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Romnevitability

January 11, 2012

He was never the flavor of the month, but now Mitt Romney has a virtual lock on the nomination. Should moderates be happy? (Source: Time magazine)

The Romney machine is rolling now. After barely surviving that eight-vote squeaker in Iowa, the Mittster rebounded by throttling the competition in New Hampshire. The man with the granite jaw won the Granite State with a convincing 40 percent of the vote — equal to second- and third-place finishers Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman combined.

Sure, Ron Paul won the independent vote, while Huntsman snagged the “anti-Tea Party” vote. But the Romney campaign gained an aura of inevitability with the whopping 17-point margin of victory last night. It would take an act of God or a gaffe of Herman Cain proportions to keep him from wrapping up the GOP nomination now. And Romney just isn’t the gaffe-prone type.

He’s not perfect, of course — despite all the evidence to the contrary. The Republican front-runner can flip-flop like a Clinton if it’s to his advantage. He can be testy with his inquisitors in the press and even the public. With all his millions, you’d think he could afford a more convincing dye job. But these aren’t exactly fatal flaws. 

In fact, Romney could probably benefit from revealing his fallible human side now and then. His appearance of flawlessness is probably his greatest liability. He seems artificial, bloodless, programmed — our first cybercandidate.

Just as a shark is essentially an eating machine, Romney comes across as a winning machine. His smile, though engaging enough when he decides to flash it, seems automatic and unconvincing. The man lives to clinch. That’s how he’s constructed: to clinch deals, money, victories, success. 

Romney is almost a caricature of the lean-and-mean alpha male. One can’t imagine such a straight arrow relaxing in front of the TV for a W. C. Fields movie marathon, or reading Dickens for pleasure. Can you picture him as a college student, stretched out on the rug with his friends, growing giddy from a silly conversation or a whiff of weed? I can’t, either. No, it hardly seems possible that Mitt lived through the 1960s with the rest of us Boomers. But here he is anyway.

So why (you might ask) am I bashing the most moderate and least ideology-bound candidate on the Republican roster? Shouldn’t I be grateful that one of the kooks from the rabid right didn’t grab the golden ring?

Good questions, both of them. To answer the second question first — yes, it would have been more worrisome to see a fringe candidate start piling up the victories. At least we know the Tea Party won’t be choosing the next president. But that leads me back to the first question: shouldn’t we be relieved that the Republicans will soon be entrusting their party’s fortunes to a moderate?

In Romney’s case, we should probably put boldface quotes around the word moderate. (There, I just did.) Mitt gives the appearance of being a moderate, but that’s only because he’s an utter pragmatist. He focuses on what works, which isn’t necessarily a fault — especially at a time when nothing seems to work.  But mere pragmatism overlooks the more important issue of what’s right. A good moderate should operate upon a solid foundation of principles — the most important of which is to strive for a fair and appropriate balance between the rights of the successful and the needs of everyone else.

The times call for a leader who can empathize with a middle class whose fortunes have dwindled and whose optimism has been crushed. Is Mitt Romney that leader? Can a man who made a fortune deconstructing and remodeling companies for profit identify with the individual Joes and Janes who worked for those companies?

The Tea Partiers, for all their arrogance and borderline lunacy, at least recognized that Americans are growing furious with the unsavory alliance between government and big money. Will Romney, whose “SuperPAC” raised gargantuan quantities of campaign cash, be the man to break that alliance if he makes it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Don’t bet on it.

What’s sad is that President Obama — elected over three years ago as a savior of the people — won’t break that alliance, either. Regardless of who wins the 2012 presidential race, we’re destined to be stuck with government-as-usual — at least until 2017. Lobbyists, Wall Street, big corporations and career politicians can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Third party, anyone?

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176 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2012 2:58 pm

    Do you really believe a third party could succeed in the current system? Wouldn’t it be easier to change the GOP by focusing on Ron Paul and similar politicians?

    • January 11, 2012 10:43 pm

      It’s too late for 2012, but Americans are so fed up with the status quo that I think they’d be receptive to a third party. Granted, no new party has taken root in America since the Republicans in 1854, so it won’t be easy.

      As for changing the GOP, do you mean the libertarian wing should become the focus of the party? Then what would happen to the mainstream Republicans (what’s left of them) like Huntsman? If anything, I think the right wing of the GOP should form a splinter party and leave the traditional Republicans alone (so they can win their own primaries again).

    • Kent permalink
      January 12, 2012 10:23 pm

      Ron Paul is 76+ yrs. old. He dies, reform dies until someone else comes along.

      No thanks, we need a “movement” of groups of people spread across the nation and we will eventually find a person in younger years and a stronger voice.

  2. Rob Anderson permalink
    January 11, 2012 3:01 pm

    South Carolina is Santorum country. And don’t forget Gingrich’s promise to pummle Romney throughout the remaining primaries. We may yet end up with a populist nutball Republican candidate!

    • January 11, 2012 10:47 pm

      Rob: Well, the Gingrich strategy didn’t work in NH. But you’re right that SC isn’t exactly Romney country. I can’t imagine any of the right-wing nutjobs capturing the nomination. I’d like to see Hunstman finally get the credit he deserves for being the lone decent Republican in this race… but if it didn’t happen in NH, it probably won’t happen elsewhere. The only non-Romney with an outside chance right now is Newt. He generally talks a good story, but his big mouth can easily get him into hot water and crush his chances.

      • AMAC permalink
        January 12, 2012 11:30 pm

        I agree Huntsman is the best candidate we see on TV, but I would have liked to hear what the former governor of Louisianna would have said in a debate format. He was even given a chance, because he didn’t have the cash. That is all the proof you need to see the need to break the influence of money on OUR elected officials. The money is more important than the votes. With enough money, you can get exposure and influence over the less informed enough to cancel out lack of substance. The politicians are accountable to the voters, but only after they are held accountable by the donors.

      • January 13, 2012 8:34 pm

        AMAC: Yeah, Roemer was never even granted a spot in the debates… and he’s closer to The New Moderate’s anti-corruption stance than anyone else currently running (including Obama). I don’t know how smart or convincing he is in person, because I’ve never heard him speak! Total media shutout. If we banned all campaign advertising, guys like Roemer wouldn’t have to raise as much cash to run for high office, and the best (as opposed to the richest) candidates could have a shot. What a concept!

      • AMAC permalink
        January 13, 2012 9:32 pm

        I agree. I would like to know more about Mr. Roemer. Unfortunately, he is standing by his principles on campaign reform and will be disallowed from serious participation in our political process. I don’t know if I agree with all his stances, because I don’t know what they are! I am to the point where I support candidates based on their priorities while in office. I like that Roemer was making moderate principles prioties, and even followed his proposed restrictions leading to his lack of serious consideration. That seems to me to be a man of integrity. His words matched his actions, which matched his values. I don’t want to make a huge pitch for him, as I don’t know much else about him, but like what I have learned so far.

    • Kent permalink
      January 12, 2012 10:25 pm

      Gingrich, is bombastic and foolish. 50% hate him and at least 30% don’t like him. That leaves Obama to kick his ass and four more years of the same crap Obama stepped into.

      • January 13, 2012 8:36 pm

        Kent: I don’t think we have to worry about Gingrich advancing that far, unless Mitt steps in a big pile himself between now and summer.

  3. Jess Chapman permalink
    January 11, 2012 3:35 pm

    “Mitt gives the appearance of being a moderate, but that’s only because he’s an utter pragmatist.”

    No, that’s Huntsman, who has actual principles to back up his platform. Everything Romney proposes is carefully crafted to suit whichever audience happens to be in front of him.

    • January 11, 2012 10:54 pm

      Jess: You might have misread my intent here: I was saying that pragmatism isn’t enough… that a real moderate needs to base his platform on genuine fair-minded moderate principles.

      I agree that Mitt is the ultimate say-anything-to-win-votes candidate. And yes, I think it’s a crime that Huntsman has had to struggle for recognition. Someone should study his candidacy and analyze the reasons for his failure. This is going to sound a little loony, but I’m convinced it has something to do with his thin neck and narrow shoulders; he appears small on the TV screen, and a US president needs to look commanding. (Not that GW Bush looked especially commanding, but he made up for it with his Texas/Ivy swagger.)

      • January 11, 2012 10:58 pm

        I was thinking more about the physical presence issue. Ron Paul looks small on the screen, too (I’m pretty sure he IS small)… but he doesn’t have a problem making himself heard. Like Bush, he has swagger. Huntsman might be a little too modest, whimsical and self-deprecating — qualities I find charming, but apparently not the American electorate’s cup of tea.

      • Kent permalink
        January 12, 2012 10:32 pm

        Rick, Huntsman isn’t aggressive enough.

        Ron Paul shows exactly the aggressiveness of what a moderate needs to be.

        Romney shows the dedication of what a moderate should be doing to push an agenda with ideas.

        Huntsman???? Just runs thoughts out randomly.

  4. Priscilla permalink
    January 11, 2012 8:00 pm

    I’m pretty much in agreement with a lot of what you say here….although I’m not particularly put off by Romney’s lack of warmth and fuzziness. For the life of me, I can never understand how people complain that Romney is bloodless and programmed, but think that Obama, who cannot speak without a teleprompter is a “natural.” Go figure.

    Maybe it has something to do with him being the son of a famous politician and self- made millionaire, who was once CEO of American Motors, and who ran for the GOP presidential nomination himself. I’ve always had the feeling that he is trying to fulfill some sort of destiny…or maybe an expectation.

    I think Romney is a moderate though- at least in my definition of the term. He may be a moderate conservative, but I don’t think that’s a disqualifier (although I realize that many here do). And more importantly than that, he is accomplished, serious, professional, loyal, patriotic – all good things in my book. So, yeah, maybe he’s too empirical and pragmatic, but I’ll take that over the alternatives. The way I see it, doesn’t want to be king, he wants to be a good manager. I see Huntsman in much the same vein, just less accomplished and more interested in seeming “cool.”

    • January 11, 2012 11:10 pm

      Priscilla: Obama seems a little more comfortable in his skin than Mitt — at least in more informal settings. He’s a lot funnier, too… I remember a press club roast where he had to compete with a well-known comedian (Leno?) and was amazingly good — brought the house down with his barbed wit and perfect timing. Maybe he missed his calling.

      What bothers me more about Romney than his stiffness is the appearance of insincerity. He’s like the polar opposite of someone like Ron Paul or even Gingrich in this department. With those guys, what you see is what you get. With Romney, it’s almost impossible to tell what he really thinks.

      I think Mitt’s a highly competent guy, and we could definitely use some competence in our government these days. But I’m also leery of his big-money connections and I question whether he has the capacity to sympathize with the embattled middle class. He’s certainly not a reformer. If he wins the presidency (a big “if”), it won’t be a disaster… it’s just that we know he won’t do anything to end the influence of lobbyists and other big-money interests in Washington.

      • January 11, 2012 11:41 pm

        The president is the head of the executive branch. Not the empathizer in-chief. Democrats made them point during the Clinton impeachment that it was the presidents performance that mattered not his morals.

        Despite all the positive qualities you see in Obama – on which I concur, he has been an abysmal president – even if the economy improves between now and the election.

        One of the biggest differences between you and I. And why you are ultimately liberal, is that you believe that almost everyone, even the middle class need the governments help. Aside from the fact that if the majority of people are getting more from government than they are contributing to it, we are doomed pretty much by definition, I trust not just the middle class, but even the poor to take good care of themselves – without costly and ineffective help from government.

        What we need is government to get out of the way.
        Obama has failed as president as has the political approach he represents, because he has no grasp of the limits of government (here I do not mean that government should not do something, but that it actually can not). He has great rhetorical skill, persuasive skill, amiability, but zero understanding of the causes or solutions to the problems confronting us.

        At best, like TNM, he sees compromise, the middle way, as the solution to all problems.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 12, 2012 12:09 am

        Oh, I know that insincerity is the knock on Romney. I think all politicians are insincere, it is merely a matter of degree, and of how good they are at appearing “sincere.” Bill Clinton was a master of “feeling our pain,” but he was the biggest liar of them all. And more than willing to trade in some principles for political gain. I’m not sure if Obama is more comfortable in his own skin, or just better at seeming so, but I am no longer particularly interested in whether a politician “seems sincere.” I am far more interested in character and competence. On the character issue, I think that both Romney and Obama are essentially good men, albeit with different life experiences and world views. On the competence issue, no comparison.

      • Kent permalink
        January 12, 2012 11:05 pm

        Rick, His big money connections are partly because he is good at business. His other big money connections are partly because Obama scares business and Romney is businesses friend.

        If Obama stopped scaring business, then business wouldn’t be jumping all over Romney as aggressive as they are doing now.

        This all comes down to a Wall Street vs. Government War. We saw this coming last year. Or at least I did!

        Government helped Wall Street and now Government wants “payback”.

      • January 13, 2012 8:47 pm

        Dave: I don’t know what it will take to convince you that I’m actually a moderate. Words I repeatedly use, like “balance” and “fairness,” should be a tip-off, but I won’t force the issue. Here’s all I’ve been trying to say, summed up as concisely as possible: government needs to help the middle class right now — at this particular moment in our history — because the business establishment has been abandoning the middle class. A little extra support and expenditure now might save tons of expenditures later — when all those formerly middle class people are living on food stamps because those “job creators” refused to hire them.

      • January 13, 2012 8:57 pm

        Priscilla: Yes, I agree that character and competence are crucial considerations (wow, how’s that for alliteration?). But the missing element here is something I might call “right judgment” — the capacity to discern what the country needs, taking everyone’s needs into account.

        I just don’t know if someone like Romney is the right man to head the country during a time of economic reversal and mass alienation. Both the right and the left agree that we need serious reform in our government… yet Romney is almost a caricature of the “one percent” — the insular top tier of the country’s establishment.

        Granted, Obama is too close to Wall Street himself — and he emerges as more of a hypocrite because he presented himself as a true small-d democrat and reformer. We need a dedicated reformer right now, and I’m afraid neither party is giving us what we need.

      • January 13, 2012 9:01 pm

        Kent: I still can’t figure out why the business world considers Obama an enemy… he’s been more of a pro-business Republican than I am! All those perks for failing companies… all those cronies from the Goldman Sachs alumni association… a healthcare plan that would force us to buy private health insurance! What more could a Republican (or a businessperson) ask for?

    • January 11, 2012 11:24 pm

      You can not run for office much less president without fire in your belly.
      Every single candidate – including the President wants to be king.

      The question is what each will do when they get there.

      Romney’s private credentials are somewhat appealing. It is his public ones that are troubling.

      Nor is it his empiracism, or pragmatism, or lack of charisma that are damning. It is that not only do you have a sense that he does not stand for anything – but you actually know it.

      Rick finds it offensive that politicians should keep the promises they make to get elected. I find it immoral that they do not. If it is not what you believe – do not say it. If you are not certain – do not promise it. Integrity means being able to take people at their word. It means not making promises you might not keep. It means being willing to lose the battle or even the war but still remaining true to your values.

      Both Romney and Obama are nice guys. Both believe government is the answer rather than the problem. Neither has much in the way of convictions that last through the election.

      A Romney/Obama race will be a contest to see which can drive more of their base away from the polls.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 12, 2012 10:53 am

        Promises are funny things. People break promises all the time, and sometimes for very good reason. Sometimes not. But, either way, if I had a dollar for every starry-eyed couple who promised to love each other forever, and subsequently broke up, I would be a very rich woman.

        My point being that I would rather have a president who says he is guided by a set of core values, such as integrity and professionalism – as opposed to strict ideological principles – and stands committed to a realistic set of goals, such as cutting spending, reforming the tax code etc.

        The fundamental hope and change stuff makes for nice speeches.

      • January 12, 2012 3:31 pm

        What is the difference between core values and ideology ?

        What is professionalism ?

        The goals are irrelevant without the underlying rational.

        This is one of the great problems with the activism of the left.
        It is also the problem with seeking the middle way in everything.
        It is not enough that something sound good, absent an understanding of how it fits into the whole rather than just how it works on the surface, any political policy will fail.

        George Bush is an excellent example of the differences between rhetoric and actual principles. Obama is another.

        I do not want a president who has promised to cut spending, reform the tax code as the means to get elected, I want one with principles that will properly guide his decision making in these and myriads of other areas.

        I do beleive we should expect candidates to stick to their promises – because integrity matters, and because it is those promises we used to decide their ideology.

        What was missing in “Hope and Change” was the underlying philosophical/ideological basis to beleive them.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 12, 2012 4:08 pm

        I’m not sure what you mean by “goals are irrelevant without the underlying rational.” To use a sports analogy, if my team scores a touchdown on an “ugly” play, is it not still a touchdown? And isn’t the underlying rationale still to win the game? Maybe I’m missing your point….

        I’m not advocating amorality here, by any means. That’s why I said that character and values are of primary importance in a president. But integrity can exist in the absence of ideology. Essentially, I am less interested in who the president is, than in what he can do.

      • Kent permalink
        January 12, 2012 11:18 pm

        I find that any person that “promises” is already flawed. Thus, I give no guarantee that anything “promised” will be done.

        Why you ask??? Because in America the President depends on Congressmen and Women to help “get-r-done”. Therefore, promises to do something alone ……doesn’t exist. It would require an “executive order”. Wait, Obama does that….. Damn dictator.

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 13, 2012 12:41 am

        Agreed, Kent.

  5. Anonymous permalink
    January 11, 2012 11:09 pm

    It is entirely possible Rick is right in much of his analysis. Only time will tell. But I would offer that TNM has very little grasp of the factions, values and motives of the right half of the country. I may be wrong but I would not be crowning Romney too soon.

    The media, the left, and even “moderate” republicans, want Romney or possibly Huntsman, but they do not represent most of the GOP.

    The fact that Romney was only able to garner 40% of the vote against a weak field in a state where he has lived for decades that is the epitome of New England moderates, is not a particularly good sign. It is unlikely that any other candidate – except Huntsman took votes from Romney – and even the Huntsman vote can be read as part of the Anyone but Romney backlash.

    Since Bachman’s early surge in Iowa seemingly decades ago, the sequential surges in every other candidate has been about the migrating anti-romney vote.

    • AMAC permalink
      January 12, 2012 11:39 pm

      I do think that I have a pretty good grasp of the right. I live in the bright red state of Texas. I don’t discount Huntsman, Paul, or the other candidates just yet. Many factions of the right are represenative in my are of the state. They are as split on these candidates as anyone, but I still believe Romney will win (not positive though).

      • Priscilla permalink
        January 13, 2012 12:58 am

        Four years ago, the Obama campaign answered charges of Obama’s lack of experience by saying that he had run the “best campaign in history.” Well, Romney has now, historically, become the first non-incumbent Republican to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. Sadly, running a great campaign is no longer considered proof of executive ability.

      • AMAC permalink
        January 13, 2012 10:21 pm

        I really felt Obama would make some positive changes. I believe that he conducted business much the same as Romney will. Romney and Obama are far from similar in what they say, but I think their actions will resemble each other more closely than many think. I am not excited by the choices. As I have stated, I like Huntsman and am growing to appreciate Roemer. Check out Roemer and let me know what you think. A lot of discussion on Super PACs.

  6. Pat Riot permalink
    January 12, 2012 11:19 am

    “I may be wrong but I would not be crowning Romney too soon.”—Anonymous.

    Ah yes, such uncertain times we live in these days, eh? Such historic flux going in the Republican Party of America and all around the world, noisily and quietly, honestly and openly and sneakily and dastardly at the same time! It’s frightening and exhausting and exciting at the same, yes?

    I’m glad you contributors to TNM and some others humans alive in the world today are at least glimpsing some of the flux and paying attention to it, and trying to make sense of it and see where it is going. As amorphous and fluctuating and shifting as today’s changes are, at least it’s real. I’m thankful everyone is not a full-time zombie just focused on diversions such as the Kardashians and the National Football League (don’t get me wrong, I enjoy slipping into unconsciousness watching the New England Pat Riots after the grass is cut or whatever work is done, and I have to make a conscious effort to ignore the gauntlet of cleavage waiting for me a the supermarket checkout.)

    Back to Romney and flux. I propose/submit for your consideration that Americans are finally, finally, finally, less gullible, just a tad less ignorant, like a little spike on the chart of our crazy evolution. There was a time when marketers caused Americans to line up rabidly for cabbage patch dolls and beanie babies, and not too long ago for Barack Obama. One of the latest media diversions from important reality is Tebow, but I hear skeptical/jaded/awakened Americans in the street being more logical and realistic than rabid, saying “hey it’s the whole team, not just him,” and “hey it’s fun to watch the kid, but the Patriots will probably end that run…”

    Marketers have spent millions and millions on Romney, but about 60% of Republicans aren’t buying in or aren’t getting enthusiastic about him. They see some of the same strings coming from his shoulders that they saw connected to Obama. At least Americans are waking up.

    • January 12, 2012 3:48 pm

      It is entirely possible Romney will get the Republican nod, but this is far from over. Gingrich is overtaking him in South Carolina, and he Romney is not above 25%. Even Santorum is within striking distance.

      If elections were determined solely by money – Romney would have locked this up long ago.

      There are similarities between Romney and Obama, but it is not that others are pulling the strings, it is that for each of their wonderful characteristics, neither believes what they say – nor even knows what they believe. And both beleive – without any understanding how the world actually works, that they can pull the strings and get it to do as they please as president.

      One of the greatest flaws of each – shared by TNM’s definition of moderate, is that fundamental problems can be solved by power of personality, negotiation and compromise, rather then the power inherent in credible ideas.

      At the core what you beleive matters. It is what will provide answers when things are tough.

      I have no problem with Campaign advertising, product marketing, or people putting their best foot forward on their resume or in an interview. It is all the same.

  7. Pat Riot permalink
    January 12, 2012 11:45 am

    See Plato’s cave analogy from long, long ago.

    Plato could never have imagined
    how pertinent his cave analogy could be
    in the age of omnipresent
    bought-and-paid-for TV

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 12, 2012 12:00 pm

      I think I probably do not agree with many of your political views, which I gather tend Libertarian, but all the same you are my favorite poster, Pat.

  8. Pat Riot permalink
    January 12, 2012 1:10 pm

    Thanks, Ian. I enjoy your occasional tying in to Monty Python as well as your occasional valiant attempts to get our resident Libertarian, Dave A. Smith, to stop beating that singular drum of his (just get the completely inept government out of our way and we’ll be alright) long enough to see the exceptions to his rules. This is probably a good spot for me to apologize for my past slipping into personal attacks instead of staying with the points of discussion, but it was so F R U S T R A T I N G grappling with the Black Knight (none shall pass!)

    Yes, I’m a Libertarian, but I don’t have the same faith in free markets that a Smith does (see human history) and perhaps more of a fear of tyranny, be it trampling liberty via armored vehicles or via lawyers in suits behind closed doors, or business people focused on profits above the common good, or a “free market,” or government handcuffed by global corporations, et cetera.

    I’d like to think we all share a lot of views and all want something very similar, but apparently we can’t see the same roads to get there:

    a limited, “socially conscious” /caring (left-leaning, if you will) government to allow free markets and individual citizens (libertarian) to operate according to f-f-f-f, ok too soft to say “fair” rules/laws (moderate) to help prevent EVIL (the absence of good–right wing conservative) from dominating the structure and details of our lives, so we can eat, sleep, avoid pain as much as possible, and actually thrive and smile more than cry whilel we’re here.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 12, 2012 1:38 pm

      Wow, a real festival of compliments, I take it you (Pat) are more of the libertarian left. You are probably (along with AMAC and Rick) the least irritable or abuse poster here.

      I never said so, but I did agree with you a few weeks back that it is obscene when US foreign policy means that some young CIA army contractor in the US plays a drone computer game and pushes a button and people in Afghanistan, (maybe theocratic thugs or maybe a wedding party) wind up dead. Military force is always a blunt weapon. I wish we could find a nice way to stop evil and not do evil ourselves. Its so complicated.

      And I’m glad someone likes my Monty Python references.

      As to the “black knight”, he is obviously very talented, but much too rigid and too often presents the impression that he alone of all of us here understands the truth, which is absolute and supported by everyone who is actually knowledgeable. That kind of conceit is the achilles heel of anyone who falls into it.

      I took a resolution to write less and say more.
      I took another resolution (with the aid of my good wife) to put my wordiness into something more profitable, a book. I’ve been able to get a lot of my thoughts down in chapter form. We’ll see!

    • January 12, 2012 3:54 pm

      Pat I have not claimed freedom is perfect – BTW though the argument usually devolves to economics, ulitmately the issue is do free people acting on their own make net better decisions that an elite acting in their stead.

      History does not show freedom as a 100% winning proposition. But it beats the crap out of everything else.

    • January 12, 2012 4:16 pm

      Pat while you are reviewing history, as you find all that past evil, where are the instances that did not come from government power ?

      Even accepting the liberal meme that all the economic hardship in the world is the result of unregulated capitalism – a pretty much self refuting argument. Some novels and movies have warned us of powerful corporate plutocracies – but I have never actually seen one.
      Yet myriads of governments have tortured and enslaved their own people – or others, engaged in genocide, and on and on.

      I do not beleive we should turn over the responsibility for governing us to anyone, but history shows our fear of powerful corporate plutocracy is overblown.

      • Pat Riot permalink
        January 13, 2012 10:04 am

        Asmith, you’ve had many solid, data-backed posts, and I probably agree with 94.68% of your views, especially the libertarian-style ones along the lines of bottom-up market-driven outperforming top-down governmental. I also think imperfect freedom and liberty are humanity’s best/only chance against ignorance, stupidity, corruption, tyranny and anarchy, etc. I want to try not to debate areas we agree on in this limited format, esp as our relatively small areas of disagreement could require volumes for debate, likely too much for this format. (“Break a Leg” with your book, Ian. I’m working on a book also.)

        We do, however, live in a strengthening Plutarchy (plutocracy & oligarchy) that is growing in our decaying, broken democracy. I hope enough people can learn to work together to stop the coup and re-grow freedom & liberty again.

  9. valdobiade permalink
    January 12, 2012 2:16 pm

    Priscilla wrote: Bill Clinton was a master of “feeling our pain,” but he was the biggest liar of them all.
    =========

    Maybe so, but in an all times America’s Number One Enemy survey, Bush W is still number two after Osama bin Laden. Third place is Rossie O’Donnell.

    … I feel so amused when some people are still angry at Bill C for lying.

    I still appreciate Bill for lying than Bush being “mislead” in starting two wars.

    I guess that if a Republican is elected President, it would be natural to start a war with Iran. It is clear that Mahmoud Ahmadiiii…jad (Gesundheit) doesn’t carry atomic bombs on the back of camels as Saddam did.

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 12, 2012 2:36 pm

      Haha, whose survey was that, valdo? Maybe we should have drones circling over Crawford, TX and Hollywood?

      • valdobiade permalink
        January 12, 2012 4:05 pm

        Priscilla, I am sure that you’ve guessed that the survey is actually a mock survey.
        My point was that I still remember how shocked I was that a President could be impeached by lying in a moral situation. Was there any American President who did not lie? Not even saying to an ugly woman:”You look ravishing this morning, my darling?” (Oath, no oath it is still a lie about morals)

        I’ve never knew that morals should be the strong point of a President, no matter what country… unless the economy of the said country is f-up.

        Italy’s Berlusconi is immoral indeed, but also Italy is in deep shit economically… so impeach Berlusconi I’d say.

        What use was that Bush W was a moral President? Who gained what from this? The economy was so bad in his times that there were voices saying; “please give a blow job to Bush so we can impeach him”… “It is the economy, stupid”

        What Adam Smith is saying about “invisible (job) hand” of morality?

    • January 12, 2012 2:53 pm

      There is only one candidate from either party that can assure you we will not have a meaningless war with Iran.

      Though I would not support going to war with Iran absent an actual act of violence by Iran, there is a difference between Iraq and Iran – In Iraq Sadam Hussein said he did not have and was not pursuing weapons of mass destruction. Iran is making no secret of the fact that they are. Whether the CIA assessment of how far along they are is correct is subject to debate, but whether Iran is actively seeking nuclear weapons is not.

      There is a strong possibility we may be at war with Iran regardless of which party controls the presidency.

      • Kent permalink
        January 12, 2012 11:58 pm

        ASmith,

        There is a war coming with Iran. Who is involved is up for debate.

        When a country makes threats and doesn’t back down or go quiet. It is preparing for some destruction.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 12, 2012 3:01 pm

      Well Valdo, Clinton’s politics probably were as close to my own ideas as any president in my life and I voted for him twice, so my feelings about Clinton aren’t political but human. It wasn’t the lying as much as the fact that our president was a sexual predator. I’m not just talking about his consenting partners but more his nonconsenting ones, Jaunita Broaddrick, who he actually raped, all the uncountable number of women he groped, who just could not figure out how they should respond when the Clinton as the POTUS, or Governor of Arkansas, or Arkansas Attorney General took a friendly hug as the chance to fondle or assault them. He was a very successful president, he was also a completely sleazy shit. If he were the school principle you would fire him and charge him, but the POTUS, what do you do? Just a sad episode in our history.

      • January 12, 2012 4:00 pm

        Interesting observations.

        I voted against him twice, i would have voted to impeach him, but ultimately I would not have voted to remove him.

        For the most part I beleive if you can not trust someone in one thing you are unwise to trust them in others.

        But for whatever reasons Clinton did preside over the closest thing we have had to reigning in the federal government, and it was very successful, and if he could run for election he would crush every contender from either party.

        Obama who has more integrity and possibly even better rhetorical and interpersonal skills, has proven an Abysmal president.

      • valdobiade permalink
        January 12, 2012 4:13 pm

        Ian, I am sorry that by voting for Clinton you were humanely attached to him… and he betrayed you trust by lying about a BJ.

        I bet that 99% of CEO, Corporations presidents, bosses, etc are involved in known or unknown immoral situations. Yes, all the above take economic decisions implying my well being… and as long as they live and let me live, I don’t criticize their moral sexuality.

        I expect morality from the Pope or religious leaders, but not even they can give lessons in morality

  10. valdobiade permalink
    January 12, 2012 4:35 pm

    Let’s say for a moment here that if Herman Cain’s “9,9,9” or “6,6,6” proposal would indeed fix the American economy, would you not vote for him just because he is (was) sexual predator?

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 12, 2012 4:54 pm

      Funny, I get the 666, you are our head comic, you win that contest.

      But… If it was such a great idea I’d wait for a candidate who was a relatively decent person to take it up. Cain was not Clinton, but was bad enough to be disqualified. We are tempted to give up judging altogether. I’m not long on giving up struggles, even if they are difficult.

  11. Ian CSE permalink
    January 12, 2012 4:37 pm

    I can see your point, that’s what makes the situation difficult.

    Berlesconi (sic) was a rich depraved incompetent. My present Vermont governor has the morals of a goat. To me it does matter, the POTUS or the Governor should be people we can respect, they don’t have to be perfect but they should be decent people. Cheating, well, almost everyone has done it, its too low a threshold, sadly, for morals. But raping? We can’t distinguish that is wrong and disqualifying? I think we can, I’m SURE we can. Especially when the Attorney General of a State (which CLinton was when he attacked Broaddrick) is the rapist.

    There was a Simpson’s episode that used Clinton, they put the words in his mouth “I’ve done it with Pigs.” Which was believable. And a sad comment on the US president.

    Now, I’ve been married so many times I have rice marks on my face. I was a cad to my first wife at times. That makes me human, unfortunately. I consider myself to be a decent human, but I’m not a prude and I don’t have a phony hypocritical double standard (or at least I don’t think I do). I look down, far down, on politically powerful people who are sexual predators.

    Comparing Bush Lies to Clintons is a false comparison. They each had their own bad points, Clinton a worse person, Bush a horrendous president. I am not going to vote for a person with a truly obviously shitty character for POTUS or Governor, whether they share my politics or not.

    Perhaps the horrendously low level of confidence we feel in the system is related to the fact that there is such a low bar for morals for politicians. They are ALL shits, they all probably have a baggy full of $100 bills in their fridge. We gave up judging their characters and morals and yet we didn’t. We are repulsed but we try to be understanding. I’m still too wordy. Peace.

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 12, 2012 4:52 pm

      Clinton “rapist”? You voted for Clinton and did not know that he was rapist until he lied about Monica’s blow job? C’mon…

      • Ian CSE permalink
        January 12, 2012 4:55 pm

        Well, no I didn’t. Really. Hindsight is sharp.

      • valdobiade permalink
        January 12, 2012 5:46 pm

        Ian CSE wrote: Well Valdo, Clinton’s politics probably were as close to my own ideas as any president in my life and I voted for him twice…
        ============

        So you lied!

        Hey guys let vote to impeach Ian out of the Moderates.

  12. Ian CSE permalink
    January 12, 2012 6:10 pm

    ???

    Gotta Run, don’t peach me, please Imimoderate.

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 12, 2012 6:39 pm

      Nah siriusly, just puling youse leg… Please stay and write something about “overprice crap” – the consumer drives the market. If people stopped buying overpriced crap, corporations would have to lower the price or go out of business- according to bullshit middle school economics.

      I think there are way too many overpaid assholes that are creating rich assholes, and people with low or regular income cannot afford to enjoy crap at low price… whaddiasay?

  13. Ian CSE permalink
    January 12, 2012 7:56 pm

    Well you can always be patriotic and take another credit card and buy some stuff and stimulate the economy, Right?

    I say that 100 years ago it took half of the population to feed us. Now it takes a few percent. Manufacturing is just 5 or 10 percent of our economy. The number of people it takes to supply everything essential is a small fraction of the workforce. Everyone else make useless stuff, hula hoops, computer games, electric guitars, McMansions. Well, useless is in the eye of the beholder but you see my point. Its a wonder that as many people work as do. And our “Service Economy” where service means talking to a machine and running through a long menu of choices you don’t want before you get to speak to the one person they have answering 10,000 phone calls, that’s American “service.”

    Meanwhile the American workforce is alive and well and living in Bejing.

    Cheerful little bugger aren’t I?

    Look, here is the cheerful thought, Books, Music, Sunsets and Love are still inexpensive or free. You don’t need to buy more stuff. If you are like me you’d probably like to get rid of half the stuff you have but your wife won’t let you.

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 12, 2012 9:16 pm

      Damn right! That’s why I like you.

      Now, tell me about comparison about household credit card debts an the US huge national debt.

      That’s by the way that you mentioned: “Well you can always be patriotic and take another credit card and buy some stuff and stimulate the economy, Right?”

      I think it is bullshit to make a such comparison, what do you say?

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 13, 2012 12:45 am

      Sure, blame it on the women.

      • valdobiade permalink
        January 13, 2012 3:03 pm

        At the entrance of a bar on at a beach:

        “Men – no shirt, no service”
        “Women – no shirt, free drinks”

  14. Ian CSE permalink
    January 12, 2012 9:55 pm

    Thanks Valdo, I’m having a banner day, everyone is in a good mood towards me! And I am happy to return the compliment right back at you.

    I’ve used the analogy of the country’s debt to household debt myself here, yes it’s bullshit but it does give one a little perspective and help avoid panic. A good bit of our national debt is money we lent ourselves, what are we going to do, threaten to break our own knuckles? Our National debt about equals our GDP. Its bad but the world is not going to end. Tipping points where interest gets to be quite a drag can be reached from our level of debt pretty quickly, the interest payments are low now due to low rates. I’m not trying to play it down, its bad.

    You could also compare the country’s debt to its net worth, 17 trillion to something like 75 trillion if my aged brain has not muddled the figures. We have a 75 trillion dollar country with a yearly income of 17 trillion and we owe 17 trillion on it, mostly (I think) to ourselves. Its not doomsday (yet).

    Of course, the implications of the debt for the economy are 1000 times more complicated than I’m making them here and you’d have to be a near genius to grasp all of them, mere mortals try but can’t wrap our tiny minds around that kind of complexity.

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 13, 2012 1:39 pm

      Damn complexity!!

  15. AMAC permalink
    January 13, 2012 12:00 am

    Romney is more to the left of the majority of Republicans. I believe that he is the most electable of the main candidates (other than Huntsman). I also believe he will be relatively harmless. I don’t think he will make things dramatically better or worse. He does not strike me as one to rock the boat, so I don’t expect great change one way or the other. I expect some minor changes, and business as usual. I am not terribly excited about him as president, but I am not in uproar at the idea of him as president either. I have been very disapointed in Obama as POTUS, however I do recognize the situation(s) he faced. I expected some real change with Obama, or at least a greater effort towards change. I don’t see too much difference in the country over the past 6 to 8 years (from my perspective). It has been much more “business as usual” than what I expected or hoped for. I may be wrong, but I didn’t perceive that much of an effort for change. With the combative attitude in congress, I might have been able to forgive some failure, but not lack of effort. I will most likely vote against Obama, but did vote for him in the past election. I make an effort to look past party lines, and try to look deeper into the candidates. I am not overly impressed with Romney, but I am disappointed deeply in Obama. Maybe I had my expectations too high, but I was really drawn to his message (and let down).

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 13, 2012 5:25 pm

      I could be a trillionar if I had a penny for every in the world uttered remark like:

      “I used to have high expectations, but now I am totally disappointed… ”

      I guess that’s remark is made by people who think that the evolution had something in its mind when it started. Every politician who promises better future for the US is a liar.

      Every President was and is actually saying:”If elected, I’ll do the best possible for me. If others can get something advantageous out of that they are welcome, if not then wait for the next President”

  16. Pat Riot permalink
    January 13, 2012 9:39 am

    Yes many peoplel were let down.

    If Romney were elected POTUS he would decide whether to have decaf coffee or regular and what color necktie to wear, and that is about it, about the same as Obama decides.

  17. Pat Riot permalink
    January 13, 2012 10:07 am

    Asmith, I replied above; not sure if you’d see it in this format that moves along. Also, I think your new colorful Lady Liberty logo is excellent.

  18. Pat Riot permalink
    January 13, 2012 10:18 am

    Asmith,
    I’m interpreting that you have suggested…that much of mankind’s major conflicts throughout history can be linked to governments and/or religions (territory & ideology), but I’d dilute that truth by suggesting that even those major conflicts were often triggered by individual greed, market/business interests, and wrongdoing by smaller groups, and I’d like to focus on smaller dominations/usurpations by might over right as examples of why we need government of good people (ultimately, really, the government is people, not an entity) to protect us and our markets, as well as a free people to watch our government as our Founding Fathers intended. I limit for now to 3 examples:

    1.I’ve used this real-life example before: drug lords in Columbia want to expand their capacity and so they merely seize land from their helpless neighbors. That is “market driven” as well as wrongdoing by smaller groups than government. In fact, the police and government in Columbia were powerless to stop such seizures.

    2.Slavery in the United States was market driven. Government (people acting on principles) eventually put a stop to the practice.

    3.Right now the Monopoly Men of the world are actively engaged in global “wage suppression,” partly and significantly via the elements of governments (and the corresponding militaries) that they “own,” or control, including, sadly, significant portions of all three branches of the broken U.S. government and its fragmented, deluded people.

    I understand and am for the principles of capitalism and free markets, agree agree agree, but those principles only operate in certain contexts, just as the law of gravity applies on earth but much differently out in space.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 13, 2012 11:39 am

      Er, the law of gravity is the same everywhere, only the nearby masses are diffferent.

      Another example of business and govt. In Russia maybe 10 years back a man owned an egg factory. Competitors decided it would be profitable to own it themselves so they hired some subcontracters. Who arrived at the egg factory and brought their AK-47s. The evicted rightful owner contacted the authorities. This was in a very rural part of Russia. The authorities said they were not going to get involved in business disputes and that the two parties should work it out.

      Turned out the new owner did not know how to operate the factory and so decided to recoup his failed business investment in the subcontractors by ransoming the factory back to its owner. Owner refused, said “you wanted it you run it.” When I last heard about it they were still negotiating, but the rightful owner was waiting for his business competitor to fold.

      That is the world of weak govt and strong business. Or we could mention Somali Pirates.
      I need to work Romney in. OK Got it, that short film in front of the meaning of life, “The Crimson Permanent Assurance.” Romney, in his business life represents the “oppressive new corporate management company.” Where are those aged but ferocious accountants when you need them?

      • January 13, 2012 2:38 pm

        I will be happy to agree with you that the role of government is to prevent men with guns from stealing your property.

        i do not wish to take such an odd analogy too far, but your example seems to make my point – even absent government it looks like the market will eventually sort this out on its own.

        Regardless, men willing to use violence to achieve their means are not examples of free markets or strong business, or in anyway in-congruent with libertarian ideal.

        The one right we cede – if we ever had it at all, in order to live in a free society is the right to initiate violence.

        The cornerstone of most libertarians is the Non Aggression Principle.
        No one has the right to initiate violence against another.

    • January 13, 2012 2:26 pm

      I feel you have headed off on a tangent.
      I have never argued that free individuals will not seek to bend the power of government to their own ends. Whether that is done with money or violence or both is unimportant,

      First, government actually is responsible to protect its citizens from the violence of others.
      Often – maybe almost always criminal violence is driven by profit.

      The failure of government to protect its citizens from violence – regardless of motive is still a government failure.

      Worse when government moves beyond protecting its citizens from others into protecting them from themselves, we end up with the mess that is the war on drugs.
      Drugs alcohol, prostitution, gambling, … have all been opportunities for those willing to operate outside the law, and willing to use violence to achieve their ends to profit.

      Regardless, these are the indisputable consequences of government policies.
      Even if you beleive they are good policies, it has to be expected that if you make more things crimes, then you will have more crime.

      The analysis of the economic failures of slavery could fill libraries. Even Jefferson came extremely close to discovering that his plantations would be more productive and profitable if he freed his slaves.

      I have no clue what you mean by #3, to the extent what you write is real it does not make your case, Absent the power of government how does anyone “force” someone to work for an “unfair” wage.

      The price/value of anything is what a buyer and seller agree to. There is no intrinsic value to anything – not even gold. Absent force – the domain of government you can not suppress a wage. Wages like all other prices float. Absent improved productivity (and because of improved productivity) wages like all other prices will slowly and naturally spiral DOWN. At the same time less money will buy more wealth.

      When “monopoly men” – no monopoly has survived long term absent government, “supress” wages – they are doing precisely the same thing you do when you decide to pay less for goods from WalMart. It is not illegal, or immoral – unless you use force – and using government is using force – but once again we come back to the private corruption of government power – and again so long as the government power exists, efforts will be made to corrupt it.

    • January 13, 2012 2:30 pm

      The law of gravity is universal. What changes in space is the size and scale of the masses involved, not the underlying physics, or principles.

  19. Pat Riot permalink
    January 13, 2012 12:07 pm

    Hey, the last time I was out repairing the international space station I had to be tethered because gravity wasn’t working the same, but perhaps I didn’t word it correctly…

    Yes, you know that business and markets will not always self-regulate, though in many instances and situations they do!

    I’ll have to revisit the “Crimson Permanent Assurrance.”

    Two of the best shorts I think ever produced, in case you haven’t already seen them on Youtube, are “The Story of Stuff” and “The Story of Broke.” I’m not anti-industry, but love these two shorts for their “simplicity” and effectiveness….

    • January 13, 2012 2:40 pm

      Gravity worked exactly the same. Gravity is a function of mass and distance.
      Lower the mass or increase the distance and you decrease the force.

  20. Pat Riot permalink
    January 13, 2012 12:48 pm

    Wow. The Crimson Permanent Assurrance. Quite a little production. I like when Terry Gilliam, one of the window washers, uses the squeege down his face, then the other window washer goes back to cleaning his window–even though the other windows are being busted by file cabinet drawer projectiles…

    Monty Python –such a combination of weighty issues and silliness!

    I can remember my father, subjected endlessly to my friends and I quotting skits, snapping at me in the ’80s: “ENOUGH OF THAT M A R T Y PYTHON ALREADY….”

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 13, 2012 12:53 pm

      They did true satire. There were almost always many levels and true pith underneath the sillyness. There is not a universal truth you can’t find in their work. I’d call them intellectuals of the first water, and I ought to know I’ve followed a few!

  21. Ian CSE permalink
    January 13, 2012 12:48 pm

    Thanks Pat,

    I’ll look at them.

    Crimson Permanent Assurance

    Good luck with your book, I’m not surprised you are a writer!

    Oh, about Tebow.

    I’m a Pittsburg fan and so I went to see the Denver-Pitsburg game down at Hoagies.

    I had heard that Tebow could not pass. I saw NO sign of that.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 13, 2012 12:50 pm

      How did I do that? it was just a link. Maybe because I have the clip running now?

    • Pat Riot permalink
      January 13, 2012 12:51 pm

      Well you can grieve with your six Super Bowls.

  22. Pat Riot permalink
    January 13, 2012 12:49 pm

    “Bloody ‘ell…we’ve drifted a bit from Romney, eh?”

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 13, 2012 1:47 pm

      … in the latest news, Gingrich tries to pin Romney for knowing French…

      “… Fetchez La Vache…”

      • Ian CSE permalink
        January 13, 2012 3:00 pm

        Another connoisseur of satire. Cool.

  23. Ian CSE permalink
    January 13, 2012 1:03 pm

    I came to Pittsburg fandom in a strange way. My team was the Colts. Imagine my sorrow after superbowl III. Then Burt Jones came along and they had an incredible team in the 70s. That always lost to Pittsburg in the playoffs. One year they carried Bradshaw off on a stretcher, twitching at half time. I did think the Colts had a chance then. But no, Bradshaw ran back onto the field after halftime and lit the place up. Years later when I would hear arguments about who was the best team ever I had to begrudgingly admit that the Steelers of Bradshaw, Franco Harris Swann, Blier, Mean Joe Green, Jack Lambert, etc. were the best ever. That is the strange reason I root for them now, nostalgia. And Palumalu. Who Romney would probably fire when he bought the team and split it up.

  24. Pat Riot permalink
    January 13, 2012 2:46 pm

    haha I like how you tied Palamalu to Romney so that this thread doesn’t wander…you will able to complete your book with that skill !

  25. January 13, 2012 3:00 pm

    Triggered by other comments as well as Rick’s insistence that the way to minimise government corruption is to restrict money, I started looking for studies of government and corruption.

    I have not found everything and like all the issues we fight about for every ten studies that support my expectations there are one or two that do not.

    But what I am finding is there is a weak but robust correlation between government size and corruption. This does not mean that small governments are all incorruptible and large ones are all rife with corruption – there are numerous factors beyond size that impact corruption – but all other things being equal increasing government scale increase corruption.

    There also appears to be an even more robust correlation between regulation and corruption. The more government regulations – regardless of size the greater the corruption.

    Some studies (like those on government spending and economic growth) have inflection points – there data does support the claim that government insufficient to enforce basic “law and order” fails by most every measure – duh. I am a libertarian not an anarchist.
    But equally important wherever the infection point is we are far away from it – on the wrong side.

    Also as has been common with most of these studies – Scandinavia is its own world.
    It appears that will the same general principles work in Scandinavia, the slopes of the curves are different than the rest of the world – well sort of. Scandinavians then to have larger government spending, but they tend to have far less business unfriendly regulation.

    Though Classical Liberals have been telling everyone this for two centuries, these studies are empiracle rather than theoretical.

    Put differently the claim that individual rights and freedom are fine in theory, but in the the real world things are more complex – is false – as measured in the real world.
    Certainly the real world is complex. It is precisely this complexity that favor’s individual freedom and works against all other organisational schemes.

    Regardless, in the real world, bigger government is harmful to the prosperity of its citizens. In the real world big government is more corrupt. In the real world statist top down solutions work far worse than bottom up solutions.
    In the real world libertarian ideology demonstrably works, everything else does not.

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 13, 2012 3:21 pm

      What’s the difference between Republican and Libertarian ideologies? I’m sorry I did not follow the lengthy analysis… maybe you can state it in a few lines.

      I guess that if Libertarians will win a small percentage in being recognized, they’ll support Republicans… I remember an election in which Democrats and Republicans were equally, but Nader gave the votes to Republicans.

      • January 13, 2012 4:15 pm

        I think it would be more accurate to say Nader took votes from democrats.

        Republican’s democrats and libertarians are all fairly big tent and even overlapping political identifications.

        Republicanism or conservatism are not ideologies so it would be hard to compare and contrast.

        “A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’
        William F. Buckley, Jr.

        Libertarians used to be strong components of both political parties – it is still estimated that 10% of democrats are libertarian – and I am not talking about “Blue Dogs”. Most shifted to the republican party after FDR.

        The broadest definition of libertarian is economically conservative, socially liberal.

        Another would be

        “the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order”
        or
        “Anything peaceful”

        Most libertarians beleive in strong individual rights, but limit rights solely to those found in nature. Most Libertarians see rights as negative – they demand nothing from another except not actively infringing.

        It is absolutely true that some republicans have subsumed some aspects of libertarian philosophy. Reagan called libertarianism “the soul of conservatism”

        Small government fiscal conservatives – which might include most blue dog democrats, generally rely on libertarian economic philosophy.

        But libertarian economic philosophy is the consequence of a classical liberal ideology emphasising natural rights and individual freedom, that predates republicanism, and democrats, and has consequences beyond economics that are typically at odds with most conservative ideologies.

        Most (not all) libertarians advance a foreign policy consistent with the rest of their ideology – if you a nation is not actively harming others, we have no right to intervene in its internal affairs – that does not preclude condemning them, but it would preclude pre-emptive war.

        Most (not all) libertarians beleive in open boarders, both for immigration and trade. The former is a significant conflict with the Tea Party.

        A libertarian view of abortion will depend on their view of the status of the fetus – to the extent one accepts it as human it is entitled to protection from violence – to the extent it is not it is not entitled to state protection.

        Regardless or the issue, the guiding principle for libertarians will be individual liberty.

        Libertarians tend to share myriads of desired outcomes with liberals. What separates us is whether the ends justify the means. Libertarians will not sacrifice one persons liberty even to achieve a noble end.

        This is the root of my disagreement with Rick over campaign finance, and political corruption. Rick will accept most any solution that he believes will reduce political corruption – regardless of any harm to individual rights.

        Even if Rick’s solutions would work – which I beleive history shows us is not true, they would be unacceptable – despite the desirability of the ends. Once you are prepared to sacrifice even one persons natural rights for some common good, then none of us have any rights beyond the whim of the government of the moment.

        One thing both parties and moderates constantly ignore is that any government power than can serve good purposes in the hands of good people, can be made to serve evil in the hands of others – and it is inevitable.

        Liberals blame failure on the imperfection of those we elect. Their government grant of power requires unachievable perfection on the part of out leaders.
        Libertarians seek to limit government power such that even the inevitable evil leaders do nto have sufficient power to do real harm.

    • January 13, 2012 3:23 pm

      I forgot one – the extent of a countries barriers to trade correlate positively with corruption.
      The more competition foreign and domestic the less corruption.

    • AMAC permalink
      January 13, 2012 9:48 pm

      I think it is obvious that regulation would lead to some corruption. People will always look for ways to bend the rules (through legal and illegal means). Do you agree that some regulations cut down on exploitation? I understand we don’t agree on the rights of US citizens vs. the rest of the world, but you have to agree business needs to be regulated, right?

      • January 16, 2012 3:31 pm

        Everything needs regulated in the strictest sense. The question is how to regulate.

        The free part of free markets, is the regulation part.
        Bottom up self-regulation, the result of buyers and sellers making their own choices is the most flexible and functional means of regulation in existence.

        The myriads of ways the market is self regulated each day dwarf by many orders of magnitude anything that can be accomplished any other way.

        You regulate with every market decision you make. Buy here or shop for a better price. Buy from this vendor or that. Change jobs, Ask for a raise, learn a new skill, ….. in everything you do, some one, some business out their is seeking to profit by aiding you. You chose. Even if you are barely conscious of your choices, the market is not. It is desperate to understand exactly why you make every decision you do, and to provide you with better and better choices.

        Trade evolved more than 10,000 years ago, but the approximation of free trade we have today has only been around for a few centuries.

        Beyond that a simple stable at best very slowly changing system of rights and responsibilities (laws), and a civil court system allowing real victims to receive just compensation. There are actually very few basic principles necessary to make such a system work. If law needs changed to address technological or societal changes – then the law was probably wrong in the first place.

        No I really do not such much if any place for what I suspect you think of as regulation – the top down imposition of arbitrary rules by politicians and bureaucrats. The fundamental problems with top-down are so large that the only question is how it will fail.

  26. Pat Riot permalink
    January 13, 2012 3:03 pm

    “…you will able,” he said, stepping down from the boat onto the dock in the New World…

    be

    be able

    you will be able

    Mitt Romney will be able to float in space, much less affected by gravity there than down on terra firma in the “Granite State.”

  27. Ian CSE permalink
    January 13, 2012 3:12 pm

    This just in from CBS news:

    “An angry CEO (not however related to George Romney, Ian’s note) dining at a posh Palm Beach restaurant allegedly broke his waiter’s finger for bringing the check too early, reports ABC News.
    According to a Palm Beach Police Department report, Paul Kucik, a 57-year-old waiter at Club Colette, says that John Castle became upset with him when he brought the bill to his table. Kucik says Castle grabbed his hand and bent and twisted his fingers.

    Kucik, who claims Castle’s wife had asked for the check, reportedly went to a clinic the next morning for an X-ray and found that his ring finger was fractured.

    John Castle is CEO of Castle Harlan, a private equity firm.

    ABC reports that according to the police report, “Kucik stated that he attempted to hand Mr. Castle the bill and Mr. Castle became irate with him and yelled, ‘You schmuck, why did you bring the bill to the table?'”

    Kucik has not pressed charges.”

    The CEO was just enjoying his freedom. Some damned liberal bleeding hearts will probably sympathize with the waiter and try to pin something on the CEO. They are always like that, those liberals.

    • January 13, 2012 3:30 pm

      Straw man. Libertarian individual freedom does not include the right to initiate violence.
      You are confused with anarchism – typically considered a philosophy on the political left.

  28. Ian CSE permalink
    January 13, 2012 3:48 pm

    Did he initiate violence, he merely argued a bit about his check, maybe the waiter attacked him, he probably did, just to try to victimize a hardworking CEO with a frivolous lawsuit, its that class hatred mentality the lower classes are so often guilty of. The CEO must be innocent just as Arnall could not possible have been guilty of fraud in a mortgage transaction, more envious poor people trying to get ahead by cheating and lying victimized poor Arnall. He HAD to have that 42,000 sg. ft house just to try to cure himself of the trauma he had suffered dealing with all those devious mortgage customers. As well, those Russian egg businessmen with their AK-47s were just using innovative techniques, they were thinking outside the box. We should admire such business acumen and go getting spirit.

    • January 13, 2012 4:32 pm

      Are you serious ? These are not even credible enough to be straw men.

      It should not take a libertarian to know that whoever resorted to violence first was wrong – regardless of the merits of any non-violent dispute that may have also been going on.

      This is true regardless of whether we are talking Kucik, Arnal, Russian mobsters,

      Regardless, I have not proposed hypothetical justifications for anything.
      To the extent Arnal lied to a buyer or seller he is criminal.
      The the extent the buyer and/or sellor also lied or were complicit, they are part of the crime.

      If you are prepared to Jail everyone who misrepresented their income on a mortgage application, every bureaucrat and politician who demanded banks and mortgage companies regardless of buyers ability to pay. I will be happy to join you.

      Otherwise your are just scapegoating and excepting a meme that is false, self contradictory and illogical.

      • Ian CSE permalink
        January 14, 2012 10:43 am

        Dhlii,

        Clearly I was being facetious a bit. Perhaps you missed that fact in my overly long body of work here that Arnall’s Ameriquest is not a theoretical thing with me, I had a mortgage with them. They made repeated obvious efforts to swindle me out of my equity and out of huge fees. I know them very personally. I did not bite on their devious offers, I have the cultural capital and know enough math and economics to have escaped. Many did not have that cultural capital and lost their downpayments, houses, credit, equity and paid outrageous fees for the privilege of taking that ride. Which is how the crook who organized that, Arnall, became a billionaire, a great friend and huge funder of the GOP and George Bush and the Ambassador to the Netherlands.

        In some absurd way you have managed to conclude that his millions of victims were all swindlers themselves, how can you know that? You can’t,obviously, its just another example of the absurd lengths you will go to to preserve your blind faith in your exceptionless philosophy. You’ve decide that he could not have committed fraud by definition and is not an example of the need for tighter regulations.

        This is the best example I have of why your philosophy of blind support for greater business “freedom” is a giant pile of crap.

        Overly empowered alpha males (occasionally females) are dangerous, whether they are in government, business or sports and entertainment. Society need checks and balances in government, but in business as well. freedom is a great word, a great slogan, who can be against freedom? Too much freedom is bad, that is the point of my examples and I will say that I think any reasonable person could see that point!

      • January 16, 2012 3:13 pm

        Ian;

        I hardly know what to say.

        I doubt there is anything in your response that I do not think is provably incorrect.

        Arnal, Mozillo, borrowers and lenders were all free to lie about the creditworthiness of borrowers.

        But they were not free to adjust rates or say no to borrowers with bad credit.

        The CEO of IBM has less power than many ordinary bureaucrats.
        Tim Tebow can not deprive me of anything that is mine, nor can Bill Mahr.

        Even accepting your argument on checks and Balances – the greatest power, the largest and most disastrous mistakes, the greatest potential for disaster is solely with government. Lets start our regulation, restraint, checks and balances there.

        Neither Arnal nor 1000 like him brought the financial system down.

        No I do not see people who were essentially given money from the savings, of ordinary people in this country, to buy houses they knew or should have known they could not afford as victims.

        No one held a gun to their heads and said buy a house of go to jail.

        This idea that they were all deceived victims is ludicrous.
        Do you know what your income is ? Would you sign a contract that misrepresented it ? Do you know what you can afford ?

        The concept that borrowers already familiar with Pay day loans, rent-to-own, myriads of poor credit car loans, are ignorant borrowers is equally obtuse.

        They had bad credit and lived in apartments before. They have bad credit and live in apartments now.

        If this is your idea of what constitutes a victim it is easy to see how we got into this mess.

        The mortgage defaults preceded the collapse of the housing market, and the stock market, and the rest of the economy.

        You want all kinds of rules and regulations on lenders.

        Are you prepared to allow lenders to say no, or demand a higher interest rate from a less qualified borrower ?

        If not then loan your own money – but do not force the rest of us to loan ours.

  29. January 13, 2012 9:04 pm

    Wow, it would take me a few days to work my way down all the recent comments. I’ll see if I can catch the Ian-Valdo comedy act, but please don’t take it personally if I never get around to commenting on your comments. Meanwhile, what do you think of the new front page header photo? I thought it was time for a facelift — and something a little more contemporary (we’re The NEW Moderate, after all).

  30. AMAC permalink
    January 13, 2012 9:35 pm

    For the comedy fans out there, I just saw a hilarious (although very vulgar) satire. It contains a lot of low brow comedy, but I enjoyed the premise and overall enjoyed the movie. It is “Idiocracy” with Luke Wilson as the star. I was amused. Just thought I would throw it out there. Makes a good case for a declining wester society!

    • January 13, 2012 11:25 pm

      AMAC: I remember hearing about this film when it came out, but I never got around to seeing it. I think it might be enlightening, especially during the 2012 campaign.

      • AMAC permalink
        January 15, 2012 12:14 am

        Rick
        Don’t think less of me if you watch it, knowing I enjoyed it! It is not the most intelligent comedy, but I did like it.

    • Anonymous permalink
      January 16, 2012 2:21 pm

      “Natural selection is indifferent toward intelligence, with the result that stupid people easily outnumber the intelligent.”

      This is the truth and the movie tries awkwardly to make a comedy out of this.
      Another truth is that humanity will implode in itself because we cannot surpass the selfish “intelligence” of “winner takes all” thinking.

      Natural selection is indeed based on “selfishness” but still, selfish or parasite organisms try to preserve the life of the host.

      Part of the natural selection in political strata were the Communists. When seeking power or in power, they killed all competition, but they did not want to kill the masses… to live in misery, yes, but not wiped out.

      Part of the natural selection in business strata are the Capitalists. They don’t seek political power for politics are just a part of business. Lobbyists just buy political means for the highest bidder, for the highest successful corporation. Capitalist “Winner takes all” does not care about the masses as long as the masses doesn’t help “the winner”. Capitalists don’t want misery, so if the miserable masses can be wiped out… let it be. Not everybody can be a winner in the same time and in the same place.

  31. AMAC permalink
    January 13, 2012 9:55 pm

    I also wanted to add a story to the money in politics debate. I found a website through TNM named rebuilddemocracy.org. There is an interesting article on 29 US companies that paid more to lobbyist groups than they did in taxes. Not illegal, just very interesting. I followed the link to Fobes to read the full article. You should check it out. Also, a nice little write up on former governor Roemer in their.

    • January 13, 2012 11:24 pm

      I’m on the board of RebuildDemocracy.org, and its president is a huge Buddy Roemer fan — because Roemer stands for pretty much everything on the RebuildDemocracy platform: clean elections, term limits and an end to gerrymandering.

  32. AMAC permalink
    January 13, 2012 9:59 pm

    Sorry to keep beating the Buddy Roemer drum, but here is the link to his 2012 Presidential Campaign. http://www.buddyroemer.com/

    Some pretty good stuff.

  33. Priscilla permalink
    January 14, 2012 11:05 am

    Rick, I like the new header.

    I like much of what Roemer has to say about getting rid of Super PACS,but he is wrong to blame their existence on the Citizens United decsion. If it weren’t for the byzantine campaign finance laws, which impose overlapping limits and give ridiculous tax exemptions to these unaccountable and opaque groups, Super PACs wouldn’t exist. SCOTUS simply made a decision based on the situation as it is.

    Roemer advocates full disclosure and real time electronic reporting of cmapaign contributions, along with criminal penalties for violations of the rules. If we were to do that, and eliminate tax exemptions for 527’s, we wouldn’t have to outlaw SuperPACs. They would simply cease to have a reason for being.

    So far, AMAC, I’ve only read that section of Roemer’s platform. But it is impressive. Too bad he is not even an asterick on the primary campaign trail.

    • AMAC permalink
      January 15, 2012 12:11 am

      With so many different politicians, I find myself looking into their main platforms and deciding how sincere I believe them to be. I know this is somewhat superficial, but If you look at the entire body of work on any politician, it’s hard to support them! I want to know what one item or set of items a president is going to pursue regardless of the climate, situations, etc. If I like the main platform and feel they pursued that cause(s) to what I believe the best of their ability, I vote for them again. I will admit that I liked Bush’s priority of education reform, but was very disapointed with NCLB. I agree with more accountability for the educators and administration, but did not like the decrease in accountability for the students and their families. I like families having choices in schools and would like to actually increase that freedom. I could go on for days about my former governor and our current president, but my point is that I like Roemer’s main platform and it has something I think many here could get behind. I also love the fact that he is following his proposed changes. His comments on gerrymandering were very refreshing. I think that because it is primarily a state by state issue, it is overlooked. This is an ancient game in politics that both parties play to stay in power. It takes away the real choice in politics and replaces it with the appearance of choice. With technology today, we should have a better way to adjust districts based of population trends and changes. This is a classic, but still living example of “to the victor go the spoils” mentality. It is reminiscent of the old political machines we thought were gone. Sorry to run way off course…

  34. Pat Riot permalink
    January 15, 2012 9:21 am

    You are on course, AMAC! Rick’s post prompted us to wonder about the inevitability of Romney as the knighted Republican candidate, and now here you are helping to spread the word about an American, Buddy Roemer, who cares enought to speak out against corruptions such as gerrymandering–Bravo!

    Really, we need all the good people we can get to help rebuild our democracy/republic! It’s going to take a lot of us, a whole lot of us, to make things better! Daunting, but validating as well!

    Good luck to everyohe today, starting with yourself, then outward to your family and friends, then out to your local community if you are able, and collectively, really, an important part of an active nation…(flag waving and/or fireworks optional here…)

    Good luck!

    • Priscilla permalink
      January 15, 2012 11:19 am

      I don’t know,Pat….All that positive activism, flag-waving and fireworks sounds a lot like the Tea Party movement, who as we know are nothing but a bunch of ignorant, racist white people who don’t want to pay taxes 😉

  35. Pat Riot permalink
    January 15, 2012 11:51 am

    Thank you for adding the smiley face at the end, Priscilla, as the written word can so easily be misconstrued (as it isn’t accompanied by facial expressions and intonation and winks and nudges of the arm, etc.)

    The tea party rabble–if they can’t have one coherant message, a usable sound bite, then let’s pepper spray them back into submission! (nudge nudge wink wink)

    I think on this blog you have been a supporter of merit, earning, ethical business practices, strong national defense, investments, and the like. Would those examples be somewhat true? I’m all for those too and suspect most are…I believe left, right, middle, red, blue have more in common than not. I’m going to personally bring everyone together or die trying! Hopefully you’ll see me on book shelves and then TV in the not-too-distant future!!

    Peace, with a strong and swift retaliation capability!!!

  36. Pat Riot permalink
    January 15, 2012 10:05 pm

    BTW, I wasn’t talking about everyone on TNM agreeing about everything. That’s not likely or necessary. I was just talking about getting about 100 million Americans to rally around some good ideas, that’s all. What? Too grandiose? It’ll be fun…

  37. Ian CSE permalink
    January 16, 2012 12:01 pm

    Hi Pat,

    Are those good ideas in your book?

    Can you list them?

    Looking at my own behavior here and that of others as well I observe that its much easier to write combative posts and joust with those you disagree with than to have a conversation with people you agree with. Agreement is too bland for the political warrior. That facet of human nature has a lot to do with our mass political behavior in my opinion, politics for many of us is the act of being pissed off and trying to defeat certain groups/bad ideas rather than trying to rally around common ground.

    • Pat Riot permalink
      January 16, 2012 8:49 pm

      Hello Ian,

      Are you able to work on your writing full-time, or are you squeezing it in around a “day job,” and how’s it going?

      Agreement vs. divisiveness: I believe either direction is more learned behavior than instinctual default, and I think divisiveness has been “pumped in around us,” so to speak, accidentally and on purpose. During my military training I learned time-tested basics for reducing the threat from prisoners and enemies: keep them separated (today’s “mass media culture” gives us issue after issue and an overly-blurred right and wrong) and keep them demoralized (“incessant” negativity in the news and entertainment). Too brief a format here to properly treat complicated, nuanced topics, so we write books…

      One of my books in progress is titled “Leaping From Pots” and takes its name from the supposed fact that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water it will leap out because the water is obviously too hot, but if you put a frog into room temperature water and increase the heat slowly and gradually you can boil the frog to death because it is incapable of detecting the gradual harmful changes. “Leaping From Pots” is a collection of stories about diverse American characters “waking up,” and the unique ways they save themselves and the people around them…socio-political Rocky stories, one might say…

      In three years my house will be paid off and I believe I’ll be able to “retire” and write full-time, which is what I need to finish properly…

      • Ian CSE permalink
        January 17, 2012 9:07 am

        I think we have some similarities. My house also is nearly paid for, I could call myself semi retired, I work for myself doing scientific translating work and it pays well and does not take that much of my time on most days.

        So I have time for other things. Therein lies the rub! I have too many outside interests! And I’m ADD as heck. So One day I play the drums for 4 hours, another its violin, I just can get lost in it. ADD is a funny syndrome. Hard to concentrate, and yet easy to just disolve myself in pleasures and obsessions.

        If I would force myself to be disciplined I could get this book mostly done in 2-3 months. Taunt me now and then if you’d like, it might help.

      • January 17, 2012 11:11 am

        Ian;

        You are making your own choices in your life.
        Only you get to measure their value for you.

        I am sorry that you regret that one choice often comes at the expense of another.

        But that is life.

        Many who have less than you, who have less ability, who have greater limitations, or who have just not had as much luck could claim you do not deserve what you have. That you owe some greater portion of it to those less fortunate.

        The poor in this country are the 1% of the world.
        In that context you are Arnal, or Gates, or Buffet, you are the spike in the income inequality curve.

  38. January 16, 2012 3:41 pm

    The ideas get tested in the real world.

    I beleive that the idea of individual liberty will eventually triumph – because ultimately all other ideas fail.

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 16, 2012 5:00 pm

      Individual liberty IS triumphant…
      Unfortunately over some other individual liberties… 🙂

      • Ian CSE permalink
        January 16, 2012 5:34 pm

        So few words and yet so correct. I’m gonna take lessons from you Valdo.

      • January 17, 2012 10:59 am

        Is there an actual argument in there ?

        How about an actual example where one person’s exercise of their natural rights – bounded by a prohibition against the use of force, violates the rights of another ?

        One person’s liberty can not come at the expense of another.

        EVERY other ideology allows some person or group to forcibly infringe on the liberties of others.

        Virtually everything I oppose here, is one group dictating what others must do – even for their own good, or from some mistaken view of the greater good.

        There are numerous serious problems with “greater good” or common good:

        Ultimately someone must decide
        The presumed benefits are usually – possibly always illusory
        Whether the benefits are real or not the losses are always real.

    • Pat Riot permalink
      January 16, 2012 8:58 pm

      Give me liberty or give me death!

      All that is required for evil to flourish is for good men and women to do nothing, or to put their energies and money into the wrong things…

      • valdobiade permalink
        January 17, 2012 8:18 pm

        “Give me liberty or give me death!”

        A nice example where individual liberty is triumphant!

        The guy has the liberty to ask to be killed, the King is also exercising his liberty by wanting to kill the guy… “Damn”, said the King, ” the guy has runneth on his horse!”

  39. January 16, 2012 3:52 pm

    More on mortgages and defaults and the intelligence of the markets from the Federal Reserve.

    The gist of which is that:

    It requires negative equity of 62% or greater to trigger a borrower to walk away from a mortgage.

    That almost no borrowers walked away from a mortgage purely as a result of negative equity.

    Defaults are overwhelmingly cause by an inability to pay the mortgage.

    http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/feds/2010/201035/index.html

    Further the fed seems to suggest that far from being incompetent idiots those who default on mortgages are demonstrating excellent decision making, and managing a difficult fiscal circumstance with excellent fiscal judgement.

    If sub-prime underwater borrowers are so adept at knowing when it is appropriate to walk away from an underwater mortgage, why is it we think they were duped victims when they negotiated the mortgage in the first place ?

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 16, 2012 5:43 pm

      Naive and optimistic people walk into a con set by the Arnalls of this world, smarter, sadder, wiser people walk out. Is that a possibility in the Libertarian universe?

      You say that those companies can’t vary rates on those with bad credit? Really? Variable rates were the bread and butter of their money mill.

      BTW, last time you quoted a Fed article to me to prove your point, the article explicitly mentioned that poor Americans do not receive proper health care and suffer for it. I didn’t bother mentioning it to you because it would have been a waste of my time.

      You can make it your life’s mission to staunchly and fanatically defend evil business practices, some people can rationalize anything, Cigarette Co. lawyers come to mind. Its your life….

      • January 17, 2012 10:21 am

        Adjustable Rate Mortgages vary with the Fed’s interest rate, not with the buyers credit.

      • January 17, 2012 10:21 am

        In an article on Mortgages, why would I take tangential comments on healthcare seriously. Even among government agencies, health care is not the purview of the Fed. In general I do not think highly of the Fed. The impetus for increased lower income lending without properly pricing for risk came from the Fed. But the Fed is an enormous organisation and sometimes they get somethings right.

      • January 17, 2012 10:26 am

        My life’s mission as you put it, is to defend freedom.

        What rights and liberties we have are limited to those afforded the most despised, whether they are Nazi’s, Paedophiles, cigarette companies, or the wealthy.

        Do we really need to get started on Cigarettes too ?
        I presume you beleive that the millions of people that smoke today were all deceived by the Tobacco companies ? Cigarette packages have had government mandated health warnings since 1966.
        Even the most recent multi-billion dollar tabacco settlement – little if any of the money has gone to anything related to the health consequences of cigarettes. An awful lot of the tabacco company settlement money has gone to ….. The tabacco companies. Sounds like government failure to me.

        Colt makes guns, Raytheon makes missiles – these kill people too.
        Budwieser makes beer – drunks kill people all the time, and alcohol is a factor in an enormous percentage of traffic deaths.

        The issues I would have with Tabacco companies would have to do with the extent to which they lied about the health effects of their products.

        I would be happy to legalise drugs. Nor do I have a problem with suicide or assisted suicide or selling organs, or … myriads of other forms of trade that some frown on.

        The requirements for legitimate exchange are fairly simple:
        It is voluntary – i.e. no force is used.
        It involves no direct harm to third parties
        There is no misrepresentation.

      • January 17, 2012 10:40 am

        Just for reference the life expectancy of moderate smokers is less than 1 year shorter than non-smokers.

        I am not looking to glamorise smoking or tobacco companies, just noting that there are myriads of life choices that we make freely that are of equal or greater significance.

        I do not smoke myself. Unlike Clinton, Obama, and Likely Bush, I not only did not inhale, but I have never used “illegal” drugs in my life, I have never been drunk, ….. I am just a pretty dull person.

        At the same time I fully support the right of others to make their own choices in their lives – even poor choices. And I have no problems with others profiting from the freely made poor choices of others.

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 17, 2012 8:31 pm

      Asmith, I have a question.

      Was the government investing loaned money for buying a house?

      I mean, how can you invest money that were not paid back?

      For what I understand it worked like that:

      A bank loaned $500,000 to a guy to buy a house. The bank automatically assumed that the guy will pay, so the bank invested $1,500,000 (the loaned money plus interest).

      The bank invested poorly and the guy has no money to pay the house. Where is the “invisible hand” of the government?

      • January 19, 2012 1:29 am

        I am not sure that I understand your question ?

        The invisible hand is the self regulation of the market place, it is also the marketplace balancing response to government actions, What it most definitely is NOT is govenment.

        For the most part Banks and Mortgage companies did not loan their own money, they loaned other peoples money – frequently that of government.
        Most banks would have closed shop before they would have made badly priced high risk loans of their own money.

        But below is what actually happened. I do not believe Progressives actually disagree with most if any of the facts below – though they argue that even if true that somehow they were not really the root cause of this.

        Regardless, this has government written all over it.

        Sufficiently far in the past, banks loaned their own money – or the money of their depositors, at a rate of interest calculated to assure a profit with the anticipated level of loan failures including the costs as well as sale price of foreclosed properties.

        Banks established their own standards to determine who they would loan how much to at what rates and what equity they expected the borrower to have – all these together make up the risk price of the loaned capitol.
        Borrowers with better credit got better rates, larger amounts, lower equity requirements. Borrowers with lower credit paid a higher price in some or all of those – as they were a higher risk. Presuming everything was priced correctly the actual net returns worked out close to the same – if they did not competing banks would move into the more profitable market – whichever it was with lower rates, or banks would flee the less profitable market.

        Because there were myriads of different lenders, each setting their own standards, and loaning their own (or their depositors) money, it was extremely difficult to move the entire market in a single direction – which is always catastrophic if you are wrong.
        Mistakes were made – probably more frequently than in the modern highly regulated market, but the consequences were smaller and more localized.
        Even if over a long run the “losses” were greater than the losses from a “black swan” type event such as the recent financial crisis, fiscal catastrophes costing say $200B every other year are substantially less damaging than a single $1T event once every 10 years. Economic carnage is not linearly propotional to the size of the triggering loss, further the market place would never repeat exactly the same mistake at the same cost every two years if it were of consequence.

        Long ago the government stepped in, and has over time increased its presence in the mortgage market until by the late 1990’s, while the market set interest rates as a whole – with nudges from the fed, for most mortgages – particularly the more risky ones, the government essential set the rules for pricing the risk. But the government – or more accurately the GSE’s – quasi governmental entities, bought significant portions of the riskiest loans.

        So if you are a banker or a mortgage company, you played by the government rules, profited from fees off the high risk loans which you then sold essentially to the government, and tended to hold the lower risk loans that were properly priced.

        This all would have worked fine and the carnage would have been confined to the GSE’s and the government, but for another factor.

        Banks are required to have a minimum percent of their total outstanding liabilities as cash on hand – this is independent of the requirement for a net positive balance sheet, and is supposed to prevent runs.
        Cash on hand is allowed to include any liquid form of capitol – like stock.

        To spread the risk both the GSE’s and private investors, particularly those investing in higher risk mortgages, transformed individual mortgages into shares of blocks of mortgages – Mortgage backed securities. This is not a bad thing. It does very effectively spread risk. But spreading risk – reducing the net risk to each individual is not the same as reducing the systemic risk. Spreading the individual risk made it rational for more individuals (and banks) to invest more heavily in higher risk mortgages – increasing the systemic risk.

        Banks particularly after selling off the high risk mortgages essentially repurchased than as Mortgage backed securities and then used those securities towards their liquid capitol requirements.

        In mid 2006 the default rate on sub prime mortgages exceeded justifiable thresholds. Investors nearly immediately stopped loaning money to mortgage brokers. Mortgage companies that appeared solid on paper folded overnight as they were unable to sell mortgages they had written and did not have the capitol to actually cover them.

        In late 2007 new government accounting rules requiring banks to value securities used to meet their reserve requirements at current market value came into effect – the so called mark to market rule.

        Within a few months investment banks were starting to falter. The value of Mortgage backed securities was declining and as those values dropped more and more banks were not meeting their reserve requirements.
        These were often profitable banks with net positive value, just insufficient cash on hand to meet reserve requirements. They were obligated to raise additional capitol buy selling things, the only liquid assets they had were mortgage backed securities, as more and more of these went up for sales prices dropped making the problem even worse, until by fall of 2008 a substantial portion of the financial sector no longer met reserve requirements. This problem triggered collapses in stock prices as investors fled banks that had insufficient reserves.

        The government initially tried to stave off the problem with arranged marriages between banks. But the number of well capitalized investors, was not sufficiently large to recapitalize the under-capitalized banks.
        And eventually the government had to resort to shotgun weddings, and still the problem grew.

        I believe Mortgage Backed Securities eventually hit values of less than .25/$.

        The above alone is sufficient to explain most everything, but the financial markets are not nearly that simple. If a large sophisticated investor has a risk that they can insure against they usually do. Collateral Debt Obligations were a form of insurance that various investors bough against various possible calamities – including catastrophic losses on Mortgage Backed Securities. A significant portion of the CDO’s were issued by AIG. In 2005 NY AG Spitzer forced AIG CEO Greenberg out. Leaving a management unable to grasp the growing exposure that their increasing CDO share was creating.

        The government stepped in with TARP that was supposed to save the day by buying the “Old Maid” Mortgage Backed securities from Banks, recapitalizing them and saving the day – the government was even supposed to make money on this – because the default rate on high risk mortages has never come close to 75% therefore the MBS’s must be worth far more than .25/$. The government could sit on them long term and sell them at substantial profits when the economy recovered.

        One problem, bankers are not stupid – they refused to sell their MBS’s knowing full well they were worth for more than .25/$. It probably would have been unethical to do so anyway, so long as the real value of the MBS’s was greater than the market value by a significant amount, selling them to anyone at market prices would be a theft of shareholder equity.

        Further the crisis was sufficient at this point for the banks to play chicken with the government, and the government blinked. TARP permuted into a loan program, further the FED brought interest rates down to zero creating multiple scenarios where banks could literally borrow money from the FED and invest it profitably with the government. An enormous redistribution of our wealth dwarfing TARP and mostly not fully grasped, but not from the rich to the poor, but from the rest of us to the banks.

        Oh and the above is the simplified version.

      • January 19, 2012 1:40 am

        I would also note that since 1920 Austrian Economists ( one group of modern classical liberals) have been telling us that the driving force behind the booms in the business cycle is mis-pricing credit causing a mal-investment of capitol resulting in a bust.
        This is essentially a super-set of Friedman”s monetarist(another group of modern classical liberals) claim – screwing around with the money supply is a common and easy way to artificially lower the price of credit.

        The argument for wresting control of money from government is founded on the fairly solidly grounded view that every single economic crisis in US history has at the very least had bad monetary policy as a major contributing factor.

        The primary competing thesis for the cause of the housing bubble/bust is the Fed keeping interest rates too low for too long.

        In truth it is most likely that both bad monetary policy and bad credit/housing policy combined to form the perfect storm.

    • Kent permalink
      January 18, 2012 1:36 am

      Hey Rick,

      Can you post another column?

      This one is now talking about mortgages and “invisible hands”.

      Personally, I don’t like the mortgage I have now because I now owe more than it is worth and I don’t want any “invisible hands” near my body.

      • January 18, 2012 12:54 pm

        Kent, I could probably write a post about the career of Babe Ruth and we’d still end up talking about mortgages and the Invisible Hand. But I’ll give it a try (not that I’m going to write about Babe Ruth, though it might be a nice change of pace).

      • January 19, 2012 12:52 pm

        The invisible hand is a misnomer. It is the reaction of the marketplace to the actions of government. And because government typically introduces harmful distortions, the market response if often destructive. Just as white blood cells in your body try to destroy germs. Despite being net positive, the immediate consequences like fevers are likely to be negative.

        To the extent it effects you as an individual, that would be because the destruction necessary to purge the ill effects of government from the system must harm some individuals. Like nature the destruction does not necessarily fall most heavily on those creating the problem.

        Libertarians want to remove government from economic life to the greatest extent possible avoiding as much as possible the efforts of “the invisible hand” to right the damage government has caused.

      • January 19, 2012 1:14 pm

        Prices are subjective rather than objective. There are myriads of facets to the value of your home and the cost of your mortgage. If the total cost measuring all tangibles, intangibles and subjective factors was greater than the similarly calculated total value – then you would have walked away.

        The meaning of the Federal Reserve report I cited elsewhere is that for most of us all those other costs/values are net about 61% of the value of the property – we do not default when the “market” value is 10% below what we paid or owe. We do not because regardless of how unhappy we might be, we grasp that the actual value of the property including all costs, is greater than what we owe.

        I too have a mortgage – several actually. I have not checked but I suspect some of them are “under water”. i do not really care. I am mildly unhappy with myself – despite the fact that i think I am intelligent, I have once again bought at the peak of a market getting ready to decline.

        But whether those mortgages are “underwater” or not does not matter.
        I wanted the property i bought, and still do. It made economic sense at the time, and though I would greatly prefer the better price I would have paid today nothing has actually changed that alters my decision to buy in the first place.

        The difficult economic times that have ensued create a new risk. If I can not sustain my income I may not be able to afford those properties. Still nothing beyond my perceptions of future security and the market price have actually changed. If my purchase does not make sense today – that would only be because there are better deals available now, or because my future risks have increased. The fact that the mortgage is or is not underwater is irrelevant.

        This also goes back to gaining an accurate perception of the events that lead us here.

        Defaults started because too many loans were not viable even in the rosy circumstances that appeared immediately before the crisis. Those defaults triggered mortgage investment to cease, which caused house prices to drop which caused construction to decline which caused …..

        Once the first domino’s fell, the changed circumstances made the problem grow. Declining employment increased the number of people who could not afford their mortgages – under water or not, which further depressed prices, ….

  40. Ian CSE permalink
    January 18, 2012 11:35 am

    Dhlii: I do not smoke myself. Unlike Clinton, Obama, and Likely Bush, I not only did not inhale, but I have never used “illegal” drugs in my life, I have never been drunk, ….. I am just a pretty dull person.
    At the same time I fully support the right of others to make their own choices in their lives – even poor choices. And I have no problems with others profiting from the freely made poor choices of others.

    Me: No fun for you personally but a strong ideological interest in other peoples fun. Hmmm, Have you ever considered the idea that you may be, not a Libertarian, but a protestant?

    See Monty Python’s examination of pleasure promoting protestants:

    Here is the script:

    Mr Blackitt: Look at them, bloody Catholics. Filling the bloody
    world up with bloody people they can’t afford to bloody feed.

    Mrs Blackitt: What are we dear?

    Mr Blackitt: Protestant, and fiercely proud of it…

    Mrs Blackitt: Why do they have so many children…?

    Mr Blackitt: Because every time they have sexual intercourse they
    have to have a baby.

    Mrs Blackitt: But it’s the same with us, Harry.

    Mr Blackitt: What d’you mean…?

    Mrs Blackitt: Well I mean we’ve got two children and we’ve had
    sexual intercourse twice.

    Mr Blackitt: That’s not the point… We *could* have it any time we
    wanted.

    Mrs Blackitt: Really?

    Mr Blackitt: Oh yes. And, what’s more, because we don’t believe in
    all that Papist claptrap we can take precautions.

    Mrs Blackitt: What, you mean lock the door…?

    Mr Blackitt: No no, I mean, because we are members of the
    Protestant Reformed Church which successfully challenged the
    autocratic power of the Papacy in the mid-sixteenth century,
    we can wear little rubber devices to prevent issue.

    Mrs Blackitt: What do you mean?

    Mr Blackitt: I could, if I wanted, have sexual intercourse with
    you…

    Mrs Blackitt: Oh, yes… Harry…

    Mr Blackitt: And by wearing a rubber sheath over my old feller I
    could ensure that when I came off… you would not be
    impregnated.

    Mrs Blackitt: Ooh!

    Mr Blackitt: That’s what being a Protestant’s all about. That’s
    why it’s the church for me. That’s why it’s the church for
    anyone who respects the individual and the individual’s right
    to decide for him or herself. When Martin Luther nailed his
    protest up to the church door in 1517, he may not have
    realised the full significance of what he was doing. But four
    hundred years later, thanks to him, my dear, I can wear
    whatever I want on my John Thomas. And Protestantism doesn’t
    stop at the simple condom. Oh no! I can wear French Ticklers
    if I want.

    Mrs Blackitt: You what?

    Mr Blackitt: French Ticklers… Black Mambos… Crocodile Ribs…
    Sheaths that are designed not only to protect but also to
    enhance the stimulation of sexual congress…

    Mrs Blackitt: Have you got one?

    Mr Blackitt: Have I got one? Well no… But I can go down the road
    any time I want and walk into Harry’s and hold my head up
    high, and say in a loud steady voice: ‘Harry I want you to
    sell me a *condom*. In fact today I think I’ll have a French
    Tickler, for I am a Protestant…’

    Mrs Blackitt: Well why don’t you?

    Mr Blackitt: But they… [He points at the stream of children still
    pouring past the house.]… they cannot. Because their church
    never made the great leap out of the Middle Ages, and the
    domination of alien episcopal supremacy!

  41. January 18, 2012 12:52 pm

    Thanks for the laughs, Ian. I practically fell out of my chair just reading the script. Nobody but the Pythons could have mingled high and low humor so seamlessly. I’ve always found it odd that the Catholics, with all their emphasis on the “immaculateness” of the Virgin Mary and their perpetual consciousness of sin, seem to enjoy more robust sex lives than Protestants, who simply have to accept Jesus to be saved. Maybe it’s more of a Southern European vs. Northern European thing. But for all those centuries, the Catholics would enjoy festivals, wine and carnality while the Protestants dressed in black and funneled their libidos into their work. What hath Martin Luther wrought?

    • valdobiade permalink
      January 18, 2012 4:15 pm

      Rick wrote: …the Catholics, with all their emphasis on the “immaculateness” of the Virgin Mary…
      =====================

      That reminds me about “Life of Brian”.
      “Youth” (Eric Idle) being one of the followers of Brian (Graham Chapman), who was thought to be the Messiah.
      “Mandy” being the Virgin Mary… played by Terry Jones!

      YOUTH: Excuse me.

      MANDY: Yes?

      YOUTH: Are you a virgin?

      MANDY: I beg your pardon!

      YOUTH: Well, if it’s not a personal question, are you a virgin?

      MANDY: ‘If it’s not a personal question’? How much more personal can you get? Now, piss off!

      <>>

      YOUTH: She is.

      FOLLOWERS: Yeah. Must be. She is. Definitely…

  42. Anonymous permalink
    January 19, 2012 12:21 am

    There are myriads of things i would not wish to defend Romney on, and I do not know the details of his actions at Bain. But the NBER has analyzed leveraged buyouts, and the net long term employment effects are dramatically positive.

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w17399

    But then this is just a different incarnation of a general theme I have been constantly trying to convey here:

    The left fixates on the “seen” consequences of everything. “Vulture” capitolists take over a failing business, lay off thousands, and walk away profitably. Government hands out checks to whichever interest pleases them most at the moment and everyone is happy.

    But they fail to look at the unseen consequences. Productive and profitable businesses grow jobs everywhere. The money government gives away must come from somewhere, and virtually always the unseen losses, the jobs and wealth creation that do not happen are larger than whatever benefit the governments largess might bring.

    Even if the difference between the progressive approach and the free one is small – 1% additional growth/year doubles the standard of living with each generation.

    If you really cared about the less fortunate, you would choose the path that improves everything for everyone rather than the one that is actually net harmful even to those you are trying to help.

    But it is easier to give away other peoples money and claim to be virtuous, than to create wealth for everyone.

    Anyone – regardless of motives that profitably engages in uncoerced trade has done far more for all of us than any public servant. The more personally successful they are the greater the benefit to the rest of us.

  43. Pat Riot permalink
    January 19, 2012 9:59 am

    As productive as markets can be, they do not always work, and they don’t operate in a vacuum, as I and others have tried to get you to see. Institutions, culture, individuals and groups, including but not limited to government, get in the way and block supply and demand and other “naturally operating” principles. Your “trickle down” philosophy is theoretical but not practical or realistic. Your thinking is somwhat two dimensional. You have steadfast prejudices in your thinking. For instance, you see helping the less fortunate as a “give away” that is less productive than allowing business to do its thing, so to speak, and that is often true, and then that’s how you cement that into your thinking. A year’s worth of government-funded Job training that leads to employment for a struggling individual is far more cost-effective and productive than decades of prison for our tax dollars, but you won’t see the other sides of things once you’ve got things cemented up there. If you see something that works in your mind, then it must always work, but that’s not reality

    It’s not cost-effective for me to try to change the mind of one person on a blog. I guess it’s the manner that you post (convinced of absolutes) and your voluminousness that provokes me to counter. I guess it also helps me realize my views, sharpen my sword, so to speak. You have some good points and I’m being respectful here, but your posts document that you don’t have an open mind. You have blinders on. Perhaps you should get drunk occasionally to loosen up the blinders to see beyond markets.

    • January 19, 2012 12:34 pm

      You are making myriads of presumptions.

      I see people how they are, and have faith proven by history that a free society will however imperfectly produces the best outcome for the greatest numbers.

      You see that the results are not perfect and beleive against the overwhelming evidence of human history that if we sacrificed some freedom to empower an elite to solve our problems they would somehow this time do better.

      Free markets are just the economic manifestation of the way free people interact.

      The “laws of supply and demand” are external explanations of the way things actually work – like the “Law of gravity” is an external explanation. Free Humans interact as they choose, there is no ideological prohibition against their “violating” the laws of supply and demand. That they rarely do just demonstrates that the “explanation” is an accurate reflection of of how free people in the real world actually work.

      It is the statist approach that suffers from attempting to force humans to be something different than what they are – and therefore failing because it attempts to significantrly alter human behavior.

      “Trickle down” is meaningless. It has been well understood that the primary beneficiaries of “free market economics” are those at the bottom. The entire middle was created from the bottom. Prior to the emergence of free trade there was virtually no middle class. Mobility in the upper class was primarily downward, 99.9% of people were at the very bottom.
      Look at not only at who is where today, but even what markets producers target. Most of production is targeted at the bottom. Walmart is at the top of the world’s largest businesses. Walmart does not “prey” on the poor. It goes out of its way to serve them. Further they must by definition have benefited greatly otherwise they would not be able to afford anything Walmart has to sell.
      Free markets are not “trickle down”, they are trickle up. Those providing capital, get to profit – and market forces drive normal risk profits to below 10%, in return for providing more than 90% of the benefits of whatever is produced to everyone else. Further, that investment creates jobs – for everyone else. While this is not planed, neither is it accidental. If it did not work that way it would not work at all. If the primary benefits did not flow from the bottom up, it would be a “ponzi scheme” that would fail rapidly, with each succeeding iteration having less and less.

      All the things you mention – institutions culture, groups, government and more are part of the free interactions of humans. There is nothing wrong with any of them – until one of them uses force to interfere with individual freedom.

      There is nothing wrong nor in conflict with human freedom to helping others – the less fortunate, or any other group you choose. What is wrong is when “A and be get together to decide what C will be forced to do to remedy some evil that afflicts D”. When two individuals do that we call it stealing. It is no more moral when 51% of us steal from 1% of us for the benefit of 5% of us.

      We argue the economics of all this constantly – the economic aspects are unbeleiveably compelling. In 150,000 years of human existence we have not come up with any other economic scheme that has worked.

      But it is not about economics, it is about human freedom.

      Within the past year a study came out about the net benefits of all the government job training programs of the past 50 years. The conclusion was that the net effect of the enormous amount of money we have spent on job training is that most of the “beneficiaries” have emerged less employable, than when they started. I do not beleive a single program since atleast Pres. Johnson has proven effective.

      i am not surprised. One of the problems with top down solutions is they require unattainable levels of human perfection and prescience from the nearly unaccountable elites who run the system – that is a recipe for disaster.

      “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” Madison federalist 51.

      I am seeking to throw the prison doors open rather than fill them. I want to release everyone who did not use force to harm others. I want to reduce the number of criminals by reducing the number of idiotic things we have made crimes.

      It is not that my eyes are closed, but that they are open, that I have found that every way I have ever conceived that the power of government could be brought to improve the world has in the end proved false. I did not get to where I am by some rigid conformance to some ideology, but by grasping the failure of everything else. If I am rigid it is because upon examination government never has outperformed free people, and rarely even managed to be net positive.

      We have real solutions to all our problems that we know will work – people on their own will eventually solve everything that needs solved. The world is a far better place today than 10, 20, 200, 2000 years ago. At best only the most minuscule part of that improvement is do to government. Even if almost all the purported progressive failings of individual freedom were true – and they are not, the evidence that top down solutions have improved things is just not there. Put differently if “free markets” really were as bad as progressives claim nothing else is better – even close. In truth though imperfect – they are after all only human and humans though basically good are not perfect.

      i am sorry you don’t think I have an open mind. I fully understand the feeling.
      While I beleive the evidence is compelling that government almost never succeeds at any task that can be performed without government, I honestly feel like most if not all here are unwilling to conceed that government ever fails. That grasping that any single government effort – particularly the “social safety net” programs might have or be failing would so undermine your system of values, that it can not even be considered.

      Making the case that govenment has failed everywhere in everything is hard. Even random chance would produce a higher success rate. And government has not failed everywhere in everything – but it has easily failed sufficiently frequently that the burden of proof must lie with those advocating more rather than less government.

  44. Pat Riot permalink
    January 19, 2012 7:30 pm

    Asmith,

    presumptions–yes, difficult not to make some presumptions in this cyber format, but I see many instances in your latest post where we do not disagree. I already have a full-time job, so I”m going to attempt to distill this down to the key points for friendly debate.

  45. Pat Riot permalink
    January 19, 2012 7:57 pm

    “a free society will however imperfectly produce the best outcome for the greatest numbers”–Asmith.

    Yes, yes, agreed. I believe bottom-up freedom is our best chance as humans. It lets the butchers cut meat and technophiles work on computers and teachers teach, et cetera. it lets a butcher re-train to be a computer support administrator after she’s tired of cutting meat. The examples are too numerous and obvious. I don’t think anyone on this blog is for totalitarianism, monarchy, oligarchy, or dictatorship, or plutarchy, or plutacracy OVER Freedom. We could debate what a “free society” is–it’ll look different to different people, or how some elements of “socialism” could result in more freedom in particular situations, but let’s not get bogged down here.

    I do NOT want to sacrifice freedom to empower an elite to solve our problems. No disagreement there.

    “Free markets are just the economic manifestation of the way free people interact”–Asmith
    Good enough for now. Essentially true. Let’s move on to find the real rub…

  46. Pat Riot permalink
    January 19, 2012 8:16 pm

    Asmith,

    I’ll depart for now from line item responses. It’ll be too circuitous. Let’s fast-forward to a word– “government” –and try to get on the same page with that word. This is one of the rubs between you and I, and you and others.

    First of all, we agree that our present U.S. government is too big. We agree that governments in general often fail miserably. Now, before we engage in civil debate about when government can and has worked, it would be helpful to understand what YOU mean by the word government. Based on your record of posts, I believe the word “government” for you is just about synonomous with “ineffective government,” “costly government,” “too-big government,” “corrupt government,” “in the way of freedom,” “interfering witih freedom entity,” et cetera. Is it true that the word “government” for you is automatically negative?

    When you write the word “government,” are you talking primarily about:

    a) the U.S. Federal Government
    b) all authoritative, political bodies on earth
    c) federal, state, and local government
    d) our present too-big government

    We can’t get anywhere if we’re not talking the same language. What does the word “government” mean to you?

    • January 19, 2012 11:14 pm

      First, I will be ecstatic to support even the smallest steps towards less government. I have been happy to try to move things in that direction here in the past – with zero effect. Maybe I have polarised people here too much, but my perception is that 70% of posters here are happy to agree that government is big, bloated an inefficient, but once it comes down to “brass tacks” there is not only absolutely nothing they are willing to cut, but that ultimately they have been suckered into accepting that decreasing the rate of growth – even though still above the rate of growth of the economy is the same as cutting.

      I may be willing to agree to any cut, but I am not willing to call and increase a cut. to acheive political harmony.

      To be even more clear – though both republicans and democrats are proposing real though minuscule cuts in some programs the net result of the most draconian budget proposal that has actually been seriously considered is still growth in federal government spending exceeding the growth in the economy. Calling that cutting is lying.

      I will be happy to concede that it is going to be very difficult to keep the growth in federal spending at or below growth in GDP without discussing Medicare and social security. These represent $400B+ holes in the federal budget for the foreseable future.

      In my perfect world, I would cut the federal government to early 19th century levels. Whatever government actually does that is of value, little of it is done at the federal level.
      That does nto mean I would leave the states and local governments off the hook, but aside from national defense the critical remaining government contribution is “the rule of law”. The rule of law is not by the way the continuous growth of new laws to make us feel that we are doing something about even cause in existance. It is stable at best molasses slow changes in law. It is probably a regression away from the modern emphasis on statory law and a return to the principles and methods of common law.

      But just as we do not live in liberaltopia, we do not live in libertopia either.

      I am not going to get what I want. I am not going to cease to argue for it.
      As I said I will be happy to agree to any cuts in government at any level as a move int eh right direction. At the same time I have no intention of conceding government involvement in the economy in any form beyond its legitimate role in protecting each of us from having our rights infringed on by force or deciept.

      I will always be offering up the failures of government, and I will never have any trouble finding them. Even inside those areas that are the legitimate venue of government it is horribly costly and inefficient – government is actually supposed to be inefficient, efficient government is more dangerous and corruptible.

      As to specifically what I mean by government, I mean any body that has the authority to use force – to lock you in jail, or legally take away anything you own without your consent.
      That is what government is. That includes federal state and local government, and any body delegated police powers by those governments.

      I do not however beleive all government is inherently evil (I do beleive it is inherently inefficient), nor am I an anarchist, anarcho-capitolist, …. Today I would probably call myself a minarchist – that is generally associated with Rand, but though I think Rand had many important things to say, I am not a Randriod or Objectivist.

      Further I really could care less about arguing precising how little government we need to get by. I do not expect anytime in the next ten lifetimes to see government grow sufficiently small as to have to seriously debate libertarianism reductum ad absurdum.

      Nor is it ultimately about economics – libertarianism – classical liberalism is about freedom and individual rights. Humans do not share the same views on religion, or myriads of other non economic subjects. Diversity is the human norm – not just in race and culture, but in everything. One positive expression of libertarianism is “Anything that is peaceful”.It is irrelevant whether government is infringing on our speech, religion or property rights. All economic regulation in addition to violating the constitutional contracts clause, as well as due process – Lochner v. New York, also infringes on our rights to free association. Our economic lives and the rest of our lives are not intrinsicly distinct. There is no such thing as a pure economic interaction nor one that is completely divorced from economics. Lochner was correct Wickard v. Fillburn was ludicrously wrong. but that mistake is past – or atleast are not getting reversed in my lifetime.

      I will not cease to remind everyone that all government actions that abridge the right of peaceful individuals economic or otherwise are wrong.

      For the most part the focus here and nationwide is mostly on the federal government – most of our debates here are about the federal government. But to make it clear I am NOT a federalist. I do not think we would all be better off being screwed by state or local government, and in the state or local context – I am still fighting for smaller government.
      In my region I am fighting conservative republicans.

  47. Pat Riot permalink
    January 19, 2012 10:20 pm

    I say that you have been substituting the word “government” in the place of “corrupt, inept government,” as if ALL government is corrupt and inept. The fact that government is often corrupt and inept does not mean ALL government is corrupt and inept, or that ALL government HAS BEEN corrupt and inept in the past, or that ALL future government has to be corrupt and inept. Government is people.

    Here is one of many examples I was personally involved with regarding necessary government at the local level that does not involve taking freedoms away from people or thwarting business, etc.

    In a tree-lined, well-kept, blue collar neighborhood in Philadelphia, large furry rats are seen scurrying from the public sewer inlets in increasing numbers. The year is about 1972, so there are still many kids playing all sorts of games in the streets, and the sudden appearance of rats is a new problem in the neighborhood.

    Mothers are concerned that their children will be bitten. Several of the mothers try various phone numbers for the Streets Department, the Mayor’s Office, Animal Control, etc., to have the problem corrected. After weeks of leaving messages and getting “the runaround,” one of the Mothers organizes a protest. She and about fifteen other mothers and their children use wooden barricades and homemade signs to block traffic on Frankford Avenue. Channel 6 Action News shows up. The organizing Mother knows her district’s State Representative. She calls him out on the News clip to come and fix the unprecedented rat problem.

    The organizing mother was my Mother, and she was about 31 years old at the time. The State Rep himself came to our house to get the full story on the rat situation. Over the next few days, ALL the sewers in the area were cleaned out by the Phila. Streets Dept. The rats disappeared for good. Should the mothers have chased after the rats themselves? Should their husbands have staked out the sewer inlets with shovels to smack the rats upside their heads? Of course not. It was a job for government. Could private enterprise take care of this on its own? No. Who would foot the bill?

    What is wrong with a government by the people and for the people?

    • January 19, 2012 11:34 pm

      Democracy failed more than 2000 years ago. government of, by and for the people is wonderful rhetoric, but it is just that rhetoric.

      Corruption and power are intrinsically related. If you wish to fight corruption in government, you CAN NOT do that by increasing the power of government. This is where Rick gets trapped constantly. We are all for less corrupt government.

      Government and corruption are not synonymous, but power and corruption are, and modern government is very powerful.

      Inept is a function of what it attempts to do. Top down is an excellent way to focus the resources of a nation on a narrow set of goals and objectives. It is probably impossible to run a war using spontaneous order. But top down is always destructive of freedom, and always promotes a very small number of values above all others. It is abysmally inept at balancing the myriads of values that encompass real humans and interrelating and weighing each appropriately. This is a fundamental cause of the fall of the USSR, it is at the roots of the problems of European socialism, and it is a real but lesser problem here.

      APACA would be a perfect example. It is trivial to get poll results that an overwhelming majority of us support healthcare reform – possibly even a majority support federal government intervention in health care. But it is completely impossible to get a simple majority of us to support any specific proposal. It is impossible for top down solutions to solve complex problems that require balancing myriads of competing objectives and rights.

      Government is inherently top down, and there are very few problems – generally extremely simple ones like the defense of the nation, and the protection of our rights that might be best handled that way. Even so the state will still be inept, and it will still trample our rights.
      But again I will be happy to have the debate over how can we do better when we get to the point when that debate matters – not in my life time.

      As to your rat example. In libertopia there would not be public sewers. If the sewers were not being cleaned you would call the service you had contracted to dispose of your waste.
      Even in your example – though it is not private, the city of Philadelphia essentially provided you with waste removal as a contract service – one that as with most government services was done badly. I have no problem with what was done, but it only required being done that way because the traditional means that people use to compel private services to meet their obligations just do not work with the state. It is damn near impossible to sue the government should they fail to meet an obligation that would reap you millions in punative damages against a private service.

  48. Pat Riot permalink
    January 19, 2012 10:40 pm

    Certain words have been getting used and abused so much lately that their meanings are getting obscured. These words need to get cleaned off so we can see them again. The word “industry” is an example. When a lot of tree-hugging young people hear the word “industry,” they immediately think of pollution and damage to the environment, etc. These young people will take a shower in the morning via plumbing from industry, put on clothes made by industry, get in their cars, drive across roads, all the while having a hatred for “industry.” They really hate irresponsible industry, not industry itself.

    Similarly, there are people who have think “goverment” just gets in the way of free enterprise, but government isn’t good or bad until its good or bad.

    Look who is voluminous now! Sorry to hog the blog, but I like a challenge! Rick will be posting something new soon anyway…

    • January 19, 2012 11:42 pm

      In a recent Gallup Poll only 29% of us had favourable views of Big Government, only 30% of use had a favourable view of Big Business, yet small business was second only to the military in positive identification. Gallup concluded that at the moment we have a problem with “Big”.

      I am more ambivalent. Big Business is far more likely to bend the power of government to its own ends. But absent the power within government to manipulate, big business is relatively fragile – that is the price for the efficiencies of scale.
      Absent the ultimately counter productive manipulation of government the evils of “big” business are fairly small and self destructive.

      I am not afraid of big business, but I am afraid of the government power that big business can manipulate.

  49. January 19, 2012 11:49 pm

    Pat;

    As you mentioned outside the ideology driving things, I suspect in many instances we can get behind the same things.

    Pick any aspect of government you wish to reign in and you almost certainly have my support.

    But you can pretty much count on my opposition to any effort to infringe further on the rights of individuals – no matter how small the infringement, and no matter how despicable the victims, in order to impose a top down solution to some perceived problem.

    This is why Rick is never going to get my support for his effort to prevent political corruption by manipulating political contributions.

    It is also why I am not going to support any government action that steals from one person or group to create “fairness” for another. What is wrong for individuals does not become right when done by government.

  50. Ian CSE permalink
    January 20, 2012 11:38 am

    Polarizing, yes, the absolutism makes your case unbelievable to anyone who is not a true believer.

    Pat gave a good example of government working in a necessary way.

    Here’s my own retort to the idea that government causes harm at levels that are impossible for businesses and cannot effectively help solve problems.

    When I was a kid, the Ohio river ws so polluted that it caught fire, and most of the great lakes verged on being biologically dead. Did government cause those catastrophes? No, thoughtless big businesses did. Thanks to government regulations, the Ohio river is no longer flammable and the Great Lakes all sport plenty of life and stimulate the local economies with fishing business.

    I am 100% sure dhlii will find a way to say in 10,000 words or more that this is not so, probably with charts, graphs, and references to unimpeachable experts, but it IS so. Unregulated big business polluted the crap out of everything in America, groundwater, rivers streams, landfills, they dumped their poisons on a gargantuan scale everywhere they could without care for the environment and by the 60s and 70s government had to step in to clean up. It got cleaned up. Government cleaned up a catastrophe that big businesses caused. Case closed.

    • Anonymous permalink
      January 20, 2012 8:38 pm

      It is trivial to deal with cleaning up water an air without government regulation. If one parties polution demonstrably harms others, then they can sue.
      Freedom, including the freedom to do harmful or unwise things to yourself does not include the right to do so to others. Nor is this a novel or new concept. It is as old as Hamurabi atleast and fairly well represented in common law – no regulation necescary.

      You did not see that happening – because the evolution of statutory law has actively sought to preclude it.

      Further myriads of portions of this planet have been damaged by humans over the ages – and cleaned up by us – without laws forcing us to do so.
      The transition for coal to gas and electricity, the transition from horses to automobiles drastically improved the environmental conditions in large cities – all with little help from government.
      Contrary to claims by environmentalists the earth based life of the settlers, indians, and serfs of the past is not and has never been sustainable. With few exceptions business did precisely what everyone else had done for the entirety of human existence.
      It is inevitable as it is unsustainable that that would change.

      Beyond that I have not claimed that government action is always and everywhere destructive – even random chance should preclude that, thouhg I beleive government is destructive more frequently that random chance would dictate and even considering that possibility should cause you to take giant leaps away from government as always and everywhere the solution to our problems.

      Finally, we have some of the most draconian recycling laws in the world in this country. Yet individuals generate more trash than anywhere in the world. Further all that effort you are forced to go to to recycle your personal trash is mostly wasted. In most instances throughout the nation it all ends up in the same place anyway.

      For the most part the very same laws do not apply to business. They do not need to. Trash is waste, inefficiency. US waste from industry and business extortionate to production is by far the lowest int he world. A chicken in mexico that is raised, killed plucked cooked and eaten is almost entirely waste. No part of the chicken that resulted in the chicken mcnuggets you bought at McDonalds went to waste. Those chemicals that used to pollute the rivers you speak of are now re-used as resources in some other production process. The best thing to do with business waste is to find a way to convert it into a product – and that is what most business in this country does.
      Little or none of this was driven by regulations – for the most part it is actually impeded by regulations.

      Maybe you are correct that the clean air and water acts are the cause of cleaner air and water in this country. But the historic evidence, as well as the evidence throughout the world is whether government steps in or not all the wonderous gifts that progressives have claimed they brought to society – have been a natural part of the evolution of society, predate progressivism and are pretty much inevitable.

      I will go further. Aspects of the way we live today that we consider normal will be considered barbaric in just a few generations. Your grandchildren will ask you how you could possibly have lived back int he bad old days. Things you take for granted as a part of life, will be intolerable to future generations. Some of these changes will atleast appear to have been driven by government regulation – but not all. They will all occur anyway.
      Life will get better. Absent government intrusion it will improve in those areas that it can most cost effectively, and that we desire most.

      That is because that is what free markets are – the most efficient engine in existence for allocating resources against our prioritized desires. Those improvements in quality of life that do not happen in the future either could not be done cost effectively – yet, or were not actually wanted enough.

      you call that some kind of radical absolutism. It is not, it is just the way most of the world works. It is the way the functional parts of the world work. The parts that are so function we barely even notice as things improve.

      Did government bring you the light bulb ? Lasik ? Radio ? TV ? the iphone ? …….
      Even if I give you clean water and air that is a paltry contribution for 40-50% of GDP.

    • Pat Riot permalink
      January 20, 2012 10:33 pm

      Thank you for your example, Ian. A specific river on fire is a real and dramatic example of thoughtless business, narrow-minded business, under-regulated business. There are so, so many examples. I’d like to cite a bunch of examples in which business/industry actually prevent the market from self-regulating or solving problems, such as how oil company execs bought out or “quieted” alternative solutions for years, despite our need for the alternatives. The case really is closed that markets and government are flawed because people are flawed, and at the same time markets and government sometimes do helpful things.

      Who can seriously disagree that too much regulation.is bad, not enough regulation is bad, and a decent or fair amount of regulation is desirable. That’s what originally attracted me to TNM: moderation.

      Who decides what is a decent or fair amount?
      Goldilocks?
      Markets? Yes, sometimes.
      Government? Yes, sometimes.
      People? Always.

      Dave A. Smith, again some good posts by you above (in my opinion), (except for your last one). I don’t have time to respond right now, but I’d like to. My views are mostly identical to yours, except that I see more grey areas and you see less grey areas. There is a recurring theme in your posts about government “forcing” things on people. Yes, that’s true, but also most of us stop at red lights in the cities becasue we think the red lights are a good idea, even if they are annoying. Often we voluntarily follow regulations and laws because they’re f-f-f-f-fair enough for the time being!!

      • January 21, 2012 1:54 am

        Harming others is pretty much the only thing all libertarians are in total agreement that no one has the right to do.

        Government is “force”, This is not some lunatic fringe tirade it is just the distinguishing characteristic of government. If you do not believe that then you are an anarcho-capitolist without realizing it.
        Absent the right to use force there is nothing to distinguish government from all of our myriads of voluntary associations. Though I think it is important to grasp that the single distinguishing characteristic of government is the right to initiate force, that is not intended as a criticism of government. It is however a substantial part of the reason government must be limited.

        Every single thing government does ultimately relies on the right to use force. If you think you are free to run the red light you will likely get a traffic ticket. If you think you are free to ignore the police officer you will be arrested. If you wish to try to exercise complete freedom from the authority of the state ultimately you may be shot or incarcerated. The government does not say please. Compliance – even when you may agree is not voluntary – there is no freedom, no choice. Again that is not a condemnation of government. But it should cause us to think about whether we are really willing to put the FORCE of government behind every good idea we have. Behind everything that 51% of us think 49% should do.

        My ideology may be simple but its application in the real world is extremely complex. Freedom is complex. It means we don”t all behave exactly the same or respond to the same things in the same ways or make the same choices. It means some of us make bad choices. It also radically reduces the odds that we all like lemmings rush off the edge of the cliff together.
        Statism, top-down, government is fundimentally also very simple – we all do what government dictates. If we are a democracy – then what the majority dictates. Regardless it is trynay. More importantly rather than some of us making bad choices some of the time, it means sometimes – maybe even rarely, we are all pushed into exactly the same bad choice – and like lemmings rush off the edge of the cliff together.

        Also even if we actually had the choice to stop or not at the red light, we would not chose to do so because it is fair, we would chose to do so, because harming others is wrong, and because failing to conform to some norms is not only dangerous to others but also to ourselves.

        If you are seeking voluntary fairness – try charity. And in that you get to make your own personal assessments of what is and is not fair.

        Life is not fair. Every child is certain they know exactly what fair is and most every parent knows there is no possible workable universal standard of fairness. What my 16 year old thinks is fair and what my 13 year does are substantially different. If I ask 10 people what is fair I will get 10 answers.

        I have no problems with you attempting to conform your life to your personal view of fairness. But I will guarantee yours, mine and every other poster here has a different standard. Even more importantly, if we can agree on what is fair with respect to any single topic, that has no meaning for the next topic. Worse still how do we rank all the myriads of competing unfairnesses needing remedy ? Does rectifying the unfairness to women have priority over that of minorities ? Blacks vs. Hispanics ? Will fairness tell us which health problems we should collectively attack first and in what order ?

        Like it or not it is precisely these types of questions that free people interacting on their own resolve best – in the economic sphere we call it free markets, but there is really no magic line where human freedom transforms into purely economic. Guaranteed the collective wisdom of myriads of free individuals acting on their own will over time solve all problems – and be faced with new ones, and there will always be someone crying “unfair”.

  51. Pat Riot permalink
    January 20, 2012 10:36 pm

    correction:

    fewer grey areas.

    less grey. fewer areas

  52. January 21, 2012 2:12 am

    Ultimately corporations are just us. At the time of the great depression something like 95% of corporate stock was owned by ordinary people. Today the majority interest in US corporations is owned by ….. still ordinary Americans, only now it is through our IRA’s and pension funds.

    If Dow Chemical is catching the Ohio river on fire – that is us – we own it. If you want to stop it – buy different stock – not that your ownership is the only means of leverage you have. If the executive compensation for the CEO of citicorp offends you – vote your stock, or sell it, another form of voting it.

    Today most of our personal ownership of these corporations is through pension fund managers and hedge fund managers and …..
    Partly because that is what we want. We really do not want to be bothered with figuring out who should be on the board of the companies we own. We want them to make money – so that our retirement, our kids education, …. is secure. And we trust that those we allow to manage our money will make those decisions for us well. When some CEO gets what seems like an exhorbitant bonus, it is because board members elected by stockholders who either benefited or lost based on that CEO’s choices decided that was appropriate.

    How much would you be willing to reward the CEO of the businesses you are invested in had they managed to make money and keep their(your) stock value growing when the rest of the economy tanked ?

    We make mistakes compensating CEO’s and we pay when we do. At the same time it is not their labor we are buying, it is the expectation that they will do well for us. For most fortune 500 companies a 1% increase in profitability would pay stockholder far more than executive bonuses.

    Regardless, we – ordinary people have more ability to control big business than we do government. Besides voting our stock or selling our stock we also chose what we buy from where.

    The president of the united states cares far less about what ordinary citizens want than the CEO or a fortune 500 company cares about his stockholders and customers.

  53. Pat Riot permalink
    January 21, 2012 12:28 pm

    Asmith, I haven’t finished reading your last post, but I did read the beginning of it. There are myriad examples and myriads of examples of government forcing things on people, so you speak the truth, but not the whole truth, because there are numerous/extensive examples of people coming together to collectively solve problems, to circumvent problems, without harming others or hampering business, or solving a worse problem at the expense of creating a milder one (I’ll even admit that the dark examples of government seem to increasingly be outweighing the good examples), but so far you continue to be tempered by the dark examples, continue to shut out or downplay the light, and it makes your posts far less objective.

    How can you be so smart and so stuck at the same time?

    Also, you are free to continue using the word “myriad,” even though now it’s like a professor’s tick to me at this point. Out of respect for your intelligence and for Rick’s blog I pledge here to not cross the line into too personal, but it seems I must at least be biting and combative to a degree! It is my free will to not cross some lines, but your paradoxical combination of intelligence and stubborn myopia does provoke a rise from me, I will also give you that!!

    • January 21, 2012 3:29 pm

      You are still confusing libertarian ism with Anarchism.

      i have never claimed to be opposed to people coming together to solve problems. Nor to holding people accountable for harm that they do to others.

      I am sure there are such examples. Most of us grasp the recovery from Katrina was an unmitigated disaster – yet more than a century before, people across the nation came together after the Johnstown flood and in less than a year the town was restored – all this was done entirely without contributions from government.

      Olstrom’s Nobel prize in economics was for uncovering the myriads of ways which people came together on their own to solve problems that were presumed to be intractable without government – essentially her Nobel was for rebutting the “Tragedy of the Commons” and the concept that in times of difficulty absent government leadership people panic and everything goes to hell.

      My argument is not that people fail, nor that all problems should be solved by individuals. It is that with very few exceptions – those things requiring nearly the entire resources of a society to focus on accomplishing a single purpose – war being the best example, bottom up structures provide more freedom and out perform top-down. Government is intrinsically top-down.

      I suspect that few here doubt I can provide dark examples of government action from now “until the cows come home”. That is not my real point.

      What I get from most here is

      “The default resolution of any problem is government.”

      At the same time, many – possibly most here seem to grasp that government is often wrong. I do not think you have to be libertarian to accept that.

      I personally believe government is net positive less than 10% of the time – that does NOT mean they have only a negative impact 90% of the time, it means the positive impact is less than the negative one 90% of the time.

      But for the sake of argument lets assume government is net positive 75% of the time.
      That is still actually far below free markets. It the market did not on the net win more than 90% of the time it would fail – oh and by win I do not mean simply make money. I mean the sum of all benefits outwieghed the sum of all harms – including the ohio river catching fire.

      Can we accept that people interacting as they please restricted only by the requirement no to harm others – whether acting as individuals, businesses, charities, communities or whatever – anyway that does not require the impramtur of government force one the whole do an excellent job. I have deliberately phrased this as more than an economic argument, because economics is little more than one way of measuring things. To be sure “free markets” are a substantial net win, but everything we do is not economic, and everything that is economic is not solely economic.

      Conversely can we accept that if people acting in whatever way they act without government get things right more than people acting through government, then the default response to any problem should NOT be we need government to do something ?
      Maybe we actually do. I am not personally prepared to bet that national defense as well as that limited policing that is generally considered the legitimate role of government can be accomplished privately. And if I want to here arguments on that I would go elsewhere than TNM – say C4SS.

      Regardless, as rabid as you think my defense of “free markets” is, I think this mindless defense of government is incomprehensible. You would think I am trying to murder your children. With great anguish it has been possible to pry out of some that government sometimes fails, but it is not possible to get anyone to consider BEFORE proposing any government action that it might fail. Trying to demonstrate that it might or even probably will fail, is treated as evil obstructionism. Do you understand that owns a statist worldview at odds with your words ?

  54. Pat Riot permalink
    January 21, 2012 12:36 pm

    Asmith,

    I am assuming that you are retired and have some available time. I would appreciate any way you can manage to condense your posts, I further assume the condensing of your posts would be appreiciated by others who are juggling full-time work, spouses, children, home maintenance, eating, brushing ofteeth, et cetera..I say this realizing at times I am the #2 offender, but I believe my verbosity results from your voluminousness.

    • January 21, 2012 3:51 pm

      I am not retired. I am both employed, self employed, and a landlord. I have a family with two teenage kids, both of which are cyber chartered and I have an extended family with two elderly relatives increasingly dependent on me. and I am in the midst of building my own home – myself – and last year my income was barely above the median.

      If I were retired – which is unlikely to ever happen, I would be happy to spend far more time condensing all of my writing. I have no doubt it could be far more readable and persuasive with more effort.

      My voluminousness results from my lack of time. I write my thoughts quickly with little review – not as I would for a client or publication. I do it as a form of therapy. I do it as a means of improving my ability to rapidly and cogently bring my thoughts together.

      You will also be happy to know that I delete almost 50% of what I write before posting it, And i spend more time reading other blogs – conservative, liberal, libertarian than I do posting here.

      I have chosen to post here, because despite the humorous but usually totally off point Monty Python references, participants in this blog are extremely civil in comparision to most.

      Send some time on ThinkProgress or Daily Kos, or TPM/TPD There is no real discussion or argument there. Depart from the progressive party line and you are a republitard or some other juvenile or scatalogical insult. Conservative blogs tend to be less chock full of insults – but not devoid of them. Regardless, insults and depreciative humor are not a substitute for thought.

      I am sorry if my volume and verbosity troubles some.

      Rick is free to shut me down if he chooses – it is his blog. And you are free to ignore my posts as you choose.

      Like yours my time is valuable. I choose freely to put some of it in here. I choose a style that allows me to minimize that time at the cost of occasional mistakes in typing and accuracy.

      I frequently choose to make a statement I know is correct, without going to the web to find the NBER, Wikipedia, CBO, or left leaning economist support for the claim. Finding a credible to TNM readers source often is far more time consuming than writing.

      At the same time I think I have been more persuasive when I have back up what I say particularly with more progressive sources.

      I am truly sorry if my volume is a problem for you.
      but it should be obvious by now that I believe in individual liberty – including your freedom to ignore me if you choose.

  55. Pat Riot permalink
    January 21, 2012 12:51 pm

    Asmith, If you are retired and collecting, say a pension and social security, I wonder how your rigid views would change if both your pension and social security stopped coming in, if the home, condo, or apartment you live in went up for Sheriff’s sale, if you had to live for a time in a car like our poster Rob ? I wonder how willing you would be to wait for supply and demand, for CEO’s and stock selling to give you a fair shot at life then?

    Not too far above you asked if government gave us the light bulb, Lasik, etc. Yes! Yes, government was PART of the CONTEXT/ENVORONMENT that allowed entrepreneurs to operate and bring us those things. It’s a narrower view to focus only on the business and industry and no the whole picture. Why aren’t entrepreuners flocking to Ethiopia or Somalia? Can you just stay with this one point instead of branching out erratically like LIBERTARIANS GONE WILD! ? Have you ever been diagnosed with autism? I ask that seriously, not disrespectfully. Dialogues with you remind me very much of dialogues with two autistic acquaintences of mine.

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 21, 2012 1:21 pm

      Heh, Pat I feel your pain. These dialogues remind me of a debate with a defense lawyer who is honor bound never to give an inch or concede the smallest point. That set of tactics are only necessary in a legal context and are poorly effective and very frustrating in an internet discussion. Still he gets us going, we have all taken turns chasing that obnoxious kid around the playground, there is always a kid like that on every playground.

      Intelligence is such an elusive concept. Is being hard wired to have only one opinion as a universal answer to every question and see only the facts that support it intelligent behavior? I say it isn’t. I’d say our black Knight is talented, and perhaps intelligent in his own field, but having only one possible reply to any question on politics is not what I would call intelligent. A trained parrot that knew how to find facts on the internet could do as well.

      I knew that the Dhlii Lama would have an absurd reply to my post on the tremendous environmental problems caused by industries that were fixed only due to government regulation. He did not dissapoint, all that catastrophic damage to the environment turned out to be “trivial.” He is trivial, a detail freak with no connection with the real world and a philosophy that was already inadequate to social reality a century ago or more.

      It would be just funny if conservative Republicans had not taken that philosophy he loves as an intellectual foundation for supporting and justifying many kinds of raping and pillaging as long as its done by business. Its an absolutely dangerous philosophy it turns freedom into something evil.

      • January 21, 2012 4:26 pm

        I was preparing a post with references to the fact that government was and still is our greatest polluter, but for the sake of argument let us say that government regulation cleaned the air and water – all by itself, that business was entirely responsible. There are even a few other positives I will give you.

        Are you prepared to claim that every benefit of government added together is worth 40-50% of everything we produce ?
        Are you even prepared to defend that the entirety of beneficial services performed by the entirety of government – federal, state and local – by whatever definition of beneficial you wish to use, are worth more than say 10-15% of everything we produce/earn ?

        i am not here to defend republicans, and I will be happy to agree that Republicans pick and chose from libertarian values – particularly the economic ones when it suits them, but do not really subscribe to them.

        At the same time if you think the primary corporatism enablers are republicans you are delusional. You do not grasp that most of the things you hate are the results of most of the things you claim to love.

      • January 21, 2012 5:27 pm

        My wife is a defense lawyer.

        I hope you never need one.

        Regardless, lawyers are actually bound by rules of professional ethics.
        For the most part these are really never applied to prosecutors.
        Virtually anything that goes wrong in a criminal court is by the standards of the law, the defense lawyers fault.

        Almost any action that the judge or prosecutor take that is illegal, wrong, in error, …. if not objected to, is the defense lawyers fault.

        If you even end up at the defense table in a criminal court you will learn rapidly that for the most part the rights you thought you had are long gone. That your presumption of innocence is technical at best, you were found guilty the moment you were arrested.

        the primary tasks most defense lawyers perform today is getting their clients the best deal possible – and even there everything is against them. Most criminal defendants understand how the system works and that is all they are after.

        Trials usually only occur when the prosecution wishes to send a message, when a defendant is stubborn as hell, or when someone is actually innocent – truly innocent people rarely negotiate.

        Most criminal defendants are not innocent – though it is very common for them not to be guilty of what they are charged with.

        Most of the time the defense attorney does not know and does not want to know for certain whether the defendant is guilty – they presume they all are, but so long as they do not know they are free to argue innocence.
        No defense attorney can present evidence they know is false – though that does not seem to stop prosecutors.

        Further defending those you think are guilty is easy. You do the best you can and when they are convicted which they almost always are, you have done your job, and have nothing to be ashamed of – justice has been served.

        Defending someone you know is actually innocent is traumatic. They are still going to lose and you can not escape knowing that somehow had you done better they would have been acquitted.

    • January 21, 2012 4:15 pm

      Agreed government is part of the context/environment.
      Commerce invention progress strongly prefer peace, and I am not prepared to propose these can be handled absent government.
      Even the declaration of independence establishes the role of government as securing our rights. Again protection from those who would use force to harm us, is the responsibility of government – as is providing the means to secure compensation from those who have harmed us unintentionally – these are the limits and definition of criminal and civil law.

      At the depths of the Civil war the US government provided these – at a peak cost of 8% of GDP. The federal government today costs almost 25% of GDP and we are not involved in a war for survival. We are accumulating debt as a percent of GDP at a rate equal to the peak of World War II.

      Providing that context/environment is the obligation of government – if it can not do that, then there is absolutely no reason for it to exist.

      Regardless, I will be happy to give government credit for that portion of or progress.
      But I would note that it frequently impedes precisely those obligations that are its sole responsibility.

      i am quite healthy (for 53) mentally and otherwise. I have been very fortunate is myriads of ways, and I grasp that. I am fully aware that free markets are not some strict meritocracy – that success and failure are driven by myriads of elements including but not limited to merit.

      I have had to live under abysmal circumstances during some periods of my life. fortunately neither recently nor for long.

      More recently I have had to pay 3 mortgages, the expenses for a family, healthcare, an assortment of extrodinary repair costs, and manage the protracted death of a close relative living with me – all on one third the income I had a few years earlier. From what I am reading my family would likely have qualified for food stamps and other government benefits.
      Like many of us I have had the money I was saving for retirement pilaged by this crisis.

      I wisely moved a significant amount of my retirement savings from a CD to the stock market in August of 2008 – so yes I can understand people’s anger and pain.
      I know exactly what it is like to have to chose between the mortgage and food.

      As to Ethiopia and Somalia. I am a libertarian not an anarchist – Hong Kong and Singapore seem to be doing quite well. But despite its slip into quasi socialism this country alone in the entire world for all its flaws is the beacon of liberty. The world still flocks here. People die trying to come here – where they will be scorned, get crappy jobs with low pay, be constantly at risk of deportation – still they come.

      And Somalia BTW for all its enormous problems is actually doing better than it has in a long time. There is still killing – but far less. The Somali’s are doing better with the non-existant government they have today, than the dysfunctional government they had a decade ago.
      disfunctional.

  56. Pat Riot permalink
    January 21, 2012 1:04 pm

    When the autistic individuals I know are “cornered” with something that makes them uncomfortable, they look away and starting spouting things related, nominally related, and marginally related, and at a fairly rapid pace. These individuals are above-average talented and smart, but there’s a facet of them that just isn’t right. That’s not saying we’re not all flawed, and I certainly have my share of flaws.

    Romney has flaws too; that’s inevitable…

    • Ian CSE permalink
      January 21, 2012 3:20 pm

      Ah, worked Romney in!

      I’ve long shared your theory but I did not mention it. I figure its his business whether he wants to say or not. I’m ADD, that’s my burden, I think some probably have been able to guess it.

      • January 21, 2012 4:47 pm

        Whether you are ADD or you want to believe I am autistic or whatever – I don’t care.

        i can have sympathy or interest for the issue you face in your personal life.

        But your ideas and mine have merit independently of anything that might afflict us,

    • January 21, 2012 4:41 pm

      I am glad you are having fun diagnosing me. Enjoy yourself.

      Ideas and ideology must hold up under intense scrutiny. I am not “afraid” of being “cornered”, if someone comes up with something that truly challenges some part of my views I will change them. I have done so many times before in my life. I am not affraid of being wrong. I have been wrong frequently in the past, and there are plenty of answer I do not have today – though not mostly of the questions addressed on TNM.

      We are all “flawed”, different – I certainly am. One of the factors that drew me slowly towards limited government in the first place is the recognition that most of the people I knew – all valuable in their own right, contributing members of society, worthwhile people, …. none could have stood up had government focused on them, they would have all ended up in jail, institutions, or poverty. Left alone they did well despite their quirks, but they were not normal. In fact I do not know anyone who is normal – I am actually the most normal person I know – and I am sure you all will be willing to chime and and tell me I am not normal – that will not offend me. I do not know anyone who could actually hold up under intense government interest in their lives. The only value system that made room for all the people I knew was Libertarian.

  57. January 21, 2012 11:54 pm

    Hmm, Romney isn’t looking so “Romnevitable” after his loss in SC. I’m reasonably sure he’ll still win the nomination, if only because he’s the only viable Republican candidate who can win moderate votes from Obama. But it’s clear that American conservatives don’t love him.

    • January 22, 2012 8:02 pm

      I believe a Gallup Poll has Ron Paul in a dead heat in a one-on-one with Obama.
      One of the reasons I do not believe you are a moderate is because, I do not think you have a good grasp of how non-democratic voters will vote.

      If the Senate and/or house remain controlled by republicans I would probably prefer Obama to remain president rather than have the GOP under Romney (or to a lesser extent Gingrich) run the country. Government that governs least governs best, gridlock is good government. I would like to see precisely the conflicts over the budget, spending and debt continue – endlessly if necescary. We will not get the spending reductions we need under Romney, nor likely Gingrich – only the GOP will be to blame. The election of any of the current GOP contenders aside from Ron Paul would decrease the power of fiscal conservatives within the GOP, while the re-election of Obama with a Republican congress would significantly empower them.

      I am for fiscal restraint not the GOP.

      But those are my personal views.
      My reading of the tea leaves is that Obama’s re-election primarily depends on the extent of economic improvement in the next six months. I believe we will likely see continued mild improvement, and in that case Obama will be re-elected – barely.

      But it is very dicey, people like Obama – I like Obama, but very few think he has been an effective president, and he does not seem to be doing anything to change that.
      It is entirely possible that god forbid, Santorum could defeat him even with unemployment down to 8% by September.

      Regardless, Pres. Obama’s assurance of independent voters regardless of the GOP candidate are weak. Romeny’s appeal is to center leaning democrats, not actual independents – outside New England.

  58. Ian CSE permalink
    January 22, 2012 2:30 pm

    Now, as to the environmental victories that have occurred via the environmental movement and environmental regulations, there is nothing “Trivial” about it. It took me a few days to calm down enough to try to write a civil reply to that horseshit, but I’m still not sure how civil I’m gonna be.

    You used a clever turn of phase once, dhlii, some issue was not “the hill you wanted to die on.” That’s a very good expression when turned on its head. The environment IS the hill I am willing to die on. Much less evolved animals than humans do not foul their own nests. No intelligent person, by definition of the word intelligent, can fail to grasp the huge significance of protecting the environment or fail to grasp that human capabilities have become large enough to do it serious harm and have done it serious harm.

    When I was an environmental engineer/hydrogeologist for the state of Vermont for some years, the sites in my workload included Superfund sites and other sites contaminated by solid and toxic wastes. I often felt quite a bit more sympathy for the industries and businesses we affected and the jobs of their employees than I did for many of the environmentalists I encountered, who were very well intentioned but often horribly uninformed. I worked hard to protect businesses in my caseload from over-zealous application or interpretation of Vermont rules and regulations. I met many activists who believed that they were a hammer, and I, I who had been to school and taken years of my life being educated on subjects such as chemistry and geology that they knew nothing about, I was a nail. Very irritating at times.

    However, I would far rather the world was populated with the worst of those environmental activists than the likes of you. Fortunately, your attitude towards the environment is in a distinct minority today, although too many who hold it have power and money behind them. The rise of the environmental movement and its power to change our habits is the single most important event in the last 100 or so years of human history (no it wasn’t the invention of the i-pod). If your reckless and disrespectful attitude towards nature were to prevail, we will be doomed and we will take tens of thousands of species with us. That would be a far greater disaster, in my view of the world, than anything government has ever done. People with your lassaize-faire (can’t spell it) worshiping of the sacred market and the holy rights of individuals (including corporations it seems) to pollute the bejeezus out of everything are bloody lucky that the unwashed uneducated masses include those who give a shit about something larger than money and profit and that government is able to do its imperfect and often clumsy job of regulating where toxic substances can and cannot go. I won’t wait for you to thank us, you’d have to pull your head out of that dark place its in to see the value of environmental regulation as a whole.

    • January 22, 2012 4:34 pm

      I am not arguing that humans should rape pilage and burn the environment or foul their own nests.

      But I will be happy to argue that by myriads of measures we are less environmentally destructive today than 10, 20, 100, 200 years ago.

      And people a century from now will look at some of what we are doing today as barbaric.

      You might have a point that some government regulation may have caused some improvements – though it is trivially arguable that a libertarian property rights scheme would have produced the same results – more efficiently and probably earlier – if you harm someone else you are responsible for the damages.

      Expressed more clearly – if your intent is to prove the value of government or disprove libertarianism “The environment is not the hill you wish to die on”.

      I can not get decent data on whether our water particularly is in better condition today than in 1980. Clearly in very many places it is, but there are also myriads of places where it is worse. Government is (and has been) one of the largest polluters – particularly of water.

      Whether things have improved in the past 30 years or not in the US and the western world cities in particular are far less polluted than the were a century ago.
      Most of the gains are the result of the transition from coal to oil, gas, and electric, and from the transition to cars – neither change having anything to do with government whatsoever.

      Businesses today – particularly US businesses produce more and more with less and less waste – not because of regulations, but because waste is – well waste. the economics of turning a problem into a product are incredible. That does not mean we have no business or industrial waste, just that we are continuously decreasing the waste in the production of everything – and we are doing it where there is no regulation as well as where there is extensive regulation.

      I have no interest in defending the profits or jobs of industries that engage in pollution. I do not feel sorry for those who have to clean up the damage they have caused.
      I have no doubt there are real instances of unethical businesses knowingly engaged in poisoning the environment.
      At the same time even though i will obligate anyone who harmed others to pay for or correct that harm, I do not believe that every service station owner who dumped waste oil behind his station 40 years ago is an environmental criminal.
      Many practices that even government blesses today will be considered harmful in the future.

      if you think 16th century man or cave man, were clean freaks you are nuts. Before you tout the cleanliness of nature – visit the zoo. Most animals do not foul their beds – neither do humans. But they foul their houses, and their communities. Modern Man invented indoor plumbing not whales or chimpanzees, and birds poop everywhere but their nests.

      The environmental movement has had negligable significant impact on our relations with the environment, beyond producing a generation of city dwellers that want to force their view of nature onto those people who actually live in it.

      Every city in this nation has a recycling program. If I recall correct the best programs actually recycle about 40% of the material we all laboriously separate into bins. The norm is less than 15%. Any movement that has consumed millions of hours of human manual labor to accomplish absolutely nothing is not a success.

      Meanwhile business which is almost universally excluded from recycling regulations, has been incredibly successful in doing real recycling – finding a way to transform waste into products profitably.

      I do not have a wasteful and disrespectful attitude towards nature – but I have a very hostile attitude towards those who for the most part see nature in postcards and TV demand to tell me precisely how I must live in the little corner of nature that is mine.

    • January 22, 2012 6:51 pm

      You constantly presume that both I and practically every business owner/manager in existence care about nothing but profits and would sacrifice their own children to the god of mammon.

      If I recall correctly CSE means “currently self employed” though a common term it is a misnomer. You are a business owner. As I read your posts unless you are some aberration, that means you are one of those avaricious despoilers of the planet.

      If that does not describe you – why does it describe other businesses that you really know nothing about.

      I have no problem with holding people responsible for the harm they cause to others.
      I am also not stupid enough to think that all or even most businesses place profits about real harm to others.

      If manhattan had indian campfires proportionate to its population each night, it would be a smoldering ash pit and everyone living there would have died of black lung or worse.

      Growing and concentrating humanity poses problems that hunter gatherers with thousands of square miles to despoil just do not have.

      As society advances and people concentrate things that were not a problem before.
      At the population density of less than one person per square mile for much of human existence (and a life span of a bit more than 20 years) it is pretty hard to poison yourself. At the 135/mi^2 that is the world, or 16.500/mi^2 that is Hong Kong otherwise acceptable practices are deadly.

      Just as a few people are serial killers a few business owners and CEO’s do not give a damn about anything but themselves. But the vast majority of businesses do the best they can to meet the increasingly complex issues they face. No business actually seeks to poison its customers, its workers, its neighbors, very few continue that long if they know they are doing it.

    • January 22, 2012 8:09 pm

      How many of those Vermont businesses that you were dealing with were evil criminal polluting for the greedy hell of it vermin ?

      I am guessing none. I am sure you may have dealt with difficult people – but did you actually deal with any of the carcitures presented here when talk runs to business ?

      I have been involved in business for most of my life. I have dealt with good and bad people, smart ones and stupid ones but I have not yet met the greed before everything carcitures of the posts here and of the left.

      On very rare occasions I have actually read about a few real life ones – but I know more crooked politicians than uber greedy businessmen.

  59. January 22, 2012 7:49 pm

    Even I am surprised at Romney’s 12 point loss in South Carolina.

    While it is still likely he will receive the GOP nomination, I would continue to remind those of you who have never voted anything but democratic and have no clue as to how republicans actually think, that the “Anybody but Romney” vote is enormous.
    I am not entirely sure that if Santorum and Gingrich dropped out of the race tomorrow, that conservative and Tea Party Republicans would not vote for Ron Paul before Romney.

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