Showing posts from October, 2011

Elizabeth Warren's Famous Rant

Elizabeth Warren achieved national fame overnight with some pungent words, widely reported :  " There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody. "You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for..." The rest is quoted below. She makes a powerful appeal in the populist, soak-the-rich tone the White House has been setting. But I find her understanding flawed. It overlooks (or ignores) that before we, the "rest of us," pay for anything, there must be enterprise and profit first of all. Most of us pay taxes out of wages, and wages come ultimately from the existence of profitable enterprises. That is true even of wages paid by the government--since those come out of taxes, and taxes come out of wages, and out of profits. That has, of course, been true all along and it is true now. The government would have nothing to spend on roads, schools, police or f

More Rule Four -- a death this time

This story  out of Oregon is a tragic one, a young life snuffed out in a failure to apply Rule Four: Be sure of your target and what is beyond your target. I remarked  on a similar story just last month. To repeat: It is hard to imagine how you are going to have a shooting misadventure if you internalize the Four Rules pertaining to gun safety and always hold yourself to them. If you do not know what the rules are, or have forgotten them--if you cannot repeat them off the top of your head--lock away your gun until you can recite them, with feeling.

How to reduce defense spending

The U.S. started out without a large standing army and with militia units under state authority, that could be transferred into federal service at need. The idea was to avoid the risks to liberty, and the expense, of having a lot of armed federal employees trampling about. Militia defense is a robust system. No one fights harder than someone defending his own turf. We saw this, for example, in the Second World War. The Japanese defending Japanese territory, on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, were reported by those on our side to be the damnedest thing you ever saw. These Japanese were regulars, in a national army, not militia, but the feeling--as reported from their side--was it was now personal. Other examples, from other countries, may come to mind. Switzerland has a good example of a modern militia system. Their stance has long been one of neutrality backed by good riflemen. It seems to have worked very well: They have managed to stay out of the wars for a long time, with obvious benefits

The unpleasant solution to the public benefits problem

Social welfare schemes have a built-in tendency to grow and multiply, as politicians discover it is in their interest to expand them, and add new ones. Recipients of public largess tend--understandably--to support parties, politicians and programs that deliver the benefits. If we want to know how all this ends we need look no farther afield than the countries of the Euro zone. Greece is the first to crack under the strain of debts it cannot pay; it will not be the last. Here in the United States are not at the breaking point yet but we are getting there. We are making the same mistake; we are spending money we do not have. Of course it seems like a good idea at first to dole out benefits at public expense, but there is a very considerable downside. It is  difficult to shrink social spending, a process that amounts to clawing back benefits from people who have become accustomed to think they deserve them. Indeed, the United States' highly touted welfare reform under Clinton di

The 'Hands Off My Department' Department

In this article  the IRS commissioner claims that cutting his operating budget would be disastrous. Where have we heard that before? Why, we hear it every time anyone proposes cutting any spending in Washington. Can't be done! Preposterous! Impossible! It would wreck the economy or be cruel to the least fortunate, or something. It happens every single time! A government spending cut is proposed and then the howling starts--oh no, you must not cut this. So you move along to the next thing, only to be told you can't cut that , either. Or the other thing ! It ends up in a big double shuffle in which you're told you can't cut anything. At all. Ever. At least nothing serious--maybe the Marines have too much coffee money. Take it up with them. The Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner opposes cuts for Puerto Rico . “I recognize the need to reduce our nation’s deficit in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. But, as a recent editorial stated, ‘these are the wrong cuts, to th

The invisible hand is clutching our throat

The economy is on everybody's mind these days. No one, aside from a few professionals, thinks about the economy when it is good. It's like your health: You only think of it when you are sick. Here are a few thoughts that are rattling around in my head, these days. 1. The bailouts were categorically mistaken. When businesses fail they should collapse. This is as natural, and as necessary, as fallen leaves providing mulch for the forest floor. When businesses fail in the normal and proper way, the people who take the losses are those who invested in questionable schemes and the rest of us get off scot free. New opportunities are created for new businesses that will seek to avoid the mistakes of their predecessors. This leads to improved business practices and a better economy over time, but of course that only works if people bear their own risks and take their own losses. 2. I knew just what was wrong when I heard Dubya gabbling about violating free market principles to sa

The real Greek crisis

In this article , AP's Christopher Torchia gives us a somber reflective look at Greece's economic situation, and sums up with some words from Aristotle on the seductiveness of riches. I like the article but the author quotes the wrong ancient Greek. Aesop's story of the goose that laid gold eggs is more apropos. Greece's problem is government took too much out of the economy to give to too many people for too many reasons. Greece is not the only country that is doing this and it won't be the only one to fail economically because of it. They are going first because they have relatively a small and weak economy. The others will succumb by and by. The idea of paying people with their own money is so preposterous that, like the big lie, it escapes immediate detection.  In the long term, of course, truth comes out whether we like it or not. Æsop.  (Sixth century  B.C. )   Fables. The Harvard Classics.   1909–14.   The Goose With the Golden Egg     O NE  d

Science versus religion? Ah, go on with you!

People who assert that science trumps religion are making an error in reasoning. It is a subtle error but serious. Science has for its basis the philosophical idea called naturalism. (Consider science's former name, "natural philosophy.") Naturalism is the assumption that we will explain what we observe without reference to gods, devils, ghosts or  fairy godmothers. What can repeatedly be observed and measured is the whole scope of discussion. It is a good and useful assumption: It has been a great help, in bygone times, in sorting out received superstitions from actual facts about the natural world. It has also led, in our era, to progress in finding ways to manipulate the world around us: new medicines and materials and machines and marvels galore. (It has also brought us atom bombs, gas warfare and unintended consequences like drug resistant bacteria and ways to die by accident that no one a century or two ago had heard of or imagined.) Naturalism, though a very