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What Do Moderates Want?

September 23, 2011

Fairness. It all boils down to fairness. For me at least, being a moderate is about being fair, playing fair, and doing our damndest to ensure that society and its government are fair to those who dwell within it.

I like the idea of fairness as the foundation of any moderate movement. Fairness is a childlike principle; all kids seem to be born with an innate sense of justice. They know when they’ve been snookered, they don’t like it, and they generally demand restitution (though they don’t use that particular word).

We all know that life can be brutally unfair. Virtue, kindness, honor and sensitivity carry no advantages in the jungle. The amoral Darwinian gods continually seem to reward aggression, exploitation and cunning. The more enlightened members of our species agree that nature can be unfair, which is why the best and most successful societies have created governments that are, nominally at least, democratic and humane. In other words, fair.

Playing fair means making sure the deck isn’t stacked in favor of (or against) any class of people. It means you don’t tolerate secret schemes to fill the already brimming pockets of the rich… but you also don’t topple them from their penthouses simply because they are rich. It means you do what you can to help the poor escape from the abysmal sinkhole of poverty, but you don’t pay their rent for them or honor them with fancy perks denied to the struggling middle and working classes. You strive for balance. A fair society is a balanced society, a society without favoritism.

Political extremists would throw society out of balance if they had their way. They demand “fairness” for their own class without regard for the other classes, and now they’ve become more vocal and irresponsible than ever. They strut, they hurl insults, they long to crush the opposition. And they grow more myopic by the day.

If you’ve spent much time on Twitter or other social media lately, you’ll notice that the extremists have created their own convenient amen corners: they go there to confirm their prejudices and rally the troops. They nurse their pet grievances and rouse each other’s anger. They feed on this collective fury, like a fire feeding on pure oxygen; they grow huge and menacing.

This is how revolutions begin — the kind of revolutions that start with one aggrieved class spewing invective at another class (whom they typically perceive as less aggrieved)… the kind of revolutions that invariably trade one group of oppressors for another.

Meanwhile, the fair-minded moderates among us languish in oblivion. We might be more numerous than the lefties and righties put together, but we seem to lack focus, conviction, bravado. We’re not flashy or contentious, so we’re ignored. Most of the time, anyway.

Of course, we’ve grown accustomed to taking grief from both the left and right. We’re mushy, they tell us. We’re spineless and apathetic and rudderless. We have no agenda. We stick to the middle of the road because we’re too timid and thin-blooded to venture elsewhere. 

And we’re afraid they might have a point. We know what we’re against: extremism. But what are we for… what are our guiding principles? What exactly do moderates want?

Fairness. That’s what we want. Above all, a true moderate longs for a society that won’t tilt toward the right or the left or any special interest at all.

We find ourselves outraged when we see our elected representatives collaborating with big-money interests, shamelessly accepting legalized bribes in exchange for political favors.  It sickens us to watch our government grow fractious and dysfunctional, as hidebound partisans subvert our national welfare for the chance to demolish the opposition.  We shake our heads as we observe the endless parade of American identity groups whose members seem to owe greater allegiance to their homogeneous “community” than to the republic. Hey, we want to shout, we’re all Americans here — or would you prefer to set up your own state?

We’re supposed to be a nation, a united and unified body of citizens with a common purpose. That doesn’t mean we all think alike, but it means we need to start thinking together. The United States is no place for nations within nations. Ben Franklin put it memorably in his pre-revolutionary cartoon of a snake dismembered into 13 parts: Join or die. Sounds vaguely menacing, but he knew how to communicate a sense of urgency.

For better or worse, moderates believe in cooperation. We’ve seen how petty factionalism can cripple our government (not to mention our finances), as our representatives bicker while the ship of state runs onto the rocks. Cooperation has broken down, perhaps irretrievably.

During times of emergency (and we’re living in such times), we moderates need to be a little less cooperative with the status quo and a little more cooperative among ourselves. We need to embolden ourselves, build some internal consensus, make more noise, rouse ourselves to action and grab the wheel from the extremists.

When the vessel has veered too far to the right, as it has lately… when the entrenched interests have rigged the system in their favor (and against everyone else) … we need to turn the wheel sharply to the left. But only until we’re sailing straight ahead. That’s why they call us centrists.

But let’s understand this much: sometimes it takes radical action to chart a moderate course. The American Revolution was organized by gentlemen whose view of government was exquisitely fair and balanced, in the original sense of the phrase. They were revolutionaries for the cause of moderation. Lincoln singlehandedly abolished slavery, an institution that had been festering on these shores for nearly 250 years. It was a radical move, but his goal was simply to restore fairness to our society.

What would America look like today in the hands of moderates? Let me reassure you: it would bear a striking resemblance to America in the mid-to-late twentieth century, during our years of uncontested greatness.

We’d still have our rich and our not-so-rich. After all, it’s a free society, and all we can guarantee is equal opportunity, not equal results. But with tighter controls over the excesses of finagling Wall Street investment wizards and corporate potentates, the now-obscene wealth gap would shrink to its pre-millennial dimensions. Our top celebrities, CEOs and hedge fund managers might eventually have to trade their 50-room palaces and 16-car garages for mere 25-room mansions with eight-car garages. I think they can handle it.

We’d want to see Republicans cooperating with Democrats for the good of the nation, the way Republican Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen used to cooperate with LBJ… the way Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neill used to break bread amiably with Ronald Reagan. We’ve almost grown accustomed to politicians regarding their rivals across the aisle as scoundrels. This is not only wrong; it’s lethal to the functioning of government. Unchecked partisanship is a crippling disease.

We’d want to see the great American middle class thriving again: confident, prosperous, optimistic about the future. Can we turn back the clock to an era before globalization, downsizing and outsourcing, the triple whammy that brought the middle class to its knees? We can try. We can make it advantageous for American companies to hire Americans — and disadvantageous if they don’t.

We’d want to assure the poorest Americans that they won’t go hungry or homeless. That much is non- negotiable. But we can’t guarantee them a house with a picket fence, either. Where do we draw the line? Should we guarantee jobs to everyone who can work? I think we should; it would ultimately cost us less than the disastrous welfare system that created a permanent American underclass. Instead of paying the poor to be idle and produce children out of wedlock, we’d pay them to perform vital work that would build pride and eventually help them contribute to our economy. Even more important, it would be the decent thing to do.

Yes, we’d want to restore simple decency to American politics, commerce and life. Companies and their employees need to regain a sense of mutual loyalty and respect. (That means you don’t pay the CEO a thousand times as much as his secretary.) We need to banish the casino mentality from Wall Street once and for all: we’d start by outlawing short-selling and other slimy tactics for gaming the system. The economy of the Western world isn’t a game.

We’d also outlaw any exchange of funds between lobbyists and politicians: we need to insist on representatives who can’t be bought at any price. The public trust is something sacred and inviolable, and we can no longer tolerate the existence of secret alliances between powerful interests and their elected puppets. As I’ve said before, we need to throw the rascals out and send a wave of fresh-faced, incorruptible Mr. and Ms. Smiths to Washington.

As moderates, our numbers are vast. We’re the sleeping giant of American politics. If the two-party system has marginalized us and the partisans keep catering to the extremists in their ranks, maybe we need to start a third party.  It wouldn’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. We’d need to unify all the moderate, centrist and independent groups out there, just as Bismarck assembled more than two dozen independent states to form a united Germany.

I’m aware that no new party has become a permanent American fixture since the Republicans sprang to life in 1854. (Of course, those upright men wouldn’t recognize their descendants today. For that matter, the Democrats wouldn’t recognize theirs.) But at the very least, we moderates must resolve to become a moving force in American politics. A force for good, for balance, for fairness. It’s time for us moderates to straighten our spines, stand up and make ourselves heard. I’m willing if you are.

171 Comments leave one →
  1. lovetheocean permalink
    September 23, 2011 4:59 pm

    Nice thoughts. But, the more stresses our society is under, the more the Darwinian comes out in many of us. That’s just fact. If people wanted a fair society, they would find a way to achieve it. If they wanted collaboration…security in numbers…the stronger taking care of the weaker…they would have those things. The reality is that MOST people don’t care about anything beyond their immediate sphere. A politically moderate stance already has that going against it…and then there are all the practical considerations to attaining any meaningful power. I do feel strongly about one thing: the moderate political movement needs to put candidates into whatever races it can. Until it does that, it’s just spinning its wheels. The pen may (or may not) be mightier than the sword, but it is NOT mightier than real, get-into-the-ring politics. Until Moderates have candidates that can attract votes, even if they can’t win office, the power structure will not bend to them in any meaningful way. So, where is the Moderates’ slate of candidates?

    • Anonymous permalink
      September 24, 2011 11:12 am

      You’re right that we need to put some good moderate candidates out there, though we might have to start a third party to do it. Most of the prominent moderates out there today tend to be bland establishment types like Mitt Romney or Joe Lieberman. We need fiercely independent “radical” moderates who can commit to reforming our political and financial systems without steering too far left.

      As for the Darwinian angle… yes, the hard times have made most of us defensive and narrow in our outlook (we just want to survive, after all, and our neighbors be damned!). I think this might be part of the reason for the growth of extremism and the refusal to cooperate with the folks across the aisle.

      • Anonymous permalink
        September 24, 2011 11:14 am

        That was me… Rick. Sheesh, it’s sad when my own site doesn’t recognize me.

      • Jesse C permalink
        September 24, 2011 12:39 pm

        Looks like it still didn’t recognize you. My guess is Priscilla? 🙂

      • Jesse C permalink
        September 24, 2011 12:45 pm

        Nevermind my mental fart above. I read the punctuation wrong…


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      September 6, 2017 3:00 pm











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      September 6, 2017 3:02 pm

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  2. September 23, 2011 6:20 pm

    What is “Fairness” ? If this is your measure – you have none. Our founders thought it was
    “fair” that all taxes had to be aportioned by person. Not income, not class. That we all equally benefited from government and that it was fair for each of us no matter how rich or poor to pay exactly the same thing to support it. Almost no one would call that fair today.
    Their better disagreements and nasty politics make politicians today look like whimps.
    Whatever our founders were, they were radicals. They were doing something extremely radical. The word fair does not appear anywhere in the declaration of independence equal apears only twice – rights appears ten different times six times in the most famous first two paragraphs. Our founders were declaring for the first time in history the primacy of individual rights and that the sole purpose of government was their protection.

    The left is arguing for higher taxes on the wealthy – ignoring that we would be cutting off or nose to spite our face, how much should the rich pay – what is fair ? Your answer and mine will be different. As will virtually everyone else’s.
    Even by the relativistic standards of today fair is about the most subjective standard of all. Every progressive cause has waived fairness as its banner. Oliver Wendal Holmes thought it was not fair that the nation support another generation of imbeciles. Is your fair his ?
    Nor is fairness ever achievable. Your standard is undefinable and unattainable and results in a world that will always be demanding redress of fairness.

    Worse still you post appears to make government both the object and implemented of fair.

    There is a reason libertarians found their ideology on natural rights – these are definable. The only subjectivity is in balancing rights against the benefits of living in a society.

    Nature is not fair. Humans step on ants, huricanes, and earthquakes kill people – without any consideration for who is deserving or who is not.

    Every child is certain they know exactly what fair is – “Its not fair” is the chorus of toddlers and teens. Being a parent requires grasping that fairness is not only unmeasurable and unacheivable, but mere consideration of it an impediment to the function of the family – yet this is the standard you wish to impose on society ?

    Every despot and tyrant started demanding their version of fair.

    The germans were entitled to the sudatenland, Austria, Alsace plus a little more for breathing room – it was only fair. It was not fair for japan to be allowed less warships than the other major powers.

    You wish to hitch your star to an undefinable concept that is at the root of every atrocity in human history ?

    Everyone is certain they know exactly what fair is.

    We have rights, we subject ourselves to the rule of law, because as difficult as these concepts often are, those difficulties pale in comparison to fairness.

    Even if you could somehow against all odds reach a consensus on what fairness was, implementing it would pit you against human nature – against nature itself.

    Why would the moderate utopia resemble that of the mid to late twentieth century ?
    The sixties brought us vietnam. Who idolizes LBJ ?
    The seventies brought high unemployment stagflation, Nixon, Gas Lines and the first failure of Keynesian economics.
    I am constantly being told in the face of evidence to the contrary that the policies of the 80’s and 90’s benefited the rich at the expense of everyone else.
    This is a period of extensive transportation deregulation.
    Democrats and republicans together ended Welfare as we know it.
    Gingrich is a current republican candidate should moderates elect him ?

    I would be happy to see a return to some of the values of that period, but the late twentieth century has a stronger resemblance to a modern libertopia, than some kind of moderatopia.

    The concept of fairness presumes an underlying set of rights.
    Fairness is breached when something is taken from you that you have a right to.
    There can be no hope of a common understanding of fair or unfair without a consensus on what constitutes rights.

    Fairness requires an arbiter. It presumes a Zeus or Solomon on their throne able to see into men’s soles and sense intuitively who is right and who is wrong. Yet even Solomon’s wisdom was insufficient. Power corrupts even the most pure. Solomon pursued false god’s.
    Every system that empowers an elite few to decide for the many has failed because none are smart or pure enough to wield that power.

    If this is the moderate manifesto – I am disappointed. Every parent learns, the sharp edges of crys for fairness. Balance and compromise presume that in every conflict the answer is in the middle. That there is no right or wrong in anything.

    You raise a battle cry for radical moderation – that is like mild habaneros.

    This country was founded on liberty – there can be no freedom without individual rights.
    It continues to exist because freedom is one of few things people are willing to die for.
    People will kill for many things – including fairness – are moderates prepared to die for it ?
    Are you prepared to pledge to your Lives, your Fortunes, and your sacred Honor ?

    • September 24, 2011 11:51 am

      Dave: I agree that fairness is a subjective concept, but I thought I covered it in my column. Here’s what I said:

      “Playing fair means making sure the deck isn’t stacked in favor of (or against) any class of people. It means you don’t tolerate secret schemes to fill the already brimming pockets of the rich… but you also don’t topple them from their penthouses simply because they are rich. It means you do what you can to help the poor escape from the abysmal sinkhole of poverty, but you don’t pay their rent for them or honor them with fancy perks denied to the struggling middle and working classes. You strive for balance. A fair society is a balanced society, a society without favoritism.

      Political extremists would throw society out of balance if they had their way. They demand “fairness” for their own class without regard for the other classes…”

      Granted, there’s a certain amount of wiggle room in determining the most equitable balance between the rights of the “haves” and those of the “have-nots.” And the arbiters would have to possess uncommon wisdom. But you get the general idea: we try not to favor one class over any other class. That’s as objective (and as moderate) a definition of fairness as I can come up with. It’s a start.

      I have to take issue with your defense of natural rights based on the notion that they’re more readily definable than my moderate promotion of “fairness.” Good grief, since when does the ability to define something make it morally justifiable? Murder is more easily defined than tolerance, for example. Does that make murder a more viable response to someone who irritates us? That libertarian mindset is a prime example of myopic thinking (not limited to libertarians, of course). What it says, essentially, is that we determine fairness based solely on the interests of my own class, because the interests of my class are all that matters. This is precisely what I’m trying to fight.

      Finally, weren’t most of the Founding Fathers radical moderates? Not all of them were, of course, but I’d name Washington, Franklin, John Adams and Madison as prime examples of the breed. They all supported what they regarded as a necessary revolution, and yet their impulses and ideas were moderate for gentlemen of their era. Yes, they all assumed that white male property owners deserved the lion’s share of rights; they were men of their times, after all. But they could see beyond their narrow class interests when it came to creating a constitution that would work for the majority of American citizens. It was a model of balance between competing interests… it was fair.

      • September 27, 2011 9:00 am

        Rick Fairness is more than subjective it is extremely subjective. I highly doubt you can personally take a stack of issues, decide what is fair on each and not end up with conflicts when you are done. If you can not do that yourself, how do you expect it to work when myriads of politicians and special interests are all competing ?

        Throughout this blog you claim to want less political conflict and more civil discourse – and yet you are proposing a standard that guarantees and possibly inflames conflict.

        You claim to want to drive corruption and special interest from politics – and yet you are proposing a standard that begs for these.

        You whole concept of balance between the have’s and have nots presumes the world is zero sum – that what one person has comes at the expense of others. Your entire concept of balance fails if that is not true.

        You can not balance rights. Something is a right, or it is not. That is a major divide between us. I see our rights as the declaration does – inalienable, and derived from nature or our creator. Nature is not “fair”. Lions slaughter lambs, We are all born with equal rights, but right there our equality ends. It is not fair, that people are born with different abilities. It is not fair that some of us were born in China and others in Manhattan.

        Does your conception of fairness propose to correct all those enormous unfairnesses ? If so how and if not why not ?

        If you wish to correct the unfairness between the haves and have nots in the US, then why not the entire world ? There is no answer to that question that gives you the moral authority to achieve fairness within the US that does not compel you to do so throughout the world.

        We all see in history what we want. History is something to learn from not deify. Our founders are not an should not be the last word on anything – it is our country now – we are responsible to ourselves and our children. But they created something that has worked for two centuries.
        At the same time they did something that had never been done before – and has not been done successfully since. They created a new foundation for government. They were not the first to conceive of government founded on the rights of man, but they were the first to attempt it. A government were power flows from the bottom – the people, up. Their only significant failure was limiting rights to white male landowners.
        If you need to beleive that is moderate, fine – but then pursue that kind of moderation.

  3. September 23, 2011 7:21 pm

    If I create the whatchamacallit that provides world peace, eternal life, and universal bliss is it only fair that I give it away ? If not what am I entitled to for it ? $1,000 ? $1M ?, $1B ? $1T ? A thousand times as much as my secretary ? There is only one “fair” way to compare to prices – the market. If a secretary, or a janitor, or even the CFO is being paid, ten, a hundred, a thousand times more than other secretaries, janitors or CFO’s is it relevant whether they are paid ten, a hundred or a thousand times less than their boss ? What is the relationship between the secretaries pay and that of the CEO ? E.F. Schumacher posited that no one in any enterprise should make more than seven times as much as anyone else. Ben & Jerries tried this model. So long as Ben and Jerry were willing to run the business and their real compensation came from their stock things worked, but as the pay of the Janitors became unsustainable and as they wanted to move out of day to day management of the business, they found it impossible to find new and competent managers who would run the business for 7 times what the janitor made. And recognising that if the business continued to grow because of the skill more people who have jobs – that more people would do better – though not each as well as under the Schumacher regime, they decided to get someone really good and pay the market price for skill.

    Why is one persons success – large or small, earned or unearned “unfair” to someone else ?
    Each of us is entitled to get the best compensation we can persuade someone else to pay for our skills – no more. If we are not getting that, we are free to demand more and/or go elsewhere. No one is obligated to work for less than they are worth. No one is entitled to a wage based on that of another. North Carolina does not get to demand that the next Hurricane makes land in Georgia as they have already had their “fair” share.

    Presuming you disagree – exactly how is it that you plan on enforcing what must essentially be some arbitrary standard of fairness. Nine hundred and ninety nine times more is acceptable, but one thousand is not ? PPACA enshrined myriads of rules purportedly based on some conception of fairness, yet for some reason some of those rules must be waived – who gets waivers and why ? Which CEO’s are allowed to be paid one thousand times more than their secretaries ? Who decides ? Republican ? Democrats ? The Tea Party ? Timothy Gietner ? Pres. Obama ?

    Every rule must have exceptions, the more rules the more exceptions, being in the position to make exceptions is power, and power corrupts. The argument for limited government and for complex checks and balances, for super-majorities to accomplish everything, is recognition that power corrupts, that the less power government has the less it will be corrupted. That the harder it is to exercise power, the more people must be involved the more open the exercise of power must be the harder it will be to corrupt.

    The purpose of FEMA is to aide communities in their recovery from natural disasters.
    Yet their record is abysmal and political. Even when they act their motivations are political, and their efforts interfere with the legitimate efforts of others.

    That’s not fair! But it is government.

    If you expect government to solve our problems, to create fairness, you will be disappointed.

  4. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 23, 2011 7:28 pm

    Whatever the issue is,dhlii is always ready to write a lengthy brief to say that it doesn’t exist. (and that the rich get a bad rap.)

    Dhlii, we know what you think already. No need to state it further. I could write your stuff for you by this point and I suspect everyone here could as well. You’ve really become a royal pain in the keister.

    Give it a rest!

    All the tyrants in history demanded fairness. They also all drank water. I’m not giving up on drinking water because all the tyrants in history drank it.

    I swear on mother natures grave to ignore him from this point on and I hope that anyone who wants a moderate blog for moderates will do the same. If you catch me giving in you have my permission to shoot me.

    • Priscilla permalink
      September 23, 2011 11:39 pm

      You give it a rest, Ian.

      Rick is willing to define what he believes a moderate nation would look like. You agree. Dave honestly disagrees.
      Plenty of really thoughtful, intelligent people have noted that life ain’t fair, and government can do little or nothing to change that. It is one thing to mandate equal protection under the law. It is another to mandate fairness by restricting individual liberty.

      There is a real, honest debate here. I don’t have the answers.

      And neither do you.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 24, 2011 11:21 am

        Me, the answers? Strawman, again. There is only one person on this site who has all the answers and isn’t shy to say that he is correct about everything. If there is one thing I’m about its the idea of respecting the immense difficulty of the problems and I freely confess that I have no specific answers and can only propose some principles, actual moderate principle, or poke holes in the things that are not the answers. Define fairness, difficult, recognize Unfairness, that is easy. When the majority of the wealth and income in the US are concentrated in very small proportion of the population, and there is no end in sight to that concentration process that is unfair.

        Likewise its unfair when one person with extreme viewpoints takes up 50% of the bandwidth on TNM.

        I also am obsessive and I talk too much. At least I realize it and try to give people a break from me. I can even laugh about it. Actual moderate people like AMAC came here to contribute intelligent moderate ideas and have clearly stated that they have been driven away by He who shall remain nameless. Just that thought that people might not use the site because I am hogging it makes me want to reign myself in. Megalomaniacs who need more space than everyone else combined who won’t get the hint and exercise some self restraint do hear about it, eventually many people other than myself have tried to do it but it falls on deaf ears. By internet standards I have been enormously polite about pointing this out.

        If you respect Rick as much as you say you do Priscilla then respect the intention of his site, which is NOT to give the proponents of extreme points of view an endless egotistical play ground for their causes.

    • September 24, 2011 11:56 am

      I feel your pain, Ian. 😉

      • Priscilla permalink
        September 24, 2011 1:07 pm

        Fair enough, you two (see I believe in fairness ;)) But you don’t win the strawman point this time Ian, sorry.

        Of course I respect this site, and I respect your opinions too, Ian. But, last time I checked, neither you nor Rick were the final arbiter of what opinions are “extreme” and what ones are “moderate.” You have many times labeled mainstream moderate conservative views as extreme. You have called me an “ultra conservative” when, in fact I am nothing of the sort. As far as I can tell, you believe that any form of libertarianism is “extreme.” I think that moderates are ill-served by imposing purity tests on what constitutes moderate thought, and I think that you often do that.

        If on the other hand, you were merely saying that some comments are overly lengthy, well then, I agree.

  5. September 24, 2011 8:10 am

    of course it is unfair…it is also short sighted and immoral…

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      September 24, 2011 1:32 pm

      Who knows this may go somewhere close to where its meant.

      Post some of your own idea of what moderates want Priscilla.

      Yes, I do think that a person who thinks that the US government should be cut down until it provides only basic physical protection of its citizens is extreme. It is an extreme idea, not because Ian says so. I’m really not that egotistical. And the idea that the shock value of the nazis is far greater than their actual acts, well, if you do not recognize that that is an extreme idea…. You know, a poster’s impact probably has a lot to do with how other posters recognize ones ability to be intellectually honest, when one blinds oneself to all inconvenient truths then their credibility is adjusted likewise.

      Priscilla, you have stated that Rush Limbaugh is a genius, you have described how you rushed home to watch Beck’s rally and complained that he is being misunderstood, you have been outraged that I used the word ultraconservative, pushed Ryan’s plan as moderate…. Obama is an offense to you for his partisanship but republican extremism, threatening to shut down the government over the budget is simply people doing what they were elected to do. Priscilla, you want people to believe that there is such a thing as an extremely conservative moderate. Thats just not so, its like watery oil and an acidic base. You can be one or the other or even neither, both not both. Extremely conservative opinions stated in silky tones are still the same opinions. Nothing is directed personally, we will never meet, but your ideas, especially economic ones which have about 90% of the conversation here are ultraconservative, Rick has said so as well. Those are the kinds of ideas the site was created to fight, and fight them I will.

      Tell me, when the next congress and POTUS are sworn in, what composition by party do you hope for? All republican or a split of some kind? In the last three years you have contributed to which party? Both?

      • Priscilla permalink
        September 24, 2011 3:08 pm

        Haha, well, Ian, you have literally come at me with a strawman army this time! I can’t recall some of the comments that you attribute to me, but I will assume that they were taken out of context in one form or other. I do, by the way, think that Limbaugh is a genius, much in the way that P.T Barnum was a genius, but that does not mean that I agree with everything he says, nor does it mean that I am a follower. And I don’t recall “rushing home” to watch Beck, lol. Did I say that? I have never, ever said that “Republican extremists” are just doing their job. I said that Republicans were elected in 2010 to address jobs and the economy…. you think that they are extremists because they addressed it in a conservative way. I said that at least they addressed it, which is more than the Democrats did. You twist my words and label me as an extremist because I hold views similar to David Brooks and Jon Huntsman, both of whom you call moderate. I did not “push Ryan’s plan as moderate,” although I did say that it addressed the issues in a strikingly similar way to a moderate write that you linked. And I actually don’t recall Rick calling me an ultra conservative – I thought he said I was right-of-center or a classical liberal or something more along those lines…I do recall that he said that my predilection for supply-side economics was unfortunate.

        Eh, I could go on, but it seems pointless. For what it’s worth, to answer your question, I am a registered Democrat (never got around to switching to Independent), who never voted for a Republican until 2004. I even voted for Carter twice (not that I am proud of that, lol). And I have voted in every single election since1972 (for McGovern, of course). In 2008, I contributed $25 to the GOP- it was the first time I had ever given a dime to the Republican Party. Prior to that, I had only donated to Dem candidates. I hope that the next president is a Republican moderate, but that is primarily because the Democratic nominee is obviously going to be Obama, and I think he has done a simply awful job as executive. As far as Congress, I think that, for the most part, the Democrats are out and out statists and the Republicans are power hungry hypocrites. Right now, I think that the country would be well served if 70% of both parties congressmen were voted out and replaced by more reasonable, moderate, pragmatic statesmen.

        My post is too long already and I’m heading out for the weekend…but I’ll post my “what moderates want” list next time.

  6. Priscilla permalink
    September 24, 2011 9:54 am

    Rick, there seems to be a dichotomy in what you are saying here. If it is unfair to rig the system for one side, it must be unfair to rig it for the other side, yet that is what you seems to be advocating. Yet, attempts by the government to rig the system for either side produces all kinds of unintended and unwanted consequences, often bad.

    Using sports as an example: Title IX was an honorable attempt to level the playing field for girls in collegiate sports. Since it was passed, as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act, its implementation has, indeed, created huge scholarship opportunities for girls in the NCAA. It has also caused the elimination of thousands of men’s teams, creating a situation in which boys in most sports,save football and basketball, are the victims of discrimination caused by a law that was meant to end discrimination. Many attempts have been made to correct the gross inequality and unfairness to boys that has resulted from Title IX (much of the problem having to do with the fact that football does not have a female sports equivalent), but every “fix” threatens to create new inequities.

    Guaranteeing jobs would be a similar boondoggle, I believe. I can’t even fathom how that would be possible. Plus, if every child grew up knowing that they would be guarateed a job, regardless of their skills, performance or work ethic, how many do you suppose would actually work hard to achieve success in school or …..well, anything?

    Creating safety nets is very different from guaranteeing welfare to everyone. And once the government gets into the business of job creation, it will, by necessity, have to take over certain industries that are currently part of the private sector. Not everyone can or should have to take a job that requires them to build bridges and railroads, after all. That would be unfair.

    • September 24, 2011 12:31 pm

      Priscilla: The whole idea is to stop rigging the system for either side (or even the middle). I’m anti-rigging (except on sailing ships). That said, you brought up a good example with the college sports travesty, where the women’s rights infringed on the men’s rights. Whose rights do we honor? My own view is that Title IX went overboard, but the question remains: how do you apportion rights so that you’re fair to both sides?

      I would have argued that the men’s teams were already in existence, and that you couldn’t simply strip away half the budgeting for these teams to accommodate the women’s sports. They also should have taken into account the degree of sports participation among men vs. women. Then there’s the matter of college football and basketball being big business. As something of a college sports purist, I’d have been in favor of distributing some of the funds from the big-money sports to the endangered sports like fencing and rowing. (Call me a redistributionist!)

      As for the job creation thing… Nobody would be guaranteed a GOOD job, so I don’t think we have to worry about destroying motivation. The jobs I’m talking about wouldn’t necessarily compete with the private sector, anyway. They’d include infrastructure improvement, maintenance, park jobs and so on. But eventually, if American companies continue to hire overseas and Americans continue to go jobless, the government might have to become a major employer. I don’t see any other option (a barter economy, maybe?); people have to eat. I’m just hoping the economy turns around and American companies start hiring Americans. But as long as companies are free to hire globally, I don’t see it happening. Why should a company hire an American for $20 an hour when it can hire an Indonesian for $2 an hour? Unless we impose hiring regulations, of course. (Heh, heh.)

      • Priscilla permalink
        September 24, 2011 1:22 pm

        I agree that Title IX went overboard. But that is what always happens when the government attempts social engineering, no matter how well intentioned.

        You are absolutely right about the global economy being a primary cause of our jobs problem right now. So, we agree that it’s not those “rich” people making over $200K, haha?

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 24, 2011 1:56 pm

        I just cannot for the life of me understand what is so hard to grasp the idea that the people with a great deal of money derive an economic advantage from it that allows them to become progressively more wealthy statistically speaking compared to people of more moderate means. If that tendency, which has gone on for quite some time now is allowed to go to completion the final result WILL be something like a communist revolution. At some point there will be too many have nots and then the armed forces will have to decide whether to go the Chinese route and fire on citizens. We had better bloody well hope that the income concentration process can be reversed and wealth can be redistributed and that the ultra haves will come to see that its their only salvation, or at least the only salvation of their offspring.

        Put from another angle, this country is going to be on average non-caucasian by 2050, the groups that statistically speaking have a much greater tendency to be have nots will have the votes to do as they wish. The things we do today will determine whether our children and grandchildren are part of a society that evolved to make that a painless transition. Otherwise, those cute grand kids of ours are going to be barricaded behind a wall that will not be tall enough.

      • September 27, 2011 9:17 am


        If you see the system as it exists as unfair in some way, how do you propose to correct that without rigging the system ?

  7. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 24, 2011 11:30 am

    To avoid posting a dissertation I’ll break up my ideas on what moderates want into multiple posts over time.

    Moderates want 40% of the political columnists to represent them instead of the far right or far left. We want to walk into Barnes and Noble and see the smiling faces of someone other than Micheal Moore and Rush Limbaugh on the books there. We want out own moderate heros.

    Moderates want 40% of our elected federal officials to be moderates.

    Moderates want the two parties, if there have to be just two parties, to split the spoils in each election so that one side won’t just walk all over everyone else for at least two years.

    Moderates want the debate on economic problems to be based as much as possible on a balanced discussion of facts and as little as possible on entrenched ideological dogma.

    Moderates don’t want academia to be left wing and we don’t want wall street to be right wing.

    Moderates want someone to please tell us a constitutional way in which these outcomes can be obtained.

    • September 24, 2011 12:37 pm

      Ian: Nice try! A quota system for moderates… hmm. I like it, of course. Come the moderate revolution, we’ll be writing the books that they display in stacks of 50 at the local Barnes & Noble (assuming that there are still such things as physical books by that time).

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        September 27, 2011 11:45 am

        Rick, I never asked for a quota system. What I want is for most of those things to happen because moderate consumers want them. I chose 40% because that is in keeping with how many of us moderates there are. My addendum about wanting a constitutional method may have been the confusing part, I was unclear. That one applied mostly to academia being so left wing. Attempts to balance academia might well be unconstitutional, no matter how reasonable or moderate.

    • Priscilla permalink
      September 24, 2011 1:17 pm

      I just downloaded “Confidence Men” to my Kindle, Rick…sorry.

      But that was pretty good, Ian. I, personally, like to read partisan stuff from both sides, because it helps me to understand why I prefer being a moderate. But I also think that it would be cool if there were more books that identified the common ground between the partisan divide. Jesse mentioned a couple of good ones a few threads back, I believe.

      • Jesse C permalink
        September 26, 2011 12:57 pm

        I used to subscribe to the always-listen-to-both-sides approach with the goal of somehow getting a balanced, centrist view of things. But in reality, that approach never worked. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two idiot pundits, who get paid to fire people up and make them scared or angry, arguing opposite sides of the ideological spectrum, don’t provide some sort of intelligent equilibrium. Hence I’ve found sites like TNM and other media outlets for some much less biased news and analysis. For any satellite radio customers out there, I highly recommend Sirius/XM 124 – P.O.T.U.S.

        I think the books I recommended earlier were more along the lines of looking at specific issues from an analytical point of view, rather than dogmatic or ideological. However, if there are any books which do define this middle ground you mention, please let me know! 

    • September 27, 2011 9:42 am


      Everything you want requires imposing your will on others by force.

  8. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 24, 2011 3:25 pm

    Also rushing out, a gig, a private party, those are always fun.

    Brooks I much admire, as well as Huntsman. I admire them as being decent well spoken conservatives. We certainly need that species to continue to exist. Huntsman is a flat out conservative, with highly conservative economic principles although he is a decent and intelligent and reasonable fellow who I could stomach as president with at least one democratic arm of congress to moderate his economics. Brooks is a moderate conservative. You can be straddle the boundary between moderate and conservative you just cannot be both highly conservative and moderate.

    As far as Beck and Rush go, well, Micheal Moore says some reasonable things at times, but one has to acknowledge all the miserable idiotic contemptible things he says and disown him. I gave my son a good lecture no weaker than what I’ve given you several months back when he was praising something Moore said. That’s what I wish moderate republicans would do with their lunatic fringe, disown them which certainly includes Beck and Limbaugh. They taint every subject they touch. Foam practically comes out of your Priscilla mouth when ever anyone mentions Obama, allow me the same reaction to the Beck-Limbaugh universe.

    Rick I believe said that he understood my frustration because I was battle ultraconservative ideas that were being labeled as moderate.

    • Jesse C permalink
      September 26, 2011 12:59 pm

      I’d love to see Huntsman get some real attention. It’s a shame that the “front-runners” are always chosen in the media based on the amount of money they’ve raised, and almost nothing else. Unless you’re Ron Paul, of course, and then they just ignore you altogether, but that’s another issue…

    • September 26, 2011 1:11 pm

      Ian: I actually used to listen to right-wing radio on a regular basis during Glenn Beck’s heyday. I found it useful for isolating the key issues of the day and understanding the conservative perspective on events. I even used to find myself agreeing with some of their points (mainly before Obama became president and they started going all loony). What fascinates me is how people like Beck, Limbaugh and especially Sean Hannity were able to enlist the support of middle- and working-class Americans for conservative ideas that ultimately would benefit the economic elite.

      Here are a few of the themes that emerged:

      The work ethic. Pat the working folk on the back for working so hard, in contrast with welfare slackers (i.e., minorities?) who collect government (i.e., taxpayer) funds.

      Religion. Oppose any attempt by the government or leftists to undermine our Judeo-Christian heritage.

      Liberty. A sacred concept… the basis of the American experiment. No matter if the plutocrats of Wall Street and corporate America are driving the middle class out of existence; imposing controls would destroy freedom and ease us toward socialism.

      Patriotism. We always honor those who put their lives on the line in defense of our country… even when they’re sort of acting more like the aggressors.

      It’s easy to see how ordinary folks would respond to this kind of sales pitch. What decent American would oppose hard work, religion, liberty and patriotism? Add the twin bogeymen of higher taxes and Obama, and you have a mass movement of economically struggling Americans supporting a philosophy of government that favors the continued enrichment of the elite. Strange but true.

    • September 27, 2011 10:01 am


      I do not recall foam coming from Priscilla’s mouth.

      You are constantly characterizing the views of others.
      We are enthrall to Beck or Limbaugh or ….
      We are blinded by ideology.
      Our views are Ultra-conservative.
      You fixate on minor and inconsequential arguments we have made.

      Let us assume that your characterisation is somehow correct.
      It does not address the truth or falsity of anything we have said.

      It is irrelevant whether the truth was spoken by Mao or Hitler, by Moore of Beck, whether it is progressive or ultra-conservative, whether its adherents are pragmatic or ideological, whether its disemination was paid for by the Koch Brother’s or George Sorros. Whether it was whispered or shouted.

  9. Pat Riot permalink
    September 25, 2011 4:05 pm

    Very eloquent post, Rick. You are an excellent writer. Notice, fellow Americans, how Rick lays out a foundation of Moderate desires at an underlying human level rather than getting tangled up in partisan labels and the political blame game! How about that image of steering a ship off the rocks but only swinging the wheel far enough to move the ship forward! Can we get an “Amen”or a “Yee-hah”? Even the picture at the beginning of the essay features tangles of trees to the far left and tangles of trees to the far right, but a navigable road down the center! Nice, man!

    There’s a basic but profound Moderate “mission statement” embedded in Rick’s post that I’ll take the liberty of over-simplifying here as: Stop the secret schemes that benefit special interests left or right, and instead get our government back to the common good so that more equal opportunity (fairness) exists for we the people. Sorry if my attempt doesn’t fully encapsulate it, but notice that Rick’s post never said anything like “perfect equality” or “perfect fairness.” I think Rick was going for a foundational Moderate mission that strategic specifics could be built upon, and I think he just about nailed it (still with the building theme). I think we need to print out the post and nail it to some big corporate and governmental doors. Okay, we’ll use blue painter’s tape to fasten Rick’s post cause the doors are metal and we don’t want to mar the doors because we’re nice radical moderates, ha ha!

    Then a regular commenter, whom I will refer to as “Ebeneezer,” got snagged on the words “Fair” and “Fairness” and launched into his usual long-winded anti-government grumbling and his worshipping at the altar of free markets, arguing against some naïve, utopian concept of fairness that was already disclaimed in Rick’s post.

    Very early in his post Rick wrote “We all know that life can be brutally unfair. Virtue, kindness, honor and sensitivity carry no advantages in the jungle.” And that’s why we the people create and defend a government that attempts to keep us above the brutality of the jungle!

    But then we gotta wade through endless Ebeneezer telling us that life isn’t fair. Good Grief, Ebeneezer, open up the curtains and let some light into that dark corner you post from! Perhaps before you key in the next of your nay-saying rants you should take a shower, get dressed, take a walk, come back and re-read the post, and then take at least one pass to edit your posts. A few typos are okay, but not three in one sentence. Take a breath. “Men’s soles” (sic) ? Is that a reference to putting more boots on the ground?

    Look, man, you are entitled to your opinion, even when it places too much faith in “the market” that gave us such things as 9-year-old coal crackers, routinely tainted meat at the stockyards of Chicago that Upton Sinclair wrote about in “The Jungle,” and asbestos for insulation in our schools. Corporations and business can be profit-driven, but society cannot. That’s not society, that’s the jungle, baby.

    So, while there’s value to debate and argument in that it can force those involved to get a better grip on what they are trying to say, to refine the discussion, you Ebeneezer seem argumentative for argument sake. Have you ever been constructive on this blog? Did you not notice any of the eloquence of Rick’s post? Do you really think “the market” will take care of everything? I believe Nigeria and Haiti have free markets, but how are they doing? Business and Industry do not function in a vacuum. They function interwoven with culture, and culture (even a highly changing one like ours that gets better and worse at the same time) is a function of the rule of law, which is a function of government, (which is supposed to be by the people…) I do think this blog would be better off without you, Ebeneezer, not because dissent is bad but because your dissent is unconstructive for the purpose of this Moderate blog.

    Since your usual frame of reference is the U.S. Constitution, I suggest you re-see the words “…promote the general Welfare, secure the Blessings of Liberty…” I don’t see where it says let corporate profits rule, let business reign regardless of Liberty or the Welfare of the People. Do you think a manufacturer of plumbing fixtures or a global distributor of electronic parts can be focused on promoting the general welfare of the American People? You are so jaded by corrupt government that you see “corrupt government” and “ineffective government” as interchangeable with the word “government.” Sure too-big government should get out of the way of the private sector, but only to a point. You are throwing away the proverbial baby with the dirty bath water. In closing…government sometimes functions like an umpire at a baseball game. Suppose the Phillies are playing the Yankees and there are no umpires…we just let the batter and the pitcher decide the strikes and balls, ha ha. No, the umpires aren’t perfect, but they enable the game to move along fairly–not perfectly fairly, but more fairly than if we left it all up to specific interests. Now I guess I’d better take a walk in the sun myself!

    • September 26, 2011 1:53 pm

      Pat Riot: Thank you — not just for the high praise (which I enjoy, of course), but for understanding what I was trying to accomplish with my current column. I couldn’t possibly go into all the particular policies of a moderate-led government unless I were to write a book on the subject… so I searched for a single concept that would define us and differentiate us from the extremists: fairness, not just for one’s own class but for as much of the citizenry as possible.

      I found it interesting that just a day or two after I wrote this piece, Charles Krauthammer, that skillful neocon apologist, came out with a column AGAINST fairness. I was floored; why not come out with a column in favor of evil?

      His argument was similar to our own Dave/dhlii’s arguments: essentially, you don’t mess with mother nature, and it’s foolish as well as wrong to impose human laws that supersede natural law. But you brought up some prime examples of social outrages caused by “natural” unregulated capitalism. No humane society would tolerate such injustices… we haven’t, and society is the better for it.

      Yes, we humans can improve on nature, and furthermore we have a right to make those improvements to alleviate suffering and promote justice. As moderates, we’d make those improvements judiciously, always keeping in mind that helping one person might harm another. In the end, we have to strive for balance. That means we sometimes have to limit the advantages currently enjoyed by one group to the detriment of other groups. Seems fair and balanced to me.

    • Jesse C permalink
      September 26, 2011 5:10 pm

      Very well said, Pat. It reminds me of something my old sales VP used to say to me: “Don’t let perfect by the enemy of the good.”

      • Jesse C permalink
        September 26, 2011 5:12 pm

        Ignore this one…typos.. ^

        Maybe I need to go walk outside 🙂

    • Jesse C permalink
      September 26, 2011 5:11 pm

      Very well said, Pat. It reminds me of something my old sales VP used to say to me: “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    • September 27, 2011 10:49 am

      Haiti is essentially run by the UN. I can not conceive of anything farther from a free market.

      Nigeria is a pretty good example of what happens when the rule of law collapses. Structurally their government is virtually identical to ours.

      My views of the merit of “fairness” as an ideological cornerstone are dark and dismal. Accept “fairness” as your keystone and you embark on “the Road to Serfdom”.
      My views of communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, fraud, rape, murder…. are also dark and dismal. That does not make me a pessimist.

      Is Upton Sinclair our source for history ?

      Many nations have or are passing through the same transitions that we did in the past. They have had their own 9 year old Coal Crackers and Rats in the packing plants. And they have moved past them, usually without government intervention.

      The 17th century was better than the 16th, the 18th better than the 17th, the 19th better than the 18th, …..

      I fully expect the 21st to be better than the 20th.

      Within my own lifetime the population of the world has increased by more than 50% yet there is more not less for everyone. By almost every measure the quality of life throughout the world has been unprecedentedly, significantly and steadily improving continuously for over 300 years. This change corresponds to the emergence and advance of individual freedom.

      Even if I were to concede some need for regulation, the engine creating the wealth that has and will improve life for everyone is freedom.

      Free Markets are just a manifestation of free people. Capitalism is the economic face of individual liberty.

      My lack of faith in government is not a lack of faith in people.

      We will thrive, conditions will improve, life will be better in the future to exactly the extent that we are free.

      • September 27, 2011 2:18 pm

        dhlii: You’re not only a libertarian, you’re an… optimist! And you’re right that life has generally improved century by century (often as a result of government intervention on matters like slavery and child labor, of course)… until now. I’m hoping the current economic breakdown is just a temporary blip, but I see something more ominous: the shifting of wealth and power from a declining West to Asia in this century. Couple that with the exploding demand for resources on a planet whose resources are finite, and you can see why I’m a bit more pessimistic than you.

  10. AMAC permalink
    September 26, 2011 12:59 am

    I like the idea of stiff penalties for US based companies outsorcing jobs to other countries. Before the days of the infamous monster, “Global Economy”, US business would complain about foreign goods having an unfair advantage over US companies, which was true. Now they are fighting to keep their right to exploit the cheap labor they once seemed to defend. The pure market is unfair, just like nature. The government’s job is not to stand out of nature’s way, or why would we even have a military? Why defend ourselves if nature has decided we should be destroyed? The government should be empowered to make sure we are not exploided, harmed, and basically making the playground as fair as possible for the most people possible. In a country where 1% of the population has 25% of the GDP, I say that is not fair. I don’t want to confiscate the money they have, I want a level playing field so that the majority of society has the same chance to suceed as the rest. Obviously, someone will say, “Well then, what is your definition of fairness?”. My definition of fairness is the same as everyone else’s, in general. I wish to have my immediate needs met (security, physical needs met), and I wish to have the same opportunity to provide for my families immediate needs, and the opportunity to find my own personal measure of success (which is quite different from everyone else’s). This is the idea of fairness that I understand from Rick’s article.

    When a small minority’s idea of sucess is impeding and even preventing others from achieving their own level of sucess, it is unfair. If jobs are being eliminated in this country only to further profits by exploiting cheap foreign labor, then that small minority is acting unfairly. Blocking this from happening can be seen as unfair, primarily to that 1% of the population I spoke of, but overall the level of fairness would be applied to the largest number of people. The market cannot correct this. It only will perpetuate this. Salaries will become cheaper, profits will be furthered, jobs will be lossed, salaries will decrease (as the labor market would be increased). As jobs become more scarse, salaries reduced, consumers become forced to purchase these cheaper goods to meet their own basic needs. This is manipulation of the demand side of the market, which is an aspect of the “free market”. The government has to regulate the market to the point that increasing profits does not marganalize the working class.

    I know Title IX is a popular item to point to as a failure, but you cannot argue that more women are graduating college and leading in business. I know that you could state that this had nothing to do with that, but as a father of both a boy and a girl, I am happy with Title IX. Yes some more scholarships were given to women and in many cases less to men, but women are about half of the population, so itsn’t it fair to the largest number of people possible? I like to think so and would point to Title IX as a sucess more so than a failure. I can remember when many women’s sports didn’t have the fianancing to have matching uniforms, while the same men’s sport had brand new uniforms and equipment. I also remember playing football in a brand new stadium at my highschool. The schoolboard elected to build that new stadium at the same meeting it voted to discontinue womens volleyball (which was the most popular womens’ sport in my school, so the most expensive). I would like to think Title IX will keep situations like this from happening in the future.

    Great article. Sorry so long.

    • September 26, 2011 3:16 pm

      AMAC: Thanks! This “fairness” issue is undeniably complicated and subjective, but you raised some great points — especially that it’s grossly unfair for companies to take advantage of cheap foreign labor to boost their profits while Americans go jobless. The general population has to suffer so that the corporate elite can exercise its “natural rights”? Arrrghhh! It’s enough to make me see red (or turn Red, as the case may be).

      What galls me is that the conservatives hit the ceiling if you talk about the possibility of the government creating jobs to fill the gap. So what do they propose we should do with all those jobless Americans? Ship them overseas so that they, too, can find work at $2 an hour? Are we all supposed to be good little entrepreneurs?

      You’re right that regulation is the answer — not the kind of mindboggling petty regulations that snarl production and progress, but general regulations to guarantee that companies hire Americans, pay them equitably, put employees on their boards (that’s one of my brainchildren), and otherwise limit the extent to which they can harm the middle class and everyone else.

      My own opinion: When the private sector isn’t hiring, the public sector has to intervene — just as FDR did during the Great Depression. There’s plenty of work that needs to be done, and the income generated by those jobs would repay their cost eventually. They’d certainly be cheaper than outright welfare, food stamps and other perks for the poor, which produce no return.

      • AMAC permalink
        September 27, 2011 10:14 am

        That is exactly right. Is it better to give a hand out, or money in exchange for work? Obviously it’s the second option. The national parks are a mess from lack of funding, flood zones need cleared, levies need rebuilt, wind farms need developed, the list goes on. Let’s take the welfare and unemployment and turn it into payroll. Give these people a sense of pride, new careers (maybe), increased skills, and a sense that the government CAN be a force for good! Infrastructure enables economy. The people that do these jobs will buy cars, make mortgage payments, buy groceries, and stimulate the economy from the bottom to the top.

      • September 27, 2011 11:02 am


        When has government ever created a job aside from a government job ?

        Why is it that a comparatively wealthy american laborer with a vast social safety net to sustain them through joblessness is more entitled to a job than that low paid foreign worker ?

        There are myriads of fallacious and zero sum presumptions about jobs and trade in this scenario, but even accepting it on face value, exactly how is it fair to tilt the scales to assure that the better off domestic worker gets the job rather than the poor foreign one ?

      • Jesse C permalink
        September 27, 2011 11:57 am


        When has government ever created a job aside from a government job ?

        I used to have one, as a Naval Systems Engineer, at Lockheed Martin. You can cite zillions of other DoD contractors and find a dearth of high-paying, high-value-add, jobs, as a direct result of govt. spending.

        Why is it that a comparatively wealthy american laborer with a vast social safety net to sustain them through joblessness is more entitled to a job than that low paid foreign worker ?

        There are myriads of fallacious and zero sum presumptions about jobs and trade in this scenario, but even accepting it on face value, exactly how is it fair to tilt the scales to assure that the better off domestic worker gets the job rather than the poor foreign one ?

        I don’t want to put words in Rick’s mouth, but I don’t believe that fairness to other peoples of other nations really matters. This discussion is about America. However, you’re an intelligent person, and I suspect that you know that Rick isn’t advocating fairness for peoples of the entire world, yet you’ve chosen to take issue with the semantics of this word. This isn’t constructive.

    • September 27, 2011 10:56 am

      I can no possibly explain trade fallacies to you as well as Fredric Bastiat.

  11. Pat Riot permalink
    September 26, 2011 8:53 pm

    I should try to get in and get out this time since my last post was a bit verbose. The topic of government-created jobs has been surfacing, and awhile back the question was raised: what should government do that the private sector cannot? The GENERAL ANSWER is…drumroll please… whatever the people deem necessary at the time.

    Example 1: In 1992 Hurricane Andrew devastated portions of Florida. At the time it was the costliest natural disaster in American history. For many of the people hit, life was again being truly unfair. I traveled from PA to the Miami-Dade area of Florida as a government-funded Trades Instructor with about 16 “disadvantaged” student trainees (Dept. of Labor-funded construction program) to help put on new roofs.

    We met up with similar DOL-funded construction trades programs from around the country to help out. We had to wait months to go down because at first the local private sector contractors said, “NO, we don’t want any volunteers. This is OUR work!” But the contractors soon realized they couldn’t shake a stick at all the work they had. People with a blue tarp on their house don’t want to wait 9 months or a year for their new roof. Whole housing developments were nothing but 200 concrete slabs with pipes sticking out of them. The houses were over in a corner in a pile. So after a few months the region shouted, “OK, PLEASE HELP!”

    It was more than the private sector could handle, more than the market could handle. Were our government-funded programs the most efficient roofers down there in the Sunshine State? Of course not, but the Americans down there were relieved to see other Americans arriving from all over the country to help, and the young trainees got valuable hands-on experience. Win-win.

    Example 2 is shorter and semi-hypothetical and up in Maine where let’s say they’re having trouble with moose—moose in driveways, moose terrorizing school children, cars smashing into moose and insurance companies paying for the repairs. If we left it up to the insurance companies they might poison the moose population into extinction to stop the costly repairs. A few skilled moose hunters with entrepreneurial fervor decide to try to cash in at $200 per moose. The first moose they want to shoot in the suburbs is blocking Mr. Smith’s driveway, but Mr. Smith says “It ain’t MY moose. I’m not paying you! The moose problem is a COMMUNITY PROBLEM, not an individual problem and not a private sector problem. There’s no money in it for the private sector becasue who’s gonna pay? The new private sector jobs for moose remediation won’t be created until a bunch of people get together and decide…oh that’s government.

    Meanwhile over in Seattle…

    • September 27, 2011 11:22 am


      you have interspersed “should” and “can”.

      What should the government do is different from what can the government do.

      What is the measure of “whatever the people deem necescary” ?

      If 51% of voters wish to spend the entire federal budget on lottery tickets are the other 49% obligated to contribute ?

      Anything government does 100% of us are obligated to pay for, even if only 51% of us want.

      “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money” Alexis de Tocqueville

      Truly private contracts have no ability to prevent volunteers and charities or even other businesses from competing for disaster recovery work.

      There have been myriads of disasters throughout the history of this country. There is no evidence they have been handled more effectively since government stepped in. There is increasingly compelling evidence that they have actually been handled worse.

      There is a recent short but excellent article in Atlantic on the failures of FEMA that I linked to earlier.

      Wishing government could do what we think it should do, does not mean that it can.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        September 27, 2011 9:27 pm


        Somebody called you an optimist.

        No need to cite examples of the failures of government. Plenty of failure examples for our government and other governments around the world and throughout history. I have way more taith in the private sectore than in goverment, thank God for regular working folks and clever business people, but the fact that government often functions poorly doesn’t mean government isn’t necessary, doesn’t mean government never functions well, and doesn’t mean government doesn’t improve and evolve in positive ways.

        Do you personally think government has ever functioned well at the federal, state, or local levels? What about publicly-funded municipal police and fire departments? How about Teddy Roosevelt setting aside lands as national parks for posterity so that factories and such didn’t get built there or the forests didn’t get cut down as in the UK?

        Our own multi-layered bureacratic monster of a government grew and grew in conjunction with America’s rise. Big things aren’t very nimble. I saw ineptitude and corruption first hand. My very first day going from private sector to government funded I was told “Hey, slow down, this is government work…” But some of us didn’t slow down. There are dedicated Americans at all levels of government and sometimes government does function admirably and well. I saw that first hand too.

        So I ask again: Do you think govermnent (in general) ever works well? Do you think the U.S. Government has ever functioned well?

        Here’s a dilemna (sp?) for you and the private sector. Let’s say there are 500 unemployed people in your region. Worse still, 400 of them are “unemployable” in that they have a long history of being fired and unemployed and have no skills to speak of. The companies in the region don’t want them and crime is on the rise. To bring it more home to you personally, your car has been broken into twice and irreplaceable pictures were stolen along with your camera. You have been chosen to solve the problem. What do you do?

    • September 27, 2011 11:28 am


  12. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 26, 2011 9:29 pm

    Oh, I like this era of TNM much better, imagine, actual moderates discussing moderate thoughts.

  13. Pat Riot permalink
    September 26, 2011 9:53 pm

    Ian and others: us Moderates at TNM gotta work together and help Rick get his picture on a big best-seller at Barnes & Noble–BAM, right there on a display as soon as people walk through the door!

    • September 27, 2011 2:08 pm

      Ha, that’ll scare them away! Thanks, though… I soured on the book publishing world a few years back after getting a pile of rejections for my collection of dark-humored personal essays. (They typically thought my stuff was good but that I lacked a prominent “platform”; i.e., the book wasn’t going to become a breakaway bestseller). Today you almost have to be famous before you can be a famous nonfiction author. Publishers don’t want to nurture their authors now; they expect instant results.

      I also think I sabotage myself, though, because I’m terrified of appearing on TV talk shows. (I’ve done them before and came off reasonably well, but I still have a phobia about them.) So I keep my light hidden under the proverbial bushel.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        September 27, 2011 11:42 pm

        Rick: Okay we can skip the TV appearances if you want!

        I still think there needs to be a better explain to John Q. Public how Moderation works, how left and right are wrong and dangerous. More to save the country and therefore our own skins than solely for profit! You know America desperately needs it.

        I’ve got some years of professional editing experience and I’ve written some things, but I couldn’t do it myself. I’m a working man chasing after the legal tender like most of us. But a group of us from TNM could put it together. As Ian suggests: The Rick Bayan School of Moderate Thinkers. A think tank of sorts from around the country, electronically connected. You’re a wordsmith with your heart in the right place and a rational mind. I’ll wager there are more than a couple usable pieces already in your archives at TNM. If you didn’t want to lead the effort you could be the Executive Sanity Check and co-author with the group. We’ll find a patron(s) to print the first batch… I feel like this is my Cosmic Homework to do this. Who’s with me?

      • Jesse C permalink
        September 28, 2011 7:39 am

        Oh, we gotta find these on youtube somewhere.

  14. Pat Riot permalink
    September 26, 2011 10:30 pm

    …or The New Moderate magazine. That’ll create a dozen or so jobs. Rick will need a capable staff to help bring right and left extremists back to rationality each month…

    • September 27, 2011 11:25 am

      Actually, I think that is a fantastic idea.

      If Rick is going to publish “The New Moderate”, he is going to need to make money doing so. That staff will be paid because they all create something that others value.

      • September 27, 2011 1:47 pm

        Ah, but will they value it enough to pay for it? I’m afraid the Internet has spoiled the reading public, which demands free content now. (I don’t think that’s what Adam Smith had in mind when he talked about the free market.) Under the new system, most writers end up working without pay. Maybe the government should revive the Federal Writers Project. 😉

  15. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 26, 2011 10:31 pm

    Pat, that idea is what I live for. Well, its not the only thing, but its one of my top reasons for waking up in the morning. No one is more capable or deserving than Rick, a moderate who is DOING something.

    Even better, the formation of the Rick Bayan School of moderate political writers, so that its not just ONE face but many of moderation to match or better the outputs of all the many ideologues. I don’t mean an actual school as in a building, I mean a movement that starts here.

    • September 27, 2011 1:56 pm

      Thanks, Ian… I’d be flattered to think that impassioned moderate writers would follow my lead. Actually, there are plenty of moderate writers out there (see The Moderate Voice), but few of any prominence. David Brooks and John Avlon come to mind… but Brooks (an excellent writer) leans toward the right, and Avlon is a smooth political operator who seems to strive for consensus more than meaningful change. We’d create a school of “radical moderate” writers who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo.

  16. September 27, 2011 11:56 am

    Maybe you might be interested in what George McGovern has to say

    Click to access freedom_means_responsibility.pdf

  17. September 27, 2011 7:44 pm


    The internet works exactly as it should.
    How many times do I have to repeat here that the normal trend for prices is DOWN.
    That is exactly what Adam Smith intended. The internet has not repealed the laws of supply and demand. One of my other pet peeves is the ludicrous presumption that technology changes everything. Progress of all kinds takes bad ideas and makes them work even worse. It does not change good ideas or good law into bad ones. But that is another rant.

    Like Rush Limbaugh and Micheal Moore, you are entitled to as much for your writing as the market is willing to pay. I understand that Moore and Limbaugh do fairly well.

    If a moderate voice can not attract attention, it is not entitled to compel attention – which is essentially my response to Ian’s proposal’s.

    Moderates are free to choose whatever they wish for themselves – so long as neither they nor anyone else is forcing me to accept their values, ends, means for myself.

    Does your concept of fairness allow violating the rights of others ?

    • September 27, 2011 10:55 pm

      Dave: The normal trend for prices is DOWN? Did you actually say that? For technology, yes. For just about everything else in the universe, not so much. College tuition, medical care, real estate, gas, postage stamps, insurance, cars, even farm produce… you name it, it’s gone up faster than our incomes (unless you’re among the fortunate elite whose incomes have actually been rising rather than retreating over the past decade).

      And yes, the Internet reflects the law of supply and demand: now that there are 100 million people blogging out there, almost none of them can make a living as a writer. It doesn’t matter if I’m better than 99% of them; that still leaves me with a million competitors. And most of them work for free. The handful of writers who can actually earn a good living at this game are generally prominent in other areas of the media, like Limbaugh (does he actually write books?) or Michael Moore (whose books sell because people like his documentaries). They also benefit from a free publicity machine that keeps their names, like those of pop idols, professional athletes and movie stars, continually in the public eye. In short, they’re beneficiaries of our winner-take-all economy, which I suppose you endorse because it reflects natural law.

      Ah, natural law… the right of the strong to exploit the weak. Unfortunately it’s not that simple, Dave; it generally plays out as the right of the cunning and devious to exploit the trusting and innocent. Fine system, isn’t it?

      So be it. But come the moderate revolution, there’ll be some changes made in that department.

  18. September 27, 2011 9:06 pm

    Jesse C;

    I work inside of defence some of the time to. I will concede that atleast some defence spending is essential. But I hope that is not your best example. Defence is horribly expensive and inefficient. Ultimately only a small portion of the population can be employed in those areas that are the legitimate role of government – defence and law. If they consumed our entire economy we would starve. Every penny spent on either must come at the expense of actual wealth – things we need and want, so we should not waste that spending.

    So fairness is only for americans ? Then is it also only for one class ? Race ? Gender ?
    Why some arbitrary borders for fairness ? If fairness is only for americans, are we as a country entitled to screw the rest of the world ?
    This is not semantic. It is the fallacy of fairness. Fair is always what one narrow group chooses to define for the rest of society. Fairness easily fails – Reductio ad absurdum. No one wishes to take “fair” to its logical conclusions in any direction.

    Rick’s post explicitly accepts distinctions between the rich and poor, and claims that diving the point of balance from which moving in any direction is unfair is trivially discernible – it is not. An inflection point for perfect or even moderate fairness is undiscoverable. In the event you can find it for yourself, I will guarantee for others it will differ. Every toddler knows precisely what is fair, and every parent knows instinctively that fairness is an impossible battleground.

    But if you must have closer to home. Almost half of us pay no income taxes – that is not only unfair, it is dangerous. The bottom half will never bear more than a few percent of the total cost of government, but whether it makes a fiscal difference it matters morally.

    Rick wants to make sure that everyone receiving a government benefit is obligated to work. It is unfair to pay someone with low or no skills the below minimum wage they could actually earn, but it is fair for government to demand similar service in return for a benefit ?

    What about those earning minimum wage ? Is it fair for them to work hard for very little when others do little or nothing and get nearly as much ?

    Is it fair that government workers are receiving the equivalent of twice the pay and benefits of their private counter parts ?

    If fair is measured by wages and prices – who is going to decide exactly what is fair among the billions of daily changing prices that make up the economy ?

    • Jesse C permalink
      September 28, 2011 7:48 am

      I’ll say it again, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        September 28, 2011 7:02 pm

        Jesse: so true, so true. The private sector does it all the time–companies make whatever improvements they can afford. Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good. If I were running for office that would be part of my platform, or: Don’t let ideology get in the way of solving real problems for real people.

  19. Pat Riot permalink
    September 27, 2011 10:31 pm


    There you go again. You find examples of unfairness and then you say, “see, fairness isn’t realistic; there’s no such thing as fairness.” Again you seem to think someone is talking about some pie-in-the-sky ideal of fairness. You’re over-complicating it. Why? Are some things more fair than others? Of course. Are some things vastly more unfair than others? Certainly. By whose standards? By the people involved. Per common sense. How many examples do you need?

    At the local level in a gated community, all of the work projects have been going to one contractor. That’s cronyism (sp?). That’s unfair. The work needs to go to a bidding process per publicly shared criteria. Now six contractors are sharing the work. Now nobody is complaining. The community has its monthy meeting and everyone is satisfied. That’s fair, for the time being, to those people involved. Fair. Fairer than before when it was one contractor getting an unfair advantage.

    Really, how many examples do you want me to come up with? At the state level? At the federal level? public sectore? private sectore? My mother was very fair. My brother and I could count on it.

    Fair and unfair. They exist. Not as absolutes, but per situation, per the people involved. Two brothers, a community, or 300 million Americans.

    And the reason to focus on America for fairness is because a) that’s where the taxes are collected from b) you take care of your home first c) fairness in America affects American more directly than fairness in Mozambique, Duh !

    Arbitrary borders????? There you go again!

  20. Pat Riot permalink
    September 27, 2011 10:41 pm


    Really, I’m not going to stop until you admit that some things are much more fair than others, and that grossly unfair policies can be replaced with policies that are more fair to a greater number of people. I’ll haunt your posts. I won’t let up with examples. “…fallacy of fairness?” “Every parent know that fairness is an impossible battleground…” ???? Did you not get that pony? Did your siblings get bigger slices of cake? You are comical.

    • AMAC permalink
      September 27, 2011 11:40 pm

      That’s a long wait for a boat that hit an iceberg somewhere in the Northern Atlantic! Common ground is hard to find when you deal only with absolutes.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      September 28, 2011 10:05 am

      Don’t you know, the Black knight is invincible? (see Monty python and the holy grail.) None shall pass! Of course the government creates jobs, and of course there are examples where the government does something better or cheaper or more fairly than the private sector; compare US private health care with European government run health care, more bang less buck. Thus free market absolutism lies in ruins, one counter example is all that is needed. But, the Black knight is invincible you know. Better to just ride off over that bridge. Oh what the heck, I pulled it down in a second online, here it is. Anyone who has witnessed the conversation with truculent free market absolutism AND has seen the Monty Python and the Holy Grail should see the beautiful analogy.

      BLACK KNIGHT (reading Adam Smith):
      None shall pass.
      None shall pass.
      I have no quarrel with you, good Sir Knight, but I must cross this bridge.
      Then you shall die.
      I command you, as King of the Britons, to stand aside!
      I move for no man.
      So be it!
      ARTHUR and BLACK KNIGHT (Black Knight still clutching Adam Smith):
      Aaah!, hiyaah!, etc.
      [ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT’s left arm off]

      Now stand aside, worthy adversary.
      ‘Tis but a scratch.
      A scratch? Your arm’s off!
      No, it isn’t.
      Well, what’s that, then?
      I’ve had worse.
      You liar!
      Come on, you pansy!

      [ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT’s right arm off]

      Victory is mine!
      We thank Thee Lord, that in Thy mer–
      Come on, then.
      Have at you!
      Eh. You are indeed brave, Sir Knight, but the fight is mine.
      Oh, had enough, eh?
      Look, you stupid bastard. You’ve got no arms left.
      Yes, I have.
      Just a flesh wound.
      Look, stop that.
      Look, I’ll have your leg.
      [ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT’s right leg off]

      Right. I’ll do you for that!
      You’ll what?
      Come here!
      What are you going to do, bleed on me?
      I’m invincible!
      You’re a looney.
      The Black Knight always triumphs! Have at you! Come on, then.
      [ARTHUR chops the BLACK KNIGHT’s last leg off]

      Oh? All right, we’ll call it a draw.
      Come, Patsy.
      Oh. Oh, I see. Running away, eh? You yellow bastards! Come back here and take what’s coming to you. I’ll bite your legs off!

      • September 28, 2011 1:40 pm

        Do you really beleive the current US Healthcare market is somehow an example of the free market ?

        US Health insurance is probably the most highly regulated industry in this country.

        The cost of healthcare has increases from 5.9% of GDP to 14% of GDP – with the increase starting immediately after the passage of Medicare.

        What do you think will happen to demand when you make cost effectively zero ?

        If you want to use Europe as an example – pick one. European solutions are radically different.

        The swiss as an example have extremely low costs – but the have a universal mandate AND require a 30% patient contribution to all costs.

        The British system is generally considered about the worst in the world. People fly from Britian to India for health care.

        India has an entirely private system that is sufficiently low cost that even the poor can actually afford care.

        In the US those aspects of health care that are not covered by insurance – things like plastic surgery and Lasik, have had dramatically decreasing prices over the same time period.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        September 28, 2011 4:59 pm

        Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Ian thank you for the Black Knight analogy. I know the Holy Grail scene well and it fits nicely! It’s like Dave says the sky is cloudy and dark, and I agree whole heartedly but say that sometimes it can be blue, and then he gives stats about rainstorms and bad weather! Dhlii you are intelligent and well read, but you are not reasonable or logical. You bring to mind those logic statements from back in college: Apples are red is a valid statement but Some apples are green…

        Ian I think he’s going to crack. He’s going to finally realize we are all frustrated with ineffective, expensive government and he’s going to step back and let us cross that bridge! The ghosts of America Past, Present, and Future are going to visit Ebeneezer and give him visions of what human society looks like in the complete absence of public efforts, the good ones and even the costly ones…

      • September 30, 2011 10:21 pm

        Lots of catching up to do…

        Ian and Dave: Nobody expects Monty Python during a political debate… but there it was, and perfectly apt, too. (One of my favorite scenes, by the way. I practically fell out of my seat when I first saw it. That and John Cleese’s insulting Frenchman.)

        Sometimes I wonder if man’s ability to conceptualize isn’t more of a curse than a blessing. Ideas too rigidly held can cause a kind of intellectual hardening of the arteries. That’s one of the reasons I shy away from ideology, and why I based my moderate platform on a “fluffy” concept like fairness. Sure, it’s subjective, but I stressed the need for balancing the interests of different groups without showing favoritism toward any of them. I’d still stick with that principle as the foundation for a moderate movement.

        In The Cynic’s Dictionary, I wrote that an intellectual is someone who would stand his ground during a stampede of woolly mammoths because they’re theoretically extinct. Dave, there comes a time when we have to shed some of our most deeply held views if they no longer fit our current reality. I admire your defense of classical liberal free-market economics; it’s a system that SHOULD work. But “should” doesn’t pay the rent. We’re in an extraordinary situation right now that the free market alone won’t be able to remedy. People need jobs, and they need them now or they’ll soon be out on the streets. If companies aren’t hiring (and they’re not), the government has to step in and create jobs. It’s that simple, and I see it as a temporary measure.

        I don’t blame the free market entirely for getting us into this fix; well-intentioned but wrongheaded lefties like Barney Frank started this grotesque Rube Goldberg contraption by essentially forcing banks to issue mortgages to individuals of dubious means. Then Wall Street got creative and decided to game the system by repackaging those toxic assets, and we all know what happened next.

        The bottom line is that the government is our last line of defense when it comes to averting disaster. There are no miracle cures here, just as FDR’s job programs didn’t magically end the Great Depression. But they did something just as important: they put people to work who otherwise would have been made destitute through no fault of their own. Just as the government defends us from foreign enemies, I think it should defend us against economic forces that would destroy millions of individual lives. When the woolly mammoths are charging, we can’t just stand there and hope they’re really extinct.

  21. AMAC permalink
    September 27, 2011 11:36 pm

    I don’t understand how we cannot all agree the government can, does, and has created non-government jobs. The people building bridges, roads, etc. are people working for private contractors awarded government contracts. There are business’ that owe their livelihoods to government contracts. Governments can create jobs, and fairness is an excellent cornerstone principal. If we based our discussion off of cooperation rather that fairness, we would be listening to the same arguments. Who do we cooperate with? Why should people be forced to cooperate? Why do only US citizens get to cooperate? Why should the rich have to cooperate with the poor? …and so on. Let’s move the discussion on. This is a typical “slide of hand” technique that we are becoming all to familiar with. Good article. Good starting point.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      September 28, 2011 10:14 am

      Of course, we can all agree that government creates jobs, its irrefutable, unless we have a religion that does not allow admitting it. We ain’t gonna change Libertarian obstinacy any more than we can cure Scientologist obstinacy, only time can save victims from their cults.

      (Next up, the MP dead parrot sketch adapted to “This is a dead ideology”… I took the liberty of examining this ideology, what I purchased not half an hour ago… )

    • September 28, 2011 10:57 am

      One of the fundimental fallacies of central planning is that massive dictates from the top will actually produce the effects that you desire with little or no unintended consequences.

      There are ample studies on this. Road construction has become highly automated. Very very few jobs are involved for the amount of money. Further, whether private or public nearly half of the supposedly created jobs of the federal government have been job shifts rather than new employs. These have been primarily of highly skilled individuals – engineers, architects, high skilled labor. The labor in these pools is not highly variable. It takes decades to double the number of engineers, and years to significantly increase the number of high skill blue collar workers.
      Essentially almost 50% of the jobs this administration claims to have created were removed from existing private sector projects – where it will be extremely difficult to replace them and moved to new private/public sector projects.
      None of these jobs were created, worse still they increased the demand for catagories of labor that are fairing extremely well in this recession – professional unemployment is about 2% while doing nothing to actually address the real unemployment problem.
      Further a mass rush into infrastructure construction is actually economically damaging. To be beneficial infrastructure must be maintained and improved in a balanced way. Virtually every improvement does serious economic damage during construction – magnified when there are no alternate choices. Alterations to highways, roads and bridges increases travel times during construction. Increases transportation and human costs, and decreases productivity. When properly balanced the net is long term positive, but we are not engaged in balancing right now.
      There is federally funded construction all over my town right now. travel times to anywhere are significantly increased. It is easy to get surprised and end up waiting 30minutes at some bottleneck in a major artery.
      Further little thought has been given to what was really needed. We are resurfacing roads that were just resurfaced a few years ago. A substantial percent of the projects I see in my own area have negligible long term benefits.

      The premise of Keynesian stimulus is that it is unimportant what is done, or that the nation as a whole directly benefit from what is done. It is only essential that the stimulus hire those who are unemployed even if all they do is dig holes and fill them up again.
      But that fails in theory and in practice. Stimulus does not produce jobs for those who need them. And absent a benefit equal to the cost stimulus is actually an economic drag.

    • September 28, 2011 1:16 pm

      I found Rick’s choice of fairness perplexing. Any parent can attest to the problems children’s innate sense of fairness pose. The picture of 300million toddlers and teenagers screaming “its not fair” should have dissuaded this essay, and should convince any parent here without further argument of the flaws of “fairness” as a standard. It is like Justice Stewart’s standard on pornography – “I can not define it, but I know it when I see it”. We all know unfairness when we see it. We also know that perception is different for each person.

      My arguments against “fairness” were patterned off of centuries old arguments against “equality”, as they have identical roots. These are also the argument against communism. I did not refer to anything when I responded – I did not have to the arguments are obvious.

      Your are correct that I would have similar arguments against “forced cooperation” – but none against voluntary cooperation.

      I will oppose most anything that you propose that involves the use of force.
      The distinction between government and private society is that government has the legitimate but limited right to initiate force. The purpose of government is the legitimate use of force – defence and law enforcement.

      Whatever principle you elucidate, whatever argument you make for government action, you are advocating for the initiation of force against those who do not agree. There may be legitimate instances in which that is necessary – at the same time it always comes at the expense of our rights.

      Humans have rights, infringement on those rights must be done with great care.

      Whatever your ultimate value – fairness, cooperation, equality, …… as laudable a goal as it may be when you use government to enforce your objectives, you do so at a cost in rights.
      The most rights any of us have are the least rights you leave anyone.

      • September 30, 2011 10:56 pm

        Dave: Yes, infringement on rights must be done with great care. You and I agree here. I’m not in favor of giving the government carte blanche to level our society… I’d simply want a handful of regulations that would stem the flow of more and more money into fewer and fewer pockets. We’ve been evolving into a winner-take-all economy (and society) for a few decades now, generally at the expense of middle class and working class Americans. There’s a point at which liberty becomes license… again, hard to define with any precision, but we know it’s been happening.

        A fairer system would limit the special perks now routinely enjoyed by our tiny economic elite: tax shelters, exclusive access to hedge funds, the power to shed employees en masse even when making a profit, excessive political influence in Congress through lobbies and veiled bribery… in other words, we’d set limits on the ability of privileged individuals and companies to keep gaming the system in their favor. Yet they’d still be an elite when all is said and done; they’d still be free to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… they’d just have to do it without steroids.

  22. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 28, 2011 12:35 pm

    Economic rap! 2.5 million hits on an economics video. Keynes vs. Hayek, both very much alive.

    Its the best rap I heard since Dave Barry’s “Republican rap”:

    I’m from the G O P and I know how to dance
    I do the watusi in my lime-green pants.

    I’m from the G O P and I know how to jive
    I’ve got a little jockey at the end of my drive.

    • September 28, 2011 1:29 pm

      Since you like it here is round II.

      Russ Roberts the producer has myriads of archived economics podcasts on – though these do not come with rap music.

      I would also be curious to hear what message you took away from this ?

    • September 29, 2011 9:42 pm

      I would note – if you followed the Rap, and Lord Skidelsky’s separate exposition of Keynes, that Keynesian – Demand side economics has no truck with economic bust theories that indict Wall Street or Greedy Businesses, or the rich for economic downturns. Keynesian economics is entirely demand. The supply side is irrelevant, and impotent. There are no booms, and busts are solely the result of demand failures.

  23. September 28, 2011 12:35 pm

    As I am asking Rick to take fairness to its logical conclusion, I must be willing to do so myself.

    Statements such as government does not create jobs or wealth while on net correct are not true in the absolute sense.

    Communism and some forms of socialism are the theories of political economy where government owns and runs the means of production. The USSR created enormous amounts of wealth and all jobs were government jobs – at enormous cost.

    To the extent our government owns or controls the means of production, it too creates jobs and wealth – at enormous cost.

    The whitehouse claims the jobs “created” by the stimulus only cost $185,000 per year each. Most other estimates are two or more times as large. In Spain so called green jobs cost $774,000 each. Here estimates run as high as $5M each – though the administration is claiming only $30K.

    Harvard’s(where Paul Krugman is from) Robert Barro (the fourth most influential economist in the world) has estimated the multiplier for government spending since WWII to be approximately .8 for defence spending and .4 or less for other spending. In other words for every dollar the government takes out of the economy it puts between 40 and 80 cents back – a net loss. Interestingly this roughly corresponds with the public perception that the government wastes 51 cents of every dollar.

    I am willing to concede that our government (just as in the USSR) can and does create wealth and jobs, but it does so at a high cost and the net result is negative – there is less wealth and jobs.

    Presuming my math is correct at the Whitehouse figure of $185,000 per job the government would spend $1.3T/year to create the 7M jobs necessary to cut unemployment in half. The economic cost would be $3.5T or almost 1/4 of the entire economy. I would expect that the actual net job “creation” would be seriously negative.

    The information above is empirical or empirically derived. There are few remaining economists of any school or stature arguing government spending multipliers of even 1. While it concurs with two centuries of classical liberal(libertarian) economic thought, it is based on actual economic data rather than theory.

  24. Pat Riot permalink
    September 28, 2011 6:00 pm

    The tremendously ironic thing is that I’m defending government like some program-wielding, liberal White Knight. I’m actually right there with you on the utter ineptitude and wastefulness and failure of government. I know what’s big and yellow and sleeps six: a Dept of Transportation work truck.

    I’m right there with you and the likes of George McGovern regarding how much more productive the private sector will function without all the hoops, hurdles, and walls placed in the way by government, and that the private sector (that I’ve spent most of my life in) will be what saves America if enough of us are able to save it. I’m actually a personal responsibility, no free-ride, right wing-leaning Do-it-Yourself, Constitution-loving American, and not usually a defender of government.

    But I had a rare opportunity as a DOL Program Monitor for two years to travel around the country and evaluate programs (after being down in the trenches for three years running one day to day) Some programs were bad, some were mediocre, and some were excellent: effective and even cost-effective, believe it.

    And so, ironically, because you won’t admit that a small percentage of time government is necessary (beyond military), I find myself here, a person who despises any interference in my private life, defending government.

    If I concede that the private sector outperforms government 98% of the time, that much of our government bureacracies need to have the lights turned out and the doors shut, will you concede that SOME government is necessary (beyond military) and that sometimes it works, and that sometimes it’s “fair enough for the time being” for the people affected.? There it is, Dave. A chance to remain true to your Libertarian beliefs, but a chance for you to be reasonable. Will you concede just that?

    • September 29, 2011 10:34 am

      I would be very interested to hear what programs you encountered that were effective.

      I would be happy to concede that every government program does not perform abysmally.

      What would you propose as the criteria to measure a program ?

      I see atleast 4 areas that matter:

      Is the program even close to cost effective ?
      Does it serve the purpose for which it was intended ?
      Is that purpose something we really beleive government ought to do ?
      Is it worth the non-fiscal cost ?

      As a best guess rule of thumb – based on annecdotal evidence. Many small new programs prove effective – and then fail abysmally as they are expanded. Section 8 is an example of that. T he initial program cherry picked people desparate to get out of public housing, with the motivation and desire to succeed, and moved them into working and middle class neighborhoods – and the success rate was phenomenal. The pilot was then expanded essentially to an entitlement, and Section 8 is destroying working class minority neighborhoods across the county. I beleive the estimates are that about 1/3 of its participants use the assistance to improve their lives.

      If you throw enough darts at random you will eventually hit the bullseye.

      Contrary to perception, I have not been arguing for the “decapitation” of government. I do beleive that the successes of government are going to be minimal, But I will be happy to agree to eliminate only a small percent of those programs that are demonstrable colossal failures. That alone would likely balance the budget nearly instantly. I would be happy to see that – but I would be happy with much less than that.

      But a willingness to compromise – even concede almost the entire field to get a few failures eliminated, is not the same as conceding principles. While I do beleive that ultimately government is always inefficient, ineffective, and that government power will be corrupted, and I will continue to argue that even with respect to programs you beleive are effective, the ultimate issue is rights. Even if government was actually more efficient its actions still come at the expense of individual rights. Whatever benefit government provides must be extremely valueable to be worth sacrificing our rights for it. The justification for defence, police and the courts is not that they are efficient, it is that all but a tiny fraction of us accept that they are necessary. That the small sacrifice in our rights for them is outweighed by the dramatic increase in the security and value of the remainder of our rights.

  25. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 29, 2011 11:10 am

    There is a message here about moderates and extremists so I’m going in, God help me. Cover me guys,

    Dhlii: Do you really beleive the current US Healthcare market is somehow an example of the free market ?
    US Health insurance is probably the most highly regulated industry in this country.

    Me: Did I say that? I did not. As well, the “probably the most regulated” comment has no precision and is therefore not falsifiable. However, below we will see that your other whopping mistatements ARE falsifiable and wildly false.

    Dhlii: The cost of healthcare has increases from 5.9% of GDP to 14% of GDP – with the increase starting immediately after the passage of Medicare.

    I found charts that began in 1950 of this parameter. They did not seem to take an especial jump in 1965. You seem to have told a fib unless there my chart was in error.

    But, a rise in costs would not be exactly a surprise since suddenly a lot of poor elderly people had health insurance. That’s a good thing to most normal decent people, but I suppose that Adam Smith will disapprove from his grave somehow.

    From Wiki: Before Medicare, only 51% of people aged 65 and older had health care coverage, and nearly 30% lived below the federal poverty level.

    That fact that there was no particular jump in Health care costs as a percentage of GNP vs time in 1965 or at any point thereafter, just the same slow steady growth that occurred in this parameter since my chart began in 1965 may indicate that I am correct in my point below; elderly poor people got to see doctors sooner in an illness, thus saving costs in the long run, which offset the effects of a sudden new large population having convenient access to medicine. The product of a socially liberal democratic president. Democrats had a 2:1 majority on both the house and senate and the bill passed by a similar margin.

    Dhlii: What do you think will happen to demand when you make cost effectively zero ?

    Me: I think that sick children will get to see doctors and that part of demand will go up.
    I think that DYING or seriously ill children will go down, they got to see a doctor in time. That part of demand will go down. This will be true for most, if not all age groups, and should SAVE money, since health care costs are much higher when you are seriously ill.

    Dhlii: If you want to use Europe as an example – pick one. European solutions are radically different.
    The swiss as an example have extremely low costs – but the have a universal mandate AND require a 30% patient contribution to all costs.

    Me: Eh? You can take western Europe as a whole, they all have “socialized medicine” in some form and better and cheaper outcomes, unless I have ignored some small counter example in Europe.

    Dhlii: The British system is generally considered about the worst in the world.

    Me: One of your vague appeals to authority. I can find no data to back up your claim, just anecdotes. You can find someone complaining about anything, so what does that prove? The British “worst in the world” system leads to an average life span that ranks 20th in the world, tied with Germany, far ahead of the US at position 36. They have quite a diverse population and many immigrants as well, so its not just some kind of accident due to genetic homogeneity. Infant mortality, same deal.

    There is no nice way to put this, Dhlii, you lied. The British health care system is the “worst in the world” according to no measurable parameter, its only that to free market absolutists who need to ignore reality to uphold their religion. Whop! One arm is off.

    Dhlii: People fly from Britian to India for health care.

    Anecdote, with no support. Worthless argument. Lop! Two arms off.

    Dhlii: India has an entirely private system that is sufficiently low cost that even the poor can actually afford care.

    Me: From Wiki: “Healthcare in India features a universal health care system run by the constituent states and territories of India.”

    But I looked a bit further, Wiki’s statement is confusing, even misleading. In fact 80% of health care is private. The outcome is a disaster. By life expectancy India ranks a horrible 139/194. Infant mortality is even worse, 60 deaths/1000 live births, a rank of 152. There is your free market paradise, 80 private result a two tiered system, for wealthy Indians and medical tourists, an excellent world class system, for the vast majority, a hell.

    Your claim about India was not just wrong, not just a lie but a monstrous lie.
    You have no Intellectual integrity Dhlii! Its what happens to cult members, the brain goes into the cold storage for the duration of the disease.

    Wallop! I’ll have both your legs for that one.

    Dhlii: In the US those aspects of health care that are not covered by insurance – things like plastic surgery and Lasik, have had dramatically decreasing prices over the same time period.

    Me: Now that you are lying in the dust with all your absurd free market absolutist lies exposed you have one more red herring to throw in. What time period, Lasik and different types of plastic surgery have different start dates. How do we compare that muddle with with time? For Lasik, initial cost were high as few doctors had the expensive equipment. As technology improved and the operation was accepted by the public economies of scale prevailed. Duh!

    Offer me a Draw! I won’t take it though.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      September 29, 2011 11:17 am

      A couple typos, one is important. The health care cost as a percentage of GNP chart I found began in 1950, not 1965, and showed a steady increase over the period, with not sharp jump in 1965, or shortly thereafter, when medicare was enacted

    • September 29, 2011 7:46 pm


      Atleast you are finally willing to look for data to support some of your claims. Ultimately, I beleive that if you look at real data rather than other peoples opinions, your views will shift.

      I will be happy to argue that health insurance is highly regulated rather than free market. Though I am surprised anyone really wants to take me up on that. If you are concerned about language and semantics – propose the proposition in someway you think is falsifiable.

      This just the fist link I could find on the effect of Medicare on healthcare costs was from NBER this is amount the more conservative of the studies I have seen. will provide you with data files for healthcare expenditures as a percent of GDP, The rate of increase doubled for 5 years starting in 1967. Medicare was supposed to cost $12B initially, it actually cost almost 20 times that. There was no change in the rate of increase of life expectancy. If you wish to argue that the advent of medicare represented some radical improvement in healthcare you need to find something besides belief to support that.

      If you give people something for free why would you expect they will not consume more ?
      It is certainly possible that radically increasing the consumption of healthcare by seniors might improve health overall. But possible is not the same as certain. The same argument was made for HMO’s and for whatever reason few HMO’s or even private health insurance companies pay for preventive care. It would be my assumption that either it did not prove cost effective or did not deliver. No sane truly free market health insurance company would not chose to pay $1000 in pro-active care to avoid $1M in re-active care.
      The problem with free is it eliminates any attempt to balance value against cost.
      Regardless, if you beleive what we have now is sustainable, you are part of a small minority.
      All too soon we will have less than we have now. Even APACA is intended to reign in the cost of Medicare – by constraining services. To most in both parties it is clear that what we have does not work. There is near universal agreement that medicare costs must be brought down. The debate is only over how. Do we let the government decide what care it can afford ? Or do we allow individuals to make choices on their own ?
      When you are ready to grasp that medicare as it now exists is unaffordable, I will be happy to argue why leaving government decide what medical care each of us is entitled to is a bad idea for all of us including the poor.

      If you are going to complain that annecdotal evidence that the british NHS is abysmal is insufficient then the bald faced assertion that myriads of children would have died without Medicare should have your nose growing. There does not appear to be any trend change in the gradual increase in life expectancy for any age group, much less one corresponding to Medicare. More bluntly medicare made no difference in childhood mortality.

      I suggest you go farther than wikipedia with respect to India. Yes, Absolutely India has Universal Healthcare. It sucks, it is unavailable to almost anyone, and 80% of all indian healthcare expenditures are private – that is compared to 59% for BRIC countries and 27% for the G7. India has a thriving medical tourism industry targeting those excellent european socialized heathcare systems – particularly the incredible British system.
      Yes India’s life expectancy is 2 years lower than the world average, But it has increased by more than a factor of 3 in the past century.

      Absolutely, European’s have slightly greater life expectancy than americians – though that situation diminishes or even reverses as we get older. We have different cultures, we also have different standards of measurement. The US counts as live births premature infants that most of the world does not. The mortality rate for premature infants is enormous. That alone may be sufficient to explain the entire difference. Beyond that though we have less deaths per highway mile we drive twice as many miles as Europeans. We have far more death’s due to violence – particularly among our young. We have far more diversity than anywhere else in the world – and the mortality rates for different races are radically different.
      Again European socialised healthcare is not monolithic. Many of their “socialised” systems are far more free than our own. The swiss have a private insurance system, but a universal mandate for basic insurance, with government paying any plan cost about 8% of income. Further, the swiss mandate that patients must pay a sufficient portion of their healthcare costs to prevent runaway demand. Though I would argue against a similar plan in the US. It is likely better than APACA, Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, ….

      WHO ranks Canada’s healthcare well below that of the UK and well above ours.
      Canadian’s and British come to the US to avoid long waiting lists and to receive advanced state of the art care. US Citizens travel elsewhere including Canada to receive basic care at cheaper prices or care that is regulatorily proscribed in the US. I beleive the only people traveling to the UK for medical care are from the Mideast. Inside the EU medical tourism is almost universally to countries (often other European ones) that do not have socialised healthcare.
      No our healthcare is not better in every possible way than anyone else’s – there is no nation that can make that claim. Ours is better in some ways worse in others. Depending on currency vagaries US Healthcare costs are higher than most of the world – yet people still come here from nations that cost far less – why ? Because in atleast some ways our care is superior – cost is only one measure.

      I can argue the well know faults of the WHO’s ranking of nations healthcare – but even the WHO grasps that life expectancy alone is a poor measure – the measurement criteria are not universal and the data is often fraudulent.

      I do not see your point at all regarding Lasik and Plastic Surgery. Yes, BOTH started high declined precipitously initially and more slowly later. That is the norm for free market goods and services. Those aspects of the healthcare system inside the regulated system at best declined initially, plateaued and then gradually (or precipitously rose).
      Wikipedia’s analysis is flawed but atleast they got the outcome right It is near universal that in free markets real prices decline. Contrary to wikipedia, increased demand drives prices down – because it drives competition and technology. The constant dollar price for gasoline has declined steadily for 100 years aside from a brief blip in the late 1970’s.

      Honestly, Ian i am not sure what you think you are arguing ?

      Do you really beleive that we could offer free medical care to any group without that group demanding more service ? If you increase demand absent any response to price – the price will rise.
      If medicare is so wonderful, then why is it that WHO ranks the US so abysmally ?
      We have a socialised medical system, possibly more abysmally constructed than that of Europe. Why is it that you think it is so poor ?

      Why is it that everything that we are arguing about, everything that is failing, is the results of the progressives dream of gradual socialisation ?

      If Social Security and Medicare are so great why are they driving us to destruction ?
      If the European Social democracies are so wonderful why are their fiscal problems so much worse than ours ? Why has european growth over the past three decades been a full percentage behind the US ?

    • September 29, 2011 10:05 pm


      A second read of your response leaves me more confused.

      Am I correct that you agree that the US Health Insurance market is not a particularly free market ?

      If that is the case, what are we debating ? If Health Insurance is not a free market then we are just comparing various forms of socialist solutions. I could really care less whether European socialist solutions are better than ours. European solutions are still not monolithic, and each has aspects that are superior or have performed better than ours. I do beleive that as a whole the system we have – as badly screwed up as it is performs better for us than any European solution would – we are far more diverse and our culture is much different from that of Europe.

      But if you are accepting that Health Insurance in the US is not a free market, then I will be perfectly happy to give you a victory if you so desire on the debate over whether US Socialism is superior to the European variety.

      My position is that highly regulated or socialised systems fail.
      I am not looking to split hairs over socialism heavy vs. socialism lite. I do not care whether we are talking about true government owned and operated systems such as Cuba or Britain, or whether we are talking about quasi private systems that are massively government regulated such as the US and Swiss.
      The argument over which bad idea is better or worse is purely academic.

  26. Kent permalink
    September 29, 2011 5:36 pm

    Rick: Playing fair means making sure the deck isn’t stacked in favor of (or against) any class of people.

    Kent: Yes, if you are talking about a “deck” shuffled by humans. Nature favors by chance/opportunity…this brings risk and a deck you can’t really control 100%.

    Rick: It means you don’t tolerate secret schemes to fill the already brimming pockets of the rich… but you also don’t topple them from their penthouses simply because they are rich.

    Kent: Agreed! I like how you separate “money” from being used against what is fair via common sense for all. Yet respect the money.

    Rick: It means you do what you can to help the poor escape from the abysmal sinkhole of poverty, but you don’t pay their rent for them or honor them with fancy perks denied to the struggling middle and working classes. You strive for balance. A fair society is a balanced society, a society without favoritism.

    Kent: Yes, If only people would help more. It takes an inspiring person…not a forceful law to motivate people.

    Rick: Fairness. That’s what we want. Above all, a true moderate longs for a society that won’t tilt toward the right or the left or any special interest at all.

    Kent: How about Moderate special interests?

    Rick: When the vessel has veered too far to the right, as it has lately… when the entrenched interests have rigged the system in their favor (and against everyone else) … we need to turn the wheel sharply to the left. But only until we’re sailing straight ahead. That’s why they call us centrists.

    Kent: Centrist Ideology driven with “moderate” “middle” common sense values?

    Rick: But let’s understand this much: sometimes it takes radical action to chart a moderate course.

    Kent: Agree! So what are we doing about it Rick?

    Rick: The American Revolution was organized by gentlemen whose view of government was exquisitely fair and balanced, in the original sense of the phrase. They were revolutionaries for the cause of moderation. Lincoln singlehandedly abolished slavery, an institution that had been festering on these shores for nearly 250 years. It was a radical move, but his goal was simply to restore fairness to our society.

    Kent: I don’t know…I think abolishing slavery was the opposite extreme in order to “balance” some equality (voting, freedoms, etc.) among all people. Republicans trying to do what Democrats didn’t want.

    Rick: What would America look like today in the hands of moderates? Let me reassure you: it would bear a striking resemblance to America in the mid-to-late twentieth century, during our years of uncontested greatness.

    Kent: I would like to think of it as a new era altogether. More reforms in Government and an innovative nation as in the late1800’s and early 1900’s.

    Rick: We’d still have our rich and our not-so-rich. After all, it’s a free society, and all we can guarantee is equal opportunity, not equal results. But with tighter controls over the excesses of finagling Wall Street investment wizards and corporate potentates, the now-obscene wealth gap would shrink to its pre-millennial dimensions. Our top celebrities, CEOs and hedge fund managers might eventually have to trade their 50-room palaces and 16-car garages for mere 25-room mansions with eight-car garages. I think they can handle it.

    Kent: Greed is something no one should control Rick. That would bring us into an authoritarian government. Although regulations need to be in place to protect the weak and people need to be educated (poor) to be disciplined enough to know that the lottery isn’t a way to make money.

    Rick: We’ve almost grown accustomed to politicians regarding their rivals across the aisle as scoundrels. This is not only wrong; it’s lethal to the functioning of government. Unchecked partisanship is a crippling disease.

    Kent: Many great things were done actually arguing in the past. It is only know at this time that “compromise” is being spoken and look….no one can work together. You know why? It is because they cater to extremism. That’s the way it is. It will take a Centrist to bash both to get noticed and to push policy.

    Rick: Yes, we’d want to restore simple decency to American politics, commerce and life. Companies and their employees need to regain a sense of mutual loyalty and respect. (That means you don’t pay the CEO a thousand times as much as his secretary.) We need to banish the casino mentality from Wall Street once and for all: we’d start by outlawing short-selling and other slimy tactics for gaming the system. The economy of the Western world isn’t a game.

    Kent: Nationalized Banks (FED) control Wall Street and others across the world. As long as money exists…they control the money and control Wall Street to make them more money. This is why the poor and uneducated do not understand about money and need to learn and become disciplined like the rich have figured out.

    Rick: We’d also outlaw any exchange of funds between lobbyists and politicians: we need to insist on representatives who can’t be bought at any price. The public trust is something sacred and inviolable, and we can no longer tolerate the existence of secret alliances between powerful interests and their elected puppets. As I’ve said before, we need to throw the rascals out and send a wave of fresh-faced, incorruptible Mr. and Ms. Smiths to Washington.

    Kent: Agreed! Sounds like a radical Centrist. So what party are you starting?

    Rick: As moderates, our numbers are vast. We’re the sleeping giant of American politics. If the two-party system has marginalized us and the partisans keep catering to the extremists in their ranks, maybe we need to start a third party. It wouldn’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. We’d need to unify all the moderate, centrist and independent groups out there, just as Bismarck assembled more than two dozen independent states to form a united Germany.

    Kent: I have moved and been on leave for school studies. Yes, I have been in communiqué with a Centrist Party since I left. They are scattered. All it takes is a “United Centrist Party” or some sort.

    Rick: I’m aware that no new party has become a permanent American fixture since the Republicans sprang to life in 1854. (Of course, those upright men wouldn’t recognize their descendants today. For that matter, the Democrats wouldn’t recognize theirs.) But at the very least, we moderates must resolve to become a moving force in American politics. A force for good, for balance, forfairness. It’s time for us moderates to straighten our spines, stand up and make ourselves heard. I’m willing if you are.

    Kent: Rick there was a Populist Party in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, but it was “Railroaded” by leaders in the Party who decided to join the Democrats after nominating a person to run for President. Similar to the current Tea Party leaning toward the Republicans.

  27. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 30, 2011 9:29 am

    Keynes means to me and to most non-technical folks who still have some basic understanding of economics that when the economy is performing far below its capacity and when other measures, monetary ones, low interest rates are not working, then the government should step in and prime the pump by investing in infrastructure. It’s a pretty damn simple idea and I do not believe that it has been demolished. Telling me that Keynsian economic ideas are dead and buried, which you have often done unless I misunderstood you, is like telling me that HGW has been proven to be a fraud. It really gets me going.

    I think that the Keynes vs. Hayek debate is a hoot as a rap. (I hate rap music). These were very intelligent men whose opinions shifted many times in their lives. Were they alive today and if they had been granted lifespans of hundreds of years they would certainly have modified their opinions many times and Keynsian economics would mean a greatly modified version of it. Keynes famously said that he was not sure he was a Keynsian himself.

    Running the US economy seems to me to be like flying an airplane that has been flying for over 200 years and never lands or crashes in total destruction. The plane is flying through an atmosphere that is constantly radically changing, its composition, its temperature, its wind speeds, everything, such that the rules that worked 200, 100, 50, 10 or 3 years ago are no longer sufficient.

    To make matters worse, the plane has a pilot, two copilots and one technical officer, and only the technical officer (the Fed Chairman) has any technical competency to fly. The pilot and copilots (President and congress if it is not clear) have a huge gallery of disagreeing experts screaming at them continually. Their control panel consists of a bewildering display of not just 10 or 20 gauges, but hundreds.

    While the plane cannot crash and burst into flames, it can go into terrifying spiral dives during which the thousands of experts all howl conflicting information and millions of angry passengers also scream that they want this thing fixed, and they offer suggestions that are even less competent than the ones the pilots understand.

    Use the Keynes! The Keynes is broken, use the Hayek!

    Keynes and Hayek both had valuable and useful insights that when used in precisely the correct way at precisely the correct time are still useful as long as one does not make a religion of them.

    I suppose that to put free market absolutism into my analogy I’d have to say that one of the groups of experts has a religious belief that the plane will fly itself and does not need pilots. I’m not sure how to put Marxists into my analogy, the plane should be flown by the passengers?

    • Jesse C permalink
      September 30, 2011 10:08 am

      Nice analogies. Coming up with those types of analogies could make for a fun discussion in and of itself. 🙂

      One of Ian’s sentences above really underscores (for me) the whole concept behind moderation, and the moderate point of view:
      Keynes and Hayek both had valuable and useful insights that when used in precisely the correct way at precisely the correct time are still useful as long as one does not make a religion of them.

      Being open to the best solution given the situation at hand, regardless of past decisions or ideology are what most of us moderates are all about. This same pragmatism that we use in our everyday personal and professional lives, we want to bring to government as well.

    • October 1, 2011 2:47 pm

      Keynesian economic theory is a mathematical model. It either works or it does not.
      It is not something you can pick and choose what you wish to beleive. The 70’s indisputably failed the Keynesian relationship between employment and inflation.
      Keynesian stimulus is distinct from that offered by politicians. Keynes expected government surpluses during good times to fund government spending during bad. Borrowing was not to be the norm.

      The observation that government spending is inefficient, and that politicians ignore the hidden costs, is an explanation for stimulus failure. The actual failure is self evident without explanation.

      After the 2008 election I prayed hard that everything I believed about economics was wrong and Pres. Obama’s solutions would work. I would be happy to have been proven wrong – despite your accusations of ideological fundamentalism.

      Whether you find the concepts of demand side stimulus compelling or total crap, in practice they have not worked for anyone anywhere, in fact the longest economic downturns in the US and world wide are those where government spending was the highest.
      In the particularly severe post WWI recession in 1921 Harding cut taxes and government spending drastically, and the economy recovered quickly.

      In our current mess, demand has recovered, GDP has recovered, investment, growth, and employment have not. This contradicts Keynesian models.

      Our economy is $15T, typical growth for almost two centuries has been 3.5%. The difference between no growth and 3.5% is $500B of GDP. We have spent $5T or 1/3 of the entire economy in additional government spending and stimulus over the past two years with no effect – that is far more than pump priming.

      I think the evidence that government spending can be an effective form of economic stimulus was pretty well condemned before the current mess. I hope we are finally putting the nails in its coffin.

      I have provided an explanation for why government stimulus fails. That explanation has a rational basis. That explanation is also consistent with my economic beliefs.

      But the multiple failures of Keynes, and particularly the failure of economic stimulus are apparent – regardless of theories, models or ideology.

      When the real world does not conform, or worse behaves the opposite of that predicted my a model, the burden of proof is on the alolytes of the model not everyone else – whether the issue is AGW or Economics. Being expected to explain why you still beleive in a particular model when its failures are apparent is reasonable. Faith in something past its demonstrated failures is more akin to religious fundimentalism.

      I do not particularly like Rap either. But the series of videos represents their respective views fairly accurately. There is some weak evidence that Keynes was shifting away from much of his theory prior to his death, but Keynes did not live long past publishing his “General Theory”. Hayek’s views on many details shifted throughout his life, but his views were always classical liberal. I have never heard a credible claim that Hayek ever suggested Government – central planning, would produce better or equal results to spontaneous order.

      Debating Keynes, poses myriads of problems. Despite being the most influential economist of the 20th century, there are very few true Keynesians left. Further the Keynes inspired policies that politicians pursue, do not conform to either Keynes’s actual theory or to any other modern economic school of thought.
      Essentially we have picked bits and pieces of economic theory – mostly Keynesian, twisted them to suit political objects and then applied them as if we had Keynes’s blessing.

      If you wish to argue that we have failed because what we have done is not actually Keynesian – which Krugman often argues, you may have a point.
      My argument and Hayek’s is that it would not matter if Keynes were right in theory – because in practice top down central planning will always be bent to political objectives and will therefore always fail. Or as Lord Acton put it “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. That is but one of many arguments against imposed solutions.

      Hayek and libertarians will tell you the economy is not airplane.
      It is closer to blood cells flowing through your blood vessel’s or water molecules in the water cycle. Or cars on a highway. What it most definitely is not as a command and control system with a rigid top down structure.

      Airplanes models are poor fits the economy. There is an assumption of a pilot, a plan, a single destination for all travelers and the requirement that everyone conform to a single objective. In the real world we all want different things, Economic success is measure to the extent each individual reaches their unique destination.

      For over 100 years the US did not have a Federal Reserve (though for most of our history we have had a central bank), At the very best economic conditions under the federal reserve have been no better than those without it. The purpose of the federal reserve was to prevent economic downturns. It is arguable that monetary policy was a significant factor in the great Depression as well as the current mess. It was indisputably the cause of the 70’s stagflation. If the Fed has been our pilot we are aleast as well off without one.

      While economists do disagree, the screaming gallery driving policy is not economists, but politics.

      Beyond that you are making my argument – it is not possible for the Fed, the president, or congress to manage the economy. It is not a collection of hundreds of gauges, but millions, it is unmanageable and will only become worse as it grows and as we become even more globally interconnected. It is not possible to impose order on the economy from above. The order must be endogenous – or spontaneous.

      Hayek, Olstrom, Austrian, Public Choice, and numerous other Classical Liberal schools of economic thought do not posit some mathematical model. Some one size fits all answer.
      They do not offer specific correct answers for government. Their claim is that anything dictated from above is guaranteed to be more wrong that right.

      Further your bizarre “sometimes Keynes, sometimes Hayek” model is not something you would accept in say AGW. There are two central premises to AGW that virtually everyone skeptic or otherwise accepts – CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and increasing CO2 levels will increase global temperatures. The debate is over their relative importance. What is the energy budget of the planet, how does CO2 effect moisture and cloud formation. what is the scale of the impact of CO2 relative to other causes both natural and man-made, even is warming actually going to be a catastrophe.
      Are you prepared to accept that Spensor, Lindzen, Christy, Svensmark, Plimer, …. might be right some of the time if Mann, Hanson, Trenberth, Dressel, Jones, Biffra are also right some of the time ?
      One of the major fails of AGW is that its proponents must be right about almost everything, or they have no relevance. If you concede any of underestimating the direct effects of the sun, or cosmic rays, or clouds, or miscalculating the heat earth’s heat budget, or over estimating CO2 sensitivity, or miscalulating feedbacks or …… the human controllable aspects of Global Warming become inconsequential.
      So I highly doubt you are going to look for some kind of compromise there.

      I would also point out that Nixon famously (and correctly) remarked “We are all Keynesians now” immediately before the first major Keynesian failure – stagflation. Broad Economic consensus sent us all in the wrong direction.

  28. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 30, 2011 10:32 am

    Dhlii, My claims? I don’t even think I’ve made any claims about healthcare up until yesterday, other than that poor people often don’t take their kids to see doctors under our system, which is bad both morally and economically.

    The US healthcare system is a mess, I don’t know anyone who won’t concede that. Liberals have moral issues with the system that are valid and at the same time are not open to changes in the costs and benefits of the public side of the system. Conservatives have sustainability issues with the public side of the system that are valid, but think the private side is hunky-dory and mostly are blind to the moral issues the liberals see.

    I think that we would have a hell of a time reforming this system even if we removed all political rancor. Since that ain’t gonna happen, adjusting the system to make it both sustainable and more moral is a god-awful prospect.

    I have huge issues with your view of the situation because as usual blind simplistic free market absolutism inform your opinion. Your parable of the horrible government run “worst in the world” system (Great Britian) vs. the wonderful affordable private system (India) with a Lasik diversion thrown in was to me a repeat of our row over HGW. It was just destructive fundamentalist crap and easily exposed.

    Do I think I have a solution? God no! I can poke a huge hole in real nonsense, the free market absolutist version, but if you think that I am going to make an ass of myself by defending the opposite extreme, well, no, I am not.

    As to some basic principles of a better system, I do have opinions. How to get to that better system in political terms I will not discuss here because even if 90% of Americans became convinced, for example, that single payer Universal health care was the right thing to do, I still do not see how we would get there without destroying the economy; the current system, while full of parasites, is Too Big To Fail. You cannot just remove all the useless parasitic middle men in the private insurance companies, they make up too large a percentage of the economy. No politician is going to support a bill that removes 8% of the GNP at one swoop.

    As to basic principles, yes, I think that there should be universal health insurance coverage in an ideal world and I think that if once you could achieve it it would be cost effective. When poor people, as I have said before, do not have health insurance then they do not take themselves to doctors at early and more easily treatable stages of diseases. I know of no plausible plan to get rid of the ills of the capitalist system, where just by birth one American has full access to the best of the best in all things and another American, just by accident of birth was born to poverty. I accept that in most areas there is no known solution to this situation.

    But when in comes to both health care and nutrition, its immoral and intolerable, the liberals are right, for every American not to have full access to health care. In other areas the free marketers pooh-poohing of the idea that a person has any economic rights to prosperity or success can at least be understood, if not agreed with, but in the area of healthcare in the wealthiest country in the world, this total lack of interest in the situation of the health care of the poor, or even others who are not poor but still do not have health insurance, is intolerable.

    The Western European countries have solved this moral and economic issue; they provide universal access to health care regardless of economic class and their solutions did not lead to economic ruin, on the contrary, their costs are lower than American costs. These governments got involved, usurped the private sector, and created fairer, healthier, cheaper public systems. This flies in the face of free market absolutism, I know. I don’t see how this outcome can be disputed, but, sigh, the Black Knight, armed with his copy of Adam Smith, is invincible. The smoke screen of dishonest nonsense about socialist Britain having the worst system in the world while India has a private sector affordable and effective system would be tolerable if this were just a theoretical argument that did not affect anyone, but since free market fundamentalism is one of the strongest obstacles to finding a sensible solution to health care in this country and since real people, and lots of them, die as a result it is not tolerable to me.

    • September 30, 2011 3:15 pm

      If some arguments I am making are bogus fundimentalist crap that is easily exposed then do so. So far I have seen little that even attempts rebutal.

      The majority of your arguments seem to either be:

      My top down imposed solution – whatever the issue is, is presumptively better because I say so, or because by one arbitrary statistic and disputable statistic or another it might perform better in a single area.

      My proposed solution is morally correct based on my personal standards of morality. It is irrelevant whether in reality it causes more harm than good.

      You claim that absent your imposed solutions bad things would happen, people would die, but that is no more than a claim. Even the World Bank – not a paragon of fiscal conservatism has come to accept that increased freedom benefits all of society, and increases in the social safety-net are net negative for society.

      I do not dispute that in a truly free market some bad things will happen to some people that would not have happened otherwise. At the same time on the whole less bad things will happen to everyone. You fail to see that the restrictions you impose to achieve your view of morality are equally destructive. The damage is in jobs that never happen, discoveries – like life saving medicines that do not come about, and more obviously people who die waiting in “fair” lines for National Health Services.

      You claim that you are unwilling to make an ass of yourself defending the opposite extreme – fine, defend something. You seem in love with the British NHS – that is pretty close to the opposite extreme. On almost every issue, you claim to be insufficiently knowledgeable to take a position, but still knowledgeable enough to assail mine, and ultimately the position you dance around defending is the opposite extreme.

      I have practically begged you to stick your neck out and define what you think is moderate – Rick has actually had the courage to do so. I disagree both that his position is moderate and that it is workable, but I respect him for standing up for what he believes.
      You are happy to rush in an attack my views as ultra-conservative, economically fundimentalist, or myriads of other labels, But I have yet to see an actual logical argument against any of them.

    • September 30, 2011 3:19 pm

      Western Europe is failing. Its problems are far more severe than our own. Though they have wised up somewhat and are slowly winding down the top down socialist policies you admire so much. The US is far too socialist, but it is not nearly so bad as the EU. But we are still headed in the wrong direction.

      Further Western Europe is pretty much inarguably failing because of their top down socialist solutions – and increasingly they grasp that – but like the failures of Social Security and Medicare here, these are damn near impossible to unwind politically.

  29. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 30, 2011 12:13 pm

    One other observation just in case I have not been clear about medical tourism. When the western European nations, including Great Britain created systems in which rich, poor, and middle alike all have pretty much equal wait times and receive the same treatments, well, of course some people with the ability to pay will go elsewhere. I won’t even blame them in this case, fear of dying or pain, or loss of function are pretty powerful incentives and when you have the money you will buy the best you can find. Its not an indication that the socialist medicine is bad, its just human nature. The facilities built in (ironically) the most free market way in India or China to cater to medical tourism have precisely zero to say about the general health care system in the country at large. If you are a wealthy American and you need a kidney transplant and the wait list is stretching into years, why not head to China, where they can just execute some petty thief and he will “donate” his kidney to you. OK, its not the average case of medical tourism, and donation of organs from prisoners to tourists has been dealt with in the last few years.

    Do I need to comment on the morality of this? Dhlii, as Irishmen we both know that during the great potato famine in Ireland, while millions starved Ireland still exported potatoes to England. Likewise, in India, while hundreds of millions suffer in poverty and die too young, the country can in its free market wisdom earn some income off of wealthy foreigners by investing in ultramodern medical facilities for their rich and for medical tourists. If that is the solution, I hate to think of how we would state the problem.

    As well health care has many attributes that make it a poor fit to the laws of economics governing sales of Mercedes Benz autos or guitars.

    People don’t negotiate or bargain very hard with doctors. If they need a heart surgery or a tooth extracted they don’t tend to go to the market and shop around.

    Another point, if you offered me electric guitars for free I’d take as many as I could fit in my house. If you offer me a trip to the dentist for free I’d take about one a year. People don’t enjoy going to the doctor, they go when they need it. Many don’t even go when they need it even with insurance, no one likes having a nurse go searching for that vein. You do that when you have to, not frivolously.

    Thus, no, I don’t think your rhetorical question about the consequences of a free supply has the obvious answer you are looking for.

    • September 30, 2011 2:51 pm

      I am willing to agree that a surface examination of medical tourism is merely annecdotal rather than empirical. That does not mean it may not reveal something worth exploring.
      Britian and Canada have long waiting lines for both the rich and the poor – with few exceptions the NHS treats everyone identically. It also treats them badly. Minimally you note that they have long waiting times – one of the triggers for medical tourism. People die in england waiting for treatment that is readily available elsewhere. This has been one of my central arguments against central planning and “equality” all along. We can have (actually we can’t but that is another debate) perfect equality – and reduce the standard of living for everyone or we can grasp that an improvement in the quality of life for the least of us is worthwhile, even if it means a greater improvement for the most affluent.
      Free Markets do not distribute wealth evenly. But the do result in the creation of substantially more wealth to distribute, the vast majority of which actually goes to the bottom of the pyramid, while maybe 10% of the created wealth goes to less than 1% of us. Regardless, this is a distribution of wealth that did not exist before rather than a zero sum race to the bottom for everyone.

      As to Ireland, are you claiming that the root cause of the Irish dispora and the starvation of millions was the export of potatoes to England ?

      As to morality, if a free market in say organ transplants increased the availability of organs for transplant and benefited everyone albeit the rich more than the poor, then which is more moral ? the so called fair system where more people die (and the wealthy still go to china) or the so called immoral system where more people live ?

      One of the great sins of the left is that “fairness” is so important than they are willing to inflict greater suffering on us all to achieve it.

      People don’t bargain with Doctor’s today, because they can not. Medical tourism is a free market response to government restriction. Whether a prospective tourist is seeking better care, less restrictions, a shorter wait, lower cost, or more treatment options, people flee their own restricted healthcare systems and go to others. Proof that given choices people will exercise them.
      Free Markets do NOT mean everyone makes decisions based solely on cost. It means people make decisions for their own reasons – whatever they may be.
      Many of us chose our doctors. We may pay more to do so.
      We may chose our dentist based on how effectively they manage pain – and we may pay more to do so.
      It is irrelevant specifically why we make the choices we do – only that each of us may weigh the decision differently. A free market allows us to do so, and accommodates us. A top down approach can’t.
      If my child would die without a kidney transplant, and the only way to get one was to take them to another country – I would find a way to do that – regardless of the limits on my resources. For a chance of survival I would not be fretting over your moral dilema of prisoner’s selling their kidney’s. The moral outrage would be the system that condemned my child to die in the interests of “fairness”.

      If you beleive that free healthcare does not increase doctor’s visits then you have little experience with old people. Even for those of us who do not look forward to doctors visits free healthcare would still encourage us to go more often – you have even argued as much claiming that health would improve because of greater access. Greater access means greater use. If it didn’t why are we having this discussion at all ?
      Regardless, I think the point is so obvious that I am not even going to bother to dig up the statistics that medicare has increased the use of healthcare.

      There are many factors that go into our decisions to do anything. Cost is but one of them. Regardless of how many other factors there are, reduce costs and you will increase consumption. In general this is something to be desired. I have repeated over and over that the free market drives costs down – in doing so it increases demand. What separates this from top down approachs, is that suppliers voluntarily strive to reduce their costs in order to increase demand. A top down approach presumes some elite in government are better able to reduce costs than the providers, that motivation does not matter, and that all of us have the same wants and needs. The critical question is not whether we want more and better healthcare, but how to achieve that.

  30. Ian Robertson permalink
    September 30, 2011 4:18 pm

    Dhlii, Oh, good lord show me were I said that I love the English healthcare system or admire socialist policies!!! Nor did I say that selling potatoes to the English during the potato famine caused the exodus of the Irish, (although that may be an implication). You are getting almost nothing I say right.

    The (one) pattern with you is that you make powerful claims based appeals to authorities. Whenever I go and look these claims up, in most cases you have completely distorted what the authorities say. Sometime you take it so far that I can only call it lying. Considering how wrong you get some of even the simplest things I’ve said I suppose you may just have a massive reading comprehension problem.

    Of course I have not succeeded in refuting anything you have ever posted, even when its an out and out falsehood, like the pack of absolutely false statements you sent on England, India, and Medicare passage immediately causing the increase in the Health care as a proportion of the GDP ratio.

    Intellectual integrity, without it you have a hard time convincing anyone of anything.

    I’m invincible!
    You’re a looney.
    The Black Knight always triumphs! Have at you! Come on, then.

    Me: no, I think I won’t. You have no legs and I’m getting a headache.

    • October 1, 2011 10:32 pm


      I do make strong claims. You do the same though your claims and rebutals are usually less specific. If you have a problem with they rebut them. I have no problem rebutting yours. I actually rarely claim authority rather than my own words. I have generally independently of my own arguments referenced various usually government data sources – like NBER. I am not sure how biting NBER data is an appeal to authority. Occasionally I provide links – usually to sources I would expect a liberal would have more trouble rejecting such as The Atlantic, NYT, or Paul Krugman. On occasion I quote well respected historical figures, such as Paine and Jefferson. I mostly avoid sources that I expect that you would disparage off hand without thought. I do not beleive I have ever quoted Hayek, Mises, Friedman, and people like Adam Smith and Lord Acton only rarely. I recommended Russel Roberts and Econolog to you only after you brought the Keynes vs. Hayek video’s up.

      With a few exceptions which I regret. I have gone out of my way to avoid labelling you or using juvenile Monty Python references as a substitute for argument.

      I do not accept your views. To the extent you have been willing to express them I think they are at best on the right side of the progressive extreme and no where near moderate.
      My legitimate lack of respect for your views does not permit a lack of respect for you as a person. I do not know you very well, but I presume you are a decent well meaning person.
      Challenging your views is not the same is disrespecting your value as a person.

      My beleifs require me to afford the freedom to allow you or anyone else to speak their mind however they please. I am offended when creative put downs substituted for argument, but I have no right to demand your or anyone else’s respect. Each of us has the RIGHT to speak as we please.

      The thread of argument on health care has become completely confused. Our current system is not even close to a free market. Most everyone agrees it can not continue. The only argument that I have made that I care about is that “fixing” it by transitioning to any of the myriads of other socialised system that have all also failed is an answer so poor I can not grasp why anyone would offer it. Yes, many healthcare systems elsewhere in the world – including socialised ones are superior to ours in atleast one way. The socialised ones are still overall failing as badly and rapidly or more so than ours.

      I should have avoided the debate or comparision to Europe. The english system is overall far worse than ours – probably the worst in europe, but I have no interest in debating which failed system is worse. Winning that argument proves nothing.

      I am perfectly willing to stand behind every statement I have made that I have claimed as a fact. I cited a US government report on medicare’s responsibility for healthcare cost increase. Not something from CATO or some other source you could reject off hand. I have frequently argued here that government analysis or data is wrong – or atleast being used in a misleading manner. CBO scoring and projections must be examined carefully as they are almost always obligated to accept assumptions that most of us grasp as incredible. Every CBO projection of any kind expects the expiration of the Bush Tax cuts, the cost savings APACA is supposed to bring, and that congress will not again delay changes to medicare doctors reimbursements – among myriads of other assumptions that make their projections such great fairy tales that even CBO fills them with footnotes and disclaimers.
      Regardless, if you want to claim that my cites to the World Bank, or NBER, or …. are wrong or mean something different that what I claim – feel free. To the extent they are an appeal to authority they are deliberately an appeal to an authority that I expected you would view credibly.

      You brought the export of potatoes to England during the potato famine in. If you were not arguing that it was a significant contributor then why even bring it up ?

      I take my integrity very seriously. Even in instances where I have made a blanket statement that is a reasonable generalization, and an accurate statement of principles, I have apologised and narrowed or qualified it when I recognised that as a statement of fact it was overly broad. Government does not fail always, just nearly always. It can create jobs and wealth – but the net result of almost everything government does will still be a loss of jobs and wealth.

      I have flat out disagreed with you on many things. Although it is extremely hard to get you to commit to believing anything. As in the above healthcare debate – you set-up some socialist top down solution and then when the argument collapses claim you really were not defending whatever it is that you were arguing. Stake out a position you actually beleive in and argue it. Don’t attack what I have claimed unless you actually beleive differently and are prepared to defend that. I do not recall which of us brought English, European, and Indian healthcare systems into the current debate. Regardless, I will stand by my positions:
      England has possibly the worst most costly healthcare system in the entire EU. What ever merits it might have – and every single system is better than all the rest in atleast one way, on net it is still abysmal. To the extent that European Healthcare is more socialised than ours – and many European systems are less socializzed than ours, they are overall worse. Our system is already fairly socialised. It is no where near a free market and nearly everything that is wrong with it can be attributed to that. That costs in the socialised portions have increased by almost a factor of three since 1965, while those closest to a free market have either increased in cost less, and often decreased dramatically. Lasik and Plastic surgery are just the easiest to find examples. That healthcare in India is primarily free market despite being officially socialised and universal, and that it is more affordable even for the poor, and that the quality and cost is sufficient that people in socialised countries throughout the world travel to india for healthcare despite having to pay as much as ten times the price of Indians for the same care. Aside from being heavily socialised the US system is also aberrant as we ration care far less than other socialised nations, and that in many ways – as with defence we subsidise the healthcare of the rest of the world. The lions share of research is done here. The lions share of innovation is developed here – though often the FDA severely delays adoption. The cost of development of virtually all drugs and medical technology is paid for by US healthcare, with much of the rest of the world legislating that they will only buy at marginal cost – I hope you understand the distinction between marginal costs and rates and actual costs and rates. A basic principle of economics – not a particularly libertarian one is that decisions are made at the margins. It is the tax you pay on the next dollar you earn that determines the decisions you make with respect to investments and taxes. Businesses will sell into a market at a price below that needed to recover their product development costs so long as they can do so profitably and so long as those development costs are still paid off in another market (the US).

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 2, 2011 11:34 am

        Trying to respect others and keep it short, the difference between us is that I do not consider myself to be an expert on subjects I have insufficient knowledge of.

        The idea that it is generally accepted that England has about the worst health care system in the world is simply wrong.

        The idea that AGW is impossible based on first principles and the 98% of climate scientists who disagree are not competent to note this simple fact is also simply wrong.

        The idea that the shock value of the Nazis was far beyond their actual actions, again, wrong, disastrously.

        I could make a list of dozens of wildly wrong things you have stated, often with statements implying that you have scientific opinion on your side, i.e., appeals to authority.

        As far as I can remember you have retracted no major misstatement, when something like your wild claim that it is generally accepted that Britain has the worst health care system in the world is singled out you will never admit your error.

        That, my friend, is lack of intellectual integrity. Its your problem, not mine, I point it out, you are free to ignore the logic behind my statement.

        Because of your bad habits of bending every set of facts to meet your own highly extreme view of the world, you are making no headway here and getting frustrated. No one will ever make any impression on you with their counter arguments you have made that clear. So why should anyone discuss anything with you?

        I enter discussions with you not as you but as your ideas, in other words what you represent. You represent the idea that any person who has no training in the field they wish to debate can bring down the work of people who actually put in the long years of work and got an education. One statement of yours standss out as an example of your amazing fatal conceit. You have said that you can be more informed than your doctor about a specific ailment with an hour’s research. Unless you have a deep background in biology that you have not revealed, that idea is absurd. There is an entire vast structure of biology to be learned first, without it you cannot understand biological failures.

        On economics I have no doubt you are highly read, more so than I. But your basic bad intellectual habits spoil your efforts again, you distort everything to meet your one simple central dogma. I think that pretty much everyone here has tried to explain it to you in different ways. You would need a whole new set of intellectual habits before anyone would believe your assessment of pretty much anything. Until then, you are wasting your time.

  31. October 1, 2011 10:35 pm

    I am willing to compromise on any issue. I will back any “moderate” proposal that takes the smallest step towards greater individual liberty from where we are currently regardless of the intent of that step – though exactly like progressives after accepting a small step in the rigth direction I will be back arguing for another. But I will not agree to anything at all that further reduces individuals rights and liberty.
    What you keep calling ultra-conservative or economic fundamentalism is rooted in the high value I place on individual liberty not economics. I ferverently beleive and beleive that itr is demonstrable, that the best economic outcome comes from the greatest recognition of individual rights. But I would be arguing for strengthening rights even if that were not try. The fact that the economy works better the freer it is is a bonus, not an end in itself.

    The world is not fair and never will be. Fairness is a second order value of sufficient complexity it is not really definable, and inherently doomed to compete with itself.
    Liberty is a first order value. It is possible to measure relative freedom. Except in the instances involving the initiation of force where one persons freedom come at the expense of another’s liberty does not compete with itself – liberty for one does not come at the expense of liberty for others.

    Whatever the “new moderates” here chose to do that increases individual liberty by even a small amount, will have my support. Whatever does not will find me opposed.

  32. October 1, 2011 11:29 pm

    As Healthcare has come up I will offer some specific proposals – not that I have seen anyone else willing to stake out any position beyond that what we have sucks and maybe the questionable proposition that Europe might be superior.

    When I was much younger most health insurance was what was called “Major Medical” it only covered calamitous disasters not day to day medical needs. Whether paid for privately or publicly and regardless of what their actual cost is ordinary medical care that each of us can expect to require each year can not possibly be cost effective when aquired through a third party. Whatever the cost of a routine visit to the doctors, or an ordinary drug it must cost more through a third party specifically because there is a third party.
    You should be free as an individual to chose to pay 13,000/year for medical insurance that covers everything, even if for 3,000/year you could get an identical policy with a 10,000 deductible. If you are unable or do not wish to place a bet that only has two possible outcomes – you win or you draw, that is up to you. But neither the public nor anyone else should be compelled to essentially subsidise the first 10,000 of your medical care each year at an almost guaranteed loss.

    I would prefer to see the elimination of publicly provided heatlh insurance entirely, and return to the system that is still intact where those who could not afford care we covered by doctors pro-bono, or by private charity. Most US hospitals are already required to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay – and most of them did so long before they were required to. A substantial portion of the uninsured have options such as medicare and SCHIP available to them and have declined because filling out a bunch of paperwork does not alter the fact that they will receive medical care when they need it anyway.

    But given that publicly subsidised medical care is not ending anytime soon, it is essential that participants get some skin in the game. I beleive there is research demonstrating that unless someone pays atleast 30% of the cost of routine medical care they will consume more care than they need. Limit public payment of all routine medical expenses to 70% of the charges for the service. Those who can afford to can either pay or buy private insurance for the balance. Those who can not afford to will be handled by doctors and hospitals. The doctor and Hospital will still receive the 70% that is covered by public insurance such as medicare, medicaid, schip, … and they can decide whether to seek the balance. For the most part the truly poor are already completely immune to efforts at collection anyway.

    Eliminate the requirement that doctors and hospitals can not charge less for a service than they charge the government. At the bare minimum free a doctor and patient to negotiate any price they can for services paid for directly rather than by insurance companies or public insurance.

    Merge and broaden the rules of MSA’s, HSA’s and all other health savings accounts.
    Whatever you call it any individual should be allowed to have a tax deductable healthcare saving account of up to 10,000/year funded personally and/or by their employer, that they own, that can roll forward from year to year and that can be rolled into an IRA at any time, and can be used for almost anything remotely arguable as a health expense. This would significantly encourage high deductible health insurance – which is far more cost effective for everyone, make paying for ones own ordinary health care more attractive, and create an increase in private savings at no cost to the government as low deductible insurance is already fully deductible for businesses. It would also encourage the migration from employer owned health insurance to personally owned health insurance.

    Repeal ERISA. Even where health insurance is paid for by an employer establish as a principle of law that it is owned by the employee. This has a radical effect on an employees rights when pursuing an insurance company for bad faith and other torts.

    Eliminate all rules and regulations restricting the interstate sale of health insurance.
    Eliminate all rules and regulations governing what a health insurance policy must and must not cover. Allow consumers to seek the specific coverage they want on an individual basis.

    If we must retain publicly paid for health insurance of any kind convert it to a voucher system. With government paying a fixed benefit for the purchase of private insurance, then allow the recipient to buy whatever they please contributing as much or as little of their own money as they wish for more basic or broader coverage.

    While I would maintain the deductibility of HSA’s for as long as we continue to have IRA’s or tax deductible retirement plans, I would phase out the tax deduction for health insurance – regardless, of who pays for it.

    There is probably far more than can be done, and much of what I propose are actually bad ideas that are only better than where we are and better than we we seem to be going. But the core is to greatly expand individual choice and responsibility for their own healthcare. If we expect people to make decisions that are best for their own health as well as cost effective we must give them the ability and responsibility to make their own decisions and trust them to do so. We must move away from competing with and publicly subsidising the healthcare and health insurance industry. We must trust people with their own freedom, accepting that a few will make poor choices, but that the net will still be positive.

  33. Kent permalink
    October 2, 2011 12:38 am

    Rick, I am sipping a cold drink right now. Enjoying all the arrests in New York. These people need to do their research before protesting.

    Government has regulations on Wall Street greed.
    Unfortunately, the regulators didn’t do there jobs and instead enjoyed downloading and watching porn before the crash of 2008. I think it is true Americans forget things.

    Government regulates how the Fed Reserve operates with allowing banks to manipulate money.

    Government regulates how the Banking system operates loans.

    Government regulates how the mortgage loans are operated via Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

    Who by the way own at least 97% of the mortgage loans.
    Did we forget the “Everyone should own a house stik” from our politicians?

    Government regulates the high unemployment paychecks.

    Did you know that you can send out 3 online Resumes in about 30 minutes or less and then fill out an online form every week to the unemployment office just to get the average $300. That is like working 35 minutes for $300 dollars. Now that is a good job. People have been on unemployment for 99 weeks now.

    If ignorant people take control of this economic mess and we don’t stick our intelligence into this….we are in a heap of trouble.

    Fact: Greed is in everyone…not just Wall Street.

    The question is who controls who?
    It should be that we know greed is inherent and we should accept this among all things.
    Power controls wealth = Government Wealth controls power = Federal Reserve (which is privately owned by European Aristocrats who have screwed our monetary system.

    If you do your research the “money changers” control the money to wield power over our Government politicians and Wall Street brokers.

    • Kent permalink
      October 2, 2011 12:41 am

      Power controls wealth = Government
      Wealth controls power = Federal Reserve (which is privately owned by European Aristocrats who have screwed our monetary system.

  34. October 2, 2011 12:41 am


    Libertarianism is by definition optimistic. To advance a system that allows people to make their own choices requires trusting in people – even progressives like Ian and psueodo moderates as yourself.

    I do not accept that government intervention has improved our lives.

    I am hard pressed to think of an instance in which slavery existed without government support. That government ended something that could not have existed without it does not to me demonstrate some great merit to government.

    Slavery is essentially the original sin of the United States government. Our early history is replete with the political compromises our founders had to make to ensure government support of slavery in order to advance the declaration and constitution. It is a heinous chapter in our history, and we paid a terrible price to end it. Worse still the destruction of slavery – an institution that could not survive without the support of government require expanding the power of government – essentially a lose-lose situation.

    I thought I covered child (and other) labor laws elsewhere. Regardless, for every great progressive acheivement that purportedly came about solely at the behest of government intervention, there is atleast one and usually numerous nations – either ahead of us historicially or behind us, that passed through the same problems and ended them without the plethora of progessive laws.

    Essentially every purported progressive accomplishment was at best a government action that altered something that was going away on its own anyway.
    Worse still these government interventions have left us with laws and agencies that not only no longer serve their purpose but actively interfere. The FDA despite actual legislation to counter this still places demands on drug development that insure that the cost for drugs to sure less common diseases are high enough that they will never be profitable and therefore never occur. Aspirin would require a black label if it had to be approved today. And how did we move from regulating a drugs safety to regulating its efficacy ? An enormous number of drugs are used off label today, because they can not get label approval for uses where they have proved effective – just not to the FDA’s standards. This again limits new drugs to those that can meet the FDA’s standards of efficacy for atleast one use – regardless of demonstrated value in other areas. At the bare minimum the FDA should allow the use of any drug that meets the standards of safety – regardless of efficacy. If the FDA can not be convinced a drug is useful for a given purpose then it should be limited to prohibiting labeling for that purpose. I would rather see more drugs approved – even if they are not approved for any specific use, then less drugs.

    This is little doubt that Asia is emerging. Again one of the failed progressive (and conservative) memes is that the advance of one group comes at the expense of another.
    Europe is in very serious trouble. It will likely survive and eventually thrive but there is enormous amount of pain first – far more than the US unless we continue moving in the directions that have failed for them. The US is still the dominant global economy. The recent mess has strengthen our world position rather than diminished it. China has myriads of troubles of its own. Again from the World bank a measure of the per capita Wealth including intangibles has US citizens holding $3/4M each while the Chinese are holding $19,000 each. China has a long long way to go to catch us. But more than that prosperity for one enhances that of everyone. Asia’s success is to our benefit not detriment.

    As to the argument about finite resources – that is atleast as old as Malthus. Maybe our resources are finite, but that has never proven a problem todate. Read Julian Simon or Bjorn Lomborg on the world’s resources. We are constantly bombarded with stories that things are going to hell, yet with very few exceptions we are unlikely to run out of anything for the foreseable future. We have a growth problem coming – but it is not that growth is infinite, but that the growth of advanced societies slows and stops – and continuously growing populations are an incredibly potent resource. Every orphaned drug is profitable with a large enough population with moderate wealth.

    Environmentalists rant about recycling – but the entire planet is one giant recycling machine. The laws of conservation of energy and mass guarantee that in one way or another whatever we have we will always have. Further earth is not a closed system. Each day the sun rains unimaginable amounts of energy on the planet – the overwhelming majority of which is reflected back to space. We are years, possibly decades from economically capturing that. But it will happen. The fundimental truth of scarcity is that it is false. Nothing is scarce, it is just not economical to convert to use. Biofuels are infinitely renewable – and we forget that oil is a biofuel – we just have not found the economically viable means to make use of them yet. Every increase in price makes some new means of aquiring a scarce resource feasible. And each technological advance drives the price back down. Canada is on a yoyo bouncing between being one of the worlds largest exporters of oil and almost a net importer. Each price increase makes Canda’s oil resources profitably exportable, and each decreases makes them unprofitable. The Oil Shale in the US dwarfs the know recoverable oil reserves of the world. There is atleast three times that energy available in coal. Three times that in uranium, more than three times that in other unexploitable nuclear sources, and … and … and at the end unimaginable energy from the sun. The US is the most efficient energy consumer in the world today. We double the efficiency of our energy efficiency almost every other decade. But we quadruple our consumption over the same time.

    There is no scarcity. The only question is at what point does a resource become abundant.

    We are in for a very rough patch over the short run. Caused solely by the past century of mistakes of progressive government. We will get past that, there is no real alternative. The only question is hope painful that passage will be. But the trend for longer better, more productive lives, for quality of life improvements we can not possibly conceive of today will continue unabated. At worst delayed when government tries to do for us what we are far better able for work out for ourselves.

    I have no clue what tomorows energy source will be. I would bet that it will continue to be oil for sometime, because despite peak oil pessimism we are improving our ability to find and economically recover oil we did not even know existed faster rather than slower. There is even some question as to whether oil is actually a “fossil fuel” according to the fossil fuel theory it should exist relatively close to the surface yet we are finding more and more deeper and deeper in the earth’s crust. I have not heard a credible expanation of how so called fossil fuels occur in unfathomable quantities at depths greater than two miles below the earth’s surface. But whether oil is truly renewable or not does not matter. It will remain our primary energy source until we can use something more abundant more cheaply. And inevitably that will happen.

    Nor are we limited to the resources of this planet. I have no clue how we economically make use of the resources that dwarf that of earth that exist in our own solar system. But we probably have atleast a milenia to figure that out.

    I am unsure whether my children will have social security or medicare, but I have no doubt that the world they live in will be far better than today.

  35. AMAC permalink
    October 2, 2011 1:48 am

    Maybe we should work on a post limit, or at least a word limit. Some of the same old conversations are exhausting, frustrating, and pointless. Dave, you are clearly anxious to debate cuts to the government. I get it. And that is a necessary part of what is needed. However, that is not the only topic we should discuss. You asked for any examples of cuts, we have given some. You change the topic from fairness to health care, from economics to AGW. I am fine if you want to get your libertarian views out their regarding a subject, but ease up a little. I don’t even want to get in to how the ideas of rights can also be subjective. So don’t ask, I will not participate.

    • October 2, 2011 1:03 pm

      AMAC: You’re right… we need to do something about the length of the posts here. My inclination to read any given comment varies inversely with its length. (I don’t know how Dave has time to write all his posts when I don’t even have enough time to read them.)

      But how do we limit the length without imposing top-down Keynesian controls and violating individual liberties? Do we establish a maximum word count? That would be a pain. I thought we might limit each post to the depth of the screen; in other words, if we have to scroll down, it’s too long. But then we have to remember that comments on comments are set in narrower columns, so you reach the bottom of the screen with fewer words. On the other hand, maybe that’s not such a bad idea. Comments on comments shouldn’t run on as long as the original comments.

      So let’s establish an informal rule of thumb: try to keep individual comments short enough so we don’t have to scroll down to read them. I know, someone could argue that it all depends on the size of your screen and type font… but let’s give it a try anyway. What do you say, crew?

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 2, 2011 1:41 pm

        Dueling blogs its been called and I am certainly highly guilty. I think it hurts your efforts to do what you are trying to do here.

        I do apologize.

        Just a thought, what if you create a philosophical wild card topic and let those of us who cannot resist rising to the bait go over there instead of going off topic in the current discussion, whatever it is? That way people who subscribe to each current topic as it is posted won’t get their mailboxes filled up with off topic unending philosophical debates.

        Rainy day, can’t even split wood and my wife is at work. I’ve a house full of musical instruments and instead of practicing between repairing various little things I inspect the computer every so often, seems I’m just itching to argue with someone. Cure me, oh please, somebody..

      • AMAC permalink
        October 2, 2011 4:01 pm

        Sounds like a solid rule to me. Let’s think less formal debate, more cliff note style debate! I also like the idea of Ian’s about the moderate conglomerate. I really think that this is the time to grow for a moderate organization. The CEO recently gave a conference call that can be accessed on-line on behalf of an organization pleading for cooperation. This organization has support out of both parties and from many prominate business leaders. Sounds like support for moderation to me! I will search for the link to post, its been a month or so since I listened and signed the on-line petition.

  36. October 2, 2011 2:09 pm

    You don’t need to apologize, Ian. I like the idea of holding general debates on a separate thread. Maybe I could add some new topics to those three-way “Issues” debates: I haven’t included any debates on taxes or even government yet. That way, you could debate on the hot issues of your choice.

    If I were to set up a separate “Wild Card” topic, what would happen if someone wanted to introduce a new topic for debate? I guess it would just be a flowing conversation, and one thing would lead to another. It’s definitely worth a try. But I’ll still add some new debates to our “Issues” section; I’m long overdue there.

    Tell me about computer addiction… I find that I no longer have the patience to read a book from cover to cover. I just dip in, read about 10 pages, put it down and move on to the next mental stimulant… usually online. It’s compulsive with me… I check my e-mail 5 times a day and the traffic on The New Moderate even more often. As for Facebook, it’s practically my home away from home. Our brains are being rewired! It’s probably a Google plot to control our minds — and eventually the world.

    • October 3, 2011 11:17 pm

      The quality of my spelling and typing in posts sometimes suffers – because work, reading books, and spending time with my family is more important than TNM or anything else on the web.

      I find Google frees my mind, It is my memory on steriods, In the context of my work, it makes myriads of reference manuals obsolete, googling is faster and gets me right to the information I need. In the context of debate such as here. Not only can I find the reference that I am seeking, but i can find the data to back up a point from a government source, or from the political left rather than say Cato, Reason, The Freeman, or some other libertarian or conservative source that some posters here will likely disregard off hand.

      But the internet is not a substitute for reading. There is a difference between electronic socialisation, seeking a data or references about something you already know – whether technical or opinion, and learning something new particular. I try to read a book a week. I usually am in the middle of three or four at a time. I do not quite make that and once in a while I go a month without reading. Two thirds of what I read is fiction, of the non-fiction about one third is from viewpoints I do not agree with.

      Whether it is for information or entertainment, books are still irreplaceable. You can read them online or on the computer, but please don’t quit reading.

  37. Ian Robertson permalink
    October 2, 2011 2:21 pm

    Hi Rick,

    I almost made it upstairs to my drum kit and then I heard the Call, that little ding that lets me know that the internet universe is calling… . Must drop everything…

    Other than not having a Facebook (and never having twittered either), you have described my syndrome exactly. You might like to see the South park episode on that topic. I don’t facebook but Youtube… nearly every musical performance ever recorded is on youtube, not to mention movies. Did Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich jam… its there. and it leads you to everything related to the performance you looked up. I can spend all day there. My wife and I usually ignore our latest netflix and go over and watch old Russian cartoons etc on youtube nearly every night.

    The topic I really wish to see is not about moderate stands on issues its on how to get moderates to conglomerate. What our strategy to build moderate nation? How can we grow, how can we increase our leverage on the left and right and calm them down?

  38. AMAC permalink
    October 2, 2011 4:16 pm

    My last post was supposed to read the Starbucks CEO (Howard Shultz). The organisation is No Labels. Just FYI, here is the web site:

    From what I have read, it is mainly democrat politicians supporting, but there is republican support as well. Might be something worth looking into.

  39. October 2, 2011 9:05 pm

    AMAC and Ian: I was at the NoLabels launch last December. Lots of big-name speakers showed up: David Brooks, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the Latino mayor of L.A., John Avlon, David Gergen, Mika Brzezinski and I forget who else. It was an exciting event… lots of energy and optimism. But it’s not really a reformist moderate group; the emphasis is on building consensus across party lines. That’s fine, even admirable… but I think we need a more radical reformation at this point. We can’t just cooperate with the status quo.

    I wrote a two-part story on the NoLabels launch here last December; you can scroll back in time if you want to read it.

    As for the Occupy Wall Street crowd… I’m still of two minds about them. Yes, we definitely need to show the plutocrats that “we’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it any more!” So far, so good. But if you hang out on Twitter (I’m an occasional Twit) and search for @OccupyWallStreet, what you see is a lot of wild-eyed quasi-Marxist verbiage reminiscent of the ’60s radical antiwar movement. There’s no real leadership, which is OK (I kind of like the spontaneity), but “there’s no THERE there”: no demands, no plan, not even an ultimate goal (other than the most extreme element’s lust for overthrowing the capitalist system). So I’d counsel you to use caution. Cheer them on for their guts, righteousness and crazy determination, but beware of the hidden lefty agenda.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 2, 2011 9:23 pm

      I am still enthused about no labels, cooperation across party lines is already a step in the moderate direction and a significant one.

      About the occupy wall street crowd, I already regret my naivete. What I wish is that a Moderate element would get the same idea and go at it with the same intensity but different goals and more reasonable demands/expectations. Wall street really needs a good swift kick after the bonuses and all that they contributed to the crisis. They need to be regulated more tightly and to know that we are watching and not amused. But Micheal Moore and Co will ruin it I suppose and turn it into a radical left wing party that most Americans will reject.

      • October 3, 2011 12:29 am

        Ian: Agree about the need for a swift kick. The old-time lefty silliness of the demonstrations caused them to be dismissed by the mainstream media… but now that the movement is spreading to cities across America and even around the world, everyone should be taking it seriously. It could turn out to be a “Western Spring,” or, more likely (given the time of year and our current economic prospects), a Western Fall.

    • Kent permalink
      October 3, 2011 12:48 am

      Rick, I like your stance lately on becoming radical moderate. “No Labels” is doing a “mediator’s job. In other words, they are just trying to bring people to the “table”.

      This doesn’t work when ideologies are controlling the game. Just ask Israel and the Arabs.

      It takes a real “beating” with a strong “radical agenda” that you can get people behind you in order to get things done. Just ask any dictator.

      Now I am not asking for a dictatorship, but they know how to stir the crowd into a frenzy and get results.

      We can all go the “lovey/dovey” act or get serious here and stop this stupidity. Lay down the facts of who screwed America over, put the people on paper and expose them and their is plenty of blame to go around.

      Start with the main one who wants to take ownership of everything in the country. It is the Government. Yet, when blame for something goes wrong it is never Government. It seems to be someone else. Some person, group, political party, etc, etc.

      As a radical, I could not agree to be a “No Labels” membership as a person without them doing something daring to get a message out that the American people are pissed off and it brings some serious action. This isn’t an ‘let’s all be friends’ moment or “let’s all hold hands” and pray. Prayer does nothing in government…action does….just ask Vlad. Lenin, Hitler, Castro, Chavez, and others.

      Another thing, “No Labels” that sounds all nice and cute, but everyone has their own thoughts. Therefore, in my opinion. It is legit for me to label a person a certain way based on how I perceive them. How can society live without perception?

      What good is a debate if you can’t perceive (label) where the other person is coming from and bring out a good conversation? … of course drinks and smokes afterward. Debates were supposed to be vicious.

      I still believe logic and common sense will beat either two parties at some point because both are stuck in extremes of Adam Smith and Karl Marx. This reminds me of the Populist Movement (party) in the late 1890’s.

    • Kent permalink
      October 3, 2011 12:55 am

      Everyone, check out the “Panic of 1893”. Exact things were going on then as now. Banks being blamed, etc.

      Populist Party came to similar standing as Tea Party today. Except Populist Party leaned left and eventually was swallowed up by the Democrats.

      Imagine that for the Tea Party…just the opposite direction!

      Start your new Centrist party with a Centrist Ideology today. No leaning…all balanced logic and common sense solutions. Be a moderate with your own political “car”.

      • October 3, 2011 1:53 pm

        Kent: The Tea Party is a kind of anomaly: a populist movement built on principles that favor the rich (low taxes, free markets, small government, individual “liberty” and all the rest of it). Right now, if we’re populists, we can choose between that and the scruffy latter-day pseudo-Marxists of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

        What we need is a populist movement based not on Marx or Ayn Rand… but closer to the ideals espoused by Frank Capra: celebrating the dignity of the little guy who treats others fairly and kindly but has enough backbone to stand up for his rights and point a finger at the crooks. Think of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. Corny, sure… but Capra captures the best of the American character: the combination of individual conscience and community spirit. And above all, simple honesty and decency. That’s what a good moderate party might look like.

      • Kent permalink
        October 3, 2011 3:13 pm

        That’s exactly it, Ryan. You got it.

        The next step is to find individuals who believe in that.

        Next a metaphor for Centrist Ideology: Like being on a fence:

        Know when to lean left or right slightly, but always never falling off the center ideology….. that it’s for the little guy and that the little guy says what the “big guy” does.

        This is what is lost in our country today. Government came in to help and instead “got off the fence and never got back on”.

        I Digress:
        It is supposed to be the same on “both sides of the fence”, but the equalization on both sides of the “fence” isn’t happening. So it becomes “unfair”…not unequal because each has a reason to benefit from the other.

        One blames the other for not being equal. The other says “so what….what do you expect in Capitalist society”.

        If it continues..radicals on either side take advantage and then demand action to get to the other side. In this case the left ignorant are now going after Wall Street instead of the real controllers of Wall Street…The Government. The fence comes down and then a civil war.

        That is where we come in as Moderate’s with Centrist Ideology. Fairness/not sharing. Both have something to give and take on both sides. Balance in things must preserve our views without being infringed too much.

        So what are we as Moderates going to do? Anything radical? or just talk?

        Want to unite Centrist groups and create a United Centrist Party. One doesn’t exist yet. The FEC apparently ok’d the National Centrist Party by a few guys in Dec. 2010, but they are small and doing non-radical methods. I have shied away from using this NCP thing. Going now with United Centrist Party…a group of Centrist Parties.

        We need flag, banners, fliers and above all wild, excited individuals willing to not necessary protest, but do radical things to get attention. To get the flags and sorts we might need a Centrist with big money or just those who wish to donate to the cause because we “make a good scene/statement” in public.

        Oh, and by the way. Some Centrists use and “Owl” as a mascot. That is lame because the Owl sleeps in the daylight. The Eagle is American. It is big and bold. The Eagle searches and destroys those that wish harm on the Eagle’s values. My motto is that “The Sun never sets on the Eagle”. It’s a metaphor.

  40. AMAC permalink
    October 2, 2011 9:35 pm

    I don’t want to turn this into a no plug, but I do appreciate some of their goals which mirror our own. No Labels wants end the left wing and right wing agendas for what is best for the country, which is the moderate approach. They look to end special interest influence and want a push for clean elections and open primaries, which I like. They also want to end senseless redistricting which promotes “safe” districts for both parties, depending on whom is in charge of the state. I think that a hatred of partisanship leads to moderation. That’s what led me to it.

    • AMAC permalink
      October 2, 2011 9:37 pm


      I would like to steal one of their lines for our own motto. We are not left or right. We are forward.

    • October 3, 2011 12:24 am

      AMAC: Good point about hatred of partisanship leading to moderation. That should have been part of my moderate platform in my current column. Yes, I respect NoLabels for its nonpartisan approach… and I was enthusiastic when they first launched. I just wonder if merely being nonpartisan will really clean up the system (e.g., end legalized bribery by lobbyists and other big-money interests, impose regulations on Wall Street, etc., etc.). It’s a start, but I’d prefer to support a group of radical moderates who are resolute in their insistence on reforming the system.

    • Kent permalink
      October 3, 2011 3:32 pm


      I like the No Labels attempt to be nice and say “we are here…if you don’t like being called labels”, but let’s be realistic. We all use perception and we are always going to have our favorite ideas, agendas, and especially friends.

      Favorite friends…like who think the same. Then the labeling really begins. Even a “no label” is a label and stands for something to be labeled via human perception.

      So if you are going on “reform”. Then be labeled for “Reform” and make a statement.

      As for “Special Interests”. Wisdom and common sense should dictate “Interests”. Their are “left-wing”, “Right-wing” and “Centrist”. It isn’t the Interest groups. It’s the power they wield because money talks.

      A “Centrist” group needs to make it clear. We support “Interest Groups” only when they support the “parties” ideology….not the “personal agendas”. This opens the door for all “interest groups to re-define” their personal agendas than the actual political party doing so.

      Money is needed in a political party, but it shouldn’t overtake the ideology. This is where it became a “No special Interests” argument.

      Right now we have Adam Smith/AnnRyn vs. Karl Marx ideology. I propose a varied new agenda for the little guy. The one our ancestors saw in the founding fathers. Free from all forms of Tyranny.

      Yes, redistricting by political parties is silly, but I believe that requires change in the law.

  41. October 4, 2011 1:00 am

    If there is a solution beyond Keynes and Hayek, Marx and Smith, top down and bottom up, then bring it out.
    The desire for an alternative does not create one. Every issue does not have a middle ground, and even when an issue does, often the middle is the one position we can be ccertain is wrong.
    The erosion of individual rights through continuous compromise with the left is how we got into the mess we are currently in.
    If only the republicans, and particularly the Tea part were the individual rights zealots you perceive them to be.
    I have much the same disdain for the right as most here. Inevitably the right, the GOP, the Tea Party will return to their own version of statism. But the left is always statist.

    There is atleast some recognition here that government often fails – only government is rewarded for failure with even more power.

    I articulate a view of limited government – the more limited the better. But I have repeatedly offered support for even the smallest steps toward restraint. Yet almost no one here sees any problem that is not solved by more government rather than less.

    There is an unfathomable fascination with the rich here. I have grown tired of throwing arround numbers mostly they seem to be ignored. The New Moderate position seems to be that somehow a “moderate” tax increase imposed on the rich will allow us to continue to increase spending at a rate faster than growth. The total net worth of the top 400 americans is 1.3T a bit more than 1/2 of this years deficit. The total net worth of the entire nation is about $55T – a little less than the government will spend in the next decade, and a little more than 3 times the national debt. The entire income of everyone in the top 10% of wage earners is the same as the entire federal budget – $3.8T. You would have to confiscate the entire income of every household earning more than 115,000/year to fund the federal government without a deficit. The money is not there. There appears to be a complete failure to comprehend how large and expensive the federal government is.

    There is also this fiction that I or libertarianism are primarily toadies for the rich. Big Business and the wealthy fear little more than competition. Moderates complain about the influence of money in politics – why is there so much money in politics – because it is buying government power primarily protection. Money follows power. So long as government has the power there will always be money. Even if you somehow repeal the laws of human nature and were able to divorce money from government, power would still corrupt.

    In most everyway moderates here focus on symptoms and are blind to the problems.

    Observing that the positions moderates take can not work in reality because the numbers just do not work, is not libertarian, Randian, or ultra-conservative. It is logical, practical, not ideological.

    Face the facts, labelling fact as ideology does not get you anywhere.

    • Ian Robertson permalink
      October 4, 2011 10:39 am

      God help me, I’m suffering from some kind of addiction but I cannot stop myself from pointing out that you do NOT share the moderate assessment of the GOP, to you they are too “progressive”! Those “statists”! You outflank even the present GOP….. from the right!!!

      If you think that what you offer is just logic and not ideology… Ouch, you actually insult yourself and your own beliefs with that one.

      But I feel your pain about tryna talk to a blind person, I’ve been dealing with a person for several months who thinks that corporate greed, fairness, AGW and any harm from increasing income disparity simply do not exist!

      • October 4, 2011 3:15 pm

        The debate on AGW is ending itself.

        Exactly what is the harm from income disparity ? If you win the lottery tomorrow and end up a hundred million dollars richer having done absolutely nothing to earn it – how exactly has that harmed someone else ?
        If on the other hand you aquired one hundred million dollars by producing something that others wanted badly enough to give you money for it – how exactly did that harm someone else ? If by some stroke of magic every rich person on the planet had twice as much money tomorow, while everyone else remained exactly the same – how would that harm someone else ?

        Without assuming that money and wealth are zero sum, or without assuming that the aquisition of money required fraud or violence, one persons riches do not come at the expense of others.

        I will be happy to assail zero sum arguments as long as you wish.
        If you can demonstrate that someone’s money was acquired through force or fraud – I will be happy to agree to punish them. In all other instances anyone – rich or poor acquiring more wealth must do so by benefiting rather than harming others, and the net benefit to others is typically ten times as great as the benefit to themselves.

        Absent fraud or violence how exactly does one persons success – earned or not, harm you ? Fairness is the form of greed that lays claim on someone else’s wealth through force.

      • October 4, 2011 3:25 pm

        Conservatives have little better reputation on issues of individual rights than progressives do.

        I can not argue with faith. But in the world I live in fiscal restraint and limited government have at best received lip service from conservatives.

        It is progressives and moderates who think rights and fairness end at national borders.

        As best as I can tell you think fiscal restraint and limited government are so vile they place one at the far right of the political spectrum regardless of all other values.

        Each person on this planet shares exactly the same rights as the next regardless of race, creed, national original, sexual orientation, ….
        Limited government is inherent in the concept of individual rights. Whatever rights individuals have in society, the rights of individuals define the limits of government.

    • Kent permalink
      October 4, 2011 12:06 pm


      I do not favor Keynes, Marx, Heyek, or Smith 100% equally. They both were men who tried to figure out the best solution to mankind’s problems. I find each to be rather intelligent. These men took time to study and think and others later in history have come along and “abused” the thoughts of these men.

      I digress, Yes, there is a fascination to accuse the “rich” of all of our problems. Who let this happen? The less “rich” did! Yep, I said it. There are more of us “poor” than “rich”. But that is Capitalism?

      So, is it the “poor” who will make Wall Street pay for its hedge funds scams? I don’t think so!
      Did you know Government was already “regulating” Wall Street and the banks (with help from the Fed Reserve) prior to this fiasco?

      So why is it Wall Street’s fault? Because it is an easy target for “Change”.

      Yes, the “change” is back…”Fundamentally change America”….that was what Obama said.

      Government will do it for you! You protest and the politicians will stand up for you. The “poor” give the Government more power over the “rich” and “BOOM” Socialism. The politicians get more power, the Federal Reserve gets a break because they get to monopolize money and continue to play with the countries money. Note: Federal Reserve is a private European owned bank authorized to control U.S. monetary policy. More laws and more restrictions on you.

      Dhlii, one more thing. The “money owners” or “changers” (a.k.a. Privately owned Nationalized Banks) own the wealth that allows them to have the power to give wealth to Governments. Governments have the power to give that wealth to anyone (including Wall Street and other private banks (with Fed Reserve permission). This gives Government the power to regulate both Wall Street and the Smaller banks.

      Isn’t it odd that the Federal Reserve (owned by private Europeans) isn’t really monitored or audited by our Government.

      and yes, everyone has an Ideology – a set of ideas that constitutes one’s goals, expectations, and actions.

      • October 4, 2011 2:24 pm


        With respect I honestly can’t figure you out. I accept and expect that given government power others will act to bend that power to their will. I do not see that as some kind of conspiracy. It is a natural consequence of human nature.

        At the same time I do not see villains under every rock.

        We are not all equal – except possibly in the eyes of the law. Numerous attempts have been made to form equal societies. Ultimate strata emerge. Rusia, China, Cuba, and North Korea have pyramidally structured societies. Even Nuns and Monks can’t make perfect equality work.

        There will be rich, afluent, wealthy, and powerful with us always. It can not be prevented – and it is probably a bad idea to do so. But we do have choices. We can allow people to better their own circumstances by benefitting the rest of us. That is what free markets do. You can improve your status by trading wealth for wealth, by providing others what they want in return for what you want. The alternative is that you can find a way to leverage the power of government for your own ends.

        I am angry about some aspects of our social stratification as anyone else here. But I am not angry because someone got rich by giving the rest of us what we wanted. I am angry because too often it is government that is choosing the winners and losers. Many here seem to think government should fix the disparity in riches by redistributing money. When so much of the disparity is the result of government how do you expect that to work ?

        Regardless, I am happy to agree with anyone here who complains that many of the rich, or corporations have succeeded at the rest of our expense through government favor. But the fix is not to redistribute everyone’s money – government is filled with myriads of loopholes in regulation and taxes for a reason. The rich, business, and government want it that way. All politicians not just those of one party abuse their power and pretend it is for the benefit of their constituents.

        I think if you beleive you can fix this with more regulation – you are nuts.
        Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
        Albert Einstein

        If you wish to stop people from buying the crack cocaine of government power, reduce the power. Prohibition did not work. The war on Drugs is not working, trying to prevent many of us from buying power will not work either.

      • Kent permalink
        October 4, 2011 7:26 pm

        I completely agree with your assessment. Government does pick winners and losers. It wants control and when something goes wrong it blames someone. In this recession, it blames its best friend, “Wall Street”.

        “Wall Street” will take the blame. They have been given “bailout money” to keep it’s mouth shut. While the people on Main Street suffer for this mess and Government can keep going forward and try all kinds of “tricks” for its own profit. This is nothing new. Government has to protect itself from its own policies. Its a “survival thing”.

        This is my Libertarian view after I was enlightened from being a Republican with a belief that it was just the Liberals causing the problem.

        My now Centrist view tells me that limited Government is good. People should be the deciders of our countries fate and our own, but some things are too big to handle alone. This is where Government must come into play. Especially when we have to protect ourselves from other nations weapons, diplomacy, trade.

        The original things specified in the Constitution! Should be priority. Now we have congresspeople looking for power by using words and people’s situations to “dictate” how America “should be” just to score “brownie points” for a career. Excuse me, but, that isn’t what we voted for you to do.

        We and the people elected have forgotten that we elect representatives, not leaders. The people lead and the Representatives “second” that claim. The American people “lead”. If not, then we might just stop elections and just let them stay in office and “dictate” what we should all do.

        Yes, loopholes and kickbacks. Wall Street pays politicians who will do the bidding. While people like you and I work our rear ends off and scoff. Also, the “money changers” (Fed Reserve) that allow Government to make policies with their money and their money on Wall Street.

        We are locked in a struggle between people who value Marx and Smith…leaving out Hayek and other Libertarian views of how the world “should, could, would be”.

        Libertarian and Centrists are out cold, but the difference is one stresses Government is just there stressing Liberty and Freedom and one that believes that Government has a purpose to ensure Liberty, Freedom and Fairness.

        I would be Libertarian still, but the court systems so screwed up that it moved me to a “Fairness” doctrine where Government has to make laws to override the courts crazy rulings.

      • Kent permalink
        October 4, 2011 7:41 pm

        My other response is that regulations are rarely reviewed fully, if at all. It would be better if there was independent oversight. There is so much wasted money, time and resources in Government programs. To say that Government doesn’t have places to cut back or cut spending.

        ….yea, right! They think they are perfect.

        The drug war is still going on. Why? Who gave them the power to control people’s health? Did we give it up? or are we just following what a few people in the 1930’s wanted for society?

        I complain a lot about more laws on top of existing laws and never, never are they ever rescinded or terminated for any reason. So my question is how many are made vs. terminated. When do the laws become so burdensome that the people wake up and realize Government is the problem and Liberty comes back to our country?

  42. October 5, 2011 12:59 am

    New Moderate Regulars: I thought I’d call your attention to the new page I set aside for general debates that don’t tie in with my blog posts. I’ve called it “Wild Card Debate” — just click the link at the top of the page, under the blog header; it’s the last item on the right. Thanks for the suggestion… and have at it!

    • October 7, 2011 3:55 am

      How are you expecting this to work ?

      The topic of this post was “fairness”, though I think there is a thread running back to that topic, we have strayed pretty far afeild – but that is pretty normal – it seems to be normal for any blog that does not censor posts, and lets a topic run a while.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 7, 2011 9:14 am

        is the above kent or dhlii? It sounds exactly like dhlii, he took ownership of it, but now its labeled kent. Is Kent dhlii?


      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 7, 2011 9:27 am

        The topic was “What do moderates want”, not fairness.” Please don’t pretend to be obtuse. We are now far removed from that topic, as usual, its morphed into pages and pages of “What do Libertarians believe?”

        A place was created here, the wild card topic where one is free to go on to their heart’s content about whatever they please. Dhlii. Would it really be such an assault on your perfect freedom to honor the basic purpose of the TNM and let Ricks topics go along the lines of discussing moderate principles?

        There is a practical reason for creating a separate free topic: many folks are reluctant to receive updates on Ricks posts on moderation when it means that for weeks and weeks their mail will constantly be filled with Dhlii’s latest multiple entries to his encyclopedia of Libertarian philosophy.

  43. Anonymous permalink
    October 6, 2011 5:28 pm


    I am honestly trying to understand where you are coming from. Though your views seem inconsistent to me, you are further from falling off the left edge of the earth here than most.

    You do not seem to see government as the answer.

    Contrary to the common perception here, libertarians are essentially “centrists” – though the political spectrum is atleast two dimensional rather than linear and libertarians would be at the center in one axis between conservatives and progressives but near the extreme edge in the freedom vs. authoritarian axis.

    Though there are a very small number of common values most libertarians hold atleast to some extent – the primacy of individual rights, and the illegitimacy initiating force, there really is no litmus test.

    There is a mis-perception here and elsewhere that favoring freedom somehow favors corporations and the rich – this is like claiming that progressives favor the lazy.

    I find it hard to understand that so few grasp that taking power from government comes at the expense of those who have successfully co-opted government power, not those who have never been able to effectively wield it – then many people believe that communism is their to serve the common people.

    A limited government can not serve the rich because it has little power to serve anyone.
    I am opposed to bailouts and subsidies of all kinds – Wall Street, the GSE’s, The auto companies, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big …. as well as bailouts and subsidies of the little guy. Charity is not a role for government – and it is abysmally bad at it.

    The constitution is important – because its ideas are mostly good, not because ti is somehow sacred dogma. I have no problem with the lefts conception that the constitution and our government must change with the times. But there is a wise process for that. When we do not like what the constitution says we should change it by amendment, not invert its meaning or ignore it.

    There is no special libertarian theory of courts. Most of us believe that courts are a better place for “regulating” than bureaucracy. But that is neither neither a universal libertarian value, no some dogma. Extreme libertarians want private competing courts (and police and …). Our courts have failed – but alot of the failure is actually legislative and regulatory. Civil courts used to make decisions based on rights and harm with a small amount of statutory law as guidance. Now they are expected to sort out tons of statutory and regulatory law, as well as public policy – how the concept of public policy got into the courts ? There is one’s rights, there is what is supposed to be a minimal set of unchanging law, and there are facts and what they indicate of harm. Nothing else should be the business of the courts.

    Again contrary to public perception trade is not ever something we need protected from.
    If we need protection from the unfair trade practices of china, shouldn’t we be similarly protected from New York ? Ohio ? Chicago ? Loss Angeles ? our next door neighbor ?
    trade always works to the net benefit of both parties. If it did not neither party would agree to the exchange. We vote with our money for free trade everytime we go to Walmart and chose a cheaper foreign product over a US made one. It is also ludicrous to beleive that every good – no matter how inconsequential should be made locally.
    The standard of living in the US is higher than that of almost all of the world, because we are highly productive and create highly desired wealth. Why should we reduce our standard of living to make cheap goods ?
    There are myriads of other arguments for free trade. The foundations of most of the arguments were laid by Adam Smith and the house was built by Bastiat. There are very few economists that would actually argue against free trade. There are even few that would argue against unfree trade.

    In general virtually everything you are told by politicians about trade is wrong. Should one side attempt to tilt the scales in their favor, the net effect is more harm than good.
    If china is “dumping” its goods on us, then it is transfering the wealth of its citizens to ours. Should we decline a free gift when offered ? There is no “balance of trade” issues, if there are real problems they are self correcting, So long as we freely choose to export and import we will always win (though so may the other party).

    The courts are fouled up – because the government is fouled up. Libertarians certainly did not screw them up.

    • Kent permalink
      October 7, 2011 5:49 am

      No, the Government isn’t the answer. It is the people and if the people believe more in Government in a time of crises than themselves then we are in for a world of hurt.

      Look at the people protesting! Do they look happy? They have found their voice! although they blame Wall Street instead of Government….they have found their voice. They belief in themselves making a difference.

      Libertarians are Centrists. They are more Liberty (classic liberal) than the Independents that have no party/direction. Government shouldn’t dictate really anything, unless it is in the Constitution. I would agree with this, but this isn’t a nation being left alone by other nations anymore. We have to deal with huge economies, military might, and other things. Liberty should be the top thing that keeps America still what is was in the beginning. But security, unfortunately, is necessary these days. We can’t all just go do what we want without rules to protect ourselves. Common Sense isn’t common anymore.

      Moderates believe a less Government intrusion and confusion answer. Also, people first! But there is some authoritarian (central planning) management. A balanced approach to Liberty and Security.

      Hard-core Centrists (I like to call them). Less Government intrusion/confusion. People first. Central Planning. Liberty, Security and Meritocratic Government.
      The religious sect. The Ideologue.

      All religions have people that are liberal, moderate, and hard-core in their faith. Not everyone is of the same level in any religion.

      If Libertarians, Moderates, Centrists can organize into a balanced Centrist Ideology (solid) then those in it can flux their liberty any way they choose. Damn’ed be the Dems and Reps.

      I believe mankind is on the brink of change. Computers I think started this since the 1940’s, but something is changing and we as humans need to keep up with technology by using our minds to find out the reality, logic and using common sense to solve our problems than using weapons.

    • Kent permalink
      October 7, 2011 6:56 am

      There is a mis-perception here and elsewhere that favoring freedom somehow favors corporations and the rich – this is like claiming that progressives favor the lazy.

      Freedom is defined as free-will and everyone has the ability to act freely to whatever they can do with their own skills. Whether it be good or bad toward others.

      I argue that most people believe in Positive Liberty (playing a role in society), and dream of being Negative Liberty (being left out of having to always play a role in society).

      For others to exist, a Social Liberty philosophy must exist. Thus the Democrats to set conditions on society. It’s like Positive Liberty on OCD.

      I belief that Libertarians, some Independents, Moderates and Hard-core Centrists belief in Positive Liberty.

      Republicans believe in Reserved Positive Liberty and favor Religious moral doctrine as a guiding principle.

      So, someone’s perceptions are misguided. That’s what education is for anyway. To many to solve at once. Especially, with all the ignorant people running their mouth off without even trying to do any research on facts.

      Communism is a government form. Run by people. People are imperfect. Therefore, Government in any form is imperfect. There is always room for oversight and improvement. To believe that Government can take care of things than yourself? Good luck. Plus, mankind’s innate status is naturally survival. To give this up takes self-sacrifice. Do you think Government’s of any kind will do this? Only when there is a Revolution of some kind! Be elections via the current process or a new Political party comes in and “stirs the masses”. or worse actual internal war.

      A limited government can serve everyone if given enough power and not too much. Oversight is the key! Why did the Government pay $16 per donut? $9 per nail? Lack of common sense and logic and above all Oversight! Government should be penalized for money for overspending on common sense! It shouldn’t have rich people paying congressmen/women. Shouldn’t have career politicians who forget who they represent and the ambitions of the “main street”.

      Bailouts! No! we Americans worked hard from the ground up and now people say that we must bail out others to save ourselves. I say let them fail, prosecute and then go dust off you clothes and get back to doing what you do best. That is America! That is why people emigrate here!

      Charity isn’t a role for government. Government should be inspiring charity thru good citizenship via Private direction. Because you want to give..not because Government says you have to.

      The constitution is important, it is good, times do change, but you can’t throw out the good water with the bad. Then you have no water. No Identity! of who you are or what Government you have. Yes, Amendments work. Not ignoring or inverting.

      The sad thing is the legislative process is messy and now the courts. Laws are made and rarely rescinded. How many till we are under Authoritarian rule via Social Liberty or Reserved Positive Liberty with Religious undertones (Republicans).

      Trade shouldn’t be protected. Times change. Should we still protect the “wagon makers” of the 1800’s?

      Trade works only if two parties can agree to work and sell together fairly. Politics aside if something costs more…you most likely not buy it. There is so much other things to buy cheaper not made in the place that costs more than it is worth. Specialized Services/industry is a big thing since the 60’s. Manufacturing is out. Yes, “buy American” is all cute, but really paying for quality car vs. protecting someone else’s job. It’s a play on fear that you are hurting someone’s paycheck. Destroying families, unions, your country, society, etc.

      Yes, The standard of living in the US is higher than that of almost all of the world, because we are highly productive and create highly desired wealth. We should be re-inventing ourselves instead of staying making old goods anyone can make.

      All for free trade. The closer the resources are the closer the industry needs to be to make something. Therefore, the shipping is the biggest cost. To ship resources, make something, then ship it back across the world is expensive in price, environmental, and man-hours that could be used more toward new inventions of innovations in science or education.

      Yes, In general view, virtually everything you say about politicians speaking about trade is right. They look at a trade and say…”how can this get me to stay in office longer?”. “money, votes, money, votes, women, yea, I dig this money”.

      China is putting its own people to work. Out of poverty, poor education, etc. Should we feel bad we are getting there stuff that we used to make cheap? No. Although, they need to fix the quality of the stuff. China is transferring it’s wealth on us as a Services country….that is if we can find ourselves. We can be the “Services Capital of the World” and not just the old “Manufacturing Capital of the World”. Our lack of action has caused us to use India as the dumping ground for Services outsourcing. It is coming back to the U.S. sort of because India is picking up on development.

      No. Libertarians did not screw up the country. Our own comfortable lives forgot we have to “role with the changes”. That is why Obama said “change” and everyone said “yes, that’s it”, but the wrong kind of “change”. Not to “Fundamentally change America”, but to use the same fundamentals it has always had and re-focus using technology.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 7, 2011 9:16 am

        is the above kent or dhlii? It sounds exactly like dhlii, he took ownership of it, but now its labeled kent. Is Kent dhlii?

      • Kent permalink
        October 7, 2011 9:27 am

        It is Kent. I do not know why others are going other more than one name. It seems to confuse some in this blog. I just go along with the “kicks”. Also, I have noticed that when you write the result is a long and squeezed comment.

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 7, 2011 9:31 am

        This is getting pretty weird. It was Anonymous first now its Kent, and Dhlii claimed the comment below. It sounds exactly like dhlii.

      • Kent permalink
        October 7, 2011 9:41 am

        Yea, I think Anonymous is dhlii, but have no prove. You can find me(kent garshwiler) and Rick on facebook.

        The only Dhllii I could pull up was someone young and looked like in Asia. Anyway, are you from Indiana?

      • Ian Robertson permalink
        October 7, 2011 9:52 am

        Me, Lord no, Vermont. Not on facebook, hope I never will be. I’m not meaning to accuse you of anything Kent, just really confused about this one.

  44. October 6, 2011 5:29 pm

    Sorry; the above post was me. I am temporarily on another PC

  45. AMAC permalink
    October 6, 2011 10:32 pm

    I think we all knew it was you Dhlii. New rule #1, If you have to scroll, it’s too long! I think the reason that you don’t see the trade defecit as a problem is because you are not as concerned with the condition of US workers and companies compared to those of the other countries. If someone is concerned with the well being of US workers and US based companies, then it is a huge problem. The US workers should not have to compete with the cheap labor of third world countries. You will probably say, “Why shouldn’t they?”. I say not because the US government should be concerned primarily with the well being of this country and its people. I am not an isolationist, I simply believe that US citizens should come first in the US.

    • October 7, 2011 3:51 am


      I do not see the trade deficit as a problem because it is not. There are actually very few real economists – even among Keynesians that do. Free trade is one economic issue that was pretty much resolved more than 150 years ago.

      Let us assume, for the sake of argument that you are correct, the Chinese as an example are evilly subsidising their exports – then there is an inarguable large transfer of wealth from China to the US. Are you really opposed to that ?

      Alternately lets assume that there is no subsidy, beyond the differential in labor costs – there is still a net increase in US Wealth – ordinary consumers can afford to buy more goods because they are cheaper.

      The opposition to free trade is the same Luddite thinking that burned weaving machines two centuries ago. It is the same lunacy as our President claiming ATM’s are stealing our jobs.

      Who here really and truly wants to go back to the fifties ?
      Three Networks, no color TV’s, no cell phones, crappy phone service, almost everything was more expensive than now. The average house was half the size of those today, ……
      If you want to see what self sufficient nations look like – try North Korea and Cuba.

      Blacksmith’s were not happy about automobiles either.

      If you insist on protecting every group that finds itself unable to compete without making adjustments, you condemn us all to poverty.

      And that is just the start. The possibility of a real shooting war between the Tiawan and China, much less the US and China, decreases with even cargo ship traveling between countries. The prospect of “World War” is almost incomprehensible.

      The Vietnam War killed about 55,000 american soldiers. The Iraq War a bit over 4000 over almost the same time period. The world is becoming less violent. People everywhere are grasping that there is no profit or betterment in violence. An increasing portion of the world would rather trade than fight.

    • October 7, 2011 4:12 am

      If you are not isolationist, which jobs should we allow low paid foreign labor to perform ?

      Where is the line that says this job must be done in the US by US citizens and that one can be done elsewhere by cheap labor ?

      If you want to improve the countries standard of living, then you must constantly improve the productivity and value of labor. Wages increase for only three reasons:

      Inflation – which is really a net loss for all of us.
      Increases in productivity,
      Increasing the value of the goods produced.

      The last two are variations of the same thing – real wages – standard of living go up when the wealth produced increases.

      If we wish to increase our standard of living it is precisely the low paying jobs we should be exporting.

      Competition is the engine of the economy. It is competition that brings us higher quality lower priced goods – wherever they come from. It forces all of us to learn, think, innovate, improve our skills. I have noted repeatedly that the natural direction for the price of everything is down. Wages increase because our skills and productivity increase faster than the price of what we produce decreases. If that is not so then you can expect your wages to decline too.

      • Kent permalink
        October 7, 2011 10:04 am


        I add to say that the deficit is a bad thing and the way we export less than what we buy per year is not good if you really want to improve the standard of living per capita (money-wise)….like buying house/cars. On the other hand, if you are trying to improve the home…all the cheap trinkets and toys in the house are coming in cheap from cheap labor everywhere. This includes the food, especially produce, by keeping the immigrants in the produce fields as only guest workers.

        Slave labor gives you cheap prices. In America, immigrants aren’t slaves. They are free to go where ever they choose for a better wage. Oh! Watch out for the Fed Immigration! But you and I get cheap produce.

        Any body can make a wagon. Give it to the Chinese to make and we will buy it cheap if we want it.

        To make high-tech microchips. Not many can do. This is where America needs to focus on the things other nations can only dream about doing. Keeping jobs here on the jobs that are hard to copy in other places without our input.

        Cars are passe, the technology in them isn’t. Anyone, can reshape a car in any way. The technology coming out of a laboratory is “priceless”. Unfortunately, we are selling it out as soon as it is discovered.

        Yes, we are selling the “blueprints” and not the actual item. People are selling new inventions to the highest bidder before the inventions have either been put into full use or built.

        We have had our military secrets hacked. Space, nuclear, computer systems, files stolen or sold to China.

        I mean what do we have to do? We have to start at the bottom of reinventing ourselves. If Thomas Edison sold his light bulb idea to the Chinese or sold his first light bulb he made work before putting it into production. Guess what? We would be buying from China since the early 1900’s. Would GE be a big Corporation?

        Let’s face it Americans are selling out the newest innovations to “anybody”. Show the money and who gets the ownership doesn’t become the buyer.

      • Kent permalink
        October 7, 2011 10:13 am

        The sad thing is America is selling out its own “blueprints” before we even put “pencil to paper”, Yea, our ideas and we are getting our secrets stolen. So we end up buying instead of selling. We end up with lots of junk in the house and get fat and lazy. Instead of moving to invent and make something.

      • AMAC permalink
        October 7, 2011 11:44 am

        When US citizens don’t have jobs, the cost of goods means little. Also, it is not just low paying jobs being exported. Many jobs in your field, as I am sure you know, have been exported. Also, India has been on the recieving end on high demand engineering jobs that many US citizens are fully capable of performing.

  46. October 7, 2011 4:27 am


    You are correct I am not concerned about US workers and US companies. I beleive as they are capable of competing as they always have been.

    The US Share of global manufacturing is 22% – that is just under 1/4 of the manufactured goods produced worldwide are produced in the US. Our manufacturing output has increased steadily throughout our history. It is manufacturing jobs that have declined – we are more productive and so our manufacturing jobs pay far more than most of the world.

    At the same time manufacturing as a share of our GDP has declined – because the non-manufactured wealth we produce is even more lucrative.

    I trust that US workers and US companies, can compete, adapt, innovate. I trust that our cultural values, our freedom will ensure that we will remain the most productive nation in the world – even if all the cheap goods sold by Walmart are produced in China.

    This parody of protectionism was written 150 years ago.

    • Kent permalink
      October 7, 2011 10:17 am

      We can compete. Better with the things other nations haven’t invented or are having a problem inventing correctly. The more we don’t sell out and make those things here the better till it is no longer viable.

      I gather the technology someone gains from a product in the U.S. is quickly learned somewhere else and this may be the cause to why Americans are selling the ideas, “blueprints” and any other things at such a fast pace? No wonder we are importing more than exporting.

      • October 7, 2011 12:10 pm

        As the President is discovering Jobs are not Fungible.
        It takes years, decades, often longer for a country to get to where it can productively make use of what we “give away” by then we are somewhere else. The USSR tried to go toe to toe with us for almost a century. There is no doubt its people were smart and its resources abundant. Yet in the end their standard of living improved a little and ours improved by orders of magnitude.

        The US still dominates would manufacturing because – we have the lowest energy costs in the world – really. We have some of the lowest transportation costs in the would – we eye Europes passenger rail system enviously – the world eyes our freight rail system, backed up by an unparalleled trucking system and highway system, and we even move freight by air better than anyone else. We have the highest skilled workforce in the world, we are the largest market in the world. We ……

        None of those advantages are going away soon.
        It takes centuries to create some of those advantages – during which we will be improving too. Further those changes do not occur in a vaccuum.
        Since 1980 our standard of living has been improving relative to Europe by about 1% per year. There is only one difference of consequence, the US is slightly freer economically and politically, and slightly more bottom up (free market) than top down (statist). The differences are actually small, but 1% per year for 2 decades compounds to 25%.

        The actual labor cost difference has to be high just to make other nations competitive in many markets.

        Nor are we standing still. Within the past century Japan has arisen to compete with us, Germany, Tiawan, South Korea. All these are now thriving first world countries. Yet we still produce more and have as large or larger a share of the global manufacturing market as ever before. And this despite fierce competition in steel, auto’s and aircraft.

        Competition does not harm us, it makes us stronger.

        Nor is this a zero sum game. The more successful the rest of the world gets the larger the market is for everyone. We have thus far not found an upper limit to standard of living. So long as people still want more than they have, conditions will improve for everyone.

        This is the point I keep trying to get through here. The best thing you can do for whatever disadvantaged group you seek to help, is let the market take care of them. It is not the new deal, the great society, the war on poverty, or any other progressive program that has raised the standard of living of the least Americans so far above that of almost all the rest of the world.

        Of all the that makes this nation better than the rest of the world, what of that comes from government ?

      • Kent permalink
        October 10, 2011 1:00 pm


        Yes, Competition makes us stronger and things cheaper. The one that owns the resources will be willing to “undercut” to make the sale rather than the other guy.

        Your statement about people still wanting more than they have is true, not all, but most want more than just staying the same or even wanting to have less. Also, conditions may not improve for everyone if Governments control resources in a restrictive manner or if the resources themselves disappear.

  47. October 7, 2011 12:21 pm


    I compete with indians all the time. I am happy to. The advantages they have in cost do not make up for the advantages I have here.

    Further, work expands to consume the available resources.
    We do not have high unemployment right now because there are no productive ways to use the unemployed. We have high unemployment, because those with the resources to hire are too scared to do so. Do you blame them ? Are you prepared to spend money in hand on the uncertainty of future gains ? Do you beleive that now is the time to cash in your IRA and invest it in a new business creating jobs ? When it starts to seem rational to spend money at a loss today for the expectation of future gains then you will see unemployment decline.

    Regardless, again this is not a zero sum game. There is not only a million good jobs, and any good job held by someone in india or china does not come at our expense.

    Further you have been consistently arguing we should not let the crappy jobs go. Which jobs do you want ? The crappy ones or the good ones ?

    I am not expert on this, and I disagree with Krugman on most things, but I am pretty sure that his economics Nobel is on a variation of this.

    • AMAC permalink
      October 7, 2011 11:45 pm

      I think that I have been clear that we should not let any jobs go. But again, the “crappy” are not the ones being exported over seas. Migrant workers through illegal practices and work visas are taking the “crappy” jobs you talk about. The jobs being exported as such a high rate are engineering (computer,plant,chemical, etc.) and many customer service oriented positions. My point has been that I am for the free market, but a properly regulated, not over or under regulated, free market. A properly regulated free market is still a free market by most people’s (maybe not libertarian, don’t really know) definition. I understand that I am in disagreement with many on this web site on the topic of immigration, but I think the borders should be closed to control illegal immigration. I do feel for the people living in terrible conditions, and would also be fine with increasing the rate of legal immigration, but I think that the US citizens should take priority over the rest of the world. The purpose of government is to look after the needs of the citizens it governs first.

    • Kent permalink
      October 10, 2011 1:06 pm


      Yes a properly moderately composed regulated free market. It’s not left, right or Libertarian. It’s Moderate/Centrist. No agendas..just straight business bartering with no cheating.

      I not sure what “closed” your talking about? The border has been closed to illegal immigration for most of the U.S. existence. The problem seems to be enforcing it.

  48. October 7, 2011 12:43 pm


    The balance of trade argument was essentially refuted by Adam Smith two hundred years ago. It is not money flows that matter, it is the flow of wealth.

    After the Renaissance Spain was the worlds only super power. They plundered the world shipping unimaginable quantities of gold back to Spain. And Spain slowly became poorer and poorer. England engaged in real trade, and became wealthier and wealthier. The transition from practically a third world country to the new world’s only super power occurred fairly rapidly. The US over the course of a little more than a century outstripped England.

    it is not actually possible to sustain highly unbalanced trade for long, and we have been purportedly doing it for almost half a century. If you have actually followed economic news, The actual US balance of trade with China is probably net positive in our favor as it is calculated badly. When we import something from China we value those goods at the retail price they sell for at say Walmart – that is despite the fact that the price just off the ship is a fraction of that and the difference is essentially entirely domestic GDP.

    But let’s say our trade really is totally unbalanced – we are trading tons and tons of green slips of paper for the rest of the world’s goods. We get wealth they get paper. Sounds good to me.
    But someday they have to do something with those green slips of paper. What can they do with them ? The countries of the world can trade dollars among themselves – they do. US dollars function the way gold used to. Or they can use them to buy things from the US.
    They can buy our goods and services – creating jobs. They can invest in our stocks, our companies, they can buy the empire state building. But they can not do anything that does not actually benefit us.

    My argument flips perfectly – their trade with us, does not harm them either.
    Free Trade and its consequences are overwhelmingly net positive for everyone.
    Free Trade is just Free markets on a global scale. If trading one thing for another – the wealth we produce, for the wealth we need or desire, is net positive for individuals, and communities, then it is net positive on larger scales.

    • Kent permalink
      October 10, 2011 1:19 pm


      Wealth is defined as the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. I find that Americans have much wealth…even the ones in this country we usually call “poor”. The “poor” actually are said to be living a 1950’s lifestyle. That is way better than Africa.

      Africa has much resources, but it sells out it resources to wealthier nations.

      The countries in Africa have the freedom to do so, but they need to focus on what wealth they retain in return and how they manage it.

      It is easy to say that Free trade works and it does, but the discipline of the one who ones the resources and the one that owns the wealth should be operating in the interests of its own people than it’s “aristocrats” “Dictators” and other Authority Governments.

      If not, then it becomes legitimate to argue that free trade doesn’t work, thou it is truly the one making and/or operating the trade agreements.

      Free trade is good for all, but the way it is distributed after the trade is sometimes not good for all.

  49. October 7, 2011 12:56 pm


    I am going to avoid the “blueprint” intellectual property argument, except to the extent that the USSR expended enormous amounts of effort successfully stealing our blueprints and secrets.
    It does not matter, if anything it just showed how impossible the task they faced was.

    There is no shortage of ideas. As Edison said invention is 1% inspiration 99% perspiration. What matters is our desire for more and our willingness to work to achieve to get it.

    It is not even important what “more” is. It can be more money in the bank, a bigger house a fancier car, a better education for our kids, european vacations, better food, or just time alone contemplating nature. What matters is not what we want but how much effort we are willing to expend to get it.

    Wealth is what we want. When posters here condemn “greed” they are saying that each of our wants should be minimal and the same.

    I do not hear anyone arguing that Steve Jobs life work did not benefit the entire world. Yet he was incredibly wealthy. He created jobs both here and across the world, and he delivered wealth to us that we did not even know that we wanted before him. The benefit to the rich and poor throughout the world of Steve Job’s life dwarf’s that of Mother Theresa.

    • AMAC permalink
      October 8, 2011 12:05 am

      Dhlii: “The benefit to the rich and poor throughout the world of Steve Job’s life dwarf’s that of Mother Theresa.”

      What are you trying to say? Pretty low and cold. Just because there is no monetary benefit to helping those in need, don’t diminish that. The free market does not care for the people that Mother Theresa helped, and the IPod doesn’t help them much either. I think I am done with this conversation. You have made some offensive comments in the past but I think that this is by far the worst. Your belief in the absolute free market to solve all problems in misplaced. You continue to try to make provocative statements to maintain your own relevance in these conversations, but this crosses the line. I suppose someone who dedicates their life to helping the poor and less fortunate is just a total waste of time to you in your libertarian nightmare. Reply whatever you want, but I am done reading your exhausting and predictable posts. I wish my world were as simple as yours. The free market cures all, we can’t destroy the planet, government is evil, etc. Good luck with your novel you continue to post over and over and over,,,

    • Kent permalink
      October 10, 2011 1:29 pm


      The “Blueprint” stealing seemed practically impossible to no one. Americans sold out across many areas in Government, Military and Labs over the years. The USSR put many agents in the U.S., but then buying people off became easier.

      There is no shortage of ideas. Just people willing to put the ideas into practice before selling them out before Americans can be put to work making them.

      Some ideas may be better made overseas because they are “cheap” to make.

      Apple Inc. became an actual company in the United States. Steve Jobs didn’t give his ideas to China. He did actually hire Americans to work from the start. This is opposite to what I am saying. Steve Jobs benefited not only the U.S., but the world. Not many can do this.

      Yet, Americans are willing to sell their ideas to the highest bidder. Arms Dealers seem to know this very well.

  50. October 7, 2011 1:28 pm


    I missed your question above and can not reply directly anyway.

    If everything horrible and I was put in charge what would I do ?

    The first thing I would do is fire myself. The entire concept of fixing problems like unemployment from above is fallacious. But before I did I would obliterate the rules that prevent people from trying to solve problems on their own.

    The past few years have been absymal for many of us. I am self employed. In 2010 I had 1/3 the work of the prior year and was deeply concerned about fundamentals like paying my mortgage much less living the good life. I have had to put more effort into getting work, I have had to cut my prices. When I have been desperate enough, i have cut them steeply.

    At the right price there is always work. That is how supply and demand work. We fail to grasp that wages are just a price like every other price.
    If people have been unemployed for a long time and their skills have declined, they will have to accept jobs they would not take otherwise. If needed I will flip burgers to take care of my family. Minimum wages put a floor under the cost of labor. That means when the actual value of ones labor is below minimum wage their is no possibility of getting hired. That is the job that will go to china, or India, or the illegal mexican laborer.

    Unemployment is pyramidally structured – the highest unemployment is among the least skilled. Unemployment in the top of the market is negligible, in many instances it has declined.

    At the right price I will hire people – I can not find enough work for myself at my rates, but I am absolutely certain that given the available pool of labor and a low enough rate I can create jobs and profit from it. Of course if you do not let me profit I have no reason to create jobs.

    Finally, while there is a connection between the economy and crime – the connection is abysmally weak. Crime overall has actually been dropping for decades. The current downturn has not altered that trend.

    • Kent permalink
      October 10, 2011 1:36 pm


      Crime has been dropping. Maybe, it will go up once Gen X, Y and I get older.

      Maybe the Baby Boomers decided to stop making crimes and retire?

  51. November 4, 2011 5:06 pm

    Re-twit you post: to my @urokaaeu twitter

  52. August 25, 2014 9:05 am

    It’s actually very complicated in this active life to listen news on TV, thus I only
    use web for that reason, and get the most up-to-date information.


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