Dangerous Times: Obama's Perversity

In economics, a "perverse effect" means getting what you don't want.  If McDonald's makes an executive decision to sell lousy burgers and ends up bankrupt, that is a perverse decision.  Markets are tough on companies that act perversely, but the Amazonian jungle of government allows perverse incentives to flourish and spread.  In our current state of national perversity we have massive voter ignorance and apathy (and therefore no punishment for misgovernment), a Senate that passes critical legislation without even bothering to read it, an income tax code written by special-interest lobbyists over decades, and an IRS that is so deeply politicized that voter outrage has no visible impact at all.  Add a one-party media and government control over one seventh of the economy coming up, and you know we're not going to come out of this unscathed.

Chicago is basically a one-party regime.  How can you tell if you're living under one-party rule?  Your media aren't going to tell you.  Your government isn't either.  Your schools are part of the mob monopoly.  But there are signs: the biggest one is that open scandals and crimes have no consequences.  We all know Holder is a perverse attorney general, that the EPA is run by scientific know-nothings, that Wall Street has high-level lines running into this administration, that "green technology" contradicts the known facts of physics, and that "catastrophic climate change" is a self-serving farce.

This presidency is practically defined by its perversity.  When this administration gets caught with its pants down, it just becomes even more grandiose.

All the scandals the media decided to expose after the election have not changed any behavior.  All the costs of ObamaCare are scheduled to come due after the election, and there must be millions of Americans still deluded enough to believe they didn't buy a lemon again.  Anybody with a computer can now read the weekly exposés of the much-admired British government's health system, with dirty, overcrowded hospital rooms; spreading antibiotic resistance; poor treatment for older people (who don't have enough QALYs left on their life tickets); and deliberately uncontrolled immigration to bring in cheap Labour voters.  These are all in our future.

But Americans voted for Obama because he would relieve their white guilt forever.  They chose not to know the consequences.  When things fall apart, they will blame another scapegoat.  Obama's perversity -- his endless big promises leading to terrible outcomes -- echoes the growing perversity of our culture.  This is a very stubborn disease, and it may take decades to cure.

The Jihad War is yet another example of perversity.  There certainly is a danger of foreign attacks today, but this is not the first time: in 1812, the Redcoats burned the White House down.  The Soviets ran constant bomber and submarine probes against the U.S., just as we did to them.  Previous U.S. responses to military threats have been proportionate.  Thomas Jefferson sent some Navy ships and Marines to deal with the Algerian pirates who attacked our merchant vessels on the high seas.  

But Obama authorized global violations of the privacy rights of billions of people all over the world.  Under Obama, we have abused the greatest promises of web technology.  We are now hated and feared by Russia, Germany, China, Britain, and our former allies, who can no longer trust us.  Who knows when the next kid with a thumbdrive will download their Swiss bank accounts for all the world to see?  In this Brave New World, we still can't answer the ancient question -- can you trust a stranger with your private information? -- in the affirmative.

In computer jargon, searching every person in the world is called a "brute force" approach.  Brute force means you frisk grandmothers and babies at the airport.  Intelligent search means focusing on potential terrorists and letting grandmothers go on their way.  Every time you take off your stuff at an airport checkpoint these days, you are looking at the waste and invasiveness of brute force search.

Muslims are said to number about a billion.  Dangerous jihadists are less than 0.01% of that number on any given day -- maybe 10,000.  A hundred thousand, max.  Those are the people we need to spot if they buy a cash air ticket from Timbuktu to Detroit, like the underwear bomber.  Actual jihad soldiers are usually 20-something males, heavily indoctrinated in Muslim countries or in Western mosques.  They are surrounded by funders, ideologues, propagandists, enablers, bomb-makers, fellow-travelers, and all the rest.  But the violent hard core is easily analyzed on your home computer.  It's not hard.

The NSA has now been blown open by making the most obvious mistakes in history.  It does not matter how many supercomputers you have, because your weak spot is always the human factor.  When the next 20-something kid with delusions of grandeur walks out of another top-secret NSA building carrying a thumb drive, the problem isn't computers, high-tech encryption, or Chinese hackers.  The problem is human beings.

Presidents can never control everything.  The greatest example today is the flourishing of the U.S. energy sector.  We are now a net exporter of hydrocarbon fuels, the cleanest kind: natural gas.  This has happened because the market financed exploration in shale deposits, gambled that a workable technology would be found, and, because of the high price of fuel, made competitive investments in Montana and Canada that are paying off even now.  It is an amazing story of the creativity and efficiency of a fairly free market in the face of a government and media that are passionately and irrationally hostile to energy production in this country.  The spread of American shale technology will revolutionize world energy markets, because vast quantities of shale have now been discovered off the coasts of Israel and Cyprus, in Poland, in the South China Sea, and in India.  The end of the forty-year OPEC monopoly is in sight, and all because the market found ways to get around the Persian Gulf bottleneck using smart technology.

In the face of fantastic success stories in clean fuel discoveries today, Obama is still pretending to see artificial scarcities.  He still has to save the earth, which is in no particular danger.

Perverse incentives, and perverse decisions.