Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"War On Drugs Equals War On Peace"
'War on Drugs' = War on Peace
Posted: 27 Mar 2010 02:48 PM PDT
As noted earlier <> , the Wall Street Journal's own Mary Anastasia O'Grady understand that Uncle Sam's 'war on drugs' promotes violence. This letter <> , from someone on the scene, confirms Mary's wisdom:
Mary O'Grady's March 22 Americas column "The War on Drugs Is Doomed <> " is one of the best pieces ever written on the connection between U.S. drug policy and drug violence in Mexico. I just hope it can inform public policy discussions.
I am on the City Council of El Paso, Texas, across the border from Ciudad Juárez, where more than 5,000 people have been killed since President Calderón was elected. We are living the drug war, and it has been disastrous for our community.
In addition to bearing witness to the horrific killings of men, women and children in our sister city, it has become very clear to us that the failure of Juárez portends the failure of El Paso.
Juarenses spend more than $1.4 billion in our economy every year; more than $51 billion in U.S./Mexico trade passes through El Paso/Juárez ports of entry annually (almost 20% of trade between the two countries); Juárez economic activity is responsible for 60,000 jobs in El Paso; and, as you might imagine, family, business and other relationships extend over the border and are the basis of much of the economic and cultural success that we enjoy.
It is clearly in our interest to find a solution to this drug violence, and it is clear that central to that solution is acknowledging the role of drug consumption and drug prohibition in the U.S.
Ms. O'Grady has done an outstanding job through her columns in educating the public on the connection between drug consumption, drug prohibition and drug violence. Communities like ours are dependent on a better understanding and eventual action by our national elected leaders.
Beto O'Rourke
El Paso City Council
District 8
El Paso, Texas

Clear Thought About How We Stimulated Unclear Thinking
Don't Call it "Stimulus"
Posted: 26 Mar 2010 02:01 PM PDT
My GMU colleague Tom Hazlett is co-author of this outstanding essay, at Real Clear Markets, on the "jobs bill <> ." Some select passages:
Counter to the predictions put forward a year ago by the Administration, when it claimed that "more than 90 percent of the jobs created are likely to be in the private sector," U.S. companies employed 3.9 million fewer workers in January 2010 than they did one year earlier. Public employment bucked the trend, staying constant even as governments contended with sharply reduced tax revenues. While the jobs held by those 22 million public workers helped support many families, the "stimulus" failed to trigger private sector employment growth.
President Obama blames the Bush Administration for the high cost of government - a bad situation that existed "when I walked in the door." One need not dwell on the fact that Senator Obama went to Washington in 2004 and proceeded to vote for the spending he now tags as profligate. The point is extremely well-taken: Bush43 did a fiscal belly flop, drenching the national ledger in red ink. For that, he is rightly held in low esteem, and his party swept from office...
Like a rain dance that produces no clouds, we are now into our fourth round of federal deficit creation - the automatic "stabilizers," followed by the Bush (2008), Obama I (2009), and Obama II (2010) versions. With each dry day, the deficit dancing intensifies. When the rain finally falls, we will be told that the recovery is a tribute to the Keynesian Gods. But it's already clear that something has gone wrong: the "stimulus" chant has fallen silent. Our dance on a fiscal cliff has lost its theme music.

The Not Quite Golden Rule

Don't Do Unto Me as I Do Unto You
Posted: 29 Mar 2010 01:53 PM PDT
Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) is upset that a handful of protestors peacefully demonstrated, against his vote for Obamacare, outside of his home <> . He says "I understand people are going to criticize my decisions - I'm an elected official - but my wife, my kids, my neighbors are out of bounds."
As my friend Mark LeBar points out to me in a private e-mail (quoted here with Mark's permission): "Interesting that Rep. Driehaus himself doesn't take my wife, my kids, my body, or anything else about me, to be 'out of bounds' when he legislates. It's all up for grabs in the legislative process; there are no bounds to what he is entitled to impose on me through force. Probably he should not be surprised that people become less inclined to respect those 'bounds' - which are, indeed, bounds of decency - when the political class has so far rejected and replaced common decency with its officious and intrusive will."
Indeed so.

Classic Quotes, Washington

"To rectify past blunders is impossible, but we might profit by the experience of them"
~George Washington

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Change" is Not New

"Change" is Not New
"Genuine science is the opposite of dogmatism, but that does not keep dogmatists from invoking the name of science in order to shut off debate. Science is a method of analysis, rather than simply a set of conclusions. In fact, much of the history of science is a history of having to abandon the prevailing conclusions among scientists, in light of new evidence or new methods of analysis.

When the scientists in England who were promoting "global warming" hysteria sent e-mails out to colleagues, urging them not to reveal certain data and not to let the fact become widely known that there was a freedom-of-information act in Britain, they were behaving like politicians, rather than scientists."
And this is exactly what we should expect. Humans acting like humans is the reason why the scientific method provided mankind such a boost. It provided a methodology which allowed humans to learn in spite of "human nature." Treating scientists as some sort of special, non-corrupted breed is a special testament to the fallibility of human nature. Scientists are humans first - and that's exactly why they must cling to the scientific method with all their might, and why we should respect their ability to execute the scientific method - and ignore their scientific qualifications and credentials.

Classic quotes who?

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Canadian Wait Times
"The distinguishing feature of Canadian public healthcare is the nearly universal waitlists for virtually all diagnostic procedures and for surgeries (see chart above). The public health care system in Canada has a waitlist in every province and surgery dates are often cancelled or bumped due to a more urgent case arising or a shortage of beds being available."

Democracy and/or Freedom

Sam Grove:
"For some time it has been alluded in political discourse that democracy=freedom.
This conflation poses a threat to actual freedom in that many suppose that as long as they are able to go to polling places, that they are free, and so they neglect to defend real freedom."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Apology That We've Suffered This Apologetic Mushy Thinking

"Slavery is too serious for an apology and somebody else being a slaveowner is not something for you to apologize for. When somebody who has never owned a slave apologizes for slavery to somebody who has never been a slave, then what began as mushy thinking has degenerated into theatrical absurdity-- or, worse yet, politics.
Slavery has existed all over the planet for thousands of years, with black, white, yellow and other races being both slaves and enslavers. Does that mean that everybody ought to apologize to everybody else for what their ancestors did? Or are the only people who are supposed to feel guilty the ones who have money that others want to talk them out of?" Thomas Sowell

Friday, March 26, 2010

Know any sheepdogs? 
"One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: "Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident."

This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another. Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation.

They are sheep. I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me, it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators."
I'm grateful for the ones who run the wrong way, and remember well my time in that role. How long can one serve as sheepdog? How long should one hope to?

Krautthammer Lays It Out - VAT Or Default

"Obama set out to be a consequential president, on the order of Ronald Reagan. With the VAT, Obama's triumph will be complete. He will have succeeded in reversing Reaganism. Liberals have long complained that Reagan's strategy was to starve the (governmental) beast in order to shrink it: First, cut taxes -- then ultimately you have to reduce government spending.
Obama's strategy is exactly the opposite: Expand the beast, and then feed it. Spend first -- which then forces taxation. Now that, with the institution of universal health care, we are becoming the full entitlement state, the beast will have to be fed.
And the VAT is the only trough in creation large enough."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Krugman Helping Economists Teach The Basics
"Not Terribly Original of Me, but It Must be Pointed Out to the Gray Lady
Posted: 07 Mar 2010 06:12 AM PST
Here's a letter to the New York Times:
Paul Krugman says that it is "bizarre" during today's downturn to worry that unemployment benefits reduce people's incentives to find jobs - indeed, that this concern is even at odds with "textbook economics" ("Senator Bunning's Universe <> ," March 5).
Prof. Krugman must count himself and his wife, Robin Wells, among those who hold bizarre ideas - or who, when writing economics textbooks, misrepresent economists' views. Here's what they wrote on page 210 of their jointly authored textbook (note:  link removed but available at the Cafe), published in 2009: "Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. . . . In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker's incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of "Eurosclerosis," the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries."
Donald J. Boudreaux

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Protectionism and Trade Imbalance Illusions

Writing to an author critiquing Paul Krugman (which I view as Krugman's best function in the world - provides real economists with softball home run fodder), Dr. Boudreaux lays it out clear and simple:
"You write as if the alleged trade imbalances between the U.S. and China are real. They are not. The Chinese sell Americans goods; we pay with dollars; the Chinese then use many of these dollars to buy IOUs issued by Uncle Sam. Although the result is a measured U.S. current-account deficit with China, there's no more any economically meaningful "imbalance" in such a result than there would be if, say, Texans lent a lot more of their dollars to Uncle Sam.
Talk of imbalances in trade diverts attention from the real problem: Uncle Sam's gargantuan debt. That fast-accumulating debt is a huge problem. It is caused, though, not by trade with China but, rather, by Washington's lack of fiscal discipline. Unless you believe that protectionism (and only protectionism) would induce Congress to be more fiscally disciplined, you should avoid all talk of imbalances in trade and instead talk of imbalances in political institutions that encourage politicians to give disproportionate weight to the demands of current voters and to ignore the resulting ill-consequences that will curse future generations."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Classic Quotes, Burke

There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. - Edmund Burke

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Classic Quotes, Washington

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." George Washington

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Spends or Returns?

"The data going in suggested that the results would be dramatic. The U.S. is now home to 39 million people over 65, or nearly 13% of the population. That's a big patch of gray, and it's getting bigger fast. In 2011, the leading edge of the 76-million-strong baby-boom generation - born from 1946 to '64 - will cross the line to 65, and they'll keep coming until 2029. Already the government spends $600 billion per year in Social Security payments for people 51 or older, and a staggering $1.3 trillion when you include Medicare, Medicaid and disability benefits."
The way this bit reads, it makes it sound like the old are a liability. The crushing irony is - social security is money that was taken from the folks and is now being given back to them. Saying "the government spends $600 billion per year in SS payments for people 51 or older" is factually accurate, but conceptually dishonest. "SS returns $600 billion in confiscated funds per year to the people from whom it was taken." This is much or honest. Why don't we talk about it like that?

Read more:,28804,1963392_1963366_1963382,00.html#ixzz0h9IApp9u

Classic Quotes, Mencken

"The kind of man who demands that government enforce his ideas is always the kind whose ideas are idiotic."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Case for High-Deductible Health Insurance

The Case for High-Deductible Health Insurance
An essential part of any approach to reduce health care 'costs' - whether that's in Federal deficits or personal insurance premiums - is to change our model from a 'pre-paid service plan' to 'insurance.'

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thumbnail Essay on Public Schools

My friend, a budding politician, asked about schools. My response follows:
Here's an inspiring story.
She's succeeding by getting out of this disaster:
There's only one way you could double real (inflation adjusted) spending over 30 years while generating a lower quality product but not fear the loss of customers - that's if you have a coercive government monopoly.
The Federal govt is in a fiscal death spiral due to the realities of demographics and the foolishness of building medicare/medicaid/social security on the assumption of an ever increasing population. State and local governments are in a fiscal death spiral (references avail on request) due to obligations made to state/local workers - we've promised, no matter how much it hurts the decreasing pool of productive citizens - to protect former state employees from uncertainty (no matter how poor the economy runs, or how high their health care costs, your work will secure their futures).
Shouldn't one be able to get an excellent education for $10,000/kid/year for K-12? What if, instead of pumping these billions in a coercive government monopoly, we could transform education into a system that is focused on teaching kids instead of providing for the secure futures of teachers who are not accountable for success or failure? Don't get me wrong, the teachers that sustain their passion and help kids in a system like our are heroes. But those are the minority, and the ones who are not pulling their weight get just as much pay and their lifetime benefits. It's an abomination.
Charter schools? Heck yes. Anything that decentralizes, anything that makes education accountable to educating kids vice getting politicians re-elected for keeping unions happy.
Step one - demand a system to measure the improvement in knowledge across a school year for every student. Teachers who's students improve the least should be required to change grade levels, get more training/mentoring, or get another job. We're giving them our financial futures, they should be required to meet a standard of performance - they should prove they can teach.

Classic Quotes - Mencken

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." H. L. Mencken.

Steyn on Big Fat Greekamerican Tragedy

"Unfortunately, Germany is no longer an economic powerhouse. As Angela Merkel pointed out a year ago, for Germany, an Obama-sized stimulus was out of the question simply because its foreign creditors know there are not enough young Germans around ever to repay it. Over 30 percent of German women are childless; among German university graduates, it's over 40 percent. And for the ever dwindling band of young Germans who make it out of the maternity ward, there's precious little reason to stick around. Why be the last handsome blond lederhosen-clad Aryan lad working the late shift at the beer garden in order to prop up singlehandedly entire retirement homes? And that's before the EU decides to add the Greeks to your burdens. Germans, who retire at 67, are now expected to sustain the unsustainable 14 monthly payments per year for Greeks who retire at 58.
Think of Greece as California: Every year an irresponsible and corrupt bureaucracy awards itself higher pay and better benefits paid for by an ever-shrinking wealth-generating class. And think of Germany as one of the less profligate, still just about functioning corners of America such as my own state of New Hampshire: Responsibility doesn't pay. You'll wind up bailing out anyway. The problem is there are never enough of "the rich" to fund the entitlement state, because in the end, it disincentivizes everything from wealth creation to self-reliance to the basic survival instinct, as represented by the fertility rate. In Greece, they've run out Greeks, so they'll stick it to the Germans, like French farmers do. In Germany, the Germans have only been able to afford to subsidize French farming because they stick their defense tab to the Americans. And in America President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are saying we need to paddle faster to catch up with the Greeks and Germans. What could go wrong?"

Monday, March 1, 2010


One of the casualties of the consistent displays of incompetence by politicians in general is that when they ask for our trust on an issue which the citizenry might actually need their competent decision making - we just don't trust them.  Would you trust these clowns with $4 trillion?