Instant Reincarnation?

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Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1866 – 1944), first commissioner of baseball:

Kenesaw Mountain Landis

Roger Scruton (1944 – ), British philosopher:

Sir Roger Scruton

Close, but no cigar. Judge Landis died on November 20, 1944. Sir Roger was born almost 9 months earlier, on February 27, 1944.

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Big Losers and Donald Trump

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Republican William Howard Taft lost his bid for re-election in 1912 to Democrat Woodrow Wilson , thanks to the candidacy of former Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, who ran on the Progressive ticket. Because of TR’s entry into the race, Taft won only 23 percent of the popular vote (he took 52 percent in the election of 1908), against Wilson’s 42 percent and TR’s 35 percent. Taft’s reverse coattails helped the GOP lose ground in the House and Senate. The GOP, which had won 41 percent of House seats in the election of 1910, dropped to 31 percent in 1912. And in the Senate the GOP went from 54 percent to 46 percent.

The next big loser was Democrat James Cox, who took only 34 of the popular vote in 1920, while Republican Warren G. Harding took 60 percent. With Harding’s big win, the GOP ran its House majority from 55 percent to 69 percent, and its Senate majority from 51 percent to 61 percent.

Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 with 61 percent of the popular vote. FDR’s Republican opponent, Alfred Landon, won only 37 percent. The GOP’s share of House seats dropped from 24 percent to 20 percent. In the Senate, the GOP went from 26 percent to 17 percent. Both results are low-water marks for Republican representation in Congress.

Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson duplicated FDR’s feat by winning in 1968 with 61 percent of the popular vote. Republican Barry Goldwater garnered only 38 percent. The GOP’s shares of House and Senate dropped by 8 percentage points (from 40 percent to 32 percent) and 2 percentage points (from 34 percent to 32 percent).

Republican Richard Nixon won re-election in 1972, taking 61 percent of the popular vote to Democrat George McGovern’s 38 percent. Nixon’s win led to a mild GOP resurgence in the House, from 41 percent to 44 percent. But the GOP lost ground in the Senate, dropping from 45 percent to 43 percent.

The  most recent election that resembled a landslide victory was in 1984, when Republican Ronald Reagan won re-election with 59 percent of the popular vote. Democrat Walter Mondale managed 41 percent. Reagan’s big win helped the GOP increase its share of House seats from 38 percent to 42 percent. But the Senate went the other way, with the GOP share dropping from 55 percent to 53 percent.

It seems that ticket-splitting has become more usual. And that’s a good thing if, as expected, Donald Trump loses to Hillary Clinton in November. It doesn’t seem, as of now, that Trump will be a loser on the scale of Taft, et al., but a loser nonetheless (in two meanings of loser). The only thing that will keep Trump from joining the really big losers is the identity of his opponent, who in saner times would already be in jail — with her husband.

There’s still hope that the Republican convention will yield a nominee other than Trump, but that’s a faint hope at this point.

Beyond the Far Horizon

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Several years ago I began to track some celebrities who had attained the age of 90. The rather quirky list of notables now looks like this:

Luise Rainer 104, George Beverly Shea 104, Charles Lane 102Irwin Corey 101, Herman Wouk 101, George Kennan 101, Olivia de Havilland 100 (on July 1*), Gloria Stuart 100Eddie Albert 99, Michael DeBakey 99, Zsa Zsa Gabor 99, Vera Lynn 99, Mitch Miller 99, Max Schmeling 99, Risë Stevens 99, John Wooden 99Tony Martin 98, Dale Messick 98, Eli Wallach 98John Kenneth Galbraith 97, Ernest Gallo 97, Billy Graham 97, Estée Lauder 97, Art Linkletter 97, Al Lopez 97Karl Malden 97, John Mills 97, Kitty Carlisle 96Monte Irvin 96, Jack LaLanne 96, Kevin McCarthy 96, Harry Morgan 96, Fay Wray 96Jane Wyatt 96, Joseph Barbera 95, Ernest Borgnine 95, Henri Cartier-Bresson 95Herbert Lom 95, Peter Rodino, Jr 95, Sargent Shriver 95, Patty Andrews 94, Sammy Baugh 94, Constance Cummings 94, Lady Bird Johnson 94, Robert Mondavi 94, Byron Nelson 94, Les Paul 94, Ruth Hussey 93, Frankie Laine 93, Robert McNamara 93, Artie Shaw 93,  Richard Widmark 93, Oleg Cassini 92, Ralph Edwards 92Bob Feller 92, Ernie Harwell 92, Lena Horne 92Julia Child 91, Archibald Cox 91, Geraldine Fitzgerald 91, Frances Langford 91, John Profumo 91, William Westmoreland 91Jane Wyman 90.

I was reminded of this list by a name in the “Today’s Birthdays” feature of the newspaper: actress June Lockhart 91. Because only six members of my original list remain among the living, I’m adding Lockhart to the list, as well as these notables of interest to me: baseball player Bobby Doerr 98, justice John Paul Stevens 96, economist and secretary of state George Shultz 95, prince consort Philip Mountbatten 95, actress Betty White 94, secretary of defense Melvin Laird 93, baseball player Red Schoendienst 93, actress Rose Marie 92, physicist Freeman Dyson 92, president George H.W. Bush 92, and actor Hal Holbrook 91.

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* By my reckoning, of the dozens (or hundreds) of actors who starred in Hollywood films before World War II, only Olivia de Havilland survives. She attained star billing in 1935, at the age of 19, for her role in Captain Blood. Other pre-war films in which she starred include The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Gone with the Wind (1939).

Revisiting the “Marketplace” of Ideas

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In “The ‘Marketplace’ of Ideas” I observe that

[u]nlike true markets, where competition usually eliminates sellers whose products and services are found wanting, the competition of ideas often leads to the broad acceptance of superstitions, crackpot notions, and plausible but mistaken theories. These often find their way into government policy, where they are imposed on citizens and taxpayers for the psychic benefit of politicians and bureaucrats and the monetary benefit of their cronies.

The “marketplace” of ideas is replete with vendors who are crackpots, charlatans, and petty tyrants. They run rampant in the media, academia, and government.

Caveat emptor.

Theodore Dalrymple reminds us just how easily crackpot ideas gain wide acceptance:

Rather against my better judgment, and that of my wife, I allowed myself to be persuaded to take part recently in a debate, or public conversation, about prostitution….

The two women on the panel with me took different views of the matter, though both were somewhat opposed to me. The question supposedly before us was, fortunately, soon forgotten. The first of the women was a representative of a prostitutes’ organised pressure group, and herself a prostitute, and the second a sociologist….

The spokeswoman for the prostitutes of England … believed that prostitution was an evil brought about by the current economic dispensation. Women, many of them single mothers, had no choice but to prostitute themselves. They could earn much more by prostitution than in respectable jobs; increasing poverty and desperation drove them to it.

I asked her whether she was saying that all women in a certain situation were prostitutes, having no choice in the matter: in which case there would surely be millions more than there are?…

She replied that in an ideal world there would be no prostitution, but that so long as many people had to do jobs at low pay in occupations that they detested, prostitution was a reasonable choice. (The fact that prostitution in her opinion was undesirable suggested that she did not agree with the sociologist that it was a job like any other, that there was something intrinsically wrong or degrading about it.)

What she was really asking for, then, was a world in which everyone did a job, other than for reasons of pay, that he or she found agreeable and conformable to their wishes. This was a kind of Marxist Utopia, as expressed in The German Ideology [by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels], in which

nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.

I said that what the prostitute wanted, in effect, was the abolition of both the division of labour and the labour market. To my surprise, a portion of the audience, far from taking this as absurd, was extremely enthusiastic about it. They wanted (at least in theory) the abolition of the division of labour and the labour market. Furthermore, as members of the bourgeoisie themselves, in its intellectual branch, they benefited from precisely what they wanted to abolish.

This suggested to me what in fact I had long suspected, namely that victories in the field of social, economic and philosophical thought are never final, but that the battles have to be fought over and over again, no matter what experiences Mankind has gone through in the meantime.

And so it is that ideas which are not only preposterous but also anti-libertarian take root and destroy liberty. As I have said:

Liberty is lost when the law allows “freedom of speech, and of the press” to undermine the civil and state institutions that enable liberty.

Now for Texit, and More

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Unless the parliament of the so-called United Kingdom double-crosses the majority of English, Welsh, Scottish, and Northern Irish voters who approved Brexit, the UK will officially withdraw from the European Union. That’s good news for those of us who oppose dictatorship by distant bureaucrats.

There’s a parallel movement known as Texit, which is dedicated to the secession of Texas from the union known as the United States. Some backers of Texit believe wrongly that the Treaty of Annexation which made Texas a State has an escape clause. It doesn’t, but secession is nevertheless legal, not only for Texas but for all States.

It is telling — and encouraging — that even Donald Trump, the non-conservative and weak prospective GOP nominee, seems likely (at this date) to win the electoral votes of 20 States. In numbers there is strength. A secession movement would have a greater chance of success if it encompassed several States.

Sign me up.

The Stock Market 15 Years from Now

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I won’t bore you with a bunch of tables and graphs. I’ll just tell you that I’ve played around with inflation-adjusted stock-market indices (the Wilshire 5000 Total Return and the S&P Composite), and have discovered the following:

  • Internal relationships (future performance vs. prior performance) suggest that 15 years from now real stock prices will have risen at a compounded annual rate of +5 to +10 percent.
  • External relationships (future performance vs. current AAA corporate bond rate) suggest that 15 years from now real stock prices will have dropped at a compounded annual rate of about -5 percent.

The second result is based on a positive long-run relationship between the bond rate and stock-market performance. Why would there be such a relationship if an interest-rate hike usually causes stock prices to drop? Well, that’s a short-run phenomenon. But over the long run, higher interest rates mean more demand for money, which means that companies are making investments to generate higher profits. And over a period of sufficient length, like 15 years, those higher profits are realized and reflected in stock prices.

In sum, low interest rates signal sluggish business activity. Interest rates are at historically low levels, and have remained stubbornly low for a simple reason. It’s not just that inflation is low. It’s also that the demand for money is weak because the regulatory regime makes it more increasingly difficult and unprofitable for businesses to form and expand.

I see no hope for true regulatory reform, which would involve the beheading of almost every government bureaucrat in the United States. Therefore, my bet is on negative stock-market performance over the next 15 years — and beyond.

It can happen here if it can happen in Japan, where the Nikkei 225 index stands at 42 percent of its nominal level on December 1, 1989. Adjusted for inflation, the index probably has dropped about 75 percent in 27 years, which is a real  decline of -5 percent a year.

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Related reading: Jon Hilsenrath, “Yellen Points to Slow Growth and Low Rates in the Long Run,” The Wall Street Journal, June 21, 2016

Related posts:
Economic Growth Since World War II (with links to many more related posts)
Bonds for the Long Run?
Why Are Interest Rates So Low?