Posts Tagged ‘economics’

A Tribute to Lee Kwan Yew

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Thomas Sowell has a fine tribute to the leader of Singapore who died yesterday.

It is not often that the leader of a small city-state — in this case, Singapore — gets an international reputation. But no one deserved it more than Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of Singapore as an independent country in 1959, and its prime minister from 1959 to 1990. With his death, he leaves behind a legacy valuable not only to Singapore but to the world.

Born in Singapore in 1923, when it was a British colony, Lee Kuan Yew studied at Cambridge University after World War II, and was much impressed by the orderly, law-abiding England of that day. It was a great contrast with the poverty-stricken and crime-ridden Singapore of that era.

Today Singapore has a per capita Gross Domestic Product more than 50 percent higher than that of the United Kingdom and a crime rate a small fraction of that in England. A 2010 study showed more patents and patent applications from the small city-state of Singapore than from Russia. Few places in the world can match Singapore for cleanliness and orderliness.

Mr Lee had an impressive life story, himself.

Lee graduated from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, with a double starred-first-class honours in law. In 1950, he became a barrister of the Middle Temple and practised law until 1959. He co-founded and was the first secretary-general of the People’s Action Party (PAP), leading it to eight consecutive victories. He campaigned for merger with Malaysia, a move deemed crucial to persuading Britain to relinquish its colonial rule in 1963; but racial strife and political tensions led to Singapore’s separation from the Federation two years later. Leading a newly independent Singapore from 1965, with overwhelming parliamentary control, Lee oversaw the nation’s transformation from a relatively underdeveloped colonial outpost with no natural resources into an Asian Tiger economy. In the process, he forged a widely admired system of meritocratic, clean, self-reliant and efficient government and civil service, much of which is now taught at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

He was a great man and his legacy is being maintained in spite of faint praise from the NY Times.

Pragmatic even about death and averse to a cult of personality, Mr. Lee, who died Monday at age 91, said the house would cost too much to maintain and would become a shambles when “people trudge through.”

There was no wrecking ball on Mr. Lee’s quiet street on Tuesday, and the official memorial does not begin until the public viewing of his coffin in Parliament on Wednesday.

But Singaporeans are asking the same questions about the larger house that Lee Kuan Yew built — modern Singapore and the vaunted “Singapore model.” Will it survive him, or has the sleek Asian financial hub outgrown his father-knows-best style of government?

Among members of the country’s increasingly assertive and demanding electorate, there are calls for a new social contract, a more consultative government and participatory rule-making.

They may be ready for democracy now but there was no question about it then.

A Very good explanation of Hillary Clinton.

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

Kevin Williamson is one of my favorite writers and I have read his book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Today he has an excellent column on Hillary Clinton that seems to me very insightful.

[T]he Democrats place an extraordinary value on cleverness: They are the party of the student council, and Bill Clinton has spent 50-odd years proving to the world that he is the cleverest boy at Hot Springs High School, and his admirers loved him not in spite of his gross opportunism and dishonesty but because of those very things. Finally, the Democrats rejoiced, a man who can show those Republicans for the unsophisticated, unclever fools that they are! Mrs. Clinton is at the moment looking somewhat short of clever.

I have thought all along that Bill was the clever boy in school who was almost an accidental president. George Bush was convinced to raise taxes at the beginning of a recession, I have always believed, as part of a deal to get Democrats to vote for the Gulf War. There has been considerable speculation about Al Gore’s vote for the Gulf War.

Later that night, Sen. Gore called Greene and asked if Sen. Dole had scheduled him for a prime-time speaking slot. When Greene said nothing had been finalized yet, Gore erupted, “Damn it, Howard! If I don’t get 20 minutes tomorrow I’m going to vote the other way!”

Gore wanted more time on TV. What about Dan Rostenkowski ? The Democrats supported Bush in the Gulf War vote by a minority of 32% of their members

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Amnesty and Our Future.

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

I came across an excellent long post at Bookworm this morning. I have been very aware of the growing presence of illegal aliens in California for the past 40 years. Not far from my home you can see some of it as Hispanic men gather at street corners looking for day labor.

j and l

Two such corners are at Jeronimo and Los Alisos in Mission Viejo. Another is a half mile away at a U-Haul yard where people rent trucks and trailers. Every morning you will see 50 to 60 men standing on the corner and running over to any car that seems to be slowing down or stopping.

Anyway, here are a few reflections on what is happening.

The communists’ big moment came in 1995 when no one was looking. That was the year that the Democratic Socialists of America, a communist group, put one of their own — John Sweeney — in as head of the AFL-CIO. Overnight, the AFL-CIO, an organization that was once ferociously anti-communist and that opposed amnesty because it would hurt working Americans, turned into a pro-communist, pro-amnesty group.

More than that, through the AFL-CIO, communists suddenly owned Congress. After all, unions (headed by the SEIU, which outspends the next two donor organizations which are also Leftist) are the largest contributors to Democrat politicians.

Ok, Ok I know that communists are an old story. Still, what we see in this country is Socialism gaining adherents among the young and poorly educated and among the rich who consider themselves immune to its ill effects.

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Is War Coming ?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

There are three, possibly four, major areas of international strife and all are getting worse as we watch.

Europe is trying to deal with Vladimir Putin and the new Russia. It is not doing well.

There was a palpable tone shift in U.S. policy toward Ukraine this week, when the Obama administration signaled that it was ready to consider sending the country lethal military aid. A confluence of factors is pushing President Obama toward this decision. The fragile ceasefire brokered in September between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists has failed, manifested in the series of recent and high-profile separatist advances against the Ukrainian military this week. Bipartisan congressional support for sending weapons to Ukraine, championed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), as well as a newly released report by former senior U.S. and European officials recommending lethal military aid for the embattled country, have also contributed to Obama and his tight inner circle of foreign policy advisers reconsidering the lethal aid option.

Will this happen ? I doubt it.

As Kadri Liik of the European Council on Foreign Relations pointed out recently , many Western leaders persist in seeing the Ukraine invasion as a hiccup in relations with Russia that can be smoothed over, rather than as a demonstration that Mr. Putin’s agenda is fundamentally at odds with Europe’s security interests and its values. Because of their attachment to the hiccup theory, governments — including the Obama administration — have refused to take steps, such as providing the Ukrainian government with defensive weapons, that could help stop Mr. Putin’s aggression. Instead, they concoct futile schemes for “reengaging” the Russian ruler.

The next crisis will be the end of NATO.

Late this week, the Obama administration unveiled its new National Security Strategy, amid less than fanfare, with the execrable Susan Rice explaining in “remain calm, all is well!” fashion that things are really much better globally than they look. This White House’s new foreign policy mantra is Strategic Patience, which seems to be the been-to-grad-school version of “don’t do stupid shit.” Since nobody inside the Beltway is taking this eleventh-hour effort to articulate Obama’s security strategy seriously, it’s doubtful anyone abroad, much less in Moscow, will either.

Soon, Putin will turn his gaze on the Baltics.

Jaws dropped this week when Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who until recently was NATO’s civilian head, stated that it is highly likely that Russia will soon stage a violent provocation against a Baltic state, which being NATO countries, will cause a crisis over the Alliance’s Article 5 provision for collective self-defense. Rasmussen merely said what all defense experts who understand Putin already know, but this was not the sort of reality-based assessment that Western politicians are used to hearing.

NATO has disarmed and is in panic mode now if they have to face Russia, weak as it is in the long term. As Keynes said, “In the long term we are all dead.” We are partly responsible for this state of affairs.

Not all the fault for this sorry state of affairs lies in Europe. Here America has played an insidious role too, encouraging spending on niche missions for the Alliance at the expense of traditional defense. Hence the fact that Baltic navies have considerable counter-mine capabilities — this being an unsexy mission that the U.S. Navy hates to do — yet hardly any ability to police their maritime borders against intruding Russians. To make matters worse, since 2001 the Americans have encouraged NATO partners to spend considerable amounts of their limited defense budgets on America’s losing war in Afghanistan.

We should have gotten out in 2009. The absurd Rules of Engagement are only part of it.

Now, we face another major threat in the Middle East, Theater Two.

For the situation with Iran, I have long relied on the writing of Spengler.

Dying civilizations are the most dangerous, and Iran is dying. Its total fertility rate probably stands at just 1.6 children per female, the same level as Western Europe, a catastrophic decline from 7 children per female in the early 1980s. Iran’s present youth bulge will turn into an elderly dependent problem worse than Europe’s in the next generation and the country will collapse. That is why war is likely, if not entirely inevitable.

The rulers of Iran have shown no moderation of their messianic beliefs and their willingness to destroy themselves to bring about the coming of the Twelfth Imam.

Twelver Shi‘a believe that al-Mahdi was born in 869 (15 Sha‘bin 255 AH) and assumed Imamate at 5 years of age following the death of his father Hasan al-Askari. In the early years of his Imamate he would only contact his followers through The Four Deputies. After a 72-year period, known as Minor Occultation, a few days before the death of his fourth deputy Abul Hasan Ali ibn Muhammad al-Samarri in 941, he is believed to have sent his followers a letter. In that letter that was transmitted by al-Samarri he declared the beginning of Major Occultation during which Mahdi is not in contact with his followers.

The coming of the Imam is part of the end of the world and the rulers of Iran are “Twelvers.”

Shi’as believe that Imam al-Mahdi will reappear when the world has fallen into chaos and civil war emerges between the human race for no reason. At this time, it is believed, half of the true believers will ride from Yemen carrying white flags to Makkah, while the other half will ride from Karbalaa’, in the `Iraq, carrying black flags to Makkah. At this time, Imam al-Mahdi will come wielding `Ali’s Sword, Zulfiqar , the Double-Bladed Sword. He will also come and reveal the texts in his possession, such as al-Jafr and al-Jamia.

The Shi’ites have this belief as part of their religion and the rulers of Iran seem to be sincere in their beliefs, which is why Obama is insane to consider them rational.

The Sunni equivalent is the new group called Islamic State in Syria and various other names.

The recent rise in terrorist attacks is only one part of the problem. We also see the collapse of Iraq after Obama removed all US troops.

What are we going to do about all this? Probably nothing as Obama has a master plan that will solve all our problems. He will make friends with our worst enemies.

What about China ? We were going to “pivot to Asia.”

One question is whether China is stable. There are questions about China’s economic future.

Beijing can manage a rapidly declining pace of credit creation, which must inevitably result in much slower although healthier GDP growth. Or Beijing can allow enough credit growth to prevent a further slowdown but, once the perpetual rolling-over of bad loans absorbs most of the country’s loan creation capacity, it will lose control of growth altogether and growth will collapse.

The choice, in other words, is not between hard landing and soft landing. China will either choose a “long landing”, in which growth rates drop sharply but in a controlled way such that unemployment remains reasonable even as GDP growth drops to 3% or less, or it will choose what analysts will at first hail as a soft landing – a few years of continued growth of 6-7% – followed by a collapse in growth and soaring unemployment.

What would happen then ? I just don’t see a war with China in our future, partly because neither of us can afford it. China is threatening its neighbors, like Japan and the Philippines, but we are unlikely to intervene. Our former allies in the east are now seeking help from each other as Obama destroys the US influence.

Unemployment benefits and jobs

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

The Pelosi Congress extended unemployment benefits in 2009 to a maximum of 53 weeks. This has been renewed until the new Republican Congress after 2010, unable to get Obama to negotiate, allowed the extra benefits to lapse.

Federal unemployment benefits that continue for 26 weeks after a person uses up the 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits ended Saturday, so now some 1.3 million people won’t be getting their $1,166 (on average) monthly check. By June, another 1.9 million will be cut off.

Many in the federal government are talking about the need to extend benefits. President Obama labelled it an “urgent economic priority” and called a couple of senators to pressure them to bring the matter up when the Senate reconvenes next week, and is urging Congress to extend the benefits for another three months. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised a vote no later than January 7 for the three month extension. Gene Sperling, the head of Obama’s National Economic Council, lamented the end of the federal aid…

Disaster was predicted.

Amazingly, the disaster did not happen. In fact, job growth went up.

Just looking at the economy’s overall size, you wouldn’t think that the last year was much different from any of the others since the recession. The U.S. economy grew at about the same rate in 2014 as it did in the previous four years — less than 2.4 percent, according to the Federal Reserve’s most recent projection. Yet last year was different. People started going back to work. The percentage of Americans working, more or less stuck in a ditch since 2009, increased from 58.6 percent in December 2013 to 59.2 percent last month. Employers added an average of 246,000 positions a month, about 3 million jobs overall.

What happened ?

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Chewing Gum

Monday, January 26th, 2015

gum

UPDATE: We now have a report that the former commander of the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) has accused the administration of ignoring and even falsifying the Islamist threat.

“You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists,” he said.

The administration, he continued, wants “us to think that our challenge is dealing with an undefined set of violent extremists or merely lone-wolf actors with no ideology or network. But that’s just not the straight truth.”

Flynn left government last summer, a year before scheduled. He did not provide a reason for his early departure, but sources close to Flynn told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that he was forced out after years of making arguments the Obama administration did not want to hear.

Flynn, and many of the analysts who worked for him, consistently reported on the global nature of the jihadist threat and the interconnectedness of the groups driving it. They mapped overlapping networks of al Qaeda and its offshoots and rejected arguments, pushed primarily by the White House and the CIA, that killing leaders of “core al Qaeda” inevitably meant a diminishing threat.

The Obama people do not want to hear what DIA says.

Sources familiar with the documents tell TWS that they include troubling information about al Qaeda’s plans to empower its franchises, new details about the many relationships with Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service and, significantly, support that the group has received over the years from senior figures in the Iranian regime.

In classified analyses based heavily on the documents, the DIA directly challenged the Obama administration’s claims that the threat from al Qaeda was diminished or fading. Flynn hinted at this in an interview he gave to James Kitfield of Breaking Defense shortly after he left government. “When asked if the terrorists were on the run, we couldn’t respond with any answer but ‘no.’ When asked if the terrorists were defeated, we had to say ‘no.’ Anyone who answers ‘yes’ to either of those questions either doesn’t know what they are talking about, they are misinformed, or they are flat-out lying,” Flynn said.

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Gruber’s lies.

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

The left does not do economics. They do politics and elections and lying to get past the “stupid voters” but, when pressed, nothing they do qualifies as numerically or mathematically sound. Social Security worked until everyone found the queue and until Congress raided the trust fund in the 90s.

Obama and the Democrat leaders knew that Hillary made enemies of the insurance companies in 1992. The insurance companies funded devastating TV ads with “Harry and Louise” that cost the Democrats Congress in 1994. Therefore, they had to do what was necessary to get the insurance companies “inside the tent pissing out and not outside the tent pissing in” in Lyndon Johnson’s immortal words.

Insurance companies have considered health insurance a loser for 25 years now. What they prefer is becoming “Administrative Service Organizations” which administer self funded health plans by employers.

Corporate benefits include- organizing/ negotiating health insurance, group dental, STD, LTD, life, etc.

The plan the Democrats came up with, with Gruber’s help, was to make the government the funding entity and pay the insurance companies to run the program. That way everybody is happy, except, of course, the taxpayer. The taxpayer does not like tax increases which would be needed to pay the bills. Therefore the taxpayer has to be fooled.

The excise tax on high-cost health plans was among the many fees and taxes proposed as offsets to help slow the rate of growth of health costs, particularly premium growth, and finance the nationwide expansion of health coverage. When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, its coverage provisions were estimated to cost more than $900 billion over the next decade, from 2010 to 2019, and were to be paid for by fees and taxes on both individuals and businesses. At the time the health reform bill passed, the excise tax on high-cost plans was estimated to raise roughly $32 billion in revenue over the next decade, or by 2019.

Without the taxes to pay the bills, the whole plan collapses. At its base, Obamacare is Medicaid for everyone. The employer mandate has been, contrary to the text of the law, postponed as the flaws in implementation appear. If it were to be enforced, there would be a revolution. The funding from employee plans is called “The Cadillac Tax which is an excise tax on employer plans that exceed the benefits of Medicaid.

As health coverage expands to tens of millions of Americans–through Medicaid expansion in states and the new state health insurance exchanges that will soon begin selling individual health coverage–some Americans with employer-sponsored health coverage are seeing their benefits decrease.

One of the most significant, and controversial, provisions of the Affordable Care Act is the new excise tax on high-cost health plans proposed to both slow the rate of growth of health costs and finance the expansion of health coverage. The provision is often called the “Cadillac” tax because it targets so-called Cadillac health plans that provide workers the most generous level of health benefits. These high-end health plans’ premiums are paid for mostly by employers. They also have low, if any, deductibles and little cost sharing for employees.

If this is ever implemented, the Medicaid-for-all nature of Obamacare will become obvious. That’s why it will not happen. The fundamental premise behind Obamacare is not viable. That is why it will fail and the numbers do not add up.

Gruber can’t say this. All he can do is obfuscate.

Medicine is coming to be a government benefit.

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

Obamacare is having serious trouble as I have discussed. The success stories, like California, are an example of what I have called Medicaid for All.

“It’s a total contradiction in terms to spend your public time castigating Medicaid as something that never should have been expanded for poor people and as a broken, problem-riddled system, and then turn around and complain about the length of time to enroll people,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a member of the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, which advises Congress.

Most of the new enrollees are Medicaid members and those enrolled in “private insurance” learn that they have severely restricted choice of doctor or hospital.

Now we have a new development.

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An Update on Medical Reform

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Cash medical practice or, in the phrase favored by leftists critics, “Concierge Medicine,” seems to be growing.

Becker is shifting to a new style of practice, sometimes called concierge or retainer medicine. With the help of a company that has been helping physicians make such shifts for over 13 years, he will cease caring for a total of 2,500 patients and instead cut back to about 600. These patients will pay an annual fee of $1,650. In exchange, they will receive a two-hour annual visit with a complete physical exam, same-day appointments, 24-hour physician phone access, and personalized, web-based resources to promote wellness.

The article suggest that all these doctors choosing to drop insurance and Medicare are primary care. Many are but I know orthopedists and even general surgeons who are dropping all insurance.

The concierge model of practice is growing, and it is estimated that more than 4,000 U.S. physicians have adopted some variation of it. Most are general internists, with family practitioners second. It is attractive to physicians because they are relieved of much of the pressure to move patients through quickly, and they can devote more time to prevention and wellness.

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Global Warming and the Divestment Movement

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

I have previously posted on global warming, at least back as far as 2007.

If you want to know the costs associated with the “Cap and Trade” system proposed by Kyoto, look at this report. If you can’t decipher the bureaucratic language, here is the conclusion. GDP and consumption impacts in the Full Auction case are substantially larger than those in the Phased Auction case. Relative to the reference case, discounted total GDP (in 2000 dollars) over the 2009-2030 time period in the Full Auction case is $462 billion (0.19 percent lower), while discounted real consumer spending is $483 billion (0.29 percent) lower. In 2030, projected real GDP in the Full Auction case is $94 billion (0.41 percent) lower than in the reference case, while aggregate consumption is $106 billion (0.69 percent) lower, almost twice the estimated consumption loss in the Phased Auction case. A reduction in GDP is called a recession.A reduction that is permanent is called a Depression.

It’s no wonder that nothing was done. First, the risks of serious harm are small. The small amount of warming suggested by more serious studies has nothing to do with the alarmist views.

Now, we have a new strategy. The alarmists are going to try to destroy the fossil fuel industry.

The fossil free movement has spread far and wide on American campuses. Fossil Free Stanford organized in fall 2012 after McKibben visited Palo Alto on his “Do the Math Tour.” Two of the founding members, Michael Penuelas and Yari Greaney, both from the class of 2015, proclaimed their commitment. Greaney held that “our tuition money…is going to support industries that are polluting our future.”

This is standard student radical rhetoric. What is new ?

The students waged a textbook campaign, assembling impressive numbers, soliciting key testimonials, maintaining a respectful tone towards authority while at the same time keeping up the pressure.

The question is really: to what end? The answer is, sadly, self-delusion. No one doubts that Stanford students are smart, but their intelligence is not much of a defense against irrational enthusiasms that can sweep through a community. What the divestment movement has sold to Stanford students is a bit of flummery. When Stanford announced on May 6 that it would divest “direct investments in coal mining companies,” President John Hennessy issued a statement that begins, “Stanford has a responsibility as a global citizen to promote sustainability for the planet…”

Got that? Stanford is no longer a university. It is a “global citizen.” And global citizens, of course, are charged with promoting “sustainability.”

Delusions of this magnitude seem to be getting more common. As at Dartmouth, for example.

The activists unveiled a Freedom Budget in February with over 70 specific actions they want the Dartmouth administration to take to address students’ concerns over diversity, perceived sexism and the campus climate for minorities and the LGBT community. Students entered President Phil Hanlon’s office Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. asking for a point-by-point response, following what they felt was a half-hearted statement about their budget from Dartmouth a day before finals on March 6.

What do they want ? Why not much, just turn Dartmouth into an insane asylum.

The Freedom Budget’s items include hiring more racial minorities as faculty, implementing more gender-neutral housing and bathroom options, banning the term “illegal immigrant,” evaluating the Greek system’s role in sexual assault, and harsher punishments for those who commit sexual violence.

Stanford assigned another Constitutional Law professor to teach the course that Derrick Bell was teaching. Why should this be ?

Stanford at that time had one of the leading scholars in constitutional law, Professor Gerald Gunther — and Derrick Bell was no Gerald Gunther. A hastily created program of study of constitutional law was then used to teach that subject to students who were not getting what they needed in Professor Bell’s course.

When this clever finessing of the problem came to light, the administration apologized — to Derrick Bell for the embarrassment this caused him.

They should have apologized to the law students for short-changing them with a professor who was not up to the job — and to those who donated money to the university to advance the cause of education, not to allow administrators to play racial quota politics on campus.

As a full professor at the Harvard law school, Derrick Bell was also surrounded by colleagues who were out of his league as academic scholars. What were his options at this point?

Here is one example of the result of affirmative action. What about global warming ?

The orthodoxy of the left is just as powerful. It recently claimed another scalp.

Dear Professor Henderson,

I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety. I see therefore no other way out therefore than resigning from GWPF. I had not expecting such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life. Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc.

No mercy for those who say the earth revolves around the sun. Anyway, the alarmists have a big agenda.

This is not a single-issue movement. This is a space where environmental justice, climate justice, and economic justice have come into contact. We understand that we will not win the fight against the fossil fuel industry without confronting racism, classism, homophobia, and other systems of oppression in our movement spaces.

My colleagues and I at the National Association of Scholars have been pointing out for some time how fluidly the sustainability movement changes from clean energy advocacy to a hard left agenda on social issues. Official Stanford no doubt brushes aside these elaborations, thinking that it has discerned the core issue: dirty industries that pollute the water, blight the landscape, and foul the air. But the true core issue is the effort of a movement to foster in students a lifelong aversion to Western values.

How well it will succeed in that no one knows, but there is no comfort in the ease with which Bill McKibben in a little less than two years has conjured this movement into existence.

Personally, I see this as another example of how environmentalism has become a religion that tolerates heretics not at all. The similarity to the Puritans is striking, even to the region that has given rise to the leftist ideology.

Joseph Bottum, by contrast, examines post-Protestant secular religion with empathy, and contends that it gained force and staying power by recasting the old Mainline Protestantism in the form of catechistic worldly categories: anti-racism, anti-gender discrimination, anti-inequality, and so forth. What sustains the heirs of the now-defunct Protestant consensus, he concludes, is a sense of the sacred, but one that seeks the security of personal salvation through assuming the right stance on social and political issues.

Environmentalism is but one branch of leftism but is a particularly intrusive one.