Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Supporting the Arts

My letter to the editor of the Dallas Morning News on people protesting the lack of live music at the ballet. They cut a bit of it off, including the end where I suggest that we need to donate more to the ballet and the other arts to keep the best of the arts Western civilization has to offer around through the depression we're currently in. This is the complete text:

This past Saturday, my wife and I attended the ballet, Cleopatra, at Bass Hall in Forth Worth. As we went in, we encountered protestors protesting the fact that there was no live music, only recorded music. As lovers of both the ballet and the opera, we of course greatly prefer the use of live music, as that allows for an actual interplay between the orchestra and dancers. However, it later came to our attention that the reason for the lack of live music was because of a significant monetary shortfall on the part of the Texas Ballet Theater. If the choice is between no ballet and ballet with pre-recorded music, the choice is obvious. The demonstrators were from the local musicians union, 72-147, and while the certainly have some valid points, including a fear that live music may be permanently replaced by pre-recorded music, it also seems that the demonstrators, by encouraging patrons to not by tickets for future performances, are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. If less money comes to the Ballet, whether from reduced donations or from reduced ticket sales, it will be even harder for the Ballet to have live music in the future. If the musicians union is sincere about getting live music back in the Texas Ballet Theater, they should be spending their time and money trying to get people to donate more and to get more people in the seats. If their current activities are successful, they will close down the Ballet, and ensure that no live music will ever be played at the Texas Ballet ever again. And with the current economy, which only looks to get worse and to last for many years, the arts in particular are going to suffer. This will be a real shame, as if we lose the ballet, the opera, the symphony, our theaters, etc., we will lose our culture as well. Do we really want a cultural collapse as well as an economic collapse? Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to make even small donations to ensure that we can keep the very best of our culture alive?

We do need to support the arts in this country more. I'm trying to do that with The Emerson Institute for Freedom and Culture, but I have $0 in donations to date. Any suggestions on how to get money so we can get this thing up and running so we can finally begin patronizing artists? We especially need donations from the general public to maintain our 501(c)(3) status.

Why Our Government Officials Need Literature

Newt Gingrich on one of the many values inherent in fiction. Too many people, especially those involved in our educational system, do not think literature is important. Certainly those in charge of our security need to read more Tom Clancy-type fiction. Those in charge of our economy need to read more Ayn Rand-type fiction. Does anyone know of any other economics-scenarios fiction? High literature is almost exclusively what-if scenarios on social issues. Any thoughts on why what-if scenarios on social issues result in high literature, but not what-if scenarios involving international incidents, politics, or economics? Any exceptions?

Economics Quiz Time

Quiz time!

Who said, "The state should retain supervision and each property owner should consider himself appointed by the state. It is his duty not to use his property against the interests of others among his own people. This is the crucial matter"?

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Cain Apocalypse

A teaser from my new play "The Cain Apocalypse":


Grasslands. Very primitive living quarters on the left edge of the stage.

Scene 1 – Enter Adam hoeing the ground with a very primitive stone hoe. He hoes for a while, stops, wipes the sweat from his forehead, and begins hoeing again. He hoes a while before he stops, his hoe stuck on something in the ground. He pulls, pulls the hoe out, then raises the hoe over his head and drives the end deep in the ground. He pulls, and a stone pops out.


I work this ground and all I grow is rocks
And weeds. I have to say, at least my flocks
Of goats do well enough. The well is dry.
I have to dig it deeper. I should try
To get these rocks up. God, your sun is hot.
Why keep this up? You think that I forgot
The reason Paradise was left behind?
Is punishment deserved to have a mind?
My Lord, my God, you rarely speak to me
Since Eve and I ate from the blesséd Tree
Of Knowledge of what’s Good and Evil. Now
I know that disobedience will grow
The fruits of wrath. But how could I have known
That eating of the fruit was wrong – no loan
Of knowledge given ‘til it was too late?
We had no choice – it was our given fate
To eat since we could hardly know about
Its wrongness ‘til we ate the fruit. I doubt
We would have eaten had we known what we
Could not have known without that blesséd Tree.

[Adam wipes his brow, bends over, and picks up the rock. He turns it over, looking at it.]

Just like this stone, I come from dust. God’s breath
Made me less petrified. And with my death
I’ll turn to dust, my breath return to God.
I can’t explain this feeling – it is odd,
This feeling of suspension in between
The Earth and Heaven. Ah, the things I’ve seen,
Of Paradise and work, my lovely wife
In innocence and shame. She is my life,
My Eve, the mother of my children, sons
Who help me with my work. A man who runs
From work is not a man of God, is not
A man who’s worthy of the name. A cot
Is not a place to spend your days. Although
I did enjoy nice Eden’s sloth, I grow
Each day I’ve left. My Lord, I am confused –
I seem to swing between resentment, used
To Paradise I was thrown from by you,
And thankfulness for showing me what’s true
And good and just and beautiful as well
As ugly, bad and evil since we Fell.

[Adam throws the rock off stage right.]

Well, be that as it may, I cannot help
But long for innocence again, the whelp
I was when I was there. I was a pup
Who could not know that God had set him up
To fall by Eve, who God had made for me,
By me, to be beside me, make me free.
And where’s my wife, my life, my strife, my love
And my companion, gift from God above?
She isn’t back from gathering what she
Could find for us to eat. Where could she be?

[Adam looks around, shading his eyes with his hand. He shakes his head and wipes his brow. He lifts the hoe and exits stage right to look for Eve.]

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rights and Privileges

Do humans have rights governments recognize (or don't), or do people only have privileges government grants (or doesn't)? I suspect that your answer to this question will determine your politics to a certain degree.

If you believe the latter, my guess is that you are a pragmatist whose thinks the government has to "do something" to offset the "excesses" of the free market economy -- and that we especially have to "do something" now more than ever. THis idea that government only grants privileges is a deeply conservative idea -- and by deeply conservative, I mean that it's an idea which precedes the Enlightenment. It places the government in charge of the people, who are incapable of doing anything for themselves without the wisdom of government there to help them.

If you believe in rights, my guess is that you are a democrat -- an idealist of some sort. What is then at issue among democrats is the limits of rights. What are rights, properly speaking? You have those who believe in negative rights and those who believe in positive rights. Negative rights are those which prevent others from doing something to you. Such rights include the rights to life, liberty, expression, and property -- and the proper role of government is to protect those rights from others, including government(s). Positive rights are those which grant you something -- they are, in fact, privileges. Such rights include the rights to health care, a certain income, education, and work -- and the proper role of government is to make sure everyone gets these rights. The difference between the two is that nobody has to give up anything (except a life of crime) for everyone to have their negative rights respected, but somebody has to give up something (or be enslaved) to ensure everyone gets their positive rights. If we have a right to health care, somebody has to do something to provide you with that service. If we have a right to life, all somebody has to do is leave you alone and not kill you. A right to health care means that you have a right to the labor of a doctor -- that the doctor has to serve you, no matter what. There is a term for those who have to serve another, and do not have a choice but to serve. Thus, a government that recognizes positive rights will eventually see the need to nationalize any and all businesses which provide those services, meaning a slave economy is reintroduced, even if it is a kind of wage-slave economy. The difference is that those with the most abilities are enslaved to those with the fewest. Of course, the right to an education has resulted in a massive reduction in those who have any sort of real abilities at all, so the system does tend to undermine itself.

With the idea of positive rights, privilege and many pre-market conditions are reintroduced. The difference is that privilege and the slave economy are turned on their heads under democratic governments. But privilege is privilege and slavery is slavery, even if the common people are the privileged masters this time around. Slavery vanished in most of the world because it was a far less efficient way of getting work done than were free market conditions. It seems we will have to learn that lesson again (and again).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Music Trains the Brain

A very short piece in the 13 March 2009 Science says those who learned music at a young age are best at making more nuanced interpretations of orally-expressed emotions. Just one more reason to teach music starting in Kindergarten. One has to wonder why, with all the information out there about the cognitive and educational benefits of learning music, our rulers (I have decided to just be honest from now on and call them our rulers, since we sit back and allow them to do whatever they want to us) not only don't push for more musical training, but seem to specifically target music for cuts.

No More Radical Reading in College?

There is an interesting article in the Dallas Morning News on Sunday from Ron Charles on the incredibly safe, conservative literature college students are now reading.

When I say "conservative," I'm not talking politically here. Ayn Rand is understood to be conservative, but she is also a radical read. She was my radical read in college. No, what I mean by conservative, is that the works being read do not challenge our world views, let alone expose new facets of existence. How can this be?

Charles asks two scholars, one on the Right, the other on the Left. The one on the Left predictably blames capitalism and the attitude that "if it's not popular, it's not worth reading." I will get to why students have that attitude, and it's not due to capitalism, but due to the efforts of his fellow Leftist colleagues. He also quotes conservative Roger Kimball, who I think comes closer to the mark, but also misses the real problem, which is that postmodern academics have been telling us for so long that all works have the same value, that we as a culture now believe it. If all works have the same value, then one might as well go with what's popular. If all works have the same value, then there is no "challenging" versus "conservative" literature. If we can deconstruct all works into nothing but power-relations that justify the current power structures, then there is in fact no such thing as "challenging" literature. Again, one might as well read fluff.

Only if there really is good and bad literature, only if there is a hierarchy of what is good and valuable, can we justifiably argue that our college students need to read better literature. And they do. Because there is better and worse literature, more or less challenging works. More, there are subversive works, which do in fact challenging the prevailing power structures.

My recommended reading list for college students who want to read the kinds of literature one should be reading in college:

The poetry and prose of Frederick Turner
MIlan Kundera
Alain de Botton
Carole Maso
anyone published by Measure
Tom Stoppard
Ayn Rand
J. T Fraser
Stuart Kauffman
Franz de Waal
Friederich von Hayek

And if you want to be really radical, go read all the classics nobody has you read anymore.

Please note that my reading list is a mixed bag of philosophers, poets, scientists, novelists, economists, and playwrights. As well it should be.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Return of Keynes

For more on Keynes resurrection, read this. If only this were in fact a bad horror movie, and not real life.

And here is Terence Corcoran on the general mess we're in. The comments at the end show just how much of a Keynesian Bernanke is.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Federal Reserve's Keynesian "Solution"

From the Belfast Telegraph:

"The US Federal Reserve has announced plans to inject around one trillion dollars into the economy in an effort to lift the country out of recession.

The Fed says it will buy up to $300bn worth of long-term bonds and will buy another $750bn worth of mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Analysts say the move should keep mortgage rates low for a long period of time."

The Fed injects money by printing up dollars. The U.S. GDP in 2008 was a little over $14 trillion. This means that prices will soon go up 7%. That's like an across-the-board 7% tax increase. In addition, the current economic downturn was caused in part by low mortgage rates. How is it that people in Washington think that more of what caused the problem in the first place is what will solve the problem? Certainly artificial inflation, caused by the Fed printing up more money, won't help matters any.

Here's the problem:

The people in Washington are primarily influenced by the work of John Maynard Keynes. Among his terrible ideas when it comes to macroeconomic theory is the fact that when he saw the correlation between inflation and a good economy and that between deflation and a bad economy, he thought that inflation caused the good economy, and deflation caused the bad economy. But he was getting the world exactly backwards. In a good economy, people compete for goods, and prices go up; in a bad economy, people wait for prices to go down, companies compete to lower prices, and you get deflation. Keynes said that if we print more money, it will help the economy (he also said deficit spending by government is also good for the economy). Reducing the money supply also slows the economy. Now, it does happen to be true that if you increase the money supply, it will send an inflationary signal that the economy is doing well, and people will respond to that -- but it is also true that once people catch on that this is a false signal, they realize that the economy actually isn't as strong as they thought, and they act as though there is a recession. This is what caused the stagflation of the 1970's in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world where, for the first time in world history, there was high inflation with a recession. It destroyed many economies, and so damaged the economies of the U.S. and Britain that those two countries elected Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, respectively. But it seems we haven't learned our lesson about Keynes, because here we are again, printing up money. Worse, the Fed is announcing it, meaning we won't even have the benefit of ignorance of the signal being false. We all know it's a false signal, so I suspect we won't even see a short-term benefit from it. More, it is so obvious that this is a hail-mary pass, it will likely scare people even more. In fact, the value of the dollar has already dropped 4.8% against the Euro, a record drop since 1985.

"This man is dying of alcohol poisoning! Quick! Bring me some whiskey!"


Friday, March 20, 2009

Am I a Potential Domestic Terrorist?

Gee, I go away for a week, and while I'm gone, I learn that I may be a domestic terrorist. I learned this fun little piece of information from Glenn Beck Thursday night.

Apparently, if you are a supporter of Ron Paul and Bob Barr (I did support both), associate with third parties (and I just paid my LP dues only two weeks ago), are a member of Campaign for Liberty (oops, just helped organize the Texas version of that), have watched Aaron Russo's movie "America: Freedom to Fascism" (I did happen to watch that right before I saw the Glenn Beck thing). I did show up to an anti-Federal Reserve rally once, and I do happen to think that the role of the Fed is un-Constitutional (oops, they also said that supporters of the Constitution tend to be potential domestic terrorists), since the Constitution grants Congress the duty of determining the value of money -- a duty which cannot be outsources without a Constitutional amendment. This blog is full of anti-government propaganda (I rather think of it as well-reasoned discussion points, but one man's analysis based on reason, logic, and evidence is another man's propaganda). I also happen to think that the only proper way to depict the IRS is in a derogatory manner, as should all thieves, whether professional or amateur (I do nonetheless pay my taxes -- and probably overpay my taxes -- because I do have enough sense to be afraid of people who run a protection racket).

Apparently, people such as me are also supposed to be racist, homophobic, and anti-immigrant. Except that I am pro-immigration, pro-gay rights, and am about as non-racist as one can possibly be (I even took a test that showed I have no biases). And I am all these things precisely because I am generally anti-government -- or, at least, anti-big government. Though one cannot exactly escape anarchists when one is associated with the Libertarian Party of the Campaign for Liberty, I don't happen to be one of them. I love how if one is anti-government, one must be a crazy Right-winger. Apparently there aren't any anti-government Leftists out there as far as our government is concerned. But everyone should be concerned that supporters of a sitting Congressman are considered to be potential domestic terrorists.

I also used to have a Gadsden Flag, but I may have given that away.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Future of Macroeconomics

The future of macroeconomics will continue to be a series of disastrous experiments until we come to understand macroeconomic behavior as emergent features of a complex system. Understanding the economy as a complex system that evolves -- and can evolve into a new kind of complex system -- is what is necessary. Recessions are transition states from one stable economy to another (see catastrophe theory for the proper model of this). As changes and errors accumulate in a stable economy, it becomes unstable, a shift occurs, and the economy leaps into a new stable order. This is part of Joseph Schumpeter's “creative destruction." During recessions, though, there's an emphasis on the destruction part. But this is necessary. In natural ecosystems (to which an economy can be fruitfully compared), mass extinctions are often needed to make space for new forms of life. Sure, some mass extinctions are caused by asteroids -- but that's a rare event. In the case of cambrian explosion. there was a sudden increase in number and kinds of species after a period of relative stability.

But let's look at this on the cellular-molecular level. Gould proposes that an individual species stays that species over long periods of time, and mutations accumulate over that period, until a critical number of mutations accumulate, and (a) new species emerge(s). On the cellular level, the stable system moves closer and closer to chaos, until a catastrophic collapse is reached. The system either goes extinct, having collapsed into complete chaos, or it moves into a new, typically more complex level. This is what causes the emergence of new species. At the ecological level, we have species coming and going off and on, here and there all the time. But sometimes, every so often, there will be a conjunction of species going extinct, opening up new niches, new species emerging to help those extinctions along, and other new species, later, filling in the newly opened niches. New niches may even form, with new species emerging to fill them. A species that was just barely holding on may suddenly find the environment perfect for it. This is much like what happens in a typical business cycle. Some are as spectacular as the Cambrian explosion. Others are more subtle.

Ormerod's "Butterfly Economics" sets us on the right path, but he still falls a little short, still missing the forest for the trees. His ideas need to be combined with Hayek's spontaneous order model of the economy, as well as Prigogine's dissipative structures, and Gould's punctuated equilibrium model of evolution. Indeed, the punctuated equilibrium model I think brings us much closer as to why there are business cycles in market economies. It also explains why we have so many scandals at the time of recessions -- as cheaters (those contributing to the errors accumulating in the system) are exposed. Cheaters have to be swept away for the next, healthy system to come into existence.

Some may object that things are in fact simpler than this. They could not be more wrong. All economies are nonlinear, complex, self-organizing, dissipative systems. Simple is not an option. Simple, linear thinking is what makes recessions in these cycles worse. The attempt to make such a system simple and linear -- through welfare statism or socialism -- stretches the recession out through time and at best flattens growth. What we are witnessing right now is the actions of people who see the economy as simple ,linear, and as a zero-sum game. They are wrong on all accounts. To not understand the need for systems theory in economics is like not understanding the need for it in biology. You can keep trying to apply Newtonian physics equations to cellular behavior, but you're not going to have the foggiest idea what's going on.

Macroeconomics is the attempt to understand the macrofeatures of the economy. To make an analogy, microeconomics is biochemistry, macroeconomics is cell biology. Or should be. Right now, macroeconomics is more like molecular biology in its attempt to understand the large institutions within the economy. To that extent, there is in fact almost no theory of macroeconomics proper. There needs to be a medioeconomics that deals with institutions, firms, etc. in the same way molecular biology deals with structural and informational macromolecules. Could you imagine the state biology would be in if there weren't a separation between molecular biology and cell biology? Yet, that is the state I see in economics, with macroeconomics being that sort of fusion. At best. At worst, it doesn't even admit to their being true macrofeatures. It would be like having a theory of biochemistry and molecular biology without a theory of the cell.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

War on Business

Interesting post claiming Obama is engaged in a War on Business. Of course, if it has the same success as the War on Drugs or the War on Poverty, businesses should be doing extremely well very soon.

Late Capitalism

My brother, Todd, sent me the following email:

"In my art history class, I have come across a term I have never encountered until now, Late Capitalism. Turns out to be a Marxist term, shock, shock, that assumes capitalism is just a phase. Sounds like wishful thinking on the Marxist part to me. Even if Capitalism was a phase, how could someone possibly know they are writing in the late period of an economic phase without some historical distance. You CAN'T! The classic assumption is that things like capitalism do not evolve and change with the times.

Capitalism works on a principal of 'the path of least resistance,' and if regulations and nation states find ways of squashing capitalism, it just goes underground or creates new ways of getting around those blocked paths. Even the Hoover Dam can not completely hold back the Colorado River. I think it is time we start reframing capitalism as a force of nature and not a historical period. Then again, Mercantilism was a period in history that had its beginnings and ends. Some nations are currently going through that phase. Can there be a post-Capitalist period like there is a post-Mercantilist period? "

Here is my response:

I've heard the term before it's in the title of a book by Fredric Jameson, "Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism." There are other terms for it, like "neoliberalism" -- in the European sense of the term "liberal," of course.

One of the features of a spontaneous order is that the elements of the system have to be essentially equal. There may be local hierarchies, and there may be hierarchies within a corporation (which is local), but in a global sense, since we cannot actually know everybody, we cannot actually relate to them in a hierarchical fashion. We have to treat everyone as equals, being more-or-less strangers. Insofar as capitalism/free markets are a spontaneous order, you would have to argue that we can get to a place beyond equality among members of an economic system to argue that we could get "beyond" capitalism.

However, what do we mean by "capitalism"? Is it in fact equivalent to the free market system? Perhaps not. Perhaps mercantilism is a stage in the evolution of free market economics. As peoples become more interconnected, globally connected, and thus are dealing with people they cannot know well enough to relate to them in a hierarchical fashion, the market economy becomes increasingly a free market economy. Capitalism follows mercantilism as yet another form of the free market economic system. Over time the economy becomes increasingly self-or ganizing in a global rather than merely a local sense. If we take Marx seriously as the person who coined the term "capitalism" and thus accept his definition of it, then there is in fact plenty of room to move beyond capitalism -- and into a truly free market economy. Certainly one would have to move beyond protectionism and cronyism in political economy (two of the things Marx identified with capitalism). In many ways Marx is in fact right -- up until he begins to make predictions about the future. He in fact lays the groundwork for materialist top-down determinism, a step that is necessary to develop systems theory and the theory of emergence (where what has emerged now affects what it emerged from, in a top-down fashion). Ironically, systems theory led directly to Hayek's idea of the market economy as a spontaneous order and, thus, a systems-theoretic defense of the market economy against communism. Marx's foundations were used to disprove Marx's conclusions.

The mercantilist economic system was a transitional economy, from the Medieval feudalist system to the capitalist system. I would argue, with Jameson, that postmodernism is indeed Late Capitalism precisely because the welfare state is still fundamentally capitalist. Recently Obama defended himself against charges of being a socialist, saying he supported capitalism. Indeed, he does. Crony capitalism. Billions of dollars are going to very select corporations. Large corporations. While the largest banks are getting billions, small banks across the country are being nationalized by the FDIC and sold off to the highest bidder -- and the highest bidders are of course the largest banks. The Catholic church isn't providing the kind of health care Obama wants, so he passes a law he knows the Catholic church could not possibly obey (the one that forces doctors to perform abortions on demand). The church of course cannot allow abortions to be performed, and they won't sell the hospitals to someone who will. My guess is that when this law goes into effect and the church shuts down the hospitals, the government will seize the hospitals and auction them off to megahospitals who are more than happy to pay the piper. This sort of thing is crony capitalism. It is more how third world countries run things, with only slightly less direct control than occurs under fascism.

One doesn't have to move forward. One can move backward. Crony capitalism is practically another word for mercantilism. Obama is also a protectionist, which is also fairly mercantilist in nature. Mercantilism essentially sees the economy as a fixed pie, a zero-sum game. So does Obama. He doesn't belief in growth. In that he's not a Marxist, as it was, again, Marx who was the first to recognize that economic growth was in fact a permanent feature. Of course, he was only half right. It's a permanent feature in a free market system. There are many ways to stop growth, but none of them have anything to do with the nature of the economy itself, but rather political concerns.

In fact, late capitalism refers to bureaucratic capitalism. We are ruled by bureaucracies-- both government and corporate. That, too, is a feature of postmodern culture, and is what Kafka warned us about. In bureaucratic capitalism, you have the situation where nobody is in charge, and nobody owns anything in a direct fashion. Nobody can to be blamed or held responsible, there is no head to chop off to kill the beast.

Whatever the economy evolves into, it won't be socialism or communism -- those are moves backwards, as Hayek demonstrated in "The Road to Serfdom." I suspect the economy will evolve toward a more personalized economy -- meaning corporations will have to be more personal and personable. Meaning, an effective end to bureaucracies, which are in fact neither. Perhaps a globalized localism -- all the benefits of localism without the negatives of Othering. So long as governments maintain the kind of control over economies they now enjoy (and wish to expand upon), we will state in late capitalism, which is really just another term for the welfare state. Right now it's being expanded at a rapid rate, much like a cancer. But cancer is not an organism; it must be destroyed in order for the organism to survive. The good news is that when the cancer becomes big enough to be noticed as cancer, that is typically when chemotherapy begins to kill it off. If we are lucky, Obama is in fact ushering in the end of late capitalism once and for all.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Are Potential Employers Finding Me Here?

My wife wonders if university employers have been googling my name and finding my blogs and/or MySpace, Linkedin, and Facebook and are deciding against hiring me because of my political ideas.

Is it possible that universities are discriminating based on politics? Likely?

Why wouldn't they want to hire someone who is pro-gay rights, pro-women's rights, and anti-racist? Why wouldn't they want to hire someone who truly believes in multiculturalism?

Or could it be my free market economics? Or the fact that I am pro-science, and take a scientific approach to my scholarship? Or that, in addition to being a multiculturalist, I also believe in human universals?

Anyone who is coming to this blog and then deciding not to hire me is, at best, acting unethically in my opinion. Certainly, I'm the kind of person who thinks you should be able to hire who you want, but at the same time, why would you want unquestioning unity of thought, either?

Friday, March 06, 2009

How to Use a Crisis

If I wanted to foster a crisis in help for people in need in general, and in the health care system in particular, the first thing I would do would be to try to get rid of tax deductions for charitable giving and make it impossible for religious hospitals to stay open. Obama has proposed doing the first -- or, at least, to cut it in half -- which has managed to find opposition from a few Democrats, causing him to (temporarily) back down from it. Abortion legislation just passed, making it illegal to refuse to perform an abortion no matter what your beliefs (which I'm pretty certain violates the 1st Amendment), will cause Catholic hospitals across this country to shut down.

Don't think that any of this is an accident.

The attempt to reduce the tax deduction for charitable giving is intended to cause a reduction in charitable giving -- during a time when charitable donations are down anyway, due to the economy. Such a move would be the final death blow to perhaps most charities. The result will be less private sector aid for people, meaning the government will have to step in to fill the gap -- with the added benefit of being able to claim that the private sector has failed in the realm of charity.

The abortion law is also intended to have a similar effect. Regardless of your position on abortion, I would hope that you could agree that nobody should be forced to perform abortions if they don't want to do so. This legislation is designed to run off doctors and to cause religious hospitals to shut down. You cannot tell me that the people who passed this legislation didn't know that the Catholic church couldn't run a hospital that performed abortions. Why would they want to pass legislation that would shut down hospitals? Well, religious hospitals are often charity hospitals, meaning they provide inexpensive or even free health care to poor people and those without health care. If these hospitals shut down, it will actually create a health care crisis in this country. This will make it even easier for the government to nationalize the health care system. And, again, they will be able to point to the "failure" of the private sector to provide health care to the poor and uninsured.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with nationalized health care, you have to agree that such tactics are highly unethical. If bad action is doing something bad in ignorance of the good, and evil is doing something bad knowing what the good is, and choosing do to the bad anyway . . . Well, I'll let you decide the moral state of this administration.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Chavez Gearing Up Anti-Opposition Media Rhetoric

And the censorship campaign in Venezuela begins. Back in May 2007 I pointed out that Chavez was busy silencing the opposition media in an indirect fashion. Now he's being more direct. I wonder if that Leftist investigative reporter for the BBC, Palast, who said of the Venezuela media: "And remember, the Venezuelan media hate Chavez. Unlike ours, their media actively debate politics, and they are against him. But he hasn't shut down the media" will be ready to recant. I'm guessing not.

The way Chavez was sounding two years ago is how the Democrats are sounding in this country now. Not a good sign.

The Democrats' Need for Villains

An interesting little opinion piece on why the Democrats shouldn't make Limbaugh their target of hatred. It is the end, though, that I found to be most interesting:

"as Obama’s failures aggregate into a deepening crisis of confidence the Democrats’ need for villains will increase in an effort to deflect blame.

And this is why I despair. I predict that in opting to campaign rather than govern, the Democrats are likely to spread the blame net far and wide. The result will be uber-polarization more typical of socialist and fascist polities. The stock market not cooperating? Blame capitalists, the banks, the “investor class.”

Not getting your way in the Middle East? Blame Zionists, Christian conservatives, hint darkly at organized “new-conservative” cabals of Jews. Unemployment continuing to rise? Blame employers. I don’t know which of these or other villains are likely to appear, but based on Democratic Party behavior thus far, am certain that blaming Limbaugh is only the beginning."

I keep finding this theme in not-crazy places, and I do not like that I am. The thing about collectivists and collectivism is that when you are engaged in group-think, there's always going to be a group you are against. The question is, which group or groups will be the targets?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Tale of Two Disasters

It took about three days for government
To make it in ot New Orleans. The flood
Of hurricane and weakened levies, blood
Of people shot by criminals have sent

In a diaspora the citizens
To raise up crime in Houston and make flow
A new jazz scene in San Antonio.
A media-created rosy lens

Gets a corrupt man re-elected mayor,
Though we was most responsible for all
The deaths – the buses did not get the call,
The money “somehow” gone. It was a day or

Two of such terrible existence – sin
And graft, corruption was rewarded, death
The image reinforced each day. The breath
Of vast incompetence was not reigned in/

The ice storm in Kentucky displaced more
Across a larger area, the lights
And heat were gone in freezing cold. The sights,
However, were of houses of the poor

And trees enwrapped in shining crystal ice.
Who cares about a bunch of hillbillies
Who had to live in hotels or else freeze?
I bet that most of them are full of lice.

It took about three days for media
To cover Kentucky’s disastrous storm,
Ignoring it almost until the warm
Winds came to melt the ice. The area

Was hit by something nameless; it was not
Katrina – named and thus something that we
Could talk about. Is that the reason three
Days passed? Can lack of naming change the lot

Of people, suffering? We still refer
To 9-11 with a number – it’s
Without a name. perhaps it hardly fits
The stories that the media prefer.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Anti-Semitism on the Rise on College Campuses?

Anti-Semitism appears to be on the rise on college campuses. The excuse is the Middle East conflict. That is undoubtedly part of it. Is another part economics?

Melina and the Caterpillar

A few weeks ago, I took Melina for a walk. We saw a caterpillar on the sidewalk, and I pointed it out to her. She saw it and said, "Caterpillar walking." After we watched it for a minute, she said, "It turn into butterfly." Needless to say, I was surprised. We had seen a PBS show on monarch butterflies about two weeks before, which I'm guessing is where she got it from. As the caterpillar crawled into the grass, Melina said, "Bye, caterpillar," blew it a kiss, and said, "I love you, caterpillar." Once it was hidden in the grass, we continued our walk.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Hitler's Economics

According to the Anti-Defamation League, "Regardless of the economic arguments, Hitler's economic policies cannot be divorced from his great policies of virulent anti-Semitism, racism and genocide."

Lew Rockwell explains what those economic policies were: "He suspended the gold standard, embarked on huge public works programs like Autobahns, protected industry from foreign competition, expanded credit, instituted jobs programs, bullied the private sector on prices and production decisions, vastly expanded the military, enforced capital controls, instituted family planning, penalized smoking, brought about national health care and unemployment insurance, imposed education standards, and eventually ran huge deficits. The Nazi interventionist program was essential to the regime's rejection of the market economy and its embrace of socialism in one country."

Nixon dealt the final blow to the gold standard. The rest of the list sounds like a list of what the last and present administrations did, are doing, and are planning to do.

On Recessions and the Future Economy

The current economy is going through a transition state. It is moving from one kind of economy to another. That is what happens during recessions. As changes accumulate in a stable economy, it becomes unstable, a shift occurs, and the economy leaps into a new stable order. The economist Joseph Schumpeter called this process “creative destruction,” and it is a key feature of free market economies.

During recessions, the “destruction” part becomes all too apparent. Still, it is necessary if the “creative” part is to occur at all. Recessions can be compared to an arborist cleaning up a bush. The deadwood has to be cleaned out to allow new growth to occur. When that deadwood is removed, the bush will look worse for a while, full of holes, drooping here and there – but after a while, new growth fills in everywhere, and the bush is stronger than before.

From this perspective, it seems odd to want to keep the growth-stunting deadwood around. Which is, after all, what the bailouts, started by Bush and being continued by Obama, are doing, and were intended to do. This kind of bailout of industries whose timely end has come is thus conservative in the truest sense of the word: it is intended to conserve the status quo. Unfortunately, such measures are made at the expense of what is now succeeding, slowing that success and, thus, delaying economic recovery. Worse, those who made bad decisions, who are failing, are being rewarded for their bad decisions and failures at the expense of those making good decisions and succeeding.

The consequence of all this is a delay of the next phase in our economy and, thus, of our economic recovery. At the same time, many elements of the new economy, such as health care and education, are in danger of stagnation precisely because of the dominance – and increasing dominance – of the government in those very areas. The drop in educational outcomes coincided wit the creation of the federal Dept. of Education, and has gotten worse the more we have funded it. This should make us at least question the value of federal involvement in serves and the economy. I am convinced that the arts, too, will become increasingly important, but the same people who rightly complain that our schools are driving out the arts are begging for the creation of a Secretary of the Arts. They do not realize it is the very people they want to put in charge who do not think the arts are a valuable part of education. Therein lies the problem. In a free market economy, you can make choices based on your values; the more the government becomes involved, the more you have to submit your values to the values of others. Such dominating ideology does not have a proper place in the marketplace, where people are freely exchanging value for value.

The real danger for our economy thus lies not so much in conservative efforts to prevent change, but in the fact that the federal government already controls so much of what will become the basis of the future economy: health care, education, and the arts. The places where true creativity, innovation, and growth will occur will be those places where there is little to no government presence. The best hospitals are private hospitals, not V.A. hospitals. Inexpensive health care is being provided to the poor in many places by clinics that refuse government-mandated insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid and deal only in cash. Our best schools are our private schools, not our public schools. The best, most innovative art and performances are found in private galleries and playhouses, not in those receiving government subsidies. Indeed, we are fortunate the arts receive so little federal support – it is why we have such a vibrant arts scene, in comparison to places like Europe, where the arts receive much greater subsidies. Subsidized art creates two dangers: art by committee, and the funding of those who play at being artists because it’s better than working for a living. True artists are in fact some of the world’s hardest workers. Subsidized artists are some of its laziest. The last thing we need to do to the burgeoning arts economy is to treat it as we do the farm economy, paying people to grow crops nobody wants, or to not grow anything at all.

The good news is that the “stimulus” package just passed by Congress has so little to do with the current economy that it will likely have little effect on it. The bad news is that it federalizes much of what was likely to have become the new economy. If history is any guide, that does not bode well for the economy over the long term.