A Note on our Sources

While conservatives, we here at The Pacific Bull Moose do not hesitate, in the words of author Richard Bach, to “quote the Truth wherever we find it.” No individual or group in American politics or economics, right, left, or center, enjoys a monopoly on insight, on solutions, or on good ideas. What we are obliged to do, however, is to measure those insights, solutions, and ideas against our heritage and experience, and to chart a measured but determined path to a better future. What is more, we believe that the pollination of ideas across both sides of a political fence often reveals heretofore undiscovered common ground.

For that reason, here at the Pacific Bull Moose we are as happy quoting Mother Jones, Prospect, or Rolling Stone as we are quoting Commentary, The Economist, or The American Conservative when making our points. Indeed, we have found it essential to draw on such diverse sources as we attempt to forge a new, forward-looking path for conservatives and for the nation.

If we quote from a source, however, do not take that to mean we wholeheartedly support everything written in that article, by that author, or on the publication in question. The state of our political dialog in the United States is such that gems of insight must often be pried from the rock face of an ideological polemic. We will always endeavor to do so with full respect to context, but we would rather err on the side of including an insight than leaving it aside.

America, after all, needs all the good thinking it can get.

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Beyond “Moderates”

In a passage that hints at why we have started The Pacific Bull Moose, co-editor Paul Starr of The American Prospect makes what I think is an astute observation about conservative side of America’s political spectrum.

The Republicans, in contrast, have virtually cleansed themselves of moderates and are poised to move the country sharply to the right if they win the 2012 election. The source of the party’s shift is a mysterious death that may be the single most important contemporary political development—the demise of the moderate Republican in national politics.

He is correct, of course, and that leaves the American right captured by extremists – a situation we at the Moose abhor and are endeavoring to rectify.

Part of the problem, I fear, is diction. The term “Moderate” implies a lack of passion for anything in particular, and a wavering commitment to a set of beliefs. Another diction problem is that the left has grabbed the term “progressive” and made off with it, turning it into a Frankenstein of their own such that the phrase “progressive conservative” seems an oxymoron.

We are going to try to rectify that, in part by waking the ghosts of Theodore Roosevelt, Hiram Johnson, Earl Warren, and other progressive conservatives of the past, but more critically by articulating a belief system that has too long lain dormant in the American body politic. It is possible to be conservative and yet believe passionately that many things need to be changed. Indeed, if it were ever possible, it is possible today.

Bloomberg to Bankers: Hush Up and Take It

Bankers’ Objections to Volcker Rule Fail on the Merits: View – Bloomberg.

For a company that makes a substantial portion of its revenues from the banking and finance industry, Bloomberg and its editors have taken a courageous and principled stand with this editorial. This is welcome proof that there are indeed those in and around southern Manhattan who have retained a balanced view of government regulation.

Gratuitous regulation on any industry – especially in a global economy – risks a loss of some degree of competitiveness. But to see all regulation of industry as equally bad (the less regulation, the better) or equally good (the more regulation, the better) is to substitute Doo-doo economics for common sense. If corporations are to exist as legal entities in a democracy, they, like people,  must be subject to such limitations on their freedom of action so as to ensure the actions taken for their own benefit do not damage others.

The principle we should use to judge whether regulation is excessive is to ask whether a statute or administrative rule deprives a company of a fair reward in return for the risk taken when taking into account all costs involved, both public and private. Federally-insured banks have their risk absorbed by the American public. Their rewards should be limited accordingly. We use the same principle with public utilities: in return for a monopoly, returns are limited in the form of rate controls. Private risk, private benefit. Public risk, public benefit.

This is pure common sense. As opposed to, say, self-interested rhetoric.

Joseph Stiglitz on Capitalist Fools

Cropped picture of Joseph Stiglitz, U.S. econo...
Image via Wikipedia

As long as we are putting corporate American under the microscope (with a view toward fixing it, not tearing it down), we may as well take a look at some of the other viruses plaguing the institution of the joint-stock company. One such institution, suggests Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz, is the stock option:

Stock options have been defended as providing healthy incentives toward good management, but in fact they are “incentive pay” in name only. If a company does well, the C.E.O. gets great rewards in the form of stock options; if a company does poorly, the compensation is almost as substantial but is bestowed in other ways. This is bad enough. But a collateral problem with stock options is that they provide incentives for bad accounting: top management has every incentive to provide distorted information in order to pump up share prices.

This is not the sort of thing, I would imagine, that is compelling the Occupy Wall Streeters to set up their tents. But as we grope toward a series of polices that will kill the maladies afflicting our institutions, this is one that could use some attention.

David Brooks Sees Our Problem

The Lost Decade? – NYTimes.com.

I don’t always agree with David Brooks, and in particular he and I part ways when it comes to his somewhat superficial understanding of China. I agree with him more often than not, however, and I can forgive him his ignorance of China if he will forgive me my similarly thin understanding of New York.

In what was possibly one of his best editorials yet, Brooks was motivated by the prospect of a “disastrous double-dip recession” to call out both Republicans and Democrats for their singular failures and, to borrow a phrase from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, their “two-dimensional thinking.”

The prognosis for the next few years is bad with a chance of worse. And the economic conditions are not even the scary part. The scary part is the political class’s inability to think about the economy in a realistic way.

He really gets to the heart of the matter a few grafs further down when he notes:

Yet the ideologues who dominate the political conversation are unable to think in holistic, emergent ways. They pick out the one factor that best conforms to their preformed prejudices and, like blind men grabbing a piece of the elephant, they persuade themselves they understand the whole thing.

It is a balanced, intelligent essay, and one that should be read, digested, and internalized by everyone who cares about the future of the United States.

Bravo, David.

The Problem with “Occupy Wall Street”

Wall Street Welfare Checks.
Image by eyewash via Flickr

Occupy Wall Street: A Story without Heroes – Anthony Gregory – Mises Daily.

In an Anthony Gregory of the Independent Institute captures the real problem with Occupy Wall Street in spare paragraph stripped of partisanship or ideology:

But overall the protesters’ message is too vague and heterogeneous — at best — to elicit much enthusiasm. As in the tea parties to which it has been compared, many in this movement are condemning a nebulous conception of the status quo without much of an inspiring alternative vision.

Even Karl Marx understood that you cannot have a better future unless you clearly and truthfully describe the current system and its faults, provide an alternative, and then stand back and let the two sides have at it. It was a problem that afflicted the radical end of the student movement in the 1960s, and it afflicts the radical left and reactionary right today.

And, sad to say, most of the rhetoric that suffuses our current electoral process suffers the same malady.

The Occupy Wall Street protesters make some good points. The collusion between rampant banks and those charged with regulating their activities have, in part, led us to the current financial crisis. But the answer is not to pull the plug on Wall Street. The answer begins with an intelligent debate about the proper role of the financial sector in our economy, and the best way to ensure it is no longer given the opportunity to endanger the nation and the world at paltry personal risk to those set to benefit the most.

Adultery and Double Standards « Commentary Magazine

One of the most difficult magazines for me to read every month is Commentary. While I, like most of its editors, am both Jewish and conservative, the magazine’s decidedly neocon bent strikes a tone of disharmony with the times.

But a recent editorial by Peter Wehner proved to me once again the worth of my subscriptions. Contrasting the conservative opprobrium heaped on Bill Clinton for his infidelities with the defense waged by the same conservatives of Newt Gingrich, Wehner barely hid his disgust:

The examples of sanctimonious hypocrisy are almost endless. And truth be told, we all engage in it to one degree or another. None of us come at these things from a position of perfect objectivity. Our personal histories, dispositions, and preferences in all kinds of areas—from politics to faith to our favorite foods and athletic teams—cause us to view the same set of facts through different lenses. The question isn’t whether hypocrisy occurs; the question, I think, is how much we strive to minimize it. Do we even try to employ a single standard, or are facts and events simply tools to be used in a larger ideological battle?

via Adultery and Double Standards « Commentary Magazine.

Moral and ethical standards are not relative, and where the American political system is failing is where partisans of one side or the other apply their standards only to the enemy.

The sweetest fruits of party loyalty are sour poison if they are attained via relativization of our values. It is time we all articulated those moral and ethical standards that ring to us most true, then stood by them. To do less is naked hypocrisy, political prostitution of the basest kind.