Freecon

Where freedom and economics meet.

Friday, August 16, 2002

THE CEASLESS PROCESSION OF NEW LAWS:

John Huddock at Common Sense and Wonder posts an excellent rant against yet more laws being written to counter what ever the latest evil is perceived to be. He correctly points out that such legislation rarely does anything more than deliver greater power into the hands of the unelected.

NEW-FOUND RESPECT FOR THE WHEEL:

This has probably been on out in the blogosphere for a while, but I just came across it. Capitalist Chicks has posted a commencement speech by Pat Sajaak to the graduating class of Hillsdale College in Michigan. He speaks about the huge disconnect between the Hollywood/"Media Elite" types and regular Americans. This is an excellent, plain-spoken comment on that disconnect.

D.C. HOMERULE:

As I live in Northern Virginia, I hear about this issue a lot. I've never ageed with the stance, primarily because the District is supposed to be jointly owned by every state in the union. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay all thought the issue was so blindingly clear that it is referenced exactly once in the Federalist Papers -- Federalist No. 43 Glenn Reynolds posts a comment from a D.C. denizen who actually disagrees with the homerule proponents.

THE INCOME GAP:

I've never heard the infamous gap mentioned unless someone is trying to point out how unfair the distribution of wealth is in the world (which, of course, entirely misses the point that wealth is not "distributed" it's made). Virginia Postrel points out why the gap is misleading and often irrelevant in this NY Times article. [via Instapundit]

BUSH PLANS TO BOLSTER ECONOMY:

According to this Reuters report, Bush isn't giving any details,

"but said the package could include proposals to reform retirement plans, make changes to the capital-gains tax and lower taxes on dividends -- things that could make the battered U.S. stock market more attractive to investors."

Those all sound great, but I fear the new rules and regulations that inevitably seem to follow these sorts of "reforms." A true stimulus package would:
(1) eliminate the corporate tax;
(2) eliminate all tariffs and excise taxes;
(3) end all subsidies to farmers, Amtrack, etc.;
(4) repeal the tax code and institute a system that retains only the lowest two present brackets; and
(5) phase out the "social security" Ponsi scheme by given back control of savings to those who earn the money.

I won't be holding my breath.

JEWISH BACKING FOR MAJETTE - UPDATE:

I posted a few days ago about this and here's an update. After reading another claim that Denise Majette is being heavily backed by out-of-state Jewish donors in the Washington Times (the piece titled "Nation of Cynthia"), I decided to check again. I went to Opensecrets.org first, but it still had the same information (updated only to July 29). I then went the FEC website and did a search for Majette's individual donors. There are definitely more out-of-state donors listed here than on the Opensecrets.org page, and a number of them do appear to have Jewish surnames. However, the list also confirms that the vast majority of Majette's money and donations are still coming from voters in the Atlanta area.

HOW TO TELL A "TELL":

C.D. Harris IV of Ipse Dixit points to an interesting article concerning the deciphering of subtle facial cues in order to tell what someone is thinking or if they are lying.

DEFINITION OF "DEPRAVED":

The fine is nothing compared to what God has in store for them. Honestly people, is nothing sacred?

TORY BREAK-OFF PARTY:

Apparently a number of Conservative MP's are contemplating the formation of a new party inspired, in part, by Ayn Rand's philosophy. This has some in a froth over objectivism, although Tom Burroughs at Libertarian Samizdata fails to see what the all the huff is about. My only question is, can Jane Galt affect enough of a British accent to be considered as their first candidate?

GDP AS MEASURE OF WEALTH:

Alex Singleton and Francis Moore have posed an interesting question over at The Liberty Log. While the left may argue that GDP is a bad measure of wealth because it doesn't take in to account "the number of birds in the environment, or whether people are happy, what life is like for homeless people, or whether people are living spiritual lives," Francis Moore suggests that GDP may be inadequate because it includes expenditures for which no wealth was created. The example he uses is the government expenditure on an oil spill. The money spent is included in the GDP, but he contends that no wealth was actually created, and no utility was derived. His point is that by including such expenditures in the GDP value, the measure of wealth is distorted.

I think he's right if the premise holds true, but, as I argued in the comments section, I find it highly unlikely that any expenditure happens unless there is at least some utility derived and some wealth created. I think one thing that would prove Francis right is if mere wealth-transfers were included in GDP. I don't think they are, but an example might be some sort of subsidy that comes directly out of one citizen's pocket to be used for another or others (expenditure of funds from an inheritance or estate tax possibly?). Yet, every expenditure, no matter who spends the money, increases somebody's wealth. While nothing may have been created (as in the oil-spill example) and the expenditure may have been on the least-valued use of the funds, some wealth is created for someone.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

ONE WAY TO GO:

There are a lot of ways to commit suicide, but very few of them involve a horribly agonizing death. Self-immolation by Buddists and Hindu widows is one pretty horrible way to go. This is another. Believe it or not, she really meant to do it too. [via Tim Blair]

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

THE VIRTUE OF FREE MARKETS:

Brink Lindsey responds to some criticisms of his latest book Against the Dead Hand by Chris Bertram (a.k.a. Junius). As usual, Junius provides insightful and thought-provoking commentary on free-market capitalism. For his part, Lindsey offers cogent responses to Junius' criticsms. In the end it boils down to a difference between "means" and "ends". Junius argues with free-market means because he doesn't really agree with the ends (which, as far as I can tell, should resemble a Marxist, post-capitalism regime with distributive justice). Lindsey, with whom I agree, is more concerned with the means than which particular ends result, primarily because which "ends" are best is a subjective question that isn't answerable by a centralised allocator (a very Hayekian point).

REPARATIONS SAGA:

I doubt that I need to make my stance on the issue of reparations for slavery known, but for posterity's sake I'm against them. However, I am intrigued by the arguments presented, especially those which draw an analogy between American slaves and Holocaust Jews. Personally, I think the analogy is a stretch, but it's probably the best one for proponents of reparations. What amazes me is that, even though there are logical and intelligent positions available to the Reparationists, they tend to skew, distort and otherwise misconstrue the facts and the arguments. As an example, compare this article in the Village Voice with this excerpt (entitled "Reparations Clangor") of a Walter Williams opinion piece. The issue will apparently be front and center here in D.C. on Saturday the 17th when the "Millions for Reparations" march comes to town.

THE NATO EXPERIMENT:

Megan "Jane Galt" McArdle of Live from the WTC makes a poignant observation about European growth and peace since WWII. She asks whether this was because of philosophical (Kantian?) evolution or because "we have essentially made Europe an occupied protectorate of the United States for the last 50 years?" I would argue the latter (a little late in the game -- there are 59 comments to her post as I write this), in that NATO is the primary protector of peace in Europe, and by that I mean "American defense spending." There's no doubt that Europe has been free-riding off of the U.S. defense since WWII. Whether it is justifiable is another question, but essentially American military power (a direct result of economic freedom I might add) has allowed the European experiment in social planning to continue unabated.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

TWIST ON THE MCKINNEY "SCANDAL":

I ran across this Washington Post article by Thomas B. Edsall on the questions surrounding some of Rep. Cynthia McKinney's donations [via Common Sense]. While this is a rather old story to the blogosphere (broken originially by Indepundit), something new in the WaPo story struck me as odd. According to Edsall:

Questions about the donors' backgrounds mark the latest twist in a House race heavily funded by outside groups interested in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. Most of McKinney's money has come from non-district residents with Muslim or Arab surnames. Her Democratic challenger, former state judge Denise Majette, is heavily funded by Jews living outside Georgia.

Well there's news! So this is all just a contest between Jews and Muslims again. But wait. Although Edsall cites a number of the Muslim donors to McKinney, there isn't one cite to the donors for Majette. Moreover, the only source identified for any of the information in the story is an Aug. 3 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that "identified eight of the controversial donors to the McKinney campaign." There is no source given for the "backing from the Jewish community" for Majette.

Being the curious sort, I decided to see what I could find on Majette's alleged heavy, out-of-state, Jewish financial backing by using the same (or similar) methods to the Indepundit search of McKinney's donors and what I found was very interesting.

According to Opensecrets.org, Majette only received approximately 2.87% of her funds from all out-of-state donors, Jews or otherwise. The list of all individual donors for the 2002 cycle* reveals that only four people contributed to Majette's campaign from out of state:

Michele Spence of Brooklyn, NY ($250)
Nadine Newsome of White Plains, NY ($500)
Ricardo Mitchell of Ellicot City, MD ($500)
Olivia Majette of Brooklyn, NY ($1000)

*type "Majette" into the RECIPIENT box and click SEARCH

So exactly where does the Edsall get the idea that Majette is receiving all kinds of donations ("heavy backing") from out-of-state Jews? Seems to me that the WaPo is trying to help Comrade McKinney save face for the fact that she's supported by Muslims who are openly hostile to Israel. By making it appear that Majette is backed by supporters of Israel, the story seems to imply that McKinney is merely being supported by those who are contrary to Israel. However, such a tension does not hold up to the facts.

THE STEADY MARCH OF SOCIALISM (PART II):

A guest article posted on Innocents Abroad contains some rather interesting predictions about a U.N report on the "right to food" by Jean Ziegler (a.k.a. the Swiss Jimmy Carter). According to the post, Ziegler intimates that the U.S. is guilty of not supporting the world population's right to food. The post's author (Mr. Jan Marejko, a Swiss journalist, philosopher and consultant living in Geneva) predicts that this will lead to the ICC trying the U.S. for violation of that apocryphal right "and further substantiate this indictment with charges of genocide and crimes against humanity."

NANNY STATE!?! WHAT NANNY STATE?:

Moira Breen of Inappropriate Response points out a succinct devil-denies-his-existence moment. While the context may not improve the quote, you should follow the link anyway.

LIBERTARIANISM AND DEFENSE:

Alex Singleton at The Liberty Log critiques one of the oft-accepted yet rarely explained mainstays of the American Libertarian Party; that a National Defense policy should be at most grounded in a defense of direct attack only. I agree with Alex's assessment here, and would add one point: America waiting until an attack is imminent (i.e. employing a non-interventionist policy) before mobilizing a defense is a bit like the siege of Masada. We might be safe on our mountain-top for a little while, but eventually our enemies will build up the strength and ingenuity to destroy us.

THE STEADY MARCH OF SOCIALISM:

One of the books I'm reading right now is Free to Choose by Rose and Milton Friedman. At the end of the book is an appendix that lays out the Socialist Party economic platform for 1928 and the success of that platform as of 1979. Michael Long, in a guest comment to the National Review, updates the list to 2002 -- the conclusion is unnerving to say the least.

YOU WANT ANGRY? I'LL GIVE YOU ANGRY!:

``The American administration has a misunderstanding about their own power and their own interests ... Since Sept. 11, this administration has taken an angry approach to foreign policy.''

So says President Mohammad Khatami of Iran on his visit to Kabul, Afghanistan. You've gotta love this. We rout an entrenched, totalitarian enemy (and a non-too-loved neighbor of Iran's) in record time with the lowest civilian casualties since the the Glorious Revolution, and the leader of IRAN thinks we're "misunderstanding" something about our power and interests. The U.S. is practicing "angry foreign policy" yet since the late seventies Iran has been calling the U.S. "the Great Satan". When anyone dies because of something the U.S. did either directly or indirectly, the entire world is up in in arms over how irresponsible and insensitive we are when it comes to the pitiful victims of America's alleged hegemony. Meanwhile, when 19 Islamofascists crash airliners into our buildings, brutally murdering over 3000 innocent people, there's dancing in the streets in the Middle East.

America clearly warns those who would hurt her (Iraq) that we aren't about to sit on our hands and wait for some Kurdish fate. I guess this is "angry foreign policy." Yet, with every effort to raise international concensus on the need to do something the U.S. is said to be acting "unilaterally" and the Islamic countries of the Middle East ominously warn that we are merely provoking further terrorist incidents. That is supposedly "calm and rational" foreign policy? ("Our radicals are loaded! Don't make us use them!"):

``No doubt attacking one state in the world affects other states,'' Khatami said. ``Today, we know that aggression brings aggression and to believe that you can make people submit by force is wrong. We know it actually brings anger and destruction.''

I have an idea. Instead of threatening to overthrow regimes in the Middle East let's just make one simple promise: We will calibrate several nuclear missiles to land square in downtown Baghdad. Within minutes of any terrorist attack on the U.S., its interests abroad or its allies those missiles will be launched. Now that's "angry foreign policy."

Monday, August 12, 2002

RETURN: I am back and blogging! I had to spend a week in New Jersey learning about ... well ... nothing of great import actually, but it was required all the same (Continuing Legal Education). There will be new posts soon so y'all keep coming back now!