Notable Quotable

Capitalism teaches people to work harder.
The welfare state teaches people to want harder.
~ Dennis Prager


Race Baiting?

Thomas Sowell and Victor Davis Hanson deal with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Hanson notes that President Obama has interjected himself into many issues over the years - Trayvon Martin, Sandra Fluke, Gabrielle Giffords, Professor Henry Louis Gates. His interventions are more in the fashion of a divisive commentator than an above the fray President.

Hanson writes:
In other words, the president waded into an ongoing investigation, in which the facts of the case remain murky and in dispute. And instead of playing down the racial component of the tragedy in polarized times, he seemed instead deliberately to have emphasized it.
The president seizes on a local issue, editorializes, and ends up sowing more division.
Yet in every case, further evidence, more information, and subsequent events suggested that the president had offered either incomplete or misleading commentary to the nation, predicated not on a desire for healing or truth, but on a wish to gain partisan advantage.
There is a rush to judgement that is characteristic of the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons of the world. Where is the tempered, measured, presidential response?

Thomas Sowell concludes:
We do not need Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or the president of the United States spouting off before the trial has even begun.


Can Federalism Work?

Jonah Goldberg expresses a great sentiment in his article The Federalist Solution. Whether you call it home rule, federalism, or something else, it appears to be a solution to the problem of everyone wanting to force their values down the other's throat: let groups live and legislate how they see fit with a few exceptions.

Goldberg ponders a potential positive outcome of a federalist system:
And federalism would let them all live by their mistakes as well. In San Francisco, which Gerken touts as a haven for “dissenters,” they translate their values into law. I think much of what passes for wise policy in San Francisco is idiotic, but it bothers me less than it would if Nancy Pelosi succeeded in making all of America like San Francisco.
However, our society won't let them "live by their mistakes" because ultimately somebody will have to pick up the pieces of failed policy and irresponsible behavior. Just as the junkie will get treated at the local emergency room - with or without insurance - so will the irresponsible legislative body be bailed out of a sticky financial mess by Congress. It has already happened in small doses with the stimulus and it would likely happen in large doses with federalism. If personal (or local) responsibility for one's actions were a reality instead of just wishful thinking, this might work.

This is a problem for the libertarian and conservative. Just as a Marxist must acknowledge that human nature would have to change dramatically to accommodate the musings of Marx, so the conservative must acknowledge how federalism fares alongside human nature. That is, unless societies are willing to refuse treatment to junkies or let communities collapse under the weight of their own financial irresponsibility, this will not work. As alluring as Galt's Gulch may be, it only works if everyone is playing by the same - or largely the same - set of rules.

As John Adams noted, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people." He is speaking about a shared set of rules by which the game is to be played. A certain degree of values unanimity is required for the Constitution to work and he is acknowledging that much of what makes the Constitution work is shared values. In an age when there was widespread cultural unanimity1, Adams could make that statement with little qualification because the assumed moral code was Judeo-Christian and the religion was Protestantism, its work ethic and personal responsibility included. And unless human nature is altered or overridden to mirror the resolve of those in Galt's Gulch, real societies will not turn their backs on the rest of the world no matter how reckless or irresponsible they are. The EU's handling of Greece is such an example.

Toleration of differing moralities also presents problems to federalism. Social norms that cross lines established by the current ethos are not easily overlooked or tolerated. Tolerance is probably only possible when the disparities are not too great. Communities may be able to tolerate certain proclivities (nude beaches and naked dining in San Francisco; liquor laws in Utah) and be satisfied with dismissing the differences as "that's just how they do things over there," but the greater the disparities the more likely that adjacent societies will feel the need to intervene.

Neither the right nor the left is willing to stand by while their values are offended. It is hard to imagine that if somebody really believes that abortion is the taking of innocent human life that they would disinterestedly live their lives in a neighboring community without trying to impose their will through legislation. Similarly, if somebody really believes that anthropogenic global warming will ruin the earth, is it reasonable to think that they would sit idly by while the folks down the road choke the planet with CO2 by burning fossil fuels? Or would liberty aficionados live quietly next door to the state that embraces Sharia? As oxymoronic as it sounds, some degree of homogeneity is probably helpful for federalism to succeed - especially in how the role of government and political economies are viewed (i.e., statism v. capitalism). But given the irreconcilable differences between the visions of the left and the right, it does not seem that they can coexist without moving beyond moral suasion to compulsion. The Union and Confederate armies attest to this.

In lieu of homogeneity and a relatively narrow band of tolerance, a heretofore unknown kind of tolerance that allows for broad moral and economic latitude might suffice. But is this possible? Unless anomie overtakes all members of society and they willingly slide toward moral anarchy, it is not likely that great disparities in social norms can coexist in a federalist system.

Add to that the apparent flexibility of morality and the problem worsens. What seems obviously immoral now, may not have been so obvious ten, a hundred, or a thousand years ago. Who in medieval Europe could have imagined that killing a whale or smoking in public would have garnered the level of moral outrage as it does today.

So even though federalism is a great idea in theory, can it ever become reality? Probably less likely than implementing a flat tax or a consumption tax.

1This is not to imply that there weren't significant disagreements during the founding of America. However, economic realities tempered much of what is obsessed about in modern times.


Notable Quotable

The left is very libertarian in the areas of sex and drugs. Other than that, they are not much interested in liberty.


Are Speculators to Blame?

Speculators operate in a market where for every buyer there must be a seller. If someone is speculating on the long side, there is someone speculating on the other side. Speculation can drive up prices in the very short run if buyers outnumber sellers. Similarly, prices can drop if sellers outnumber buyers. Over the long haul, these bumps and dips tend to level out.

But speculation isn't bad in and of itself. Imagine a farmer who's livelihood depends on him selling his wheat after harvest. Because he doesn't know where the market will be when the harvest comes, he wants to lock in a price now. It may be less than what he could get at harvest time if the market price moves up between now and then, but he figures a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. By buying a futures contract now he can lock in a price and insulate himself from the risk.

If the price of wheat goes down, he made a good move by locking in the higher price. If it goes up, then he will be stuck with the lower price in his contract. In either case, for the farmer to reduce his risk he needs someone on the other side of that transaction to speculate, or, if you wish, gamble.

A similar transaction occurs when an airline locks up a certain quantity of fuel with a contract. Airline ticket price volatility is reduced (at least inasmuch as fuel affects the price) through speculation.

If you purchase a CD in order to lock in a rate you are speculating. You are saying you prefer a known rate to the unknown or the volatile. Buying gold is also speculation.

There is nothing evil about this transaction and it does a lot of good for the farmer, airline or investors because it allows them to plan with less uncertainty.


I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

Alexandra Pelosi's videos highlighting the difficulties in each of the parties came with some predictable commentary from Maher. However, the keeper was not that Maher couldn't excuse and apologize for the riff-raff in his camp fast enough, but his assertion that he or Alexandra could not possibly be racist.

Who can know if they are, but to suggest that giving money to the Obama Super PAC or that being the daughter of Rep. Pelosi somehow obviates racism is silly - no stupid. Has there never been a son or daughter of anyone who had different views than their parents? Would he sit in wonderment if an upstanding northerner had a child who had racist beliefs?

Maher didn't seem to think that contributing to or voting for Herman Cain undid any racist tendencies of Republicans.

14 May 2011: "Republicans say they love [Herman Cain] so they're not racist - right"
11 June 2011: Gingrich is Republican 'Polling Behind a Black Guy'
7 Oct 2011: In Modern Republican Party ‘Denying Racism Is The New Racism’
21 Oct 2011: Panel discusses denying racism resists is the "new racism" and how "stupid" Herman Cain is

And one must wonder, for all of the sniffing at the idea that he or she could possibly be racist, isn't his open admission that he has lower standards for blacks clear evidence the he may in fact be racist - his protestations notwithstanding. For as we know from the links above, when a Republican says he is not a racist, it is proof positive that he is.

Just another classic example of the stunning lack of self-awareness on the left.


Notable Quotable

The ability for an individual to do evil is infinitely greater than an individual's ability to do good.
~ Dennis Prager


Competing Religions

The Judeo-Christian mindset is, "What do I owe my fellow man."  The leftist mindset is, "What does my fellow man owe me." 

Another way to say this is that the religious are concerned with obligations and the leftist is concerned with rights.  One is outward facing while the other is inward facing.  One is selfless while the other is selfish. 

Neither group is absolutely one or the other, but these are more an undercurrent and guide the externalities of each group.  Each group's view of governance is informed by these tendencies. 

Voter ID

The voting ID issue is paradigmatic of the left/right difference. The right wants to elevate the citizen to standards and the left wants to obliterate standards and bring the citizen down.

It also shows the contempt that the left has for their constituents. Are Hispanics in Texas less capable than a white? Does the left have the same set of standards for whites as Hispanics, blacks or the young? And because it is difficult for somebody to obtain ID, the left then abandons all standards for everybody rather than dignify those who struggle by making sure they can rise to the standard.

There is dignity in achieving a minimum standard for voting that ALL citizens must meet. Among other things, this fight against IDs abolishes dignity.

Also, isn't it insulting for other Hispanics who can figure out how to get an ID to have leftists lump all Hispanics together by race? An individual may struggle to get an ID. But that doesn't mean all members of a race have difficulty. Why isn't this thought to be as racist as one can get?

One must legitimately ask whether those on the left believe that a white person is somehow more capable of getting an ID than those groups they say have difficulty. If they say, "Yes, whites can get an ID to vote, but it is difficult for group x," then they must hold whites in higher esteem since they believe that whites can achieve a higher standard. How would the left finish the sentence, "We can't expect a Hispanic to get an ID because..."?

You won't get what you don't expect.

It is repugnant and shameful.


Notable Quotable

The left doesn't come to a debate to debate or have a discussion about ideas. The left comes to a debate to end the debate.


Misogyny of the left.

The DC helps ferret out the respectful thoughts about women from the left.  Not a great testimony on their behalf.


Oil Companies Earn Billions. No S#!%.

Think Progress posted a threadbare canard of the left - "big oil" is reaping obscene profits. The ideas posited in the article are so hackneyed as to be wearisome. Yes "big oil" makes big profits, because they sell billions of units of product. Apparently simple math is not the strong suit of the authors. And they show contempt for the reader when they assume the reader won’t see through the demagoguery or that the reader is too stupid to do the math for themselves.

To ensure that we are all on the same page, a review of some basic mathematics may be in order. In case the authors are unaware, a mathematical concept has been developed that may help the authors understand what is going on here – it is called percentages. And it is percentages that can help us to understand what to make of the "outrageous profits" – that is, if we are really interested in understanding the profits in context.

If a manufacturer builds 50 TVs per year and it costs $300 in parts, labor and overhead to build the TVs and he then sells them for $600, is that an outrageous profit? If consumers are happy to pay $600 for the TV because of the perceived added value to their lives, then whether it is outrageous or not, they may pay that amount. However, that is a 100% profit.

If that same manufacturer sells the TV for $323.70 is that an outrageous profit? Is 7.9% fairer? Less outrageous? 7.9% is about what "big oil" makes on average in profit. This is less than periodical publishers (53.1%), software companies (23.2%), cigarette makers (22.5%), beverage brewers (20.3%), railroads (15.5%), agricultural chemical manufacturers (15.2%), soft drink canners (15%), makers of toys and games (9.7%) and specialty eateries (9.2%). (Source: Yahoo!, 12 Mar 2012)

(For scale, it is worth considering that he would have to make over 4,200 units, or about 2 per hour working 8 hrs/day, in order to see his first $100k in profits – that comes after paying salaries and benefits to employees, rent/mortgage, light, heat, property taxes, maintenance, etc., etc., etc. and before reinvestment in new equipment, research, et al.)

But if the TV guy (who at some ordained quantity, only known by leftists, stops being a decent producer of needed goods and becomes demonic, "big TV") sold ten million TVs – which assumes he can even produce ten million – at 7.9% profit, he would report an obscene profit of $237 million. These enormous earnings would translate to $2 billion in profit over ten years. "That’s right, a profit figure with" 9 "zeros – count them:" $2,000,000,000. This demagogic slight of hand employed by the authors might be humorous if it weren’t so contemptuous and tendentious. It assumes the reader is too stupid to understand or too partisan or care that no matter what the total dollar amount of the profit, the percentage is well below many other industries. Only those lacking a basic high school education or the Kool Aid drinker would be taken in by such a specious presentation of the data.

Any company that is producing something will necessarily maximize profits for the shareholders. However, this is limited by how much a buyer is willing to pay. Oil companies, like most companies, are price takers, not price setters. If a TV manufacturer decides to include a 100% profit in the price of its TV, the buyer may decide that the added value of having a TV in the home is not worth the price. This desire to price 'set' is mitigated by the market when another company sells the product cheaper – maybe deciding to produce the product with less profit. The second company can undercut the competition and gain a larger portion of the market share. This will have the effect of driving down prices at the first company if they want to stay in business. The business then 'takes' the price that the market allows.

If the consumer sees sufficient self-benefit in the exchange, he will pay an additional sum that is profit for the business because he acknowledges that the business is able to provide the good or service in a more efficient manner than the consumer could. This is the tacit acknowledgment of comparative advantage. The cost of a good or service can be lowered because of specialization, economy of scale, division of labor and other factors that lower production costs and increase productivity. Profit is not necessarily bad. It can be an indicator that the consumer is willing to pay for efficiently produced, low-cost goods and services. And barring corruption, large profits are likely the result of someone, or some group, finding a way to increase production in a way that reduces production costs thereby increasing the profit margin. It is quite simplistic and utterly lacking nuance to think that profit equals theft.

So even though you might be able to build your own house by doing the framing, plumbing, electrical, roofing, concrete, heating and air conditioning, window installation, insulation, cabinetry, sheet rock, texturing, flooring, landscaping, etc, by yourself, you also might be willing to pay each of these specialty trades a bit of profit to do the work because you may not possess the skill, tools, time, knowledge, experience and expertise to perform the tasks. And even when paying them the profit you may still conclude that it is advantageous because they do it so much more efficiently than you could. And when larger companies do this on a larger scale they make larger profits. This is really all the article highlighted, albeit smugly. Well, duh.

Oil is a fungible product and its price is largely determined by the world oil market. However, additional supply can bring down prices just as increased demand can raise prices. The former is acknowledged by leftists when they propose that prices would drop if supply is increased via the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The article laments that a certain oil industry leader "opposes selling a small amount of reserve oil from the nearly full U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gas prices, which would provide some relief to drivers." So, apparently, even small increases in supply can create downward movement of prices to the tune of 18 to 72 cents per gallon. But when conservatives expand this idea to "drill baby drill", it is debunked as the cackling of simpletons. To the leftist mind, a "small," one time infusion from the SPR have miraculous effects on price while large infusions from ANWR or the Keystone pipeline wouldn't change a thing.

The article states, "It makes absolutely no sense to remain susceptible to a volatile global oil market. Instead we need to reduce our dependence on oil, which is priced globally and partly set by the OPEC cartel." I think most Americans would agree to that. But many think that bolstering domestic production might be a sensible part of a larger solution. And that doesn't make them a bunch of wackos.

As for speculators, they speculate based on their assessment of the future markets and geopolitical conditions. They assess conditions and speculate on the future – it is a risky business. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose. Why doesn’t anybody cry for them when they lose?

The futures market isn’t necessarily a bad construct. It can moderate the price and risk of commodities and reduce uncertainty. An airline can reduce risk by locking in fuel prices with futures. Otherwise, ticket prices would jump around in response to the spot market. Would that be better?

And then there is the oil lobby. I bet the authors couldn't muster so much as a yawn when thinking about the amount of money labor unions spend on lobbying and campaign contributions. But who can blame them. It would undermine their demagoguery. 


Misogynists of the Left Unite

Good point Kirsten Powers:
Boycotts are reserved for people on the right like Rush Limbaugh.  But if Limbaugh’s actions demand a boycott—and they do—then what about the army of swine on the left?
Jonah Goldberg compares the comparison to Joe the Plumber as well.  "The Democrats were unrestrained in their efforts to ridicule the man."  He continued:
When average citizens are thrust into the political debate, they are heroes -- if they confirm prevailing liberal arguments. When they run against the grain of the preferred narrative, they are ground down, caricatured and treated to corrosive media skepticism.
Only the left is unaware of the lack of self-awareness on the left.


Linzen on AGW

The Telegraph reports on Linzen's presentation to the House of Commons.  

One of the zingers by Linzen:
Given the above, the notion that alarming warming is ‘settled science’ should be offensive to any sentient individual, though to be sure, the above is hardly emphasized by the IPCC.