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Jan 17, 2010

Political Distribution of Wheat

A politician sees a warehouse full of wheat. He takes some of it to distribute to poor voters and prospective voters in his district. The warehouse will have to bear the burden. He is applauded for his sensitivity and charity.

The politician is dismayed at the consequence. Maybe the warehouse goes out of business, as people switch to using a warehouse that the politician doesn't see or can't tax. Or, the price of wheat goes up as the warehouse is not completely refilled. The politician ignores the people who paid for the wheat or were expected to buy it.

People complain that wheat is more expensive. The politician takes more of the wheat to subsidize the not-so-poor, to keep up his political support. Even less wheat appears in the warehouse, the price goes up again, and another group of people complain about the rising price.

The politician decides that the rich are making the price go up by buying too much wheat. He proposes a Wheat Allocation Board to decide how much wheat a person should get at the official, lower price. That board decides that politicians, state and federal workers, union members, and anyone granted a Wheat Buyer Card ("The Exempt Ones") can buy what they want. If others want more wheat, they can buy more by paying the 40% Wheat Tax on their extra wheat. Or, there are always oats available, which make a crumbly and dry bread, and cause some people digestive problems.

The amount of wheat falls further. The politician explains that the wheat farmers are at fault for not growing enough and charging too much, that the warehouse operators are causing shortages by not stocking enough wheat, and the rich must be cheating by continuing to buy too much wheat.

The answer is the Comprehensive Wheat Reform Act of 2010. It appoints 120 committees and boards to understand, control, and allocate all aspects of wheat production and consumption. Preliminary reports claim that the price of wheat will fall dramatically, now that the chaotic and inefficient market in wheat will be brought under comprehensive, organized, scientific, and rational management. The wheat farmers are called on to do their patriotic and humanitarian duty by cooperating with the government to finally provide wheat to everyone at a fair price. The selfish rich are told that they will be limited to a fair amount of wheat, regardless of their hard-to-justify wealth.

The Exempt Ones arrange for special deliveries of wheat to themselves subsidized at public expense, given their necessary and special contributions to the national welfare. They will need to remain impartial in deciding how much wheat the common man will receive, given that there may be a continuing and worsening wheat shortage, on a temporary basis.

The Medicare Tomato Market
06/24/09 - The Happy Hospitalist

Say that tomatoes were declared vital to life and made available free through the Medicare National Tomato Bank. This translates the story of the healthcare market to the tomato market. A long, readable, and informative post directly about the horrible effects of politically allocated healthcare.

This inspired my shorter analogy about wheat.

Capgras' Syndrome
01/15/10 - Throckmortons Other Signs

Capgras' Syndrome is the primary delusion that a close relative or friend has been replaced by an impostor, an exact double, despite familiar appearance and behavior.

Throckmorton [edited excerpt]: One pulmonologist on staff had pontificated on how we spend so much resources keeping people alive in their last six months. He didn't think the proposed panels to limit care were a bad thing.

His father has suffered a massive stroke. Now he wants everything done, a trache, peg, longterm rehab vent unit, the works. I thought I was having an attack of Capgras' syndome, but then remembered liberals want to decide how to spend everyone's money except their own [and limit everyone's choices except their own -amg].

Europeans Are Less Wealthy

Are Europeans as Wealthy as Americans?
01/15/10 - Links from Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux.

Consumption in America vs. Europe
01/15/10 - Cato At Liberty by Daniel J. Mitchell

[edited] People claim Europe is as rich as the United States. I’m shocked, because abundant data shows otherwise. The following charts should be more than enough to end the argument, both from presumably impeccable sources.

The OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. OECD data (page 6) shows average consumption per capita. I compare America to the EU-15 (Western Europe) adding Norway and Switzerland to boost the European score.

The chart shows US consumption at 152, Western Europe at 105, compared to a benchmark of 100 for the average of all members of the OECD. That is 44% more goods and services enjoyed in the US as compared to Western Europe.

The biggest policy difference between the U.S. and Western Europe is the burden of government.

We're Rich, You're Not. End of Story.
04/17/05 - NYTimes.com by Bruce Bawer

[edited] I am an American living in Oslo, Norway. People here believe the common wisdom about economic life in the Nordic countries. They believe that they are incomparably affluent, with all of their needs met by an efficient welfare state. Some recent studies support my view that the reality is not quite what it seems.

I moved here six years ago. I quickly noticed that Norwegians live more frugally than Americans do. They hang on to old appliances and furniture that we would throw out. They drive around in wrecks. My partner and I took his teenage brother to New York in 2003 on his first trip outside of Europe. He stared boggle-eyed at the cars in the Newark Airport parking lot, as mesmerized as Robin Williams in a New York grocery store in the movie "Moscow on the Hudson".

An office worker in New York might go to a deli for lunch. In Paris, she might enjoy quiche and a glass of wine. In Norway, she will sit at her desk with a sandwich from home. The home sandwich is ubiquitous here, from classroom to boardroom.

It is not simply a matter of tradition, or a preference for a non-materialistic life. Dining out is just too pricey in a country where teachers make about $50,000 a year before taxes. A large pizza delivered from Oslo's most popular pizza joint costs $34 to $48, including delivery and a 25 percent value added tax.

Of Sunroofs and Motor Scooters
06/27/07 - Pittsburgh Live by Donald J. Boudreaux

[edited] I suspect that Parisians have fewer sunroofs on their cars because they are less wealthy than Americans. A sunroof is a luxury unrelated to reliability or safety. It only makes a car ride more enjoyable, like an in-dash CD player.

A very poor person buying a car cares mostly about how reliably the car will transport him. He is unlikely to pay for leather seats and a tilt steering wheel. He prefers to conserve his income for more vital purposes such as fuel, food, and decent housing.

But, give this same poor person a windfall of $1 million, and he is more likely to buy a fancy car.

A large number of Parisians ride motorcycles. This makes me more confident in my conclusion about sunroofs. Parisians might like motorcycles more than Americans do, or Paris' weather might make motorcycles more practical than in America. The most plausible explanation for the larger volume of motorcycle traffic is that Parisians are less wealthy than Americans.

Do We Want to Mimic Western Europe’s Stagnant Welfare States?
02/26/10 - Cato@Liberty by Daniel J. Mitchell

[edited] America today is richer than Western Europe. Per-capita living standards are about 30 percent higher in the United States, according to the statists at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (see page 6 of this report). And we have been growing faster, which presumably should not be the case according to convergence theory (see Annex Table No. 1 of this OECD database).

Left-wing populists seem to believe (wrongly) that the economy is a fixed pie, so their fixation on redistribution is understandable. Their view is that robbing Peter is the only way to lift Paul.

Why does the left want America to be more like Western Europe, when their living standards lag America, and the gap grows wider each year? I think they are so fixated on differences in income (or resentful of success) that they are willing to make poor people worse off if they can impose even greater damage on rich people.

The Political Dictionary: Liberal Economics
11/07/08 - EasyOpinions

Money falls from heaven for everyone to use. But, the immoral and sneaky rich gather more than their share. The government's purpose is to redistribute the money the way God intended. Or, if you wish, the way Gaia, or the Tooth Fairy, or whoever intended.

Taxes remove the excess income of the rich and give it to the voting poor, through a fair and organized bureaucracy. The rich oppose this action by selfishly and spitefully decreasing employment. Government responds by increasing grants and spending, to boost employment. The government runs a deficit while it discovers the "knack" for creating the jobs that the rich are hiding.

Jan 13, 2010

The Good Side of Dictatorship

Totalitarian governments past and present are receiving some praise from liberal sources. This alarms me.

Benito Mussolini was the Fascist dictator of Italy from about 1936-1943, and was killed in 1945 when Italy surrendered to the Allies.

A joke about his governance is: "Yes, he was a dictator, with all the harm and problems that came from that, but he did a lot of good, too. He made the trains run on time". Of course, this is dark humor. No reasonable person would excuse dictatorship and arbitrary control by saying "but, some good came from it".

I am reminded of the occasional tragic story about wild mushrooms. The dish killed all at the table. The participants remarked how delicious the mushrooms were, just before they died. Usually, these people were experts at identifying and preparing wild mushrooms. I'm sure they were quite surprised to die, because of their superior knowledge.

I don't care at all how delicious the mushrooms were. Those mushrooms are an unacceptable risk for having a delicious dinner.

So, what possible purpose is there in understanding the good parts of a dictatorship? I don't care if a much stronger government can do some good things, because the risk of harm is greater also. It is fine if you can isolate a policy that had a good effect and doesn't need dictatorial power to be implemented. In that case, why mention the dictatorship at all, except as a curiosity?

If you can't isolate the policy, then you are arguing for dictatorship, and I want none of it.

It’s Not Censorship, It’s "Reasonably Enlightened"
01/12/10 - Investors.com by Ed Carson. Via Ed Driscoll.

[edited] Google defiantly stated late Tuesday it may exit China, citing attempts to hack into dissidents’ e-mail accounts. It strongly suggested the Chinese government was behind the attacks. Google will no longer censor search results in China.

Clearly, Google doesn’t understand the nuances of China’s totalitarian rule the way New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman does.

Our One-Party Democracy
09/08/09 - NY Times - Op Ed by Thomas L. Friedman

[edited] One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But, when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.

Our one-party democracy is worse. The fact is, on both the energy/climate legislation and health care legislation, only the Democrats are really playing. With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying “no.”

Many of them just want President Obama to fail. Such a waste. Mr. Obama is not a socialist; he’s a centrist. But if he’s forced to depend entirely on his own party to pass legislation, he will be whipsawed by its different factions.

Sarcastic restatement:

Democracy is so inefficient. When half of your country disagrees with your policy, it is so much easier to have autocracy, the absolute rule by one faction. This is useful for suppressing the Republicans, and also for suppressing the "different factions" within your own party. Where is Mussolini when you need him?

It is so much better when the leader is called a "centrist", because his policies are then necessarily good for everyone. Friedman says we should not mind a "centrist" dictator.  As long as a "reasonably enlightened group of people" is running things, all will be well. If they aren't enlightened, then what? Where do our politicians get this enlightenment? At the top of a mountain in Tibet? Where?

I Have Your Hitler Context Right Here
01/12/10 - Big Hollywood by Kurt Schlichter

[edited excerpts] Oliver Stone’s latest, desperate grasp at relevance is a new cable series which promises to place der Furher into der context. Does Stone really believe that Hitler somehow lacks “context”, or that “American corporations from GM through IBM were involved with the Nazis”?

His Secret History will not be “history”, in the sense of reporting what actually happened in the past. Nor is its tired leftist wisdom a "secret", about how America was somehow to blame for the rise of the Nazis, and to blame for all evil throughout the ages.

The real Secret History which Stone won’t disclose is the identity of the Americans who actually thought the Nazis had quite a lot to offer: their collectivist, anti-capitalist vision; their refusal to let democracy stop their agenda; and their fondness for eugenics. Those Americans were the Progressives.

I would not be at all surprised if the Secret History shows the silver lining of the Third Reich which we short-sighted conservatives always overlook.

Oliver Stone's 'Secret History' to put Hitler 'in context'
01/09/10 - The Live Feed by David Hibberd. Via Ed Driscoll.

Oliver Stone as quoted by Hibberd [edited]:

Stalin, Hitler, Mao, McCarthy -- these people have been vilified pretty thoroughly by history.

Stalin has a complete other story. Not to paint him as a hero, but to tell a more factual representation. He fought the German war machine more than any single person. We can't judge people as only 'bad' or 'good.' Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and has been used cheaply. He's the product of a series of actions. It is cause and effect.

People in America don't know the connection between WWI and WWII. I've been able to walk in Stalin's shoes and Hitler's shoes to understand their point of view. We're going to educate our minds, and liberalize them, and broaden them. We want to move beyond opinions.

Go into the funding of the Nazi party. How many American corporations were involved, from GM through IBM. Hitler is just a man who could have easily been assassinated.

What could be the motivation for showing the "more complex" Hitler, the Hitler that reacted to historical imperatives, the Hitler who wasn't completely bad?

Collectivist:  Hitler had the strength and vision to reorganize German society in a coordinated, comprehensive, scientific way. He saw the state as the only power that could tame the unruly masses and produce a glorious future for Germany and all of the territories that would come under Germany's influence.

Unfortunately, divisions in German society and some defects in Hitler's world vision caused more human suffering than was necessary to that cause. His goals and methods were rational and effective, but some of his results were regrettable.

We should not tar Hitler's methods and major visions with those few unfortunate results. We have the capability today, as then, to use organized government to accomplish greater goals for society. We are wiser now, and we will do it better.

Just to be clear, I hate the Collectivist.