Tum da de tum, here is another entry in the Powerline Prize contest. This one didn’t win anything, but it has the singular distinction of having been a project of my family, with my son, “A. Shack,” composing the rap and performing the song, my wife (Mrs. Miner) performing some pseudo “baby voices,” with some music production and amateur video editing from me, Harmonicminer.
Aug 04 2011
Aug 18 2010
Jun 03 2010
If anyone is counting, this is the 1200th post on this blog. Or so says the WordPress editor.
I hate to quote only an excerpt of this piece by Mark Steyn, titled We’re too broke to be this stupid.
Back in 2008, when I was fulminating against multiculturalism on a more or less weekly basis, a reader wrote to advise me to lighten up, on the grounds that “we’re rich enough to afford to be stupid.”
Two years later, we’re a lot less rich. In fact, many Western nations are, in any objective sense, insolvent. Hence last week’s column, on the EU’s decision to toss a trillion dollars into the great sucking maw of Greece’s public-sector kleptocracy. It no longer matters whether you’re intellectually in favour of European-style social democracy: simply as a practical matter, it’s unaffordable.
… the easiest “solution” to <social problems of all kinds> is to throw public money at <them>. You know how it is when you’re at the mall and someone rattles a collection box under your nose and you’re not sure where it’s going but it’s probably for Darfur or Rwanda or Hoogivsastan. Whatever. You’re dropping a buck or two in the tin for the privilege of not having to think about it. For the more ideologically committed, there’s always the awareness-raising rock concert: it’s something to do with Bono and debt forgiveness, whatever that means, but let’s face it, going to the park for eight hours of celebrity caterwauling beats having to wrap your head around Afro-Marxist economics. The modern welfare state operates on the same principle: since the Second World War, the hard-working middle classes have transferred historically unprecedented amounts of money to the unproductive sector in order not to have to think about it. But so what? We were rich enough that we could afford to be stupid.
The reason I hated to quote only the excerpt is because you should really read it all.
Steyn goes on to make the case that a great deal that is publicly funded, with taxes extracted from average working people, is counterproductive, or at least subsidizes bad behavior. He is at his usual entertaining and trenchant best. Read it all at the link above.
What it boils down to is this: trying to repeal the laws of economics is a luxury for societies with lots of extra cash laying about. That is no longer the case in pretty much any society, and certainly not in western society. It’s a bit like pretending you’ve undone the laws of thermodynamics by injecting extra energy from outside the system, so that you can try to convince people that entropy isn’t really happening.
But there are some laws of economics that apply. Here are a few:
1) You will get more of anything you subsidize.
2) If you increase demand, and don’t increase supply, prices go up.
3) If you increase demand, and don’t increase supply, and don’t let prices go up, shortages and rationing come next.
4) If you decrease supply, and don’t decrease demand, prices go up.
5) If you decrease supply, and don’t decrease demand, and don’t let prices go up, shortages and rationing come next.
6) If you spend money on things that don’t lead to the production of more money than you spent, then you’re losing money.
7) Ponzi schemes always collapse eventually, usually sooner than the con artists hoped.
It may not be clear to you, but virtually EVERY regulation has the effect of decreasing supply, and so prices go up. So we had better have a minimum of regulation, sticking to only the absolutely necessary. Keep in mind that rich people who own businesses don’t pay high prices. They just pass them on to consumers. When they reach a point where they can no longer pass higher prices on to consumers (because consumers won’t pay it, or the government won’t let them raise prices themselves, regardless of their costs), they leave the business, since that means it’s no longer making money.
The single biggest Ponzi scheme in American history is Social Security. The next biggest is Medicare. If you aren’t already collecting benefits from one of them, you aren’t going to get nearly as much from them as did your predecessors. Your children will get FAR less than that. Check the economies of Greece and Spain for details.
The “tea parties” springing up around the country are evidence that the entire electorate has not lost its mind, but part of the electorate is clearly insane. Or suicidal, which may be the same thing.
The 2008 election was a prime example of hope (and apparently faith in the tooth fairy) triumphing over clear thinking based on facts and history.
As Dallas Willard says in Knowing Christ Today, people only know what they’re willing to know. So I suppose that putting this together with Mark Steyn’s observation that “we’re too broke to be this stupid,” we can say that we’re too broke to be willfully stupid.
We’re too broke to decide we just don’t want to know how we got that way.
I think some people are beginning to catch on, finally. Pray it isn’t too late.
Jun 01 2010
I’ve had comments to make before about the background of “nationalized healthcare”, what it’s problems are, and so on. Here’s Ronald Reagon in 1961, before there was Medicare or Medicaid, let alone the recent takeover of healthcare by the federal government. He was amazingly prescient, wasn’t he? He completely nailed the agenda behind Medicare, and the incrementalist approach he predicted is now historical fact.
I miss him.
Feb 10 2010
Is Obama an American Gorbachev? And if he is, does that make you feel better? Pravda certainly seems to love the idea:
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev believes that US President Barack Obama still has the support of the electorate despite opinion polls showing his support slipping. Gorbachev had positive comments and words recently when discussing nuclear disarmament treaty negotiations.
“The election of Obama was not an accident,” Gorbachev said. “It is true however that there has been some slippage in support for him.” While he said that he liked Obama “a great deal,” Gorbachev acknowledged that Obama faces considerable difficulties as he attempts to change his country’s policies.
“US policy is changing, but it’s a difficult process,” he said. Gorbachev feels that the United States had missed “many opportunities” in the past, but chances are better with Obama. “I am very pleased that now Obama has changed course and has gone back to dialogue and the process of nuclear arms control,” said Gorbachev, speaking through an interpreter.
Some have said they see Barack Obama as the US version of Mikhail Gorbachev. When the United States found itself in the midst of a global economic crisis, the administration decided it was time to launch the dialogue and discussion idea for peace in the world spoken about in the campaign. This is what Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to do during his leadership of the Soviet Union. During his trip to Moscow, Obama met with Mikhail Gorbachev.
The United States is suffering from a worst case of “buyer’s remorse” since the fall of Nazi Germany. President Obama under the circumstances can only really work for change in the health care system, which is a life-and-death matter. The sordid rackets so ostentatiously infecting the system boil down vividly to lives ruined and bankrupted, and a system more frightful to deal with than disease itself. Probably the home truth is that health care will end up being rationed one way or another due to the change in the Democratic Congress.
Economically, the US isn’t in a recession it’s in a collapse. Dmitry Orlov outlined the process in his book “Reinventing Collapse” about the parallels between the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the prospects for demise of the US as currently constituted.
Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the Soviet dissolution. In the USA, the outcome this time might not be very appetizing. It would be one of the supreme ironies of history if it turned out that the US was incapable of ending its most self-destructive rackets peacefully and bloodlessly, while Russia made her transition in a peaceful, orderly manner.
Time will tell. Until then, Russia has proven once again she is a reliable, stable and responsible partner in international relations, has tremendous respect in the international community due to the fact that she honours international law and the agreements she signs and provides a remarkable opportunity for investors, showing signs of increasing strength in the fundamentals which underpin the economy.
The main thing to remember about Gorbachev is that he presided over the dissolution of the government he headed, followed by a considerable period of great instability in Russian society, followed by the current more-or-less dictatorship that masquerades as a democracy.
Dec 10 2009
One of the deeper motivations that animate global warming true believers is the totalitarian impulse. This is not to say that global warmists are closet Stalinists, but their intellectual methods are instructively similar, says columnist Bret Stephens.
* There’s a distinct tendency among climate alarmists toward uncompromising radicalism, a hatred of “bourgeois” values, and disgust with democratic practices.
* So President Obama wants to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 83 percent from current levels by 2050, levels not seen since the 1870s — in effect, the Industrial Revolution in reverse.
* Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, insists that “our lifestyles are unsustainable.”
* Al Gore gets crowds going by insisting that “civil disobedience has a role to play” in strong-arming governments to do his bidding (this from the man who once sought to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution).
* In the world as it is, climate alarmists see humanity hurtling toward certain doom.
* In the world as it might be, humanity has seen the light and changed its patterns of behavior, becoming the green equivalent of the Soviet “new man.”
* At his disposal are technologies that defy the laws of thermodynamics; the problems now attributed to global warming abate or disappear.
* In his 2007 best seller “The World Without Us,” environmentalist Alan Weisman considers what the planet would be like without mankind, and finds it’s no bad thing.
* The U.N. Population Fund complains in a recent report that “no human is genuinely ‘carbon neutral’” — its latest argument against children.
* John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, cut his teeth in the policy world as an overpopulation obsessive worried about global cooling.
* But whether warming or cooling, the problem for the climate alarmists, as for other totalitarians, always seems to boil down to the human race itself.
Today, of course, the very idea of totalitarianism is considered passé. Yet the course of the 20th century was defined by totalitarian regimes, and it would be dangerous to assume that the habits of mind that sustained them have vanished into the mists, says Stephens.
It’s fashionable to speak of “religious fundamentalists” in a phrase designed to obscure the essentially benign intent of Christian fundamentalists (if you can find one anymore), by using a single-breathed phrase that also includes Islamic fundamentalists of the Islamo-fascist variety. A couple dozen leftist columnists and some government officials have darkly hinted that, before long, “sexist, homophobic, anti-choice Christianists” will be as dangerous as Osama bin Laden, if they aren’t already. After all, didn’t they just shoot that nice abortion doctor who was just rescuing women from a difficult situation?
I think, however, that the only non-Islamic fundamentalists who pose a real danger to the West are the eco-pagan totalitarians, who believe they have the divine dispensation to control how the rest of us live our lives and conduct our businesses, because only they have the pure vision and the purer hearts to make the judgments about just how we should be using energy, how much we should be using, when we should use it, in what form we should use it, how much we should pay for it, and what our punishment should be if we don’t comply with their enlightened prescriptions… not to say proscriptions.
It is difficult to think of a more anti-human agenda.
But these particular fundamentalists want a LOT more than a mere tithe. They mean to control just about every aspect of your life, to one degree or another.
Baptism may continue to be a sacrament in the eco-totalitarian regime… but it will be in cold water.
Oct 16 2009
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) will mainly redress production overcapacity in six sectors, said Chen Bin, director of the Department of Industry of the NDRC, Thursday.
The six sectors include steel, cement, plate glass, coal-chemical industry, polycrystalline silicon and windpower equipment.
The NDRC also warns of obvious production overcapacity in sectors like electrolytic aluminum, ship manufacturing and soybean oil extraction, said Chen during an on-line interview on www.gov.cn., the website of China’s central government.
He said China would fight serious overcapacity in sectors like steel industry and offer guidance for new-born industries like windpower equipment to avoid low level repetitive construction.
China has achieved preliminary progresses in fighting the global economic downturn, but the foundation for economic recovery is not stable yet and overcapacity might lead to bankruptcy, unemployment and bad bank loans if it was not checked in time, he said.
Ah, the joys of central planning. And it seems to be coming to the USA next, despite the proof by Hayek and others that it is impossible to do correctly, for the very good reason that no one can ever have all the information they need to make such decisions.
Soon you can look forward to reading in the New York Times that government has determined that we have an oversupply of MRI machines, cardiologists, emergency rooms, and surgeons. As you wait for your appointment with someone who will decide if you get to schedule an appointment with someone who will decide if you get to see a medical specialist, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that someone way up high in the government has determined that this is the very best way to do things.
Jul 21 2009
There is an email in circulation that basically gives a moderately inaccurate history of social security in the USA, and makes some statements that are technically incorrect, but still fairly portrays (with a few errors) the broad sweep of changes in the system since it begin in the 1930s under FDR. It is an example of well-meant and over-the-top reporting that would have done better to be scrupulously accurate. Scrupulous accuracy would have revealed the situation as bad enough without the errors in the report.
Snopes attempts to debunk the email with a lot of explanation and clarification here. What’s sadly funny is this: the Snopes people seem to believe that their explanation somehow makes it all better, when what they end up admitting is nearly as bad as what is alleged in the original email. Especially risible is Snopes’ attempt to de-link the Democrat party from increases in SSA taxes, increases in SSA benefits/spending, and congressional misappropriation for other purposes than originally intended, by using smokescreens like “borrowing from the social security ‘trust fund’,” etc. Sure, a few Republicans erred here and there. But it was overwhelmingly Democrats who pushed the spiraling ponzi scheme.
An example: FDR did not “promise,” as alleged in the email, that the tax to fund SSA would only be 1% forever. What he did, in the time-honored, incrementalist tradition of leftist-liberals everywhere, is create a system where the initial tax would be relatively light, and would increase slowly, over several years, so that most people who even understood what was going on at the time thought the tax would only be 1% for the forseeable future. (How many people in mainstream USA at the time carefully reviewed legislation in detail, with all planned future changes, before forming an opinion of it?) It is now a total of 15%, half directly out of your check, half “paid by the employer,” but in fact part of the employer’s cost of having you as an employee, by federal law. It is going to go up, and the income ceiling that will be taxed is going to go up.
I hope you younger folks enjoy paying for my benefits. Serves you right for voting for Democrats, in a spasm of hopey-changey good feeling. We’ll see how good you feel when you’re paying for my 30 year vacation after retirement.
Read the Snopes article, and see if you don’t find Snopes’ defense to be nearly as damning as the email was in the first place.
Exit question: does any person who knows anything about the history of entitlement programs believe that when a national health care system for everyone is created, it will cost as little as proponents claim at its founding?
Only people with their eyes screwed tightly shut, and earplugs snugly in place.
Tags: social security
Jun 25 2009
Dear reader, let us first and foremost establish a known fact as our guiding principle: the Principle of American Extremes.
Simply put, in the American culture and government, any law passed and program enacted will be taken to the absolute extreme. Note, I do not say logical extremes but absolute extreme, beyond any measure of logic or hint of common sense or wisdom.
So begins an article in Pravda observing the collectivist tendencies of the American Left, and actually instructing the USA on the dangers of collectivism.
What’s next? A USA newspaper running an editorial accusing the Chinese of “wild west capitalism” a la 19th-century America? Maybe warning the Chinese about “robber barons” (who pretty much never existed as commonly described)?
The world has become very strange.
The Democrats want to take over US healthcare, and intend to nationalize essentially all of it, all the while protesting they don’t plan to do that, even though that is the logical result of the policies they now pursue. They want to institute a huge carbon tax (again claiming it will only affect “polluters”) which will affect the prices paid by everyone for everything, and cost the poor the most, because they live on smaller margins. (The Left is for the “little guy” alright. That’s why they want him to STAY little.) The Democrats want union organizers to be able to pressure individuals to sign up for the union (card check legislation pending), and want to put an end to the secret ballot formerly required for unionization. Would you turn down two huge guys name Guido and Alfonzo standing at your front door, with a few of their friends in the pickup truck on the curb, “just asking for your signature”? Just about every new policy contemplated by Obama and Democrats is one of decreasing freedom for Americans, and more power for the government.
It is not a given that the USA will be the focal point of freedom in the world forever. If we continue to abdicate that role by inches, and then by feet, that honor may fall to liberalizing societies to which we now feel superior, but which may be instructing our descendants on the finer points of freedom…. or even the major ones.
Jun 13 2009
The previous post in this series is here.
Socialism, for its very existence, depends on powers of the state to make people do things they would not otherwise do (not merely to make them refrain from doing things that harm or threaten specific individuals), in order to achieve goals (outcomes) that seem good to the socialist. In this sense, all socialists are statists.
I realize that the definition I gave of “socialism” in the previous post is not the textbook one. That’s because it is not an ideological definition from the point of view of economic or political theory. It is an operational one, since no significant strand of socialism avoids the attempt to disconnect outcomes for individuals from the efforts made BY those individuals, and to do so with money and other resources taken in the form of taxes, fees, restrictions, regulations, and sometimes outright confiscation, by the state. Some will cavil that “socialism” requires “state ownership of the means of production.” See the previous post in the series for discussion about why that is not a useful standard.
On the continuum of socialism (as operationally defined above), nearly every government/economic system has *some* element of socialism/statism. The very nature of government involves some degree of collective action towards common goals, which will dilute the effect of any given individual’s participation on the outcome for that individual. It is a matter of degree, and context.
Let’s start with the easy, noncontroversial stuff. Public funding of roads is socialist. So are government funded militaries, court systems, police and fire fighting agencies, schools, etc. While extreme free market fans may theorize otherwise, these are things which are commonly conceived to be the province of government, even though government may execute them via private parties. That is, governments usually hire private contractors to build roads (though cities often have a “roads department” for minor repairs). On the other hand, judges, police, and fire fighters are usually government employees. Oddly, K-12 teachers are either public employees in publicly funded schools, or private employees in privately funded schools, while college and university professors may be employed by private or public institutions, and the private ones often receive a good deal of government money, at least in the form of student financial aid.
What’s characteristic about all of these services (with the possible exception of schools) is that virtually everyone uses them at one time or another, in one way or another, and they are services that no individual COULD provide privately. That is, no one could afford to build a road from New York to Los Angeles. Who could afford to maintain their own private police force, court and prison system, just in case they needed it, or keep a fire department standing by locally, just in case? Maybe Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, but that’s about it. And, in any case, no one would want ANY private person to have judicial powers, the complete panoply of police powers, etc. Nor would we want any private person, no matter how wealthy, to be able to decide just where roads would be built.
So, the defining characteristics of “socialist” policies and programs that virtually everyone will accept are:
1) They provide services that virtually no person could supply for themselves.
2) They provide services that would require a person to have so much personal power that we would not trust anyone to possess it.
Note that libertarians, radical free market believers, etc., may even complain about these. But in general, most people who are suspicious of “socialism” — being suspicious of the statism in requires — will not complain too much about about these kinds of things. Call it “socialism lite.”
These are areas where reasonable people can disagree. How much should the state be involved in providing utilities? How much should the state be involved in determining which cars are safe to drive? What levels of risk are acceptable? Any brief review of history of such things will reveal that various attitudes have existed, though the trend towards more and more statism in these areas is clear. In any case, these are essentially pragmatic matters. What will work best? What will cost the public least, for the most benefit?
It is certainly not a “spiritual challenge” to seek or accept clean water delivered by a publicly owned utility with state supervision and management.
But, as we will see, greater levels of socialism/statism are clearly dangerous to the spritual health of the person, particularly those that intrude into matters that individuals ARE competent to deal with themselves, and which do not require the exercise of great personal power on the part of the individual.
That will be the topic of the next post in this series.
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