Saturday, February 27, 2010

One 'Green' Job Kills Two Others (Or More)

Greens like Obama often assert that using government to encourage 'green' technology will decrease unemployment.

Veronique du Rugy says otherwise, and I'm much more inclined to believe her than nearly anyone else.
This study, from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Spain shows that the reality is quite different. After examining Spain’s experience with an aggressive wind-power program, the researchers concluded, among other things, the cost of creating a green job in Spain was 571,000 Euros each (so roughly $800,000) and for each green job created 2 private jobs were lost.

In fact, as Sunil Sharan demonstrates, some 'green' technology — like the 'Smart Grid' — is actually designed to reduce the number of jobs...
Now let's consider job losses. It takes one worker today roughly 15 minutes to read a single meter. So in a day, a meter reader can scan about 30 meters, or about 700 meters a month. Meters are typically read once a month, making it the base period to calculate meter-reading jobs. Reading a million meters every month engages about 1,400 personnel. In five years, 20 million manually read meters are expected to disappear, taking with them some 28,000 meter-reading jobs.

In other words, instead of creating jobs, smart metering will probably result in net job destruction. This should not be surprising because the main method of making the electrical grid "smart" is by automating its functions. Automation by definition obviates the need for people.
...and that's as it should be. As free market economists have noted again and again, it's easy to create full employment by simply having half the unemployed, for example, dig ditches and the other half fill them in again. Only the free market can create long-term productive employment.

Of course, they also point out what should be obvious to any casual reader of history. There have been many jobs eliminated by technology, but such advances invariably free up resources to create even more — and more productive — jobs in the future.

So much for the typical fantasy-based — and counter-productive — Progressive optimism over state-coerced social engineering in employment.

British Inaugurate UK Tea Party

Daniel Hannan, the journalist and MP who became world famous some months ago for his liberty-loving smackdown of the UK National Health Service, is leading the way.

It's an interesting turn of events since many philosophical, cultural, or political trends that occur in America actually have originated in Great Britain.

Best of luck to our British kinsmen in their struggle for freedom.

Friday, February 26, 2010

My New Pin-Up Girl: Ann McElhinney

Nicole Gelinas and Heather MacDonald at City Journal, Kimberly Strassel at the Wall St. Journal, Caroline Baum at Bloomberg, the mighty Veronique de Rugy at Reason and NRO... all fine thinkin' dames. But — fickle heel that I am — I have to declare my new devotion to the heroic Ann McElhinney.

Ms. McElhinney is the director/producer of "Not Evil Just Wrong" – a smackdown of Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and other viro nonsense — and a defense of mining called, "Mine Your Own Business."

Writing at Big Hollywood, Ms. McElhinney urges James Cameron, director of Avatar* to grow up. That will never happen, of course, but in the process she does a superb job of defending human extraction of the Earth's resources for human benefit. Her argument is so simple even a Hollywood director could follow it:
Mining makes everything about James Cameron’s life and our lives in the developed world, beautiful, possible, bearable, majestic, gorgeous and full of promise.

The people of the rain forest on the other hand who live the simple, organic, back-to-nature life so adored by the Hollywood elite such as James Cameron, also have short lives of misery, disease and squalor. They would do anything to have a piece of the James Cameron life and escape their subsistence hunter-gathering nightmare.
Mining companies bring jobs, roads, infrastructure, health clinics and opportunities to some of the poorest people on the planet.

James Cameron, even more than rest of us, uses the earth’s resources for his pleasure and his very profitable business. His films all employ enormous quantities of heavy metals in planes, boats, trains and the latest cutting edge camera, lighting and computer technology.

Everything about Cameron’s work uses metals mined from somewhere and his gigantic transport needs are fueled by oil.
So that's why I'm in love with Ann McElhinney, 'cause I just can't resist a woman with really big brains. I'm pretty sure this one's gonna last.

[You can become a Facebook fan here.]]

* Best quote ever on that silly piece of viro propaganda:
Hollywood: For their own gain, Military and corporate villains kill and pillage a peaceful indigenous population that is in tune with Mother Nature.

Reality: In Haiti, Mother Nature kicks the hell out of a backward, indigenous population and American military and corporations immediately come to their comfort and aid. [from a commenter at HotAir, Feb 22, 2010 - 2:11 pm]

Tucker on the Health Legislation Summit

William Tucker writing at American Spectator continues to show that he's far more knowledgeable about the health insurance business than the Feds. (Rep. Paul Ryan excepted.)
Obama's premise is wrong. We're not going to be able to "get everybody into the pool" because doing that would mean breaking up the system of employment-based health benefits that is protected by ERISA. That 43 percent of the market is staying put. The only thing that could crack this wall of protection would be if benefits were highly taxed and the federal "insurance exchanges" were made so attractive that people were willing to give up their employment-based benefits in exchange. Those are the things that Obama has sworn won't happen.

Instead, whatever "exchanges" are created will remain isolated, populated only by the very sick and people who can't get coverage anywhere else. That's what we have now. The only thing that can make the exchange more attractive is if it is highly subsidized. Several states tried this in the 1990s and found it impossibly expensive -- as several Senators testified yesterday.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Health Care Costs Are So High

William Tucker has authored one of the most informative articles on health care costs I've ever read. He explains clearly and in detail some of the reasons they're so high. The facts he lays out are alone enough to point the way to how properly to 'reform' the health care and health insurance sectors of the economy.

Among many other things, it shows how the Federal government has been willing to selectively override long-standing legislation (in this case, anti-trust) for the purpose of social engineering. Even better, it's a classic example of how interference in the market leads to ill effects calling for ever more legislation to fix the problems created, in a never-ending death spiral toward pure socialism.
Congress took up the offer by passing the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, a bi-partisan effort co-sponsored by Senators Pat McCarran, a Democrat from Nevada, and Homer Ferguson, a Republican from Michigan.

The law reserved licensing and regulation of the industry to the states, assuming they would run it along the lines of a public utility. Because they were setting rates in conjunction with state insurance authorities, the companies were allowed to collaborate on data collection and risk estimates. For this they were exempted from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Thus began the system we have today, where there is no national market for health, fire, or auto insurance but 50 separate state markets. Insurance companies must go through extensive licensing procedures in order to gain permission to sell insurance in each and every state. Some states are very permissive, others are very restrictive.

As usually happens in such situations, companies that are already licensed to sell insurance generally oppose licensing other carriers in order to suppress competition. In many states, regulators have formed a virtual partnership with one large carrier -- usually the local Blue Cross."


Typically the providers of some marginal health service such as chiropractic or treatment for alcoholism will come to the legislature and insist that theirs is a service essential to all humanity. Often crusading consumers of chiropractic or alcoholism treatment second their efforts.

The legislature responds by mandating that every insurance policy include coverage. Before long, people are being forced to buy coverage for services they don't want or need. The result is that insurance costs go up for everyone.

The Council on Affordable Health Insurance estimates that there are now 2,133 separate mandates in the 50 states for services as diverse as podiatrists, midwives, occupational therapists, athletic trainers and pastoral counselors. CAHI estimates these mandates raise the price of insurance 20 to 50 percent.
The entire article is well worth the time to read and digest. This is intellectual ammunition of the highest caliber.

6, 225 Carat Emerald Found

I've been fascinated by gems ever since as a lad I saw an ad with some of the world's finest. There was the Kohinoor diamond (105 carats),

the Hope (45 carats, steel blue),

the Star of Africa (530 carats, cut from the Cullinan, 3,106 carats),

and many more. But this latest find is a real whopper, even by those standards: a 6,225 carat emerald found recently in Zambia.

The story goes on to discuss two others.
The largest uncut emerald believed to have been found was in Carnaiba, Brazil in 1974. It was an incredible 86,136-carat natural beryl crystal. The stone was eventually valued at $1,120,080.

The largest emerald crystal ever discovered was 7,025 carats and was found in a mine in Colombia.
I don't know what the technical differences are between those two, but either way, these are some very big gemstones.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Incomprehensible Headline of the Day

A Townhall story reports: "Army to Oppose Immediate Suspension of Gay Firings"

I haven't read the story, but if anyone can grasp this headline he's better at deciphering crypto-English than I. Does it mean gays will or won't be dismissed from the military? Does it mean the Army is acting at once or deferring a decision? Does it mean anything at all?

Sometimes an editor just has too much to do, I guess.

Monday, February 22, 2010

America's First Post-American President

John Bolton sometimes claims that Obama is America's first post-American occupier of the chair in the Oval Office. There's merit to that view. But, for my money, that dubious honor might be better bestowed on Teddy Roosevelt, the first Progressive president. Here's some evidence:
The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power. The prime need to is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise.

We grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity, when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows. Again, comrades over there, take the lesson from your own experience. Not only did you not grudge, but you gloried in the promotion of the great generals who gained their promotion by leading their army to victory.

So it is with us. We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.

This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.
A clearer statement that your money is morally yours only so long as you use it to serve others could hardly be found. It also shows how self-defeating utilitarian, altruist arguments for capitalism inevitably are.

Unfortunately, even the generally very good Jonah Goldberg falls prey to that error. (Mark Steyn, interestingly, does not, declaring "Nuts to that.") By contrast, Goldberg says,
You ask: "Isn't part of the argument for tolerating concentrations of wealth in a free-market society that in one people can amass fortunes only by bringing benefits to the community?"

And I would respond, yes it is. But another part of the argument is that the state (usually) isn't better at allocating wealth than the market is. And another part of the argument is that your wealth is your wealth, no matter how concentrated it is. The state may take its share based on the reasonable needs of the government to serve its functions and duties, it cannot and should not take more than that just because you have "too much wealth."
Beware supporting freedom chiefly by the argument "we'll all be better off." That's true, but it's not what justifies your liberty. The freedom to trade and keep what's yours are inalienable rights, come what may.

McCain Shifts Blame for TARP Vote

Sen. McCain, facing a tough challenge for his seat in Arizona from J.D. Hayworth, is claiming he was suckered into voting for TARP.
[T]he four-term senator says he was misled by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Even taken at face value this still shows he’s undeserving of a Senate seat.

How can you justify being in the Senate for decades and still know so little about economics and the facts of the situation that you could be misled by the likes of Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke?

Pathetic, either way.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Obama For SCOTUS Justice?

Talk show host Michael Savage, for whom I have no love at all, is reputed to have originated the quip that liberalism is a mental disorder. He may finally have proved his point with evidence provided by a recent WaPo editorial by Georgetown law professor Jeffrey Rosen.

Rosen, apparently in all seriousness, suggests that: [Obama's] education, temperament and experience make him ideally suited to lead the liberal wing of the [Supreme] court." He continues in the rest of the essay to flesh out his reasons, most of which are factually in error.

I'm going to ignore those reasons here. That choice is so patently absurd I won't bother to argue against it. (Ok, I'll just mention this: apart from having vanishingly little experience in the law after his Harvard stint as editor of the Law Review — during which he published nothing — his open and admitted disdain for the Constitution* should disqualify him at the outset. Granted, that last hasn't stopped any number of Progressives from sitting, starting with Oliver Wendell Holmes.)

Instead, I'll just very briefly take up this notion of a "liberal wing of the court."

Given the modern meaning of the term "liberal" it is unconstitutional – and hence illegal — for there even to be a "liberal wing of the court."

In the Federal system, the role of the Supreme Court of the United States is to apply the principles of the Constitution to cases that come before it. Not to override the legislature to further a Progressive agenda. That it has done so off and on for the past 100 years** (particularly in the New Deal period, after FDR threatened to dilute the court***) is a major factor in the economic disasters the country has faced during the past century. A crime repeated is no less a crime for being common.

This country won’t be safe again until law professors like this one are back standing on soapboxes on the street corner, panhandling for nickels.

[*Obama laments on a Chicago radio program, 2001: "But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.

And to the extent as radical I think as people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted.

The Warren Court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can't do to you. It says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf."]

[** See How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution, by Univ. of Chicago Law Prof. Richard Epstein for details, along with

*** The Forgotten Man by Amity Shlaes.]

Thursday, February 18, 2010

UN Climate Chief Resigns, Viro Plague Continues

Mr. de Boer, 55, will join the consulting group KPMG as global adviser on climate and sustainability and will also work in academia, his office said.
Another AGW con-man out of a position of power... and right into a big salary doing pretty much the same thing. Oh, well. At least he'll be wasting KPMG's money, not the taxpayers'.

As the whole global warming fraud unravels there will be many more resignations, firings, and so forth. While this is a very welcome turn of events it would be premature to announce the death of the destructive philosophy that bolstered AGW.

Environmentalism (the political movement) is undergirded by a more fundamentally irrational view I call viro-paganism, an ancient religion (think Druids) newly reborn at the end of the 19th century. (In modern times, it actually began earlier, most notably in the writings of Rousseau, who bequeathed us the current form of 'the noble savage.') That disease is still raging in the public schools and major media, and until its carriers are removed the contagion will continue to spread.

Still, it's a good time to celebrate some recent victories as more and more of the prions* see their protective protein sheaths stripped off, and they get excreted out the exit of the body politic.

*"An infectious protein particle similar to a virus but lacking nucleic acid; thought to be the agent responsible for scrapie and other degenerative diseases of the nervous system."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Keynesian Experiment, Redux

Pete du Pont, ex-Governor of Delaware and ex-U.S. Congressman, reviews some of the staggering sums expended by the U.S. Federal government over the past year... and the even more stunning ones to come.

The federal deficit this fiscal year will be $1.6 trillion, or about 10.6% of gross domestic product. That is the largest deficit since World War II, and even Obama's optimistic estimates show our deficits will not return to sustainable levels for at least the next decade.

The administration's projection of total federal spending over those 10 years (2011-20) is $45.8 trillion, while expected taxes and other receipts will be $37.3 trillion. The $8.5 trillion deficit is about 20% of spending. And all of these numbers are based on a full and lasting economic recovery, which, based on current experience, is a pretty optimistic projection.
When the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007, the debt held by the public was 36.2% of GDP. It rose to 40.2% the next year. This year it will be about 63.6%, next year 68.6%, then 77% of GDP in 2020.

One can't help but ask: how will Americans pay for all this? One also can't help but be reminded of the line from Atlas Shrugged: "You'll do something, Mr. Rearden!"

And so, on a wish and a Keynesian prayer, we're hurtling down the abyss with nary a flashlight in sight.

Most revolting of all, of course, is the fact that this is hardly the first time the experiment has been run and the results have long been in. The manner in which that approach fails has been exposed repeatedly over a period of decades. Writers from John T. Flynn (The Roosevelt Myth, 1948) to Burton Folsom Jr. (New Deal or Raw Deal?, 2009) have demonstrated again and again in layman's terms what actually happened when the Keynesian experiment was tried here on this scale before. (Other countries show similar results, not surprisingly.)

You have to wonder when the general public will finally get educated enough to get the message, and muster up enough outrage to put an end to it once and for all. With the burgeoning of the Tea Party movement, that may finally be happening.

Update: More horrifying data... Jeffrey Anderson of the generally outstanding Pacific Research Institute, writing at IBD, says:
[W]hether measured in constant dollars, real dollars or even as a percentage of the gross domestic product, Obama's average deficit in his first two years will more than triple the average deficit during the Great Depression.
Wow. Just wow.

Update II (2/21/2010): Alan Reynolds writing at IBD lends more evidence to support the view that Keynesianism never works, and that the Administration must know this.
A famous 1999 study by Christina Romer, who now heads the Council of Economic Advisers, found the average length of recessions from 1887 to 1929 was only 10.3 months, with the longest lasting 16 months.

Recessions lasted longer during the supposedly enlightened postwar era, with three of them lasting 16 to 21 months.

Keynesian countercyclical schemes have never worked in this country, just as they never worked in Japan.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Clinton: Iran Becoming Military Dictatorship


File this one in the "ya think?" folder.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday that the United States feared Iran was drifting toward a military dictatorship, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps seizing control of large swaths of Iran’s political, military, and economic establishment.
So, during the past 30 years, when has it been anything else?

Ok, I grant you that there are technical differences between that and a totalitarian theocracy that rules by ethical guilt induced by a soul-killing religion coupled with the ever-present threat of coercion by Revolutionary Guards. But, as Ira Gershwin might have it, potay-toe, potah-toe.

Personally, given the choice between an 870 AD-style dungeon and a 1970s Chilean jail, I might have to flip a coin. But that's just me. Hillary might see it otherwise.

Save the Tasmanian Devil?

I know almost nothing about Tasmanian Devils and their troubles. Still, I thought the story was worth mentioning. According to this Los Angeles Times report, they've been having a pretty rough time of it the past decade.
The facial cancers that are devastating populations of Tasmanian devils in Australia are a nerve tumor that escaped its original host and became a parasite of the cultural icon, passing from one devil to the next by bites when the animals are fighting or mating, researchers reported Thursday.

So, flash poll: Are they as cool as they seem to me, or are they really a bane down under? (Or, up top, if you insist I avoid 'geo-chauvinism'.)

Based on the photo, I'd go with "worth saving" (solely by private donations, of course).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

AGW Scientists: "No Plans to Leave Oz Just Yet"

It's been a busy week for AGW warriors.

First, the IPCC is arm-twisted into acknowledging that their claim about melting Himalayan glaciers was based on some rumor started by an eighth grader trying to get back at his teacher for a homework assignment on climate change. Then, they have to backpedal after overstating the area of Netherlands land under sea level — being off by roughly a mere double the amount (55% vs 26%).

Now, much beleaguered Phil Jones has come out of the closet to say that perhaps, after all, all was not as it should have been at East Anglia. He acknowledged:

[T]wo periods [prior to the present] in recent times had experienced similar warming [to the current one]. And he agreed that the debate had not been settled over whether the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than the current period.

Considering the source, this is positively mirror-Clintonian in its breathtaking honesty.

Still, he stuck to his guns to the extent of asserting "[H]e had not cheated over the data, or unfairly influenced the scientific process."

Yeah, forget those hundreds of CRU emails suggesting otherwise or the massive fudging of computer code. Just the inherent fuzziness that invariably accompanies leading-edge science.

Worse, "he said he stood by the view that recent climate warming was most likely predominantly man-made." Ya gotta wonder what evidence would make him think "most likely not..."

Honest Phil puts it all down to weak data organization skills on his part. Uh, huh. With that level of skills in equities trading a floor broker could expect a visit from the SEC, if not the Justice Department.

However, the most hilarious quote from the news report is undeniably this one: "I have no agenda."

Right. Never mind about those emails discussing how to remove editors from journals, and the like. No more than the normal give and take among reasonable men with differing points of view.

Toto, stop pulling that damn curtain, will you!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Larry Elder Gives Paul Krugman A Fisking

In a recent Investors Business Daily editorial, Larry Elder gives Paul Krugman a very thorough – and soul-satisfying – fisking. Granted, that's easier and easier these days, but it's pleasant to watch nonetheless.

Elder begins:
In a November 2004 interview, Krugman criticized the "enormous" Bush deficit.

"We have a world-class budget deficit," [Krugman] said, "not just as in absolute terms, of course — it's the biggest budget deficit in the history of the world — but it's a budget deficit that, as a share of GDP, is right up there."

The deficit in fiscal 2004 was $413 billion, or 3.5% of gross domestic product.

Back then, a disapproving Krugman called the deficit "comparable to the worst we've ever seen in this country. ... The only time postwar that the United States has had anything like these deficits is the middle Reagan years, and that was with unemployment close to 10%."
Then, Elder goes on to — yeah, I know, shooting fish in a barrel – show how the nature of Krugman's complaints are highly dependent on who is in office.

Elder observes:
The projected deficit for fiscal year 2010 is over $1.5 trillion, or more than 10% of GDP. This sets a post-WWII record in both absolute numbers and as a percentage of GDP. And if the Obama administration's optimistic projections of economic growth fall short, things will get much worse.
Yet, the winner of the Fauxbel Prize in Economics appears unphased.

"[F]ear-mongering on the deficit may end up doing as much harm as the fear-mongering on weapons of mass destruction."

It goes without saying — or should among this audience — that Bush was a profligate spender to the point of idiocy, not to mention no friend of economic liberty, in general.

Still, it's good to see Krugman being flayed with his own words for his utter hypocrisy, even if hypocrisy is the least of the Progressive's sins. (They're much more dangerous when they're completely sincere.) And, given his perch from the New York Times, it can only help to have the toad's inconsistencies openly revealed.

Sometimes, even the non-cynical among us can enjoy a moment of guilt-free Schadenfreude.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Obama Shifts Tone Toward Wall Street? Not Really

In an interview with Bloomberg, Obama said of CEO bonuses:
Asked about the $17 million bonus given to Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and the $9 million bonuses going to Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. CEO, the president said, “I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen. I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”

“I do think that the compensation packages that we’ve seen over the last decade at least have not matched up always to performance,” the president said — a rather serene response relative to some of his previous language on the matter.

The seeming shift in tone comes at a time that Wall Street executives have been relaying to the White House [he] needs to be more encouraging of their efforts if he expects them to be part of the solution in terms of job growth. Several business executives have told the administration that attacking businesses so vociferously doesn’t exactly help create a positive business climate.
He went on to say,
Blankfein and Dimon took their bonuses in stock rather than cash, which Obama encouraged other corporations to do. Such compensation, he said in the interview, “requires proven performance over a certain period of time as opposed to quarterly earnings.” He said that’s a “fairer way of measuring CEO success and ultimately will make the performance of American businesses better.”
As usual, he tells half-truths, here when he says,
"[C]ompensation packages over the last decade haven’t always been commensurate with performance, and reiterated his call for shareholders to have a say in CEO pay.
Stockholders have always had that say, legally and in fact. Small potatoes, though.

The more important point is, is Bloomberg right? Is this a shift in tone (or substance) towards compensation for Wall Street executives? Not really. If he had said, "You know, it's really none of the Federal government's business how much or how little money these guys make — or in what form — provided there's no fraud involved," then that would be a shift in both tone and substance.

Like you, I'm not holding my breath.

Obama, Please Do Nothing

Michell Malkin discusses the pending 'jobs' bill, or as she calls it (accurately) Porkulus II, and labels it a boondoggle.

Her outrage is well placed, though she doesn't point out that even if it resulted in zero fraud and the money went for exactly 'the right things', it would still be the wrong thing to do. That it is the wrong thing is suggested by Obama's recent statement on the subject: "What I won't consider is doing nothing in the face of a lot of hardship across the country."

To repeat for — what is it now? — the hundredth time: that's exactly what is wrong with his entire approach to government. He should take his cues not from FDR but from Coolidge, who understood the value of the Federal government doing nothing in the face of economic hardship.

(Coolidge was, by the way, roundly mocked for it by the leftist columnist Walter Lippmann, who later said of FDR: "The situation is critical, Franklin. You may have no alternative but to assume dictatorial powers.")

Or, better still, Obama should listen to James Madison who said (when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees),
“I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” [4 Annals of Congress 179, 1794]
Now, in theory, the 'jobs' bill isn't charity. More accurately, it's the same absurd Keynesian-inspired approach that has failed time and again. (Interestingly, Allan Meltzer of Carnegie Mellon suggests that Obama doesn't even have Keynes right. But never mind that now.) But the idea behind it is the same: that the Federal government should step in to 'help' when private business 'isn't doing enough.'

It should be no surprise that the idea has failed whenever it's been tried. Because when the Federal government does nothing outside what it is supposed to do, the citizens have the freedom to do what they think best.

When private citizens have it, they typically do far from nothing. And the something they do is far preferable than anything Obama will ever do. More importantly, private sector individuals don't violate the rights of everyone in the country when they do it.

If Obama really wanted to 'do something' — something actually helpful — he could encourage Congress to discuss repealing Sarbanes-Oxley, eliminating capital gains taxes, gutting the EPA, phasing out Social Security, and Medicare, and in general shaving the leviathan down to bare Constitutional bones. Not surprisingly, in those areas — and thousands more — Obama would prefer to do nothing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rep. Ryan on Obamanomics

Rep. Paul Ryan continues to demonstrate his credentials as one of the good guys. He's far from perfect.* (See his Roadmap for America's Future, filled with suggestions that would improve on the status quo, but not really break away from it, fundamentally.) Still, all in all, he demonstrates a better grasp of reality, and better values, than most in Congress.

In any case, the following quote is worth mentioning:
"People in the economy are thinking about whether to invest or take risks when what they are seeing are early signs of Hugo Chávez economics," says Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan.
In today's political context, it constitutes a pretty bold statement, so good on him.

[Update: Here's an interesting paragraph from Matt Lewis' blog post on a few of Rep. Ryan's votes:
Though he talks like Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, some of Ryan’s most high-profile votes seem closer to Keynes than to Adam Smith. For example, in the span of about a year, Ryan committed fiscal conservative apostasy on three high-profile votes: The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP (whereby the government purchased assets and equity from financial institutions), the auto-bailout (which essentially implied he agrees car companies – especially the ones with an auto plant in his district—are too big to fail), and for a confiscatory tax on CEO bonuses (which essentially says the government has the right to take away private property—if it doesn’t like you).
Ya gotta wonder why these guys can't vote the way they allegedly think...]

Random Thought of the Day: A Progressive Contradiction

At the same time Progressives assert that a person shouldn't or can't be morally judged by how much money they have or lack, they frequently act as if those who lack it are necessarily morally better, while those who have it are almost certainly wicked (unless they spend their lives giving it away).

But then, noting the link between Comtean altruism and Progressivism is well trod ground.

Not an original thought, but one that bears repeating from time to time.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

'Liberal' Condescension

Gerard Alexander, associate professor of politics at the University of Virginia, has a Washington Post essay that does a reasonable job of drawing a picture of 'liberal' attitudes toward conservatives — and Americans in general.
This liberal vision emphasizes the dissemination of ideologically driven views from sympathetic media such as the Fox News Channel. For example, Chris Mooney's book "The Republican War on Science" argues that policy debates in the scientific arena are distorted by conservatives who disregard evidence and reflect the biases of industry-backed Republican politicians or of evangelicals aimlessly shielding the world from modernity.

In this interpretation, conservative arguments are invariably false and deployed only cynically. Evidence of the costs of cap-and-trade carbon rationing is waved away as corporate propaganda; arguments against health-care reform are written off as hype orchestrated by insurance companies.
There's much more to the piece worth exploring, but as People's Exhibit #1, I offer the essay by Jacob Weisberg on Slate.
In trying to explain why our political paralysis seems to have gotten so much worse over the past year, analysts have rounded up a plausible collection of reasons including: President Obama's tactical missteps, the obstinacy of congressional Republicans, rising partisanship in Washington, the blustering idiocracy of the cable-news stations, and the Senate filibuster, which has devolved into a super-majority threshold for any important legislation.

These are all large factors, to be sure, but that list neglects what may be the biggest culprit in our current predicament: the childishness, ignorance, and growing incoherence of the public at large.
While he makes some valid points — for example, that Americans often (at least appear to) want to solve big problems but refuse to make the hard choices to do so (no doubt true of some percentage) — he refrains from looking at other, equally plausible explanations, such as that they simply differ from most Progressives on how those problems should be attacked.

(Not to mention simply ignoring more than one elephant in the room, like the fact that Progressive-leaning major media outlets outnumber conservative ones by 10:1. Also, it's a mystery how "obstinate Republicans" could decide any issue, given that the Democrats have ample majorities in Congress and they control the Executive Branch.)

In any case, it's the tone of the piece that is most striking and demonstrates Alexander's point to a T.

Gallup Poll: Half of Dems Like Socialism

I think John Hindraker of Powerline will forgive me if I reproduce his entire blog entry here; it's very short. And entirely accurate.
The Gallup Poll finds that 53% of Democrats and 61% of liberals have a "positive image of socialism." That could explain a lot about the Obama administration. Meanwhile, the Tea Party is meeting in Nashville. CNN provides a primer on the Tea Partiers, and twice describes them as "far right."

So: socialism is mainstream, but fiscal sanity and constitutionalism are "far right."
That, overall, more than a third of Americans view Socialism positively - especially among self-identified moderates - is a very, very dangerous sign. I don't have statistics to hand, but I'm confident that number was whoppingly lower 50 or even 30 years ago.

However, that 85% of Democrats think positively of Free Enterprise (and 53% think so of Capitalism), suggests either bad polling - likely - or the usual American confusion and schizophrenia when it comes to political philosophy. This demonstrates once again that, possibly more than anything else, lack of clarity is driving the country to a negative default position.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Krauthammer Nails It

Charles Krauthammer writes one of his rare brilliant columns. Usually, he's a very mixed bag at best – and to a small extent that's true here as well. But he nails so-called liberals to the carpet on this one. I can't even find a good extract, it's so tightly constructed.

I find conservatism in general an equally mixed bag — ill defined, contradictory, and wildly varying in content from one person to the next (sometimes from the same person, one day to the next). Still, I find a few conservatives' columns worthwhile and Krauthammer exposes one aspect of the opposition very well here.

So, read all about The great peasant revolt of 2010 here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Is Obama a Pragmatist?

Jonah Goldberg discusses Obama's recent claim that:
"I am not an ideologue," President Obama insisted at his truly refreshing confab with the Republican caucus in Baltimore last Friday. When he heard some incredulous murmurs and chuckles from the audience in response to the idea that the most sincerely ideological president in a generation is no ideologue, he added a somewhat plaintive, "I'm not."
It's such a loaded word, it would be helpful to have a definition of "ideologue."

If it means "dogmatist" then Obama is a mixed case. He's dogmatic about Progressive ideology (i.e. philosophy), but pragmatic about how he applies it. It's no accident that Dewey was one of the foremost developers of both Progressivism and Pragmatism. Far from being antithetical, they're complementary. (One refers to content, the other to a method.)

If it just means someone who has a philosophy, that's true of everyone. It couldn't be otherwise. If it means having a consistent, coherent, or comprehensive philosophy... these days that's true of very few on all points of the political compass. Pragmatism, in the technical sense of that term, is the overwhelmingly dominant philosophy of our day, and half the cause of most of our problems. (Progressivism is the other half.)

Finally, the word "pragmatism" does NOT mean "practical," in theory or practice. Dewey would have shuddered at the idea, and – in fact – a pragmatist (i.e. someone who doesn't use a conscious, consistent philosophy to guide his or her actions) is the most impractical creature on Earth. Such a person is continually buffeted by winds internal and external, his emotions on the one hand, the beliefs of others on the other.

All those confusions over important words are a major source of countless unnecessary debates. In too many cases, that confusion is no doubt deliberate. The last thing a pragmatic Progressive would want is clear definitions.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Budget Insanity Redux, On Steroids

Obama has unveiled his spending-frozen proposed budget for 2011. It weighs in at a mere $3.83 trillion, with a projected deficit (that's the amount spent more than the Feds steal in revenue) of a whopping $1.6 trillion dollars. Obama's spending 'freeze' amounts to projected savings of about $15 billion out of that the total.

There's good news on the horizon, though. According to a WSJ editorial,
The deficit is forecast to stabilize at $800 billion between fiscal years 2015 and 2018 before beginning to rise again, according to the White House projections. The projected rise is due to the retirement of the baby boomers, which is expected to result in increased spending on Medicare and Social Security.
If those facts aren't enough to warrant issuing arrest warrants for everyone involved, I can't think what would be considered enough. When I was in business — thankfully several years ago now — that would have constituted a clear case of embezzlement. Progressives, of course, have another name for it, something that sounds ever so much nicer: wealth redistribution.

I can't help but be reminded at this juncture of Mencken's definition of democracy: "the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." But I doubt even the cynical Mencken foresaw they would vote themselves into becoming Zimbabwe.

Hyperbole? Take a look at two graphs prepared by the Heritage Foundation.

And people still sometimes say (the admittedly dreadful) McCain would have been far worse. It's truly hard to see how.