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A Moderately Merry Christmas

December 25, 2011

On a chilly but snowless Christmas Eve here in my corner of Philadelphia, you’ll find me stretched out on the living room sofa, laptop in its proper place, Christmas tree straight ahead, glimmering in the soft light and still nearly perpendicular to the floor. My seven-year-old son is nestled snug in his bed, while visions of Lego blocks dance in his head.

When I was my son’s age, Christmas Eve ranked even higher than Halloween as the most enchanted night of the year. The melding of ancient Nativity lore, European carols, pagan winter magic and that great white-bearded bringer of gifts produced a euphoric inward glow that I remember fondly to this day.

The magic has mostly faded, though I’ve had a chance to recover some of it as the upper-middle-aged father of a spirited young boy. Still, I have to wonder how long our Christmases will seem even remotely magical as we slip into an uncertain, unsettling and increasingly dark era in our history.

Granted, the news isn’t all bad. The troops are home from Iraq… 2011 has produced a rare bumper crop of dead dictators and terrorists… Arabs and even Americans have been taking to the streets to demand political, social and economic justice. We love our iPhones and iPads; we Google and Tweet and Like with merry abandon. House Speaker Boehner even broke ranks with the Tea Party to push Obama’s two-month payroll tax break through Congress.

But most of us are still bleeding money. More than a decade after the fabled dotcom crash of 2000, the Nasdaq is treading water at half its former peak. American companies aren’t hiring nearly enough Americans. When they do, they’re increasingly hiring through temp agencies and spawning a new underclass of white-collar migrant workers. Meanwhile, upstart internet behemoths continue to reduce traditional retailers to rubble. Bookstores, magazines and newspapers teeter on the brink of extinction. A few big companies own our most prominent surviving media… numerous big companies own our representatives in Congress.

The rich are getting richer at the expense of the disappearing middle class, and legions of struggling patriots touchingly defend their right to do so. Trickle-down economics has failed us, yet Obama is too timid and stymied to try a trickle-up approach: create federal jobs in the manner of FDR, put money into the pockets of cash-strapped Americans in exchange for honest work, and give them the wherewithal to become active consumers again. But of course we’re not allowed to meddle with the holy free market. That would be sacrilege.

Lest you suspect that my sympathies are drifting leftward, I should reaffirm my belief that business and government have been partners in crime. The public sector reeks with corruption and entrenched privilege every bit as much as the boardrooms of Wall Street.

Sorry if my Christmas sermon is making me look like a 24-karat cynic; I’m actually only a 14-karat cynic. I still don’t believe most Americans are corrupt or evil, even at the top (though I might make an exception for Grover Norquist). Like most living organisms, they simply want to survive, inflate their status, mate happily and create a safe environment for the propagation of their genes. But nature isn’t especially fair, and neither is our plutocracy.

At Christmas, probably more than at any other time of year, I have to wonder who’s really in charge of such an amoral universe. The natural world is neither inherently good nor inherently evil. Most of us still cling to belief in a loving God, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Why would a God who cares about us as individuals allow a single one of us to die a lingering and miserable death, let alone go prematurely bald? Why would such a God allow good people to go quietly mad while scoundrels and reality-show stars thrive?

The fundamentalists are as certain as always that a just and mighty God rules over all of creation; they base their evidence on the ancient scriptures that tell them so. Atheists, of course, are every bit as certain as the fundamentalists, and they derive just as much comfort from their certainty.

The rest of us have to make do with an increasingly shaky and battle-scarred faith. We’ve wrestled with God, with the Bible, with the purported divinity of Jesus… and after all that wrestling, we’re still not sure if the Gospels are gospel. Have we been royally hoodwinked for the past two thousand years? Have we been placing our faith in fallible narratives embellished by devoted and eternally optimistic disciples? Was that heralded baby in the manger a mere mortal — or something more mysterious and infinitely greater?

People like us will never know, but we can always hope. To all you skeptical Christians out there, I wish you a  moderately merry Christmas!

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246 Comments leave one →
  1. December 25, 2011 2:37 am

    As an atheist I would just like to wish everyone a non satirical unironic merry christmas. The myth of the “war on Christmas” is a myth, and while I got chided more than once today for seeming to enjoy a holiday that has no theological or ideological meaning to me, my response was tongue and cheek, and appropriately jolly.

    It bears pointing out that most biblical scholars believe Jesus was born in the spring, and the tradition of Christmas is very likely an appropriation of the Roman Holiday Dies Natalis Solis invicti. While that claim is contested the fact that most of our tradition are pagan in origin is not. The tree is Norse, the festivals roman, one need not believe to enjoy. Traditions and rituals can after all be enjoyable for their own sake, and any humanist should be sympathetic to the ideals people think of as symbolizing the holiday.

    That about sums up my uncharacteristically appologistic throat clearing. I found your article to be well written as always and I agree with the over all points. Even in my state of grief at the recent loss of my favorite author christopher Hitchens, I am quite pleased at how many dictators have fallen this year. I sort of which Hitch had hung on for a few more days just to see Kim jong il die, but such wishes are absurd. People die when they die, we miss the good ones and scorn the bad, its all we can do. I’d say on balance it was a good year, both for me personally and for the world at large. We have a lot of problems, but it seems more than a few people have realized it. One can only hope they do something about it, rather I should say that we all do something about it.

    • December 26, 2011 12:19 am

      Good thoughts, GIT, and I appreciate your tolerant attitude toward believers. I admired Hitchens, too. Aside from his raw intellect, he had the ability to lambaste religion without belittling the believers. I think he genuinely wanted to liberate people from mythologies that keep them obedient and subservient. I like a little mystery in life, so I won’t totally abandon my old beliefs — even though the ratio of myth to truth in them seems to be increasing steadily.

      I’m obviously pessimistic about the current state of the world (especially the economy), but there are hopeful signs, too. You might be right that a simple awareness of the problems makes for a good start toward solving them. And yes, more of us need to get active.

  2. Pat Riot permalink
    December 25, 2011 3:30 am

    And a moderately merry Christmas to you too, Rick!

    Hah! I know what you are up to–you are trying to break TNM’s record for replies by putting the existence of God out there for discussion along with a quick overview of recent political developments! Politics AND theology!

    Just kidding. I don’t suspect you of ulterior motives here. You were sharing your actual Christmas thoughts and feelings in your well-written way.

    I just saw “The Grapes of Wrath” with Henry Fonda last night and it reminded me that considerable portions of the U.S. have really sucked before. We can make things better than they are now, but will we?

    • December 26, 2011 12:43 am

      Pat: Ha, I don’t think we’ll run beyond 285 comments here — even with the double temptation of politics and religion — unless Dave and Ian get into the act.

      I’m hoping we don’t slide into another major depression, of course. But the Okies in “The Grapes of Wrath” also had to deal with the Dust Bowl. From the accounts I’ve read, it sounded like a Biblical plague: the topsoil came loose from the earth and was so thick in the air that people (and farm animals) could suffocate just by stepping outside.

      Most of us agree that we need to make some fundamental changes… the problem is that the left and right can’t agree on what those changes should be… and the moderates (most of us anyway) can’t even agree among ourselves. A little unity would definitely help.

      • December 29, 2011 3:05 pm

        It got HOT, really hot, like much hotter than right now hot. There were some other issues involving farming methods, but the big deal was that the “dust bowl” experienced severe hot dry weather for several years in a row.

  3. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 25, 2011 9:22 am

    Rick,

    You ability to generalize and judge in absoute terms is quite impressive. Broad sweeps, black and whitle conclusions, naming names, assigning blame.

    In my experience, commenting is easy, doing, not so much. I suggest you do more, write less. You may be happier this time next year but if not, you may at least have more money in the bank.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    PS-the federal debt (acknowleged by bonds) is north of 15T. The unrecorded commitments at about 47T. Where is it that Obama is getting this money to hire folks ala FDR? Print more, what the heck.

    Merry Christmas. Life and God as been good to me so far!

    Rich

    • December 26, 2011 1:15 am

      Rich: I do seem to have a knack for making generalizations, and I have to say I enjoy it, too. Seriously, for me it’s about observing a profusion of particulars and drawing conclusions from them. Professors do it all the time… why should they have all the fun?

      As for the New Deal type remedies I propose, we could probably manage them if we 1) drastically cut foreign spending, 2) raise federal taxes to about 40% maximum (less than half of where they were back in the prosperous 1950s), and 3) start cutting federal pensions to keep them more in line with private sector pensions. The main point is to boost employment immediately; we can’t wait for the private sector to start feeling generous toward American workers. Once consumers start spending as if it’s the 1990s again, companies would start hiring again (I’d hope). Then we can start phasing out the public works programs.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, too (though it’s already the day after in this time zone).

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 26, 2011 9:11 am

        Sorry, Rick but your math is way off and your “solutions” are simplistic and won’t work.Think through the next steps (when the Feds conscript even more of the GDP) and the reactions throughout the economy after that. Provide phony jobs by taking purchasing power from those how have real jobs. Take 30% for the middle man and you have, net net a loss for the econoomy.

        Seriously, that is the problem with “historians” making policy. Simple is as simple does.

      • December 26, 2011 10:30 am

        Yeah, I offer a “simple” “historian’s” perspective… but I don’t see that your supply-side geniuses have done wonders with our economy. It wasn’t historians who nearly drove the Western economy off the cliff back in 2007-08.

        Also (I’m on the level here) how do “phony” jobs take purchasing power away from anyone else? Are you assuming that full employment would lead to inflation? Even if it does, that beats having ten percent of the population sitting around idle, impoverished and demoralized. The unemployed aren’t just a statistic; you have to start thinking about the individual Joes and Janes out there who have been knocking their heads against a wall because nobody’s hiring.

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 26, 2011 10:41 am

        Gee Rick, let’s see how phony jobs take away from others. Well, you indicated we would raise taxes to pay to fund these new “jobs.” OK. So, does this act of raising taxes add or subtract from others purchasing power? So, these newly taxed folks can either save less or consume less.

        I think that is right? Now, suppose we DON’T raise taxes but simply borrow more (from someone?). What does that do? Well, it simply defers the issue and adds interest costs. Or, we can have the Fed print more money and we will all be richer, right?

        You see how this works?

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 26, 2011 10:48 am

        BTW-Why are calling me a “supply-side genius.” That is simply a label you progressives love to toss when your economic ignorance is revealed. Would you take Reagan’s recovery recored over Obama’s?

        I bet most of us would.

        As to the unemployed, I will refer you to the following line, which does a nice job of pointing out the relationship between income, employment, and education. The short answer is: stay in school. The sub-text is don’t major in liberal arts or perhaps, history.

        http://www.census.gov/prod/2002pubs/p23-210.pdf

  4. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 25, 2011 9:27 am

    “The public sector reeks with corruption and entrenched privilege every bit as much as the boardrooms of Wall Street.”

    BTW-In my career, I have sat in perhaps 150 or so board meetings, as either a CEO, board member, or both. I have never heard even a suggestion of a “corrupt” action, let alone actually observed one being approved.

    I suggest this notion that “Wall Street” or Big Business is a evil monolith is simply a comforting sterotype for lazy minds.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      December 25, 2011 12:42 pm

      That’s funny, because I’ve sat in on hundreds of meetings as an employee of corporations both large and small, and they were ALL corrupt to one degree or another. Now if the operational meetings were corrupt, what horrors were being perpetrated by those in charge?

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 25, 2011 12:51 pm

        I suspect you have a slanted view of life!

    • December 26, 2011 1:30 am

      Rich: Well, you probably never sat in on the board meetings at Enron or Goldman Sachs. One good point you make: big business isn’t a monolith and shouldn’t be treated as such. I sometimes do it for convenience and economy of expression, but I’ve always distinguished between corrupt money and straight shooters. I have nothing against moguls like Warren Buffett (even though he doesn’t actually create anything).

      By the way, you have a slanted view of life, too. So do I. So does just about anyone else who lives on this planet. Our experiences shape our ideas.

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 26, 2011 9:14 am

        No, I didn’t sit in on the Enron board. What is the point? I never said nor implied that corruption did not exist. My point is that you often point fingers without a shead of data. Exactly how many “corporate” boards are “corrupt?” The fact is that you don’t know but you write as if they all are.

        It is only when I call you on it that you fess up.

      • Ygdrasille permalink
        December 26, 2011 9:29 am

        As “#2″ of The Prisoner (TV) series said, “We want information (data)!” On this blog, I’d like to see footnotes citing your sources to prove corruption does (or not) exist. And how do I even know you were born in this country? Ha, ha! (Sorry, just cdnt help it. Competitive blog-replying is hard to take.)

      • December 26, 2011 10:40 am

        Rich: I concede a point and you reframe it as you “calling me on it” and me “fessing up”? Good grief, man… I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. How about just discussing ideas instead? Or if you really want to make a splash, why not go over to Huffington Post and stir up the lefties?

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 26, 2011 10:58 am

        I will back off a bit. That said, discussing ideas and FACTS might be a refreshing change. Using phrases like “supply-side genius” is as useless as me calling you a progressive (which you clearly are!).

  5. Rob Anderson permalink
    December 25, 2011 12:48 pm

    Good essay, Rick. Things are far worse than they seem, I’m afraid. There is a 47 trillion dollar world-wide derivatives bubble looming in the middle distance, and here at home a college loan bubble is getting progressively worse, ironically because millions of people have no way of getting a job without either getting – or furthering – their education. What they don’t know is that the ranks of recent graduates are still living at home with mom and dad, and that those fields that have heretofore offered shelter from the economic cold are beginning to buckle. Education – at which I was aiming myself – is drying up because of budget cuts made necessary by the surfeit of gainfully employed taxpayers. Medicine (I was looking into training to be a transcriptionist) that is publicly funded is likewise drying up, and private medicine is starting to strain under its own costs, with layoffs of nurses, medical techs and administrative staff, though these cuts have not been massive.

    In short, we won’t need a Mayan calendar to make 2012 a disaster.

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 25, 2011 9:08 pm

      I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and also a New Year full of miracles
      Why, who makes much of a miracle?
      As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
      Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
      Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
      Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
      Or stand under trees in the woods,
      Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
      with any one I love,
      Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
      Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
      Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
      Or animals feeding in the fields,
      Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
      Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet
      and bright,
      Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
      These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
      The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

      To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
      Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
      Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
      Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
      To me the sea is a continual miracle,
      The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the
      ships with men in them,
      What stranger miracles are there?

      – Walt Whitma!

    • December 26, 2011 1:35 am

      Rob: The scary thing about our times is that things could still get a lot worse. I suppose we should be thankful that they haven’t already.

      Rich: Yes, we could use a good miracle or two right now in our political and economic life. But I still appreciate Walt’s mundane daily miracles.

  6. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 25, 2011 12:52 pm

    Rob,

    I suggest you life is a train wreck and you are generalizing to the remainder of the US. Where is this nirvana that you seem to feel exists SOMEWHERE?

  7. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 25, 2011 12:55 pm

    Rob,

    I do note that somehow you feel that your future education should be finded by the “public.” Why do you feel this way?

  8. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 25, 2011 2:06 pm

    “The rest of us have to make do with an increasingly shaky and battle-scarred faith. We’ve wrestled with God, with the Bible, with the purported divinity of Jesus… and after all that wrestling, we’re still not sure if the Gospels are gospel.”

    Rick,

    I love how you speak and for “the rest of us. I am curious to know, where you get the supreme authority to speak in these terms. Perhaps, you should simply speak for yourself?

    • December 26, 2011 1:43 am

      Rich: There are believers, nonbelievers and people who aren’t convinced either way (since nobody can be certain about an unknowable God). I was speaking on behalf of that last group, and, since I belong to it, I think I’m entitled to speak with a little authority. Maybe I should have established a fourth category: people who don’t care one way or the other if God exists. But that’s not me.

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 26, 2011 9:16 am

        Well, I suggest that God doesn’t care if you believe or what you believe.

  9. Ygdrasille permalink
    December 26, 2011 12:05 am

    Good essay, and same to you! I won’t object to any apparent or real “left-ward” drift. I assume you’re speaking (and generalizing) for yourself . If you don’t do it, who will?

    And my belief is that we haven’t been hoodwinked.

    • December 26, 2011 1:45 am

      Thanks, Ygdrasille. I needed that. And I hope you’re right that we haven’t been hoodwinked… though I’m not sure I’d want to learn that hell is for real.

  10. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 26, 2011 9:57 am

    The takeaway mentality:

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/12/26/russian_roulette_with_americas_future__112528.html

  11. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 26, 2011 11:09 am

    “The unemployed aren’t just a statistic; you have to start thinking about the individual Joes and Janes out there who have been knocking their heads against a wall because nobody’s hiring.”

    Let’s talk about this in more rigorous terms. I would suggest we do it in small chunks, as my typing still sucks thanks to my recent tendon surgery.

    First off, let’s talk about the “minimum wage laws.” The data is clear is that these laws reduce employment. Net/net all the data on MW laws show that in the end, they penalize workers who would work for a lower wage but legally cannot do so.

    Who does this penalize the most? Clearly, the worker who has the least skills to offer and most likely very little job experience. Since they are not worth hiring at the higher, mandated MW, they can’t gain experience. Rising MW rates and teen-age UE are perfectly correlated.

    Want to reduce UE at the bottom of the income scale? Abolish MW laws and watch UE go down.

    Simple econ: when the cost of a resouce goes up, less is demanded at the margin.

    More later!

    • December 26, 2011 11:24 pm

      Ah, but who determines whether $5, $7 or $10 an hour is too much to pay an entry-level worker, and how can anyone survive on less than the current minimum wage?

      Moderation is the key here. Just as I wouldn’t advocate raising the minimum wage to $15 or $20 an hour, we shouldn’t keep it so low that people need food stamps and Medicaid to get by. Sure there are unskilled people willing to work for less than minimum wage (and plenty of them do), but ultimately they cost the system in terms of the extra entitlements they require. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      Just as important, I believe that anyone who works a full-time job should earn enough to afford basic food and shelter. If they can’t, they’re being exploited.

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 27, 2011 8:34 am

        Yes, you are wrong. First you assume entitlements as a given, fixed in time. That is a fallacy.

        More importantly, you assume that everyone who works a MW job is a sole breadwinner for the family. That is another fallacy. Some are, the majority are not. Thus, their wage supplements other wages in the family unit. For a teenager, this money is important but the family is not living (usually) on the MW. But, if the teen cannot work fore $7 because of MW, he cannot gain any money nor job experience.

        If indeed, you trying to get by on MW, you cannot, whether it is 7 or 9 bucks. In that case, you have a whole other problem on your hands.

      • December 29, 2011 5:41 pm

        A person in a given job is can be paid a significant share of the wealth created by that job. It is not possible to pay someone more than the value they create. Pretending otherwise is idiocy.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 5:58 pm

        Hey, you mean we can’t just mandate higher wages? What IS this world coming to?

  12. Ygdrasille permalink
    December 26, 2011 11:19 am

    Ah, blog harassment, the reason I usually avoid these venues, despite how worthwhile they often are.

    I “suggest” you remove the broomstick as a New Year’s Res!

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 26, 2011 11:27 am

      It is notable that asking for one to stick to the facts constitutes harassment.

      • Ygdrasille permalink
        December 26, 2011 1:24 pm

        Yeah, “notable”! I suggest & request that you put it in your notes instead of on this blog, which is clearly not your cup of tea.

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 26, 2011 1:38 pm

        Rick owns the blog and is free to banish all that disagree with him.

        I will continue, assuming he allows me to.

        Thanks for your “suggestion.”

      • December 26, 2011 11:35 pm

        I banished a couple of trolls from my old Cynic’s Message Board because their sole purpose was to cause disruption. I don’t think we’ve reached that point yet, as long as our libertarian adversaries can provide us with worthwhile arguments instead of mere snarkery. Dave (dhlii) has always been earnest and thoughtful in his voluminous criticisms, and I think even Rich is starting to make the effort here.

  13. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 26, 2011 11:25 am

    UE-post two:

    Regulation of the “professions.”

    Yes, we need to be protected from all of those nail salon operators that are threatening our public health. And,taxi driving is a special skill that needs to be licensed and of course, franchised/taxed by the town, city, county, and state. Can’t be too careful when it comes to taxis.

    Imagine, the carnage if MDs, nurses,dentists, were licensed ONCE and then allowed to practice wherever they wanted to in the US.

    You see the point here. The govt erects barriers everywhere and of all kinds when it comes to earning a living. Have a nice car and a great driving record? Well, you will go to jail if you try to charge for giving people a ride across town. That is for licensed cabs only.

    Are you an MD that lives at the border of another state? Try covering the ER in one state over without that states permission (and a fee, of course).

    The examples are endless.

    Next, we will discuss trade unions.

    • December 26, 2011 11:16 pm

      Good examples of regulation run amok. Yes, I agree that the regulatory mentality can go overboard. (I’m a moderate, after all.) I believe in maintaining a balance between too much and too little regulation… enough to ensure safety for consumers and workers, but not so much that we stifle businesses and encumber them with red tape. Fair enough?

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 27, 2011 8:28 am

        Yes.

      • December 29, 2011 5:55 pm

        These are not examples of regulation running amok. It is doing exactly what it was intended to.

        We can argue about whether there is such a thing as beneficial regulation – out of the myriads of examples of regulation you might eventually come up with something where the market would not have inevitably self regulated, where the benefits outweigh the costs, and where the unintended consequences do not dwarf the intended ones.

        Even so at the very least effective legislation is the exception rather than the norm – there are actually reasons this is so, but I will skip that for the moment as the obvious failures of most regulation are self evident.

        Regardless, lets say we agree to disagree on whether any economic regulation – beyond the governments actual responsibility to protect us from violence and fraud, has any merit. It still should be possible to agree that the vast majority of existing regulations – at the very best are fraught with unintended (actually usually intended) consequences, and we need to eliminate these.

        The current administration uses ludicrous data to economically justify regulation – and still ends up with an economic cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. More rational estimates place the cost of government regulation at at-least a trillion dollars a year – and possibly many times more.

        A fraction of that would result in jobs for every unemployed person in this country.

  14. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 26, 2011 11:42 am

    Regulations stifle job growth at all levels and inposed costs matter. Here is a look at this from the point of view of the firm:

    http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/california-332753-businesses-business.html

  15. Anonymous permalink
    December 26, 2011 1:51 pm

    I see our DBA spent his Christmas day calling a homeless guy a loser!

    He seems to have a happiness deficit in his life and is so kind as to share it with us. I don’t suppose watching some version of A Christmas Carol will straighten him out, he will miss the point of all the parts that he of all people needs to learn from!

    But happy holidays to everyone from a lurker and don’t let Grinches get you down!

    • Ygdrasille permalink
      December 26, 2011 2:05 pm

      Thanks, Anonymous lurking human! Happy N Y! … Next we will discuss pontificating blog hijackers… :-). (No, I won’t. I’ve had enough for today.)

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 26, 2011 2:13 pm

        Another country heard from. You “moderates” are a sensative bunch!

    • December 26, 2011 11:30 pm

      I think some libertarians enjoy playing Scrooge (or Mr. Potter) to spite the sensitive bleeding hearts among us. They’re probably not as mean as they’d like us to believe.

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 27, 2011 8:35 am

        I don’t think I am mean. I also don’t like sloppy thinking.

  16. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 26, 2011 2:14 pm

    BTW- I am very happy, give to charity, and don’t kick dogs. Even my cat loves me. Most progressives and statists, however, are not that fond of me.

  17. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 26, 2011 2:21 pm

    Sincre you guys are feeling so generous, get out your checkbooks:

    http://www.thepetprojectmidwest.org/christmas2011.php

    Thanking you in advance for your donations.

  18. Priscilla permalink
    December 27, 2011 12:17 am

    Ok, Rick, so I understand that you want the government to create jobs in the style of FDR. What I’m not understanding is exactly what you mean by that, or how exactly that will help the middle class.

    FDR’s work programs were implemented in a time when unions were relatively weak, there was no minimum wage; the programs were primarily focused on public works projects…or what we would now call infrastructure jobs….farm subsidies and various relief programs. The unemployment rate remained extremely high until WWII broke out.

    So, I guess my first question is: what do you envision that a 21st century New Deal would look like, and how would any admnistration implement it in the face of 21st century wage and hours laws, present day unions, civil service, EEO, EPA regulations, etc? I’m not trying to be contrary here, I’m honestly asking how anything remotely like the New Deal could realistically be implemented today?

    Secondly, how would any of this, presuming that it could happen at all, make the slightest difference in income inequality or opportunity for the middle class? I can see where low-income work repairing bridges and building railroads might be a substitute for unemployment insurance, but is that going to help you, for example? Or me? Or a recent college grad with a teaching degree? Or a small businessman whose company is bankrupt?

    Wouldn’t approving projects like the Keystone pipeline be a better way to generate those types of jobs anyway, and get people off of the government’s dole or payroll entirely (not to mention creating new taxpayers)? I don’t necessarily want to start a whole discussion of the Keystone project, btw, but I am sincerely befuddled at liberals and moderates who advocate government spending, as opposed to prioritizing the government identify ways to encourage private sector growth and deriding that as “supply-side, trickle-down economics.”

    What am I missing here?

    • December 27, 2011 1:05 am

      Welcome back to the gladiators’ arena, Priscilla! I keep bringing up the New Deal job projects because they not only provided instant employment but also created work of lasting value (including some magnificent public buildings). And they weren’t exclusively laboring jobs, either (though there were plenty of those). Remember hearing about the Federal Writers’ Project? (We could use that one again to combat today’s exploitative “content farms” with their ridiculous coolie wages.)

      Granted, we’d have a harder time launching similar programs today because of the roadblocks you mentioned. But the main idea is to put Americans back to work immediately — instead of waiting for the private sector to benevolently create jobs for American (as opposed to Asian) workers.

      I see most of the newly created federal jobs as non-competing with private-sector jobs… working on infrastructure that cities and states can’t afford, but also creating work for middle-class recession victims. (How about teaching/training centers that would equip American workers for high-tech jobs? Or hiring unemployed architects and engineers? Or creating federally-funded programs for artists, musicians and actors?)

      Of course these programs would cost real money, but they’d keep millions of out-of-work Americans from becoming wards of the state (and thus reduce federal outlays for welfare and related services) Once we move closer to full employment, we’d be spending more as consumers and helping American companies feel confident enough to start hiring again. Eventually we’d phase out the federal programs as we transition back to private-sector hiring.

      Rich thought this plan was naive. I’m not an economist, of course, but I don’t know if our economists realize the depth of the employment crisis in this country. The wealth hasn’t been trickling down lately.

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 27, 2011 8:41 am

        Rick, that is a fable and I think you know it. Again, I will simply repeat the facts. $15T in debt and 47T in unfunded liabilities.Current deficits expected to persist over the next decade.

        You are simply advocating printing money as a “solution.” None of the events you assume will happen will actually happen. Essentially, you are telling a family that is bankrupt to go on a spending binge and their kids will (or the creditors) foot the bill.

        I know in know this, somewhere down deep.

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 27, 2011 8:57 am

        http://mises.org/daily/5822/Direct-Government-Interference-with-Consumption

        Actually, this article is very old but timely. When and where does our dependence on Wash DC end?

        Rick, if you have your way, it will only deepen.

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 27, 2011 8:36 am

      You are not missing anything.

  19. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 27, 2011 9:22 am

    Great quote from Tom Sowell:

    “What do you call it when someone steals someone else’s money secretly? Theft. What do you call it when someone takes someone else’s money openly by force? Robbery. What do you call it when a politician takes someone else’s money in taxes and gives it to someone who is more likely to vote for him? Social Justice.”

  20. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 27, 2011 9:28 am

    Rick,

    It looks like the Feds are already acting on your plan:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2011-12-26/federal-starting-salaries/52236360/1

  21. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 27, 2011 9:53 am

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/03/us_companies_pay_the_highest_t.html

    Back to unemployment. Above is a link to data on corporate taxeburden with international comparative data provided. I think of taxes on corporations in the context of how it changes behaviour. For investors, it lowers their after tax returns. All things being equal, this reduces the willingness to invest in US companies, which impacts jobs being created HERE.

    Since, US shareholders are taxed TWICE on their investments here (also paying dividends/cap gain) the negative aspect of this policy is accentuated. Less capital flow, etc etc.

    Corp managers are also incented to move their corporate operations to where rates are lower, again, not a good thing for job creation here.

    So, one can imagine what the impact on employment might be by addressing this aspect of tax policy. However, this would require Congress and the POTUS to figure out how to get their own house in order and live on less tax income.

    That will likely never happen. Why give up power to tax and control?

  22. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 27, 2011 12:53 pm

    And so it continues, on and on, without end:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/27/us-usa-treasury-debt-idUSTRE7BQ0KU20111227

  23. Priscilla permalink
    December 27, 2011 7:56 pm

    Rick, we agree that American employers are not going to “benevolently” create jobs for Americans….but, then again, I don’t think it would be benevolence that would be the motivation for the government creating jobs either.

    In a true free market, businesses hire when they think that an employee will make more money for the company that s/he will cost it. That’s the reason that it is so crazy, unbusinesslike, and just plain wrong for bailed out corporations and banks to hire and then pay huge bonuses to executives and employees who are responsible for losing money and profits – it’s basically rewarding failure. On the other hand, that is exactly what happened, for example, when the government spent billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out AIG, and we subsequently found out that millions of those dollars were used to pay huge bonuses to the very folks responsible for the credit default swaps that led to the economic meltdown.

    The government basically owned AIG when those bonuses were paid, proving that politicians are not the people you want in charge of who should get jobs and how much those people get paid. Because, for one thing, they are not going to decide on the basis of sound business practices and principles of production and profit.

    But, even more importantly, and because I know that you are a benevolent and good hearted person who wants to see Americans go back to work, the government is not going to hire people for the reasons that you would hire them – because they deserve to be hired, or because they will produce things of value, or because they have hungry mouths to feed or underwater mortgages to pay. It is going to provide work to people so that those people will vote for the party in power…and at the expense of the people who are opposed to the party in power.

    I read somewhere recently that “if you are not a favored guest at the table where the decisions are made about who will get what at whose expense, then you are on the menu…”

    I guess, when it comes right down to it, I’d rather take my chances with the guys pursuing profit than with the guys pursuing power. Presuming that they are not the same guys….

    • December 30, 2011 11:52 am

      Priscilla: We agree that the current alliance between government and big money is unacceptable (and even detestable). But isn’t it a little too cynical to assume that the only motivation for a politician to perform good works is re-election? (I know, I wrote the book on cynicism… but I’m basically a cynical idealist.) Some politicians do their best work as lame ducks — when they don’t have to think about which buttons they need to push to get re-elected. In other words, they can simply do what they believe is right.

      I really don’t trust politicians OR corporate honchos these days, but I’d probably still prefer a decent, disinterested politician to someone who’s simply out to make a profit. Either way, we shouldn’t be rewarding colossal failures (which corporations do, even without government intervention, when they jettison a CEO with a $50 million golden parachute as a parting gift).

      Obama is a strange bird — a progressive corporatist. I can understand why he poured all that money into his Wall Street rescue efforts, though. It was the spectre of an even more catastrophic crash — a worldwide toppling of dominoes — if some of those “big boys” were allowed to fail. It’s likely that such a deafening crash would have cost us more of our money than the bailouts did.

  24. Rob Anderson permalink
    December 27, 2011 10:06 pm

    Ok godammit, ENOUGH.

    I’m addressing this to all of the reactionary “moderates” on this site. All of you are saying, on the one hand, that government can and should do nothing to alleviate the situation. And on the other hand, you claim that there is no valid reason for businesses large, medium or small to start hiring without some kind of incentive. For the sake of argument I’ll concede both points but ask this question:

    Just what in the HELL do you propose about the mess our country is in? And “nothing” is NOT an answer, unless you are the sort of libertarian fool who believes that fires put themselves out.

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 27, 2011 10:23 pm

      A libertarian fool up to the task. Given that that “government” has been doing more and more over the past 100 years (see Fed spending as a % of GDP) what makes you assume that government intervention and meddling in our lives is NOT causative vs curative?

      Let’s get real. The purpose of business is NOT to employ anyone. Employment is a means to an end. The purpose of a business is tied to who you ask. If I am a consumer, the purpose is to provide me with a good or service. If I an investor, it is to provide a return on my investment. If I am an employee, it is to pay me for my work.

      In no case, is the outcome certain for anyone. I may not like the product once purchased. I may not get my return, once I invest. I may not keep my job. I don’t see ANY system that can escape this dynamic in any way.

      This is pretty basic. I would suggest the “mess” is caused by folks who assume the government can remove the risk from the system. It cannot, and no one can. Life IS risky and then you die. I wish it weren’t so. Winners, losers, we all end up in the same place.

      These things adapt over time if allowed to. Most of us HAVE to react to circumstances. It is tempting to think Uncle Sam has the answers. I think reliance on Uncle IS the problem.

    • Priscilla permalink
      December 27, 2011 10:58 pm

      Rob, give me a break. I have never said the government shouldn’t help. Of course the government should help, and it does. It also makes things worse, a fact that you refuse to acknowledge. What I – and a lot of others- have said is that the government shouldn’t interfere in private enterprise. If people want to make money and they do it legally and ethically and get rich and pay their taxes, then leave them the hell alone. If they are greedy rat-bastards….well, that stinks, but if they are not breaking the law, or hurting anyone else, then the government has no right to try to turn them into bleeding hearts, alright?

      I admire your straightforwardness and your proud lack of “moderateness,” but don’t pull this “If the government doesn’t help, who will?” crap. If our president would give the go ahead for the Keystone pipeline, bringing in much needed oil from our closest ally, it is estimated that that project would create 18-20,000 jobs, and thousands of “spin-off” jobs (I have heard numbers up to 250,000, although I am am sure that is probably on the high end). And,oh yeah, if the government would let Boeing build plants in right-to-work states like SC, there could be plenty of new jobs there.

      That kind of government help would be appreciated.

  25. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 27, 2011 10:49 pm

    http://mises.org/daily/5847/No-Melissa-There-Isnt-a-Santa-Claus

    Or, another way of saying it is:

  26. Priscilla permalink
    December 27, 2011 11:45 pm

    Oh,Rick, I meant to address this part of your last comment :”How about teaching/training centers that would equip American workers for high-tech jobs? Or hiring unemployed architects and engineers? Or creating federally-funded programs for artists, musicians and actors?”

    Yes, that would be great! But I would prefer to see the government provide startup funding in the form of grants or low-interest loans to private corporations who could do then do these things better than the government is doing them now. Set up some standards for private schools and theaters and encourage them to compete for government dollars. Part of our problem is that our education system is woefully inadequate to the task of producing the kinds of workers that we need. But we already have way too many dead wood programs that suck billions of dollars out of the budget and accomplish nothing. The Job Corps was started in the sixties, costs almost $2B a year and has been pretty much of a failure all of that time. Maybe we could try a different way…..

  27. Rob Anderson permalink
    December 27, 2011 11:52 pm

    By the way, Rich, regarding your vaunted rationality, markets don’t act that way, EVER. They are as irrational as the human beings who populate them, and have been since the first Phoenician gave out the first loan on the streets of Ur. But sometimes we humans get things right. For example, if bank employee Tom embezzles money while bank owner Dick does the same, and both are caught red-handed, they will both be prosecuted, imprisoned, and forced to pay the money back.

    And yet, somehow, in our current mess that isn’t happening. In fact, quite the contrary, because a whole army of Dicks and Bobs are guilty of what amounts to bank fraud and embezzlement, and not only are they not being prosecuted, they pulled down fat bonuses off of the money needed to bailout their bank, which was insolvement precisely because of their criminal behavior. The funny thing is, that’s not actually irrational. It’s EXACTLY how one would expect an unregulated marketplace to behave in an environment of “greed is good” cultural signifiers (you can look that word up if it confuses you). Moreover, it is not irrational that our government is doing nothing concrete to punish the malfeasants in question and get back the people’s money. That’s because in a nation as money-sotten as our’s, corruption is inevitable, and high, deep corruption only more so. So of course nobody is doing anything. Why would they.

    Now, at long last, here is the part that is irrational: that we the people, or at least those of us who know what’s up, are not engaging in a forceful and complete housecleaning. We are standing around like cattle, mooing that everything will be ok, or should be ok, or could be ok if, for heavens sake, someone would just DO something.

    And Priscilla, the degree to which your last reply proved my point is only as astonishing as your complete cluelessness about your own assumptions. Pleas do yourself a favor and grab hold in earnest to a flying fucking clue.

    • Priscilla permalink
      December 28, 2011 1:08 am

      Rob, you are charming :)

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 28, 2011 7:37 am

      Sorry to upset you with facts Rob. There are plenty of “bankers’ who broke the law and are now either in jail or on their way there. Moreover, there are many thousands of bank employees who are now out of a job, so the sector has paid a heavy price. Bank shareholders have lost untold billions in equity value ( I am one of them).

      Many of those who are out of jobs are former execs and many of them will never work in banking again. So, your statements are factually incorrect. Now, this may not be enough to satisfy your anger, but we don’t run our lives based on your anger. Should we go out and hang a few bankers to make you feel better? Why stop there, let’s eat some of the rich while we are at it?

      Moreover, no one ever said that markets were “perfect” (whatever that means) nor “ratoinal” (is communism “rational”?). What we say is that markets are much more efficient in allocating scarce resources among alternative uses.

      To my knowledge, the government can claim no such capability.

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 28, 2011 7:55 am

      “Now, at long last, here is the part that is irrational: that we the people, or at least those of us who know what’s up, are not engaging in a forceful and complete housecleaning. We are standing around like cattle, mooing that everything will be ok, or should be ok, or could be ok if, for heavens sake, someone would just DO something.”

      I love this part the most. You claim that you “know what’s up.” To be fair, all I have observed from your comments here is that you are very angry and very vulgar. I get it. You are having a rough time and you want someone to make it better or at least want someone punished for your upset.

      I suppose that is “rational” in your book but it doesn’t make you right, nor does it make you credible. It certainly is not a basis upone which to make public policy.

      Your last comment to Priscilla is telling. Next, I assume you will threaten to find her, or me, and beat us up.

      That is the way it normally goes with angry zealots.

      • December 29, 2011 8:19 pm

        I beleive Priscilla was being sarcastic.

    • December 29, 2011 8:18 pm

      Markets are neither rational, nor perfect, and any who claims they are is deluded.

      As you noted they are a manifestation of the wants and needs of human beings. They are an evolved and evolving bottom up self regulating means of allowing each of us to transform what we can produce into what we want and need. They do not do this with perfect efficiency – but they do so far better than anything else man has come up with in 150,000 years of existence. In little more than three centuries They have out performed by several orders of magnitude any other system we have have devised by several orders of magnitude.

      Many here rant about one perceived flaw or another. Yet not one of us can take any product Walmart sells – not even the least of them, and make it entirely ourselves from scratch – without other tools provided by the market in equal quality in our entire lifetime at any cost.

      The simplest product in the market is more complex than any human can comprehend – and still the market provides it and millions of others of far greater complexity, yet you are certain that government has the knowledge to fix whatever you perceive as its flaws.

      The market is a living organism – it is us, all of us. Poke it and prod it and it responds – the effects of anything you do to it ripple through out its entirety. Yet you are sure government will know just were to prod and poke.

      The most important contribution and the most important really sole role of government – the Law evolved slowly through the entirety of human existence – is an incomprehensible mess. And you want us to trust government to manage the market ?

  28. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 28, 2011 7:59 am

    “And Priscilla, the degree to which your last reply proved my point is only as astonishing as your complete cluelessness about your own assumptions. Pleas do yourself a favor and grab hold in earnest to a flying fucking clue.”

    And they call me a troll?

    Duh.

  29. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 28, 2011 8:02 am

    For those who complain the “government should do something” believe me, they are. See the excerpt below:

    “A significantly more expensive federal government is just the beginning. During a period when the private sector was shedding jobs, the federal payroll (exclusive of the military) has increased to 2.84 million in 2010 from 2.70 million in 2007. Federal spending has grown to 24% of GDP from 21% in 2008, adding $4 trillion to our national debt in just three years.

    Even in the middle of economic weakness, the President and his Democratic Senate majority pushed to raise taxes on individuals, families, businesses, and investors. According to James Gattuso and Diane Katz of the Heritage Foundation, major regulations issued in just the first 26 months of the Obama administration will saddle our economy with almost $40 billion per year in new costs.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203479104577125083165777436.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_BelowLEFTSecond

  30. Priscilla permalink
    December 28, 2011 9:36 am

    Here’s the thing- I don’t really have a problem with Rob telling me to “grab hold of a flying fucking clue.” It’s not very polite, but, then again, I don’t think that Rob is much concerned with the social graces, and, after all this is the internet, where social graces don’t really mean much anyway.

    And he makes his point, which he has made before….which is that anyone who believes in the pursuit of profit for the purposes of becoming rich and acquiring material wealth is an evil pig, and should be punished for his/her avarice. Moreover, it doesn’t matter whether that person becomes rich from trading stocks, building a business, starring in a reality show, writing a book, etc., I suppose…..being rich, in and of itself, is essentially a crime and the punishment should be the confiscation and redistribution of wealth “fairly” to everyone else).

    My question to Rob: how “rich” does one have to be, before you consider him/her to be “too rich”?

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 28, 2011 11:26 am

      It is useful to note that the Nazi’s and the Russian communists felt the same way about capitalism and all of its associated evils.

      How did that all turn out again?

  31. Ian CSE permalink
    December 28, 2011 10:17 am

    The attempt here is to have a moderate blog. The reality is the same old right-left yelling match albeit the posts are often (not always!) more intelligent, longer and less abusive than much of what you find in political discussions online. Still, TNM seems to prove that there is some kind of law that the vast majority of moderates will not dirty themselves discussing politics. Oh, don’t worry we exist and will be heard from on election day and we will decide the outcome of the election.

    Meanwhile we are all free to work ourselves into a white hot lather discussing the role of government, but changes in the direction of disassembling it in the near or medium future are quite unlikely. It will lumber forward, clumsy, imperfect, but mostly necessary and mostly wanted by a confused and ambivalent electorate who say contradictory things to pollsters.

    As to this cycle’s modest surge in interest in Libertarian philosophy of government and economics, from my perspective its likely to be a negative on the chances of the GOP in 2012, which seems to me today to be headed for defeat in 2012, or at least certainly not a knockout victory against a very weak opponent. Any rational changes in the role in government would most likely come about if the two parties somehow by some miracle produce statesman, as Priscilla often says, more thoughtful, reasonable voices than are found in political leadership at present.

    As to Rich’s Libertarian perspective on Obama and regulation, here is an only slightly partisan take on the matter from David Brooks column of Dec 5.

    “Republicans have many strong arguments to make against the Obama administration, but one major criticism doesn’t square with the evidence. This is the charge that President Obama is running a virulently antibusiness administration that spews out a steady flow of job- and economy-crushing regulations.

    In the first place, President Obama has certainly not shut corporate-types out of the regulatory process. According to data collected by the Center for Progressive Reforms, 62 percent of the people who met with the White House office in charge of reviewing regulations were representatives of industry, while only 16 percent represented activist groups. At these meetings, business representatives outnumbered activists by more than 4 to 1.
    Nor is it true that the administration is blindly doing the bidding of the liberal activist groups. On the contrary, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and its administrator, Cass Sunstein, have been the subject of withering attacks from the left. The organization Think Progress says the office is “appalling.” Mother Jones magazine is on the warpath. The Huffington Post published a long article studded with negative comments from unions and environmental activists.
    If you step back and try to get some nonhysterical perspective, you come to the following conclusion: This is a Democratic administration. Many of the major agency jobs are held by people who come out of the activist community who are not sensitive to the costs they are imposing on the economy. President Obama has a political and philosophical incentive to restrain their enthusiasm. He has, therefore, supported a strong review agency in the White House that does rigorous cost-benefit analyses to review proposed regulations and minimize their economic harm.

    This office, under Sunstein, is incredibly wonky. It is composed of career number-crunchers of no known ideological bent who try to measure the trade-offs inherent in regulatory action. Deciding among these trade-offs involves relying on both values and data. This office has tried to elevate the role of data so that every close call is not just a matter of pleasing the right ideological army.

    Over all, the Obama administration has significantly increased the regulatory costs imposed on the economy. But this is a difference of degree, not of kind.

    During the final year of their administrations, presidents generally issue tons of new rules. Nineteen-eighty-eight, under Ronald Reagan, 1992, under George H.W. Bush and 2008, under George W. Bush, were monster years for new regulations. In his first years, Obama has not increased regulatory costs more than Reagan and the Bushes did in their final years.
    Data collected by Bloomberg News suggest that the Obama White House has actually reviewed 5 percent fewer rules than George W. Bush’s did at a similar point in his presidency. What has increased is the cost of those rules.

    George W. Bush issued regulations over eight years that cost about $60 billion. During its first two years, the Obama regulations cost between $8 billion and $16.5 billion, according to estimates by the administration itself, and $40 billion, according to data collected, more broadly, by the Heritage Foundation.

    That’s a significant step up, as you’d expect when comparing Republican to Democratic administrations, but it is not a socialist onslaught.
    Nor is it clear that these additional regulations have had a huge effect on the economy. Over the past 40 years, small business leaders have eloquently complained about the regulatory burden. And they are right to. But it’s not clear that regulations are a major contributor to the current period of slow growth.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics asks companies why they have laid off workers. Only 13 percent said regulations were a major factor. That number has not increased in the past few years. According to the bureau, roughly 0.18 percent of the mass layoffs in the first half of 2011 were attributable to regulations.

    Some of the industries that are the subject of the new rules, like energy and health care, have actually been doing the most hiring. If new regulations were eating into business, we’d see a slip in corporate profits. We are not.

    There are two large lessons here. First, Republican candidates can say they will deregulate and, in some areas, that would be a good thing. But it will not produce a short-term economic rebound because regulations are not a big factor in our short-term problems.

    Second, it is easy to be cynical about politics and to say that Washington is a polarized cesspool. And it’s true that the interest groups and the fund-raisers make every disagreement seem like a life-or-death struggle. But, in reality, most people in government are trying to find a balance between difficult trade-offs. Whether it’s antiterrorism policy or regulatory policy, most substantive disagreements are within the 40 yard lines.

    Obama’s regulations may be more intrusive than some of us would like. They are not tanking the economy.”

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 28, 2011 11:31 am

      Ian,

      Seriously, moderates don’t discuss politics? David Brooks is now an economist?

      Question for you: Do you think adding regulations is HELPING someone like Rob find a job?

    • December 29, 2011 9:22 pm

      Why does demanding that political policy make economic sense equate to a takeover by the political right ? or degeneration into the same old left right disputes.

      I would be extremely happy to see Rick develop a moderate ideology divorced from that of conservatives or progressives. Is it wrong to expect that ideology to work economically ?

      I will agree with Brooks that Obama and Bush are indistinguishable in myriads of ways – including regulation. As I am not here to defend Bush or the GOP – except in those instances where I actually beleive they are right or atleast less wrong, this seems to prove rather than refute my point.

      Separately anyone who believes that the negative effects of government regulation are no more than a mere $40Billion – just slightly less than the entire cost of World War II for Britain, needs to quit smoking whacky weed.

      Again were are playing stupid games with statistics.
      A BLS question about why businesses laid people off, is essentially a poll. It attempts to measure motives and intentions – and while these are important, they are not the same as facts. One of the principles of market self regulation is that it is bottom up not top down. Business does not need to know or plan or decide to respond to market conditions, The actual cause and proximate cause of an action may and likely will be significantly divorced from each other.

      As an example we have repeatedly seen substantial increases in unemployment among minorities and teens corresponding directly with increases in minimum wages – yet I doubt many businesses would attribute downsizing to the minimum wage increase.

      Yes the Obama Whitehouse – like all whitehouses for atleast 50 years, as well as most members of the house and senate are incredibly open to business – particularly business contributions in order to secure corporate welfare. Both Rick and I are irate that our government is for sale. We part company only on how to solve that problem.
      Regardless, you and Brooks are only making my own argument for me.

      Having an open door to business, giving corporations what they want is NOT the same as giving them what they need.

      Being Pro-Business means NOT giving business what it asks for. It means leaving it alone, it means allowing free competition in a free market and allowing failure as well as success.
      This is NOT what either the whitehouse, or congress want. Nor is it really what either party wants. It is most definitely not what any business large enough to be able to afford to lobby a politician wants.

      I argue repeatedly against government power BECAUSE business will find a way to corrupt it – no matter what blind trust or other scheme you try to put into place. They only way to limit the corrupt relationship between business and government is to limit the power of government. It should be self-evident that the problem is government tower not business power – who is trying to buy what from who ? We have little to fear from business in a free market because absent the ability to leaverage the power of government, even the most powerful corporation is answerable to the market – to us.

      I have little interest in whether this election cycle serves the GOP or Democrats. I am very interested in the effects of the Tea Party on the GOP, because whatever their faults – and their are many, the Tea Party still represents a Civil War within the GOP and a significant step towards common ground with Libertarians. The Tea Party is most significant because it is unwilling to sacrifice its principles in order to elect any republican. It is willing to cost the GOP elections rather than get more right wing fiscal idiots. This is an incredibly big deal. Clinton briefly represented a more bloodless version of the same thing from the left, but absent the willingness to cost the democrats elections it had no staying power.

      I suspect it is entirely possible that 2012 will not be a repeat of 2010 – though I think numerous factors make it likely that the best outcome for democrats is to hold what they have – but beyond the fact that I see the current political gridlock as far better than the congress of 2008-2010 – generally I favor gridlock, beyond that I am more interested in seeing the influence of libertarians – and the Tea Party increase in the GOP. I would like to see the same within the democratic party – but I am not seeing any shift to sanity within the democratic party.

      I would love to see Ron Paul get crushed by Obama, or either he or Gary Johnson cost the GOP the presidential election, as a first step towards a more libertarian GOP.
      Ronald Reagan was Born from Barry Goldwater’s defeat by Johnson.

      I fully expect the economy to have recovered enough by Nov. 2012 for the president to be re-elected. Our politicians and government are not powerful enough to break the motor of the world – Atlas will shrug on in chains but unbroken.

      “The American Republic will endure, until politicians realise they can bribe the people with their own money.” we either correct that or fail.

  32. valdobiade permalink
    December 28, 2011 5:23 pm

    As usual, my opinion is written simplistic, poor, slant, etc… but I’ve never participated in a board of directors, be it corrupted or not… I did not stay in school… :(

    I get from our DBA interpretation that Rick solution for our economic crisis is to print more money. Shame on you Rick! The government should not print more money than the corporations can control. Otherwise there will be inflation and everybody knows that inflation renders rich poor. The corporations already established the value of everything, unlike a government that wants to give free money to Americans. Why even increase the minimum wage? Every cent that is printed without corporation’s approval is a kick in the corporate balls.

    The corporations know when to hire and when to fire so they can establish the value of money. If a government wants to stay alive, it should listen to corporations and quit spreading atheism. That’s why there are corporations, because they are successful and believe in God.
    The only free money that should be given is to starving Africans or other undeveloped countries, to show how a powerful Christian nation is helping poor countries. This free money won’t endanger the US corporation structure; it actually finds a cheaper oversea labor.

    Historically, when a nation was powerful outside of its borders, it would bring prosperity to its citizens. But times are a changing… now when a nation is powerful outside its borders, the prosperity stays with the powerful of the country… and the powerful better not be the government…

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 28, 2011 6:09 pm

      This post is too stupid to justify a response. Corporations establish value? Tell Sears, Circuit City, and the host of failing and failed companies that. Apparently, they missed that lesson in school.

      When you understand something about money and value, come on back and try again.

      • valdobiade permalink
        December 28, 2011 6:40 pm

        Stupid? Are you serious?
        Who establishes the price of gasoline? The government?
        I expected more from you DBA

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 28, 2011 7:21 pm

        Supply and Demand. Think about it. In my area, gas is down about a dollar from 6 months ago. If Exxon “controlled the price” do you think they would drop it 25%.

        Ah, no.

      • December 29, 2011 9:29 pm

        If the price of government was dictated by corporations it would increase inexorably forever. Even under near monopoly conditions oil companies can not charge whatever they please – or we will consume less, and they will make less.

        The entire concept that anyone – corporation or government can dictate any price for long is idiocy. Every instance in which it has been attempted it has failed.

        Even the greatest “monopoly” this nation has ever seen standard oil, inexhorably drove prices down across decades, at the peak of its monopoly power prices were the lowest by far they had ever been. Standard Oils crime was neither being a monopoly nor setting prices too high. It was figuring out how to deliver a high quality product far more cheaply than anyone else and still be very profitable.

  33. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 28, 2011 6:23 pm

    As long as we are going to eat the rich, how about we start with these two:

    http://nakeddc.com/2011/12/27/noted-economist-michelle-obama-has-a-better-vacation-wardobe-than-you-do/

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 28, 2011 7:33 pm

      Typical answer of the rich Republicans about Democrats.
      In their Dumb Beyond Appearance views, any Democrat President should be poor because only Democrats are bragging that they are siding with the poor.
      Republicans are sincere: “f**k the poor, they are losers and atheists, no merry f***ing christmas for them”

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 28, 2011 7:36 pm

        I am not a GOP’r. Still it is hard to argue against the fact that the Obama’s are having a blast on our dime while claiming to “fight for the poor!

        Still, you will try it, I am sure.

  34. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 28, 2011 7:22 pm

    I do love the way my DBA pisses off you “moderates.” Imagine, an anti-education bias here on the moderate site?

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 28, 2011 7:34 pm

      Sorry, I was thinking that DBA stands for Dumb Beyond Appearances…

      • valdobiade permalink
        December 28, 2011 7:35 pm

        or Driven By Arrogance

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 28, 2011 7:37 pm

        I would suggest you have yet to demonstrate any “thinking.” You high school grads disappoint.

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 28, 2011 7:49 pm

      “You high school grads disappoint”?

      it is “Yours” as in “Up Yours”… you skipped that class… and many more. You’re stuck with your prejudices.

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 28, 2011 7:52 pm

        Perhaps I shot too high? You may not even have the vaunted GED. Well, I always was a kind fellow to the addled.

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 28, 2011 8:21 pm

      What kind of education do you have when you don’t know that even lowering the prices, it is still called price control?

  35. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 28, 2011 7:25 pm

    If corporations “controlled the price” of say TVs, do you think they would engage in price wars and destroy their margins.

    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-12-27/sony-sells-lcd-venture-stake-to-samsung-after-losses.html

    Better tell Sony they control prices!

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 28, 2011 7:43 pm

      DBA,

      Duh! The market is driven by the Invisible Finger Up Yours

      • valdobiade permalink
        December 28, 2011 7:45 pm

        BTW, without DBA as suffix, don’t you feel insecure?

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 28, 2011 7:48 pm

        Once again, this site disappoints, You moderates cannot seem deal with any fact that gets in the way of your faulty premises. Once, frustrated, you act like an 11 yr old ( OK maybe 12!)

        You say that corporations control prices and the fact is that they do not.

        They can ASK any price they want. They get what they get. Kind of like your GED from HS. You must have paid someone off.

      • Anonymous permalink
        December 29, 2011 12:35 am

        Bad case of pot-stirring and baiting going on here.

  36. valdobiade permalink
    December 28, 2011 7:57 pm

    Belloff holds the DBA Degree from International School of Management in Paris and was a Graduate Fellow at the Wharton School of Business.

    BUAhahahahahhah… Those who don’t know… teach

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 28, 2011 10:08 pm

      You can do better than that, right?

      • valdobiade permalink
        December 29, 2011 1:05 pm

        Better than attaching some letters to the end of my name?
        Nope, you’re the master.

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 29, 2011 3:34 pm

        Well, when you earn some, feel free to use them.

    • December 29, 2011 9:36 pm

      I do not place much faith is titles and degrees having seen idiocy come from well the well credentialed graduates of myriads of prestigious institutions.

      But are you seriously looking to piss all over Wharton ?

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:23 pm

        Wharton is a fine institution that needs no defending. Thanks anyway.

  37. valdobiade permalink
    December 28, 2011 8:10 pm

    DBA wrote: Perhaps I shot too high? You may not even have the vaunted GED. Well, I always was a kind fellow to the addled.
    ===========

    “I always was a..”
    it is “I always were a…”
    - Sorry, man! I am an immigrant, my English is ESL but I still can find out who are nonintellectuals on The New Moderate blog.

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 28, 2011 10:07 pm

      You are an immigrant? Wow.

      • Anonymous permalink
        December 29, 2011 1:02 pm

        Yes, and I know that both “I was” and “I were” are correct. According to traditional thought, statements about the conditional future such as “If I were a carpenter . . .” require the subjunctive “were,” but “was” is certainly much more common. Still, if you want to impress those in the know with your usage, use “were” when writing of something hypothetical, unlikely, or contrary to fact.

        It seems that “natives” like you wouldn’t know that.
        So, are you a native? WOW! You’re some kind of savage people, man!

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 29, 2011 3:34 pm

        Wow

  38. Priscilla permalink
    December 28, 2011 11:01 pm

    To a large extent, Ian, I agree with you that, overheated rhetoric and arguing aside, we will end up with an administration not unlike the one we have under Obama…

    On the other hand, although Obama may not be anti-business in a strict sense, he is undeniably a big Big Government guy, and his default position is to impose restrictions, taxes, fees, and regulations on business It’s what Democrats do. The regulatory burden imposed by Obamacare, if it is not repealed, will be enormous, and the NLRB and the EPA have been far more active under this administration than under Bush’s – who was a pretty big government guy himself.

    And you are right that deregulation will not produce short term recovery. Nor will tax cuts or spending cuts, or entitlement reform. Short term recovery at this point is pretty much off the table, I’m afraid, if, by short term, you mean a booming economy in the next 4 years. In that sense, I think it might be better for the Dems if Obama lost in 2012….let a GOP prez take the hit for failing to revive the economy, and then win back the White House in 2016, when things are actually starting to turn around.

    I’d like to see the pendulum swing back to the GOP default for a while…..I don’t think we can afford not to. And I’d like to see some basic competence and leadership in the White House.

    • Priscilla permalink
      December 29, 2011 12:07 am

      Here ya go, Ian…don’t let the fact that it’s the National Review fool you into thinking that this article is anything but a total takedown of crony capitalists on both sides of the aisle (more Dems than Reps only because they’ve been in power more recently). I’d be interested in reading your and Rick’s take (and anyone else’s).

      A snippet: “So there you have it: hedge-fund titans, i-bankers, congressional nabobs, committee chairmen, senators, swindlers, run-of-the-mill politicos, and a few outright thieves (these categories are not necessarily exclusive) all feeding at the same trough, and most of them betting that Mitt Romney won’t do anything more to stop it than Barack Obama did. If anything, the fact that Romney is having the least luck with the firm that knows him best speaks better of him than does the enthusiasm he apparently inspires in Goldman Sachs et al.”

      http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/286704/repo-men-kevin-d-williamson?pg=6

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 29, 2011 9:14 am

      “…..I don’t think we can afford not to. And I’d like to see some basic competence and leadership in the White House.”

      That would be nice for a change!

    • Ian CSE permalink
      December 29, 2011 12:26 pm

      actually, you give me too much credit. its david brookes who said that, although i do agree.

    • December 29, 2011 9:54 pm

      Priscilla;

      Absent serious problems in the EU or China, I think we are already in a weak recovery – that will slowly get better. Unemployment will only improve slowly, but even with 7-8% unemployment in Nov. 2012, things will look rosier than they do now.

      At the same time, actually spending cuts, tax simplification, de-regulation, an active embrace of fiscally responsible policy could easily double economic growth and bring unemployment down to 5% or less rapidly. We had far worse conditions in 1981 (and 1921, and ….) and we improved them incredibly rapidly. Current circumstances are not exactly the same, this really is more of a mild depression than a recession. The critical issue being the causes rather than the magnitude, Regardless, reduce or eliminate future uncertainty and there is plenty of pent up economic energy.

      We actually have a long history in both this country and across the globe of what works and what does not, and how quickly things can improve.

      We have some very serious problems – but they are not unsolveable, and honestly the pain of dealing with them will be far less than the consequences of not dealing with them, and the benefits of dealing with them will greatly exceed the pain.

      The biggest issue is that even with good counter cyclical government policy – as opposed to the abysmal policy of the past two administrations, we are globally interconnected far more than ever before, The EU can probably afford to leave its spendthrift members to their own devices, but the world including us, can not afford a crisis that effects its major participants.

      I actually expect that Obama is likely to win in 2012 – though whoever wins is likely to preside over an economy that is improving for atleast a few years.

      The real problems – besides the EU are farther out.

  39. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 29, 2011 9:16 am

    Your right. Perhaps I should just respond with profanity?

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 29, 2011 3:59 pm

      Y U still use “your” instead of “you’re”?

      It looks so illiterate… even for an immigrant

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 4:08 pm

        Let’s see if this is any more to your liking: You’re a moron.

        Is that better?

  40. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 29, 2011 9:30 am

    The latest data on what the Feds (US taxpayers) owe:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-dirty-secret-in-uncle-sams-friday-trash-dump/2011/12/28/gIQArtWMNP_story.html

  41. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 29, 2011 10:03 am

    On “setting” oil prices.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/oil-hovers-below-100-us-054348050.html

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 29, 2011 1:29 pm

      There is need to invest more in solar and wind energy, so oil corp won’t need to rise or lower the price of gas on political “excuses”

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 29, 2011 3:36 pm

        Anyone is free to “invest” in any kind of energy they want. Peronally, I like oil, gas, and coal.

      • December 29, 2011 9:56 pm

        Lets see you are arguing that supply and demand have no effect on prices, at the same time you want more and more diverse sources of supply in order to lower prices.

        You can not have it both ways.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:23 pm

        Yet, he has no problem with it!

  42. Ian CSE permalink
    December 29, 2011 10:44 am

    Wow,

    As Priscilla once said, “cool a flame war and it did not involve me!”

    Hi Priscilla, we are the reasonable ones now!

    I’ll read the Nat review when I get through tracking and complaining about the incompetent USPS handling of a package containing an article my wife sewed and sent to my mother. The USPS not only lost it, in spite of the fact it contained a delivery address, return address and a tracking number, their attempts to find it are more comically incompetent than their attempts to deliver it. I will never, ever, send a valuable thing by USPS. Other items sent from Amazon via USPS also di dnot arrive, and items sent to me via USPS are also gone missing. The USPS is broken

  43. Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
    December 29, 2011 11:12 am

    “The USPS is broken”

    I agree!

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 29, 2011 1:31 pm

      Any ideas on how to fix it?

      • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
        December 29, 2011 3:38 pm

        Not really, It has taken a long time for them to reach this sad state. Given the trends and politics involved, I don’t know whether it IS fixable,.

        I suspect Chapter 11 might allow them to right the ship, IF they are allowed to go that route.

      • December 29, 2011 5:20 pm

        Sell it.

  44. Ian CSE permalink
    December 29, 2011 12:23 pm

    the question was asked what do i think will recover the economy. who says it will recover? i suppose when a new bubble takes hold we will call that a ‘recovery.’ and when people go into debt to buy whatever the new bubble consists of and the bubble bursts and the national net worth again plunges and false wealth disappears we will once again feel that something is wrong, although we won’t feel that way while the bubble is creating false wealth (and real wealth as well). as is often mentioned here, today’s economic situation does not resemble the one in the depression and wwii years in many of its particulars, and so 9keynsian0 knowledge gained from handling the great depression, cannot be directly applied. i just think we are entering a new paradigm in which we have false expectations about a new round of prosperity based on previous cycles under different conditions. there is no guarantee of another round of ‘prosperity’. As to what will employ Rob, he like a huge number of americans needs to reinvent himself, as i have done several times in my life. changes in paradigm create the need for people, businesses and the country itself to reinvent themselves. many will be too stubborn but many will also succeed.

    i’m typing with one finger while on hold at the unprintable usps. my package has not been located buit they call my case ‘resolved’ because someone from my tiny local post office, who were not involved in any way with this package, called me to tell me they will look for it. unbelievable.

    • Richard F. Belloff, DBA permalink
      December 29, 2011 3:32 pm

      “As to what will employ Rob, he like a huge number of americans needs to reinvent himself, as i have done several times in my life. changes in paradigm create the need for people, businesses and the country itself to reinvent themselves. many will be too stubborn but many will also succeed.”

      Dead on!

    • December 29, 2011 4:58 pm

      Bubbles magical events from outer-space.

      One of the problems I have had with much of the debate here is that the refusal to grasp that our choices are the cause of the results we see.

      All the bad choices you beleive people made – whether it is Arnal or Mozillo or minorities, or Fannie and Freddie, they did so as the result of government policy decision specifically intended to increase home ownership – specifically for those with low incomes.

      The goal – like all progressive goals is laudable. But the outcome is disaster.
      We did not have a housing bubble accidentally. We deliberately chose to have one.
      We did not make loans to people with poor credit accidentally – we did so deliberately.

      The housing bubble is just one particular example of “The Broken Window” Fallacy.
      The failure to explore ALL the consequences of our choices.

      We easily “see” the consequence of greater home ownership – particularly for poor and minorities. But we fail to see and foresee all the other consequences. Some such as the gradual increase in housing prices are easily foreseeable applications of the laws of supply and demand. Some are less easily foreseen. While we can not always tell exactly what the unseen and unintended consequences will be – we can be certain that they will occur.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 5:18 pm

        Nicely said. We have had asset bubbles roughly every 10 years for a while now.

    • December 29, 2011 5:12 pm

      All government revenue comes at a cost. This is why the argument over increasing taxes to address the deficit is so ludicrous.

      Some means of raising revenue – generally the most regressive ones, have the lowest cost. That is how it is whether we like it or not.
      If we want to raise revenue while causing the least economic harm, we need to do so by taxing as heavily as is bearable, those with the least ability to avoid those taxes.
      Generally that means “sin” taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and income taxes on those with minimal ability to alter their income – the poor and middle class.
      That may not be how we wish it were, but it is the way it is. These are not just the conclusions of right wing or libertarian economists, but those of economist across almost the entire ideological and political spectrum. They have proven rigorous across all OECD countries – most of the developed world.

      Even those more regressive taxes still do more net harm than good, the net harm is just smaller.

      The only action government can take that is net positive is to reduce spending.
      Maybe there is a lower limit after which reducing government spending becomes net economically negative – if so we already know that limit is far less than half our total government spending.

      • valdobiade permalink
        December 29, 2011 5:36 pm

        Rise the prices if “supply and demand” requires it, but don’t raise taxes when the economy goes down the toilet.

        Looks like a nice slogan.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 5:57 pm

        “Rise the prices?”

        Well, once again, but more slowly.

        A seller (even you) can ask any price they want for their wares. Based on the price they ask, they may find some buyers, ranging from zero to infinity. So, to say that they SET prices is accurate but they may find no buyers at the price they set. So setting an asking price is not always the same as the selling price.

        So, if Sony sets a price no one will pay, they can’t sell ANY TVs. They either lower the price to what people will pay, or sit on their TVs.

        That is how markets work, at least for the rest of us.

        See how easy that was?

      • December 29, 2011 10:16 pm

        valdobiade;

        Supply and demand is us, not individually but collectively, acting in a free market, taxes and government are external to the market.

        I would be perfectly happy to see taxes rise and fall on supply and demand. But that is not possible unless you are willing to consider a free market in government services.
        Assuming we actually had a voluntary free market in government – you would be free to buy – at exhorbitant cost the super statist top-down system of your choice, and I could chose the ridiculously cheap ultra-light basic rule of law version. In the unlikely event I decided your version of government was more to my tastes I could change to the higher cost brand. Of course it is also possible that few people would chose the expensive super-state cradle to grave nanny state and it would go bankrupt.

        Regardless, that would be a truly free voluntary market in taxation.

        While anarcho-capitolists have postulated such an arangement, it is pretty extreme even for libertarians.

        Absent a free market were people get to make choices as they please, it is actually immoral for the government to subject even a minority to more than the absolute minimum requirements of government absent their consent.

        The sole distinction between government and a business is that government has a legitimate monopoly on the initiation of force.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:25 pm

        You are wasting your time on the commie.

  45. December 29, 2011 5:20 pm

    Ian;

    What is this keynesian knowledge gain during the great depression ?

    I am not aware of anything done by either Hoover or FDR that was net positive.
    FDR in particular managed to create a recession in the midst of a depression.

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 29, 2011 5:56 pm

      If Bush created a depression and Obama managed to create a recession in the midst of a depression… I guess it’s OK

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 6:03 pm

        Never let facts get in the way of a quick one liner!

      • December 29, 2011 10:22 pm

        I am perfectly happy with the Bush=Hoover, Obama=FDR metaphor if you are.

        I do not think Obama has produced a recession in the midst of a depression, though I do beleive we are in a mild depression rather than a recession, I also beleive that but for bad policy choices on the part of both the Bush and Obama administrations we would have had a very short and painful recession followed by extremely robust growth. Instead we are in a protracted mess. We are actually out of the recession – but growth is abysmally weak, and there is ample economic evidence that this is pretty much the normal economic response to Keynesian stimulus – such as that of Hoover/FDR and Bush/Obama.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      December 29, 2011 8:18 pm

      Sorry, fucko, but no cee-gar. The recession of ’37 was a result of FDR listening to contemporary morons like you. He pushed austerity under pressure from Republicans, and it sank the economy.

      You and Belloff ought to start dating. With all you have in common, you’d make a wonderful couple.

      • December 29, 2011 9:07 pm

        I’ve been observing from the sidelines for a few days (too busy with my son, who’s now back at his mom’s house).

        Where do I start? It’s like jumping onto a moving merry-go-round. I guess I’ll start here.

        If it’s facts that our libertarian friends demand, here are a few to ponder: In 1933, when FDR took over, the unemployment rate was 25%. By 1937 (in the wake of those much-maligned New Deal work programs), that number had dropped to less than 15%. Then, as Rob noted above, FDR listened to some conservative advisers who advocated cutting spending to balance the budget (sound familiar?).

        Roosevelt acted on their advice, unfortunately, and (according to Wikipedia) unemployment promptly climbed to 19%, manufacturing output fell by 37% and overall industrial production dropped by 30%.

        Some conclusions to be drawn from this data:
        1. FDR’s New Deal programs DID help the economy (and the people) while they were in effect.
        2. Sometimes spending produces more positive results than trimming.
        3. Government intervention in the economy isn’t necessarily an evil.
        4. When the American economy is in a state of crisis, nobody can afford to be an economic purist. That goes for Keynesians as well as libertarians. All options should be considered for the good of the country and for the people who are suffering.

        I’ll be popping in and out of this discussion while it lasts. I’m fine with vigorous disagreement (though I prefer constructive exchanges), but let’s try to aim our slings and arrows at ideas, not people. (I know, I know… it’s just so tempting. But let’s try to “ratchet down” the rhetoric, as our much-abused president likes to say.)

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 29, 2011 10:05 pm

        Sometimes spending does produce positive results. But that is usually in a expanding economy, which can afford to spend. Government intervention is not necessarily an evil at all…but it almost always has unintended consequences, which often make the original problem worse.

        Beware of accepting statistical analysis from Wikipedia, btw….most all contributors have an agenda and, well….we all know about the ways that statistics can be manipulated….I don’t know of any historical evidence to support a 10 pt. drop in unemployment during the 30′s for example. There are are plenty of competing explanations as to why the New Deal failed to end high unemployment, and they range from the Keynesian theory that you and Rob have put forward (basically that FDR didn’t spend enough) to the explanation that big business sat on its cash after the NIRA established wage and price controls, totally upsetting the balance of supply and demand.

        But, unquestionably, social safety nets like SS and unemployment insurance, as well as financial safety nets like the FDIC most certainly benefitted everyone.

        We’d be a lot better off today if government would focus more on identifying and implementing true safety nets rather than expanding welfare and entitlement programs beyond our ability to pay for them.

      • December 29, 2011 11:00 pm

        Rob and Rick;

        If the best government can do is to reduce unemployment by half in 8 years – all of FDR’s spending programs started with Hoover, that is pretty bad. I can find myriads of examples where employment rebounded much faster months not almost a decade with little or no government programs.
        What distinguishes the Great depression from myriads of other economic downturns is those very programs of Hoover and Roosevelt.

        As to the causes of the Recession of 1937 try somewhere else besides Wikipedia – there is still some debate, but it is pretty much universally accepted that a major factor begining to end in the entire great depression is absymal monetary policy on the part of the federal Reserve.
        The second most commonly attributed cause to the recession of 1937 is REGULATION. Few credible economists blame cuts in spending.
        Conversly there are some who argue that loose fiscal and monetary and fiscal policy caused it. In 1936 The upper tax rate was increased to 79% – arguably a factor.

        Regardless, it is pretty much indisputable that the 1937 recession was the direct result of government failure – as there was no private forces acting.

        Beyond that do you really want to base an argument for government economic intervention on what is arguably the worst economic crisis in this country’s history ?

        I think pretty much all of your points are refuted by the actual history of the Great Depression.

        I am seriously disappointed by this argument against economic purism – or honestly purism of any kind. If our values do not work in difficult times – whether they are libertarian, keynesian, christian, Buddhist or whatever then those values are worthless, and should not be employed during good times either.

        Debates over values are important not because of what they tell us about how to handle good times, but because they are what we must rely on during bad times.

        It is precisely because of our need to know how to deal with bad times that we need to establish the validity of our values.

        What I find most offensive about the whimpy leftism of TNM is this running from difficult questions in tough times. I think this is neither moderate nor moral. The truth is whatever it is. It will be extremely hard to convince me that progressive values do not do far more harm than good – but if you succeed I will be happy to change my beliefs. I seek the truth.

        It is not good for anyone – certainly not the country to make bad choices – or even half bad choices rather than good choices. There has even been a very compelling argument that half bad choices are far worse than bad choices.

        Compromising and sacrificing ones values in the interest of others or the country only has merit if ones values – whatever they are are wrong. Otherwise it is precisely the wrong thing to do.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:28 pm

        FDR had more in common with Hitler than he did with Churchill Moreover, he was clueless on economic matters. That makes sense, since he didn’t earn a dime of his own and never had a real job. Ditto Lord Keynes.

        Good for him and us, we had this war to fight ….

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:18 pm

        As always, a pithy and intellgent offering from the homeless.

        You wonder why you can’t get hired?

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:31 pm

        It might amaze you to discover that I don’t walk into job interviews and say “Suck my dick and gimme a job, dammit!” I reserve that patois for Internet numbnuts like yourself, dihlibopper and Mr. DBA.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:36 pm

        It amazes me that you can actually get a job interview.

        You might want to look at that language too! You were a COMMUNICATIONS professional, right?

      • December 29, 2011 11:37 pm

        Priscilla;

        It is far from certain that FDIC or SS other safety net programs had any consequential effect on the Great Depression. Even the World Bank – not a particularly conservative organization, has found that spending on social safety nets is net negative.

        The unfolding crisis in the EU as well as the one further out in this country is the direct result not of the failure of bad programs for the undeserving but of the keystone programs of Social Security and Medicare. We have an impending $50T hole that can not be filled by taxes, or economic growth. A part of that hole is arguably demographic – though I would note that social security taxes initially were 2% of income and have multiplied by more than 6 and the system is still not solvent. It has admittedly taken 70 years and an end to continuous population growth, but the inevitablity failure was actually pretty well understood even in 1935.

        “The beauty of social insurance is that it is actuarially unsound. Everyone who reaches retirement age is given benefit privileges that far exceed anything he has paid in — exceed his payments by more than ten times (or five times counting employer payments)!

        How is it possible? It stems from the fact that the national product is growing at a compound interest rate and can be expected to do so for as far ahead as the eye cannot see. Always there are more youths than old folks in a growing population.

        More important, with real income going up at 3% per year, the taxable base on which benefits rest is always much greater than the taxes paid historically by the generation now retired.

        Social Security is squarely based on what has been called the eighth wonder of the world — compound interest. A growing nation is the greatest Ponzi game ever contrived.” Paul Samuelson.

        Barro has found no instance were the economic multiplier for government spending exceeded .8 and that only during times of war. That means that for every dollar government took from the economy the stimulative effect is 80 cents – or net negative by 20 cents. There are some studies I find less credible that have found rare instances of a multiplier between 1.2 and 1.5.
        And I will not dispute than it is theoretically possible with perfect decision making and perfect management to get a net positive result from government spending. But the odds against government spending a dollar more economically efficiently than it would be spent privately are pretty high. All the incentives and checks and balances are missing, and we deliberately trade inefficiency and incompetence in government off against corruption. Inefficiency is the fatal mistake in the market, but for government corruption is far more dangerous.

        Regardless, even if government spending can theoretically produce a 1.5 multiplier under optimal conditions, Barro’s analysis conforms far better to historical norms – whether 80/100 is the peak and the norm is closer to 35/100.

        Thank you for the cogent remarks on Wikipedia. I actually find Wikipedia incredibly useful – as a source of Data, not analysis, though in the rare instances where both the data and analysis run against their inherent bias they are double useful.

        It is incredibly easy to use statistics to advance a false claim – the current income inequality debate is a perfect example, at the same time absent actual fraud real data rarely lies. We can spend hours debating whether real wages have risen and how fast for each quintile of the population, and how to adjust for inflation and all the myriads of other adjustments necessary to compare apples to oranges. And depending on how you make all those adustments you can get most any result you wish.
        Or we can look at the actual wealth of those in each quintile and compare it to those in the same quintile 10,20,30 years before. Ultimately all other things being equal if a family has more wealth, it must have more real income, and regardless, “products are paid for with products” – Says law.
        “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production;” Adam Smith
        If we posses more wealth, we are better off, income is a path to wealth not an end in and of itself.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:43 pm

        Here is some good news foe all of us:

        Obama sinks again!

        http://www.gallup.com/poll/113980/Gallup-Daily-Obama-Job-Approval.aspx

      • December 30, 2011 12:40 am

        Dave: To answer your comment about fidelity to one’s values… Yes, we both agree that our fundamental values should be non-negotiable. It’s an admirable attitude and I respect you for it. But here’s where we differ: I don’t see economics primarily as a value system, any more than I’d equate gardening with values. Both economics and gardening are a means to an end… both are practical (as opposed to artistic, moral or ethical) disciplines… both involve a combination of nature and nurture that varies with the inclinations of the practitioner.

        Believe it or not, I have almost a laissez-faire attitude toward my garden… I plant what I want, then let nature take over, with only minimal intervention on my part in case of drought or excessive weed growth. Others prefer more neatly manicured gardens with symmetrical beds and a zero-tolerance attitude toward weeds. (Bear with me… I promise this is relevant.)

        Because I’m not locked into any gardening “ideology,” I’m free to adjust my level of intervention based on external conditions. If we have a dry August, I water the garden more regularly. If the rain is plentiful, I stand back and let nature do the work. At no point do I feel that I’m surrendering my values.

        See where I’m going? I regard economics as a practical science… it HAS to be, because people’s livelihoods depend on it. It’s not an abstract exercise, and it can’t adhere rigidly to centuries-old doctrines — because, unlike geometry or the laws of physics, which describe timeless properties of the natural world, economics is entirely based on human activities. As human conditions and technologies change the basis of commerce, economics has to adjust on a fundamental level. Yes, we’ll always deal with supply and demand, but the role of government (and the need for intervention) must be rethought as the internet, globalization, monopolies, corporatism and other conditions change the basic rules of the game.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 30, 2011 9:13 am

        As an economist, I can tell you quite diectly that economics is not a “science” in any sense of the word.

        Sorry to disappoint.

  46. JB Say permalink
    December 29, 2011 5:29 pm

    A couple of 1% trying to stimulate the economy! I think this is our 57th state?

    http://www.whitehousedossier.com/2011/12/29/middle-class-warriors-dine-260/

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 29, 2011 5:54 pm

      Dumb gossip

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 6:01 pm

        Expensive too!

  47. December 29, 2011 6:29 pm

    There future holds plenty to fear, but it offers even more hope, and even expectation.

    As abysmal as current conditions are, they are inarguably better – for all of us than just a few decades ago. At the depth of the greatest economic calamity since the great depression, we are all far better off than most of the sixties and seventies.

    Over the holidays I read “Christmas in the tenements” by Theodore Dreiser.
    Dreiser strove valiantly to paint black conditions, yet the message I received was one of happiness, optimism.

    Those in New York Tenements lived better than kings a few centuries before, and the poor today are kings in comparison to the middle class a century ago.

    In no time at all the poor of the future will ponder the relative poverty of today’s rich and middle class.

    There are many obstacles to our brightest future – all rooted in government failure.

    No one can doubt our ability to improve and produce ever more. I do not know the next Steve Jobs – but there are thousands of him out there, and millions and billions of lesser creators all striving to make tomorrow a little bit better than today.

    Genesis 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

    I can not answer all the “Why’s”. But for most of us – if this is all that there is, it is enough. And still the future will be better, if not tomorrow, soon enough.

    • JB Say permalink
      December 29, 2011 6:41 pm

      In the aggregate, the vast majority of Americans live far better than our parents and their parents did. When I see these OWS twerps whining, I would love to take them back to see where I grew up.

      I think they might wet their pants.

      • valdobiade permalink
        December 29, 2011 7:41 pm

        I’ve lived 25 years in a Communist country and 25 in different Capitalist countries. Only in the US I’ve read how well Americans are living, but by God, how malcontent they are!

        There is nothing different between what the Communist dictator in my ex-country said and what Capitalist propaganda is issuing… Usually old American morons who got everything they wanted at the expense of life of young American soldiers who died for oil corporation in Arab countries, are still using “the good American life” propaganda.

        Here you have an excerpt of our “beloved leader”:

        “Our Party has brought the country to the living standards far better than under Imperialist rule. Our Party created a fantastically prosperous country for its citizens compared with the life of numerous citizens who live in Capitalist countries. Our citizens, since liberated from Imperialist exploitation, live far better than their forebears did.

        In today Romania, the citizens have TV, Radio, fridges, furniture, shoes, etc that was very hard to obtain under Imperialist rule. Romania is better off in terms of the medical care , education and the quality of the air we breathe and the cleanliness of our lakes and rivers. And, perhaps most important of all, we live longer. ”

        in fact, modern propaganda is an imperialist-capitalist discovery… you have to polish it a little bit more… oh… you’re in management?

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:15 pm

        What a jackass you are.

    • Rob Anderson permalink
      December 29, 2011 8:26 pm

      That was, hands down, one of the stupidest postings I have had the bemused pleasure of reading.

      • December 30, 2011 12:20 am

        How about a counter argument
        or make some point on an issue of your own
        rather than random invective.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        December 30, 2011 12:27 am

        I’m sorry, but “counter-arguing” someone as willfully deluded and fundamentally dishonest as you is akin to pissing in the wind. Pointless and pissening.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 30, 2011 9:11 am

        I can guess that you know alot about pissing in the wind.

  48. December 29, 2011 7:15 pm

    I have labeled myself as libertarian, but most of my arguments are not libertarian – atleast no uniquely libertarian.

    I have railed at being label “economic fundamentalist” by others – because of all the connotations that religious fundamentalism carries. Ultimately I am not an economic fundamentalist – because I would chose freedom over prosperity – and that is why I am libertarian.

    That said there is some truth to the claim that most of my arguments are “economically fundamentalist”. They are Basic, Core, Fundamental, Economics 101 arguments. They are based on the economic fundamentals – just as calculus would not exist without and does not contradict the fundamentals of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

    If you argue that my arguments are those of an “economic fundamentalist”, you are arguing that they are true, though you wish otherwise.

    We owe the Greeks and Arabs for the basic principles of mathematics. Neither Pythagoras, nor Newton, nor even Einstein provide all the answers, yet no one suggests that after more than two millennia the Pythagorean Theorem was wrong.

    Economics starts before Smith, but The Wealth of Nations is the first comprehensive explanation of the fundamentals of economics – as well as the first recognition that freedom that is my pre-eminent value also produces the best overall outcome for everyone – particularly the least. Regardless, the basic principles as expounded by Smith are as alive and sound as The Pythagorean Theorem. You can not get to Keynes, but through Smith.

    Even Keynes did not advocate running permanent deficits, but like the Biblical Joseph saving in the fat years to spend in the lean. While Keynesian economics clearly failed in the seventies, the political Keynesianism of progressives, is even more flawed as it has no basis in the real Keynes – no basis in any real economics, no foundation at all. Keynes dispute was with Say’s law, not Smith – and ultimately Say won. Progressives dispute not only Say, and Smith, but the entire concept that the economy will not just behave as it is told.

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 29, 2011 8:12 pm

      Oh yea! “The wealth of nations”! It reverberates in our modern times.

      In the Reagan years through to the Clinton years there were many who went to listen to Greenspan in the Federal Reserve, who legend has it, was an oracle capable of divining the Hand’s intentions (you know… the invisible hand). It is possible that he learned from Friedman the secret of conjuring Smith. It is certain that he himself employed marketplace interventions, in imitation of the Hand, and during the Greenspan years, he was second only to the Hand in power over the markets.

      It is believed that Milton Friedman conjured the spirit of Adam Smith in the early 1970s in his fight against the forces of the Keynesian heretics.

      I already mentioned the finger, as invisible body part. The invisible finger, the natural outgrowth of the Adam Smith invisible hand, is useful for giving people the finger without them realizing what you really think of them.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:17 pm

        You could move to North Korea. Perhaps, you could be happier there?

      • December 29, 2011 11:45 pm

        You do realise that the invisible hand is a metaphor for the market acting on its own to right itself usually after the idiotic decisions of government ?

        Neither Reagan nor Greenspan, nor Friedman, nor you can control it.

        I personally do not like the invisible hand metaphor as it implies a controlled external force while in reality it is a cascading endogenous effect.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:46 pm

        No, he does not realize that.

  49. December 29, 2011 7:57 pm

    Our human world today primarily evolved naturally. The laws of economics are merely the written expressions of the results of many millennia of experimentation in human relations toward achieving the best outcome for all of us. From the very beginning we have tried to impose order from the top down – as a result 16th century man was little better off than six millennia earlier.

    The modern era is primarily the era of spontaneous order – order from the bottom up. The Wealth of modern Nations is the result of more than three centuries of relative freedom. Pre-Elizabethan world wide income inequality was virtually non-existent – all but a tiny few throughout the world lived equally badly. Today the disparity between nations standards of living corresponds solely to the duration and extent to which their peoples have been free.
    Whether we look at the giant failures of the USSR, or the lessor disparity between Europe and the US, the common denominator is the contrast between top-down and bottom up.

    If there is an optimum in the size and role of government we should be striving for – it is between that of Hong-Kong and Nigeria, not between the US and the USSR.

    I am not enraged or afraid because reality TV celebrities or anyone else does well – deservedly or not. I am not jealous nor do I resent anyone else’s success. I do not know why we pay more to listen to Bono than YoYo Ma – nor do I care.

    Few succeed at the expense of others – and those only with the help of government.
    Only government has the power to take from one and give to another. The rest of us must prosper by offering what others willingly pay for.

    My fear of big business, is limited only to what they take from me by government force, not what I freely give then in return for what they give me. I trust people like Buffett, and Jobs and even myself more than Dodd, Pelosi and Obama to create good jobs. I know that if Buffett hires someone, that it will cost me nothing, and that Buffett, the person hired, and I will all benefit. While a government “created” job will come at all over our expense.

    I am afraid because as a nation we owe 15 trillion dollars – and I do not think we got much for it. I have several mortgages – my debt creates homes for me and many others.

    I am afraid because our government in our name has made promises to the elderly, and poor and many others that it can not possibly keep. That dwarf our 15 Trillion in debt.

    I am not afraid of Ebenezer Scrooge – Scrooge has never taken anything from me by force, but I am afraid of Uncle Sam who has, and has done an abysmal job with it.

    I am not afraid of Grover Norquist – he can not buy my vote, nor anyone else’s. I am afraid of those who would gag him, or me or anyone else – they are far more dangerous.

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 29, 2011 8:21 pm

      Scawry thing this ‘gauvamint’!

      Thisgroup of people that exist for the purposes of increasing debt, widening the gap between rich people and poor people, and funding world domination projects such as Alkayda & America. Supporters of gouvamint often infiltrate apparently opposed movements, like anarchism, and make asses of themselves in order to make all opposition to government look insane.

      We have to abolish the requirement of U.S. Gouvamint class that students are required to take before graduating from school.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 29, 2011 11:20 pm

        Geez, dude, use spell check. You are giving illegal immigrants a bad name.

  50. Ian CSE permalink
    December 29, 2011 8:36 pm

    Howlingly funny! That is great satire Valdo! I don’t agree with your ideas about the economics of oil prices (which are determined mostly by speculators and not by oil companies, strangely enough), but your take on Friedman and Smith and the invisible hand is beautiful, priceless; you have real talent! Thanks!

    I hope this went in under Valdo’s post at 8:12.

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 29, 2011 9:06 pm

      yes, your post is exactly under my invisible thread… to be visible you have to scroll a little bit up…

      I hate this stupid economic crap… the invisible hand… to override the hate I take satire…

  51. JB Say permalink
    December 29, 2011 11:34 pm

    Now, if you only knew what satire was!

    • December 30, 2011 12:03 am

      I am pretty sure they have no clue.

      Every now and then Ian gets into this juvenile Monty Python thing too.
      I do not grasp why my son thinks fart jokes are funny.
      That people who have been around as long as Ian and Valdobiade still think this kind of 12 year old humor is a substitute for intelligent thought or argument is one other source of fear. We will get past our problems when we recognise our mistakes and mend our ways.
      So long as we are blind, and want to pretend that anything we do not wish to hear is either extreme or something to poke fun at we delay and make the problem bigger.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        December 30, 2011 12:08 am

        Oh we’re all entirely serious, dhlii, just not with right-wing hacks and libertarian morons like you, who are not entitled to an iota of respect deference or common decency. Frankly, you are all – in my humble opinion – pieces of dithering human filth.

      • JB Say permalink
        December 30, 2011 9:09 am

        Get a job, dude. If you do, you may be once again able to look in the mirror.

      • December 30, 2011 1:06 am

        Righties, lefties and moderates, lend me your ears (at 0% interest): we’re not going to accomplish anything here through insults and other forms of interpersonal abuse. I know it’s not easy to shut the lid on a volcano, but please let’s try to maintain at least a semblance of civility. Or should I set up a separate page on this site for verbal mud-wrestling?

    • December 30, 2011 1:00 am

      Say, JB… I wonder why we never see you and Dr. Belloff at the same time. Same green-and-white avatar thing, too. Even the same (cough, cough) e-mail address. (As the site administrator, I see things that nobody else does.) And here I thought the libertarians were taking over The New Moderate.

      Well, feel free to post under either persona… I guess it’s an example of what the marketing people call “line extension.”

      • December 30, 2011 2:22 am

        I liked it

      • JB Say permalink
        December 30, 2011 9:17 am

        Well let’s see, where to start.

        If one posts with clever sceen names like anonymous, then all is fine. If one uses their actual name, ass-clowns on this site attack thier livlihood, mock their education, look up their personal history and threaten them with violence.

        You run a fine site here Rick. I owned a forum years back. Folks who used profanity and threatened others were tossed. Not so here.

        Perhaps YOU want to look in the mirror?

    • Ian CSE permalink
      December 30, 2011 10:26 am

      Well, DBM/Say, since your entry under all your many names has been rather rude (Say called an Romanian Immigrant a Moron for spelling issues and DBM spent Christmas day calling a homeless person a loser) I don’t think many here are going to suspect you of the sophistication to understand satire. If you are actually an intelligent person with a sense of humor, you have done a poor job of portraying that here. I really don’t understand personas like yours. Do you actually believe your pompous, abrasive, generally fact-lite posts are going to convince anyone of anything, or is this just a way for you to release bile?

      Your cat may actually love you, but every James Bond villain was fondly stroking his cat as he dumped Bond into a pool of piranhas, etc.

      If you are trying to put libertarian ideas in a bad light, well, continue, its been a success so far!

      • JB Say permalink
        December 30, 2011 10:44 am

        Another country heard from.

      • December 30, 2011 12:39 pm

        Ian: Yes, I like the James Bond image… though I have nothing against cats.

        I try to moderate the invective here, but I don’t think the libertarians and leftists will ever break bread with each other. And you’re right… the abusive comments don’t reflect well on their beliefs. I come away more convinced than ever that moderates have to start controlling the dialogue — here as well as in the larger political landscape — or we’re lost.

        Well, maybe we’re destined to be lost. We’ve had a good 235-year run as a democratic republic, and maybe it’s just not meant to last as long as, say, Imperial China or the Egypt of the pharaohs. The democratic Athenian city-state lasted only a century or so, and the Roman Republic didn’t survive that much longer. Maybe we should just let the poisons seep out and see what happens.

  52. AMAC permalink
    December 30, 2011 2:50 am

    Sorry I have missed all of the fireworks. My wife and I had our third and final child on Monday. I read the article, but skipped the comments. I read several posts and found them to be angry, condescending, argumenative, etc. I enjoy debate and discussion, not arguments. Hope we can all appreciate one anothers’ opinions, without having to agree. As the resident “believer”, I would like to quickly comment on christianity (stemming from the article). Having a beautiful baby girl reminded me of what God’s greatest gift to us was (and is), life. Life can seem like a curse to some at times. I don’t believe that God meddles in our lives, or has a “plan” for each of us. The birth of my new daughter reminded me that the spontanuity, lows, highs, success, failures is what makes life so great. We live for hope. Hope that what is left of our lives will be better or at least as good as what has past. We take for granted the things money cannot buy during times like this. Money is very important, but happiness is the most valuable object. You can have one without the other, or both! I won’t get into my own opinions of the various topics as I will not have time to follow up with conversations. I doubt many will miss my insight!!! I hope we all can be civil and hope all have a great 2012.

    Rick
    Given the current range of ideologies represented by the reader’s, we should consider re-branding. How’s, “The New Commutarian”? Why market to a specific demographic when you can market to them all!

    • JB Say permalink
      December 30, 2011 9:19 am

      Congrats on your new arrival. Best wishes for a long and happy life!

    • Ian CSE permalink
      December 30, 2011 10:40 am

      Wow, AMAC, that is wonderful.

      I never wanted to be a parent until it happened and then it was the best thing that ever happened to me. You lucky guy, another kid. You need three to have the full experience. When there are four, I’m told that the tired parents don’t object to the kids juggling chain saws as long as they don’t do it in the kitchen. At three you are saturated with kids but not yet overwhelmed on most days.

      Your calm perspective IS missed, I wish there were 50 here, or even 5, like you!

      Happy New Year

    • Priscilla permalink
      December 30, 2011 11:24 am

      Congratulations on your precious new arrival, AMAC!

    • December 30, 2011 12:18 pm

      AMAC: That’s great news! Fatherhood was the best thing that ever happened to me; I only wish we could have had one more!

      I find it interesting that, nearly 200 comments into this thread, we’ve barely touched on the subject of God. (I have a feeling Pat Riot was right in predicting that we might break the New Moderate record for comments on a single post.) I started out as a believer, and on some level I still am — though I’d barely be considered lukewarm these days. Even if the Bible turned out to be a pack of lies (or at least creative embellishments of the truth), it wouldn’t affect whether or not God exists. We just might not have discovered his true nature yet. And yes, I agree with you that he (or she, or it) doesn’t interfere in our lives. Maybe we have a laissez-faire God.

      The comments here are turning into a microcosm of the current American political scene: battling extremists with big guns… and the poor moderates out in no-man’s land, standing in the crossfire. Interesting.

      Anyway, catch some sleep when you have a chance, and don’t forget about us. We need good-hearted moderates like you.

      • December 30, 2011 3:39 pm

        If you really want another kid, I can highly recommend adoption.

      • AMAC permalink
        December 30, 2011 11:21 pm

        Thank you all. It is interesting how the subject of the article is seldom discussed. I was always taught in business to get the client talking, and regardless of the subject, they will tell you what they need and what is important to them. It’s true, start out talking about football, and end up discussing supply chains and logistical management! I have never lost my faith in God, but have in organized religion. It is obvious through studying history that christianity (and all religions) are manipulated and changed to market to the people. Holiday’s, practices, and even scripture have been added and changed to make christianity seem more mainstream to the paegan masses of the past. I try to read the bible and use my own logic and reason to get the real message. Because of human’s, religion has become dangerous and unattractive to many. When so much hate and violence is started in the name of God, who wants to believe in that God? The true message is not taught often, and practiced even more seldom. I am not the best example, but try to always do the right thing by my God and my family. I could go on, but I hear a baby crying! She loves her daddy!

    • December 30, 2011 3:37 pm

      Though I doubt we all share the same religious views, there seem to be few here willing to draw a sword over a particular religious view. My beliefs have changed greatly over time. The more I have learned of spiritual things the more important they are and the less I seem to really know.

      My beliefs are somewhat like “Johnathan Livingston Seagull”, that should date me.

      We are here to do better. Our obligations are individual and personal and each different.
      Each of us is learning the specific truth they need to at this moment.

      We I was preparing to marry, we were still in the midst of the cold war. My expectations of the future were dark. I did not expect humanity to survive two more decades. I could not conceive of bringing children into a world that certainly would be far worse than my own. That would be greedy and irresponsible. If we ever changed are minds we would adopt.

      My wife and I have always had dogs. But fourteen years ago we got a chocolate Lab. We have treated all our dogs like humans, but Labs are different – they are children, they are full of joy and within a few months my wife and I were filling out paperwork and preparing to adopt.

      Today, my daughter is preparing for her sixteenth birthday, and My son will be thirteen in a few weeks.

      My libertarianism, my faith in some god, a brighter future, my children are all intertwined.

      I do not understand how so many here can have such a dim view of people and have children. Both because when I saw the world as dark and doomed I could not bring children into it and because I can look at my children (and dogs) and know that while the world is not perfect it is quite good.

      I know there are crooks out there, but I choose to beleive they are few and far between – and I have found that actually is how it is. Most people – even those who I disagree with are good people trying to get by, even get ahead.

      It is so much harder to get from day to day believing that all control of your own life really belongs to others – to Norquist’s, and Arnal’s and Gates and Buffett’s.

      • Priscilla permalink
        December 31, 2011 9:59 am

        An interesting comment, Dave…..it reminds me that this argument over how much or how little government we need is largely determined by how we view the nature of humanity and the social contract. You are clearly on the side of Locke, Rob on the side of Hobbes, and the rest of us at various points in between.

        And, oh my, I had forgotten about Jonathan Livingston Seagull!

  53. JB Say permalink
    December 30, 2011 9:54 am

    On hating the successful:

    http://www.economist.com/node/21541857

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 30, 2011 1:16 pm

      Unbiased views:

      http://wonkette.com/

      • December 30, 2011 3:04 pm

        See more we agree on. Just say no to Santorum.

    • December 30, 2011 3:09 pm

      It is not just success, the target is commerce in general.

      How many movies or TV shows ever show business, buying and selling, trading, in a good light ?

      The article did not mention it but the Nazis had a disdain for business that went along with their genocidal anti-semitism. Others here try to pretend that the Nazi’s were not white collar socialists, but they were strongly anti-markets. Everything served the state, anything that did not, anything that put its own interest on par or worse above that of the state was evil. Business was an untrusted servant of the state no more.

  54. Ygdrasille permalink
    December 30, 2011 10:58 am

    Eeks! Ugly stuff going on. How about a little respect and common curtesy? If Mr Bayan invited you to a dinner party, would you vilify each other this way? Easy to do when you’re just a cyber-name.

  55. Ian CSE permalink
    December 30, 2011 11:30 am

    Anyone who has spent any amount of time on internet commentary knows that every site unfortunately is infested with ghosts and trolls and we all know the best thing is to ignore them, but many of us just can’t do that. Banishing posters is not a technical possibility, a determined troll can acquire new IP addresses and new e-mail addresses as fast as you you can block them. Trolls of course don’t actually want their opinions heard, they just want to release bile and irritate people.

    I disapprove of the silly threats and constant bad language in Robs posts, as well as the intentional abrasiveness and basic emptiness in DBM/Say’s posts, others have disapproved of my own posts, my weird sense of humor, my irate lack of patience.

    What can one do? Only judge each poster’s “brand” by its quality. Even the worst offenders say interesting and intelligent things occasionally, but it is mostly lost in their drek. You’d think they would realize that but… They are posting to little avail, but there is no technology to stop them.

    Politics and religion are inherently passionate touchy subjects but the better any of us behave the more intelligent people will listen to our opinions and consider them.

  56. Ian CSE permalink
    December 30, 2011 12:55 pm

    Priscilla, I won’t even try to put this comment in its proper place, its hopeless. But I’ll hope you see it.

    I thought highly of that Nat Review article you linked, National Review or not (a good bit of it sounded like Krugman could have been a coauther! very amusing).

    I tuned out the Anti-Obama red meat, but did hear the valid points against him.

    It was a pretty solid thrashing for wall street greed and crony capitalism mixed with greedy politicians, when seen through my eyes. Someone else may see different messages.

    The word “greed” strikes a defensive and denialist chord with many when discussing business and finance, which is a little strange in some ways as greed and fear are openly and non judgmentally discussed in any volume instructing one on any kind of investing, Forex, Stocks… Greed and fear are the two emotions investors have and they ideally should keep them under control to do well in the market. And yet, just mention the word greed and you often get a wall of denial. It doesn’t exist, its not harmful, if it does exist… Some version of the fable of the golden fish exists in nearly every culture, I’ve led a happy life by understanding that fable.

    Some greed is good, too much is a disastrous drug, the victims loses not only their senses but their sensibilities as well.

    • December 30, 2011 2:40 pm

      I am in agreement with you and Rick on far more than you think.

      Aside for some language issues, we see alot of the same problems.
      Most here are less likely to grasp government role in fostering the problem, but even that distinction is not critical.

      I do not like terms like “greed” and “fairness” they mean entirely different things to different people. I do not see government as having a role in deciding what is moral or not.
      This is an area that distinguishes libertarians from both conservatives and liberals.
      I do not like “greed” either, but I would not make anything illegal that does not use force or deceit to harm another.

      The social contract is surrendering the right to initiate force in return for societal/communal protection of all other natural rights.

      Theft, vandalism, assault, murder and fraud are inconsistent with living in society.
      Thou shalt not Kill
      Thou shalt not steal
      Thou shalt not lie

      The “non-aggression principle” provides a framework for law that does not require a specific moral framework. We trade our natural right to kill, lie, steal, to initiate violence, in return for the privilege of communal protection of our other rights.

      The entirety of “The rule of Law” can be derived from that and still leave each of us free to chose our own morality.

      Regardless, I will be perfectly happy to agree that the intimate relationship between business and government is a bad thing.

      I have and will continue to defend people whose behavior I find repugnant.
      I do not like Arnal, or Mozillo.

      Where we part company is at solutions.

      My solutions are simple – the less power government has, the smaller it is, the less there is to corrupt.

  57. December 30, 2011 2:54 pm

    I am deeply troubled by the claim here that Norquist is some kind of criminal.

    Guys Like Arnal are understandable. Even my defence of Arnal is not based on some claim that he is good or moral. Only that people like him are not the root cause of anything that has happened. I will be happy to lock Arnal up for fraud – given that we are also going to lock up those borrowers as well as Fannie and Fredddie officers, Federal Reserve, and HUD officials, and politicians that were all complict in the same fraud.
    Though there is the complexity that no matter how repugnant the behavior may be, you can not actually defraud someone who is in on the deceit.

    Regardless, my defence of Arnal and others like him is not based on some misguided belief that he is one of the good guys, or somehow moral. He is a crony capitolist of the worst sort. But he is not the root cause of anything, and unless we are going to lock up most of Washington, and a large percent of borrowers fixating on him is ludicrous.

    But Norquist is different. How is he distinguishable from NOW ? NAACP ? or any other organization that has a particular view on an issue that is important to them, and advocates for that view ?

    The American response to repugnant speech is more speech. An important part of what separates us from much of the rest of the world is that almost nothing can not be said.
    Free speech used to be a value liberals shared with libertarians.

  58. December 30, 2011 2:58 pm

    As Rich has taken “JB Say” and Ian is appending “CSE” and as most of you think I am enthalled to dead economists anyway, I am using Asmith as my nom de plume for the moment – atleast until my browser forgets it.

    dhlii

    • Ian CSE permalink
      December 30, 2011 3:12 pm

      Well, I guessed that, mr. Smith just as I immediately recognized Say as DBM and I even guessed Valdo correctly months back when he showed up as anonymous on the wild card. I have a good musical ear.

      So, perhaps we are making progress with you on Arnall, that is nice to see. I also agree with you on the basic laws of economics 101, I think that liberals are often nearly completely ignorant of them but Libertarians are not, instead you distort the importance of basic economic laws. 2% of the laws of economics get 95% of the Libertarian emphasis. Almost as bad as not knowing them at all.

      Once you agree fraud is bad then you have to ask who defines it? Only those who have the power to punish it can define it, that would be, er, government. without government you cannot have crime and punishment you can only have vigilantess and blood feuds.

      I am one whose character errs in favor of doing to much rather than too little. Yes to the wars on drugs, poverty, illiteracy, hunger, Stalinism, Islamic radicalism, etc. You don’t win those wars very often, you aim not to lose them and the world with them. That strategy looks like failure of government to some.

      I will never win the war with the mess in my workroom, but I will never stop fighting in either, partial temporary victory is better than defeat.

      • December 30, 2011 4:32 pm

        Yes but did you connect JB Say with “Jean-Baptiste Say”

        I have not changed my mind on Arnal. I have never had any doubt he was just another amoral or immoral crony capitalist.

        Though I would chose far different language, The role – the SOLE ROLE of government is protecting the natural rights of its members.

        Nor do I think definition is such a troubling problem.

        I have no problem being able to tell for an example that however immoral Arnal was, he did not commit fraud – because a lie can not be fraud if everyone involved knows its a lie and knows what the truth really is.

        While there are truly some tricky gray areas were sharp delineations are not possible – and one the great failures of modern law is expanding those – I beleive in bright lines were ever possible, I beleive it is better to let ten guilty men go free than imprison one innocent man.

        Regardless, if the underlying principle is harm to others through violence or deceit. Where intentional harm is a crime, and unintentional harm is a tort, and you allow for the fact that people are responsible for their own choices. Government is not responsible for protecting people from everything. It is only responsible to protect rights, and then only from violence or deceit.

        Put differently, government is not responsible to protect you from your own poor choices. If something bad happened to you that was not cause by another’s violent actions, or their deceit, government has no role or right to interfere.

        Government is an institution that has evolved over millenia. Tribes, vigilantes and blood feuds are really just early manifestations of Man’s effort to government themselves.

        Libertarians emphasise what you see as 2% of the laws of economics – because the other 98% are not laws of economics.

        The “Laws of Economics” are really just immutable aspects of human behaviour. It is because they are either constant or sufficiently near constant that it is highly irrational to expect people to behave differently that we call them laws.

        No they are not exactly like the laws of mathematics. The calculus of supply and demand is not one of infinite precision. But they are sufficiently precise to assert with certainty, that government can not successfully bend them – even a little, without triggering consequences elsewhere. That the specific consequences only appear obvious is hindsight does nothing to discredit the fact that there will be unintended consequences and they will be bad.

        Worse still these laws of human behavior – which were mostly arrived at by society as a whole through a 150,000 year period of trial and error, are actually becoming more certain and stable as we move forward not less.

        And yes, we are going to part ways on all your assorted wars.

        If you wish to fight drugs, poverty, illiteracy, hunger, stalinism, islamic radicalism – one your own. I am probably with you. If you wish to form a group, organization, corporation, …. to advance your cause, I may join, and anyone else is free to. but when you demand – force I or anyone else join you in your particular activist priorities we part ways hard.

        One of the fallacies of all statism, is that it is even possible for an individual or organisation to balance the infinite competing values and priorities.

        However many excellent ideas for government action you can come up with, I can conceive of more, and with 300 million people there are more than 300 million priorities.

        Inevitably difficult choices have to be made, neither the time nor the resources exist to do everything. But as the recent battles in Washington demonstrate – the left does not accept that in any form.
        Everything government does means less that each of us can do ourselves.

    • valdobiade permalink
      December 30, 2011 3:17 pm

      Well JB’s appending is DBA, mine is Valdobiade KMN.

      And love satire to diffuse the mental state of… stiffness

  59. valdobiade permalink
    December 30, 2011 8:50 pm

    Asmith wrote: “Yes but did you connect JB Say with “Jean-Baptiste Say”
    ================

    Very interesting! It seems that JB Say was a writer who popularized Adam Smith in France… WOW!!

    While visiting Glasgow, he sat in Adam Smith’s professorial chair, a very emotional moment for Say! AWWW! Isn’t that cute?

    Those guys were the fad of their times, but clearly economic troglodytes for our times: he idea of the Invisible Hand of the Market will lead the rich to heaven where they will achieve a level of wealth they could previously not even imagine.

    Adam Smith suddenly had the idea that if people owned private businesses instead of working for feudal lords, a force called the “Invisible Hand” would guide people in the market to make decisions that would eventually lead to everybody’s benefit, faggotry and butthurt. He concluded that without a centralized government interfering in a perfect market and with good conditions between buyers and sellers, people would be unable to exploit each other and would be motivated to provide good products and services in spite of exploiting each other.

    To have a “free market” there must be (1) “perfect competition” (no buyer or seller can unilaterally influence the market); (2) “perfect knowledge” (all buyers and sellers have and provide the same information); and (3) “perfect mobility” (all buyers and sellers can move to where they have the greatest competitive advantage). Since this does not exist in the US or any other country, no country truly has a capitalist society or ever will. Instead we have Corporations that want to buy and sell your life like a cheap piece of crap from Walmart.

    So, Adam Smith initiates a primitive Capitalism and now some people claim that there is no alternative to capitalism, that’s total bullshit since fair Capitalism is a fairytale, and, unlike the theory, in reality most capitalist countries are full of shitty service-sector jobs and low wages. But that’s okay… because most people would just squander their money on hookers and blow anyway…

    • Priscilla permalink
      December 31, 2011 12:30 am

      Good grief, valdo….you make the free market sound like film noir!

      • valdobiade permalink
        January 3, 2012 2:06 pm

        Film noir is well sold in the free market :)

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 3, 2012 7:24 pm

        Haha, touché…

    • December 31, 2011 1:50 am

      Say is far more than an admirer of Smith. Say’s law is his creation,

      Smith, Say, Mills, Turrgot, Bastiat, and myriads of others are as significant and contemporary as Newton, Maxwell, Faraday.

      They are Economics 101. And just as Plank, Bohr, and Einstein build on rather than diverge from Newton, …,

      Classical Physics is still what keeps our cars on the road, allows airplanes to fly, and Rockets to leave the earth.

      Classical Economics is what provided you with that computer you are using, the car you drive, the home you live in.

      If free markets did not work, you would be living the same barely above subsistence lifestyle that mankind has had for the 99.99% of human existence before the emergence of capitalism.

      It is Classical Economics that is modern and relevant – statism is almost 10,000 years old and has an abysmal record.

      The invisible hand is a single line from a single paragraph in an almost 1000 page book, while it is relevant, I personally think it was a poor metaphor for what Smith was trying to communicate. Which is that Markets respond automatically to external tinkering. Bastiat’s parable of the seen and unseen is a far better analogy.

      Essentially it is those who beleive that government can manage the marketplace that are naive and over simplistic, they focus on the obvious surface consequences of their actions and completely miss that in economics like physics every action has an opposite reaction – only unlike physics economics is not zero sum, and therefore the unseen reaction can be and usually is far larger than the action that caused it.

      Further Smith did not create the free Market, it evolved on its own. Smith and those who followed – Like Newton observed and discerned and wrote down its rules that is all.

      You also have the “perfect market” scenario entirely inverted. The really big deal about free markets is that they work and work well even when things are imperfect. They are self correcting.

      Your perfect knowledge and perfect competition notions have been demonstrated as fallacies centuries ago. You are not obligated to learn about economics – if it hurts your head so much, but I would suggest that before you presume to reinvent it, that you might be wise to actually find out what generations of economists have already learned first.

      Walmart exists because we want it to, we vote with our purchases, and overwhelmingly those in the bottom half have voted for Walmart. It is proof of something else Smith noted over two centuries ago – the primary beneficiaries of free markets would be those at the bottom. Many here rant over income inequality, prior to the emergence of free trade, society was not even pyramidal, There were essentially two classes – a tiny wealthy (though poor by modern standards) aristocracy, and the poor – that is everyone else. And social mobility went only one way – down. The poor never became wealthy, but primogeniture assured that most of the wealthy slowly became poor.

      There are plenty of alternatives to Capitolism – Socialism is nearly as old, We have had statism for 10 millenia, Communism has existed in religious communities long before Marx and Smith. What we do not have is alternatives that work. Further we actually have two centuries of economic scholarship – including modern economic scholarship even from left leaning economists that confirms this. Communism has failed. Every nation that has socialism is seeking to slowly back out of it without self destructing. For every 10% of GDP government consumes economic growth declines by 1%. That may not sound like much but it means a doubling of standard of living every generation.

      What we have in the US is far from real free markets, but it is better than most of the world, And yet despite more than 12Million illegal aliens (almost 5% of the population), and far more legal ones than that, despite the most diverse population in the world, despite no permanent aristocracy, and very little hereditary wealthy the US has the second highest median income in the world – Luxemborg is first. Is in the top 7 in GDP/PPP by every ranking – again lead only by tiny countries like Luxemborg, Qatar, Brunei, Kuwait, ….

      The US is 1/3 of the world economy. If each US state were ranked against other countries even the worst state in the US would rank in the top 75 world economies – that means that the top 75 economies are the US states – and 25 other countries. China which is the 2nd and Japan the Third largest single economies – if the EU is not treated as a whole, are 1/3 the US economy. Germany 1/5. The economy of California is the worlds eight largest, and Texas the 14th.

      For much of the past three decades the US has grown almost 1% faster than Europe, that has an enormous impact on standard of living.

    • December 31, 2011 2:05 am

      Where does this capitolism equals low paying service sector jobs claim come from ?

      The top 10 countries in the world for economic freedom are:

      Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Chile, Mauritus, and the US. Most are also in the top 10 for median income. Note that is MEDIAN not average income.

      Economic freedom results in economic prosperity, a better standard of living and better jobs. The evidence is pretty compelling.

      Mexico ranks 48th in economic freedom and has a median income slightly greater than 1/10 of that in the US – wonder why so many in south and central america head north ?
      Mexico’s median income is 1/3 our poverty income. That means almost everyone in Mexico (and almost all people throughout the world) live below the US poverty level.

    • January 3, 2012 11:32 am

      Valdo: You’re probably right that pure capitalism is a fairy tale; what we have today is an alliance between big corporations and big government. H. L. Mencken used to write that democracy is a self-limiting disease, and in a way I agree with him. If people are free to rise above their station, they’ll start marrying other achievers and create a natural aristocracy, which we can see happening today (for evidence, just read the marriage announcements in the Sunday New York Times).

      I think it’s pretty much the same with capitalism: eventually the most successful enterprises rise and become dominant, squeezing out competition and currying favor with the government to reinforce their status. So it looks as if pure capitalism might also be a self-limiting disease.

      • January 3, 2012 5:46 pm

        It is not utopia that matters, it is where we head from here.

        Whatever power government will inevitably lure those who would bend it to their will. I am not aware of any significant economic thinker that did not grasp that business would seek to influence government. Nor is the desire of business to harness the power of government different from that of other interests, MoveOn, OWS, The Religious Right, the NAACP, Gay Pride, are all seeking exactly the same thing – to bend the power of government to their wishes.

        You can not restrain one group, without infringing on all. Anything different is choosing winners and losers based on your particular set of beliefs.

        It is not capitalism of free markets, the issue is government power.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        January 3, 2012 5:53 pm

        Gays and lesbians, like other traditionally oppressed groups, are metely seeking to be granted full rights of citizenship and participation. There’s a big difference between that and right-wing religious fanatics trying to cram their faith down our collective throats. Please understand and appreciate that distinction.

      • January 3, 2012 5:57 pm

        Dave: I agree with you that both business and left-wing special interests attempt to bend and mold government to their liking, and of course that’s why we have a corrupt government today. But I don’t see why we can’t restrain BOTH sides from harnessing the power of government in their own interests. All influence-peddlers should be evicted from Washington, IMHO. All right… maybe I’d make an exception for lobbyists (left right or center) who simply present their arguments in open-door sessions and make no attempt to buy influence. Our representatives could listen to their stories, then make up their own minds without the enticement of future campaign contributions.

      • January 3, 2012 6:10 pm

        Rob… just saw your comment now. Yes, gays are pushing for basic rights, which they deserve. But I don’t think it will stop there. Look at the new regulation in California requiring public schools to include segments on gay Americans in history courses. This should be an option, not a requirement. Also, it’s a further symptom of the fragmented “boutique” mentality that we find among special-interest groups. Their bond with their own “community” seems to trump their identity as Americans, and I think that’s dangerous.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        January 3, 2012 6:17 pm

        Rick, Rick, Rick…

        No, it’s *history*, which is why it’s required. The Stonewall Riots that off the gay rights movement in ’69 are as singular an event as the March on Washington in ’63. AIDS blew it all the way open, of course, but gays and lesbians – and their struggles – are as much an important part of American history (albeit recent) as any other struggle, including the struggle against slavery. In the same way it would be racist to suggest that the civil rights struggle was “unimportant”, it is homophobic to suggest the same about gay and lesbian rights, though of course the latter could not have existed without the former.

      • January 3, 2012 6:47 pm

        Rob: If they simply want schools to cover the gay rights movement, that’s fine. But I got the impression that all of American history would have to be reinterpreted from a gay-friendly perspective. Yes, Lincoln slept in the same bed with a couple of men during his lifetime. No, he probably didn’t have sex with them. But who knows what half-truths will be force-fed to the kids? Afrocentrists like to believe that the Egyptians were black, but that doesn’t make it true. And yet they’re teaching this stuff in many schools today. That’s the kind of skewed “boutique” mentality I’m concerned about.

      • Rob Anderson permalink
        January 3, 2012 7:03 pm

        Normalizing the role(s) of gays and lesbians – and homosexuality in general – in history is a good thing. Southern textbooks ignored influential black folks like Harriet Tubman and Frederic Douglas (*especially* those two) until after the death of Jim Crow. As for Egyptians…well, every unwrapped mummy I’ve ever seen (three so far) has had a rather Nubian sheen. At the time of the Pharaohs the Egyptian people had not yet intermingled with Islamic conquerors. It’s absurd that they would have been any less black than their neighbors in the Ethiopian Empire.

      • January 3, 2012 7:22 pm

        Rob: Not only are those mummies over 2000 years old, but they were bathed in salts that essentially turned them into human beef jerky. You’re not going to see their original coloring on their desiccated corpses. You’re right, of course, that the Egyptians hadn’t yet mingled with the Arabs, but the surest clue to the appearance of the ancient Egyptians is in their art. Granted, all Egyptian art was stylized, but they depicted their men as brick-red, their women as light tan, and black people as black. (Yes, there were depictions of black people in Egyptian art, and they definitely didn’t look Egyptian. In other words, they regarded blacks as a separate race.)

        Anyway, this is a side issue (Egyptian jerky, anyone?). It might be good for everyone to learn about the history of gays in America… I just don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea for it to be mandated by law. How about a segment on Armenians in America? (Hey, we popularized shish kebab and introduced rice pilaf.) Where does it stop?

  60. January 2, 2012 8:55 pm

    “Liberty and democracy are eternal enemies, and every one knows it who has ever given any sober reflection to the matter. A democratic state may profess to venerate the name, and even pass laws making it officially sacred, but it simply cannot tolerate the thing. In order to keep any coherence in the governmental process, to prevent the wildest anarchy in thought and act, the government must put limits upon the free play of opinion. In part, it can reach that end by mere propaganda, by the bald force of its authority — that is, by making certain doctrines officially infamous. But in part it must resort to force, i.e., to law. One of the main purposes of laws in a democratic society is to put burdens upon intelligence and reduce it to impotence. Ostensibly, their aim is to penalize anti-social acts; actually their aim is to penalize heretical opinions. At least ninety-five Americans out of every 100 believe that this process is honest and even laudable; it is practically impossible to convince them that there is anything evil in it. In other words, they cannot grasp the concept of liberty. Always they condition it with the doctrine that the state, i.e., the majority, has a sort of right of eminent domain in acts, and even in ideas — that it is perfectly free, whenever it is so disposed, to forbid a man to say what he honestly believes. Whenever his notions show signs of becoming “dangerous,” ie, of being heard and attended to, it exercises that prerogative. And the overwhelming majority of citizens believe in supporting it in the outrage. Including especially the Liberals, who pretend — and often quite honestly believe — that they are hot for liberty. They never really are. Deep down in their hearts they know, as good democrats, that liberty would be fatal to democracy — that a government based upon shifting and irrational opinion must keep it within bounds or run a constant risk of disaster. They themselves, as a practical matter, advocate only certain narrow kinds of liberty — liberty, that is, for the persons they happen to favor. The rights of other persons do not seem to interest them. If a law were passed tomorrow taking away the property of a large group of presumably well-to-do persons — say, bondholders of the railroads — without compensation and without even colorable reason, they would not oppose it; they would be in favor of it. The liberty to have and hold property is not one they recognize. They believe only in the liberty to envy, hate and loot the man who has it. ”

    H.L Mencken

    • January 3, 2012 11:21 am

      Well, those of us who have read Mencken know his low opinion of democracy. You have to admit he’s an extreme case: a merry elitist who hated (or at least made a good show of hating) ordinary Americans with a passion. A brilliant, funny and engaging writer, but I wouldn’t turn to him for advice on democracy.

      It’s extreme to view liberty and democracy as enemies… they’re simply two poles, and between them stretches a wide swath of territory inhabited by moderates who believe in balancing the two. Total liberty and total democracy would both be disastrous; only by bringing the two forces into equilibrium can we have a just society. In other words, we need both liberty AND democracy.

      And I don’t know why Mencken was getting his knickers in a twist over the prospect of censorship… he had one of the freest pens (or typewriters) of any writer of his time, and I don’t recall that he was ever made to suffer on account of it. If he were writing in today’s PC climate it would be a different story. But you probably know that I’m an enemy of extreme political correctness.

      • January 3, 2012 4:20 pm

        Democracy is a misnomer. Real democracy is antipodal to freedom. It is no less tyranny than a monarchy.

        Menckin’s oppinion of real democracy is pretty broadly shared. By our founders, most actual students of governments. Democracy failed 2,000 years ago when Socrates drank hemlock.

        Almost no one want real democracy. The problem is that almost everyone wants more democracy that we have. Real democracy is the antithesis of freedom, Greater democracy means less freedom. When we ask for more democracy – we are asking for less freedom. We are asking for the right to dictate to our neighbours how they must live. We are asking for the right to pick their pockets for whatever cause we persuade ourselves is good. We are asking to do as a group what we would find criminal if done by any one of us.

        Our founders passed the first Alien and Sedition acts in 1798, Debbs was jailed in 1917, Sanger was prosecuted in the same era. McCarthy was in the 50′s. The fight for free speech and and freedom from censorship has a long history and despite todays PC climate, we actually have more free speech and less censorship than ever. I do not know what censorship Mencken was refering to – but there has been no past period of unlimited free speech.

        Regardless, today we have too much democracy, too much government and we need more freedom.

        You profess intolerance towards extremism, yet I am arguing changing a course that has been inexorably heading in one direction – more government and less freedom, for atleast 100 years, our successes flow directly from the freedom we have, our failures from government.

        If democracy and liberty are poles, and you are opposed to extremism then how do you argue for more democracy (and less liberty) ? We have the most democracy we have had since our founding, It is unlikely more is the answer. Regardless, that would be the “extremist” view not the “moderate” one. If moderates inhabit the center, and are averse to the extremes they should be clamoring for less government, and more freedom – maybe no so much as I want but still moving back towards the center and not towards the extreme.

        arguing to continue in the same direction we have headed \

      • January 3, 2012 6:36 pm

        Dave: I’m not arguing for more democracy and less liberty… I’m arguing for keeping a balance between the two. But I don’t see that we have an excess of democracy right now, so I’m not inclined to push for an increase in liberty.

        It’s more complicated than that, though. What you regard as “liberty” is more like oppression for some — exploited low-wage workers who have no other choice… “downsized” middle class folks who can’t make ends meet because nobody is forcing corporations to hire… even semi-retired folks like me who now have to look for work because the stock market (that shining symbol of our capitalist system) has been flat or worse for more than a decade now. (Having to settle for a bottom-tier job would affect MY liberty, believe me!)

        So I think we have to agree that one man’s liberty can be another man’s misfortune, just as democracy can morph into tyranny of the mob if unchecked. Balance, balance!

  61. January 2, 2012 9:09 pm

  62. January 2, 2012 9:20 pm

    “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government can not pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.

    Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, “the buck stops here.’

    Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

    – Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006

    • Kent permalink
      January 3, 2012 12:22 pm

      Asmith, I remember that speech. Obama said we would all have to make “sacrifices”. So if the people have cut their budgets and save as best, Corporations have cut hiring, R&D and whatever and saved the rest….when does Government (which is of the people) supposed to start cutting and saving?

      The Roman Republic which became an Empire expanded so large that it lost it’s soul to political infighting, division and wars. Allowing barbarian (illegal) crossings. Destabilization of it’s currency and resources to fund it’s current state. Without a successful person to reestablish the Empire….Rome was sacked.

      The Government today can’t pay its bills. In other words, we…the people aren’t paying enough on the bills the Government has created. We let them borrow in hopes that their spending will work. Hello! The people of the new United States in the late 1700′s did just fine without borrowing.

      In order to pay off the debt we would have to raise the wealthy to a 90%+ tax rate and everyone else to a 50% tax rate if you wanted to pay off the debt within 10 years. That is if you can get the government to stop adding more programs, borrowing and spending.

      Ohh, and by the way, giving billions of weapons to an unstable nation as Iraq isn’t a way to make money. It just postpones future costs to fight a nation for the next generations youth.

      What it comes down to is this: What Obama said is exactly what he as a “Washington rich elite” is: making choices that will be on the backs of me and my kids. The late-baby boomer Obama and all of them need to start riding into the sunset with their knapsacks.

      Too many baby-boomers that are now old think they can fix the system still. Too late! They had their chance in the 70′s, 80′s, 90′s and up to today. Too long!

      True Gen x’ers (that haven’t sold their soul and brains to their older generation ideals) in the 80′s knew that baby-boomers wouldn’t do it right to save social security while the crazy baby-boomer liberals were screaming at that time that oil was going to be extinct in the first decade of the 21st century. Thinking about the earth instead of their kids apparently. Still do today.

      We are few and proud generation of X’ers and Y’ers and so you think that you can step all over us??? Yea, step on your kids and grandchildren. No wonder we are as Gen X’ers are called the “baby busters”. A product of “babies”… and also “busted”.

      Asmith, leadership comes from a dictator. We don’t need leaders…we need Servants. Representatives aren’t supposed to be leaders…we don’t follow them. They are supposed to “serve” us!

      • January 3, 2012 6:03 pm

        Kent: Ahem… I happen to be a boomer myself… but don’t worry about offending me. My generation has yet to produce a single great artist, writer or statesman. We’ve specialized in “lifestyle” for the past 40 years. Our primary accomplishment seems to have been pushing back the boundaries of old age, because we refuse to surrender our youth.

      • Kent permalink
        January 4, 2012 4:07 pm

        Rick, Yes, not surrendering youth is a graceful way to say your not ready to enter “elderhood”, but it is a losing battle. Have you read the book “What are old people for” by William H. Thomas, M.D. You might find it interesting to challenge your view of things you see everyday.

        That aside:
        My mother-in-law is going thru not surrendering (65yrs.) her youth. It is a physical/mental change. I understand It isn’t pleasant to sit back and let the new mothers/fathers (Gen X and Y) dictate to their children (till 18yrs). My father and mother gave this “adulthood” stage up years ago. They only ask if I am “happy”. Otherwise, they stay out of my “adult years”.

  63. Kent permalink
    January 3, 2012 12:40 pm

    Rick, The country and world is in shambles economically this Christmas…. again. Yet, everyone is thankful for what we do have or don’t have. Our countries “poor” is rated to be living in a 1950′s lifestyle. Yet, the other parts of the world wish they could even get to any better lifestyle close to ours. The only ones with a chance are legal and illegal immigrants.

    Yes, the gap between the rich and poor get even larger during downturns in the economy. The rich want their money back and the poor don’t have it to pay because they all ready spent it. It’s bad enough when the economy is good and the rich trick the poor into bad loans by not reading the details of the contracts (education) or the poor take up a bad loan with defaulting intentions. You grow the poor this way also, thus creating a gap.

    The country isn’t going to be fixed if we think we need a “leader”. A “leader” is a dictator. They lead….you follow! Venezuela asked for a leader…they got one! 1930′s Germany asked for a leader….they got one!

    We need a good ‘Servant’. Actually, quite a few good ones! The Republic is representation. Chaos in a Democracy forces eventually a leader to bring calm to the mob rule. Thus, leading to a dictatorship…similar to Nazi Germany.

    • January 3, 2012 5:47 pm

      Kent: That’s a refreshing concept: a “servant” who acts in the public interest. I think the ideal president would also have the ability to lead (you know, the “vision thing” that eluded the first President Bush) without remodeling the country in his own image. We definitely need a lot more “servants” in Congress! They tend to forget who their masters are.

    • January 3, 2012 6:08 pm

      The gap betweent he rich and poor has shrunk as a result of the economic downturn. Most of the statistics you are seeing are based on 2007 or 2008. Those on the bottom have taken the largest hit with respect to loss of employment, but the loss in income for those on the top has been staggering. Estimated GINI index figures for 2010 are comparable to those of the 70′s.

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 3, 2012 7:19 pm

      There are different types of leadership…..Hitler and Chavez are clearly the authoritarian type, which I suppose we would all agree we don’t want. Obama seems to me to be mainly the delegative or detached type. There are collaborative leaders who are more participative. The best leaders embody all three styles, the worst seem to have only one.

      I would agree with Rick that we need a much greater “servant” mentality among our legislators, but I would also like to see more executive and less imperial types in the White House.

    • Kent permalink
      January 4, 2012 3:58 pm

      That is exactly what I am saying Priscilla on your last statement. Our Senators/House members call themselves ‘leaders”. There is a mentality that we should call our “representatives” as our ‘leaders”.

      People I speak to say generalized statements such as, “our leaders don’t understand us” or “our leaders will eventually fix the problems we have”. I tend to want to say “representatives” to remind people they serve our common interests.

      Naive people in politics seem to use “leaders” loosely as though we follow at the “whims” of someone in power irregardless of what “type” of persons character. I argue, most of us with political knowledge don’t “follow”….we make our own path. Call it independence or whatever. I find that self-will is greatly ignored when a desire to have others make choices for you is given priority. Thus, leading to laziness. Which might be why America is such bad shape….by not seriously taking into account the actions of our politicians.

      I hardly find a politician who says they will give power back to the people. Usually, it is they will take our power and use it in their own way and in some way we will automatically be rewarded. Also, that longer they are in…the politicians say we will be rewarded even bigger. This is why I support term limits. To me, it is about doing what we want, more than what they say they can or will do. This is why I don’t by into “promises”. In a Democracy/Republic, more than one person must work to make things happen. You can’t simply promise..only dictators/authoritarian figures can do this.

  64. January 3, 2012 10:59 pm

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204632204577128230588463516.html

    Something I have been repeatedly trying to tell you all.

    Whether it is Flat Screen TV’s or Walmart, the target of almost all production is the bottom of the market place.

    Adam Smith told us that 200 years ago and it is still true today. Whatever the fixation on “income inequality” ultimately free markets compress the differences in real wealth – as in the things we want and need, between the rich and the poor.

    Larry Page from Mr. Kessler’s example may also have oodles more money than most of the rest of us, but that money greatly exceeds his ability to consume, ultimately all that is left is to put it into service making more money – otherwise known as creating jobs and growing the economy.

    As Adam Smith observed two centuries ago, Man’s basic needs and wants are the same whether rich or poor. Maybe the uber super rich can afford to spend 1000 times more on creature comforts than the rest of us, but the disparity in income is orders of magnitude greater. More importantly for most of the moderately rich, rich or even just plain old super rich – the top .1% as opposed to say the top .001%, their consumption is a small multiple of that of the rest of us.

    The overwhelming vast majority of production is targeted at the bottom of the market – the WalMart shopper. Because that is where the overwhelming portion of the nations market and wealth are.

    If anything this is more true today than in Smith’s time.

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 4, 2012 4:45 pm

      As Adam Smith observed two centuries ago, Man’s basic needs and wants are the same whether rich or poor.
      ===

      Yep, the basic needs of the rich is to be rich, the basic needs of the poor is to be… content

  65. August 27, 2012 5:15 am

    ” Atheists, of course, are every bit as certain as the fundamentalists, and they derive just as much comfort from their certainty.”

    Actually Bayan, you forget there’s two types of atheists:

    Strong Atheism: “There is no God.” eg: This person is in belief that God does not exist. This is a strong assertion rather than a certainty. These are sometimes the kind of people going through streets waving flags saying “GOD DOESN’T EXIST – STOP BELIEVING IN FAIRY TALES”.

    Weak Atheism: “I don’t believe in God.” eg: This person may be a newborn or child not yet indoctrinated with any belief, or just someone who shrugs their shoulders when asked if God exists or not. They are usually the kind of atheists who are more tolerant of other’s beliefs but often hold the philosophy that people should believe in things without evidence.

    Atheism simply means lack of belief, for whatever reason it is – regardless if it’s a strong assertion that God is non-existent, or just a simply lack of belief. As a “weak atheist” who was originally raised Muslim I can confirm this: I do not believe in God, but it’s the same disbelief in something like Loch Ness Monster – it could be true, but there’s just not enough proof, so I’m just skeptical and keep it in my file of possibilities, sit on the wall, and wait for it arrive.

    Agnosticism isn’t a religion, contrary to popular culture. It’s simply what one would called their perceived knowledge on God. “A” meaning “no” or “lack of”, and “gnostic” meaning “knowledge”. What a person believes in and what they know are two different things, and sometimes this can be the same for atheism. So a person can easily be a “agnostic atheist” like I am, or an “agnostic Muslim” or an “agnostic Christian”.

    So instead of a skeptical Christian, the actual phrase you may is “agnostic Christian” rather – Which simply just translate to “I believe in Christianity, but I do not have knowledge of it being true or not.”

    Cheers for reading.

  66. August 27, 2012 11:55 am

    Cassandra: Wow, I had forgotten how many comments had been posted to this particular column… and yours is one of the few that actually deals with the subject matter!

    Funny you should suggest “agnostic Christian” to describe my beliefs… that’s exactly how I phrase it on my Facebook profile. I like your distinction between the two varieties of atheist… though you sound almost like an agnostic yourself. You simply don’t know… which is the most reasonable attitude toward a god who leaves us few clues about his nature — other than a collection of highly embellished scriptures written by the faithful.

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