Friday, February 3, 2017

"Ill-Considered Policy Spasms"

I have often remarked on the influence and importance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Heaven knows why she was named Time Magazine Person of the Year for 2015 but her long rule over Germany has certainly not been a great success.

Keep in mind, Merkel comes from the conservative side of German politics. She is not a liberal or a progressive. If Merkel was the role model for girl power, for the exercise of political authority by a woman, perhaps her example was more harmful to the Hillary Clinton candidacy than either Vladimir Putin or Wikileaks.

Holman Jenkins declared on Wednesday that Merkel governs by “ill-considered policy spasms,” a nice phrase that describes a leader who governs with her gut, without allowing the light of reason to enter her deliberations. Thus, she has made serious mistakes and these mistakes have had serious consequences.

Counting down Angela’s greatest hits, Jenkins opens with her gut reaction to the Fukushima earthquake. Merkel unthinkingly shut down Germany’s nuclear power plants, ignoring the fact that the evacuation from Fukushima caused far more deaths than did the radiation from the leak:

After the Japanese tsunami and earthquake, she precipitously ordered the closure of Germany’s 17 nuclear plants. Never mind that not a single death, among the 18,000 in the Japanese earthquake and its aftermath, was caused by radiation exposure—though 1,600 deaths are estimated to have resulted indirectly from the unnecessary evacuation of 300,000 Fukushima prefecture residents.

And then there was Merkel’s embrace of renewable clean energy… in particular wind and solar power. How did that one work out? Glad you asked.

Jenkins explains:

With her Energiewende, she ordained Germany’s forced march toward renewable power, which recently collided with stable high-pressure systems that left Germany cloudy and windless for three weeks. Now Germans learn, at catastrophic expense, they must maintain duplicate power systems, one running on coal. Germany’s CO 2 emissions are higher than when Mrs. Merkel started.

If only they could have sacrificed Iphigenia and made the winds rise....

One understands that the environmentalist push toward clean energy is more about virtue signaling than about dealing with the nation’s energy needs. And it certainly ignores the fact that renewable energy is many times more expensive than supposedly dirty energy sources.

Since the best laid plans, especially those that ignore reality in favor of some gauzy ideal, oft produce unintended consequences, Merkel’s environmental policy has caused wind and solar energy companies to seek out government subsidies for their extremely expensive energy. And of course, the increasing cost of electricity has been borne by consumers, not be well-connected businesses.

Jenkins explains:

Her energy vision, whatever it might have been, is now consumed by the demand of wind farms and solar installers for subsidies, and the clamor of politically-connected businesses for exemptions from the resulting high electricity prices.

We note, with some amusement, that Merkel's policy spasm has led to more carbon dioxide emissions. It was another win for the environment.

No list of Angela’s greatest hits would be complete without mentioning-- yet again-- her horrific decision to open Germany’s arms to over a million Muslim refugees. We all understand that, given the nature of the European Union, a resident of Germany can travel freely throughout the EU. Thus, Merkel’s policy seemed indirectly to contribute to Great Britain’s Brexit and to the Trump election:

She threw open the European Union’s gates to Middle Eastern and African migrants, a decision now seen as a direct spur to Brexit, the rise of anti-EU parties across the Continent, even the election of the anti-NATO, anti-EU administration of Donald Trump in the U.S.

Jenkins sees the calamity of the Merkel administration as a cautionary tale for our current president. I trust that he still holds to a previous view, namely, that it is far too early to judge the success or failure of the Trump presidency.

But, he suggests that governing by “policy spasms,” aka, going with your gut, is a bad basis for leadership. Among other reasons, if your policies are unintelligible and incoherent—as are the rumblings of your gut—you will sow more chaos than order. World leaders will not know when the antacid will kick in.

Jenkins concludes his column:

Mr. Trump has ideas but they are ankle-deep. His transactional presidency may disrupt for the purpose of disrupting, but not clear yet is whether it’s really leading anywhere. Ronald Reagan created a lasting legacy. In his parting address to his staff, he linked his vision of lower marginal tax rates and reduced regulation to the eternal fight against those seeking to drag us a “mile or two more down what Friedrich Hayek called the road to serfdom.”

We didn’t start with Mrs. Merkel by accident. For all his faults, Mr. Trump’s election is at least the biggest sign yet that Western electorates have figured out something has gone wrong with the Western economic model, even if they are divided over exactly what the trouble is.

So, something is clearly wrong. The reaction to Trump shows it on a daily basis. And yet, Trump himself has been less than sure-footed in his leadership style. He has produced more uncertainty than confidence.

Obviously, he is learning on the job. Obviously, the Democrats and the media are not in a mood to cut him any slack. Obviously, he has been in the White House for all of two weeks.

So, Jenkins suggests that it’s a bit early to ring the alarm bells, but not too soon to offer some friendly advice. It’s time  for the Donald to get a grip, lest his presidency end up looking like Merkel, Part Deux.

To be fair, Trump’s unhinged and increasingly violent opponents are doing him a large favor. They are discrediting their cause and pushing people toward him. This cuts him some slack. And yet, if you have no experience governing, it’s best to rely on people who do. And not, as I have often recommended in many different contexts, to go with your gut. 

Celebrities become famous for saying whatever crosses their minds. Presidents, political, business and military leaders, must learn messaging discipline. Sooner, rather than later.


Anonymous said...

Stuart: I'm not sure Frau Merkel ought to be placed in the conservative category, though she might find common ground with our RINOs, GOPe and the other Chamber of Commerce Repubs. I was under the impression she came out of the Stasi wing of the GDR, which explains her fondness for totalitarianism.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Trump is moving fast, and it's a smart strategy.

Speed often compormises quality. That said, his agenda is so radical to Washington, D.C. He has to move fast if he wants to take ground and secure it. He can win hearts and minds later.

Speed leaves foes disoriented, and friends playing catch-up. The result is audience uncertainty. The question is whether Trunp and his team are being intentional. I suspect they are.

I suspect we have another 3-4 weeks of this, and that Trump will keep using the "hand" that is so unsettling to so many so that they're not paying attention to what the other "hand" is doing. But in the end, he is doing what he said he would do. These are not manipulations or lies. For many of us, it's not unsettling at all. In fact, it's delightful. Pure delight. The reaction of the globalists is showing thei same smug entitlement they've had all along. The Left exhibits uncontained rage. Unions, automakers and energy producers appear stunned that someone is actually on their side. Iran is freaking out. This all traces back to Obama's failed leadership in leading from behind, crony capitalism, social justice nonsense, and disastrous foreign policy decisions. Now a new American president steps to the fore, and it's a shocking novelty.

Katielee4211 said...

I don't know that Merkel could be classed as Conservative...unless they have a different definition. I don't think I'd say she was a strong 'leader', either. She seems to be a leader who follows by emotional reactions.

I do tend to think, although he gives me a certain amount of anxiety on many occasions, mostly induced by leftist hysteria and fake news, that Trump behind closed doors is different than Trump on Twitter. I'd say his vision is far deeper than the ankles. I might agree with Ignatius.

Trigger Warning said...

Conservatives in Western Europe and the UK tend to be a different political breed than American conservatives. The fact that they share a common category name leads people from this side of the pond to incorrect political policy assumptions.

Richard Nixon (price controls, gold standard, EPA, etc) and George HW Bush could pass as conservative in Europe.

sestamibi said...

"One understands that the environmentalist push toward clean energy is more about virtue signaling than about dealing with the nation’s energy needs. And it certainly ignores the fact that renewable energy is many times more expensive than supposedly dirty energy sources."

But it's a lot more than just virtue signaling. It's a religion that holds that man is a blot on the planet, and the earth would be better off without human presence. Thus, anything that advances that goal, such as the impoverishment of the population through environmentalist obstruction of economic development, artificially jacked up energy prices, and zero fertility among the white gay and feminist chattering classes, is top priority.

One might also add that Merkel is what you get when you sign up for the pussification of policy. This is how women "lead", and they make no apologies for such style. If anything, male leadership is regarded as retrograde, conflict driven, and "logocentric". Thank God we avoided Hillary.

Dennis said...


Thank God there are people who are starting to look past today's actions to the future goals that Trump is trying to institute. As I commented before it took me a while before I began to see the logic in what Trump is doing. My first reaction, knowing the federal government as I do, was "What in the Hell is he doing?" given the forces allied agains't him. His actions are precisely because of the forces allied agains't him. An aside here. An alligator can do real damage to one by biting them. There is considerable downward force when the attempted attack occurs, but there is little strength in its ability to get enough power to bite again. In other words its advantage actually turns into a disadvantage. If one looks at almost any thing they consider powerful there is a strong indication of weakness in that power. What makes a lot of criminals good at crime is they instantly see that weakness. I will let you figure out the point I am making here. Mao said it well, copying Sun Tzu, in the Little Red Book. Suffice it to say that in advantage lies the seeds of disadvantage and this is never truer when one can get their opponent to lean on their emotions, anger and hatreds.


Much of the environmentalists machinations about their selected forms of replacing fossil fuels is today's example of the "eight track tape. I would also suggest that Merkel is not a true leader in the meaning of the term leader. Being elected does not make one a leader. Case in point Obama.

Dennis said...

I forgot to add that along with criminals terrorists are good at terrorism because they see the weaknesses.

Teapartydoc said...

There's nothing wrong with going with your gut on things. The only difference is that the gut needs to be highly educated in the ways of the world and finely tuned. Chess masters don't have to study the board before every move. Look up ratio vs intellectus.