Tuesday, December 15, 2009


It makes as much sense for you to call Obama a Marxist as it does to call Rush Limbaugh a Hindu.

Obama isn't even a communist, even if he's forged alliances with communists in the past for political gain.

Karl Marx was a philosopher and economist of the 19th century who would be a footnote in the history of economic thought had his ideas not inadvertently influenced half the population of the globe, and served as a philosophical basis for the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, etc.

Why do I say inadvertent?  Because Marx wasn't a malicious totalitarian (misunderstandings of the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" notwithstanding), he did not advocate, and even implicitly or explicitly opposed many of the tactics later put into practice by communist countries--tactics and policies which were purely hypothetical in Marx's time but which were nonetheless considered by communists at that time as possible courses of action.

Marx's own opinions were all wrong (anything he said that happened to be true was existing economic theory that he had studied), but he was also taken out of context, distorted, and misrepresented by people claiming to be his followers.  And that just in his lifetime, he himself said "I am not a Marxist."

Whatever you can say about Marx, he never planned for a brutal police state (indeed his views on fighting crime centered around changing the social environment, not on more policing), brainwashing propaganda, education being controlled by the state for its own ends, a body of central planners deciding everything in the economy.  Quite the contrary.  In fact, the alleviation of poverty via was not his aim, it was rather incidental, a side effect, a natural outcome, to his true aim:  to free mankind of all restrictions and allow him to reach his full potential.  That's how he saw it anyway.

Now, I happen to think that a free country with a free market and a system of law and order allows that to happen far better than a communist country, and I sincerely believe, based on my understanding of Marx the man, that if he were alive today he'd recant his belief in socialism and become a libertarian free marketeer.  After all, he valued empirical fact and logical reasoning, and now that socialism has been discredited in the eyes of all serious, non-political economists, he'd have to admit that the free market works far better than he originally thought it did.  Economic theory has come a long way since the 1800s and the economies themselves have developed.

As the world economies modernized and became less and less dependent on simple manual labor, standards of living soared, productivity soared, mankind's potential to fulfill his own destiny has soared, and people have more freedom and options and luxuries than ever before.

Never forget that Marx believed that the free market was not something to squash, but a necessary step in mankind's evolution, as were the hunter-gatherer stages, the tribal stages, the feudal stages, the mercantilist stages, etc.  Given how far economic theory (and economies themselves) have advanced since then, he'd have no choice but to admit he was wrong about the free market.  And he certainly would weep with shame at his name and his face being attached to the horrors of real-world communism.

Back to Obama...

In no way, under no definition of the word, can Obama be called a Marxist.  He is not a follower of the historical Marx, nor is he one of the vulgar Marxists who never gave a fig about economics or what Marx really said.  Obama has borrowed a lot of communistic rhetoric and approaches, and he's appointed communists or far-left nutbars to meaningless, just-for-show cabinet posts (really, a "green jobs" csar?  nothing more than a PR stunt), but where the rubber meets the road, where the real economic policy of the administration is devised, he has hired mainstream market economists.  Christina Romer, Larry Summers, Austan Goolsbee, etc.  These are devotees of the so-called neoclassical synthesis, a take on Keynesianism that incorporates classical micro and macroeconomic thought and has become even more grounded in free market economics after the influence of the Chicago School and Austrian School.  He reappointed Ben Bernanke as "head" of the Federal Reserve Board, another mainstream economist (who fully recognizes that the Great Depression was caused by the Fed in the first place).

This shows that Obama has no intentions of communizing America--this isn't the crowd he'd hire if he were.  Heck, he could have surrounded himself with even more far to the left (but still mainstream) economists such as Krugman, Stiglitz, Blinder, Tyson, etc. (and indeed many of these characters have worked as informal advisors at one point or another), but for his core economic team he chose mainstream market economists.  He could have gone whole-hog heterodox and hired nothing but Galbraitheans and socialists and communists to devise his economic policy.  But he hasn't.  So stop saying he's a Marxist or a communist, it just makes you look foolish and extreme.

Now I'm not naive, clearly Obama sees a larger role for the government in peoples' lives, he clearly wants to shape society according to his own vision rather than letting the dictates of the market (i.e. the demands of the people themselves) shape society.  But he's not so stupid to think that he doesn't need economic growth to fund his projects and that requires a market economy.  It needs businesses turning a profit and hiring people, it needs people getting rich, making millions, people spending their money on stuff.  He's under the delusion that the government can stimulate growth, but he's not so delusional that he thinks the government alone can make the economy "run."

So what role does Obama see for the government?  Clearly he sees a larger welfare state.  Indeed, making people dependent on the government for something as basic as their health care guarantees that the welfare state will become a way of life for the whole population.  It puts a floor on whatever government-shrinking measures reformers will try in the future.  Nothing short of a world-war level catastrophe or depression-level recession can create enough turmoil to force a government to drop socialized medicine, once enacted.  Or a very severe debt crisis.....

He sees greater government involvement in education, in using education to foster collectivism and "volunteering" as an end to itself.  I don't think Obama has any grand end in mind other than being able to shape society according to his vision, or the vision of "people like him," i.e. elitist leftists who never produce anything of value yet are wealthy anyway.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Clearing Up Some Misconceptions for the Left

Listening to lefties talk, reading their books and editorials, and hanging around on their message boards, has taught me how they view those who disagree with them.  And they tend to completely misunderstand not only what their ideological opponents believe, but also what motivates their opponents' beliefs.  For example, pro-lifers aren't against abortion because they are "anti-woman," or believe women have to be chained to a stove, or are sexist.  We're against abortion because it takes the life of an unborn human being.  Attend any pro-life event, visit any pro-life pregnancy help center, and what will you find?  Women.  Lots of them.  Look at Sarah Palin, do you think she's anti-woman, hates women, thinks women belong in the home and not the office?  Oh, that's right, lefties cannot rationally discuss Sarah Palin.  Shouldn't have brought her up.  Sorry.

Anyway, I wanted to address some of the more common misconceptions and myths I see coming from liberals.  I won't go super-in-depth on any one of these, just touch on them briefly.  Many times on Democratic Underground I've wanted to interject to clear something up, but of course I'm not allowed to post.  So I hope some of you guys/gals/misc. read this:

1.  We're not "anti-union" because we're "anti-worker," we're are simply opposed to the tactics "unions" (and I put unions in quotes because the modern, legally-enforced unions are really rent-seekers and not true examples of collective bargaining at all) use, and we are opposed to the special enforcement unions get from the government in non-right-to-work states.  We fully support the right of workers to organize and voluntarily associate, so long as they remain within their rights and are not given special rights (rights which infringe upon business owners as well as their own fellow workers) to do so.  We believe unions can only be a force for the greater good when they have to stand or fall on their own merits.  We also believe that there is a major difference between merely organized labor and the modern-day legal construct we call "unions."  I know I said it earlier but it bears repeating.  We believe that artificially raising wages (this includes non-pecuniary benefits and the increased risk associated with strikes) above market levels leads to greater unemployment among non-unionized workers.  For that matter, so do virtually all economists.

2.  We're not all rich.  I know, some of you already know this.  Unfortunately, you also seem to think that if a person is a rightie and is not rich, then it's because they want to be rich and so cling to a "pro-rich, pro-business" ideology, or because we've been duped by our corporate masters to be too scared to vote the way that would most benefit us, since you lefties are all about taking away our Bibles, guns, and turning our sons into fags.  I'm satirizing your own satire there, in case you didn't notice.

3.  There's actually more ideological diversity among us than you might think.  Though not nearly as paralyzing as the special-interest splintering I see on the left, there are atheist libertarians and gay-hating, 700 Club-watching, protectionist, welfare-state backers among us, and a jillion other varieties I could mention.  I spend some time on Free Republic, and at least half of that is spent arguing with my fellow righties.

4.  We read.  And not just the Bible and Sarah Palin's book.  I literally have more books than places to put them.  I read 19th-century classics, left-wing 20th-century authors such as William S. Burroughs, Albert Camus, and Kurt Vonnegut, all sorts of economics texts both positive and normative, sci-fi, fantasy, the list goes on.  Most righties I know also read voraciously.  In fact, I don't think anybody quite enjoys reading history or economics more than righties.

5. We don't hate the environment, although we often make jokes about driving extra miles on Earth Day and clubbing seals just to tweak you guys.  In fact, since a disproportionately high number of us are rural or suburban dwellers who enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, hunting, and boating, you can bet we care very much about keeping the environment pristine.  But we don't buy into your trendy hysteria or your attempts to prop up a dubious hypothesis on the weather as a means to enact government control over the economy and hence, over peoples' lives.  And be honest lefties, that's what the global warming scam is all about.  So go ahead and pat yourselves on the back for bringing the world clean air and water, but pat us too, since basic conservationism and restricting pollution are non-partisan issues that nobody has a claim to.

6.  You're actually not more educated than us.  I know, the figures show that the more graduate level education a person has, the more leftie they are.  But you are forgetting that an enormous number of public school teachers, public administrators, bureaucrats, social workers, "education" specialists, etc., make up most of those numbers.  These people depend on the government's giant welfare state (and its growth) for them to have a job.  They naturally tend towards leftiness.  Most righties I know have a better understanding of history and of the political process, and studies bear that anecdotal evidence out as well.

7.  We're not all about making money.  In fact, we give more to charity than you do.

8.  Not many of us actually "hate" gays, and if and when we vote against gay marriage (and not all of us do), it's because we don't want to be forced to recognize a marriage that conflicts with our religious beliefs.  And that's what it's really all about.  An orthodox Jew shouldn't be forced by the government to eat crab legs and bacon, a Scientologist shouldn't be forced to see a psychiatrist, a Wiccan shouldn't be forced to shave her legs, and I shouldn't be forced to recognize a marriage that conflicts with my religious beliefs.  I happen to believe that the government shouldn't have any role in marriage at all, so that I am not forced to recognize a marriage that conflicts with my values and also I am free to marry whoever I want.  Lefties wanting gay marriage sanctioned by law are seeking a government solution to a government-created problem.

9.  We don't travel less because we're backward, uncultured xenophobes, we travel less because we aren't as rich as you and we have entire families we'd have to bring along.  It's funny how out-of-touch you can be with the culture in your own country, yet consider yourself cultured because you know how to order coffee in Paris.

10.  Palin never said she could see Russia from her porch.  That was an SNL joke.

11.  That offensive Rush Limbaugh quote you heard?  Taken out of context.

12.  We don't love Bush, we weren't brainwashed by Bush, and it actually is possible to be in favor of the Iraq War, against how the post-war occupation was conducted, and not be either a Bushbot or a soulless Nazi.

13.  What you consider torture is actually not even as bad as the routine training exercises we inflict on OUR OWN TROOPS, but since so few of you know anybody serving, you wouldn't know.

14.  When we take a stand against the public education monopoly, we aren't "against education" or "against kids."  Anybody in favor of educating kids would be appalled at our system, not an ally of it.

15.  Islam is not a race, so any criticism of Islam cannot be called racist.  For that matter, Judaism is not a race either.  So you hereby have my permission to criticize Israel without me calling you a racist.

16.  Criticism of Obama is not racism, criticism of Hillary was not sexism.  When you have to resort to irrelevant insults rather than actual reasoned argument, it's time to rethink your stance.

17.  Deficits are bad no matter who makes them, and yes, we criticized Reagan and Bush for their deficits.  We are criticizing Obama more merely because his are so astronomic.

18.  You may not know this, but the stimulus theory has been debunked.  In fact, one of Obama's chief advisors, Dr. Romer, wrote a paper explaining how stimulus has no effect on the economy.

19.  Media consolidation is actually a sign that the traditional media has gotten too big and is shrinking (or about to), not that it has "gotten more powerful."  To wit, recent nosedives in news ratings, paper and magazine subscriptions, etc.

20.  We dislike Nixon, love Reagan, don't care for Bush Sr. and are lukewarm on Bush Jr.  Stop assuming we love and are brainwashed into obedience by every GOP president.  Stop seeing people as products of society or of powerful wealthy special interests, and start seeing them as individuals for a change.

21.  The current recession was not caused by Reaganomics.

22.  Reaganomics doesn't mean what you think it does.  Neither does trickle-down economics, a term which is used more by the left than by the right, and which right-of-center economists didn't invent.

23.  The Reagan deficits were due to increased spending, not tax cuts.  Revenue soared throughout the latter two-thirds of the 80s.  But spending, driven by Congress, soared even more.  Thus, deficits.

24.  "Tax cuts for the rich" don't mean what you think they do.  Despite what you may have heard, the wealthy pay a disproportionately high share of taxes in this country, not lower.  What's called tax cuts for the rich are really attempts to "flatten" the tax system.

25.  We think Cheney's an idiot when he said "Reagan proved deficits don't matter."

26.  Only a regressive tax, not a flat tax, falls disproportionately on the poor.  A progressive tax falls disproportionately on the wealthy, and a flat tax doesn't fall disproportionately heavy on anybody.

27.  Those 91% income taxes of the Eisenhower era?  Three recessions.  It was your hero JFK (who would be a Republican today) that turned things around with tax reductions.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

E.J. Dionne's latest

"Why do I write so many responses to editorials?" you may be asking.  Well, actually you would ask "why does he write so many..."  It's not just to respond to what's being said in editorials, it's because they provide a simple source of stupidity, fallacies, myths, and muddled thinking.  Rebutting the worst offenders is an exercise in wisdom, and since what's being said in these editorials will doubtlessly come up in other editorials, campaign commercials, arguments, etc., it's worth covering here.

This one is a week old or so but I'm just now getting around to talking about it.

BTW, I recommend reading these editorials first, in context, before reading my rebuttal.  This editorial is kinda about a few ballot issues in Maine and Washington state, what he calls "tax-limitation measures" being defeated.  Whether he accurately describes them or not is beside the point, and also beside the point is his main point of the editorial, which is that:

"When advocates of public programs take on the right-wing anti-government crowd directly, the government-haters lose."

First of all, that only matters if the debate is over what kinds of policy are likely to be popular among a given group of voters.  Alas, much to my unhappiness, economic freedom is not always popular with voters, from any area, because it is often seen as a threat to special interests.  Things that in everybody's general interest tend to get less support than things that in somebody's special interest (especially when that special interest can convince other people that it's in their interest too).

That whole debate is aside from the debate over whether a particular policy or program "works" or not.  Minimum wage laws are opposed by virtually all economists, because economists understand that minimum wage laws simply increase unemployment and raise prices on basic goods and services--they do not, contrary to popular belief, raise peoples incomes, and also contrary to popular belief, minimum wage laws are most harmful to the very people these laws were supposed to protect--minorities, teenagers, single mothers, ex-cons, the disabled, etc.

But that's one example.

Something that irritates me in politics is how people act as if something is "right" because it is popular (with voters, whose ignorance of politics and economics is well-documented), and they do this disingenuously.  They sidestep the real argument (would a reducing taxes and lowering government spending lead to greater economic growth?) in favor of some other argument (Americans want more government spending!  We have a mandate from the voters!  etc.).

Also, in this particular instance, Maine and Washington state are two left-of-center, and in some places far-left-of-center, constituencies.  It would be surprising if these ballot initiatives had passed, not been defeated.  As is, the only lesson here is that left-of-center states will vote left.  Way to earn your paycheck, Dionne.

"Only rarely do those who believe in active government take the argument head-on and insist that many of the things government does are necessary and, yes, good. The media almost never discuss what the sweeping dismantling of public services inherent in the rhetoric of the anti-government movement would mean in practice. It's far easier to replay footage from a few tea-party rallies over and over, and discuss some vague "mood" in the electorate."

I really do believe that leftists have something in their brain that censors and distorts reality for them, so that they don't see things as they are.  F'instance, find somebody in one of these "tea party rallies" who is anti-government.  Just one.  Fine one, single anarchist.  You can't.  But you will find people who have different ideas than Dionne has about what powers a government should have and how those powers should be exercised.

Since Dionne doesn't provide specifics here about what "good" things the government does, I can't really rebut it without putting words in his mouth, which I prefer not to do.

"Nor was the anti-TABOR campaign confined to what individuals get out of government. Another ad highlighted the larger social and economic impact of public education. "Without strong public schools, our kids won't be prepared for good jobs," the announcer said. "Maine's future could be in doubt.""

Leftists have two approaches to defending our obsolete, bloated, inefficient, joke of a -baby-sitting-service-pretending-to-be-an-education-system system.  The first, usually done in times of economic growth, is to claim that education isn't just about preparing people for careers (since it's obvious to everybody that they aren't doing this), but preparing them to be "citizens," "well-rounded," "critical thinkers," etc.  They won't debate past this point, because that would mean coughing up empirical evidence that schools actually achieve these things for the majority of it's expensively undereducated students.  On these grounds they defend bloated budgets, more school construction, more teacher hirings, and a system of employment which virtually assures that you will need to commit murder to get fired (and even then at enormous tax-payer expense).

In lean times, leftists resort to another tactic, which is to claim that we need schools to prepare students for the job market and for America to stay competitive.  How much the art classes, strata upon strata of administrators, bands, sports, extra-curricular activities, and books about how the Great Depression was caused by Bush is contributing to students learning how to read, write, and do math is not clear, but I suspect it ain't contributing much.  This is a tricky defense for leftists to try, since the next obvious question would be "well then why do education costs keep rising while reading, writing, math, and science scores keep going down?"  Leftists have a few options here.  They can provide cooked statistics that look at the data in just the right way to declare it a "myth," or they can hope that voters are stupid and will fall for the original "schools make better workers" argument.  Unfortunately it works for them--for now.

Given that the home-schooling system proves that average parents working with their average kids with cheap textbooks studying at home with their kids for a few hours a day produces far better results than our expensive schooling-industrial complex, it's only a matter of time before the populace slowly wakes up to the realization that our education system isn't just broken, it's actually not working at all, and students are coming out of high school no more educated than they were when they went in.

Back to the editorial:

"In Washington state -- where tax limitation was opposed by leading moderate Republicans, including former governor Dan Evans and former senator Slade Gorton -- the No campaign offered a cross-generational message, focusing on cuts in both school budgets and home care for seniors."

Obamacare is opposed by "leading moderate Democrats," but I doubt Dionne would use that factoid as part of an argument for why it should be opposed.  Notice again how the left uses the most vulnerable, or the allegedly most vulnerable, as hostages for their policies.  "Vote our way or the kids and the old folks get it!"

Folks, let me tell you, if the inefficiency and bureaucratic crap and wasted resources on this or that "initiative" were taken out of the American welfare system, we could provide live-in DOCTORS for these old people and private tutors for these kids.  Not that I advocate that.  I'm just pointing it out.  The real enemies of these people are the leftists who run the welfare system programs and departments, who enlarge them and enlarge them and make actual service to their consumers incidental to the whole process.  I have an insider's view on this.

I won't quote it, but Dionne also makes the irrelevant point that the gay-marriage ban passed in Maine while the tax-limiting proposal failed.  I guess he lives in the fantasy land where social conservatives and people who believe in sound economics are always one and the same.

He finishes with an Obama quote:

"Obama took a brief whack at doing so in his September health-care speech. He noted that his predecessors "understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, the vulnerable can be exploited." Why aren't we hearing more of this?"

Possibly because it's bunk, and Obama knows he can't provide real specifics.  He knows, as his famous econ advisors have undoubtedly told him, that the Great Depression was caused by the Federal Reserve (i.e. da gubmint) not a market crash as we are erroneously taught in history class, that markets fix themselves, that monopolies don't exist in a free market, and that his concerns about exploitation of the vulnerable hardly justify the type of socialism he's trying to introduce.

It's more phony false dichotomy from the left.  Real free market economists, from Smith to Hayek to Friedman to Sowell have held that there is a role for the state in preventing coercion and fraud, for maintaining law and order, for enforcing contracts.  But it's bad economics to say that markets need a hand of wise policy to guide them, unless, of course, you were trying to make the economy fit your view of society...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Things I Hate About Politics--Part One

This is the first in a series of posts (future posts to arrive whenever I feel like it) about thinks I dislike about politics (which is plenty).  First, I'm going to focus on what the people, i.e. voters and non-voters who are not politicians, bureaucrats, or employed by the government do that bug me (though you'll notice that quite a lot of these things are also practiced by politicians).

1.  The tendency to believe uncritically what alleged statistics or facts you hear from somebody on "your side," and to automatically disbelieve any alleged statistic or fact that comes from "the other side."  People often do this to protect themselves against reality, they'd rather believe a falsehood than a truth, because believing the truth might mean changing their beliefs on policy (though this assumption is often false).

2.  People's lack of curiosity about how the other side thinks and feels.  I often hear people of various viewpoints describe people who disagree with them as liars, jerks, or just stupid.  Sometimes that's the case, sometimes people are liars, jerks, or stupid.  But when I hear somebody describe the other side that way, that tells me they don't know much about the other side, their understanding of the other side is limited to what "their" media tells them about the other side (i.e. what Rush says about the left or what Michael Moore says about the right), or is defined by the lunatic fringe of the other side, or misunderstandings of what exactly motivates the other side.  Which tells me that you don't understand the issues yourself very well, it tells me that you are in a cocoon where your beliefs reign supreme and unquestioned.  If you can't understand your views in relation to the views of those who disagree with you, how well do you understand political issues?  How well do you understand how prices work if you cannot observe an economy where prices don't function properly or at all?  Understanding other viewpoints isn't about making compromises or being weak, it's simply about understanding, gaining knowledge.  It does not necessarily imply any change in your positions on the issues.

3.  The kneejerk reaction to be against something that the other side is for.  This is often because of what motivates their policy positions, rather than what that particular policy position is.  F'instance, I consider myself in favor of free immigration and am against deportation of illegal aliens and am in favor of some form of amnesty for workers who are already here--although my reasons are practical in nature and differ entirely for the reasons that leftists hold to similar policy (yes, to calm your fears, I am opposed to immigrants benefiting from the American welfare system and believe violent criminals ought to be deported).  For the left, a good example is minimum wage laws.  Every economist agrees, and so does the empirical data, that minimum wage laws simply raise unemployment among the least-skilled workers--teenagers, certain minorities (why only certain minorities?  that's for a future post), ex-cons, in other words the people who most need to improve their job skills and productivity are the first ones cut out of the work force when minimum wage laws are enacted or raised.  Even flaming left-wing economists oppose them for this reason.  Yet rank and file Democrats and lefties are whole-heartedly in favor of minimum wage laws, and raising them to ridiculous, economy-crippling heights.  Why?  Because the other side is opposed to minimum wage laws and/or hikes.  Lefties don't want to find themselves in agreement with (dun dun DUN!!!!) Big Business.

4.  Feeling the need to defend something a politician said because they are the same party as you.  One of the liberating things I noticed about going independent six years ago was that I no longer felt obligated to defend stupid things politicians said because they were my party.  I wasn't a fanboy anymore, defending the indefensible against any criticism.  I could see politicians for who they are, policies for what they actually do, and if somebody said or did something stupid I could attack it.  I see plenty of this right now coming from the left as regards Obama, such as defending his insensitivity to various issues (Ft. Hood massacre, the Berlin Wall anniversary), his membership to radical socialist churches and his friendships with communist terrorists (future generations will look back at a person like Obama winning the Presidency and wonder if the entire nation had lost its mind), I could go on.  But the point is that people are only defending these things because Obama is a Democrat.  Simple as that.  Any excuse will do when it's your guy.  Doesn't have to be a good excuse, just an excuse, and you'll swallow it and tout it.

5.  Not voting third-party, or voting even when you don't really have a choice.  If there is a race and none of the two-party candidates really fit your views, I don't care if it's for President and you are in a swing state, you vote third-party with a candidate who fits your views.  Think about future elections, not just one.  Hate RINOs or DINOs?  Stop making excuses to vote for them.  If there is no third-party choice, abstain from voting for that race.  Politicians do pay attention to turnout, and if "their base" doesn't turn out they notice.  Not voting can be as powerful as voting, it's just a shame that we're so inundated with "voting is your duty" propaganda that many people don't understand that.  It's all about giving those in power the incentive to make the right decision, it's not about getting the right people in, because once those right people get in they face the same incentives as the last guy.

6.  Ignoring the importance of grassroots action.  This relates to number five.  As I said, it's all about giving those in power the incentive to make the choice you want them to make, to vote for the bills you want them to vote for, to introduce the bills you want them to introduce.  It matters less who is in office, and it matters more what incentives they face, and they get their incentives from opinion polls and what voters vote for (and lobbyists, that's another post).  Obama got the (wrong) impression that voters wanted a center-left President and that he had some kind of socialist-lite mandate.  He was wrong.  But the GOP got the right message for future elections:  they don't want soft RINOs.  Already you see the GOP changing its behavior, its rhetoric, and the types of candidates it puts forward.  These changes don't happen fast (they can't), but if they are led by genuine grassroots efforts (and that includes not voting) then they will be forced to happen if politicians want to keep their jobs.

The Left is in for a Rude Awakening on Socialized Medicine

And I won't give any dignity to the pathetic pretense that what they are calling "health care reform" is anything less than an attempt to socialize medicine in this country.

If, based on the title of this post, you think I'm going to talk about how socialized medicine in this country won't happen, or how the Dems will get voted out in 2010 because of it, etc., you're wrong.  I want to talk about what the actual result will be of this bill.

To the leftists reading this blog, let me present you with a few concepts you may never have heard in all of the propaganda you've read railing against the health insurance industry.  Here they are:

1)  Health care costs are not dictated by insurance companies, they are dictated by providers.

2)  What providers charge for services is determined partly by supply and demand, but also by what the government pays them with Medicare and Medicaid.  The government automatically influences prices on health care at the provider level whenever it fixes fees.  Costs are squeezed onto the private health care consumer.

3) Insurance prices are the sum total of the costs of health care plus profits.  Despite what cooked statistics you may have seen, profit margins in the health insurance industry are not high (absolute figures, or figures picked from particularly profitable years, tell us nothing).

4) Insurance prices are thus dictated by provider prices, and to a large extent, the government, when the government mandates that all policies must carry particular types of coverage (such as private care for autistic children, check-ups, etc. etc.).

5) Insurance for the serious illnesses and injury you often talk would be far cheaper if it could be purchased legally, if people could choose a la carte what coverage they want (to say nothing of being able to purchase this insurance from literally anybody, anywhere on the planet, instead of only from licensed companies in their home state).

6)  Provider costs for services are drastically higher than they need to be because of licensing laws.  Licensing laws prevent services from being performed at the lowest possible cost, and generally work to constrict the available supply of doctors and nurses and other professions.  People are restricted from opening cheaper, doctor-free clinics for ailments that a nurse or other less expensive laborer could perform.

7) Drug costs are ridiculously high partly because both our own and other governments abroad coerce companies into selling drugs too cheaply, and thus squeeze the cost onto the private consumer, and also (this is the big one) because the FDA and other government bodies/laws act as a wall between drug companies and consumers.  Most people are unaware of just how expensive it is to get a drug approved for sale in this country, and as a result drug companies often focus less on life-saving treatments and more on easier, more profitable ventures such as impotency pills.

What I'm trying to say here is that you shouldn't blame the free market, because there is no such thing in the health care industry.  Licensing laws, subsidies, regulations, all act to constrict the workings of the industry.

Why do insurers not cover previous conditions?  The same reason you cannot buy car insurance right after a wreck and expect the insurer to cover the costs of the wreck.  Insurance is (or should be) a risk management technique, but a preexisting condition isn't a risk, it's a certainty.  You are asking the insurance company to pay out a large sum of money in exchange for which you will give them a much smaller sum of money.  Any idiot can see how that would bring the insurance industry to its knees.  It's worth adding here that the only real reason insurance companies don't cover preexisting conditions is because the laws prevent them from doing so efficiently: in a perfect world they would simply charge higher rates due to the increased risk, but the law often keeps them from doing that.

Why do insurance companies charge different people different rates for the same service?  Because of differences in risk.  Older people are more likely to file claims than younger people, so are the obese, so are smokers, etc.  Women have the risk of pregnancy, men don't.  Differing risks by definition mean that people are getting different services, not the same service.  Because you are buying protection against risk, not health care.  The health care providers might provide the same service when they give an old man or a young man a blood transfusion, but insurance companies don't.

What happens if you required that insurance companies charge the same rates regardless of risk differentials, or if you require that they cover preexisting conditions without charging different rates?  The only solution to keep from going out of business is to raise the rates of all of their less-risky, condition-free customers, to subsidize all of their riskier customers.

How dramatic an effect will this have on health care in this country?  Well, this would transform insurance companies from companies that manage risk into companies that are simply privatized middle-men through which the American population subsidizes the health care of the sickest, the poorest, the fattest, etc.

Add to that this ludicrous "public option" which is where the stealth socialization comes in, and for many people, the artificially low prices of the government plan will seem attractive and they will jump ship.

In short, I wouldn't buy stock in any health insurance company right now.  In fact, I'd sell it, and I'd take whatever I could get for it, ASAP.

Now, dear liberals, I hope I don't blow your little childish minds, but let me make this clear:  the government isn't going to lower health care costs.  Nope, sorry, it's just not possible.  They are changing the mechanism through which health care costs are paid for in this country (the ostensible "insurance" companies) from private companies to a government bureaucracy, but they are not doing one little thing, NOT ONE LITTLE THING to affect the actual costs of health care--which as I've said earlier begin at the provider level.

Due to regulation, licensing laws, restrictions on this and that, these costs will just continue to grow and grow (this is beyond the scope of a single blog post, but for the econ nerd a study of why health care costs continue to grow and grow is fascinating) and the government won't do anything about it.

I know.  It'll seem, at first, like health care is suddenly cheaper.  That's because the full cost of it won't be passed directly to you.  And even after they hike taxes, it won't be passed directly to the tax-payer.  Nope, it'll be financed through deficit spending and thus the cost will be passed onto future tax-payers.  Your children, your grand-children, etc.  The government will have to borrow money to pay for this, in addition to covering Social Security.

Where I'm going with all of this is that one-sixth of our economy can't just be punched in the balls without expecting some fallout.  Things will not just keep ticking along but only with a better way of funding it all--rather, health care in this country is about to face a catastrophic restructuring, a major shock to a system that won't be able to face the sudden new demands that are about to be put on it, and with no real way to pay for it.  Budget estimates are not taking this into account, they are not expecting people to respond to the incentives that they will face.  And they are about to be shocked.

Here are two things that might happen.  I guarantee you with all my heart that one of these things will happen, and both of them may happen together (God forbid):

1)  Health care must be rationed, as it is in other socialized health care systems, because there is too much demand and too little supply, and the supply is capped from growing because it is socialized and not a free market.  This will lead to drastic changes in how Americans get their health care, and it will be decided by bureaucrats and special interests, not individuals making their own choices.  IOW, the sky-high standard of care we get in this country is about to end.

2)  Or, rather, the government will be even more naive/foolhardy than I expect, and they will try to provide the same level of service Americans are used to, without rationing, and funded through deficit spending.  I find this one less likely, because it could only go on for a short while before people stopped buying Treasury bonds.

Part of me thinks (the optimistic part, that is) that this could turn out to be a Nixon price controls-style boondoggle, i.e. a bad policy that is enormously unpopular right away and is repealed within several years.  I won't guarantee that.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Krugman Brought Down to Earth

As an econ nerd, it greatly pains me to see total hacks like Krugman not only get prestigious prizes that used to go to real economists, but also get praise from other economists that I sort of respect.  The man is a total fraud!  Why can't more people see that?  He's the John Kenneth Galbraith of his generation, a famous phony economist who has a lot of people taking him seriously purely for political reasons, but who falls on his face by constantly contradicting himself, making bogus predictions, advocating bad policy, and clashing with economic logic and facts.  I'm really hoping he'll be a distant memory twenty or thirty years from now, regarded as a nobody.  Some Nobel laureates are like that.  "Arthur who?"

So I was happy to see somebody use the powers of the internet (and a Krugman fan site!) to show that Krugman was indeed advocating a Fed-created housing bubble after 9/11 as a way of boosting the economy.  He's as guilty as any other political figure or hack economist who championed the housing bubble and subsequent burst.  Notice in these quotes that he admits that the bubble burst could lead to a recession if the government doesn't react fast enough, which he doesn't think it will do.  Hacks like him always think that "with the right people in charge," i.e. people like them, then bad economic policy can be made good economic policy.

Enjoy the discrediting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Eugene Robinson's Latest

Sometimes I agree with what Robinson has to say, as when he tells it like it is about Polanski.  But how hard is that?  When he touches on politics, that's when he goes wrong.  Maybe he's a nice guy, but boy he gets away with pretty journalist newbie mistakes, such as not bothering to look up quotes.

His latest article is about the Rush Limbaugh NFL controversy, a political footnote (although disturbing in the way people are reacting to it).  He's correct in stating that Rush isn't guaranteed ownership of a football team, even if he can put up the dough.  Ultimately, the NFL owners and the contracts they have with teams and their owners must be followed.  Being an econ nerd, I take this stuff seriously:  contracts must be enforced, and private enterprises can refuse to do business with anybody for any reason--and that's how it should be.

What makes the article appalling are statements like these:

"It's one thing for fans to debate a questionable pass interference call; it's quite another for sports-talk hosts and their callers to argue about whether the league endorses tendentious and stereotypical views about African Americans."


"Attention has focused mostly on Limbaugh's contention in 2003 that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated and that he was being hyped because "the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well." This was stupid and wrong on every level -- black quarterbacks had already excelled, with Doug Williams having led the Washington Redskins to a Super Bowl victory 15 years earlier; and McNabb was good enough to take the Eagles to the Super Bowl two years later. The statement offended so many people that it got Limbaugh fired from his short-lived job as an ESPN football analyst."

And others which I will get to later.  Ya see, this isn't even a political issue, or a racial issue, it's about comprehending language--understanding what people are actually saying.  The Limbaugh quote above is not a comment on black quarterbacks, it's a comment on the media, people.

There's not an iota of criticism of blacks or black quarterbacks in that sentence, though there is criticism of the media for overhyping a player for no other reason than wanting to have a black quarterback to hype, in the same way Obama became President because the entire media prostrated to him, buried his skeletons in the closet, gave America an inaccurate picture of who he was, didn't bother investigating him or his background, et cetera et cetera.

"But Limbaugh has made other ugly observations. He gave this overview of the preponderance of black players in the league: "The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it." He has referred to basketball as "the favorite sport of gangs." He has called President Obama "the greatest living example of a reverse racist" and "an angry black guy" and -- because of his biracial heritage -- a "Halfrican-American." An equal-opportunity offender, Limbaugh also has called Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor a "reverse racist," compared Latino illegal immigrants to an "invasive species," and referred to Native Americans as "Injuns.""

Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, could have spent five minutes each investigating each of these quotations to see if they held up to scrutiny.  Let's go through them one by one:
"Bloods and Crips":  Oops, wasn't about "the preponderance of black players" at all, it was about violence, fighting, and unsportsmanlike behavior on the field, and "bloods and crips" two notorious street gangs, were the metaphor Rush chose in a split second to describe this.  Racial prejudice is when you look at a person's race, and assume they are up to no good, you interpret their every move as nefarious.  Kind of like assuming that because Rush is white, he was making a racial remark when his remark was 100% about brouhahas on the field of play.
"favorite sport of gangs":  Said as he was ridiculing midnight basketball as ineffective at curbing gang violence.   It was a tongue-in-cheek comment.  It wasn't racist.  Nobody would say it's racist to say football is the favorite sport of doughy midwesterners, or that NASCAR is big in the south, but BOY OH BOY you better not insinuate that gang members seem to have an enjoyment of basketball.  This is one of those cases where something is said by a white guy that isn't racist, but because it kinda sorta relates to race, it just "seems racist" even though nobody can put their finger on exactly why.  Rush was simply satirizing the midnight basketball thing by putting into words the ostensible thinking behind it, IOW he was explaining that proponents of midnight basketball are the ones who think that basketball is the favorite sport of gangs.
"reverse racist":  So now calling somebody racist is racist.  That makes Eugene Robinson a racist.
"angry black guy":  So now just giving your opinion that a person is angry, black, and a guy, is racist?  Anybody who attends black Hitler Jeremiah Wright's church for twenty years and makes him a close adviser and confidante has got to be angry.  And that Obama is a black guy is debatable, I admit.  If Obama's a black guy, he's also a white guy, being half white.  Which brings us to...
"Halfrican-American": How is this racist?  That's a term I see other people use, to describe Obama, others, or even themselves.  It's just a dumb pun, it's not a slur.
"reverse racist [Sotomayor version]":  Guess what?  She is.  I wonder if Robinson was as offended at her remark that "wise Latinas" would make better decisions than stupid white people?

"invasive species": You know, I'm surprised that wise, genetically superior progressives haven't figured this out:  "illegal immigrant" is a legal classification, not a race.  Ah, he meant "illegal Mexicans," is that what you're saying?  Mexicans aren't a race either.  Sorry.  There are a variety of ethnic groups in Mexico, from blue-eyed blondes, to blacks, to Jews, to full-blooded Amerindians, and all sorts of in-betweeners.  But let's say he was referring to illegal immigrants who also happen to be one particular "race."  Was that a racist comment?  By itself, no.  It's purely a metaphor, like saying Yankees invading Florida are an invasive species, or yuppies invading and gentrifying inner-city neighborhoods are an invasive species, or Californians migrating to Arizona are an invasive species, etc.

"Injuns":  Oh come on, saying "injuns" is so ironic and old-fashioned that it's practically camp. Rush more often says "American Indian," he says "Injun" when being ironic.

99% of racial outrage is faked so that the faker can gain the upper hand, politically.  Robinson is a good example of that.  I'm sure he knows darn well, being such a avid archivist and expert on the Rush Limbaugh Show, that his show engineer and silent cohost Bo Snerdley is black, as is one of his most common guest hosts, black economist Walter Williams.  And one of Rush's most-referred to intellectuals is black economist Thomas Sowell.  Rush has endorsed black politicians, interviewed black politicians, intellectuals, and celebrities in his magazine, hires black people for important jobs and has black friends.  He is racially colorblind, as virtually all conservatives are.  And that's what really rankles the Eugene Robinsons of the world:  we see people for who they are, and we hold everybody to the same standard.  We don't lower our expectations because of a person's ethnicity or color, we don't think people deserve special treatment from the government because of their ethnicity or color, and we don't think more highly of people because of their ethnicity or color.

If journalism were colorblind, Eugene Robinson would still be a city hall correspondent.  If politics were colorblind, Obama would still be in Hawaii working for Baskin Robbins.  Easily offended people would think that I'm saying there would be no prominent black journalists or politicians were it not for unwritten affirmative action policies.  I've heard affirmative action opponents called racist because ignorant people think we are saying minorities can't excel, because we point out these examples of people who are way over-promoted due to their race.
Not so.  In a colorblind society, there would still be black scientists and doctors and economists and politicians and judges and movie stars and athletes and academics and journalists.  There just wouldn't be any who don't deserve to be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Paul Krugman's Latest Piece of Economic Quackery

It's my belief that the economics profession suffers from a lack of backbone.  They tend to give their quacks a pass, sometimes they even lionize them.  I don't think you see this nearly as much in other sciences.  But, for purely political reasons, hacks and quacks not only survive in economics, they thrive.  And other academic economists are too scared to call them out.

I'm not a professional economist, so I'll say it:  Paul Krugman is a quack of an economist, and so are most other saltwater school economists.  Yes, I'm a market fundamentalist, and a proud one.  To me, economics is a science, and if you can't see things for the way they are, you shouldn't be an economist.  Economists who can look at the past thirty years of the financial sector in this economy and say it was lightly regulated are quacks.  Any economist who can say market liberalization doesn't bring universal prosperity wherever it's unleashed is a quack.

More dangerous than mere quacks are the people who want to tailor society to their vision, the would-be social engineers.  If you got into economics because you want to change society, you probably won't be a good one, no matter how famous you get or how many awards you win.  If you got into economics to understand and explain how an economy, and thus, the world, and human psychology, works, then you are on the right track.

Greg Ransom said "Paul Krugman received his Nobel Prize for putting into mathematical form insights which older economists say already exited[sic] in economics in non-mathematized presentations."

Exactly.  He's an economic engineer, not an economist.  Oh, he knows the theory, and he knows the facts, but he doesn't truly understand how an economy works.  He has the same understanding of economics that the devil has of the Bible, an understanding that is centered around his own vision.

Which brings me to Krugman's latest column, which is about the healthcare "reform" debate.

Washington, it seems, is still ruled by Reaganism — by an ideology that says government intervention is always bad, and leaving the private sector to its own devices is always good.

Call me naïve, but I actually hoped that the failure of Reaganism in practice would kill it. It turns out, however, to be a zombie doctrine: even though it should be dead, it keeps on coming.

What's laughable about Krugman, and which reveals what's laughable about elite universities and the elite people who teach at and attend them, is that Krugman's articles are always full of the most amateurish debate tactics.  Really, if he weren't a professor at Princeton and the LSE, but just some guy with an opinion, he wouldn't get printed.  Here we have the classic mistake of stating your opponent's argument in black and white terms, as if anybody but an anarchist thinks that intervention is always bad, or that market failures never happen (even the Mises people don't believe that--I think).  So right off the bat we have a straw man argument, a VERY typical Krugman tactic.  Reading on....

First of all, even before the current crisis Reaganomics had failed to deliver what it promised. Remember how lower taxes on high incomes and deregulation that unleashed the “magic of the marketplace” were supposed to lead to dramatically better outcomes for everyone? Well, it didn’t happen.

To be sure, the wealthy benefited enormously: the real incomes of the top .01 percent of Americans rose sevenfold between 1980 and 2007. But the real income of the median family rose only 22 percent, less than a third its growth over the previous 27 years.

Ah, "Reaganomics," the term that can mean whatever a left-winger wants it to mean, but which usually means that cutting taxes tends to stimulate economic growth and CAN raise government revenue.  Both of these are very true.  Some clowns on the right, mostly non-economists, tried to make the case that tax rate cuts ALWAYS lead to higher tax revenues for the government.  This is not always true.  In fact, as Milton Friedman said, if you cut tax rates and revenues rise, you haven't cut them enough, meaning you're still on the right-hand side of the so-called Laffer Curve.

The second paragraph is where Krugman really shoots himself in the foot.  He makes a basic blunder that would get you a lower grade in Econ 101, and what's remarkable is that he knows he is making this blunder.  He discusses "family income," and as anybody who has read even an introductory text on economics can tell you, "family income" figures are highly unreliable as family demographics change.  The big change over the past forty or so years is the dramatic rise in single-parent households, which are still called "families."  To use "family income" or "household income" as a measure of income can be highly misleading and, if used to express incomes in America in recent decades, can make incomes--and income growth over time--seem like less than they are.  This is why left-wingers tend to use these figures rather than more exact and reliable figures which take these demographic changes into account.

In reality, economic growth has been SPECTACULAR from the eighties onwards, a few recessions notwithstanding.  We have become a more prosperous nation by virtually every material measure.  Our standard of living, including the standard of living of the poor, is phenomenal.  A country where the poorest, THE POOREST, have obesity as their number one health problem, would have been, literally, a joke a hundred years ago, and still is in many parts of the world.

I want to say one more thing about incomes, and that's there are a few other factors affecting statistics which, on paper, downplay our spectacular economic growth over the past several decades.  The first is that health care benefits, which many people get through their employer, as well as other non-pecuniary benefits, are taking up a larger and larger chunk of our total compensation, thus the actual dollar figure in take-home pay doesn't rise as much as you might think in many instances, but our total incomes are going up, up, up.  The second is that, even "adjusted for inflation," incomes have grown beyond more than just their dollar amount, as their purchasing power has gone up.  Many things, especially technology, have come down in price so much that even an income that has remained flat--even adjusting for inflation--over twenty years is actually a higher income because it buys more stuff.  A problem here is that when a figure is "adjusted for inflation" that doesn't mean exactly what you think it does, depending on how it was adjusted.  Adjusting based on measures such as the Consumer Price Index (a popular method) is unreliable, as these figures don't take into account the enhanced purchasing power of money, as well as changing technology itself.  An "intro-level four-door sedan" in 1982 is not the same as an "intro-level four-door sedan" in 2009.  Power windows, cruise control, CD players, etc., the list goes on.  We have prospered in many ways that crude income statistics, even the best ones, do not fully reflect.  This has allowed unscrupulous hack economists to say that the spectacular economic growth of the past three decades never really happened.  This is purposefully forgetting one of the most important economic lessons, and one of the oldest:  wealth isn't money, wealth is made up of actual goods and services.

By any measure, we have the greatest abundance of wealth we've ever had.  And Krugman knows all this.  He knows he's making a phony argument that any economist could tear to shreds in five minutes.  Why is he doing it?  Because he thinks most of his readers don't know the truth about his cooked statistics.

There’s a lot to be said about the financial disaster of the last two years, but the short version is simple: politicians in the thrall of Reaganite ideology dismantled the New Deal regulations that had prevented banking crises for half a century, believing that financial markets could take care of themselves. The effect was to make the financial system vulnerable to a 1930s-style crisis — and the crisis came. 

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. “We know now that it is bad economics.” And last year we learned that lesson all over again.

Krugman's "short version" is a bunch of crap.  One thing hack economists like him don't do is explain how the removal of a few regulations, most of which had nothing to do with the area of the financial sector that collapsed, caused this crisis.  Economists are still piecing together exactly what has happened, from one year to the next, to cause this recession, and there are almost as many views as there are economists.  But this meme of deregulation is a purely political one, it's not economics.  The financial sector is the second-most tightly regulated and controlled sector of the economy, and has been, ever since the Great Depression.  Nothing about that has changed.  Tell somebody actually working in the financial sector, either in banking or stocks or bonds or whatever, that their industry was deregulated, and then get out of the way as they laugh their heads off.  Most people do not work in the financial sector, so most people are unaware of how much red tape there is and how all of this regulation stifles competition, raises prices, and turns the industry into a bunch of oligopolies.

Krugman has a soft spot for FDR and the New Deal, even though neither ended the Great Depression.  In fact, the New Deal simply made it worse by tying up money and resources that otherwise would have gone towards economic growth.  Krugman likes to imply, without actually saying, that the Great Depression was caused by a market failure.  As we now know, and as Milton Friedman had been teaching since at least the early 60s, the Great Depression had one simple cause:  The Federal Reserve.  Not market failure.  GOVERNMENT failure.

But it’s much the same on other fronts. Efforts to strengthen bank regulation appear to be losing steam, as opponents of reform declare that more regulation would lead to less financial innovation — this just months after the wonders of innovation brought our financial system to the edge of collapse, a collapse that was averted only with huge infusions of taxpayer funds.

The bad innovation Krugman is alluding to is the "stock market crash" of this recession, the evil boogey man, the alleged cause of the recession, rather than simply being seen as a symptom of the underlying problems in the financial sector.

I want to finish this up by making it clear to everybody what's going on here.  Countless times I have seen sentence fragments here and there such as "laissez faire capitalism is dead," or "libertarian economics is discredited" or "we are all socialists" or "markets don't work," etc.  The key word is "discredited," and that's on purpose, and I'll tell you why.

For decades, from the Great Depression onward, statists economists of one stripe or other, let's call them Keynesians (although this isn't entirely accurate but let's keep it simple), ruled the roost in mainstream economics.  They ruled academia.  They had the ears of prime ministers, presidents, and financial people.  They assured everybody--and for a while it seemed like they were right--that they could successfully engineer the economy as one might run a train or a power station.  And adjustment here, a correction there, lower inflation there, raise unemployment there, lower unemployment here, raise inflation there.  This went beyond party lines (economics isn't about political parties, so don't fall for the line that there is such a thing as "Democrat economics" or "Republican economics").  Nixon said, in 1970 I think, "We are all Keynesians now," and people who believed in a mostly unfettered free market, people who identified as libertarians, were a joke, they were seen as the economic equivalent of doctors who balance humors and use leeches to cure cancer.  I don't want to paint things too black and white, but the situation was grim if it was 1959 and you were against Social Security.  The University of Chicago was the one place where economists like that could thrive, and thrive they did.

One of the main beliefs of economic engineers at the time was that there was an inherent tradeoff between inflation and unemployment, and that if you raised one, the other would go down.  There were also a lot of kooky ideas about inflation back then, about what caused it and what its effects were.  I have one econ textbook from the 70s which argues that inflation has no negative effect on workers because their wages rise along with inflation and thus it doesn't harm them!  Oh, BTW, one of the authors of this textbook is an advisor to Obama.

Anyway, during the 70s something happened called "stagflation."  Unemployment AND inflation rose at the same time, and they rose pretty high (and yes, it hurt workers).  The seesaw effect between the two (which seemed to fit available data at the time) was broken.  The economic engineers, the statists, could explain this.  But Milton Friedman and the other Chicago School economists could.  Their achievements started getting recognized.  As Larry Summers, big wig econ advisor to Obama says, Friedman was once viewed as a devil figure in his youth (he economically came of age in the 70s, like Krugman), then earned grudging respect, and then open admiration.  A half dozen Nobel Prizes later, and the Chicago School economists were made in the shade.  They turned out to be right about all sorts of things (ESPECIALLY monetary policy), and the public and politicians, who had been sold on the "sure, we can manage the economy" line for decades now, soured on the economic engineers.  It was even said at the time that Keynesianism had been "discredited," and it seemed like libertarian economics had a shot at becoming the mainstream school of thought in econ.

Then the other shoe dropped.  The Soviet Union rapidly, and unexpectedly collapsed.  Now, throughout the Cold War, statist economists in the free world would say that a command economy (such as the Soviets had) might not only work, but might even be superior to any kind of free market or mixed economy.  With the right people in charge (hint hint) and the right policies, making all of the right decisions, a centrally planned economy might work.  Hayek defeated this in theory, but statistics from behind the Iron Curtain, including those from the CIA itself, were used to bolster the theory that command economies might actually be more productive and prosperous.

After the Soviet Union fell, and there was no communist party to protect communist secrets, the truth came out, and settled the debate once and for all.  The statistics had been utterly, totally, phenomenally WRONG all along.  Centrally planned economies not only failed, they failed for exactly the reasons Hayek and other economists of the Chicago School had said they would--the lack of a free price mechanism to coordinate the economy would ultimately mean its utter ruin.  They would have gluts of one thing and shortages of another, and with no market prices based on supply and demand, but rather, based on what economic engineers decided to set, there was no way of correcting these gluts and shortages.  It is now universally agreed, even among the Krugmans and Blinders of the world, that a centrally planned, command economy cannot work, and many of those economists who saw that the economic engineering policies and theories they'd been pushing their entire careers, be they mixed economy or command economy, repented of their sins, saw the light, and converted.

Some didn't.  In fact, some harbor a big grudge, and they've been waiting, desperately, for the moment when they could turn the tables and say "free market economics has failed," and "libertarianism has been discredited," and "nobody serious now believes in the free market," etc.  You saw much of the same rhetoric after the Great Depression (which, as I've said, was the creation of the Federal Reserve, and if you don't believe me, go ask Ben Bernanke, Great Depression expert, Princeton economist, and CURRENT HEAD of the Federal Reserve, who will tell you exactly what I said), and that rhetoric has been confined to the ash heap of history as we now know.  This too shall pass.  But right now it's gaining a lot of traction, in spite of the fact that Reagan wasn't nearly as much of a deregulator or government-shrinker as he's been made out to be (rather he was a tax reformer and cutter), and even though the financial sector, where the crises began, was the second most tightly-controlled industry in the country (and that's before the great recession), and even though the government, and its role in the economy, continues to get bigger and bigger every year in spite of the odd deregulation here or there.

It's a convenient myth for the hacks like Krugman who want to engineer society, and who don't want people to take a good long look at them and the burdensome regulations and market interventions that they've endorsed over the years.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Fatal Conceit of City Planners

Read this article.  It's about how America's "fastest dying cities" are sending government representatives (that is, representatives of the governments of these cities, not the people) to a summit in Dayton to come up with ideas to bring these cities back.

Of course, nobody is asking the questions, "is it even in our power to restore the population and economic growth of these cities, and it is right to use the taxes of what citizens remain to subsidize this effort?"

Although I'm sure the citizens of these cities may be wondering that.  The truth is, people and businesses are not geographically confined, in theory they can go anywhere.  And cities, like businesses and individuals, rise and fall.  Cincinnati used to be America's second city, then that became Chicago.  Now it's LA.  In twenty or thirty years it could be Houston or Atlanta, and in a hundred years it could be some place none of us has heard of.  The number one retailer in this country used to be Sears.  Now it's Wal-Mart.  I could come up with a jillion more examples to prove my point, but this is a blog, not an academic paper.

These cities shrank because of the combined actions of thousands, and, actually, millions of people.  Individuals made choices about where was the best place for them to live, whether one place was more affordable or had better policing or schools or whatever other community amenities were important.  Business leaders, led by the profit motive, made decisions about whether to stay in these cities or if they could have larger profits by moving elsewhere (either to escape taxes, find better labor supplies, or whatever).  Nobody planned for these cities to shrink, although the actions of a small number of political decision makers certainly inadvertantly contributed to this decision, either by raising taxes, extending business regulations, providing poor public services, or whatever.  Other reasons are beyond the control of anybody.  Frankly, people like to live in a place that's attractive and where the weather is nice.  As air conditioning becomes affordable, it makes sense that people would move further south and away from the largely unattractive and featureless terrain of the north.

In short, people weighed up the costs and benefits of staying versus moving (led primarily by the price system), and many moved.  A greaty many of them probably don't want to move back.  My father recently told me that, after moving back to the town he grew up in, he was shocked by how bored he was living there, when all his life away from his hometown he imagined he'd love living there again.

It's only natural that as economies change, and technology changes, and tax and business conditions change in various areas, that new generations of workers will change their location.  These "dying cities" aren't filled with young people, they are filled with older people.  It is primarily the younger and more educated people (who otherwise would have replenished the community's population) who have moved out of the rust belt and other "dying cities."  In other words, society is saying, through the combined actions of millions of people, "we want these cities to shrink."

So why stop a natural process?  Part of it is nostalgia and hometown pride, it's not nice to see the city you grew up in and love become a dystopia.  Part of it is money.  The bigger the city, the bigger the tax base and the more money the politicians have to spend on things (particularly themselves).  Big city mayors can make six figure incomes.  Small town mayors make much less.  There are also the government employees.  As the city shrinks, the need for public services dwindles, which necessitates layoffs.  This makes the gangsters that run the labor cartels (IOW the unions) unhappy.  Another reason is sheer vanity.  Every mayor of a sizeable city wants their city bigger, they all want to be the mayor of NYC, LA, Seattle, Chicago, or some other huge cosmopolitan town.  They want huge, ornate opera halls and sports teams, promenades, piazzas, "revitalized downtowns," shopping centers with upscale boutiques.   You often see city governments throw away tax-payer money on such glittery, showy projects, which often fizzle.

I see three ways for these cities to grow.  Either they need to lure new citizens, bring back the citizens who left, or somehow get their existing citizens to reproduce more.  The latter is unthinkable.  The first two can be done only by giving people an incentive to move to your town, not just urging them.  How do you give incentives?  Create a better business climate, lower taxes, improve public services (if they stank), and generally becoming a leaner, meaner, more efficient government.  This is hard if not impossible for most governments to do.  Another way of creating an incentive is to, essentially, pay people to move to your town.  In desperate circumstances, it can even mean paying people to *stay* in your town.

Ohio gives out money to college graduates to have a down payment on a home (most Ohio college grads plan to leave the state after graduation because if you don't want to be a teacher or a nurse or work at a pizza or sub place, Ohio is not the state for you).  Many times you will see states or cities or counties give tax cuts to a particular industry or a particular business.  This (in theory) amounts to a subsidy, as other businesses which are not so favored by the government pay normal tax rates, so the business in question benefits from government services such as police, trash collection, courts, etc. without paying as much as the other businesses.  Again, I said "in theory," as our tax system is so convoluted and perverse that many other factors are at work besides this one principle.  And, finally, sometimes governments will simply give money to businesses.

Do any of these ways sound very good?  I think the only one that sounds appetizing to an informed, economically literate, thinking person is for the government to clean its own act up.  In the rust belt, one of the biggest things governments could do to improve their economies would be to become right-to-work states, where unions cannot force businesses to make contracts with them or force workers to join them, in short, where unions must stand or fall on their own merits, and not because they receive special "rights" from the government.  More likely than this is more of the same old tactics: handouts, bribes to bring in businesses and hopefully people.  This amounts to ripping off existing citizens, making the place even less amenable.

These city planners are exhibiting just a small example of the fatal conceit of government planners everywhere, the fatal conceit that not only do they know what's best for everybody, but that it is also in their power to make it happen.

Monday, June 1, 2009

DHS Memo Vindicated?

I'm hearing on the left-wing blogosphere that the controversial memo by the Department of Homeland Security which warned law enforcement about the possibility that domestic terrorists may arise from pro-life groups, among veterans, and among right-wing "anti-government" activists is now vindicated because an abortionist was assassinated in a church.

First, my opinion on the murder. Tiller, the abortionist, was a murderer. But it isn't up to a private citizen to kill him. Biblically (you did know that this site was from a Biblical perspective, right?) we are to abide by the rules of our government, and we are not to do evil so that good may come. The law says that murder is illegal. Just because one man murders children doesn't change what the law says. What Tiller's murderer did was wrong. He had no authority to commit murder. The authority to take a life comes from God, thus it comes from the Earthly authorities established by God. We cannot take it upon ourselves to do it. His murderer could have done far more to help the unborn, and the pro-life movement, by simply distributing flyers, by getting pictures and videos of abortion in front of as many sets of eyes as possible. See my previous post for more on this.

As for whether the controversial report was vindicated, the answer is no, because the argument was never over whether or not somebody might murder an abortionist. It's already happened and will probably happen again. The argument was over the President's political enemies being singled out for attention from law enforcement, for the smearing of veterans, pro-lifers, people who attend rallies, listen to Rush Limbaugh, belong to the NRA, watch NASCAR, watch John Wayne movies, go to church, etc. For people described as being a threat to the government when all they are is a (non-violent) threat to the political power of the people currently in charge.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Issues that Conservatives Should Absolutely NOT Drop #1--Abortion

Abortion is the supreme moral issue of our time. No other issue in the developed world is bigger, no other issue is as comparatively ignored. While we hem and haw about the economy and terrorism and Israel and health care, literally MILLIONS of unborn babies are being aborted each year. Millions. Probably the biggest obstacle the pro-life side has is convincing people that there is an abortion holocaust going on that makes the Nazis look like amateurs, and the Soviet gulag system look like a slap on the wrist. It is the sheer enormity of the issue, the implications of the pro-life argument that life incontrovertibly begins at conception and that abortion is the murder of a human life, that is hardest for people to accept. The implications are heart-rending, staggering, incomprehensible, and too, too real.

In America, one of the most abortion-happy countries in the world, the pro-life side has either dropped the ball on how to present its argument or has been muzzled by a pro-abortion media and a pro-abortion legal system that punishes those who try to air the abortion industry's dirty laundry. Frankly I'm not sure which is true, or if they're both true. Here are some of the myths pro-lifers tell might themselves:

MYTH: If I take a public stand on this issue, I'm seen as a freak, as anti-woman.
REALITY: A majority of the US population, including a majority of women, considers themselves pro-life. Just because the pro-abortion media tries to depict you a certain way, you should not be scared of being labeled a certain way. If the only pro-life faces most complacent people see are the occasional "clinic" bomber, and they never see you, peacefully extolling the virtues of the right to life, then by staying silent on your position you are helping to paint pro-lifers as extremists.

MYTH: If I show people the reality of abortion--pictures and videos of abortions and aborted babies--I'm simply making the pro-life side look like vulgar extremists.
REALITY: Abortion is vulgar and extreme. Pictures of it merely reflect that reality. Pictures of aborted babies, coupled with personal testimony from people who have had abortion and those who have performed or assisted in the performing of an abortion, are the most powerful weapons we have, and to let them sit in a drawer and not use them is the main reason why pro-lifers have such diminished influence in this country.

MYTH: You can't convince anybody in an argument, so our only hope is to lobby the political system.
REALITY: Show a person some pictures of an aborted baby, show to them the testimony of ex-abortionists who have murdered unborn children and now repent. To know the reality of abortion in its clearest terms is the beginning of any argument that is to be had on abortion.

MYTH: I have to hate and shun anybody who has had an abortion.
REALITY: Hatred and shunning is not a good way to spread the message, to encourage women to come forward with their testimony, to see that there is forgiveness. Imagine if just one percent of all the women in this country who have had an abortion and now regret it, spoke with a different woman once a week about her story.

Here are some of the myths pro-abortioners tell themselves:

MYTH: I'm personally against abortion, but I respect a person's right to choose.
REALITY: No, you don't, because you don't respect the right of the unborn child to have a say.

MYTH: Yes, abortion is wrong, but it's the woman's body and she has a right to choose, not us.
REALITY: If abortion is wrong, then it must necessarily follow that it is not the woman's body but the body of her unborn child, and that the mother does not have the choice to murder her child whether it is born or unborn. If abortion is wrong, it's wrong because it takes an innocent human life, and for no other reason. And if it takes an innocent human life, then it must be treated as the murder that it is, not some kind of special case of murder where the victim suddenly doesn't matter, and only the financial needs of the mother are at stake. It's not wrong because "it's a hard decision to make," it's a hard decision to make because it is wrong.

MYTH: Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.
REALITY: Why wish for it to be rare? What does it matter? Do you hear that tonsillectomies or heart transplants should be "rare"? If there is nothing morally wrong with a medical procedure, and it would improve the lives of all concerned, shouldn't you wish that it would happen more often, not less? But of course, we know why you want it to be rare. In your heart of hearts you know what abortion is--the murder of an innocent human life. If abortion isn't murder, then it's irrelevant how often it happens. It's only because abortion is murder that you say it should be rare, but you are unwilling to bring yourself to the full truth, the full implications of that murder. You want to look the other way and move onto much easier issues.

MYTH: A fetus is just tissue, it's not a human being.
REALITY: Tell a biologist that a fetus is just tissue, and not a human being. See if anything in science backs that up. An unborn person is definitely a person. This cannot be argued with. Science simply won't move on this issue. Biochemistry, genetics, epigenetics, embryonic development, etc., all scream "HUMAN!" This is a myth that may have held sway before we understood genetics or biochemistry, or before we could see what was happening in the uterus, but not anymore. There is no magical point at which a lump of tissue becomes a human, the new human organism begins when the sperm fertilizes the eggs.

Here are some things the pro-life side needs to do:

1. I would like to see a pro-life Presidential candidate show pictures of aborted babies on live tv when they accept the nomination, and say "I'm going to Washington to fight this, and my opponent is going to try to keep it going." I want to see a pro-life President show pictures of aborted fetus at every state of the union address and at major speeches. Use the big guns, don't hide them, as if you're ashamed to be seen as a kook. It is the murderers and the people who lend them political support who ought to be ashamed of the reality that those pictures would show.
2. I want to see ex-abortionists and women who have had abortions go out into the college campuses and give testimony. Make fools of the pro-abortion crowd when they say pro-lifers are old men bent on controlling women, by showing them pro-lifers their age, of various backgrounds, and yes, various political parties and religious affiliations.
3. Pass a law requiring abortion "clinics" to show detailed sonograms of the unborn child to the mother before AND DURING the procedure, and required the abortionist to give the mother a chance to back out of the procedure at no charge at any time.
4. I would like to see more debate about this issue, but not angry debate. Some people will not be convinced with arguments, or testimony, or pictures or even videos. You don't have to convince everybody. You just have to convince enough. Know when to back out of a debate, when a person just isn't going to be receptive to what you're saying.

Issues that Conservatives Need to Drop #1--Illegal Immigration


Let me explain, since I can hear you all sharpening your knives right now. My position on illegal immigration is undergoing kind of a change lately, and what I have to say now would have been heresy to me two months ago. What's changed? Well, I started thinking about the issue in practical terms rather than "right and wrong" terms.

Until just a short while ago, I was solidly-anti illegal immigrant, still am, frankly. Though I believed then and believe now that immigrant workers are a boon, not a hindrance to any economy. Just ask Singapore, or the UAE, or any country that ever existed. I knew the arguments against amnesty. The perverse incentives it would create, how it ignored the rule of law, how it could foster terrorism, etc. In a way I still respect those arguments. My position on illegal immigration is not a black and white one, and I've become more pragmatic and less dogmatic as time goes by.

Firstly, under no circumstances should we ignore the importance of the rule of law. The law is not, and should not be, something we can change on a whim, but something rock solid we can rely on as the rules of the game. Not a social engineering attempt to bring about a particular outcome, but rules that we all are aware of and understand. See Hayek's The Road to Serfdom for more info on the importance of the rule of law.

Secondly, we could spend millions or billions on a wall along our Southern border, and spend more and more on border patrol, but all resources are scarce, they are finite, we have to make choices about what to spend tax payer money on, and we have to make tradeoffs. We cannot rub out 99% of all illegal immigration, but at a high cost. What is the acceptable amount of illegal immigration? I don't know, anymore than I could tell you the acceptable about of other crimes to tolerate. We do not spend every penny of police resources on fighting one particular crime for this very reason, because different crimes require attention and resources have to be divided up in the most effective way possible. The lesson is that we may build a wall--it may be a good idea, I don't know--but it won't end illegal immigration. They could just switch to boats/rafts/floating timber, which would require an increase in Coast Guard spending. Not to mention tunnels dug under the border wall, makeshift aircraft flown over it, etc.

Think I'm exaggerating? Even the Berlin Wall was porous.

Rather than spend a lot of money building a wall on whatever border is giving us trouble, a better use of resources might be to change the incentives. If Mexico continues to become a lawless, anarchic, state, if the government collapses, it could actually be a good idea to invade Mexico militarily and install a real government there, but that's an idea for the future, if and when Mexico reaches such a state that it is an undeniable threat to the US (not militarily, but in terms of anarchy, crime, gang violence, etc.).

Thirdly, America benefits economically from immigration, legal or illegal, period. (don't think I've forgotten about how illegal immigrants take advantage of ERs and the welfare state, I'm getting to that) That's right, we benefit. Fight it all you want, but you're fighting hundreds of years of well-documented, proven economic theory. Low cost labor right here in this country benefits everybody. You benefit by paying less than you otherwise would for groceries, produce, fast food, various services, etc. They aren't "stealing our jobs," they are taking jobs that employers have trouble filling even during this recession, because Americans by and large aren't willing to take a lot of these low-level grunt jobs. Being a wealthier country gives us more disposable time, it also makes us want more disposable income to buy nifty things, all of which makes labor relatively more expensive as compared to capital which is relatively abundant.

The decrease in Americans hired in no-skill and low-skill jobs isn't something to lament, or a sign of increasing poverty, it is something to celebrate, and a sign of increasing prosperity. A hundred years ago most people's productivity, and hence their wages, were determined by physical strength and fortitude. Thank God that's no longer the case, it makes more people more employable, and makes a person's employability more dependent on what they themselves put into their own human capital, rather than in what God gave them in the brawn department. An incontinent wheelchair-bound woman isn't screwed, like she would have been in 1900. She can get an education and a higher-paying job that doesn't require legs or strong arms. An old man can keep his job even after his back gives out and he can't lift what he used to. In fact, during this recession, it is the younger and the stronger workers, and the men, who are losing the most jobs. This leaves us with a temporary inconvenience because the economy never stays in one place or in one state, but it makes us better in the long run. It's called creative destruction, a term coined by economist Joseph Schumpeter.

The lesson is that illegal immigrants, and for that matter people in other countries where jobs are being "out-sourced," are not stealing anything from us. They make us better off by lowering the production costs of the goods and services we buy, hence lowering the market price, hence having the same effect of raising our income. This is how economic growth happens. That it happens to involve people from other countries is totally irrelevent. We are not "losing jobs," our recession is due to a collapsed credit bubble, not factories in China. There's a good reason you won't find many economists--you know, people who study the economy and who deal with facts rather than emotions or ignorant preconceptions--on the side of the anti-out-sourcing crowd.

Fourth, as for the illegal immigrants' use of the welfare state, yes, unless a particular immigrant is paying taxes (and many if not most of them are) then it needs to be stopped. In fact that is where conservatives will have the most success in not only getting voters on their side but in slowing down the tide of immigrants who want to come here not to work but to live off the tax-payers (though they are in the minority, as I understand it).

Getting back to the rule of law, this is an issue we should remain firm on. However, we didn't decide to ignore the law for decade after decade. Others did that. But we have to live with their decision. Sometimes you can simply undo a past decision, other times you cannot simply undo a past decision. Mass deportation sounds like an attractive option, and it may be, but knowing our government it would be done at the cost of $100,000 per deportee, spend years tied up in the courts before it happened, prolong this issue, and in the long run do nothing.

My proposal is.....amnesty. I would have called myself a traitor just a few months ago. But let me explain my reasoning. It's purely pragmatic. What do you call an illegal alien who has been granted the right to stay here by Congress? Answer: a legal immigrant. Like it or not, but if such amnesty should be granted, we would have nothing to complain about. After all, despite that person's past crimes, they would have been pardoned and granted legal status by the book, i.e. by the proper authority: Congress. Amnesty is just as much a legal, by-the-book procedure as mass deportation would be (or for that matter the Presidential pardoning of a crime). And it would cost less. But it should have restrictions. It should be limited to a period of a handful of years, requiring renewal, it should *not* be a pathway to citizenship, it should not allow a person to live off the tax-payer, and it should coincide with mass arrest of all violent criminals among the illegal immigrant population. In short the system would favor people who want to come here and work, not violent criminals, not would-be welfare moms, but workers.

What incentive does this create for would-be illegal immigrants? Would they see that we would just roll over and they can break into the country anyway, and that we would eventually grant them amnesty? Perhaps. For this reason I think we need to make it easy as pie to get a work visa. Just pay a fee. For renewal, a fee. The penalty for not having a work visa though, should be immediate deportation followed by a three-year period during which that person cannot get a work visa to reenter the country. This reduces the incentive for people to bypass the legal immigration system, making the population of "illegal immigrants" much smaller and easier to contain and deport.

It's an issue of economic freedom. If I want to have the freedom to pay cheap imported labor to make my burgers for me, why shouldn't I have the right? Why should the government step in and take away that right from me? Why deny the American consumers the benefit of cheap labor?

The national security considerations, the only true challenge, IMO, to my amnesty position, are for another post entirely, and they merit discussion, and they would have to be factored into the guest worker program.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

One of the biggest fools on the editorial pages is Leonard Pitts Jr. When I discovered he won the Pulitzer five years ago it only reinforced my belief that the Pulitzer is a politically-motivated prize given to left-wing writers regardless of the quality of their work. Seriously, Pitts is just a boob. Poor reasoning, regardless of who it is from or what the person is saying, whether I agree with their contention or not, is like claws on chalk board to me. The editorial pages are filled with non sequiturs and Pitts accounts for about 20% of those, among all columnists.

His most recent article is about the tea party protests, specifically the remarks by Texas Governor Rick Perry.

''When we came into the Union in 1845,'' he told reporters, ``one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that. My hope is that America, and Washington in particular, pay attention. We've got a great Union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that?''

You may read it twice if you wish, but it does not improve upon repetition. To the contrary, it becomes all the more incredible. That is, indeed the Republican governor of Texas -- not a yahoo from some group of gun-toting goobers that meets in the woods, but the honorable James Richard Perry himself -- saying Texas doesn't like the way things are going in this country and suggesting that if we don't get our act together, his state might take its mountains and rivers and go home.

For the record, Texas last tried that in 1861. It didn't work out so well.

That it is borderline traitorous for Perry to obliquely threaten it might be tried again goes without saying. That it is dangerously irresponsible in a nation where there are, in fact, goobers in the woods with guns, is likewise obvious. And no, I am not unaware of the legal theses which hold that any state has the right to leave the Union, though I tend to agree with Abraham Lincoln that the nation that would stand passively by and watch itself disintegrate is unworthy of the name.

Hooookay..... So, when a governor of a state points out the the Federal government is bound by the Constitution to leave all powers not delegated by the Constitution to the states or to the people, and when he further points out that all states' membership in the US is voluntary and can be revoked at any time the people of the state choose to, he's "borderline traitorous"? For what? Citing the US Constitution, and the political philosophy explicitly laid down by this nation's founders? See what I mean about poor reasoning from this guy?

Also notice the references to the Civil War. Well it may interest Pitts to know that Texas did indeed have the right to secede at the time, just as it does now. It had only been a part of the US for twenty years. The reasons for which the Southern states decided to secede are irrelevant when it comes to the legality of secession. I have every legal right to refuse to shop at my local Wal-Mart if I decide that I don't want to shop their because the manager is black. It makes me a bigot and a fool, but it doesn't make me legally wrong.

To further complicate the issue of the Civil War, a huge percentage of the South's people were slaves, and thus many of them had no say about the decision to secede. To furtherly further complicate things, many slaves were in favor of secession! I point all of this out not to wave the Confederate flag or make some kind of argument in favor of slavery or bigotry or whatever, but merely to point out what a complicated, troubling issue the Civil War was--not at all like the black and white, one-sided version of history we are taught.

In any event, it is not traitorous to say what Perry said. If it were traitorous, my question is, traitorous to whom? The country? You can't betray countries, you can only betray people. How do you betray people by dissolving your relationship with them if you feel they are placing burdens on you and passing laws for you to follow which you feel they have no right to do? Which is more traitorous? For Group A to tell Group B, "sorry, we're splitting because you are taking my money, and forcing me into things I don't like and that you don't have the right to tell me to do," or for Group B to say to Group A "give me your money and follow these rules."

This is not to say that Texas ought to secede. That is for the Texans, and ONLY for the Texans, to decide. This is only to lay down the terms of the argument. One thing you will see me going on about a lot on this blog is the poor quality of debate that most people have. People often debate poorly, just as they often reason poorly.