey the laws of thermodynamics. The engine goes above and beyond perpetual motion. It is not only self-sustaining on the fuel of stupid; is not merely useful for moving O.P.S. around; does not just generate surplus stupid (where else would government grants come from?); additionally, it actually creates enough of its own stupid fuel to grow itself exponentially ... almost indefinitely.

Evil accrues, but stupid multiplies.

We are so screwed.