May 312010

The May 31, 2010 PajamasMedia has just published my latest OpEd, “Beware Dr. Galbraith’s Snake Oil“.

My theme is that even in the face of the Greek situation, some economists continue to argue that deficits don’t matter. Here is the introduction:

As the Greek welfare state collapses, citizens there have been rioting over cutbacks in social spending necessitated by mounting government debt. The rioters apparently fail to recognize that whenever a government routinely promises to spend more money than it has, then eventually it will be unable to fulfill those promises. Many Americans worry that we will soon be facing similar troubles at either the state (e.g., California) or national levels.

Yet some renowned economists, such as Professor James Galbraith of the University of Texas, are trying to convince us that the U.S. government should ignore our massive federal budget deficit and instead spend even more. Galbraith argues that calls for fiscal responsibility are “misguided” and that greater deficit spending will create greater prosperity.

Galbraith’s proposals are dangerous because they are based on the notion that you can get something for nothing. Unless we want to see a Greek-style collapse here in America, we must reject those ideas as economic “snake oil” and instead demand an end to our government’s fiscally irresponsible deficit spending.

James Galbraith is no street corner crank. Instead, he has a BA from Harvard and a Ph.D. from Yale, both in economics. He is a professor of economics at the University of Texas, Austin, and son of famous Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Because of his impressive academic and intellectual pedigree, many Washington politicians and pundits take his ideas seriously. Hence, so must we…

(Read the full text of “Beware Dr. Galbraith’s Snake Oil“.)

As always, please feel free to leave supportive comments, blog about it, e-mail to friends, promote via Twitter/Facebook, etc.!

Paul Hsieh LTE in NYT on Cass Sunstein

 Posted by on 28 May 2010 at 7:00 am  Activism, Government
May 282010

The New York Times has published my LTE on former University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, a leading advocate of so-called “libertarian paternalism”.

My LTE was in response to their May 16, 2010 article in the Sunday Magazine section, “Cass Sunstein Wants to Nudge Us” praising his work as President Obama’s director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to use his philosophy to push people into behaviours the government deems desirable.

The LTE will also be appearing this weekend in the May 30, 2010 print edition of the NYT in the Sunday Magazine section (as opposed to the main letters section of the newspaper). It’s the second one down:

Cass Sunstein explicitly compares Americans to Homer Simpsons requiring government guidance to live. In my view, the proper function of government is to protect individual rights and freedoms. Unless we violate others’ rights by force or fraud, the government should leave us alone to live according to our best judgment.

Of course, individuals may voluntarily “nudge” themselves to achieve long-term goals, like having your bank automatically deposit a portion of each paycheck into a child’s college fund. But each person must make these decisions for himself based on his goals and circumstances. These choices are his responsibility and his right — not the government’s.

Libertarian paternalism in essence says, “Don’t worry — we’ll do your thinking for you.” If Americans start surrendering their minds thus to the government, they will become easy prey for demagogues and dictators.

Sedalia, Colo.

Apr 302010

Objectivist blogger Gus Van Horn has an OpEd in the April 30, 2010 edition of PajamasMedia, “Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom: Welfare State Is Draw for Illegals“.

Here is the opening:

With Governor Jan Brewer’s signing of SB 1070, the battle lines were drawn. The prospect of empowering and requiring law enforcement in Arizona to enforce federal immigration law raises civil rights concerns on both sides of the debate. Many supporters seem torn between these concerns and the prospect of overwhelming schools, social services, and the police if illegal immigration is left unchecked. However, as someone who sympathizes with its proponents, I must say that SB 1070 is wrong for Arizona for reasons far beyond civil rights issues.

SB 1070 deserves only one fundamental criticism: It would fail to protect the individual rights of American citizens — even if it hermetically sealed our borders and the police never touched a single American hair in the process of enforcing it. This is because the biggest headaches attributed to illegal immigration are not caused by it at all…

(Read the full text of “Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom: Welfare State Is Draw for Illegals“.)

Gus is absolutely right. Too many conservatives want to restrict immigration while failing to place the blame where it properly belongs — on welfare state policies that encourage an entitlement mentality amongst American citizens as well as immigrants (and often more among the former than the latter.)

Too many liberals want both open immigration and a welfare state — a recipe for disaster.

The only approach that respects individual rights is a policy of open immigration (which is not the same as unrestricted immigration) — and the abolition of the welfare state. For more on this, see Craig Biddle’s article in the Spring 2008 issue of The Objective Standard, “Immigration and Individual Rights“.

Congratulations, Gus, on getting published in PajamasMedia!

(Please feel free to add your own comments to the PJM site.)

Obama’s Proposed Budget Cuts

 Posted by on 29 April 2010 at 1:00 pm  Government, Politics
Apr 292010

Here’s an amazing visual representation of Obama’s proposed budget cuts. I don’t see any way to embed it, but this video is a must-see. It’s just 1 minute 38 seconds long. (Via C Andrew.)

Update: Thanks to Kelly, here’s the embedded version:

Blackman OpEd: "Fighting Statism"

 Posted by on 27 April 2010 at 7:00 am  Activism, Government
Apr 272010

The April 25, 2010 edition of American Thinker has published the following OpEd by Justin Blackman entitled, “Fighting Statism“.

His theme is that individual rights must be the rallying point for reclaiming liberty.

Here’s the opening:

The Founders of the United States hoped to create a society of free individuals, but for at least a century, the nation has been marching ever more quickly in the direction of tyranny. The independent Tea Party movement represents a renewed desire to roll back the tide of government expansion, but this cause will fail unless its participants take an uncompromising stand in favor of individual rights. A building, no matter how rigid, cannot stand upon a weak and cracked foundation. In the same vein, errors and inconsistencies in a society’s philosophical foundation will cause its downfall — even in one as great as ours.

The Republican Party inadvertently teaches this lesson…

(Read the full text of “Fighting Statism“.)

Justin is a student a the Colorado School of Mines.

Congratulations, Justin, on getting published!

Government Propaganda Machine

 Posted by on 21 April 2010 at 7:00 am  Government
Apr 212010

Via Greg Mullen, I present you with the following news item: EPA Contest Seeks Videos Promoting Government Regulations:

President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging the public to create video advertisements that explain why federal regulations are “important to everyone.”

The contest, which ends May 17, will award $2,500 to the makers of the video that best explains why federal regulations are good and how ordinary citizens can become more involved in making regulations. The videos must be posted on YouTube and can be no more than 60-90 seconds in length. …

As explained in the EPA press release announcing the contest, the purpose of the videos will be to remind the public that federal regulation touches “almost every aspect” of their lives and to promote how important those regulations are.

“The contest will highlight the significance of federal regulations and help the public understand the rulemaking process. Federal agencies develop and issue hundreds of rules and regulations every year to implement statutes written by Congress. Almost every aspect of an individual’s life is touched by federal regulations, but many do not understand how rules are made or how they can get involved in the process.”

The videos should be designed to “capture the public imagination” and to “explain” why government regulations are “important to everyone.”

Jesus Christ in a Cracker! What the heck am I supposed to say about that? I have nothing… my brain is still busy boggling.

Oh and what I quoted is just a small dose of the insanity. Go read the whole thing for the rest. If only I had video skills, I might work on a satire video that satisfied all of their requirements to the letter.

Uncle Sam Wants Your Savings

 Posted by on 8 April 2010 at 7:00 am  Activism, Finance, Government
Apr 082010

A few weeks ago, Bob Gifford posted to OActivists about the Treasury Department’s proposal to “manage” our 401(k)s and other retirement accounts. (You know, because the government is such a fine example of fiscal responsibility.) The government is soliciting comments on this proposal. Bob suggested the following talking points:

Along with the obvious things to say about taking over our property, other things you could include are:
  • Americans are perfectly capable of managing their own money and do not need the government to do so.
  • The government has shown no ability to manage our money.
  • Annuities do not have the flexibility necessary for an investment.
  • Annuities provide fixed income and offer no protection from inflation.

Keep a close eye on this. If it is implemented, there may be some room for self-defensive actions.

Those are good suggestions. Also, as you might recall, Paul recent published an op-ed in Pajamas Media on this topic: “Government Grab of Retirement Accounts.”

If you wish to tell the federal government what you think, you can send your e-mail to [email protected] with “RIN 1210-AB33″ in the subject of the message. Here’s the comment that I submitted:

I’m completely opposed to any government takeover or management of retirement accounts like 401(k)s.

The government has shown itself wholly incapable of managing its own finances. Any government interference with 401(k)s would just be yet another way to steal the hard-earned money of responsible Americans, so that politicians could spend it it on pork and welfare. That would be morally grotesque — and grind the economy to a halt.

Respect property rights: hands off our retirement savings!

[name & address omitted]

Please do submit a comment, even if only something short and sweet! They’re due on May 3rd at the very latest.

Amit Ghate at PJM: "Czar Wars"

 Posted by on 6 April 2010 at 3:00 pm  Activism, Government
Apr 062010

Amit Ghate has another fine OpEd at PajamasMedia entitled, “Czar Wars: Can The Rebels Fight Back?

Here is the opening:

In recent years our nation has been beset by a proliferation of political “czars.” Pay czars determine compensation. Auto czars hire and fire CEOs. Last year the Van Jones fiasco captured headlines. There’s even been talk of a health insurance czar. Yet while each of the individual news items received appropriate attention from better commentators, the phenomenon as a whole has not. Looked at from a wider perspective, there’s something troubling about Americans’ new willingness to accept and submit to authority. If we’re to turn the country around, this is an issue we must understand and confront.

(Read the whole text of “Czar Wars: Can The Rebels Fight Back?“)

Proper rule of law requires a government that is limited to its proper functions, enforcing laws based on objective criteria. Amit shows how the proliferation of czars violates both principles.

Congratulations to Amit on getting another essay published!

(As usual, please feel free to blog about this, leave supportive comments, forward to friends, etc.)

Damned If You Do…

 Posted by on 29 March 2010 at 12:00 pm  Government, Health Care
Mar 292010

As a result of ObamaCare, multiple corporations have recently issued statements about the harmful effects the new law will have on their bottom lines.

According to “The ObamaCare Writedowns” in the March 27, 2010 Wall Street Journal:

Yesterday AT&T announced that it will be forced to make a $1 billion writedown due solely to the health bill, in what has become a wave of such corporate losses.

…On top of AT&T’s $1 billion, the writedown wave so far includes Deere & Co., $150 million; Caterpillar, $100 million; AK Steel, $31 million; 3M, $90 million; and Valero Energy, up to $20 million. Verizon has also warned its employees about its new higher health-care costs, and there will be many more in the coming days and weeks.

Several Washington politicians are mad, making threatening statements against these companies:

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke took to the White House blog to write that while ObamaCare is great for business, “In the last few days, though, we have seen a couple of companies imply that reform will raise costs for them.” In a Thursday interview on CNBC, Mr. Locke said “for them to come out, I think is premature and irresponsible.”

Meanwhile, Henry Waxman and House Democrats announced yesterday that they will haul these companies in for an April 21 hearing because their judgment “appears to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs.”

But as the WSJ notes, these companies are required by federal law to do exactly what they are doing — namely, to accurately report their financial situation according to their best judgment:

Black-letter financial accounting rules require that corporations immediately restate their earnings to reflect the present value of their long-term health liabilities, including a higher tax burden. Should these companies have played chicken with the Securities and Exchange Commission to avoid this politically inconvenient reality? Democrats don’t like what their bill is doing in the real world, so they now want to intimidate CEOs into keeping quiet.

(Read the full text of “The ObamaCare Writedowns“.)

Hence, the government is placing these companies in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t position.

If they truthfully report how much ObamaCare will cost them, they’re being “irresponsible” for not agreeing with the politicians’ party line about how ObamaCare will save money — and they could face Congressional hearings.

If they ignore reality and instead report falsehoods to suit the politicians’ wishful thinking, then they could face legal punishment for violating SEC rules.

I can think of no worse perversion of the rule of law than for the government to force honest men into this kind of impossible situation.

[Crossposted from the FIRM blog.]

Amit Ghate on "Force and Violence"

 Posted by on 10 March 2010 at 1:00 pm  Activism, Government
Mar 102010

PajamasMedia has just published the latest OpEd by Amit Ghate entitled, “Force and Violence: How the Left Blurs Terms“.

Here is the opening:

In a recent New York Times column, Frank Rich attacked and smeared the nascent tea party movement. While most of his diatribe received the fiskings it deserved, one significant fallacy went unchallenged. Perhaps it was overlooked because the left has committed it for so long now that it seems unquestionable. All the more reason to bring it to light.

The fallacy is the equation of violence with force. The error and its consequences are manifest in what the left condemns and condones…

(Read the full text of “Force and Violence: How the Left Blurs Terms“.)

I’m always glad to see more principled discussion of fundamental ideas as applied to the current political and cultural debates.

Please feel free to leave supportive comments, blog about it, circulate to interested friends, promote on Facebook/Twitter/etc.

Congratulations to Amit for having another fine essay published!

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