Category Archives: Socialism

Medical Ethicist Suggests Senile “Have A Duty To Die”

This is what medical ethics has come to in Britain:

Medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock, 84, said senility sufferers were a burden to their families and doctors.

And she said there was nothing wrong with them feeling they had a “duty” to opt for euthanasia for the sake of others.

She said: “If you are demented you are wasting people’s lives, your family’s lives and you are wasting the resources of the NHS.

So much for the socialized medical systems “putting humanity before profit”. Sorry, granny, you’re not a person, you’re a burden. You’re not a patient, you’re a cost. And we need to cut costs these days.

This is what’s coming, America.

Hat Tip: Billy Beck

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The Trouble with Involuntary Collectivists

… and in fact leftists of any stripe (and some on the far right for that matter), is that everything they believe is wrong.

Yes, I mean that directly, literally, and completely. Everything they believe is wrong. Incorrect. False.

Everything they believe in is wrong, because it all flows from absolutely wrong first principles, which can best be summarized as:

  1. If it makes me feel good, it must be alright
  2. If it makes me feel bad it must be wrong
  3. If I can get enough people to go along with me, we can do whatever we want, because we say so
  4. If someone is very intelligent, and gets a lot of people to agree with him, I should agree with him too or there’s something wrong with me
  5. If we want something to be true bad enough, no matter what, it is true, because we say so
  6. Anyone who disagrees with any of this is wrong and bad
  7. Everything we do is right because we say so, and anyone who disagrees with is wrong and bad; therefore anyone who wants to stop us is stupid or evil
  8. Anything goes so long as we get what we want

These are not principles at all of course; merely an attempt to rationalize doing what they want to do.

This, fundamentally, is evil, because it abnegates human liberty and the human spirit; and because it recognizes neither morality, nor ethics (one cannot call such notions ethics). Not only does it allow for the tyranny of the majority, it requires it. The will of the collective outweighs all.

Oh and never mind the inherent contradictions there. They are obvious and irreconcilable to a non-collectivist; but somehow not to a collectivist (though at least some distinction has to be made here between involuntary collectivists, and voluntary. The voluntary are still incorrect, but they aren’t forcing anyone else into it, so that’s OK).

Simply put, the coercive restraint of human liberty is inherently evil. Control of ones person, property, and behavior should be the exclusive province of the sovereign man. The only legitimate limitation of liberty is that which prevents transgression on the liberty of others, or which compensates those transgressed upon.

Collectivism purports to advocate for human liberty; but it does so through restraining it for the good of the collective? Only by giving up your freedom to all can you be free?

Doublespeak, and nothing more.

All they are really saying is, “Give up all your freedom and liberty to us, and we’ll LET you do, what WE think you ought to do, when WE think you should do it”.

It is entirely about command and control; just as is fascism, or any other kind of totalitarianism. They believe that if you give the “right” people, total control, then all the “right” decisions will be made, and everyone will be better off and happier.

This, frankly, is evil.

Intelligent leftists then spend all their intellectual energy creating increasingly convoluted, twisted, circular, and inductive arguments… no, to call them arguments gives them too much credit, they are in the main, mere tautologies; to justify what they believe in, and why they believe in it; even though reality shows again and again that their ideas are incorrect.

Amazingly, they often reach the same point as non-leftists do, by twisting their reasoning enough to reconcile their false first principles with the way the world really works. After all, at some point you have to say that an orange is an orange, don’t you?

And that really is the proof of the thing. Leftists ideas simply do not work. They are not true. They are false. Reality disagrees with them.

When your theory does not match the facts, you must change the theory. Reality doesn’t give a damn about your feelings.

The collectivist theory fails utterly. It doesn’t match the facts at all. Twisting both the theory and the facts out of all semblance to reality to “prove” your pet theory, does not make it true.

Individualism in a relatively loose collective (a society, no matter the size), is the natural state of man. We are social individuals, but we are individuals.

We may band tighter together at time, when it is to our advantage to survive; but we do so out of enlightened self interest, not of a collective nature.

We may sacrifice, so that others might live, or live better lives; but we do this for the benefit of other individuals, and for that which we believe in; not for the collective.

In all things, we are individuals.

Capitalism is what naturally happens when people get together freely to exchange goods and services.

Private property and competition are what naturally happens when people seek to improve their lives, and their situations.

Unless people are artificially restrained from doing so, their natural condition is one of competition, and markets.

Yes, there are those who will seek to gain advantage by restraining competition, gaining monopolies, imposing laws and regulations… but those are not failures of liberty, failures of markets, failures of capitalism; they are the failures of command and control.

Command and control will always fail. It cannot succeed, because in order to work the commander and controller must have perfect information and perfect reason. Such a thing does not exist. There is no perfect man, nor any perfect collective of men, and there cannot be.

Not only that, but humans by nature are both rebellious beasts, and greedy beasts.

Yes, many are content to be… even crave to be… controlled. Many crave to control others (even if it si only as part of a collective). This is proven to us more and more every day. It was proven quite convincingly just a few months ago; when the great masses voted for a “perfect man”, “the one”; the man on a horse, coming to simply sweep in and “heal us all”.

There are always enough however who are willing to take advantage, or gain a little extra comfort, or just get a bit ahead, a bit more power, a bit more advantage… On the other side of things, there are always enough who chafe at the yoke, who jump the fence… There are always enough who refuse to be controlled, that the “perfect” system will be taken down from within.

Collectivists, your very foundational ideas are evil and wrong. They don’t work. They are proven false every moment by the reality we live in. imposing them on us inevitably fails, and causes incredible misery, death, and destruction along the way.

Of course, this only makes them all the more dangerous. A man who is proven wrong at every turn, but who simply WILL NOT give up… well that is man who will do ANYTHING.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

You are “The Rich”, and you didn’t even know it

Video From Reason.TV:

A lot of folks hear numbers like “the top 5%” of income earners, and they think that means Bill Gates, and fortune 500 CEOs etc…

No, although that’s exactly what the government, and the media, would love for you to believe.

It’s how they pit us against one another. It is a very deliberate divide and conquer strategy for class warfare; and the fact that 52 million people voted for it shows just how well it’s working.

It works, because “The Rich” is always the other guy. You aren’t “The Rich” after all, you’re “working class” or “middle class” whatever those mean (and who exactly says the “middle class” don’t work?).

Nobody wants to pay more taxes (well, except some of the extreme left), and very few people would vote to increase their own taxes; so they employ this class warfare rhetoric to get you to support tax increases on “The Rich”, which will supposedly favor you, and “the less fortunate”.

The only problem is, according to the government, there’s a pretty good chance that You (yes You, with a capital “Y”) ARE “The Rich”.

How can that be? They’re always talking about the “top 1%” or the “top 5%”, and again people start thinking about Bill Gates, and bank CEOs, and Wall Street traders…

Actually, the top 5% likely includes a lot of folks you know. Theres a fair chance it includes you. It almost certainly includes people you interact with every day.

When we get down to as low as say, the top 15%, most folks would think that got to be people making like $250,000 a year right?

No, actually people who make $250,000 a year are the top 1% (in fact, anyone over about $180,000 a year is in the top 1%. $250,000 puts you into the top .8% or so).

Wait a sec… the top 1% is just $180,000 a year?

Yes, yes it is.

The estimated individual income numbers for 2008 (actuals wont be available for another two years. Also don’t confuse these with household numbers, which account for multiple incomes) look like this:

The “top 1%” of earners in this country, is everyone who makes over about $180,000 a year.

The top 5% is everyone who makes over about $152,000 a year

In case you were interested, $100,000 is the top 5.63%

The top 10% is everyone who makes over $76,000 per year.

The top 15% is everyone who makes over about $64,000 a year.

The top 25% is everyone who makes over about $46,000 a year.

The top 50% is everyone who makes over about $32,000 a year.

So when somebody says “we’re going to tax the richest 15% to pay for the other 85%” what they’re really saying is anyone who makes more than $32 an hour.

Ayup, if you make more than $32 an hour, guess what, YOU are “The Rich”.

If they say “we’re going to tax the richest 25%” that means anyone who makes more than $23 an hour.

So, let me ask you, are you rich?

The top 15% pay more than 85% of all income taxes.

The top 50% pay more than 96% of all income taxes.

The bottom 50%, pay less than 4%.

The bottom 40% pay nothing at all.

The bottom 30% are actually PAID BY THE GOVERNMENT (and I don’t mean civil servants).

Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, pretty much anyone with more than 10 years experience in any mid-level or higher job, in any professional career field or trade; that most likely puts you into the top 15% or so. Are you rich?

If you own your own business, the government ALMOST CERTAINLY classifies you as earning in the top 10% or higher… of course how much of that you actually KEEP is another story. Are you rich?

If you’re reading this right now, demographically speaking, it’s very likely you are in the top 15%. Are you rich?

If you have a college degree, live in or near a major city, and have more than 10 years experience in your career field, you are very likely to be in the top 5%, and almost certainly in the top 15%. Are you rich?

I’ll tell you right now, I’m in the top 5% of income earners, and with my wifes income we’re in the top 5% of household earners (in fact, the top 3%); and we are very definitely not rich.

We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. We have a 1600 square foot house in an old neighborhood in Scottsdale (not one of the McMansion areas), two used cars that were both under $30,000 each when we bought them, and we send our two kids to Catholic school that’s subsidized by the parish, or else we couldn’t afford it. We don’t have a vacation home; no RV, no boat, no vacations to Switzerland every six months…

We’re not rich.

As far as the government is concerned though, we are “The Rich”.

In fact, it’s very likely that you are “The Rich” too.

What they’re really saying when they talk about “taxing the rich”, is taxing you. Because as far as the government is concerned, unless you’re taking money from them, hey, YOU’RE RICH.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

I WILL NOT OBEY

As I have said here before, I am a senior technical executive at a large bank.

As it happens, a bank that was forced at gunpoint, by the secretary of the treasury and chairman of the federal reserve, to accept TARP funds (as all the top surviving banks in the U.S were).

Let me be clear: We did not want TARP funds, or need them; but we, and all the other major banks, were told in no uncertain terms that we WOULD take them.

As obscene as that is, it is irrelevant to what follows; excepting that we did take TARP funds.

The United States House of Representatives recently passed a blatantly unconstitutional bill, placing confiscatory tax burdens on anyone making more than $250,000 and working for an institution that received more than 5 billion of TARP funds.

The bill was in theory specifically addressed at the false outrage over retention bonuses paid to AIG executives; and is targeted only to their bonuses.

In theory.

Of course, this would be an unconstitutional bill of attainder, which wouldn’t pass even the most cursory constitutional challenge; so it was re-written to be broader.

Broader of course means more people would be affected, and congress would be given more power to steal more money.

In fact, if you read into the implications of the bill; it could be used to levy a 90% tax on any income over $250,000, earned by any family making more than $250,000 per year, where either spouse is employed by an institution that received federal “bailout” funds.

It appears that the Senate, and the Obama administration are cold on the bill and that it will not pass, or be signed into law if it did.

I do not earn that much money; nor do my wife and I earn that much together (though in the next few years it is entirely possible that we will).

However, I have something important to say.

If congress should pass any such bill, and the president sign any such law, I WILL NOT OBEY IT.

I will not allow congress to tell me how much I can earn. I will not allow them to take my income because of the actions of others. If they attempt to make me do so by force, I will resist with force.

I will most likely die in the process, which I regret; but at some point a line must be drawn. The constitution must be respected, or it is meaningless.

Congress can make no law that is unconstitutional on it’s face. If such a law be passed, it is the duty of the president to repudiate it; and it must not be signed. If such a law is signed, it is the duty of the agents of the government to refuse to enforce it. If the agents of the state attempt to enforce it, then they must be resisted with force, at all costs.

Anything less is submission to tyranny, and the diminution of citizens, to subjects; or worse.

I have made clear in the past that I would resist police abuse of the constitution. I will resist congresses abuses no less. I will resist the presidents abuses no less.

Agents of the state cannot exceed the legitimate authority of the state. When they do so, they are criminals, and they must be resisted as criminals.

Normally I do not advertise where my lines are; but congress is now in the midst of a tantrum of self indulgence, overconfidence, and hubris not seen since reconstruction.

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama, are pushing our nation headlong into tyranny and ruin; and decrying those who resist as racists, or reactionaries; simply for not wanting to be serfs.

I would suggest that we petition for the impeachment and prosecution (for conspiracy to deprive every resident of the United States of their civil rights) of any congressman who voted for such a bill; but I know it would do no good.

Government must be made to understand, WE WILL NOT TOLERATE SUCH ABUSE.

We will resist.

We will revolt.

We will not be made subjects, serfs, or slaves.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Another Step Down The Road To Serfdom

Today’s New York Times brings news that the Obama Administration is set to unveil a series of unprecedented regulations:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will call for increased oversight of executive pay at all banks, Wall Street firms and possibly other companies as part of a sweeping plan to overhaul financial regulation, government officials said.

The outlines of the plan are expected to be unveiled this week in preparation for President Obama’s first foreign summit meeting in early April.

(…)

The administration has been considering increased oversight of executive pay for some time, but the issue was heightened in recent days as public fury over bonuses spilled into the regulatory effort.

The officials said that the administration was still debating the details of its plan, including how broadly it should be applied and how far it could go beyond simple reporting requirements. Depending on the outcome of the discussions, the administration could seek to put the changes into effect through regulations rather than through legislation.

One proposal could impose greater requirements on company boards to tie executive compensation more closely to corporate performance and to take other steps to ensure that compensation was aligned with the financial interest of the company.

The new rules will cover all financial institutions, including those not now covered by any pay rules because they are not receiving federal bailout money. Officials say the rules could also be applied more broadly to publicly traded companies, which already report about some executive pay practices to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The transparency of this move is really quite obvious. This has nothing to do with stimulating the economy, and even less to do with the root causes of the financial crisis. Instead, what we’re looking at here is naked redistributionism timed to tap into the populist rage that has erupted over the phony scandal surrounding the AIG bonuses. It’s an “us vs. them” game that Obama thinks he can win, and he may well be right.

Make no mistake what this is really all about, though:

You are not free to make as much money as you want. You are not free to succeed because government will tax you at the point of a gun to make sure you aren’t making more money than they approve of.

Welcome to Obama’s America.

Any resemblance to previous Americas is purely coincidental.

Is the White House “Going Galt” on Us?

randselfishIn a 2001 article entitled “The Virtue of Greed,” noted economist Walter Williams wrote: “YOU CAN CALL IT GREED, selfishness or enlightened self-interest, but the bottom line is that it’s these human motivations that get wonderful things done. Unfortunately, many people are naive enough to believe that it’s compassion, concern and ‘feeling another’s pain’ that’s the superior human motivation. As such, we fall easy prey to charlatans, quacks and hustlers.”

In what may become a new executive branch strategery to sell America on President Obama’s economic plan, White House National Economic Council Chair Lawrence Summers did what Glenn Reynolds and Ilya Somin are describing as channeling the fictional Oscar-winning Wall Street character Gordon Gekko (YouTube of speech below).  To be fair, Obama started it by calling on people to act in their own self-interest by making a few stock investments: “What you’re now seeing is, profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you’ve got a long term perspective on it.”

However, Obama’s motivation of selling his economic plan was revealed (emphasis added) in his very next sentence: “I think that consumer confidence — as they see the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act taking root, businesses are starting to see opportunities for investment and potential hiring, we are going to start creating jobs again.”

Here’s how Politico describes the Summers quote:

“In the past few years, we’ve seen too much greed and too little fear; too much spending and not enough saving; too much borrowing and not enough worrying,” Summers said Friday in a speech to the Brookings Institution. “Today, however, our problem is exactly the opposite.”

In remarks to a private dinner at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Summers was even blunter, according to an attendee: “Before, we had too much greed and too little fear. Now, we have too much fear and too little greed.”

“While greed is no virtue, entrepreneurship and the search for opportunity is what we need today,” Summers concluded. “We need a program that breaks these vicious cycles. We need to instill the trust that allows opportunity to overcome fear and enables families and businesses to again imagine a brighter future. And we need to create this confidence without allowing it to lead to unstable complacency.”

At times, Summers sounds like he could be quoting from Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness. In reality, he’s promoting a program which has already caused Rand to rise from her grave.

Ordinarily, making Rand required reading around the White House would be considered a good thing.  However, such reading could turn into what Wikipedia describes as:

The political manipulation of language, by obfuscation, e.g. WAR IS PEACE. Using language to obfuscate meaning or to reduce and eliminate ideas and their meanings that are deemed dangerous to its authority.

and

The encouragement of “doublethink,” whereby the population must learn to embrace inconsistent concepts without dissent, e.g. giving up liberty for freedom. Similar terms used, are “doublespeak“, and “newspeak

America is still falling prey to the “charlatans, quacks and hustlers” Williams described.  Instead of using altruistic devices, the bad guys now seem to be toying with the use of Orwellian tactics.


Related reading:

Michelle Malkin’s take on what she’s describing as Obama’s 180 on fiscal policy messaging.

DailyKos: “Atlas Didn’t Shrug – John Galt 2009 is Staying

QandO: “Hayek, Greenspan And The Designs Of Men

Capitalism Magazine on the left’s reaction to the “Going Galt” theme

Name That Socialist

Today, a news story came out where a company planned on purchasing chicken processing plants and the government was going to match the private company’s bid dollar for dollar. This plan is proposed under the guise of saving jobs. Now let me give you a hint who this socialist leader is; he’s a national leader.

Is it Barack Obama’s latest “stimulus” plan? Is it Harry Reid? Is this Ed Rendell or some other big state Democratic governor? Could it be even Charlie Crist or Arnold Schwarzenegger?

If you guessed any of the above, you’re wrong. The person proposing to give the government 50% ownership of certain chicken processing plants is none other the guy who came in second in the CPAC straw poll, Louisiana Governor and Republican Party savior, Bobby Jindal.

From the Monroe News Star

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff said the state has found a buyer for Pilgrim’s Pride’s northeastern Louisiana operations and that an offer was expected to be made to the bankrupt company Tuesday night.

Timmy Teepell said the buyer will put up $20 million and the state will match it for a $40 million offer.

“(Jindal) has agreed to match it dollar for dollar with the stipulation that the company must keep the work force intact for five years,” Teepell said.

Pilgrim’s chief executive Don Jackson said at 7 p.m. Tuesday that he had not yet received an offer.

“I stated from the beginning that we would be receptive to any meaningful offer,” Jackson said.

The company announced Feb. 27 that it will close the Farmerville processing plants and the support infrastructure in April because of a glut of chicken on the market.

So the man who railed in a boring, self-centered speech against Barack Obama’s big government agenda plans to have the State of Louisiana own 50% of chicken processing plants. At least Obama in his takeover of Citigroup is only buying 36% of it. Maybe Rush Limbaugh can see if this is what Reagan would’ve done.

One other disturbing aspect of this proposal:

Teepell would not identify the company that made the offer to Pilgrim’s Pride, but he did say the company’s chief executive contacted Jackson before deciding to make the offer.

Bobby Jindal likes to talk about he cleaned up the most corrupt state in the country and how he reformed Louisiana’s ethics laws and improved transparency. Well, he passed some unenforceable new ethics laws while at the same time fought any attempts to bring transparency to the governor’s office. This secretive way of conducting business is the norm for the Jindal regime.

America, if you elect Bobby Jindal president in 2012, you can expect more socialism and more of the shadow government. If this is what the Republican Party has to offer, they won’t be returning to power anytime soon.

UPDATE:Pilgrim’s Pride rejected the offer from the State of Louisiana to buy the plant.

“Gov. Jindal and (Pilgrim’s chief executive Don) Jackson spoke by phone (on Tuesday night),” Pilgrim’s spokesman Ray Atkinson said in a written statement. “Dr. Jackson explained to the governor that the offer for the Farmerville complex was below our requirements.

“It would essentially put Foster (Farms) in business at a cost of entry of $20 million, well below the real cost and at a level with which neither Pilgrim’s Pride nor the rest of the industry could effectively compete.

“Dr. Jackson did not rule out a possible sale, but noted that it would have to be at a price well beyond $40 million. He also reiterated that selling the facility would not address the fundamental problem facing our industry: an oversupply of low-value commodity chicken.”

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Health Care Rationing Isn’t Fun, But It’s Unavoidable

Sad stories abound in the world of health care, because health care has a few peculiar features. First, when you get it wrong, people die. Heck, sometimes if you get it right, people die. Second, it’s terribly expensive. This is actually a good thing, in a way. The cost of advanced western health care is a function of its capability. Each level of “hard new problem” usually requires a lot of time, energy, and research to solve, and that cost must be recouped in some manner. But the expense is such that for difficult problems, it’s extremely unlikely that any normal person could afford his or her own care out of pocket.

When you take a highly emotionally charged issue, which happens to be so expensive that it is unaffordable on a self-financed basis, you’re going to get problems. When you can’t afford to pay for calamity, you try to find a way to risk-pool with others to distribute the cost. But when the calamity is too expensive even for the group you’re risk-pooling with, the sad answer is rationing. And when it’s your insurance company telling you that they’re not going to pay for your care — and you’re going to die — you feel betrayed.

That’s what people are faced with, relayed by Karen Tumulty for Time:

Every story is different, but the contours of the problem tend to be depressingly similar: the 10-year-old leukemia patient in Ohio who, after three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant, had almost exhausted the maximum $1.5 million lifetime benefit allowed under her father’s employer-provided plan; the Connecticut grocery-store worker who put off the radiation treatments for her Stage 2 breast cancer because she had used up her company plan’s $20,000 annual maximum and was $18,000 in debt; the New Hampshire accountant who, unable to work during his treatment for Stage 3B stomach cancer, had to stop paying his mortgage to afford a $1,120 monthly premium for coverage with the state’s high-risk insurance pool.

What makes these cases terrifying, in addition to heartbreaking, is that they reveal the hard truth about this country’s health-care system: just about anyone could be one bad diagnosis away from financial ruin.

That’s a soft way to put it. In fact, you’re one bad diagnosis away from death. Of course, you’re one wrong step off a curb away from death, too, but I’m not here to trivialize this. These are life-or-death issues, and when your insurance company stops paying for something, it’s common to blame the insurance company for your death instead of the disease which is killing you.

Ezra Klein, writing in response to the same piece, talks about the fact that this is the emotional wedge that will push through the vaunted “health reform” he desires:

But the final outcome of health reform will be less about Beltway moments like today’s event and more about the pressure applied by stories like the one Karen Tumulty tells on this week’s cover of Time magazine.

Karen — a bone fide health care wonk — writes of the trouble she’s had navigating the insurance market with her brother, who was recently diagnosed with kidney failure. And the trouble is not because he didn’t have health coverage and it’s not because Karen doesn’t know how to speak to an insurance representative or read the policy details. The trouble, in other words, is not for the 15 percent of Americans who are uninsured. It’s for the 85 percent who have health care coverage.

The promise, of course, will be that you won’t have those cold-hearted insurance men with their uncaring actuarial tables and desire for profit making your rationing decisions. What is left unsaid is that the rationing decisions will still occur. (H/T QandO)

The Government’s rationing body said two drugs for advanced breast cancer and a rare form of stomach cancer were too expensive for the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is expected to confirm guidance in the next few weeks that will effectively ban their use.

The move comes despite a pledge by Nice to be more flexible in giving life-extending drugs to terminally-ill cancer patients after a public outcry last year over ‘death sentence’ decisions. Leading campaigners last night said Nice had failed the ‘acid test’ of whether it really intended to give new priority to people with just a few months to live.

One drug, Lapatinib, can halve the speed of growth of breast cancer in one in five women with an aggressive form of the disease.

Dr Gillian Leng, Nice deputy chief executive, said ‘The committee concluded that Lapatinib is not a cost-effective use of NHS resources when compared with current treatment.’

Rationing is painful. Rationing sucks. When you buy insurance, or it’s given to everyone by the government, the assumption is that everything possible will be done to save your life — but it just isn’t true. You may believe that a few more months of your life is worth $100,000, or $500,000, or $500,000,000. But you’re not paying for it. The question isn’t “what is a few months of life worth?” The question is: “Who decides?”

I sincerely hope that nobody reading this is ever in the situation where a life-or-death medical decision is being made by someone thousands of miles away. But if it has to occur, do you really trust the government to make that decision? At least with private insurance, you have a choice between competing insurers based on who you think will make the decision in your best interest, and you can balance the cost of the insurance with the maximum payouts they’ll support. If we get single-payer, you get one-size-fits-all, even if it doesn’t fit you.

Atlas Is Bluffing About Shrugging

Obama’s trying to raise taxes on those making over $250,000 a year, and the people in that group [well, enough for an anecdotal news story, anyway] say they won’t stand for it:

President Barack Obama’s tax proposal – which promises to increase taxes for those families with incomes of $250,000 or more — has some Americans brainstorming ways to decrease their pay, even if it’s just by a dollar.

A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told ABCNews.com that she plans to cut back on her business to get her annual income under the quarter million mark should the Obama tax plan be passed by Congress and become law.

So far, Obama’s tax plan is being looked at skeptically by both Democrats and Republicans and therefore may not pass at all.

“We are going to try to figure out how to make our income $249,999.00,” she said.

“We have to find a way out where we can make just what we need to just under the line so we can benefit from Obama’s tax plan,” she added. “Why kill yourself working if you’re going to give it all away to people who aren’t working as hard?”

My co-contributor Doug at his personal blog, Below The Beltway, and Bruce McQuain of QandO quote approvingly, and with the obligatory libertarian allusions to Atlas Shrugged.

But I don’t buy it. First, there’s the point in the article that this is a matter of marginal taxation. If the top marginal rate is raised from 35% to 39.6%, that doesn’t mean that someone making $250,001 will pay 4.6% more in income taxes than someone making $249,999. It means that they will pay 4.6% more on any dollar earned above $250K.

This isn’t a huge increase. Is it really believed than high-income workers will stop trying to increase their income from $300K/year to $400K/year if it means the government will take an extra $4600 on top of the $35K they’re already taking? I don’t think so. The difference in tax rates isn’t quite to “walk away” territory yet.

Granted, this shouldn’t be taken as a suggestion that I support these tax increases. I think the idea that the government should take 35% of someones marginal income at higher levels is absolutely sickening, and it’s slightly more sickening to think that they’d take 39.6% of that income. But in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it’s going to make that big of a difference, and I think those interviewed for this article are probably not going to make much of a change either. Yes, if their incomes are currently in the $250-265K range, they might change something (particularly if the suggestion of reducing the value of itemized deductions is enacted). But if they’re making $350K/year, I don’t think it’ll make much of a difference in their behavior at all.

This is bad policy, but let’s not be melodramatic about it.

How Much Will I Pay to Stimulate Others?

It’s one thing to visit some strip club and pay one’s own tab to become stimulated.  But what if Congress and the President wanted you to pick up the tab for their lap dances?

If you’d like to see how much you and your family will be paying for our recent government largese, Right.org has a nifty little calculator to do the math for you.

Here’s the script to place the calculator on your own website.

$4 Trillion

When leftists start arguing about how much laissez-faire capitalism we experienced under the Bush adminstration, I often point out that he was the first President to preside over a $2T budget, and he was also the first to propose a $3T budget (for FY’09).

I expected Obama to spend more than Bush — but I didn’t think it would be this bad:

Details on president Barack Obama’s first budget are out today, and there is no shortage of eye-popping numbers. Total budgeted spending in fiscal 2009 (which began five months ago) will reach nearly $4 trillion, or nearly 30% of American GDP. The deficit for the year is expected to be about $1.75 trillion. As budgeted, the deficit will decline to just over $1.1 trillion in fiscal 2010, and to about $500 billion by the end of Mr Obama’s first term—close to, but still above, last year’s deficit of $459 billion. The drop is less ambitious than it sounds, however; it is primarily due to a winding down of spending in Iraq and the expiration of Bush era tax cuts. It will take harder choices to move the budget toward balance.

You can play around with the numbers a bit; i.e. the 2010 budget itself is somewhere between $3.5T and $4T, but when you include $750B in “room” for a bank bailout that we “might” need — and it’s not clear whether that’s FY’09 or FY’10 — I think you can see that planned spending is likely to top that $4T mark. Likewise, in Obama’s defense, if he’s actually living up to his promise of taking the “off-budget” spending of the Bush administration and putting it on-budget, that might not be as big of an increase as it looks.

But it’s still big. It’s still a number that should scare the hell out of most Americans. It places federal government spending at roughly a third of GDP — which doesn’t include state and local spending, of course. We’re going to be nearing a point where government, all levels combined, spend half of GDP. If anyone believed we had a true free market before, I’m sure they’ll change their minds.

And his deficit reductions [of the deficits he’s creating]? Well, it’s a combination of tax hikes, reduction in Iraq spending, and an assumption of 4% GDP growth rates. I guess it’s because he’s figuring in the Keynesian multiplier effect of all his wonderful proposals, huh?

Oh, in completely unrelated news, 2008 was the biggest year on record for lobbyists — and 2009 is expected to be bigger:

So the $3.2 billion bonanza for lobbyists in 2008 was just a precursor of the lollapalooza to come. Within three weeks of Obama’s inauguration, the Washington Post reported that more than 90 organizations had hired lobbyists specifically to influence the stimulus bill.

Hmm, a link between ever-increasing budgets and your friendly K-Street fellows trying to influence how that money is being spent? By “most open and transparent administration in history”, is Obama just suggesting that the “Open for Business” sign will be displayed prominently in the window of the White House? I’m sure it doesn’t mean that he’s installing a “No Solicitors” sign.

The Brady Bill Was Only Step 1

Remember the “good old days” of the Brady Bill and the instant background check? It turns out that the gun grabbers in the 111th Congress no longer believe these gun control measures go far enough. Introducing perhaps the gravest threat to date against the Second Amendment: H.R. 45 Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009.

The primary goals of H.R. 45 are to license every firearm for every firearm a gun owner owns and regulate the buying and selling of firearms through licensed dealers. To apply for a firearms license, the applicant would have to provide the following:

SEC. 102. APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS.
(a) In General- In order to be issued a firearm license under this title, an individual shall submit to the Attorney General (in accordance with the regulations promulgated under subsection (b)) an application, which shall include–
(1) a current, passport-sized photograph of the applicant that provides a clear, accurate likeness of the applicant;
(2) the name, address, and date and place of birth of the applicant;
(3) any other name that the applicant has ever used or by which the applicant has ever been known;
(4) a clear thumb print of the applicant, which shall be made when, and in the presence of the entity to whom, the application is submitted;
(5) with respect to each category of person prohibited by Federal law, or by the law of the State of residence of the applicant, from obtaining a firearm, a statement that the individual is not a person prohibited from obtaining a firearm;
(6) a certification by the applicant that the applicant will keep any firearm owned by the applicant safely stored and out of the possession of persons who have not attained 18 years of age;
(7) a certificate attesting to the completion at the time of application of a written firearms examination, which shall test the knowledge and ability of the applicant regarding–
(A) the safe storage of firearms, particularly in the vicinity of persons who have not attained 18 years of age;
(B) the safe handling of firearms;
(C) the use of firearms in the home and the risks associated with such use;
(D) the legal responsibilities of firearms owners, including Federal, State, and local laws relating to requirements for the possession and storage of firearms, and relating to reporting requirements with respect to firearms; and
(E) any other subjects, as the Attorney General determines to be appropriate;
(8) an authorization by the applicant to release to the Attorney General or an authorized representative of the Attorney General any mental health records pertaining to the applicant;
(9) the date on which the application was submitted; and
(10) the signature of the applicant.
(b) Regulations Governing Submission- The Attorney General shall promulgate regulations specifying procedures for the submission of applications to the Attorney General under this section, which regulations shall–
(1) provide for submission of the application through a licensed dealer or an office or agency of the Federal Government designated by the Attorney General;
(2) require the applicant to provide a valid identification document (as defined in section 1028(d)(2) of title 18, United States Code) of the applicant, containing a photograph of the applicant, to the licensed dealer or to the office or agency of the Federal Government, as applicable, at the time of submission of the application to that dealer, office, or agency; and
(3) require that a completed application be forwarded to the Attorney General not later than 48 hours after the application is submitted to the licensed dealer or office or agency of the Federal Government, as applicable.
(c) Fees-
(1) IN GENERAL- The Attorney General shall charge and collect from each applicant for a license under this title a fee in an amount determined in accordance with paragraph (2).
(2) FEE AMOUNT- The amount of the fee collected under this subsection shall be not less than the amount determined by the Attorney General to be necessary to ensure that the total amount of all fees collected under this subsection during a fiscal year is sufficient to cover the costs of carrying out this title during that fiscal year, except that such amount shall not exceed $25.

I haven’t had time to read the rest of the bill, but from this and the titles of the remaining subsections (i.e. Sec. 302 Failure to Maintain or Permit Inspection of Records, Sec. 304 Failure to Provide Notice of Change of Address, Sec. 405 Inspections, etc.) it’s probably much worse than I think. This is like a bad marriage between the Real I.D. Act and the Brady Bill.

If the Brady Bill was step 1 and H.R. 45 is step 2 what are we then left with for step 3 but the outright repeal of the Second Amendment and complete prohibition for individuals to own firearms?

“How bad is it going to get?

Yesterday, a reader wrote me and asked:

“I have been wondering how bad the current economic “crisis” will get. Depending on who I talk to I have been told everything from “this is simply part of the normal cycle of economics” to being told to invest heavily in ammo”

Ok, here’s my take on it.

Short term? Not too bad. Unemployment and the credit crunch are going to creep up a bit more; but for the most part the recovery has actually already started.

Though, if the government (Democrat and Republican) continue their spending spree, they could double hump this recession…. actually, I think there’s a very good chance of it at this point.

The “stimulus” and “bailout” won’t be doing any real stimulating (except maybe in the auto industry); and could very well end up pushing us into the doublehump recession by preventing the efficient allocation and reallocation of capital and labor resources.

I have said from the beginning, this was a manufactured crisis. The banking shock and housing crash would have been serious, but relatively minor bumps; if they weren’t blown up all out of proportion by the media and government.

Through this deliberate manipulation (and yes, it was deliberate), the sectoral recession became a self fulfilling prophecy of general recession.

This was done intentionally, to create political opportunity for a plain and naked power grab (Rahm Emmanuel publicly admitted that much); and an explosion of graft, “legitimate” bribery, and vote buying not seen since Tammany.

In the long term, there could be some serious repercussions to our economy as a whole. Partly, it depends on how successful the democrats are at pushing us into socialism; or at the least, their manipulation of markets, and incentive structure.

Mostly however, it really depends on what the Chinese do.

Yes, we’re going to see an inflation hit from all this (should be a big one actually, though not 1979 big); but our RELATIVE inflation is actually far less than most other currencies around the world (and considerably less than the euro). Because of this, even with our mess right now, we’re actually gaining in value against most major currencies (excepting of course the Yuan).

The Chinese are holding the line on relative currency valuation by buying up as much of our debt as possible, because their trade and current accounts depend on the value of the dollar; but they can’t do it forever, or THEIR economy will tank from the other side of things (especially if we keep inflating, and accumulating debt; which is the current Democratic “plan”).

A debt sell off (unlikely, because it would destroy their economy as well), or a recession in China (much more likely) would stop them, and us, flat; and then the entire world will go into a true depression.

We need to avoid that at all costs; but it’s not something we have much control over; and the current government in this country seem hell bent on pushing us over that cliffs edge.

What needs to happen here to allow us to rebalance and make a true long term recovery, is a massive deleveraging, and moderate deflation for a year or two.

If we allowed that to happen naturally (and it’s too late to do so really, given the stimulus and bailout, but we could still salvage something); it would mean perhaps two years of negative growth, and a spike in unemployment, with a lot of bankruptcies, mergers, consolidations and writedowns. However, it would be followed by a period of rapid growth and expansion as capital gets more efficiently reallocated.

It’s called the business cycle, and it works, and it’s historically proven.

Unfortunately the government is actively and aggressively preventing that natural rebalancing from happening. We should be trying for a short sharp shock, and instead they are trying to move us into the European/Japanese style social protectionist stagnation.

If China holds strong, we will slowly recover, and Europe will slowly sink. If China falters, everything goes into freefall for a while, but we come out on top because of our structural strengths (again, presuming the government doesn’t try to destroy those strengths through more socialism and market distortion).

…That may take 20 years though; and what happened in the mean time would be unpleasant.

Oh and that’s not even taking into account the coming “retirement bomb” for Social Security and Medicare… that one makes this one look like a minor hiccup.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

The Moral Hazard Problem Of Socialized Healthcare

Ezra Klein quotes approvingly a section of Michael Pollans In Defense Of Food on the high level of diabetes in those eating a Western-style diet. In response, he almost seems to be suggesting that there’s a moral hazard problem of socialized healthcare:

A diagnosis of diabetes subtract roughly twelve years from one’s life and living with the condition incurs medical costs of $13,000 a year (compared with $2,500 for someone without diabetes).

This is a global pandemic in the making, but a most unusual one, because it involves no virus or bacteria, no microbe of any kind — just a way of eating. It remains to be seen whether we’ll respond by changing our diet or our culture and economy. Although an estimated 80 percent of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented by a change of diet and exercise, it looks like the smart money is instead on the creation of a vast new diabetes industry.

I’d just add a question: How many discrete interest groups would save money from a sweeping policy initiative aimed at reducing chronic disease through nutrition, exercise, and other low-cost lifestyle changes? How many discrete interest groups would make money from a sweeping policy initiative aimed at increasing the number of insured Americans able to purchase cutting edge medical care in response to the onset of chronic disease?

The questions asked are quite instructive, and thus I wonder if he is being facetious here.

Undoubtedly Americans would be best served by changing our diets and behavioral patterns to more “sustainable” options. As a libertarian, of course, I favor doing this through the freedom rather than bans of bad foods or mandates of exercise — and certainly support anyone wealthy enough to pay for the medical treatment being willing to abuse their body as much as their bank account can pay for the damage. I’m sure Ezra’s “policy initiative” is probably a mix of advertisement, tax policy, and the other sort of “libertarian paternalism” ideas championed by Cass Sunstein.

But what will happen if we do go for a “sweeping policy initiative” aimed at increasing the number of insured Americans able to purchase cutting-edge diabetes treatments? When we offer such “health bailouts”, does this not result in a moral hazard where individuals can make bad, risky decisions knowing that they won’t feel the full effect? This is no different from the corporate world, where CEO’s can embark upon ultra-risky business strategies knowing that the cost of failure will be blunted by federal bailout. Note also that this is a feature of all third-party payment system where the individual care-user is not even charged premiums based upon their risk-profile — it doesn’t matter if it’s an individual mandate plus a huge push towards company-paid insurance (the Massachusetts model) or a fully socialized system (the British model). The end result will be skyrocketing costs as the individual is not strongly incentivized to avoid poor health.

America, when it comes to “healthcare systems”, would be far better off breaking the employer-payment link and moving to a more free system. In this sort of a system, premiums would be somewhat tied to a risk profile (as makes sense for an insurance product), paid individually (so the individual has an incentive to adopt healthy practices), and [probably] would be more tailored to protection from high-cost services rather than pay for day-to-day health care needs. This is post-1930 America, so undoubtedly there’d be a safety net, but I’d rather see the government pay for healthcare for the indigent than for everyone — especially since the system will work better.

In fact, a free market would help bring about Ezra’s goal (healthier people who eat better and exercise) while avoiding his worry (a giveaway to the big healthcare corporations subsidizing bad decisions). Maybe someone should tell him that there’s an answer outside of government on this one.

Resist The Stimulus

Now that the members of the United States Congress have ignored the American people and are set to steal and borrow around $800 billion for a “stimulus” package which benefits left-wing special interests, political machines on the state and local level, and other vote buying programs in general; those of us who actually believe in the free market must continue to resist this plan to the end. Just because we have likely lost the fight in the Congress does not mean this fight is over. “Yes We Can” still defeat the stimulus or at least make it as costly to the Democratic party and the “moderate” Republicans who supported it as possible.

The battlefield, once the Obamessiah signs the bill into law, now shifts to the states who must decide whether or not to accept the “stimulus”. Here in the states, we can have more impact because governors of the states and our state legislators in most cases, are respsonsive to fewer people than our Congresscritters and are up for reelection before 2012. Therefore, we can have more success fighting this on the state level.

The plan now needs to be to call our state representatives and to call our governor offices and tell them to refuse to accept the money from the stimulus AND to refuse to implement any unfunded mandates and any other regulations that the “stimulus” calls for.

The second phase of the plan is to use our little rebates that the Obamessiah is giving us to fund the organizations that led the fight against the stimulus AND give money on top of that to fight the continued march toward socialism that the Obamessiah and the Democratic Party will lead us toward.

As an added bonus, your contributions to some, but not all of these organizations are tax deductible.

Americans for Prosperity

Cato Institute

Citizens Against Government Waste

Club for Growth

Heritage Foundation

Finally, in 2010 and 2012, vote the politicians that created this new mess out of power, if we still can.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Managing to Fail

The alarmist, emotionally manipulative tone, and shallow nature of this report offends me; but I have to say, if anything, the picture they paint of DHLs operations is actually nowhere near bad enough. They’re only focusing on the impact of the closure here without ever asking why.

I know from the inside.

I was a contractor at DHL for over a year (and excuse me if I’m a bit vague. I have to be careful what I say and how I say it, so as not to violate my confidentiality agreements). During that time, I and my team re-architected their entire security infrastructure; along with much of their data warehousing operations, and the open systems components of their dispatch and tracking systems. We made several hundred million dollars in capital expenditures, and spent well over a hundred thousands man hours (at anywhere from $75 to $150 an hour) in doing so.

At the end of the project, what we had was 4 or 5 times more efficient and effective than what they had before, and would have saved the company hundreds of millions of dollars; and they scrapped it, because it would have cost several hundred jobs in Germany and the EU.

Instead, they took a special inter-EU deal with the Czech Republic, and started over from the beginning; spending several hundred million more dollars to redo the work we had already done (and several billion dollars in total), only with mostly EU workers, in Prague.

DHL took a profitable, growing, fortune 500 business in Airborne Express; and they ran it into the ground from the beginning.

I don’t believe I’m violating my confidentiality agreements to tell you that DHL was the worst managed company I have ever seen; and that’s really saying something, as I’ve worked primarily in financial, medical, defense, and government.

The essential conflict was that at all times, DHL was managing to the interests not of making the American operations successful (or rather keeping those operations successful, as they had been originally); but of protecting the jobs of German workers, in Germany.

I’m dead serious. Every single decision management made was expressly in the best interests of German workers (or to a lesser extent Swiss workers, formerly of Danzas overocean); not for the company as a whole, not for profit, not for any benefit to the American operations.

During the time I was there, it was entirely acceptable to spend a million dollars to protect a single German job. We constantly had to work around the systems they had in place, and go through these arcane rules for finance, staffing, personal interactions… everything.

On the other side of things, we couldn’t EVER do anything more efficient if it would threaten a single German job. The company would rather lose ten million dollars, than a single German job; and that is no exaggeration. We presented management with many such opportunities, and in every case, the decision was made to protect German jobs rather than the company.

In the process, all the contracts and relationships that Airborne had built up over the years in the fulfillment industry, in the computing industry (EVERYONE used to use Airborne for their RMAs), in the film industry, in heavy shipping; all of them were flushed down the toilet.

Every interaction DHL had with its major customers, and its major vendors, was loaded with arrogance and condescension. Everything was slow and ponderous and loaded with red tape and doubletalk. Everything had ridiculous reams of paperwork and layers of approval and huge convoluted contracts associated with it.

Why?

Because DHL is a division of the “Private” (private in name only) German company Deutsche Post; who assumed the German postal monopoly. I say private in name only, because controlling interest in the company is held by the German state owned “development bank”.

The entire ethos of the company was that of a civil service, semi-socialist, state sponsored monopoly. All major decisions were made by German (and other EU) bureaucrats, guided by that ethos. They managed not as businessmen running a business, but as politicians pandering to their constituents.

This is what happens when the state controls private businesses. Every time. The state acts in the interest of the state, not of the business; and that business will fail, in this case taking an Ohio town down with it.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Socialist Death Throes in Zimbabwe

Socialism/Communism has largely caused the collapse of any nation that’s truly tried it. Russia is the biggest example; China has seen the writing on the wall and has allowed economic modernization and liberalism to creep into their country to keep the system moving. Even most of Europe, who we libertarians would consider democratic socialists, understand that if you want to keep taking the golden eggs in taxes, you can’t quite kill the goose.

What’s always interesting, though, is those countries who try to kill the goose — Zimbabwe is showing us what occurs:

Zimbabwe’s central bank has revalued its dollar again, cutting another 12 zeros off its currency in a bid to tame hyperinflation and avert economic collapse.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono said: “This Monetary Policy Statement unveils yet another necessary programme of revaluing our local currency, through the removal of 12 zeroes, with immediate effect.”

Mr Gono gave no updated inflation figures but said broad money supply growth rose from 81,000 per cent in January to 658 billion per cent in December.

The last time inflation was officially recorded in mid-2008 it had soared to 231 million per cent.

The new government has raised hopes of rebuilding Zimbabwe’s shattered economy, where food and fuel is in short supply and unemployment estimated at 94 per cent.

Africa’s deadliest cholera outbreak in 15 years has also hit the country, killing over 3,100 people and infecting another 60,000.

This is the end result of a government that borrows/prints to pay social benefits that are too large for the costs to be recouped through taxation without destroying economic growth. If you allow government promises to exceed expected revenues by a margin that large*, you start to see inflation — and that inflation can reach runaway levels if not curtailed.

The sad thing, when Zimbabwe is concerned, is that I keep expecting the situation to improve. When Mugabe lost the election, I thought there was a good chance it could turn around. I keep being proved wrong, and it’s the people of Zimbabwe who suffer for it.

Hat Tip: The Austrian Economists
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Ezra Klein — China Should Replace Personal Savings With Tax Burden

Okay, that’s not exactly what he said, but that’s what it boils down to:

But it’s worth zooming in on why the Chinese are making this a priority right now: Chinese economists see universal health care as a way to induce consumption and economic dynamism. The Chinese have a high savings rate — indeed, an absurdly high savings rate, between 30 percent and 40 percent of income — and one of the reasons is fear of medical expenses. China lacks a safety net, and so people spend less because they need to plan for catastrophe. And if catastrophe doesn’t befall, then they’ve simply spent less. Which is a problem when you’re facing down a potentially long recession. And so China is trying to make it safe for its citizens to spend, which means making future expenses more predictable, which means offering health care coverage.

Chinese saving rates are extraordinary. While Ezra’s point that one of the reasons is a fear of catastrophic medical expenses, there are certainly other factors at work — cultural, historical, etc. China is a poor country rapidly modernizing, and I would guess that the level of uncertainty for most workers is surprisingly high. Americans who lived under the Great Depression were far more savings-oriented than Baby Boomers or Gen-Xers, and this is probably due in large part to knowing “how bad it can get”.

But look at what Ezra is claiming here. He is essentially claiming that because the Chinese — who have decided their best interests are to save rather than to engage in American-style consumerism — aren’t “spending enough”, that the government should take their money away from them to cause them to spend more. The logic is that government taking away a bunch of money will remove their responsibility to plan for their lives, and allow them to live on the edge.

Doesn’t this remind anyone of the reason we’re in a worldwide deflationary debt spiral bordering on the worst financial crisis in history?

This completely avoids the COST of such a safety net as Ezra is suggesting. For many, it could be between 25 and 45 percent of income. If you look at high-tax European countries, where the social safety net is well-established, citizens need not worry about saving 30 to 40% of their income, because the government has taken it away as taxes.

China would be far better served by private entities (such as insurance companies, etc) helping to allow them to better plan their future expenditures than passing that burden to the government. In order for that to occur, of course, it would require a consistent legal environment based upon the rule of law, much more economic liberalization, and a commitment to property rights. The end result, however, would be to empower the Chinese to have both moderate saving rates, consistent planning of expenditures, and higher consumption. And it would allow them to control the balance of each. Ezra, on the other hand, would rather the government simply take the money away from them and decide how it gets spent.

Quote Of The Day

From Obama’s speech (as retold by Ezra Klein):

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.

Free men and women accomplish great things every day by voluntarily joining together for common purpose in a mutual self interested described by Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Those free people are the reason that we today can live in a level of affluence that would astound anyone living prior to the industrial revolution.

But those “big plans” to which Obama refers are not the actions of free men and women. In fact, they are the actions of unfree men and women who have been coerced to be the piggy banks which fund “big plans”.

The man who helps an elderly lady carry groceries is a free man joined to a common purpose. The man who donates his money to a charity feeding the homeless is a free man joined to a common purpose. The man who works hard at his job in order to design a piece of technology or improve a process that adds to human productivity is a free man joined to a common purpose.

Which isn’t to say that unfree men cannot achieve great things. The pyramids, the Great Wall, and the Hoover Dam are great things. But they are certainly not the product of free men*.
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Chávez Needs Cash — FAST!

Back in October, I posted on a little problem appearing in Venezuela. The government’s spending requires very high oil prices to keep the books balanced, and $40 oil is not exactly close to that target.

So what does Venezuela need? Quick money:

President Hugo Chávez, buffeted by falling oil prices that threaten to damage his efforts to establish a Socialist-inspired state, is quietly courting Western oil companies once again.

Until recently, Mr. Chávez had pushed foreign oil companies here into a corner by nationalizing their oil fields, raiding their offices with tax authorities and imposing a series of royalties increases.

But faced with the plunge in prices and a decline in domestic production, senior officials have begun soliciting bids from some of the largest Western oil companies in recent weeks — including Chevron, Royal Dutch/Shell and Total of France — promising them access to some of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, according to energy executives and industry consultants here.

Their willingness to even consider investing in Venezuela reflects the scarcity of projects open to foreign companies in other top oil nations, particularly in the Middle East.

First, he’s going to auction off the fields. Then, the companies who actually have technology will develop them. Finally, when prices have risen and he’s feeling saucy, he’ll re-nationalize them.

Any oil company that trusts Chávez, at this late date, won’t get much sympathy from me when he changes course again.

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