Tuesday, March 23, 2010

We keep forgetting importance of Rule of Law--for everyone!

In an email exchange at a writer's group discussing (sigh) the health-care bill, this exchange:

"[m]any Republicans decried the last minute tactics practiced by Pelosi, Reid and Obama to pull the off vote, but I applaud them. I want to see our leaders pull out all the stops for something that can help tens of millions of Americans. I want to see them threaten, cajole, bargain, terrify, and bully lawmakers into submission."

Another writer asked if this is really, really what the previous writer wants.

I think the more pointed question is what you want the rules to be, moving forward. If this is your idea of proper conduct in this situation, are you willing to accept that at some future time, your ideological opponents can use these same tactics, but against you and what you believe in? That they, perversely, may think they are saving or helping millions by stopping you, or forcing you to pay for things you hate? 

Rule of Law doesn't mean rule only by people who agree with me, against people who don't agree with me and who are therefore wrong. It means a set of rules that is used by everybody, good and bad. These aren't rules for The Right People. They are the rules for everyone. And that should make you afraid.

Yes, I know, you probably think your opponents have been using such tactics all along and it's nice that somebody on your side is using them for a change. But that moves you in the direction of accepting such tactics as appropriate.

I keep remembering that when Carter was President, there were rules of behavior and laws passed that were The Right Thing to Do. Then the idiot electorate went and voted some rightwing knucklehead named Ronald Reagan into office, and *he* promptly went and used all those same rules, intended for Right-Thinking Rulers, for his own ends. To do what *he* thought was Right. Because, oddly, he thought of *himself* and those who agreed with him as Right-Thinking People. No accounting for life, huh?

So be very careful about applauding the use of theats, terror, and bullying when it's done by your side; because you can't confine it to use by your side and by those who agree with you. And when it's done by the other side against what you believe in, you will no longer, *in principle*, have any grounds on which to object.

But that would require rulers who have principles, wouldn't it? And the impatient always prefer the use of power to achieve their ends.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Guilty Pleasures of Government Spending--Starting with NASA

Great summary of just how much trouble we're in in this essay from the weirdly named blog "Zombies Uncensored" - but the argument's not weird at all. Here's a tempting tidbit:

"The budget crisis will continue to grow as long as we are unwilling to forgot the guilty pleasures of government spending. NASA is just one in a long list of guilty pleasures Americans have indulged in.

"The lover of money is facing stiff competition from the love of force to do good, as the root of all evil. The love of force to do good easily seduces the purest of hearts, who are unwilling to delay gratification of good goals."

The Guilty Pleasures of Government Spending, and this from a guy who loves NASA!

A Gaggle of Contrarian Political Links....

Think you know what's going on?

Maybe not entirely.

John Stossel, Feb 10, 2010, in his Townhall column "Hurtling Down the Road to Serfdom" and again on his excellent Fox opinion show, "According to the Tax Foundation, 60% of the population now gets more in government benefits than it pays in taxes. What does that say about a society in which *more than half* the people live at hte expense of the rest? Worse, the dependent class is growing. The 60% will soon be 70%.

"Rep Paul Ryan of Wisconsin seems to understand the threat: He's worried that 'more people have a stake in the welfare state than in free enterprise. This is a road that Hayek perfectly described as "the road to serfdom." '

"Do we want a culture of takers or makers?"

Also insightful is Big Government's Cronies: The real reason politicians like complicated tax and regulatory schemes. If you don't know the corrupt fundamentals of this article, you need to read it fast. 

And for all those high-speed rail enthusiasts who think it will change transpo for the better, Reason's High-Speed Rail Plans Are Misconceived: What problem are these trains solving? Who will pay the annual operating costs? should slow your mental train to a more reasonable speed. Rail enthusiasts of all stripes have been getting a free ride for decades; it's about time they were run out on a rail themselves, before we're even broker than we already are. And bear in mind that Reason started out as a research firm specializing in transportation. Go to the Reason.org site for much, much more from these train experts.

"Who's Greedy?" is a good healthy counterweight to self-righteous blather about the evils of greed. Cafe Hayek is a great blog site with much sense about economics in our confused modern world. The author points to a difficult contradiction in the thinking of those who accuse capitalists of greed.

Cafe Hayek is also the source of the wonderful Fear the Boom and the Bust, a video 'starring' free-market economist F.A. Hayek 'debating' government-market enthusiast Lord Keynes in a rap-music argument and counterargument that will knock your socks off. It's such a Youtube hit that it's been translated into several dozen languages around the world already. Dee-lightful! And a surprisingly accurate summary of the economics of each!

"...A bunch of self-righteous nincompoops..."

Good summary of the farce of Congress, of all groups of dopes, calling Toyota on its carpet for humiliation, in Forbes of March 29, 2010, quoting Jens F. Laurson, editor-at-large of the International Affairs Forum:

"Among the most pathetic rituals in contemporary culture...is the compulsory appearance before Congress... The latest and most prominent practitioner of this ritual is Akio Toyoda, who was compelled to fluff the egos of members of U.S. Congress--a bunch of self-righteous nincompoops, most of whom are guilty of so many ethical failings and screwings of the citizen that they could face a similar last judgment in front of a higher body regulating quality in politics, if only there were one."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Government will save us from those damned free-market special interests! Yep.

Sweet JESUS, save me. Save me from the idiot electorate.

Here is my dear childhood friend's view of the world, and why we need the government to finish taking over the health care system. Bear in mind, people, that this view is the most common view among the everyday voter today.
Trouble is, Michael....we have allowed the "free market" system to run its own course, so to speak, until Wall Street and the Auto Industry cried us a river that they would drag the whole u.s. economy down if we didn't bail out their sorry asses.....and they still lavished their failed company ceo's millions of dollars in bonuses etc.  

The government gave us social security and medicare and medicaid.  They didn't do too bad a job, all things considered, especially for people who did not have a silver spoon in their mouths.

Before those three government run programs, if you didn't have a job or were too sick or old to have a job to pay for health care, food, clothing and shelter, and did not have a large family to take care of you, you were fucked.  Just save a few pennies to buy a bullet and put a gun to your head to end your suffering.  I guess the one thing that Libertarianism does not do that bothers me is that its members want someone else to take care of people who do not have enough money, or clout, or family to help them out, when they cannot help themselves.  You see, brother.....not everyone who is poor, sick, or out of work is a lazy, shiftless, slothful parasite.

Let me go one step further, Michael.  If you lost all of your savings, could no longer read, write or speak....or...say...you lost your hearing or your ability to transport yourself from point a to point b, i.e. became crippled....lost your home.....lost your wife....and your kids were unable to help you out.....what the fuck would you do then?  Mooch off of your friends or your brothers and sisters?  

The only difference between doing that and accepting a "dole" from the government is that your brothers and sisters are related to you within one generation.  The other people in the nation with money and who pay taxes are your family, too.  

I would be interested to hear what you and John Stoessel have to say about that.
Of course, John Stossel would have plenty to say about this purblind misunderstanding of the world. Notice that he blames the bailouts on the free market. The *government* bailouts.

Here's what I had to say to him about it. In despair, because the people have no understanding.

Yes, that damned free-market system, source of all our ills. The free market system that produced *government* bailouts, yes, that one.

Wake up: Medical care in this country is heavily, heavily involved with the government, from tax treatment of coverage in corporations versus individuals, rules and regulations aimed to reduce fraud but reducing flexibility and increasing costs, legal liability laws that likely increase costs and decrease care, state-by-state management of insurance and outlawing of cross-state competition, government funding of research, government tax, legal, and regulatory treatment of research, R&D, medical innovations, and on and on, all designed IN THEORY to 'protect' the public but in reality digging us deeper and deeper into a world in which only special interests across the spectrum have any say.

The answer, of COURSE, is MORE government. Because by God you can never have too much government, can you?

Of course. *you* love Medicare and Medicaid (and Social Security) because they will pay your bills and my bills. They are rapidly bankrupting the country (with the assistance of government bailouts), as anybody with a calculator could have told us back when they were launched -- and DID tell us, but we weren't listening. We're in great shape; our kids are screwed. But never mind, never mind, our problem is that we have too free a free market.

We live in such a contradictory world: We disdain government idiocy and mismanagement and corruption and special interest influence -- yet when something hits US, we instantly want that idiot government to step in our behalf: Pass regulations and rules to protect us from the rich -- hah, think that;s going to work? Tax 'the rich' to pay for things we want but don't want to pay for -- which turns into tax on the middle class because the rich can protect themselves (they own the government!). Punish the rich and powerful -- using the very government the rich and powerful control! 

Just ask yourself: Is there any law, rule, regulation, or tax that has any actual value to the regular guy that can be passed in the teeth of the opposition of unions, of the AMA, of the insurance giants, of the bio research firms, of the state politicians, of the federal and state bureaucrats, of the state and federal regulators?

The government has too much power, which is WHY the special interests spend all that money on it -- they are protecting themselves from us, and using government power to stifle competition and to line their pockets. So of COURSE the solution is the government more power! Of course! That will solve everything!

It's just a question of voting The Right People into office, Mr Capra. The good guys whom I agree with will fix everything. Boot out the corrupt and vote in the noble fellows. 

This is a level of naivite that defies reason and knowledge.

What is the solution? The Founders knew what is was *not* - it was NOT giving politicians, tax services, and bureaucrats more power. It will be abused. It always is abuse and always will be.

They set up this country to limit the power of the government. It has taken 200 years but they have failed. Every man, woman, and child in this nation thinks their salvation lies simply in getting the government to be on their side, to pay for their welfare, to fend off their enemies, to support their morality, to punish their idea of the wicked. The same government, mind you, that can't keep you safe in your home and on your streets. Which IS a basic government job. But no, let's give them more to do! They fuck up daily, so let's trust our futures and the safety of our children to them!

Jesus. There's no point in even talking about this. If your *starting point* is that capitalism and free markets are ripping us off, and government can be bent to our will to make it all right -- then there's no hope -- not for you, not for the nation, not for our future.

What a waste of a perfectly good country.