But what if you’re owed what the government is going to do for you? Back in March Ed Kaitz described a conversation he had on a flight once. He was talking to the man sitting next to him on the flight, a black man, about the success of Vietnamese fishermen:
I had been working on Vietnamese commercial fishing boats for a few years based in southern Louisiana. The boats were owned by the recent wave of Vietnamese refugees who flooded into the familiar tropical environment after the war. Floating in calm seas out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, I would hear tearful songs and tales from ex-paratroopers about losing brothers, sisters, parents, children, lovers, and beautiful Vietnam itself to the communists.That conversation took place back in the 1980s. Now, I think, just about all of us think we are owed.
In Bayou country I lived on boats and in doublewide trailers, and like the rest of the Vietnamese refugees, I shopped at Wal-Mart and ate a lot of rice. When they arrived in Louisiana the refugees had no money (the money that they had was used to bribe their way out of Vietnam and into refugee camps in Thailand), few friends, and a mostly unfriendly and suspicious local population. They did however have strong families, a strong work ethic, and the "Audacity of Hope." Within a generation, with little or no knowledge of English, the Vietnamese had achieved dominance in the fishing industry there and their children were already achieving the top SAT scores in the state.
While I had been fishing my new black friend had been working as a prison psychologist in Missouri, and he was pursuing a higher degree in psychology. He was interested in my story, and after about an hour getting to know each other I asked him point blank why these Vietnamese refugees, with no money, friends, or knowledge of the language could be, within a generation, so successful. I also asked him why it was so difficult to convince young black men to abandon the streets and take advantage of the same kinds of opportunities that the Vietnamese had recently embraced. His answer, only a few words, not only floored me but became sort of a razor that has allowed me ever since to slice through all of the rhetoric regarding race relations that Democrats shovel our way during election season:"We're owed and they aren't."In short, he concluded, "they're hungry and we think we're owed. It's crushing us, and as long as we think we're owed we're going nowhere."
It’s not communism when you share your own goods, and it’s not generous when you share someone else’s goods
Subsequently he was glib about McCain’s supposed attempt to make selfishness a virtue. See? When you want to give away someone else’s goods, you’re being generous. When you want to protect people’s rights to enjoy their goods, you are being selfish.
We don’t think Obama is a socialist (well, a moderate socialist anyway) because he wants to share his goods. We think he’s a socialist because he wants to share goods that aren’t his. And when he’s called on it, he likens it to sharing his toys – not his cousin’s toys, not his neighbor’s -- his toys.
We don’t give a hoot what you do with your stuff, Senator. (A few suggestions do come to mind, however.) That’s not what makes you a socialist.
It’s what you want to do with other people’s stuff. Stuff that isn’t yours. Toys and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that aren’t yours.
Attention Obama supporters: You like him because he’s not threatening to go after your stuff.
If other people’s stuff turns out not to be enough. That may change.
Then he’ll be coming after your stuff. And, quite obviously, he thinks its his. It is by his good graces that you have anything.
Note: In the most technical sense of the word, Senator Obama is not a socialist. He doesn’t advocate government ownership of the means of production. But, given that he clearly believes that whatever is produced is government’s to distribute as it sees fit, there isn’t a significant enough difference.
No, Obama and his compatriots are not socialists. They are civilized barbarians, using the power of the state to plunder their neighbors and distributing to their followers the spoils of their “wars”.
You would think (well, I wouldn’t, but you might) that here’s a guy who should really know better than to call ours a free market system.
George Reisman wrote yesterday on the myth that laissez faire caused the crisis. Naturally, his overall point was that we don’t have such a market; therefore, such a market could not have caused this mess. The entire article is worth the read, but it's just about priceless for this definition of the key term.
Laissez-faire capitalism is a politico-economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and in which the powers of the state are limited to the protection of the individual's rights against the initiation of physical force. This protection applies to the initiation of physical force by other private individuals, by foreign governments, and, most importantly, by the individual's own government. This last is accomplished by such means as a written constitution, a system of division of powers and checks and balances, an explicit bill of rights, and eternal vigilance on the part of a citizenry with the right to keep and bear arms. Under laissez-faire capitalism, the state consists essentially just of a police force, law courts, and a national defense establishment, which deter and combat those who initiate the use of physical force. And nothing more.
The utter absurdity of statements claiming that the present political-economic environment of the United States in some sense represents laissez-faire capitalism becomes as glaringly obvious as anything can be when one keeps in mind the extremely limited role of government under laissez-faire and then considers the following facts about the present-day United States:
1. Government spending in the United States currently equals more than forty percent of national income, i.e., the sum of all wages and salaries and profits and interest earned in the country. This is without counting any of the massive off-budget spending such as that on account of the government enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Nor does it count any of the recent spending on assorted "bailouts." What this means is that substantially more than forty dollars of every one hundred dollars of output are appropriated by the government against the will of the individual citizens who produce that output. The money and the goods involved are turned over to the government only because the individual citizens wish to stay out of jail. Their freedom to dispose of their own incomes and output is thus violated on a colossal scale. In contrast, under laissez-faire capitalism, government spending would be on such a modest scale that a mere revenue tariff might be sufficient to support it. The corporate and individual income taxes, inheritance and capital gains taxes, and social security and Medicare taxes would not exist.
2. There are presently fifteen federal cabinet departments, nine of which exist for the very purpose of respectively interfering with housing, transportation, healthcare, education, energy, mining, agriculture, labor, and commerce, and virtually all of which nowadays routinely ride roughshod over one or more important aspects of the economic freedom of the individual. Under laissez-faire capitalism, eleven of the fifteen cabinet departments would cease to exist and only the departments of justice, defense, state, and treasury would remain. Within those departments, moreover, further reductions would be made, such as the abolition of the IRS in the Treasury Department and the Antitrust Division in the Department of Justice.
3. The economic interference of today's cabinet departments is reinforced and amplified by more than one hundred federal agencies and commissions, the most well known of which include, besides the IRS, the FRB and FDIC, the FBI and CIA, the EPA, FDA, SEC, CFTC, NLRB, FTC, FCC, FERC, FEMA, FAA, CAA, INS, OHSA, CPSC, NHTSA, EEOC, BATF, DEA, NIH, and NASA. Under laissez-faire capitalism, all such agencies and commissions would be done away with, with the exception of the FBI, which would be reduced to the legitimate functions of counterespionage and combating crimes against person or property that take place across state lines.
4. To complete this catalog of government interference and its trampling of any vestige of laissez faire, as of the end of 2007, the last full year for which data are available, the Federal Register contained fully seventy-three thousand pages of detailed government regulations. This is an increase of more than ten thousand pages since 1978, the very years during which our system, according to one of The New York Times articles quoted above, has been "tilted in favor of business deregulation and against new rules." Under laissez-faire capitalism, there would be no Federal Register. The activities of the remaining government departments and their subdivisions would be controlled exclusively by duly enacted legislation, not the rule-making of unelected government officials.
5. And, of course, to all of this must be added the further massive apparatus of laws, departments, agencies, and regulations at the state and local level. Under laissez-faire capitalism, these too for the most part would be completely abolished and what remained would reflect the same kind of radical reductions in the size and scope of government activity as those carried out on the federal level.
[T]he politico-economic system of the United States today is so far removed from laissez-faire capitalism that it is closer to the system of a police state. The ability of the media to ignore all of the massive government interference that exists today and to characterize our present economic system as one of laissez faire and economic freedom marks it as, if not profoundly dishonest, then as nothing less than delusional.
Let’s not be too hard on people for thinking this is a free market system. They believe that for the same reason they believe their paper money is legal tender: the government, especially through its most important agency (the government schools) says it is.
There you have it.
As I mentioned in my previous posting, I’ve been re-reading Plato’s Laws lately. The Athenian has some comments on what sort of people “electors” should be:
It is a fact clear to everyone that, the work of legislation being a great one, the placing of unfit officers in charge of well-framed laws in a well-equipped State not only robs those laws of all their value and gives rise to widespread ridicule, but is likely also to prove the most fertile source of damage and danger in such States…. Let us then…mark this result in dealing now with…polity and State. [I]t is necessary, in the first place, that those who rightly undertake official functions should…have been fully tested…from their earliest years up to the time of their election; and, secondly, that those who are to be the electors should have been reared in law-abiding habits, and be well trained for the task of rightly rejecting or accepting those candidates who deserve their approval or disapproval. (751b-d , emphasis mine.)A law-abiding electorate. We have that. We also have law-abiding public servants. There is only one law: our desires. Choosing public servants is very easy: identify those candidates who promise to give us our desires and give some evidence of being able to pull it off. Obama is going to give us healthcare; so is John McCain. That’s all some people need to know. Obama is going to “fix” the economy; so is John McCain.
But whether they are lawfully empowered to do these things is another question. It’s also a relatively unimportant question. The federal government is the sole arbiter of whether its actions are unconstitutional. The federal government has informed us that it is not unconstitutional for it to interfere in places like markets, schools, workplaces and such.
So. There you have it. Law abiding electorate. Law abiding public servants.
And to think: Some people out there are concerned that the Iraq War may be illegal.
It’s a sick sort of joke, however, to hear John McCain, talk about his desire to appoint judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution. We are, after all, talking about the same John McCain has plans to fix both our economy and our healthcare crisis.
By happenstance, I happen to be re-reading Plato’s Laws. Several days ago I read this passage on the importance of the rule of law. Enjoy.
[I]n your State we shall assign office to a man, not because he is wealthy, nor because he possesses any other quality of the kind--such as strength or size or birth; but the ministration of the laws must be assigned…to that man who is most obedient to the laws and wins the victory for obedience in the State,--the highest office to the first, the next to him that shows the second degree of mastery, and the rest must similarly be assigned, each in succession, to those that come next in order. And those…I have now called “ministers” of the laws…in the belief that salvation, or ruin, for a State hangs upon nothing so much as this. For wherever in a State the law is subservient and impotent, over that State I see ruin impending; but wherever the law is lord over the magistrates, and the magistrates are servants to the law, there I descry salvation and all the blessings that the gods bestow on States. (715b--d)
Yes. We do know that. The problem is Obama doesn’t believe that. Note that this truism is given in justification of his desire to “spread the wealth”. This “wealth-spreading”, however, is coming from the government and constitutes the growing of the economy.
Now, it occurs to me that if one believes that it is the role of government is to "spread" wealth, one really must believe that the wealth being spread really belongs to the government. If not, then one must at least believe that the government is in a position of superiority to, and supervisory of, an economy, observing growth of wealth, taking note of who has more and who has less and then stepping in to take from those who have relatively more and give to those with relatively less. The government, on this view, is above the economy.
So, really, an economy is grown from the top down. That’s what he really believes.
If he does believe that you grow an economy from the bottom up, it would be awfully nice if he would explain just exactly how that happens. It would be great if he would explain what he means by the word economy in the first place. Then he can explain what he means by growing an economy. When he does those two things, perhaps we’ll understand how taking money from those at the “top” and giving it to those at the “bottom” grows an economy.
It’s easy to see why Obama’s plan makes sense. People with more money spend it, which results in economic growth. That’s the general tendency: people generally prefer present consumption to future consumption. But we can anticipate economic growth even in the absence of present consumption: those at the “bottom” could just as easily save that money. If that happens then banks, having more in deposits, and thus more to loan would likely be motivated to lend more. Why? Banks pay interest on those deposits; the money to pay that interest has to come from somewhere. Lending money at interest is a good way for a bank to make money to pay interest.
Hard to see a down side, isn’t it? It would be easier to see that down side if we turn our gaze from the net (income) tax receiver to the net (income) tax payer. (Remember him? He’s the evil sack of garbage making more than $250K per year. You know, professional athletes, movie stars, plumbers.) The net income tax payer now has less money than he had before. Well, now if the net income tax receiver was spending, or saving, more because he had more money in his hands, might we not justly suppose that the net income tax payer would spend less? They might save more, which could motivate banks to extend loans. But to whom would banks be lending this money?
What we don’t have is an explanation of how “spreading” the wealth grows an economy, just the assertion that it does and will. So far, all we really have is reason to believe there will be more consumption, not growth. We have no explanation, despite use of the phrase, “grow an economy”, for how “spreading” the wealth increases the amount of goods and services produced by the economy, not consumed. Just how is it that the “spreading” of this wealth will result in an increase in real gross domestic product.
I think any explanation we would be likely to get would sound much like Frederic Bastiat’s Parable of the Broken Window:
Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact, that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation—"It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?"All we have is an explanation for how money from the baker, who might have spent it elsewhere, gets into the hands of the baker.
Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.
Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier's trade—that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs—I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.
But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, "Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen."
It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.
So in just the same way as a broken window is said to be good for a poor glazier and by extension a whole economy, simply “spreading” the wealth is supposed to be good for the economy. In fact, if you think about it, simply “spreading” the wealth is even better because we don’t even have to break a window! We just take the money from the rich baker and give it to directly to the glazier, who doesn’t even have use any of it to purchase the glass which he’ll use to repair the next window. That's a really big gain for him. (Thankfully, though, not a capital gain!)
There are two more things it would be nice to have. First, an explanation of how the purchasing power of this “spread” wealth will not be decreased by the not-so-federal government creating new money ex nihilo whenever it thinks it needs more money. (This used to be called inflation. In Newspeak, inflation refers not to the government’s reducing the purchase power of dollars by printing new ones, but to “rich” and “greedy” owners raising their prices because they’re, well, greedy. But I digress.)
Second, given the relation between economic downturns and the effect they have on capital goods, as opposed to consumer goods, Senator Obama can explain just how this “spreading” of the wealth will result in an increase in the amount of capital goods purchased. (Economic downturns affect capital goods sold much more than they do consumer goods.)
Are the rich business owner (the typical purchasers of capital goods) going to continue purchasing and/or maintaining those goods? To what purpose, make even more money? We have a graduate income tax. The more income they receive the more of it is subject to higher tax rates. $250K is chump change and isn’t like the tax rate (say 25%) on that $250K is going to be 25% on $500K. No that percentage goes up. Maybe the tax rate on $500K will be 35%. Who knows?
Oh, and don't forget. We're going to be getting an increase in capital gains taxes. Because that's only fair too. I'm sure that won't have any negative effect on capital goods -- or consumer goods.
Heck, if the man really wants to grow an economy by “spreading” the wealth, why not just cut out the government middlemen and legalize theft, burglary, embezzlement, extortion and so on? That’ll do it real quick.
Anyone who can accept, “Greed” as an appropriate response to a question like, “Why did so many businessmen, who should really have known better, make such terrible investments?” ought to think a wife should accept, “Testosterone” as an appropriate response to the question, “Why did you cheat on me?”
I know not what course other men’s wives may take, but I know how my wife would respond to, “Testosterone” as an answer to that question: “Knife.”
It’s indicative of just how anti-intellectual so many people have become that an answer requiring no thought whatsoever would be acceptable as a basis for policy, especially a policy of nationalizing a significant portion of the economy.
If, however, we are interested in answer requiring some thought we can look to Murray Rothbard’s explanation of the causes of depressions. (Relevant because we are in the bust side of the boom-bust business cycle.) The entire article is worth the reading, but it comes to this. An explanation of the boom-bust cycle should answer two questions. First, paraphrasing Rothbard, a lot: Why is it that so many previously smart, successful business managers all seem to make the same exact sort of mistake at just about the same exact time? Second, Why is it that busts seem to have greater effect upon producers’ goods, rather than consumers’ goods. (The second question doesn’t really concern me just now, in relation to the “greed” argument.)
In the market economy, one of the most vital functions of the businessman is to be an "entrepreneur," a man who invests in productive methods, who buys equipment and hires labor to produce something which he is not sure will reap him any return. In short, the [businessman’s] function is the function of forecasting the uncertain future. Before embarking on any investment…the entrepreneur…must estimate present and future costs and future revenues and therefore estimate whether and how much profits he will earn from the investment. If he forecasts well and significantly better than his business competitors, he will reap profits from his investment. The better his forecasting, the higher the profits he will earn. If, on the other hand, he is a poor forecaster and overestimates the demand for his product, he will suffer losses and pretty soon be forced out of the business.That’s the question: Why the sudden, industry-wide, failure in forecasting ability?
The market economy, then, is a profit-and-loss economy, in which the acumen and ability of business entrepreneurs is gauged by the profits and losses they reap. The market economy, moreover, contains a built-in mechanism, a kind of natural selection, that ensures the survival and the flourishing of the superior forecaster and the weeding-out of the inferior ones. For the more profits reaped by the better forecasters, the greater become their business responsibilities, and the more they will have available to invest in the productive system. On the other hand, a few years of making losses will drive the poorer forecasters and entrepreneurs out of business altogether and push them into the ranks of salaried employees.
If, then, the market economy has a built-in natural selection mechanism for good entrepreneurs, this means that, generally, we would expect not many business firms to be making losses. And, in fact, if we look around at the economy on an average day or year, we will find that losses are not very widespread. But, in that case, the odd fact that needs explaining is this: How is it that, periodically, in times of the onset of recessions and especially in steep depressions, the business world suddenly experiences a massive cluster of severe losses? A moment arrives when business firms, previously highly astute entrepreneurs in their ability to make profits and avoid losses, suddenly and dismayingly find themselves, almost all of them, suffering severe and unaccountable losses? How come? Here is a momentous fact that any theory of depressions must explain…. [W]hat needs to be explained is why businessmen, able to forecast all manner of previous economic changes and developments, proved themselves totally and catastrophically unable to forecast [an] alleged drop in…demand. Why this sudden failure in forecasting ability? (Emphases mine.)
Greed ought to have required businessmen to sharpen, not dull, their forecasting ability. The “greed” explanation, while suggesting a motivation for trying to make money, just doesn’t explain the same error in miscalculation in just about the entire mortgage industry.
But let’s not pursue that question. Let’s just start “regulating” again, and throwing money at the same people who perpetrated these miscalculations.
Don’t ask if it was the availability of relatively easy credit which contributed to this miscalculation.
It’s a brilliant strategy: bail fast enough and we don’t have to find and plug the leak in the boat. We don’t have to consider the possibility that ones doing the bailing had anything to do with creating the leak in the first place.
Don’t ask if one of the things delaying economic recovery is “regime uncertainty”, distress
that investors’ private property rights in their capital and the income it yields will be attenuated further by government action. Such attenuations can arise from many sources, ranging from simple tax-rate increases to the imposition of new kinds of taxes to outright confiscation of private property. Many intermediate threats can arise from various sorts of regulation, for instance, of securities markets, labor markets, and product markets. In any event, the security of private property rights rests not so much on the letter of the law as on the character of the government that enforces, or threatens, presumptive rights.Nah. Let’s just keep blaming “greed”. Simpler that way. Easier to get the natives restless.
Lewis Diuguid informs us that, in using the word “socialist” to describe Senator Obama,
McCain and Palin have simply reached back in history to use an old code word for black. It set whites apart from those deemed unAmerican and those who could not be trusted during the communism scare.I have sad news.
It’s true. “Socialist” is code for “black”.
As a former leftist, I’m uniquely qualified to explain how this works. Socialism, as you know, is the opposite of capitalism. And who are the capitalists in the U.S.? Conservatives, right? And who are the conservatives in this country? White people, right? And what is the opposite of white? Black.
So, if black is the opposite of white, which is synonymous with conservative, which is identical with capitalist, well then of course socialist (which is the opposite of capitalist) is code for black.
I’m overjoyed at being able to resolve the difficulty here.
I wonder what Diuguid would have written if the McCain campaign had referred to Senator Obama as a Marxist. Typical contemporary journalist, able to write a few hundred words and never tackle the issue of whether a man is an adherent of that political-economical school of thought which used to be referred to by the term “socialism”.
“Socialism” means “black”.
“Conservative” means “white”.
I wonder what “journalist” now means in Newspeak.
Reminds of the greatest scene in the movie Spartacus which, its historical innaccuracies notwithstanding, is one of my favorites. It would have been better if the McCain ad could have been done in a way that reflects the way the media have gone after Joe the Plumber because then it could have looked more like this:
But then, Pepsi has already done that:
Lew Rockwell likes to refer to him as Joe the Outlaw:
[W]e…have an American archetype in Joe Wurzelbacher. He is an outlaw in the same sense that our founders were outlaws. He lives outside the regulations of the state because these regulations attack his freedom and property. It was to end systems such as this that the American revolution came to be. And yet we find ourselves back in exactly the same system, and one incredibly worse in every way.Rockwell also takes on the media discovery that Joe is not a licensed plumber:
The press reports on this were explosive, with reporters speaking as if they had caught this guy red-handed and completely discredited him. But what about the complete absurdity of the idea that you have to have a license in order to have the right to fix someone else's sink? This is Soviet like, but deeply entrenched in American professional life.I’d like to have a beer or twelve with Joe the Plumber.
The idea of licensing is that it assures quality standards. But this is just a cover used by guilds since the Middle Ages. The real goal of licensing is to create a professional cartel. Fewer providers means higher wages for those with licenses. It is all about boosting income by restricting competition. This is of course a violation of human rights because it impinges on the fundamental freedom of association.
In a market setting, there are plenty of quality controls through professional organizations. Consumers are free to use them or not. Many private producers attempt to create cartels through this means, but it is rarely successful. There are always producers who break with the guild in order to charge lower prices for their services. This is why they often seek state regulations, such as the requirement that all plumbers have a license.
By the way, this is true of all professions, including lawyering and doctoring. There was a time when entry into these fields was governed by the free market, and the system worked fine (contrary to legend). But the big players in these industries sought and obtained state privileges to officially license service providers. It was an income-boosting tactic and it worked.
By practicing plumbing without a license, Joe is bucking the system in a truly heroic way. He shouldn't be condemned for this. He should be celebrated as a freedom fighter.
Ostensibly, though they don't come right out and say it, capturing OBL will be the end of the War on Terror.
Hell, if that's all it takes, let capture the SOBs responsible for poverty and drugs. We can have the audacity to hope that there is only one guy ultimately responsible for each of those evils. So, let's go get 'em.
Or, employing another Democrat strategy, we could, after decades of failure in the wars on drugs and poverty (versus only five years of failure in Iraq) just summarily declare an end and bring the troops home.
Most Democrats think spreading the wealth is a good idea (66 percent) and most Republicans think it is a bad idea (72 percent). Independents split 47 percent good idea and 41 percent bad.Actually, we all agree that it’s a good idea to spread the wealth. We differ on how it actually is done best. Some of us think it’s best done when the government tries to do it, as it has done since at least the days of Hoover. (Yes, you read that correctly. I said Hoover.) It has been failing ever since, and using government-caused economic crisis after government-caused economic crisis to justify ever more power to interfere with the economy.
And some of us think a free market spreads wealth better than a “regulated” market. A regulated market isn’t neutral, unlike a free market: it is always “regulated” to some group’s advantage.
Yes, I know. Supposedly, our present crisis is the result of a free market. Right.
If we have, or have had in recent history, a free market then either I missed it, or the word free means something to me that it doesn’t to others.
Biden wants a pass where none has been granted the current President.
"There are gonna be a lot of you who want to go, 'Whoa, wait a minute, yo, whoa, whoa, I don't know about that decision'," Biden continued. "Because if you think the decision is sound when they're made, which I believe you will when they're made, they're not likely to be as popular as they are sound. Because if they're popular, they're probably not sound."Now that’s rich. Unpopular decisions, therefore sound decisions.
You’re going to think what we do in response to a certain crisis is wrong, but go along with us anyway. This, supposedly, is precisely what John McCain has been doing the last eight years.
I wonder what this test will be. The suspense is killing me.
Maybe they’ll pass laws, or just issue executive orders, similar to the Alien and Sedition Acts, (see and cf, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions) or take some of the same actions towards dissenters as Woodrow Wilson during WWI. Perhaps they’ll issue an executive order limiting salaries to $300,000.00 net after taxes (that’s 25,000.00 in 1943 dollars, adjusted for inflation). In other words, the marginal tax rate on salaries after $300K would be 100% -- by executive order. I’m sure they won’t confiscate any gold which any citizens may own.
Gosh, whatever they do, I sure hope it’s not something which would be called unconstitutional if done by a Republican administration.
No. They would never do anything like that.
A half-century of scholarship provides plenty of grounds for pessimism about voters’ rationality.On that note, listen to this clip from a recent edition of Howard Stern’s satellite radio program:
When social scientists first started using detailed opinion surveys to study the attitudes and behavior of ordinary voters, they found some pretty sobering things. In the early 1950s, Paul Lazarsfeld and his colleagues at Columbia University concluded that electoral choices “are relatively invulnerable to direct argumentation” and “characterized more by faith than by conviction and by wishful expectation rather than careful prediction of consequences.” For example, voters consistently misperceived where candidates stood on the important issues of the day, seeing their favorite candidates’ stands as closer to their own and opposing candidates’ stands as more dissimilar than they actually were. They likewise exaggerated the extent of support for their favorite candidates among members of social groups they felt close to.
In 1960, a team of researchers from the University of Michigan published an even more influential study, The American Voter. They described “the general impoverishment of political thought in a large proportion of the electorate,” noting that “many people know the existence of few if any of the major issues of policy.” Shifts in election outcomes, they concluded, were largely attributable to defections from long-standing partisan loyalties by relatively unsophisticated voters with little grasp of issues or ideology. A recent replication of their work using surveys from 2000 and 2004 found that things haven’t changed much.
It’s not surprising, really. But, in all fairness, he should have tried the same stunt on McCain voters.
Much of the disappointment with President Bush among conservatives (well, maybe not neo-conservatives) has been precisely what Bartels describes above: people identifying the positions of their candidate with their own. Bush is right-of-center, so conservatives thought he was one of them. But he isn’t conservative in that sense of the word. (Just like liberals are not liberals, in the classical sense of the word.) Bush’s politics are “action” oriented politics, like those of Mexico’s National Action Party, which is also right-of-center, but not conservative in the classical sense of the word.
It’s hard to fault voters too much (only too much). Politics have become about so many things that it takes quite a bit of time and energy to keep up with it all. Politics have also become about so many close and personal things as to arouse passions over intellect.
It’s not, therefore, so much that voters are essentially irrational, I think. (In other words, it’s not some genetic defect.) They are existentially irrational; that is, the situation in life simply makes rationality difficult to exercise. They’re just too darn busy. The exercise of reason requires time, which we have less and less of it seems. It’s not that the voter is just too stupid. He’s just short on time, reducing him to taking short cuts in his thinking.
How else to explain what Bartels describes at the end of his article?
While voters are busy meting out myopic, simple-minded rewards and punishments, political observers are often busy exaggerating the policy content of the voters’ verdicts. The prime example in American political history may be the watershed New Deal election of 1936. Having swept into office on a strong tide of economic discontent in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt initiated a series of wide-ranging new policies to cope with the Great Depression. According to the most authoritative political scholar of the era, V. O. Key, “The voters responded with a resounding ratification of the new thrust of governmental policy”—a stunning 46-state landslide that ushered in an era of Democratic electoral dominance.A case of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning.
The 1936 election has become the most celebrated textbook case of ideological realignment in American history. However, a careful look at state-by-state voting patterns suggests that this resounding ratification of Roosevelt’s policies was strongly concentrated in the states that happened to enjoy robust income growth in the months leading up to the vote. Indeed, the apparent impact of short-term economic conditions was so powerful that, if the recession of 1938 had occurred in 1936, Roosevelt probably would have been a one-term president.
It’s not only in the United States that the Depression-era tendency to “throw the bums out” looks like something less than a rational policy judgment. In the United States, voters replaced Republicans with Democrats in 1932 and the economy improved. In Britain and Australia, voters replaced Labor governments with conservatives and the economy improved. In Sweden, voters replaced Conservatives with Liberals, then with Social Democrats, and the economy improved. In the Canadian agricultural province of Saskatchewan, voters replaced Conservatives with Socialists and the economy improved. In the adjacent agricultural province of Alberta, voters replaced a socialist party with a right-leaning party created from scratch by a charismatic radio preacher peddling a flighty share-the-wealth scheme, and the economy improved. In Weimar Germany, where economic distress was deeper and longer lasting, voters rejected all of the mainstream parties, the Nazis seized power, and the economy improved. In every case, the party that happened to be in power when the Depression eased went on to dominate politics for a decade or more thereafter. It seems far-fetched to imagine that all these contradictory shifts represented well-considered ideological conversions. A more parsimonious interpretation is that voters simply—and simple-mindedly—rewarded whoever happened to be in power when things got better.
Typically, what would be behind a crash is lack of confidence. Not surprisingly talk, especially as it relates to the bailout, has centered around restoring confidence in the market.
But the bailout moves have failed to restore this confidence, so far. But is the lack of confidence a lack of confidence in the market, or a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to affect the market? I happen to think the latter and said so to a friend last week. My friend was skeptical.
Thorsten Polleit, however, agrees with me, to some extent. Confidence is leaving the government; but more specifically, argues that this confidence is leaving the fiat money system.
Were it not for ever-greater increases in central-bank money and the market expectation that governments are about to make taxpayers shoulder commercial banks' huge losses, the fiat money systems would presumably collapse right away.(Okay, Polleit doesn’t really agree with me. He doesn’t even know me. But it does seem clear that the lack of confidence, as it relates to the market is directed towards the government and its role in the market. I mean so far, nothing the government has done, or promised to do has had any lasting effect on the market.)
International interbank short-term lending rates say it all: the latest drastic increases in yield spreads between money-market rates and official central-bank rates are indicative of the growing reluctance among banks to extend loans to each other, for fear that borrowers could default on their payment obligations.
Under today's fiat-money regime, banks, under governments' auspices, increase the money stock "out of thin air" whenever they extend loans. The money supply is built on credit, which, in turn, hinges on peoples' confidence in banks and banks' confidence in their borrowers' ability and willingness to service their debt.
As confidence leaves the system, banks refrain from extending loans and demand repayment of outstanding loans, and the money stock contracts. Economies that have for decades been fuelled by ever-higher doses of credit and money fall into depression — that is, declining production, employment, and prices.
Speaking of government intervention, I mean bailouts…
Apparently the capital injection banks received was an offer they couldn’t refuse.
Uncle Sam? …or, Don Corleone.
One question very few people, especially in the news media, do not seem preoccupied with is this: Since the money’s leaving the stock market, where is it going? Into safes? Savings accounts? Some of it is going toward the payment of debts, in which case it’s still in the market, though not on the stock market. Of course, even if all of the money leaving the stock market is going to debt payment that isn’t an unqualified evil: the money is still in the market, somewhere – just not in the stock market. Even if it’s going into savings accounts, that isn’t an unqualified evil: if banks are going to resume lending money, they’ll need deposits.
The money isn’t vanishing into thin air. It’s leaving the stock market, yes. But it’s going somewhere.
I have my ideas, one of which was confirmed by some news I heard about where Bloomberg has his money.
Oh, yeah. The debate last night. What’s to say? More mini-campaign speeches by believers in the omnicompetent state. Big government liberal. Big government conservative. Big deal.
Yes, I'm settling once again for the big government conservative: smaller mess to clean up when the libertarian revolution comes. :)
The Bush administration is considering a partial nationalization of some banks, buying up a portion of their shares to shore them up and restore confidence as part of the $700 billion government bailout. The notion of government ownership in the financial sector, even as a minority stakeholder, goes against what market purists say they see as the foundation of the American system.
Yet the administration may feel it has no choice. Credit, the lifeblood of capitalism, ceased to flow. An economy based on the free market cannot function that way.
Although credit plays a certain role, it is not the life-blood of capitalism. The life-blood of capitalism is capital, specifically financial capital, not credit. What’s the difference? The answer hinges upon whether credit is capital. But even if credit is financial capital, that doesn’t make it the life blood of capitalism. For credit certainly is not the only type of financial capital there is.
But, in fact, credit is not capital. It cannot be; and this is one of those things that is true by definition. Sadly, it’s now one of those things that is no longer obvious.
It think it helpful to begin, just for clarity’s sake, by distinguishing two types of capital: capital in the form of goods, and financial capital.
Briefly a capital good is something which produces means of production, as opposed to a consumption good. More particularly, a capital good is a reproducible means of production. There is no fixed chasm which would make a good only a capital good and never a consumption good. Take, for example, my journal. As the book into which I write what my fevered brain imagines, my journal is a consumption good: it does not produce means of production; it just gets used; it satisfies a want.
But if, after I have become worm food, my daughter decides to publish my journal (to provide society with a good laugh) it can become a capital good. It is a good which can be transformed into a consumption good, satisfying some other humans’ wants (e.g., the want of a good laugh).
My brother-in-law’s guitars can be either consumption goods or capital goods depending upon the use he makes of them. If he sits around in his house strumming and picking away at them, they are consumption goods. If he forms a band, arranges gigs and actually picks up a few bucks, then those guitars are capital goods.
I suppose you could look at it this way. A consumer good is any good of any kind which can satisfy a consumer want, while a capital good is any good which can be made into a consumer good.
Financial capital, on the other hand, is the net amount of money invested in an enterprise, the sum of money, prices for assets related to an enterprise minus financial obligations. So if you have a business enterprise and I were to ask you, “How much capital do you have invested in your business?” You might tell me that the figure is one million dollars.
By that figure you mean that if you sold off all of the assets, all of the equipment you use in your operation, the property your operation sits on, and then paid off all of your debts, whatever is left over is the capital tied up in that enterprise. It should be one million dollars; that’s your financial capital.
Note that your debts do not count as capital. They are not capital goods. They are not financial capital. In calculating the amount of financial capital you’ve invested in your enterprise, your debts do not count. To the extent that you have debt, you do not have capital.
It is true that many entrepreneurs will borrow money to launch their business ventures. True as that may be, it is also true that credit constitutes a debt, not capital. Does it need to be shouted from roof tops that debt is not the life-blood of capitalism?
Debt is really a form of poison to capitalism. Take, as a case in point, the role that debt has played in our present economic crisis. In actual point of fact, it could be argued that the present credit crunch is capitalism at work. Debts that cannot be – or just are not – paid are of no value to capitalism. It’s actually worse. As the contrary of capital, debt – credit – creates a different kind of economy; and it is not a capitalist economy. You cannot have a capitalist economy where there is no capital, specifically, financial capital; where you have debt, you have no financial capital.
This puts in stark relief Faiola’s assertion that, “An economy based on the free market cannot function [if credit has ceased to flow].” The fact is, we don’t have an economy based on a free market. We have an economy based on government largesse, which generously (to listen to its defenders talk) permits a relatively free market. The difference is not simply the existence of government regulations. The more important difference is the role of our fiat money system. In a free market system, people would be free to use any money, any commodity, they can get each other to accept. Not only that, they would be free to introduce new money based on any commodity at all, whether gold, silver, tobacco, gold-pressed latinum – whatever. Our fiat money means that rather than government being dependent upon us for its own life-blood (to use Faiola’s terminology) we are dependent upon government for our life blood. In a very real sense, our fiat money system means that the government owns everything; for we cannot engage in trade with out its money, what it calls money, what it commands us to accept as money.
Free market? Not when the government arbitrarily prints up new “money” (worth just a few cents) declares – dictates – it to be worth something whether the market agrees or not, and tosses it around, depriving the already extant “money” of its previous purchasing power and (this is my favorite part, just because it’s so brilliant) blaming the so called free market for this so called inflation.
Pop quiz: If the government increases the money supply by 15%, while the amount of capital and consumer goods remains the same, what happens to the prices of those goods?
For extra credit: Why does the result (whatever it is) happen?
Use of the term “free market” reminds me of the movie, “Princess Bride”:
Free Market. They keep using that term.
The interventionist view of government into economic affairs goes by the pseudonym “social democracy”, but let’s fact the facts here. The powers needed by a social democratic government must be unlimited in order to make good on its myriad of promises. (And this is the case even if these governments do not actually access these unlimited powers.)
These “democratic” states are totalitarian, no less for their being democracies:
We should understand totalitarianism to refer not the severity of the regime, its propensity to use such tools as terror and concentration camps, but rather the scope of its purview. A totalitarian regime is one that seeks to control every aspect of communal life, and to bring as much of private life as possible into the sphere of the communal.
Social democracy cannot be distinguished formally from totalitarianism, since it does not recognize in principle any limit to the purview of state supervision. Before Mussolini allied himself with Hitler, both Franklin Roosevelt and Gunnar Myrdal were admirers of what he was accomplishing in Italy. New York University economist Melvyn Krauss has analyzed the National Industrial Recovery Act, declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1935 [opinion of the Court here], and found its provisions to be practically indistinguishable from those of the fascist state. In Sweden, the national census requires considerable personal information, not for a data base, but for inclusion in government computers by name. If a person is unemployed, he is required to tell why. A central file on all citizens is kept for the use of financial institutions, police, and government bureaus.
When they appear in the social democracies, policies of state supremacy are justified as being for the good of society and contrasted with individualism. That is, the state is confused with society. When society is said to require something, we find that the state is thereby given the right to accomplish it. – Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, 222-23.
Think about the real power needed by a government which is going to provide healthcare to each and every citizen. This move alone will require a great deal of money, tax money. So there must be people paying taxes. This further requires people engaging in one of two acts: working for someone who has a business or being the person who has a business.
So far it’s all very plausible. There are people who have businesses; and there are people who work for people who have businesses.
But remember, healthcare is a right. Surely if healthcare is a right, then food is a right. If a right is something that government must provide to all, then it must provide even to those who do not work. I cannot be required to work in order to be a recipient of healthcare. Will I be free not to work? If I don’t work, then the government loses some revenue. (Clearly, it must be my patriotic duty to work. Otherwise I risk being called selfish. On the other hand, this would mean that only those who work actually possess rights. Maybe.)
Let’s say I don’t work. I just don’t want to, so I don’t. Now, I’m still going to get my rights, which must include, in addition to healthcare, food, clothing and shelter – at no cost to me. These are rights.
What will the government do if you decide not to work, also? Keep in mind, with you and I both not working, the government is out those revenues. I suppose with it being just you and I, no one will be too concerned. But these things are rights; we are entitled to them even if we do not work.
But these rights are provided at tax-payer expense. There must be tax-payers. At some point it stands to reason that the government will at least try to make us work. After all, if everyone decided that, since our basic needs are in fact rights, we don’t have to work for our needs then there would be no tax revenues. (Not only that, but since, “everyone” includes people who work in healthcare, there won’t be any doctors and nurses to provide the care in the first place!)
Since some of the revenues for this healthcare will be coming from business taxes, it may be that some businesses will decide that the ever-increasing tax rate is just high and move to some place like Ireland, where business taxes are lower. Now, clearly the government cannot allow too many businesses to relocate. First, there will be the loss of those business tax revenues. Second, those who are laid off when these unpatriotic businesses relocate, being unemployed, won’t be providing the needed revenues. This cannot be allowed.
Now, let’s get back to those doctors and nurses. Presently, doctoring and nursing can be very lucrative career fields, especially for the good ones. Government employees, by comparison, don’t make as much as their counterparts in the private sector. What if people who might otherwise have made a career choice for one of the healthcare professions, decide to pursue some other career field, a field which pays better?
The government has two choices. On the one hand, it can just – for the special case of healthcare providers – keep paying those excellent salaries. And those salaries better keep abreast of inflation, at least – if not ahead of it. Maybe the government will be able to do that. If the government can’t go that route, then it will have to institute a draft, requiring that all college students register for and take the MCAT, and further requiring that those who perform well enough go on to become doctors. Furthermore, and to ensure the requisite number of nurses, all entering college freshman will have to take an aptitude test to determine which students will be required to become nurses.
It doesn’t get better for the rest of us, the ones who will go ahead and work and operate businesses to pay those patriotic taxes, even though we really don’t have to in order to get our rights. Remember that we’re talking about healthcare. It’s a right. We shouldn’t have to work for it.
Do you like tobacco products? Too bad. The government may decide that it can’t afford the costs associated providing care to tobacco users, and, therefore, outlaw tobacco products.
Do you like fried foods? Those may have to be limited as well, for obvious reasons.
Do you engage in risky sexual behavior? That may have to end. The spread of STDs is out of control and getting as expensive to treat as smoking-related illnesses. Sorry. But given that this healthcare is at public expense, it's your patriotic duty to begin practicing sexual chastity. Sad, I know; but there it is. Can't be helped. (And if you can't control yourselves, you men may have to be chemically castrated.)
I said above that in order to keep tax revenues paying for healthcare (and everything else the unfederal government is paying for) businesses will be prevented from relocating. How might that happen? Sounds rather unbelievable, doesn’t it?
It will happen quite simply. A President will order unfederal troops to seize these businesses, keeping them safely and securely within our borders. It will be a matter of national security. These departing companies will pose a clear and present danger to the United States. This cannot be allowed. Besides, really, all these businesses really belong to the people: eminent domain.
Think that’s unlikely? Think of business relocation as a form of tax evasion. Now, ask yourself about the powers of the IRS regarding your property rights if you don’t pay your taxes. Think of democracy as the simple will of the people, the will of the simple majority. A simple majority votes itself a portion of your property, or votes itself a living at your expense.
Ah, democracy. Yes, so superior to being a slave in Christian state
They both believe that in the end every solution to every problem, from the healthcare “crisis” to our economic woes, will be coming from Washington, D.C., and ought to come from Washington. Whether in the form of nationalized healthcare system or in the form of a $5,000.00 refundable tax credit, they both believe the solution will, and ought to be, coming from Washington. Whether in the form of a tax cut for 95% of us or a tax but for businesses, getting our economy back on track is a job for Washington. (Indeed, deciding what track our economy should be on is also a job for Washington.) Whether by drilling-plus or conservation-plus, the solution to our fuel crisis will come out of Washington, and require an "investment" from Washington.
Pick the problem of your choice. The solution must come from Washington. If Washington isn't working on it then, for all practical purposes, no one is.
In short, they both believe in the omnicompetent state.
Their fundamental difference really amounts to this: One thinks his omnicompetent-state policies are superior to his opponent’s omnicompetent-state policies.
The question before us isn’t really which member of the Senate ought to be President of the union of states which comprise our nation. The question before us, ostensibly, is which wing (i.e. Left[Democrat] or Right [Republican]) of the politburo of the Omnicompetent-State Party is to receive the General-Secretary’s chair.
Darn. Got a phone call while they were answering that question. Oh, well, I probably didn't miss anything profound.
Well, now that's over.
This live blog has been brought to you by a very bored Deviant Scholar, who prefers listening to debates over watching them.
But since these debates are little more than mini campaign speeches, I am always disappointed there as well.
Now it is time to drink some rum and watch an episode of Monk.
But if we can work diplomatically with Iran, and reduce our oil consumption, and reduce the amount of refined fuel they import then we can demand Iran change her behavior.
I don't think referring once again to the "without pre-conditions" meme is the best strategy here.
We can't allow another holocaust to occur.
There we go with rush to war in Iraq and forgetting about bin Ladin.
Oh, yes, Obama, if we just cut down our oil consumption that'll weaken Russia because she won't be getting our petrol dollars.
Because we're the only oil customers in the world.
Why not ask how we can avoid any war, cold or otherwise?
Some people think it was Plato, but I think it was Santayana who said only the dead have seen the end of war.
Sad, but I believe it's true.
Wow. There must be some logic here that I just can't understand.
But in all fairness, Senator McCain, Obama did not say he would attack Pakistan.
Senator Obama, pulling the troops out of Iraq does not end the war in Iraq. It just makes a cease-fire.
Wait a minute! We dare not have gone into Iraq, but if al Qaeda is in Pakistan and Pakistan won't act, then we will go in and act. And that, apparently, will not constitute taking our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, which is where he keeps telling us we are supposed to be.
But if we determine that some dictator, somewhere, who, last time anyone knew, had weapons of mass destruction and had been ordered by the U.N. to demonstrate that he had disarmed and was, therefore, a very real (and gathering) threat, requiring military action then that military is unwarranted.
And we need to get bin Ladin and put terrorism to an end.
If we've already spent too much then why screw around with Afghanistan? Just give up on catching bin Ladin too. We can no longer afford to fight in Iraq, or Afghanistan. We can not afford to go after bin Ladin either.
Let's see if anyone considers the assumption behind the question: That peace can be made.
Oh, yeah, and what is peace? Just the absense of war?
In that case making peace is easy: Just don't fight anyone over anything.
There's the line about on-the-job training.
America is rich enough.
I have a right that someone else must pay for.
Besides, America is not rich. Americans are relatively rich, when compared to citizens of other nations.
Why not just say that everything is a right?
I have the right to free speech. Now please, provide me with my own newspaper, radio station, television station and cable channel. It's my right.
Whatever we do, let's not ask, why, unlike just about all other products, the price of healthcare goes up and up, while prices on other things go down and down and become available to more and more people.
Supply and demand.
I wonder if the problem with healthcare is some interference with the supply and demand thing.
No. It couldn't be that.
And government is the way, not the private sector, since government invented the computer.
Yes, Obama. If politicians do nothing regarding alternative fuels then nothing will get done. No one in the private sector has ever done any work on alternative fuels.
Fossil fuels cause global warming.
I remember reading somewhere that it was carbon dioxide. Use of fossil fuels creates carbon monoxide, doesn't it.
Science is so confusing.
Tax cut for 95% of Americans?
Only 40% of us pay taxes.
Wait a minute.
First he was talking about people who make above or below 200K. Now he's talking about businesses making above or below 200K.
Well this cinches it for me. He really doesn't understand taxes. Business taxes and personal income taxes are not the same.
Fortunately, for Obama, most Americans probably share his ignorance.
I must have missed that particular press conference. I don't need a president to tell me whether to shopping.
Man. We deserve a fascist government. We can't do anything -- including making decisions about loans we can afford -- without Uncle Sam's instructions.
First one out of the gate -- McCain -- starts talking about federal programs. No American Dream without federal spending.
No pausing to consider the question: What is the 'American Deam'? Who got to define that?
Good, now it's Obama's turn.
Okay, so the federal budget and lack of healthcare caused this mess. All those lenders and borrowers and mortage buyers could have done all the crap they did and we wouldn't be in this mess if not for Bush's budgets. I get it.
There he goes with this deregulation business, with no mention of the specific law enacted by Congress, which comprises this putative deregulation.
Yes, more finger pointing. No specific mentions of this so-called deregulating legislation.
There is no simple "deregulation". Deregulation is an act of either a regulatory agency, or of Congress. Please tell us where this deregulating act took place.
There goes Obama, repeating the same old refrain about deregulation, anything goes, blah, blah, blah.
McCain's response will not offer any corrective. He'll grant the proposition and then offer us a mini campaign speech of his own.
Remember, the bill is going to save us from total market collapse. Think how much worse it would be if not for the bailout bill.
I'm so relieved.
Last night, Senator Biden told us that Barak Obama said this mortgage industry mess was coming. I wonder if he got treatment similar to that given to Armando Falcon, Director of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, in 2004:
It is interesting to note who was calling for more regulation and who was denying the existence of a problem.
On the subject of last night’s debate, the fact is in a real sense Governor Palin was out of her league and Senator Biden, with decades of practice under his belt, was right on his game. But if by “her league” one means “Washington insider” then her being out of league could be a plus. I certainly think so. Supposedly we’ve all had enough of that league. But then her principal has been a member of that league for decades as well. I just heard Rush Limbaugh say that Governor Palin kicked Senator Biden’s butt last night, unless you’re impressed by what he calls Washingtonspeak.
Besides, these debates are dog-and-pony shows. The debates are never are philosophical first principles, as they should be. They are miniature campaign speeches in which both sides make assertions about either the recent or distant past which no viewer can instantly recall or what this or that policy will or will not do (as if anyone knows what will or will not happen). The last intelligent debate I saw between politicians of differing camps was way back in the 1990s concerning then-First Lady Clinton’s healthcare plan.
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