Philosophical Underpinnings of Disparate Economic Visions

Behind every political position or economic idea, there lies a deep philosophical assumption. Societies where people disagree on politics and economic policies can survive quite peaceably so long as these disparate ideas are predicated on the same moral and philosophical foundations, but where these differ, trouble ensues. The fact that the United States has of late largely avoided the violence and civil strife of less-developed nations, even as our society splinters along religious, lifestyle, and philosophical lines, reflects more the inertia of our heritage’s traditional mores of tolerance and liberty than a rejection of the proposition that peoples who disagree on basic philosophy will, eventually, be unable to live in the same State.
In theory, of course, this need not be the case. Different opinions on philosophical questions can theoretically persist indefinitely in a single nation. But practically, this requires a degree of patience and societal toleration incompatible with how most people view the world, and even incompatible with human nature itself. To admit that this utopia is possible is to all at once admit of the efficacy of a single world government, all squabbles over the difficulty of preserving true liberty in such a system aside, and to defenestrate al notion of practicality in assessing human nature. Frederick Hayek observed in his essay, “Why I’m Not a Conservative,” (conservative in the European sense of the word), that political conservatives, at root, are unable to live in civil society with those who think differently than themselves, and that socialists, on the other side of the spectrum, have the same distaste for dissent (see Stalin, Joseph). But Hayek, in contrast to my argument here, observed that among those who adhere to the European form of conservatism, not only is living forever with those who have different basic philosophies and moral ideals impossible, but living with those who merely have different policy opinions and habits but the same moral roots is ultimately untenable. The larger differences of philosophical basis, such as faith vs. atheism, individual responsibility vs. group identity and guilt, and life as a utility-seeking operation vs. life as a meaningful endeavor, are irreconcilable even for the classical liberal in the long-haul. How long would libertarians tolerate living in a Muslim-majority nation, with the concomitant set of laws and social mores that arise from that religion’s cultural development and basic premises? Not long.

Our Founding Fathers, broad-minded as they were, understood this well. John Jay noted in Federalist no. 2 that one of America’s principal advantages lay in its unity of purpose, language, and religion across such a broad swath of fertile and contiguous land. Not similarity of blood, or of genetic stock, which at the time and still today is among the most diverse on Earth, but of ideas, of basic philosophical foundations in the Enlightenment and Judeo-Christian traditions, of life outlook. Indeed, as opposed to the bloodline monarchies of Old Europe and the tiny republics, such as that in the Netherlands, the United States had a common national creed that could be imparted to newcomers, because its basis did not lie in being an Englishman, Belgian, Franc, or German by birth. Interestingly, as the United States has developed along with the world around it, utopians of all stripes increasingly reject the fundamental philosophical foundations of both the Enlightenment (in the English tradition) and the Judeo-Christian tradition. This change in ideals and philosophical roots can be clearly observed in several economic ideas.
The other day, I read an article about how America’s top technology executives and innovators do not foresee the benefits of the technological revolution flowing to most Americans, but envisage a future world in which so many processes, from legal services and manufacturing to food service and hospitality, are mechanized, that the gains from these technologies only flow to an ever-narrowing class of tech innovators, while everyone else works menial data-manipulation jobs that, while they enable a higher standard of living via the new technology and cheap production, bring very little chance of advancement, of prosperity, or of economic independence. In their world, this must presumably be an ideal—universal human prosperity with near-zero human toil and very little unpredictability in life. Diseases conquered, body chemistry manageable, sex and risk of children divorced by perfect birth control, and so forth. But there’s a problem with this utopia: most people don’t want it. In fact, the US has some very basic philosophical problems with this world.

First of all, this dystopian future assumes that human beings reach their highest end, in Jeremy Bentham-esque fashion, when their power to consume is maximized, even to the exclusion of all other goals for a human life. Secondly, it wrongly assumes that work is valuable only for the buying power that it bestows. Certainly this is one highly useful function of work, but work also forms character, keeps us from idleness, forms community bonds, and so forth. To imagine a future largely without work is to imagine a future without meaning or purpose, a world set adrift from all that anchors us. Third, this version of the economy, by virtue of its employment structure and the prevailing wisdom of the gurus who reign supreme in this new epoch, encourages splurging one’s desires and impulses without time for reflection or reason, for it drives a wedge between us and the natural world (which is but another way of saying it drives a wedge between us and God, from whom natural law emanates). Without reflection on our own labors and the realities of the natural world, human beings become arrogant. We believe we can design utopias for themselves, whether they be of the Ayn Randian, Bernie Sanders, or Joseph Stalin types. And without a credible reason not to overthrow a tiny capitalist cabal atop a world where pleasure reigns supreme for the plebes (many of whom, by the way, will be exceptionally intelligent, but simply not needed in a world of machine learning where only a few top programmers “make it”), what stops the socialist and communist utopians from pursuing their anti-reality dreams just as vigorously as the tech gurus? I see no limiting principle here.

It may be said that our current technological innovators are capitalists, and are therefore not utopians or dangerous to society. I disagree. They are capitalists who see the future as being molded entirely by their algorithms, not in the fashion that Carnegie fashioned the future with steel or Rockefeller wit oil, but in a way that gives the economic elite direct access to the private lives and thought patterns of all, that stifles free thought too far removed from what they deem mainstream, and in which an entirely new ecosystem of practical government, the discipline of the mob and the fear of negative emotions, develops. This world is not a utopia for all of us who believe that human life has nonmaterial meaning, that work is part of our purpose, and that commitments to others like marriage, parenthood, and familial ties are some of the most fulfilling parts of human existence, who believe that the true rights of property, the bedrock of capitalism, are rooted in the rights of free thought, free expression, and democratized defense, and that economic independence of the common people is the surest guardian of a government’s republican character and respect for natural rights.

In short, the tech gurus’ basic philosophy, while kind of free market, is at odds with the basic philosophy of America’s founders, and of most Americans. It assumes no God exists, that because no God exists, life is merely the consumption of the pleasurable, and that to the extent that consumption can be maximized, any collateral damage to the social and moral fabric of the human species, even detrimental changes to basic human mating instincts and social capacity, built over the past hundred thousand years, are inconsequential. But in this grand experiment, the American people will resist, requiring stealth on behalf of the tech companies until we are lulled into addiction ad unable to break the spell even when we know what’s happening to us (are we already there?), and if we cannot stop this progression to the post-post-post modern, then this philosophy will be proven incalculably wrong when humanity falls back into the state of nature from which it arose. The first victims of that state of nature, of that primal cry that emanates from the soul when the pleasures of the body no longer amuse us as much as the prospect of destroying the empty existence we’ve come to hate, will be the tech titans of whatever year the calendar says, if we still keep time then.


Trump’s Trade Pivot

For the past two years, it has become a truism universally accepted that Donald Trump is pro-tariff and against the Western liberal order of free global trade, a crusader for returning to the free-wheeling protectionism that preceded the Second World War. Some on the populist right and pro-labor left have lauded him for these proclivities, while the free-trade right, and the progressive left (or the mindless left that opposes anything that the GOP proposes) have made rude noises and written disapproving columns. The hopes of the former and the fears of the latter appeared to be confirmed by Trump’s unilateral tariffs on aluminum and steel, the renegotiation of NAFTA’s rocky start, the trumpery rhetoric emerging from the White House, and trade disputes with Canada, the EU, and Mexico.

But this week, Donald Trump’s administration agreed to a re-negotiated trade pact with Mexico, whereby trade between Mexico and the United States will remain relatively free but less artificially tipped in favor of Mexican development. This is a free-trade goal: to lower foreign barriers against US goods by temporary tariff, not to impose permanent tariffs as an end of themselves. Similarly, the administration’s message on Canada is focused not on imposing tariffs to create jobs (which is a fallacy from start to finish), but on using our tariffs and the pressure of the US having a bilateral deal with Mexico to force Canada to lower its own barriers against US dairy, timber, and manufactured goods. It may be too soon to say, but it appears as if the administration’s long-anticipated turn toward promoting free trade to the benefit of US manufactures and agricultural goods, long expounded by economist Stephen Moore as the true end game of the Trump tariff, has arrived. With easing trade tensions with the European Union, which gave a vague but promising pledge to lower its draconian protections of European farmers, an agreement with Mexico, the promise of free trade with the UK, exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs for key US allies South Korea and Japan, and Trump focused on dismantling Canada’s smattering of protectionism, the trade strategy, and the geopolitical idea underpinning it, has emerged.

By pursuing even more liberalized trade with our allies, albeit coercively at times, Donald Trump seeks to make up for the trade volume that the US will inevitably lose in the trade war with China, our long-term geopolitical enemy (see previous post “Of China”). This increased trade volume will mitigate much of the inflation borne of restricted supply chains that occur in trade wars (by keeping the supply of goods higher than otherwise), and keep the economy from being derailed by the China dispute. Donald Trump, over the wrong-headed advice of some in his cabinet, appears to be realizing what this blog has stressed for several months: to remain the world’s superpower and gain prosperity, the US must recognize that in the new global paradigm, China is our biggest enemy, and more formidable than any previous opponent. Whereas in previous eras, such as the 1950s, America was strong enough to go it alone economically if it chose, today, we’ll need relatively free trade with the whole Western world to blunt the inflationary effects and concomitant political backlash from tariffing China, which will inflict sharper pains on them, as an export economy reliant on manufacturing, than us. I hope he continues pursuing this new course of pressuring allies into freer reciprocal trade, predicated on the realization that America can no longer afford to subsidize the entire world’s development.

Summer Salamander Rain

Summer is not usually the season for salamanders, much like October is not usually a good month for fireworks sales: it happens, but not all that often. Add to the mix that here in the Valley, we’ve had a spell of 90-plus weather for the better part of two weeks, and all signals point toward more snakes and fewer salamanders out and about. But on Sunday, something changed. A large thunderstorm rolled in in the late afternoon, bringing with it a cold front, drenching rains, and localized flash flooding. As the sun went down and temperatures dropped into the 70s, Bethany and I went road cruising on a snake route, but this night, the caudates took the cake. After a half hour or so of slow driving and seeing two red leaves that we thought would be red salamanders, we finally happened upon the real thing–an old adult Northern Red with spots fusing together and its brilliant red coloration fading.

Old Northern Red (P. ruber ruber)

Further on, we sighted a few Red efts and brought them into the car for pictures amid philosophical discussion. Red efts, juvenile eastern newts, are small and, were it not for their brilliant coloration, would be nearly impossible to spot while road cruising. The feature picture for this post is the first red eft we cruised in a section of road paralleling the stream. After three of these critters, we saw another orangish figure on the road, and figured it would be another eft, but it turned out to be a Long-tailed salamander (Eurycea longicauda). These brook salamanders, close relatives of the two-lined, three-lined, and cave salamanders, are sleek and slender with a distinctive herringbone pattern on their bright orange bodies. They are most common in the western parts of Appalachia, notably Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, but their range edges into Virginia west of the Blue Ridge, where they are present but less common. This salamander, our best of the night, was the first long-tailed I have seen in the Commonwealth.

Long-tailed Salamander-Rockbridge County, VA



Recent Finds from the Shenandoah Valley

Hi you all!

Since the last lifer-oriented outing I took with Bethany to West Virginia in June, I’ve been working and writing here in Virginia, preparing for senior year, doing lots of econ, and only getting in very local herping, most of it in my county. But bouncing around the Shenandoah Valley and adjacent Blue Ridge this July has turned up several good finds, some old friends, some new and different.

Road cruising for snakes at twilight has yielded Copperheads (above), garters, and rat snakes.

Road-cruised Eastern Garter

Meanwhile, on a recent hike at Spy Rock in the Blue Ridge we found a few northern dusky salamanders, ubiquitous throughout Virginia, in a picturesque stream before making the arduous hike. The hike to the top of the mountain, though difficult, was picturesque, with grassy balds atop the mountain and a gorgeous view of the surrounding land. Curiously, the puddles on top of the rock had some tadpoles that are still a mystery, though my guess is either Upland chorus frog or eastern newt. Then, as we turned around to descend the rock, a summer camp group began its ascent, led by a guy….in an orange T-Rex suit (he must have lost a gargantuan bet)!! As Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park would say, “Life finds a way.” This was the view we had as we prepared to go down:

DSC_8796 (2)

Enjoy everyone, and happy herping as we enter the dog days of late summer!

You can view my recent road cruising, salamandering, and some vintage footage of 2017 Virginia salamanders, including such gems as Yonahlossee and Northern Red, on my youtube channel at:

Corker the Cowardly Lion: A Senate Dormant

In 1830, with the Indian Removal Act on the floor of the House of Representatives, Davy Crockett (D-TN) stood up for the Cherokee Indians, thus committing political suicide. Andrew Jackson, the sitting president, had immense popularity in Tennessee, largely due to his brand of anti-elitist, anti-bank populism. Of course, Crockett lost re-election in 1831, an event that produced one of the most famous quotes of his career: “I would rather be politically dead than hypocritically immortalized” (many people also associate the “You all may go to Hell, but I will go to Texas,” directed at constituents, with this event, but that actually happened in 1835 when he lost re-election again after serving the 1833-34 term). Among history buffs, Crockett is remembered as a man who stood on principle and refused to cede his reason to his party’s president.

A hundred and eighty years later, Bob Corker (R-TN) presents himself as the new Davy Crockett. They both have two-syllable names that start with “c,” and both hail from the Volunteer State. Opposing Donald Trump is as toxic in a Tennessee Republican primary today as opposing Jackson was in an 1830s general election. But seeking to fashion an image of principled conservatism athwart President Trump’s supposed Russian sympathies, protectionism, danger to NATO (which is much overstated–if anything, Trump’s stop in Brussels strengthened the alliance by exposing German hypocrisy and bringing Eastern Europe’s concerns about Russian gas sales and weak defense spending in Western Europe–which our allies have now pledged to increase by $33 billion), and xenophobia, the Tennessee lawmaker has sponsored or co-sponsored several Senate resolutions aimed at curtailing President Trump’s authority.

These include a resolution denouncing Trump’s use of outmoded national security legislation to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on such menaces as the UK and Canada. As of today, he has also sponsored a resolution, which passed 98-0, exhorting the president not to extradite our former Russian ambassador and others in the US that have exposed Kremlin corruption to Moscow for “questioning” (presumably, the first question would be: “Mustard gas or nerve agent?”). Donald Trump referred to the prospect of swapping these Americans for the twelve Russians Robert Mueller just indicted as a “great deal,” so this last resolution is justified, as is the former.

Regardless of whether one thinks that China, as a global competitor for superpower status and an abominable nation for human and civil liberty, needs curtailing even if it hurts the US economy (as I do), Canada and the UK are not endangering national security by supplying us with barely 20% of our steel. And regardless of whether one believes that Trump’s policy toward Russia, such as putting missile defenses back into Poland and resuming arms sales to Georgia and Ukraine, is much tougher than Obama’s ever was, the President’s comments in Helsinki are inexcusable to anyone who watched that conference even half-sober. Further, the fact that Trump entertains the idea of handing the same Putin who has murdered enemies on foreign soil one of our former diplomats boggles the mind. Some congressional intercession is warranted, but as usual, the legislative branch lacks the willpower to fulfill its constitutional role.

In a predictable stroke of cowardice, senators such as Bob Corker, who frame the issues at hand as make-or-break moments for American republicanism and the rule of law, do not pursue actual legislation, but “non-binding” legislation and “symbolic resolutions.” I know of no profession besides politics where this is acceptable (can you imagine telling your boss the report isn’t done but you made a “symbolic” one with random numbers?). Our less Trump-inclined senators must not believe their own clap-trap about the severity of Trump’s offenses, or else care very little about their nation’s fate. If ninety-eight senators agree that Trump should not extradite the persons in question, they, in coordination with the House, could pass private bills protecting these individuals one-by-one, or else pass a blanket bill protecting former US ambassadors from extradition. The majority that voted for the “symbolic” measure could easily override a veto, unless of course these senators do not want to go on record overriding a Trump veto and are interested only in superficial virtue signaling. It is well within Congress’s constitutional power to determine the limits of US citizens’ extradition, and to make specific exceptions to existing joint-extradition treaties.

Further, if Trump is abusing national security excuses to put tariffs on our allies (which he indisputably is, even though I like the China tariffs), repeal the law that lets him do so rather than passing inconsequential resolutions. Better yet, have Congress set tariff rates itself through legislation. Congress still possess the constitutional power to “lay and collect taxes, duties, imports, and excise,” and could easily exercise such power to decisively blunt the Trump tariffs. All the resolutions in the world, no matter how strongly worded, cannot increase the price of soybeans for Michigan farmers or ease manufacturers’ fears. Legislation can, and if a majority of both the US House and US Senate think it is the best course for our nation, they should pass legislation setting lower tariffs on our allies. Such consequential policy and international relations issues are exactly what the Founders envisaged in the care of the “cool and deliberative” Senate. But for Corker, belittlement of the Senate’s institutional power and constitutional duty to save his own skin and take a righteous stand with nothing on the line is an old trick.

In 2013, Corker and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) allowed President Obama’s Iran nuclear agreement to arrive on the Senate floor as a “fast-track agreement,” rather than a treaty. Rather than requiring two-thirds approval for the treaty to take effect, defeating the deal would require sixty senators voting for a bill to repeal the agreement. It worked perfectly for everyone—except the American people and the integrity of the Constitution’s separation of powers. Republican Senators and vulnerable Democrats could denounce the deal as reckless and appear earnest to their constituents, knowing that their speeches were nothing but spectacle, that the deal would take effect no matter what. In the end, the Iran deal took effect despite a 54-vote majority against it in the Senate. Talk about flipping the Constitution on its head! By bipartisan agreement, led by the illustrious Mr. Corker, we eviscerated the treaty clause. Now, the Senate implicitly grants the president the power to tax by passing what amounts to a mere complaint affixed with the Senatorial seal when Trump taxes unilaterally. This is not about one’s view of Trump, or his European policy, or his tariffs, or his gaffes in Finland. It’s about whether the Senate will fulfill its constitutional role and reign in the imperial presidency, determine policy as intended by the Founders, and nurture statesman, or degenerate into a cesspool of deceit and empty platitudes.

If Bob Corker wants to be remembered as the next Crockett, he should introduce some legislation on immigration reform, tariffs, and foreign policy and go out with guns blazing. Whether these resolutions pass will depend on their merits, the sense of the people, and the courage of his fellow senators. But retiring rather than facing voters after offering a flimsy defense in the face of what he thinks is an affront to American values, rather than the utmost he can muster, is no way to inspire colleagues.

O Civility, Civility, Wherefore Art Thou, Civility?

Calling for civility in print these days is all the rage (see what I did there?). With the recent events at the Red Hen here in Lexington, where the restaurant owner ejected Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for no reason other than her work for the president, at the Black Swan in Richmond, where a customer publicly berated Steve Bannon and the altercation escalated such that the police were called, and a series of other breakdowns in the civil code of late, writing about civility has morphed into a cottage industry. But this latest string of indecency is just part of a long string of acts that have been increasing in frequency since the turn of the millennium, if not earlier, but which have really spiked in the last five years. Cop-killers in Dallas, BLM protestors shouting “Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon,” white nationalists marching through Charlottesville chanting “The South will rise again,” a nutcase from Ohio plowing his Dodge into a crowd of left-wing counter-protestors, increases in KKK activity here in Virginia, college students gone full-Salem witch trials over conservative speech, Maxine Waters encouraging the public shaming of conservatives, people flippantly calling our president a traitor, and conservatives getting angry over the Red Hen’s incivility that they recommend an IRS audit on twitter a la Obama. This is not new to the last few months, but the increasing intensity and frequency of such events and their growing acceptance among larger chunks of both political parties is disturbing. The last time we went this berserk, it was 1968. Half a million troops were in Vietnam, inflation ran wild, the economy sputtered, and civil rights struggles weighed on recent memory. Today, we’re approaching 1968 levels of animosity toward one another in the absence of a large-scale war requiring mass mobilization. It’s good economic times. Inflation is low and so is unemployment (so long, Phillips Curve). But we’re still at each other’s throats. What gives?

I agree with the calls for civility and tolerance, so long as “tolerance” is rightly understood to mean not hating others for beliefs and letting them speak even if we disagree. But seriously, does this new wave of incivility, right and left, really surprise us? If it does, it shouldn’t. Civility is not the default human operating system. Just ask a Chinese peasant during the Great Leap Forward, a Jew in Hitler’s Germany, or a disabled person in Woodrow Wilson’s progressive era America. All of them would have been better off had they been born a century, or even two centuries, earlier. The natural state of mankind is not moral perfection, but moral turpitude, and left alone, we revert to the mostly dark instincts of our nature (not all are dark of course and some, like greed and lust for power, that are dark, can be harnessed within the context of civic society and common virtue to create great things—hence the “profit motive”). In the absence of religious belief, familial cohesion, and civic society to mold young people and their views of the world around them, exhorting progressive college radicals or alt-right loons to civility is like exhorting a lion to shave its mane.

Ironically, some of the loud calls for civility emanate from the center-left and liberal intelligentsia that has worked so diligently to diminish the influence of organized religion, specifically Orthodox Judaism and any form of Christianity, both of which teach the “Golden Rule” of human behavior, and to brand faith unfashionable. But it’s this tradition of Judeo-Christian values, fused with the philosophy of the Enlightenment and the traditional wisdom of the Greeks and Romans, that has made the West the most prosperous, tranquil, open, and tolerant culture in the history of the world. Specifically, a religion that teaches an obligation to one’s fellow human beings and standards of right behavior as moral absolutes, not sliding scales or relative cultural understandings, has a way of producing love, respect, and tolerance, even amid profound disagreement. This is well-illustrated by the Presbyterian church I have begun attending outside Lexington, where just on my first visit, I met conservatives and liberals, doctrinal traditionalists and liberals. They tolerate one another because, besides living in a tight-knit rural community and knowing each other well, they also view such proper behavior as a moral obligation (and let us note that much of the incivility we see happens in the metropolises and on college campuses). Despite this, the liberal intelligentsia seeks to discard with Christianity and the Greco-Roman wisdom, while many young progressives want to leave the Enlightenment in the dust, too.

Then they are both stunned when the right wing, imbibing the same mores of materialism, Machiavellian politics, and power struggle that the Left has been pushing since the 1960s (I don’t mean Dr. King, but the Black Panthers and many in the New Left campus movement), spawns populism and nationalism. What else would it spawn? If we take common morals and religion out of conservatism, all that remains is either a reactionary tendency to stop change and become tribal, or an Ayn Rand-type individualistic absolutism, both of which end badly, as does liberalism devoid of common morals (see: politics, identity). Such reckless ideas will continue to destroy our cultural tapestry unless we identify the true roots of the problem. Well-educated writers everywhere, liberal and conservative, will continue to shout “civility, civility” and be dumbfounded when no one listens, thinking the problem is only a mere forgetfulness by the offenders, not a fundamental change in the American psyche, indeed the whole Western psyche, that their ilk fomented and which has incredible inertia. As Jeremiah 6:14 says, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”

Perhaps if we want peace, we should spend less media firepower, less academic jargon, and less legal and cultural effort trying to remove the Prince of Peace from the public square. Maybe we should not try to render all who follow him unable to act on their beliefs in the marketplace or in public, and demonize those who would dare assert their religion is more than a casual Sunday hobby as “bigots,” “passe,” and “old-fashioned.” Perhaps a return to traditional Judeo-Christian values, which include openness, love, forgiveness, and prudence, is in order if we want societal harmony. Until then, our elites will look on in horror as societal norms collapse and write eloquent, disbelieving essays, all of which wrongly assume that because the calendar has progressed, so has mankind’s grasp of morality.

Some Thoughts on Judge Kavanaugh

Supreme Court vacancies are to politics what good marriage prospects are to romance. It’s nearly impossible to predict when they’ll appear, which is infrequent, it’s critical to capitalize on the situation quickly when it presents itself without going so fast that you miss something in the candidate’s character and values, asking the right questions without prodding too annoyingly is critical, and once you commit to one candidate, you can’t take it back, so picking right can translate to a felicitous life, while a wrong decision can lead to massive regret, lost sleep, disagreement on key life decisions, and lost hair. Which leaves me wondering, though on balance Brett Judge Kavanaugh’s record is conservative, why did Trump nominate him to the High Court? Honestly, this is one of the most crucial things that Trump will do, whether or not he wins re-election. The only thing that might be more consequential is if he gets to replace a liberal justice. He had a massive opportunity to fire up the libertarian-constitutionalist right, young conservatives, and college-educated right-wingers by picking someone beloved by the right, like Ted Cruz or Mike Lee. But instead, we have Brett Kavanaugh. Let me be clear at the outset: I think Kavanaugh is a good pick and will be generally in the conservative camp during his tenure on the Court should he be confirmed, but his stances on several issues bother me, the case in his favor as opposed to Mike Lee or Amy Coney Barrett seems flimsy, and this pick will not fire up conservatives wary of Trump’s other stances on trade, immigration, and the recent Russia blunder one iota.
First, and by far most importantly, Judge Kavanaugh has shown a peculiar hostility to the Fourth Amendment, initially ruled that the Obamacare individual mandate was a “tax,” and (hat tip to the indefatigable David French at National Review for digging this last one up) has reasoned that the federal government, and state governments, can have a legitimate and significant interest in the provision of contraception to citizens. Let’s take these one at a time. First, Judge Kavanaugh has ruled previously that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to electronic records, but only when the government physically intrudes on someone’s private space, like a home or office. He has further written in Klayman v. Obama that even if electronic communication was covered by the Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections, national security concerns override. This is radicalism! In essence, Judge Kavanaugh does not believe there should be any limits to electronic surveillance of our own citizens, contrary not only to public opinion and many constitutional scholars (and the Founders), but Congress’s understanding of the Fourth Amendment. To assert that the Fourth Amendment (“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…”) does not cover electronic communications, which are the modern-day equivalent of “papers and effects” is to ignore that this will make the Fourth Amendment completely meaningless for all but the Amish. On this important issue, Mike Lee has a much clearer understanding than Kavanaugh, as illustrated by his entire chapter on the English common law origins of the Fourth Amendment in Our Lost Constitution, which shows that multiplicative warrants requesting multiple people’s information at once are specifically barred, and that electronic records fall within the bounds of the language.
Secondly, Judge Kavanaugh’s misinterpretation of the tax clause (“Congress shall have the power….to lay and collect taxes, duties, imports, and excises”) is absolutely fatal to limited government. Enabling negative taxation, like that in the Obamacare individual mandate, means that government can enforce any economic outcome it wants by imposing a gigantic penalty for not partaking in a particular kind of commerce. This lapse in judgment is inexcusable, and totally at loggerheads with Kavanaugh’s restrictive view of interstate commerce. Lastly, in the Priests for Life case, despite ruling in the priests’ favor, Kavanaugh’s argument bought the government line that there is a legitimate and significant “state interest” in ensuring the availability of contraception. What? For what? Economic development purposes? Gender equality? That’s called social engineering. Despite Judge Kavanaugh’s ruling, the underlying chink in the logic here paves the way for disturbing future cases where the government can try to assert its “state interest” in contraceptive availability, knowing that Kavanaugh will add one vote to the liberal bloc. But these jurisprudential differences with the judge are accompanied by realizations about the case for him and the political consequences of his nomination.
Moreover, those in favor of Judge Kavanaugh as opposed to Amy Coney Barrett or Mike Lee (or anyone else on Trump’s list, really) have a weak case. To the objection that he ruled Obamacare a tax, they respond that he wrote one of the strongest opinions against the constitutionality of the law based on the Interstate Commerce Clause and will apply that stricter understanding of Interstate Commerce to many other things. That’s wonderful by itself, but by ruling Obamacare a “tax,” along with John Roberts when the case got to the Supreme Court level, Kavanaugh has opened an 18-wheeler-sized loophole through which the government can do nearly anything it wants to coerce citizens into private contracts. Without a proper understanding of the taxation power and its limits, even a Jefferson-style view of “Interstate Commerce” is insufficient to stop the federal government’s bacteria-esque expansion. To the objection that he is a product of the Washington establishment, which is one of the least significant knocks against him, they respond that he’s a devout Catholic, a family man, and a humble volunteer. On a personal level, that is wonderful, and it’s too bad I don’t have him for a next-door neighbor. Those are the kind of people I want to live around, the kind of people whose kids I want around mine someday. But being nice, being Catholic, and having a good family are not sufficient qualifications for the Supreme Court. If they were, then I know at least fifteen people qualified to be Supreme Court justices, some of them from Macomb County, some of them students at W & L, or their parents. Also, minus the Catholicism, these criteria also should have put Jimmy Carter in the running to pull a William Howard Taft and occupy the SCOTUS bench after he left the White House (though an abominable President of the United States on a variety of levels, Jimmy Carter is undeniably one of the best men to occupy the Oval Office since the turn of the twentieth century). “Kavanaugh’s a good Catholic and conservative for the most part” is not a good defense of a SCOTUS nominee, no matter how true the assertions of his stellar personal life are.
Lastly, Judge Kavanaugh will not fire up the libertarian side of the GOP base, particularly young, educated conservatives and libertarians, at all, largely owing to the archaic, near-Wilson dismissal of the Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections discussed earlier. Especially with the disunity and fear of his authoritarian infatuation that Donald Trump just sowed in Helsinki (after a brilliant performance in Brussels that exposed media hysteria and presented a welcome change to the tired assumptions of post-WWII: see previous post), he desperately needs to make a case that the liberty-minded conservatives that voted for him with reservations in 2016 (me and about half of young conservatives I know, rural and urban, elite college-goers and otherwise) should stick with him to achieve tangible political benefits. Nominating Kavanaugh does not make that case whatsoever, and probably damages it. The fact that Kavanaugh is the “establishment” pick is consolation to no one, save for five Never-Trumpers inside the 495 beltway who will never vote for Trump in 2020 anyway.
All this is to say: Kavanaugh is a good pick with an originalist record of jurisprudence, but not a great one, and with four months until the November elections, senators like Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul should make it plain that they will vote against Kavanaugh and force Donald Trump to nominate a different jurist who believes in the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment and does not define the power to tax so broadly as to enable anything. But then again, when’s the last time the Senate stood up for anything against a president (other than meaningless non-binding votes and endless hearings)? Further, those on the left looking to dig up personal dirt on the judge are barking up the wrong tree. That may play in DC socialite circles, but to generate antipathy for him among everyone else, they should hammer home the privacy issue (which, of course, would only lead to another, more conservative nominee who respects the 4th Amendment that the left will not be able to defeat with the right united). If Kavanaugh is confirmed, I hope that he proves me wrong on the three policy positions outlined. He’s certainly a rock-star judge everywhere else on the conservative wish list, from guns and economic freedom to states’ rights and originalism, but I fear that with the emergence of the police state and the breakdown of traditional constitutional norms one of the biggest issues of our time, his dismissal of the 4th and his embrace of the tax defense of Obamacare may prove the most prominent marks of his tenure.


Albert Einstein once said Jean Piaget’s psychological theories of childhood development were “so simple only a genius could think of it.” Without characterizing myself as a genius on the level of Jean Piaget, or a genius at all, let me share the solution I believe I just found to a problem bedeviling legions of professional, Keynes-believing macroeconomists. The puzzle is this: the labor market is unbelievably, historically tight, with more jobs open then unemployed people to fill them for the first time on record, yet wages, while rising for the median worker, are clearly not rising fast enough to eliminate the labor shortage. We would expect that with labor so tight, wages would skyrocket to attract more labor, and that the ensuing inflation would cut into demand for consumer goods, equalizing the imbalance. We’d also expect all the open jobs to fill with the unemployed. But instead, 6 million jobs remain unfilled, and while we have unemployed people, there seems to be some invisible barrier between these people and the jobs, and between the ironclad law of economics and our current reality.

As a current job-seeker (resume available on request), I have discovered the answer, and it’s so simple only a 21-year-old college senior with an economics major could find it. As to why there are so many unfilled jobs in the economy, the answer is two-fold: licensing requirements and a gigantic skill disconnect between colleges and the economy. As for the wage puzzle, we have employers that are holding out hope that thy can continue to import more labor from abroad to offset the shortage in the lower-skilled fields, but this does not affect the higher-skilled eschelon of the economy, in large part because of licensing requirements. You can’t seamlessly import a lawyer from India without running into a $300,000 tariff on imported lawyers called “law school,” kept running by the American Bar Association, nor can you import a realtor or a bank manager without other such tariffs dressed up as licenses. No such charade exists for agricultural labor, menial office work, or the manual labor done in the trades under citizen contractors. How ironic that the same people who are protected by such covert tariffs lecture people who make less money than they do about how distortions of the free market, like, say, steel tariffs or restrictions on immigration, are inappropriate. Anyway.

The vast array of licenses now required to do all sorts of jobs, or that are implicitly required to stay competitive, now dominate most positions in America that earn more than the median salary. Teachers, doctors, lawyers, computer scientists, money managers, bank managers, hotel managers, truck drivers, accountants, insurance salesmen, electricians, they all need licenses these days. Just do a quick search of your city, and for the jobs that make over $40,000 per year, keep a tally of those that prefer a license and those that don’t. It’ll be four-to-one easily. Is it any wonder that with this dazzling array of licenses, most of which are unnecessary, we have unfilled jobs as a result? The effort, money, and lost income inherent in taking a year’s worth of classes to prove you have a skill you already have and join the monopolistic club is bound to keep a gap between open jobs and willing workers. This is also, to an extent, on companies. If labor shortages are so severe and there is a credential mismatch, why not offer to provide the necessary training and take an initial hit to increase long-run productivity and profits?
Secondly, there is most certainly a gap, a yawning gap, between what colleges and universities are teaching and the demands of the labor market if a young person wants to break $35,000 per year. I encourage you to run the experiment once more for your native city. A shocking percentage of these jobs will have the following suffixes: technician, analyst, engineer. An equally shocking percentage will begin with: computer, data, intelligence, information, and so forth. It’s hard not to get the impression that the modern economy’s modus operandi is, simply: programmer or poor. Under standard economic theory, upon realizing this, people would rationally choose to study computer science, statistics, and data management, and move to California, Dallas, Atlanta, or the Northeastern megalopolis. But they don’t for two principle reasons. First, most entering college students have some idea that computer science is gaining ground, but they have no idea just how much of the economy and the labor market specifically are geared toward rote number-crunching, coding, and so forth. Secondly, most people don’t want to (me included). In today’s hyper-efficient world, at times it seems as if we’re trying in vain to abolish human nature.

People naturally want to live near family, do something fulfilling, and collaborate with others in a meaningful way in their work, and usually prefer to be able to express themselves within reasonable bounds, contra Google corporate culture (see: Damore, James). Colleges, particularly liberal arts colleges, still teach a whole host of classes that have abstract connections to today’s labor market, like reading, writing, and critical thinking. These things are important of course, but can’t immediately get a young person a solid job with health insurance and a decent salary, unless partnered with knowledge in economics, mathematics, or statistics. In defense of liberal arts colleges, the skills they teach are valuable, the experience priceless if embraced, and many of their students understand the necessity of graduate school to augment their earning potential after getting a liberal education upon entering. But many don’t, especially those who come from working-class or middle-class backgrounds and assume that attending a hugely prestigious college will correlate with a prestigious job without any further education. In the present state of the economy, as cold and automated as it is, if we want to close the unfilled job gap, we must put more emphasis on technical education and specialization. But only if we deem closing the job gap more important than maintaining our humanity and broad-based knowledge, wisdom of the ancients, and the Enlightenment tradition.

On the wage side, it seems plain that with stock buybacks at all-time highs, which is not necessarily a bad thing of itself (but is if it becomes so excessive as to exclude common laborers from enjoying any of the fruits of their increased productivity), and a culture of free immigration to meet labor demands so ingrained in corporate culture, many are in disbelief that they may have to increase wages to retain workers. I am pro-free market and usually sympathetic to the anti-tax, anti-regulation sympathies of the business community, but reading the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and Forbes this year, it is impossible to miss a sense of entitlement among the business community, at least its corporate sector, these days. How else can we explain the frequent warnings that tight labor markets and rising wages will “hurt business” or “drive inflation fears and stock market jitters?” Obviously. That’s what happens when the economy gets more productive and workers have more choices on where to work—you must pay them more if you don’t want competitors to outbid you. It’s the same reality that buyers must contend with when buying anything else. Excuse me if I don’t lose much sleep over slight reductions in stock buybacks and corporate bonuses that may be required for those companies to retain their workers. But companies are stubbornly pushing for more legal immigration, particularly for low-wage workers, to keep wages depressed in the short-term (as we know, immigrants can increase long-term wages if they invent revolutionary technologies or start businesses that increase productivity—think Nick Tesla and alternating-current electricity). In addition, I believe that many companies, especially larger ones, are betting on Trump’s trade war, or some unforeseen event, ending the ridiculously-long economic expansion and bringing wages back down, at which point companies will be able to hire labor more cheaply. Corporations don’t want anything to cut into profit margins and the fundamentals of their financial balance sheets, even if more labor, only attractable by higher wages, would increase gross profits, it would hit their margins. This is not to fall into a classical progressive-style “greed is the problem” fallacy but to simply recognize the fact that in a world of active hedge fund managers and pressure from stockholders to maximize dividends, a wage increase would likely send a stock down a few pegs even if it’s good for the long-term health and production of the company.

And lastly, we have non-compete clauses, once rare, now covering nearly a quarter of the workforce. These non-compete clauses, or restrictive covenants, in employment contracts, disallow employees from seeking other employment or another employer from hiring them, sometimes for years-long periods or after their jobs with the company have ended. These agreements, while necessary in certain select circumstances, such as in aerospace companies for engineers with access to company secrets or where training costs are astronomical (which would leave the company at a loss if the employee then left for another firm), their proliferation into the broader economy, even the lowest-skilled positions like fast-food, is ridiculous. It is nothing more than an attempt by employers to stamp out competition for labor amongst themselves (and thus hold wages artificially low, since they don’t have to bid against each other for all employees or former employees under contract). These shenanigans’ prominence in a large percentage of the economy could go a long way to help explain, along with everything else explored above, why wages are not rising as fast as we’d think along with the labor shortage and positions remain unfilled.

John Calhoun’s Ghost Haunts Michelle Wolf

Reacting to the incipient abolitionist movement in the north in 1837, South Carolina’s John C. Calhoun delivered a fiery defense of slavery on the Senate floor. Therein, he correctly predicted that the vast north-south moral chasm would result in Civil War, and his understanding of American citizenship, contrary to most of the Founders’, as belonging to only the white race would inspire Chief Justice Taney in Dred Scott. But his most provocative and revolutionary claim abandoned traditional defenses of slavery, which treated the institution as an unfortunate economic and political necessity, a matter of survival for whites whose slaves would surely kill them if set free, and a way to impart Western values, notably Christianity, on slaves before their inevitable future emancipation. Rather than hew to these tentative defenses of short-term slavery in the face of abolitionism, Calhoun did the unthinkable in a nation that had barely sixty years prior founded itself on the natural rights of man—he declared slavery “a good—a positive good.”
It was only a logical extension of the proslavery argument when faced with more strident opposition. If slaves were not human beings (at least not fully so), but their free labor brought prosperity, economic ease, and increased national production, then what’s the “necessary evil”? Surely making profit from cows and pigs is not a “necessary evil.” If the slave is not a human being, then there should have been no guilt, no plans, like those devised by Washington, to free his slaves, no talk, like that of Jefferson, that slave labor would hurt the work ethic of whites. Would anyone say that a man using a mule to plow his fields or a horse for transportation is detrimental to his work ethic? This argument is peculiar to using other human beings, and in conceding that they harbored guilt about owning humans, that their consciences convicted them, southerners would lose the long-term argument for the legality and morality of slavery. Calhoun clearly recognized this, and sought to galvanize the South behind his radical new position because he knew that when the humanity of the slave was acknowledged, when any evil was admitted, then the whole system would collapse of moral rot and guilt, if only there was someone willing to ask the tough questions, as Lincoln did in his famous Illinois debates. There on the Senate floor in 1837, the South’s stance on slavery changed markedly, along with Calhoun’s words, from “necessary evil,” to “positive good.”
As the left’s hysteria over Justice Kennedy’s retirement continues unabated, with the ostensible primary worry that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, notwithstanding the dismally low chances of that outcome, the same thing that happened to proslavery arguments a hundred and seventy-five years ago is transforming the progressive argument for abortion. In fact, Michelle Wolf’s tirade and other radical pro-abortion arguments of late can be grafted into Calhoun’s infamous speech with ease. Michelle Wolf, instead of saying “God bless abortions” after years of the left pretending that it wants abortions to be “safe, legal, and rare” for political purposes, could have just as easily declared, “I hold that in the present state of civilization….abortion is a good—a positive good.” She discarded all those pleasantries about economic necessity for underprivileged women (much like the arguments of economic necessity for southern grandees in the 1800s), crime control, and public budget considerations. She laid it bare. A modern-day Calhoun armed with a twitter account rather than a pen and a Senate post might rally his fellow Carolinians against the “meddling” northern abolitionists (who, of course, had no business deciding questions of slavery because they did not own any, just as males have no business talking about abortion because they will never get pregnant) by tweeting encouragement to “shout your slave-owning!” Even the Orwellian logic inherent in claiming the right to deprive another group of human beings of life, liberty, and property transfers perfectly from Calhoun to today’s pro-abortion radicals.
At the outset of his speech, John Calhoun stated that he believed in defending his position as forcefully as possible and not reconciliation and that, “Those who act on the opposite principle are prepared to become slaves.” Translation: if slavery is disallowed, southerners will become slaves. Talk about ironic. Almost as ironic as the left-wing claim that if Roe is overturned, “millions of lives would be threatened.” Translation: if we disallow the murder of unborn children, then millions will have their lives threatened…through presumable diminished economic power (unless these people are honestly predicting a Civil War, which I doubt). For both proslavery radicals in the Old South and pro-abortion radicals in our day the loss of economic prowess (which, last time I checked, is not a constitutional right) was the primary excuse for depriving another person of his basic natural rights. The southerners argued that they could not make a living without the right to “stop liberty from happening,” in Michelle Wolf lingo. Abortion advocates of our day similarly posit that women, who presumably have no control of the reproductive process by this reasoning, would be destitute without the right to “stop a baby from happening.”
In the end, Calhoun and Michelle Wolf, separated by hundreds of years and huge philosophical differences, still both recognized one basic truth: in a nation founded on individual liberty such as the United States, the crux of the debate always lies in defining who is and who is not a citizen and entitled to the protection of their natural rights. If one comes down on the “no” side of the question, then there should be no more shame in owning a black person than owning a hog, and no more shame killing a human fetus than killing that same hog. To compromise on this point is for the pro-choice side to concede defeat, however gradual. One can only hope that with the true logical underpinnings of abortion legalization in plain sight, Americans will recoil in horror as they did when the violent underbelly of segregation was exposed by Dr. King and Calhoun laid bare the barbarous argument for slavery.

Democrats Have “Jumped the Shark”

In the Detroit metropolitan area during high school, I commuted with Dad in our beat-up 1987 Honda Civic, and in the morning, we always listened to 760 WJR, Detroit’s most popular talk radio station. At night, they carried Hannity, Mark Savage, and Mark Levin, but during the workday and for the morning commute, they had cooler conservative heads, or at least more local conservative heads, behind the microphone. Frank Beckmann’s obvious nasally twang between 10-12 infused with righteous passion contrasted nicely with Paul W. Smith’s smooth, deep voice and measured tone for the morning commute. I swear, that guy could read the news and lull a Jaguar to sleep. Anyway, one morning, with the snow about a foot deep on either side of I-94 near Mount Clemens and the first light of morning just appearing in the east toward Lake St. Clair, Paul’s voice crackled through the radio, “Now we go to sports,” whereby some guy I can’t remember took over and announced that a player had “Jumped the shark last night.” What? I couldn’t believe it, and half thought it some inside joke between the announcers to see if any listeners, struggling to start the day before first coffee, would notice.

But, as I later learned, “jumping the shark” is a real saying. It comes from the ancient television program Happy Days, wherein, running low on ideas for the show, the crew decided to do an episode wherein the climax consists of Fonzie, one of the main characters, jumping over a shark on water skis. The saying connotes a stunt, or series of stunts, so outlandish that they convey to everyone that the stunt-man is out of substantive ideas, getting desperate, or both. I can think of no better expression to describe the hysteria on the left these days. They’ve jumped the shark.

It has been brewing for some time now, but with the family separation policy at the southern border, the Supreme Court shooting down their dreams of progressivism imposed by Article III, and the blue wave stagnant at the moment, progressivism has gone full-on gonzo.

First of all, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people make fallacious ad Hitler arguments in such a short period of time. Donald Trump is not Hitler, American conservatives are not Nazis, and enforcing US immigration law by temporarily separating children from parents (because US law stipulates that immigrant children cannot be detained as prisoners with their parents–a law Trump has attempted to amend with an executive order because of Congress’s failure to pass any legislation) is not the same as sending six million people to their deaths. But in today’s world, enforcing national borders is far enough afield to qualify as Hitler-esque, even though President Obama deported illegal aliens, including children, just like Trump, back to Central America and Mexico. Was Obama also a would-be SS guard member? I can’t remember any leftists comparing Obama to Hitler….but I digress. In the past week, I have seen at least five or six articles comparing Trump to Hitler, seen a candidate win a Democratic primary in New York who openly claims “socialism” and wants to abolish ICE, apparently along with a very sizeable chunk of the liberal Democratic base, and seen Supreme Court justices on the ideological left this week write dissents based on nothing but their perceived intentions of the President and a disagreement on policy, not constitutional limits on power or the law (see previous post on those cases).

Simply put, faced with Donald Trump in the White House, a cooking economy, and the rightward shift of public policy wrought by Republican majorities in Congress and a GOP president, even if slow at times, has the Left as enraged as a hive of yellow jackets, and they have completely stopped pretending they’re moderate in any way. Much like the Republican base in the wake of the 2012 presidential election loss, where conservatives sensed that we had nominated two consecutive moderates on the premise that “they could win” only to watch them lose, the Democratic base is infuriated with establishment leadership (see Cenk Ungar’s of the “Young Turks” election night meltdown) and ready to do things like, say, eliminate some of the most prominent Democrats in Washington in primary races, such as Joe Crowley, and replace them with honest-to-goodness socialists. Like the Che Guevara kind. I must say that as someone who has been telling people for over a year now that one of the most consequential effects of the 2016 election would be a rapid leftward shift in the Democratic party fueled by base activism much like the GOP was pushed right by the Tea Party (in my view, the latter was by and large a good thing—I’m a Tea Partier myself), this Tuesday was a little vindication. The clear parallel to Eric Cantor’s stunning primary loss in 2014 to economics professor and amateur Christian theologian (and fellow native Michigander!) Dave Brat were hard to miss Tuesday night. Perhaps Democrats think that this “Resistance” movement will power them to victories this fall as they obstruct all immigration proposals and play Machiavellian politics to the extreme. They may win back the House this fall, although that remains to be seen, but if so, it will be despite Democrats’ radicalism, not because of it.

This week, the establishment got rocked in New York, the liberal journalistic sector went full-on “Trump=Hitler” and the logos of younger progressives, whereby political opponents are “enemies” deserving of scorn, worthy of public haranguing and physical assault, has gone from a fringe idea cloistered in the Ivy Leagues and liberal arts colleges to a serious strain of thought among Democrats, led by Maxine Waters. The Democratic platform, which as recently as 2008, when another SS member named Obama topped the Democratic ticket, called for increased border security in addition to legal status for otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants, opposed gay marriage, and had reservations about gun control on guns other than assault weapons. My how the times have changed. As far as I can gather, the Democratic platform this time goes something like this: adopt European-style socialized medicine, slash US military spending without scaling back our commitments to defend Europe or our implicit commitment to dwarf the capacity of all our NATO partners, impeach Donald Trump because, imaginary collusion and bigotry, abolish ICE and the national border along with it, increase the minimum wage to infinity, because John Rawls, make energy more expensive by cutting off fossil fuel development, make it a crime to be religious outside your own house, balloon the debt even further, and impose the dogmas of “intersectionality” and “white privilege” on every—and I mean every—debate. This crazy platform, and the accompanying histrionics on full display this week in the mainstream media, are election losers if I’ve ever seen any. If this election were on pure policy, the Republicans should be picking up seats in both chambers. The Democrats’ only saving grace is that the man in the White House, despite having some genuinely good policy ideas (at least better than I ever thought he’d have) has the communication skills of Hank Williams in Davos, Switzerland, or, alternately, of a Davos regular at a rattlesnake roundup and Baptist revival in Opp, Alabama. And tariffs. Many on the right, including me, even if they like the China tariffs and see the long-term national security rationale of reducing China’s export markets, think that tariffs on our other trade partners, especially if we want to take on China, are madness and a threat to all the economic growth that his policies have spurred so far. Will voters punish Democrats for jumping the shark? Only time will tell.