Monthly Archives: November 2008

A Lone Silver Lining

Today is, truly, a historic day. I’m not an old man, but when I was born 30 years ago the idea of electing a black president was something that might be discussed in polite circles, but was not reality. Today that has changed.

Perhaps I’ve become more sentimental as I’ve aged, or perhaps it’s that I have a 14-month-old son, but I am happy to see living proof that America has moved beyond this. My son won’t grow up knowing that this country won’t elect a black president; he’ll grow up knowing that we already have.

Now, that doesn’t mean I am an Obama fan. America is headed into an economic buzzsaw of extreme proportions, and I don’t have any faith in Obama to do what’s necessary. I have a feeling this country is headed towards a New New Deal, and that America as we know it will never recover. I expect to spend the next four (or 8) years railing against almost everything Barack Obama does in office.

Today we elected a black man to the most powerful office in the world. That’s not trivial. I wholeheartedly wish that it hadn’t been this black man, but that doesn’t change the historical significance of this day.

Take a moment to reflect on what has just happened. Then get ready, because the next 4 or 8 years are going to be a hell of a fight.

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Hulk MAD! Hulk VOTE!

Voting is now analogized to Popeye eating his spinach:

The final presidential debate concluded with some stirring words, though not from either candidate. Moderator and CBS newsman Bob Schieffer said, “I will leave you tonight with what my mother always said — go vote now. It will make you feel big and strong.

Cue the Huggies Pullups commercial: “I’m a big kid now!”

It’s strange to me. The act of voting is akin to marshaling a $3T government with the greatest military in the history of the world and an army of bureaucrats, redistributionists, and enforcement personnel to go out and perform the tasks you wish it to do. It should make one feel big and strong and powerful. But somehow, just somehow, it seems just as cowardly as sending the school bully to take the nerd’s lunch money for you. And it’s about as moral.

But I guess Schieffer had one point, though he didn’t intend it. Your vote doesn’t matter. So as long as it makes you feel good, I guess you’ve gotten your money’s worth.

Live it up today, looters! I hope you all feel wonderful tonight, and don’t blame me when the government hangover comes tomorrow.

Hat Tip: Cafe Hayek

Chuck Schumer Talks Fairness Doctrine On Fox News

If the Democrats get the victory they seem headed toward today, there will be many things that are likely to happen that should concern libertarians.

One of those is the effort to revive the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which New York Senator Chuck Schumer talked about this morning on Fox News:

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday defended the so-called Fairness Doctrine in an interview on Fox News, saying, “I think we should all be fair and balanced, don’t you?”

Schumer’s comments echo other Democrats’ views on reviving the Fairness Doctrine, which would require radio stations to balance conservative hosts with liberal ones.

Asked if he is a supporter of telling radio stations what content they should have, Schumer used the fair and balanced line, claiming that critics of the Fairness Doctrine are being inconsistent.

“The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine want the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to limit pornography on the air. I am for that… But you can’t say government hands off in one area to a commercial enterprise but you are allowed to intervene in another. That’s not consistent.”

Schumer obviously brought pornography up because was on Fox News and he wanted to tweak cosnervatives, but he makes a point, although I’m sure it’s an inadvertant one.

When it comes to issues like the Fairness Doctrine, conservatives are arguing from a position of weakness because they have already conceded the basic idea that the Federal Communications Commission, or any government entity for that matter, should have the authority to regulate content on television and radio. Once you concede that basic point, deciding what the extent of the content regulation should be is really just a matter of who wins or loses an election.

Here’s the video of Schumer’s interview:

Bailout — Rent Seeking IS Sound Financial Management In This Environment

Regional bank BB&T, prevalent throughout the Southeast, is known for their opposition to government intervention in markets. After Kelo, they announced that they would not lend for private projects that made us of eminent domain. It is, then, sad to see them jumping into this:

Most of the banks say they want the capital so they can make more loans, though some could also have an eye on buying up other firms. BB&T’s CEO, John Allison, hinted at that possibility on Monday, when BB&T announced its $3.1 billion infusion.

“For us, the additional capital will not only extend and strengthen our lending capacity, but provide other strategic options as well,” said Allison, who is famous in the banking world for his opposition to government intervention.

When I still lived in Atlanta, I nearly made the jump to BB&T based solely on their response to Kelo. I moved away, but always had a soft spot in my heart for a bank that refused to participate in a moral wrong, even if it meant they were forgoing profit.

So I’m disappointed to see them jump into the bailout. At the same time, though, I can’t quite blame them. As the head of Citigroup said last year, “As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance.” Washington is the conductor, and John Allison might well accept that when Washington plays a waltz, it doesn’t make much sense to dance a jig.

So what’s happened? Rent seeking is even more in vogue than usual, as the number of banks lining up to feed at the trough makes some investors worry about those who might choose not to gorge themselves:

Only days ago, many healthy banks were saying they didn’t need taxpayer money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program. These healthy banks said they worried that taking government investments could unfairly tar them as in need of a bailout. In the past week, that perception has been reversed, due in large part to efforts by Treasury, banking lobbyists and legal advisers to sell the TARP.

Now institutions across the U.S. worry that if they don’t try for the money, the market will judge them as too unhealthy to qualify, or lacking the savvy to deploy cheap government capital on acquisitions and investments.

“There’s a perception in the market that the government is actively picking winners and losers… we wanted it well-known in the market that we’re on the list of survivors,” said Roy Whitehead, chairman, president and CEO of Washington Federal Inc. in Seattle, one of about 20 regional banks approved by Treasury for the program last week.

When the music is playing, you might as well dance. In our sad state of corporatist rule, rent-seeking is preferred to responsible asset management.

Third Party Debate

The City Club of Cleveland extended an invitation to the top six presidential candidates*. Of the six candidates, Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, and independent candidate Ralph Nader participated; Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain, and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney were no-shows.

Unlike the debates we have already seen in this cycle, the candidates in this debate actually debated the issues!

*The candidates who could theoretically receive the requisite electoral vote to win the presidency

Quote Of The Day

From Doug Stanhope:

The most important thing is to vote locally and know what you’re voting for – and if race or sex are your first reason, you should be denied a ballot because you are an ape who should be banished to voting online for upstart variety show websites. If you dont know exactly why you are voting, go buy someone a drink instead. We’ll say it’s your civic duty.

If it’s the day before the election and you’re not yet sure who you’re voting for– or more importantly, why… Stay home.
» Read more

Whatever It Costs, It’s Worth It

Ugh. I’ve skewered David Lazarus before, when he decided to miss the forest for the trees. In that instance, he argued against freedom due to the potential annoyance it may bring.

Today, though, he’s gone after something that’s far more important to me than Cubans and cellphones — my pocketbook. He makes the crucial fallacy of “no price is too high for what I want, especially when you’re paying”:

How livable do you want both Los Angeles and California to be in the years ahead? On Tuesday, you can have your say.

Two ballot items — Measure R and Proposition 1A — will, if approved, redefine transportation in L.A. and throughout the state, giving us viable alternatives to our cars and helping wean us from our oil jones.

But it won’t be cheap. It’ll almost certainly cost many billions of dollars more than the roughly $50 billion foreseen by the two initiatives.

“Budgets are set to make projects more palatable to the electorate,” said James Moore, a professor of urban planning and civil engineering at USC. “I always multiply by a factor of two or three.”

But you know what? Even if these projects topped $200 billion, they’d still be a wise investment in our future. More on that in a moment.

Still, I have to give him credit. When I say that the bill will be far higher than is estimated, he’s accepting that premise. Unfortunately, he’s going off and suggesting that these projects are smart, indispensable, and yet also the best use of our money over the next few decades.

The green folks want light rail and bullet trains, whether people ride it or not, and care little about the expense. To them, it’s a social goal that must be supported, and we should simply have faith that it will pay its way later.

Oh, and let’s not forget the personal emotion aspect:

Marnie O’Brien Primmer is executive director of Mobility 21, a Southern California transportation advocacy group. She lives in Costa Mesa and works downtown.

“The other day, it took me 2 1/2 hours to get to work,” Primmer told me. “Things are pretty bad.”

Welcome to the car culture of SoCal. Everyone knows that living in Costa Mesa and working downtown results in a hellish commute — every day. In other cities, people try to live near their jobs. In SoCal, it is a general idea that where you live often bears little resemblance to where you work. Sometimes (due to home prices) that means that you’re stuck living in Riverside or Fontana while you’re working downtown. Often, though, it’s simply preference. Few people choose to live in Costa Mesa for cost reasons, so I would guess that Ms. Primmer could just as easily live somewhere near downtown. Living where she does is a choice.

In better economic times, a State or city who had their fiscal affairs in order might be able to afford such extravagances. California is not that state, and Los Angeles is not that city. I find it odd that you see this poll on the article:

Are you willing to pay the tab for tomorrow’s transit solutions?

— Yes. Californians need to see the bigger picture.
— Maybe. But I want the costs nailed down first.
— No. I’ll let my kids and grandkids worry about it.

Hey, bud, with a $9B bond issue required to START paying for a high-speed rail line, I think it will be my kids and grandkids paying for it anyway. I’m sure they’ll be very thankful for that burden.

Obama Shrugged

Was Barack Obama thinking of Ayn Rand when he spoke against the “virtue of selfishness” ?

“[I]t’s not just charity, it’s not just that I want to help the middle class and working people who are trying to get in the middle class — it’s that when we actually make sure that everybody’s got a shot – when young people can all go to college, when everybody’s got decent health care, when everybody’s got a little more money at the end of the month – then guess what? Everybody starts spending that money, they decide maybe I can afford a new car, maybe I can afford a computer for my child. They can buy the products and services that businesses are selling and everybody is better off. All boats rise. That’s what happened in the 1990s, that’s what we need to restore. And that’s what I’m gonna do as president of the United States of America.

“John McCain and Sarah Palin they call this socialistic,” Obama continued. “You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness.”

It’s unclear if this was a nod to the Ayn Rand book “The Virtue of Selfishness,” with all that the invocation of Rand implies.

It would seem to be, given the themes of Rand’s work, what happens when independent achievers are demonized.

Which would fit with this description of those who want to keep their hard-earned tax dollars as “selfish.”

Atlas may not be shrugging, but Obama is.

Of course, Obama’s definition of selfishness probably isn’t the same as Rand’s:

The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind.

In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.

Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own interests.

(…)

The moral purpose of a man’s life is the achievement of his own happiness. This does not mean that he is indifferent to all men, that human life is of no value to him and that he has no reason to help others in an emergency. But it does mean that he does not subordinate his life to the welfare of others, that he does not sacrifice himself to their needs, that the relief of their suffering is not his primary concern, that any help he gives is an exception, not a rule, an act of generosity, not of moral duty, that it is marginal and incidental—as disasters are marginal and incidental in the course of human existence—and that values, not disasters, are the goal, the first concern and the motive power of his life.

Here’s the video of Obama’s speech:

So was Obama evoking Rand when he made the comment and trying to tag her ideas onto the Republicans ?

If he was, it’s sort of ironic because Rand clearly wouldn’t have much good to say about the Republican Party as it exists today.

H/T: The Bidinotto Blog

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