Right Gets Pen and Sword Backwards. Again.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

As even some conservatives predicted, that pen Donald Trump found, left behind in Barack Obama's former office, took little time to explode. The most recent instant erasure of a part of Donald Trump's "legacy" has been the part against some bad housing mandates he didn't like. I still remember the magical thinkers at the New York Post declaring that, "Team Trump Just Called a Halt to the Obama-Era War on American Suburbs."

And now, just like that, the "war" is right back on:

Image by United States Government, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
President Biden's flurry of executive orders has now extended to housing policy -- and to a pledge to reverse the Trump administration's approach to "fair housing." Specifically, that would mean reversing the Trump reversal of an Obama-era rule known as "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" -- designed to introduce "affordable" (read "subsidized") housing into higher-income, suburban zip codes. To justify a return to this controversial policy, President Biden rehearsed a long litany of federal housing-policy sins. He's right about many of those -- but wrong about his approach to redress. More subsidized housing, in the tragic public-housing tradition, will only spur division and do little to help minority groups in their quest for upward mobility. [bold added]
The rest of the article commits the usual sin of conservative journalism: ticking off bad consequences of left-wing policies, while conceding the altruistic, anti-capitalist moral premise. The closest the piece comes to advocating the real solution to the problem of affordable housing is a prime example:
The "exclusionary" suburbs won't be pried open by confrontation. There will be endless lawsuits. Instead, HUD, if it's to have any useful role, must try to use such tools as model zoning (suggestions, not mandates) to convince local planning boards to permit the market to build naturally occurring affordable housing -- small homes, including small multifamilies, on small lots. Historically, that's how the American working class was able to afford homes. [bold added]
That line in bold is a real hum-dinger coming from the "right." Since when does anything occur "naturally" in an economy in which people trade by permission rather than by right? And, while we're at it, why not learn a valuable lesson about the nature of persuasion from the fights for abolition and civil rights: It's between individuals, and the side with the moral high ground ultimately prevails. (I would guess this is why the author accepts the impossible goal of the government mandating "nondiscrimination." Unfortunately, if prosperity cannot exist by the decree of central planners, neither can benevolence or the moral outlook of regarding all men as equals.)

There is a difficulty in taking this tack: The left smears anything it disagrees with, capitalism in particular, as "racist" and the fact that some people have (and would) use or attempt to use restrictive covenants for bigoted reasons would make standing up for truly free (and truly affordable!) housing tricky. One might even have to make it widely known that capitalism opens many more doors to everyone, minorities included, than central planning.

In sum: Trump was wrongly congratulated for using a physical pen to end a war on property rights -- by the very people we would hope to know what The pen is mightier than the sword actually means. And now we have another example of someone on the right either not understanding the nature of persuasion, confessing ignorance of where the moral high ground is, or both.

As Ayn Rand once put it in her anthology, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, "[I]n order to be heard, one must have something to say." Trump's substitute of a pen for a long and necessary battle for public opinion and passage of legislation is a symptom of a much deeper problem: Most of the right lacks a moral basis for fighting the left, and therefore is missing both moral certainty and concrete proposals for fighting back. The time to use the pen is when it is mightier than the sword: At the beginning of such a war, and not at what might look like the end to a wishful thinker.

Biden has predictably resurrected another potentially very destructive Obama-era policy: Those of us who truly wish to end it must stand up for what it attacks: The fundamental human right to property.

-- CAV


: Added editing notices to each block quote.


dream weaver said...

Your title reminded me of this parallel title by Dave Lowry, going into the language behind the "Sword and Brush", the gentle, careful, precise usage of the sword, the angry downstrokes and sideswiped of the brush, and the extended themes into various other arts, such as floral arrangements, in the search for clarity.


Gus Van Horn said...

Took a quick look at the book description...

Sounds worthwhile, but I never would have imagined myself making such a comparison!