Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Courage To Do Nothing

I just finished reading a book by this title written by a fellow Cincinnatian, Bill Flax. This book turns out to be an excellent primer on classical economics and why the current government "solutions" to the recession have only made things worse. While I found his beginning sections railing against President Obama a bit tedious (not that I disagreed with them), Flax's economic sense really shines in several places. He maintains that recessions and depressions are not really so bad. They simply reallocate badly-spent money back into more efficient enterprises. His advice? Let the economy solve its own problems. When governments try to prop up failing industries, they are really only delaying a necessary curative process. Malinvestment and inefficiency are the problems--the recession is the cure. Capitalism works!

Flax also brilliantly explains Keynesian economic theory and how it has come to dominate government economic policy in the last few decades. He accuses Keynes of two critically false assumptions: 1) Capital is static and 2) Demand is finite. In the Keynesian way of thinking, consumer demand drives the economy. I want a car, therefore car-markers will hire workers and build factories. This is surely putting the cart before the horse. Keynesians also deny the existence of scarcity. Demand is not finite, as any parent knows. The number of things people want is infinite and far exceeds what is physically and materially available. The Keynesian dream is fueled by easy credit and government "stimulus", a deminishing-returns ponzi scheme that leads to massive inflation.

Better to be back on the gold standard and disband the Federal Reserve, says Flax. Manipulated fiat currency--and the endless printing of money--constitutes taxation without representation. Currency devaluation discourages saving and thrift while encouraging reckless borrowing and consumption. Our country is truly at risk if these harmful trends are not curtailed.

Bill Flax has written a great book urging a simple, but shocking, suggestion to government planners and economy wonks: have the courage to do nothing! He promotes the out-of-fashion but clear-headed Austrian school of classical economics and quotes extensively from its many adherents. He also highlights the importance of freedom and the need to return to constitutional government. Backed by over 60 pages of notes, The Courage To Do Nothing delivers the right solutions for our troubled times.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Feel Like a Quiz?

You are a

Social Conservative
(36% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(70% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friday, July 2, 2010

Avatar: I Finally Saw It

That's right. I just finished watching it about ten minutes ago. We keep a very uncool new release movie-watching schedule (which means we have lots of money and time for other stuff, so it's all good). So, Avatar.

First off, I was really expecting to not like this movie. However, I found it really fun and entertaining. James Cameron is a master storyteller and an even better movie-maker. I can't wait until we get cool 3-D realistic glasses at home. The visuals were fantastic, but I also really liked the characters and all the richness of this fictional world. If this remains but a fictional tale with no bearing on our current world, I might like this movie even more. However, I fear that Cameron is working through a few his issues and teaching some dubious lessons with his epic masterpiece. In doing so he toys with reality to the point where the story begins to suffer. Specifically, four unrealities are used.

The first is the unreal company man. The film's first villain is an unscrupulous captain of industry. His goal is to obtain X mineral at any cost. Unfortunately for Cameron, REAL CEOs ARE NOT LIKE THIS! Okay, maybe that guy from Enron, but seriously. Even the "little people" guy from BP is not out to make money at any cost. They're not out there polluting the Gulf on purpose because they hate the earth. This little oil spill may bankrupt their company. Big industrialists are smart guys (and gals). The guy in Avatar is a short-sighted idiot. You don't get to run a Fortune 500 company if you're a short-sighted idiot. No, CEOs aren't perfect, but neither are they so ridiculously incurious and reactionary as the guy from the movie.

Second, the military guy (villain #2) is yet another moron. REAL GENERALS ARE NOT LIKE THIS! Real Generals are smart and professional. Yes, some can make errors of tactics and judgment (McChrystal being the latest example), but most have an understanding that goes beyond the next five seconds. The guy from the movie is slightly more insane than Hitler himself--certainly not anything close to typical. So Cameron doesn't like Bush or the War on Terror. Great. Lots of Lefties might buy the Bush-is-Hitler comparison, but most of us see it for the unreality it is.

Third, the good guys are pretty much Native Americans. I really like stories about the Indians, so that's probably a big reason why the film appealed to me as much as it did. However, these Indians didn't just pray to the trees, they used the trees like fiber-optic cables to the afterlife. REAL INDIANS ARE NOT LIKE THIS! The Indians had a beautiful way of life and lots of wonderful culture, but this came with quite a few downsides. Praying to trees and $3.75 will barely get you a Starbucks. Western culture was a Godsend to the Native Americans. Yes, there was disease and massacres (on both sides), and the Trail of Tears, but on the flip side, the Indians learned a superior culture--reading, writing, science, peace, economic opportunity and Christianity. This leads right into my final point.

Fourth, Cameron cashes in on a thoroughly unreal back-story. We used up earth, so the riff-raff that remains has come to get X mineral from this new place. To sell where? Who's got all this money on the old, dead planet? The bottom line here (if I understand Cameron's wacky analogy) is that Western civilization can pretty much be summed up by looking at the dumb CEO and the idiot General. At the same time, the natives have a really cool fiber-optics thing going with the biology of the planet. I guess theirs really is alive (ours is most certainly not). Of course the Western-civ people should hit the road--and good riddance! I really enjoyed seeing these utter brutes get smacked down by the clearly more noble natives. Yet, in the real world, such is not the case. Ours is a culture worth defending and promoting. We dare not abdicate in favor of tree-huggers or radical Islam (or anyone in-between). We carry true religion, freedom, safety and prosperity. If you find another country that has more of these, you are welcome (and encouraged) to move there.

To sum up, I liked the film. I just didn't like the preaching. Fortunately, I happen to be one of those people who can pretend not to notice heavy-handed moralizing. If you are such a person, I heartily recommend this movie. If you love Western society and cannot suspend your sense of outrage at those who oppose it, I advise you to give it a pass.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Atlas Shrugged: Quote #3

The Twentieth Century Motor Company had been the most respected, dependable and profitable automobile company in the country—until the founder died and left the company to his three children. In just four years, they had driven it into bankruptcy. Dagny Taggart discovers the tragic tale as she searches for the inventor of a mysterious engine found in the abandoned factory.

The new owners talked their employees into voting for a grand reorganization of the plant along the lines of a famous slogan: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” All wages were pooled and distributed according to need.

“We’re all one big family, they told us, we’re all in this together. But you don’t stand working an acetylene torch ten hours a day—together, and you don’t all get a bellyache—together. What’s whose ability and which of whose needs comes first? ... Well, anyway, it was decided that nobody had a right to judge his own need or ability. We voted on it. ... It took us just one meeting to discover that we had become beggars—rotten, whining, sniveling beggars all of us, because no man could claim his pay as his rightful earning, his work didn’t belong to him, it belonged to ‘the family,’ and they owed him nothing in return, and the only claim he had on them was his ‘need’ ...

“But that wasn’t all. There was something else that we discovered at the same meeting. The factory’s production had fallen by forty per cent, in the first half-year, so it was decided that somebody hadn’t delivered ‘according to his ability.’ Who? How would you tell it? The family voted on that, too. They voted which men were the best, and these men were sentenced to work overtime each night for the next six months. Overtime without pay—because you weren’t paid by time and you weren’t paid by work, only by need. ...

“It didn’t take us long to see how it all worked out. Any man who tried to play it straight, had to refuse himself everything. He lost his taste for any pleasure, he hated to smoke a nickel’s worth or tobacco or chew a stick of gum, worrying whether somebody had more need for that nickel. He felt ashamed of every mouthful  of food he swallowed, wondering whose weary night of overtime had paid for it, knowing that his food was not his by right, miserably wishing to be cheated rather than to cheat, to be a sucker, but not a blood-sucker. ... But the shiftless and the irresponsible had a field day of it. ... They found more ways of getting in ‘need’ than the rest of us could ever imagine—they developed a special skill for it, which was the only ability they showed. ...

“This was the whole secret of it. At first, I kept wondering how it could be possible that the educated, the cultured, the famous men of the world could make a mistake of this size and preach, as righteousness, this sort of abomination—when five minutes of thought should have told them what would happen if somebody tried to practice what they preached. Now I know that they didn’t do it by any kind of mistake. Mistakes of this size are never made innocently. If men fall for some vicious piece of insanity, when they have no way to make it work and no possible reason to explain their choice—it’s because they have a reason that they do not wish to tell. And we weren’t so innocent either, when we voted for the plan at the first meeting. We didn’t do it just because we believed that the drippy old guff they spewed was good. We had another reason, but the guff helped us to hide it from our neighbors and from ourselves. The guff gave us a chance to pass off as virtue something that we’d be ashamed to admit otherwise. There wasn’t a man voting for it who didn’t think that under a setup of this kind he’d muscle in on the profits of the men abler than himself. ... That was our real motive when we voted—that was the truth of it—but we didn’t like to think it, so the less we liked it, the louder we yelled about our love for the common good.”

This passage is pretty straightforward. Communism/socialism doesn’t work for companies or for countries. When ability is punished and victimhood is rewarded, society cannot survive for long. Eventually you run out of other people’s money.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Obama Declined Dutch Help On Oil Spill

That's right. Here is the quote from the story:

Three days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch government offered to help. 

It was willing to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, and it proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands.

The response from the Obama administration and BP, which are coordinating the cleanup: “The embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,'” said Geert Visser, consul general for the Netherlands in Houston.

Birth of the Tea Party Movement

Just a quick break from my series to link to Michael Barone's piece today. Do you remember Rick Santelli's famous rant back in February of 2009? Barone takes another look at his arguments, both economic and moral, in the light of the intervening months of unsuccessful and detrimental Obama policy initiatives. It turns out that his fears were justified. What's unusual is that large swaths of the American people agreed with him. The template for the last 80 years has been: economic trouble requires more government intervention. Suddenly, a new template is emerging: economic trouble requires less government intervention. Barone concludes:

“We’re thinking of having a Chicago tea party in July,” Santelli said. As it turned out, thousands of previously uninvolved citizens flocked to tea parties all over America even sooner, and now they’re making their mark in primaries and special elections. New Deal historians can’t explain that. Rick Santelli’s rant does.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Atlas Shrugged: Quote #2

Hank Rearden, one of the main protagonists, has just been caught selling some of his miraculous alloy, Rearden Metal, to a business associate. The state has outlawed selling the metal in any significant quantity without specific approval. Vital industries are crumbling as they fall victim to acute lack of resources and materials. Rearden sold the metal to Ken Danagger to keep his coal mines producing a steady stream of coal for Rearden’s foundry. The government caught wind of this and has sent Dr. Ferris, a low-level villain, to confront Rearden:

“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against—then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there it that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of lawbreakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

This little outburst encapsulates one of the central techniques of the progressive left. Look at any major movement on the left—environmental politics, racial politics, gender politics, class envy politics, health care politics, social security politics—and you will see just this kind of system at work. The politicians, demagogues and bureaucrats leading these efforts seek to enact just the sort of laws mentioned by Dr. Ferris for the very purpose he named: cashing in on guilt. Nearly every policy initiative on the left turns on this notion of criminalizing more and more actions, churning up or manufacturing guilt and then using that guilt to incapacitate all those who stand in their way. (See Shelby Steele's book, White Guilt, for an in-depth discussion of this technique.)

This phenomenon even extends to foreign policy. We are constantly reminded of America’s past failures and shameful acts. We are urged to abandon national pride in favor of national guilt—to embrace internationalism and the interests of other countries (even enemies) before the interests of our own country. A similar movement can be witnessed in the pages of history: Western Europe 1919-1939. The result was the Second World War.

Dr. Ferris' remarks  may help illustrate why conservatives strive so ardently for limited government. We seek to limit the number and extent of laws to increase freedom and reduce false guilt. We oppose 3,000-page laws which give sweeping powers to bureaucrats. We embrace the simplicity of the Constitution. The fewer laws we have and the smaller burden of guilt we accept, the less will be the power welded by political elites to control our lives.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Atlas Shrugged: Selected Excerpt Series

Atlas Shrugged was written by Ayn Rand in 1957. Her experiences growing up in the former Soviet Union shaped her understanding of society, human nature, politics and economics. What she described in fiction over fifty years ago can be glimpsed in our country’s political and regulatory climate today. Yet, for all her wisdom and prescience, Rand’s personal philosophy of Objectivism falls short of the mark.

Were we to inhabit a universe without God, her philosophy would be of the highest worth. The existence of God and His revelation in the person of Jesus Christ exposes Rand’s fatal flaw: Man is not an end in himself—he must ultimately answer to a higher authority. This great fact gives justification and meaning to acts of compassion toward others, something Rand cannot countenance outside the context of self-interest.

This one issue aside, Rand’s philosophy has much to offer. Her defense of capitalism and its many benefits cannot be easily overturned. Her often shocking devotion to personal liberty challenges the deepest of assumptions. Finally, her ideas about virtue and human nature uncover a mountain of thought-provoking truth. Whatever your political views, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged promises to engage your mind as its exciting narrative unfolds.

The following is one of a number of passages that struck me as I read through the over one thousand pages of dense prose. I plan to post more excerpts and commentary in the coming days.

Quote #1 features Francisco d’Anconia, captain of the copper industry and one of the central heroes of the story, discussing the “looters” (those who steal via government policy) and the end of American civilization:

“Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion—when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing—when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors—when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.” (p.383)

He goes on to decry the end of the gold standard as a loss of an objective measure of value. Paper currency can be more easily manipulated and controlled. This is not to say that we should all be buying gold from Glenn Beck. However, we should be skeptical of the mystical powers vested in the Federal Reserve.

But what of the rest of the paragraph? Any of that look familiar? It doesn’t take a Henry Waxman congressional investigation to see all the shady deals and kickbacks infesting our American legislative process. My purpose with this first quote is not to make a final pronouncement. Rather, I thought it would be a good way to pique your interest and get you thinking. More quotes will be coming soon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I'm Still Here

Sorry for not posting in a long time. I've been very busy and not too happy about politics. Bad combo for blogging about politics. Anyway, I *finally* finished reading Atlas Shrugged the other day, and my next post will probably be a review/critque. A special shout out to the 5 people who keep checking my blog every day "just in case!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Repeal Movement: Day 1

I've spent the last several weeks entranced (and sickened) by the utter disregard for the laws and people of our country by the Democrats in Washington. I've spent the last several hours numbed by the enormity of the hijacking that took place in the House yesterday. Now, my mind is focused on the future. Today's NRO Symposium deals with what we can expect in the future and how we should begin to move forward. So far, Michael G. Franc sums up my feelings best:

Just as the Dred Scott decision inspired the creation of the abolition movement, and Roe the pro-life crusade that continues to this day (especially this day!), today’s passage of the single most significant expansion of the government’s role in our lives marks the first day of a new political order. That the 2010 elections will be a national referendum on one word — “repeal” — is a certainty. Voters will want to know how politicians running at both the federal and state levels stand on one overriding question: Are you for or against repeal? No one will have to ask what it is they want repealed.
. . .

The good news for conservatives is that the natural instincts of the American citizenry lie firmly with the values that animated the Founding Fathers, and therefore with us — a government of limited power; a nation of laws and not of men, where the spirit of entrepreneurship is honored and encouraged; and a government that recognizes that the most important institutions in our society are families, churches, communities, and then, and only then, government.

Today is the first day of a new political age: the national health care repeal movement has begun!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Solutions" or Sanity

If we can only start to think in terms of trade-offs instead of illusory "solutions", there may be some hope of sanity. Indeed, it would be quite an improvement if we could only start to think at all, instead of being swept along by rhetoric. - Thomas Sowell

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Fun Quiz

Go here to test your political I.Q.

What's that? You want to know my score?

12 out of 12, of course.

So how'd you do?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Obama's Reality Problem

Rich Lowry surveys the wreckage that is the Obama presidency. Obama's real problem lies in his profound misconceptions about the major issues of our day. This could be disguised with hopeful rhetoric on the campaign trail, but in the end, real policies must be adopted.

Obama came to office under fundamental misapprehensions that hamper him still. It's not true that all that was keeping the Israelis and Palestinians apart was the lack of US engagement, or that the Iranians were amenable to getting talked out of their nuclear program, or that Guantanamo Bay was a pointless contrivance.

Nor is it true that government is a sustainable source of economic growth, or a more efficient allocator of capital than the market. This is why Obama's stimulus program -- inevitably, a dog's breakfast of politically driven priorities -- is such a shambles that his aides never utter the word "stimulus" anymore. It is on to the next program, a nearly $100 billion "jobs" bill that reflects the touching belief that to work as intended a program only has to be named appropriately.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Global Warming 101

I did some substitute teaching today. The subject? Global warming (freshman biology). Today, my impressionable young students were forced to watch the NOVA special "Dimming the Sun", a particularly devious addition to the global warming orthodoxy. Filled with the usual ominous voice-overs, foreboding music and visuals of melting icebergs and hurricanes, the program begins by pointing to falling evaporation rates. Does this mean we will be treated to an informed discussion of the cyclical nature of solar activity and its effect on climate? Of course not. Instead, we are told, "the culprit had to be somewhere here on Earth."

It's such a mystery, you see, because we would expect temperatures to be going down instead of up in the past ten years. No kidding. I think I've got that one solved already (CRU email scandal perhaps?). According to this program the 1984 Ethiopian famine was the result of Western pollution altering rainfall patterns over Africa. I'm pretty sure it's a bit more complicated than that. Finally, the good folks at NOVA end up with a down-right apocalyptic interview with the famed (and corrupt) James Hansen of NASA. He claims that global dimming is masking the irrefutably-proven effects of global warming and warns that, if we foolishly continue to decrease pollution, we will unleash super-warming to the tune of +18ºF, killing all the trees on the planet. I'm not making this up.

I had to show it again for my last bell. I put it on and then let them talk and socialize. You're welcome, concerned parents.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

That Big Deficit

This is the ad wanted to show during the 2004 Superbowl. Wonder what kind of ad they'll make for Obama's $13 trillion deficit over the next 10 years.


School Choice Key To Global Academic Success

You may have noticed a ridiculous drop-off in the number of posts lately. That's mainly due to a gigantic online education class I'm currently wrestling. So, when I saw John Hood's post on NRO today, I felt like linking to it here. He makes the interesting point that educrats tend to use our low standing in the ranks of global academics to justify even more spending. The trouble is, the countries who are beating us all spend far less than we do. It's not about the money--it may be about school choice (and culture, and teacher training, and . . .).

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Truth About Abortion

Chuck Baldwin writes:

"Today marks the 37th anniversary of the infamous US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision, which, in effect, legalized abortion-on-demand nationwide. The aftermath of this tragic ruling is the deaths of over 40 million (a very conservative number) innocent unborn babies. It is no hyperbole to say abortion is America's holocaust. Think of it, every American citizen today, 37 years old or younger, has never known a country that respected and protected innocent human life in the womb. Put it another way: when Hitler's Third Reich was at its zenith, the abortion rate was 40%. In 2003 (the last year that I checked), the abortion rate of the county in which I live was 39%. And I live in the heart of the so-called "Bible Belt." In fact, statistically speaking, the most dangerous place to be in America is not in an automobile without wearing a seat belt, or in a commercial airliner with a potential terrorist on board. Statistically speaking, the most dangerous place to be is in the womb of one's mother."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson's Misunderstanding of Christianity

The tragedy in Haiti should draw out our compassion, not sanctimonious criticism based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Christianity. Peter Wehner gets it right in discussing Pat Robinson's latest round of insensitive foolishness.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Health Care Chart

This chart helps to explain why health care costs continue to skyrocket out of control: we don't ever see the prices. As Mark Perry points out:

Just imagine what would happen over time to the cost of food, clothing, or automobiles if consumers paid only 12 percent of the total bill, with the other 88 percent paid by employers or the government, and it’s easy to understand why healthcare spending goes up year after year.

Don't expect this to change with closed-door no-Republicans-allowed meetings in Congress.