Thursday, October 30, 2008

Socialism Lite?

Don Boudreaux answers the question "Is Obama a Socialist?"
This "socialism-lite," however, is as specious as is classic socialism. And its insidious nature makes it even more dangerous. Across Europe, this "mild" form of socialism acts as a parasitic ideology that has slowly drained entrepreneurial energy – and freedoms – from its free-market host.

Could it happen in America? Consider the words of longtime Socialist Party of America presidential candidate Norman Thomas: "The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened." In addition to Medicare, Social Security, and other entitlement programs, the gathering political momentum toward single-payer healthcare – which Obama has proclaimed is his ultimate goal – shows the prescience of Thomas's words.

The fact that each of us depends upon the efforts of millions of others does not mean that some "society" transcending individuals produces our prosperity. Rather, it means that the vast system of voluntary market exchange coordinates remarkably well the efforts of millions of individuals into a productive whole. For Obama to suggest that government interfere in this process more than it already does – to "spread" wealth from Joe to Bill, or vice versa – overlooks not only the voluntary and individual origins of wealth, but the dampening of the incentives for people to contribute energetically to wealth's continued production.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Constitution? Who needs it.

The Judge on Congress and the President ignoring the Constitution.
The $700 billion bailout of large banks that Congress recently enacted runs afoul of virtually all these constitutional principles. It directly benefits a few, not everyone. We already know that the favored banks that received cash from taxpayers have used it to retire their own debt. It is private welfare. It violates the principle of equal protection: Why help Bank of America and not Lehman Brothers? It permits federal ownership of assets or debt that puts the government at odds with others in the free market. It permits the government to tilt the playing field to favor its patrons (like J.P. Morgan Chase, in which it has invested taxpayer dollars) and to disfavor those who compete with its patrons (like the perfectly lawful hedge funds which will not have the taxpayers relieve their debts).

Read all of it.

Be careful what you wish for...

An excellent essay on the European economic model, and why it might not be what y'all really want.

Easy Money

Is it just me, or does anyone else think we probably won't solve a problem caused (at least in part) by too much easy credit by reducing the price of money?

Am I missing something? I'm more of a Microeconomics guy, perhaps someone with a Macro background can help.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Did Carl Rove destroy the Republican Party? Is McCain finishing the job?

This Libertarian hasn't voted for a Republican for President since George HW Bush in 1988. The Republicans threw me away with the zealous war on drugs, and cemented my distaste with the last 7 years of trading freedom for "security". The gay marriage thing is pandering to evengelicals, and not a real issue, any more than abortion is a real issue. It is much bigger than that.
But this Libertarian certainly can't consider voting for Obama (and has never voted for a Democrat for President), for pretty obvious reasons.
The Republicans have a serious identity problem, and while a split will create issues of power in the short term, we may find something positive comes out of this long term; one can hope a splinter of the Republicans can unite with freedom loving Democrats and build a more libertarian coalition.
Hey, a guy can dream.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ok, so it was the Raiders

And make no mistake, the Raiders are a bad team. When your kickoff return guy runs out of bounds at the 2, you've got a really, really bad team. The game was a bigger blowout than the 29-10 suggests.

I had the opportunity to go to the game yesterday, and had great seats 5 rows off the field at the goal line (the Raiders TD call happened right in front of me, and that was not a touchdown, but it didn't really matter). Got to take my dad, who hadn't been to a professional football game in 54 years. That's honestly enough fun to make me consider a PSL and season tix.

Flacco is a stud. I love the 'Suggs' package with Smith in the game. Again, this team might not finish better than .500, but they are a lot of fun to watch. And I do think they can beat anyone.

They have 3 road games in a row, now, going to the Browns next week, then Houston, then the Giants. They can win all three, but we have to be happy with 2 out of 3 (my preseason prediction has them losing to the Browns and to the Giants, but the Browns look hopeless, and the Giants are vulnerable).

My big concern right now is the secondary. A little banged up for my tastes. They also need to get the penalties under control. Penalties cost them 10 - 14 points yesterday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

For National Security reasons, I suppose

They aren't going to tell us where the $700 Billion bailout is going.

Your government at work

The TSA's effectiveness exposed.
Schnei­er and I walked to the security checkpoint. “Counter­terrorism in the airport is a show designed to make people feel better,” he said. “Only two things have made flying safer: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.” This assumes, of course, that al-Qaeda will target airplanes for hijacking, or target aviation at all. “We defend against what the terrorists did last week,” Schnei­er said. He believes that the country would be just as safe as it is today if airport security were rolled back to pre-9/11 levels. “Spend the rest of your money on intelligence, investigations, and emergency response.”

Schnei­er and I joined the line with our ersatz boarding passes. “Technically we could get arrested for this,” he said, but we judged the risk to be acceptable. We handed our boarding passes and IDs to the security officer, who inspected our driver’s licenses through a loupe, one of those magnifying-glass devices jewelers use for minute examinations of fine detail. This was the moment of maximum peril, not because the boarding passes were flawed, but because the TSA now trains its officers in the science of behavior detection. The SPOT program—“Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques”—was based in part on the work of a psychologist who believes that involuntary facial-muscle movements, including the most fleeting “micro-expressions,” can betray lying or criminality. The training program for behavior-detection officers is one week long. Our facial muscles did not cooperate with the SPOT program, apparently, because the officer chicken-scratched onto our boarding passes what might have been his signature, or the number 4, or the letter y. We took our shoes off and placed our laptops in bins. Schnei­er took from his bag a 12-ounce container labeled “saline solution.”

“It’s allowed,” he said. Medical supplies, such as saline solution for contact-lens cleaning, don’t fall under the TSA’s three-ounce rule.

“What’s allowed?” I asked. “Saline solution, or bottles labeled saline solution?”

“Bottles labeled saline solution. They won’t check what’s in it, trust me.”

They did not check. As we gathered our belongings, Schnei­er held up the bottle and said to the nearest security officer, “This is okay, right?” “Yep,” the officer said. “Just have to put it in the tray.”

“Maybe if you lit it on fire, he’d pay attention,” I said, risking arrest for making a joke at airport security. (Later, Schnei­er would carry two bottles labeled saline solution—24 ounces in total—through security. An officer asked him why he needed two bottles. “Two eyes,” he said. He was allowed to keep the bottles.)

We were in the clear. But what did we prove?

“We proved that the ID triangle is hopeless,” Schneier said.

Read it all.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This should scare you.

We continue to move towards the government tracking your every move.
An Iowa-based research center is looking for 450 Baltimore-area motorists willing to have their every driving move tracked by satellite to test a system that could theoretically replace the federal gasoline tax with road use fees.

The federally funded study will use a global positioning system satellite to track not only the mileage driven over eight months, but also whether each road traveled is funded by the state, federal or local governments.

Participants will receive a simulated bill each month for the road use fee owed to each level of government. Volunteers who take part in the study will get $895 for their services. It's all part of a $16.5 million study in six states to test the technology as well as motorists' reactions to the concept of road use tracking and fees - an idea that has received the outspoken support of U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters and other critics of the federal motor fuel tax.

Opponents of what is known as the gas tax say it's a dwindling source of revenue that is only crudely related to how much someone drives and where. Supporters of the road use fee argue that it would allocate money more precisely than the tax. But critics doubt that citizens would ever accept a system that gives the government specific information about their traveling habits.

They say now citizens won't stand for it. 50 years ago, they would have said the same about the Federal government telling us how much water we can flush. California will soon be telling people what temperature their thermostats can be.

The subjects will accept it. They are about to elect a Marxist.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A solid performance

1:00 left, 27-13 against the Dolphins. Solid game for the defense, and a good performance from Flacco and the offense as well to go to 3-3.

Still on track, they needed to win this one to have any chance, it's a tough stretch coming up.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hayek's Revenge

An awesome post at Ideoblog. Mostly great because of the phrase "Hayek's Revenge".

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Compare and contrast

Radley Balko at theAgitator finds an interesting comparison.

Although I'm not all that surprised to hear our President sound more like a socialist than the French.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another prediction comes true

31-3 Colts with 3 minutes left in the game.

A pretty pathetic showing by the ravens. The offense was never in the game, and the defense just didn't look sharp. Way too many missed tackles. And too many turnovers. This team has to create turnovers, not give them up.

Hopefully they'll look better next week

Fin and Theater

Went to Fin last night. Dissapointing.

Service was eager, but not on point. Little things, like the menu being misprinted (the last thing on the menu had the last line of the description cut off (how does that happen and no one notice for this long?), and the waiter didn't know what the full description was.

I had a ceasar salad that wasn't as good as the one I make at home with store bought croutons and bottled dressing. (The description is "with toasted garlic croutons and shaved parmesean", it had croutons out of a box and grated parmasean that might have also been mass produced). J had crabcakes that she described as 'adequate'; I had rack of lamb that was pretty good, but not spectacular. Waiter forgot about my glass of wine (twice), but they didn't charge me for it. Finished it off with a stawberry shortcake that was very good.

Ambiance is fanstastic. The space is really cool, especially the bar area.

Service: 4/10
Food: 7/10
Ambiance: 9/10

Overall: 6.5/10. Return trip doubtful. There are too many places in town that are just better.

Then went to see "Legally Blonde".

I'm a 235 pound powerlifter who's favorite band is Slayer. It bordered on torture. However, for light mindless entertainment, it was better than television. The UPS guy steals the show.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A little optimism won't hurt you

I looked at my Smith Barney account the other day. YTD, my wealth is down over $100k. That hurts, and it's scary. The 'crisis' is all around us, we can't make a move without seeing a 500 point drop here, or a bankruptcy there.

With all that, there is reason for optimism. This isn't the first person saying this, but it's the first one I came across today when looking for a link.
Galambos has been thinking for half a century about why economies thrive or fail. Besides his project of editing President Dwight D. Eisenhower's papers, he is one of the country's leading business chroniclers, having written or co-written numerous books on pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, business ethics and other subjects.

"I'm optimistic about the economy other than housing and finance," he said in an interview at his book-and newspaper-festooned house in Guilford.

"That does not seem to me to be running out of steam. I still think companies like Hewlett-Packard, companies like Intel - I see those kinds of companies grinding ahead. Wal-Mart and Target - I see them still on track. So the core of the economy seems to me to be still successful, still moving forward. The question is, can we pull up" out of the dive.
It is important to note that we are living in a vibrant economy. There are people making things, providing services, buying things, and buying services. That isn't going away. We still need computers, and drills, and TVs and sheets. I still need someone to fix my car and clean out my gutter.

So hang tough, we will get through this, and end up better off than we were before.

Just be cool.

(Assuming the government doesn't screw it all up, but I think we can stop them)

Monday, October 6, 2008

As predicted

The Ravens go down to the Titans, 13-10, as predicted. (Or not. But who thought they would be 5-0??)

I think the team continues to be fun to watch. It's a little frustrating to see another 4th quarter letdown, both offensively and defensively, especially when at one point the other team was so frustrated they were fighting amongst themselves.

A couple of things swing the other way, this is a win. They need to make those plays.

Flacco continues to impress. We have to remember, this is a rookie, and he's going to make some mistakes. He's gonna be the real deal.

Indy next week, in Indy. I don't see how the Ravens win this game, although the Colts are vulnerable.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


An article written by Rothbard in 1969, that everyone should read today.
There are, however, some critical problems in the assumption that the market economy is the culprit. For "general economic theory" teaches us that supply and demand always tend to be in equilibrium in the market and that therefore prices of products as well as of the factors that contribute to production are always tending toward some equilibrium point. Even though changes of data, which are always taking place, prevent equilibrium from ever being reached, there is nothing in the general theory of the market system that would account for regular and recurring boom-and-bust phases of the business cycle. Modern economists "solve" this problem by simply keeping their general price and market theory and their business cycle theory in separate, tightly-sealed compartments, with never the twain meeting, much less integrated with each other. Economists, unfortunately, have forgotten that there is only one economy and therefore only one integrated economic theory. Neither economic life nor the structure of theory can or should be in watertight compartments; our knowledge of the economy is either one integrated whole or it is nothing. Yet most economists are content to apply totally separate and, indeed, mutually exclusive, theories for general price analysis and for business cycles. They cannot be genuine economic scientists so long as they are content to keep operating in this primitive way.

But there are still graver problems with the currently fashionable approach. Economists also do not see one particularly critical problem because they do not bother to square their business cycle and general price theories: the peculiar breakdown of the entrepreneurial function at times of economic crisis and depression. In the market economy, one of the most vital functions of the businessman is to be an "entrepreneur," a man who invests in productive methods, who buys equipment and hires labor to produce something which he is not sure will reap him any return. In short, the entrepreneurial function is the function of forecasting the uncertain future. Before embarking on any investment or line of production, the entrepreneur, or "enterpriser," must estimate present and future costs and future revenues and therefore estimate whether and how much profits he will earn from the investment. If he forecasts well and significantly better than his business competitors, he will reap profits from his investment. The better his forecasting, the higher the profits he will earn. If, on the other hand, he is a poor forecaster and overestimates the demand for his product, he will suffer losses and pretty soon be forced out of the business.

The market economy, then, is a profit-and-loss economy, in which the acumen and ability of business entrepreneurs is gauged by the profits and losses they reap. The market economy, moreover, contains a built-in mechanism, a kind of natural selection, that ensures the survival and the flourishing of the superior forecaster and the weeding-out of the inferior ones. For the more profits reaped by the better forecasters, the greater become their business responsibilities, and the more they will have available to invest in the productive system. On the other hand, a few years of making losses will drive the poorer forecasters and entrepreneurs out of business altogether and push them into the ranks of salaried employees.

If, then, the market economy has a built-in natural selection mechanism for good entrepreneurs, this means that, generally, we would expect not many business firms to be making losses. And, in fact, if we look around at the economy on an average day or year, we will find that losses are not very widespread. But, in that case, the odd fact that needs explaining is this: How is it that, periodically, in times of the onset of recessions and especially in steep depressions, the business world suddenly experiences a massive cluster of severe losses? A moment arrives when business firms, previously highly astute entrepreneurs in their ability to make profits and avoid losses, suddenly and dismayingly find themselves, almost all of them, suffering severe and unaccountable losses? How come? Here is a momentous fact that any theory of depressions must explain. An explanation such as "underconsumption" — a drop in total consumer spending — is not sufficient, for one thing, because what needs to be explained is why businessmen, able to forecast all manner of previous economic changes and developments, proved themselves totally and catastrophically unable to forecast this alleged drop in consumer demand. Why this sudden failure in forecasting ability?

Go read the whole thing. Learn something today.


Two great posts from Don Boudreaux.

First, he comments on "frozen credit markets". You know, the ones that make the bailout necessary.

He also rounds up some sensible commentary on the bailout.

That didn't take long

Last week, I wondered how long it would be before those opposing the 'bailout' would get paid off.

Answer: Not long.
The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 now also includes the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 and a smorgasbord of other add-ons. Among the notable features of the additional provisions are tax credits for wind and solar power, an extension of relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax, a provision to ensure that healthcare plans include mental health benefits and so many other handouts to various constituencies that no blog post would be sufficient to include them all.

But here's a taste:

Sec. 105. Energy credit for geothermal heat pump systems.
Sec. 111. Expansion and modification of advanced coal project investment credit.
Sec. 113. Temporary increase in coal excise tax; funding of Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.
Sec. 115. Tax credit for carbon dioxide sequestration.
Sec. 205. Credit for new qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicles.
Sec. 405. Increase and extension of Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund tax.
Sec. 309. Extension of economic development credit for American Samoa.
Sec. 317. Seven-year cost recovery period for motorsports racing track facility.
Sec. 501. $8,500 income threshold used to calculate refundable portion of child tax credit.
Sec. 503 Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children.

And so on.

The passage of tax credits for wind and solar power is likely to please environmentalists, but they have been shoveled into this bill along with scores of tax "extenders" that so far have been rejected by House Democrats because no provision has been made to pay for them. This means that a House of Representatives that has already rejected this bill will now confront a new bill stocked with unpaid-for tax breaks that conservative House Democrats -- the infamous "Blue Dogs" -- have been stalwart in opposing.

"Are you trying to jam the House?" one reporter asked Reid. The Senate majority leader denied he was attempting to do any such thing, but it seems self-evident than in attempting to rally significant support for the bailout in the Senate, he has orchestrated the creation of a piece of legislation that is guaranteed to ruffle feathers in the House.

The original bailout bill was a couple of pages. Now it's over 500. Emergency bailout my ass. Opportunists are jumping all over this one.

Link via The Agitator.


There's a lesson here.