So long as the military principle of unity of command is valid, governments and armies will arise. Does the government have to pursue aggressive war? Only when control of a resource is so important that playing an extreme negative-sum game makes sense, or when the enemy is something as destructive as a communist empire. There were only two such, of course, the Soviet Union and Maoist China. Let a bunch of commies set up kleptocracies all over the planet and all their satellites’ economies will deteriorate. That, in turn, means that a free world country’s trading partners have nothing good to sell it and it, being part of the dwindling free world, is also impoverished. So the Cold War temporarily justified the formation of the American empire. Unfortunately the empire is still here after the reason for it has been lost. I have trouble believing that control of oil by America, instead of some other relatively rational country, justifies aggressive war.
January 17, 2013 by admin
January 1, 2013 by admin
Don’t seem to have done well with the reading for 2012, but will try again. What better thing to do on New Year’s Day?
Cover Card – Queen of Wands
Crossing Card – The Sun
Root – 9 of Cups
Recent Past – 10 of Swords
Possible Outcome – 10 of Pentacles
Near Future – 10 of Cups
Self – Queen of Pentacles
Environment – Wheel of Fortune
Hopes and Fears – Knight of Wands
Outcome – 4 of Swords
So the country will be happy in the near future, because of an inflow of wealth, which it can just accept passively (Q*). The country will be hoping for intuition and (maybe physical) energy (N/). This may be the source of the sudden wealth. Presumably the “truce” is one between environmentalists and the proponents of the new energy, or maybe between oil interests and the energy that will replace oil. How bad can things get when the central conflict is between the Queen of Wands and the Sun? Maybe the power we’ll obtain will be on a non-physical plane, but something should be coming in if the reading is correct.
December 22, 2012 by admin
The reaction to the Sandy Hook shooting points out the error of following news stories too closely. There have been about 60 mass shootings in the U.S. in the last 30 years, or about 2 per year. Guessing that the mean number of deaths per shooting is about 5, that would be 10 deaths per year due to mass shootings. The average number of deaths caused by lightning in the U.S.each year is 62. So death by lightning strike is much more common than death by mass shooting. The risk of dying in a mass shooting is small enough that it’s hardly prudent to waste time thinking about it.
However, because of the emotional impact of 28 of these deaths, including deaths of children, happening at once, the unreasoned reaction of some citizens is to think that something has to be done to prevent mass shootings. Somehow people forget that the number of deaths due to unrestrained government in the twentieth century is about 100 million. That’s 1 million per year, or 1 per 6000, or 16.67 per 100,000 per year, above the murder rate in our violent United States. Ban private ownership of guns, and you are courting real danger. Of course, the innumerate voter cannot be bothered to do the math.
Of course, the trouble with news media is that they are designed to report the unusual and dramatic. “Dog bites man, no story.” Therefore, it is important to consume news in moderation and judiciously.
December 16, 2012 by admin
This is a project dear to the hearts of the allegedly “libertarian left” Daily Kos. I find it irrational on many levels.
The simplest level is the obvious realization that, in anything like a free society, inaccurate speech should be countered with facts and logic. Otherwise you are advocating keeping the citizenry weak and ignorant. “Stop Rush” is not a First Amendment violation, of course, because neither Congress nor state and local governments are involved. Of course, one can wonder whether Kos supports the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Secondly, the campaign seems to overlook the demand for right wing talk radio. Stop Rush, and another right wing talk show host will take his place, possibly one who is actually a right-winger rather than a Romney supporter. Do you really want to discard the devil you know?
Third, how better to stay prepared to counter the arguments of the right than to have one dominant force in talk radio and be able to monitor his thinking? Just prepare your talking points to counter Rush’s reasoning and you’ll be fast on the draw in bar and barbershop conversations.
Fourth, as Richard Myers, author of a recent “Stop Rush” post noted, name a large company that dumped Limbaugh and you invite a backlash from his fans against the company.
Fifth, what if somebody that you usually think is a fool occasionally has a brilliant and useful idea? There is always the risk of losing that idea if you are able to silence him.
Sixth, note that in a previous post that I wrote that “Segregationists have been silenced[.]” They weren’t silenced by legislation or boycotts. Society simply moved in a direction so that expressions of racial prejudice were considered unacceptable. This is probably the only way that whatever Limbaugh says that upsets Kos will stop being heard.
I hope this demonstrates how deeply my world-view differs from that of the Daily Kos partisans. I can hardly imagine having a sane conversation with one.
December 10, 2012 by admin
f = how much a free market economy can produce in a given country.
Δ = a certain level of security for the poor, greater than we have now.
max(f(US)) = X
Δ > 0 (by definition, of course)
max(f(US)) < X + Δ
In other words, if the free market could only produce a certain level of production in 1962, even if welfare weren’t a negative-sum game, you would have to expect the welfare state to lower the standard of living for people who weren’t on welfare. They would all be rich people, perhaps, except that, again, they wouldn’t have as much capital available to create jobs.
Try explaining this complicated math to your favorite welfare-state liberal.
December 9, 2012 by admin
TED contains “ideas worth spreading”, “riveting talks by remarkable people”. Somehow that includes Algore babbling about The Hoax.
Reductio ad absurdum
December 7, 2012 by admin
Republican or Democrat.
Black or white.
Any time some politician gives up a position of substantial power, I have to think that the reason for the resignation is some sort of misconduct. A senator will naturally know where enough of the bodies are buried to be immune from any serious prosecution, so the result is charades like the DeMint resignation.
Limbaugh and Hannity both have flushed a fair amount of credibility with me by conducting interviews with Senator DeMint that were based on the premise that there was a legitimate reason for his leaving the Senate.
December 4, 2012 by admin
This is something all Baltimore liberals, and probably many liberals outside of Baltimore, took as almost an article of faith. I have yet to see any factual basis for that opinion. The absence of a factual basis is particularly apparent in an article by James F. Tracy, “The JFK Assassination and the Lost Prospects for Peace”. An excerpt:
“During the Kennedy Administration there was an unmistakable reconsideration of the relationship between the permanent wartime economy with the broader national and international political economy. This was evident not only in JFK’s move to scale back US involvement in Vietnam, evident in National Security Action Memorandum 263[.]”
Nope. Memo #263 was about scaling back from 16,000 to 15,000, up from Eisenhower’s 900, and hardly contemplated withdrawal. The interesting question for me is whether any reader has ever seen any factual basis for the claim that JFK would have gotten us out of Vietnam.
I’m hardly the first person to figure this out. (See, e.g., http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/context1.htm)
November 19, 2012 by admin
The Twinkie Manifesto
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: November 18, 2012
The Twinkie, it turns out, was introduced way back in 1930. In our memories, however, the iconic snack will forever be identified with the 1950s, when Hostess popularized the brand by sponsoring “The Howdy Doody Show.” And the demise of Hostess has unleashed a wave of baby boomer nostalgia for a seemingly more innocent time.
Needless to say, it wasn’t really innocent. But the ’50s — the Twinkie Era — do offer lessons that remain relevant in the 21st century. Above all, the success of the postwar American economy demonstrates that, contrary to today’s conservative orthodoxy, you can have prosperity without demeaning workers and coddling the rich.Actually, there is nothing false yet. I will disagree that there’s a conservative orthodoxy as of November 19, 2012, for reasons that are clear from the post before the last one.
Consider the question of tax rates on the wealthy. The modern American right, and much of the alleged center, is obsessed with the notion that low tax rates at the top are essential to growth. Remember that Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, charged with producing a plan to curb deficits, nonetheless somehow ended up listing “lower tax rates” as a “guiding principle.”
Yet in the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax rate of 91, that’s right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years. The best estimates suggest that circa 1960 the top 0.01 percent of Americans paid an effective federal tax rate of more than 70 percent, twice what they pay today.The futility of debating tax policy was demonstrated in the last post. Note that revenues went up as tax rates were lowered and rationalized during the Reagan years. So insofar as debating tax policy can make any sense at all, Krugman is dead wrong.
Nor were high taxes the only burden wealthy businessmen had to bear. They also faced a labor force with a degree of bargaining power hard to imagine today. In 1955 roughly a third of American workers were union members.American workers had bargaining power because enough countries were communist that labor was overpaid, i.e., capital didn’t have many places to go in search of cheap labor costs. Also, thanks to the modest size of the welfare state, capital hadn’t been urinated away at the rate that prevails now, so that conditions could improve, leading to high wages, for basic Adam-Smith reasons. That is, high wages caused improved bargaining conditions. Improved bargaining power did not create high wages.
In the biggest companies, management and labor bargained as equals, so much so that it was common to talk about corporations serving an array of “stakeholders” as opposed to merely serving stockholders.The word wasn’t used until 1963, according to Wikipedia. It definitely wasn’t popular until the 1980s, if then. Krugman was six years old when the 1950s ended. Does he want us to believe he was aware of discussions of corporate responsibility during the whole 1950s decade?
Squeezed between high taxes and empowered workers, executives were relatively impoverished by the standards of either earlier or later generations. In 1955 Fortune magazine published an essay, “How top executives live,” which emphasized how modest their lifestyles had become compared with days of yore. The vast mansions, armies of servants, and huge yachts of the 1920s were no more; by 1955 the typical executive, Fortune claimed, lived in a smallish suburban house, relied on part-time help and skippered his own relatively small boat.Income inequality is indeed a sign of the poverty of the whole society. The 1950s were indeed more prosperous than the 1920s.
The data confirm Fortune’s impressions. Between the 1920s and the 1950s real incomes for the richest Americans fell sharply, not just compared with the middle class but in absolute terms. According to estimates by the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, in 1955 the real incomes of the top 0.01 percent of Americans were less than half what they had been in the late 1920s, and their share of total income was down by three-quarters.What Krugman leaves out is that plenty of wealth was destroyed by the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II. Transfer payments were merely 6% of GDP during the 1950s, however, far below today’s rates.
Today, of course, the mansions, armies of servants and yachts are back, bigger than ever — and any hint of policies that might crimp plutocrats’ style is met with cries of “socialism.” Indeed, the whole Romney campaign was based on the premise that President Obama’s threat to modestly raise taxes on top incomes, plus his temerity in suggesting that some bankers had behaved badly, were crippling the economy. Surely, then, the far less plutocrat-friendly environment of the 1950s must have been an economic disaster, right?I have already granted the absurdity of debating tax policy.
Actually, some people thought so at the time. Paul Ryan and many other modern conservatives are devotees of Ayn Rand.A Randian would not run with RINO Romney. Not all libertarians or near-libertarians are Randians (see, e.g., the post “1962 WelfareMax”). As of November 19, 2012, most modern “conservatives” appear to be devotees of Gunnar Myrdal. (See “Left of Left of a Liberal Republican”.)
Well, the collapsing, moocher-infested nation she portrayed in “Atlas Shrugged,” published in 1957, was basically Dwight Eisenhower’s America.
Strange to say, however, the oppressed executives Fortune portrayed in 1955 didn’t go Galt and deprive the nation of their talents. On the contrary, if Fortune is to be believed, they were working harder than ever.No, Atlas Shrugged was Rand’s basically correct conception of the way things were headed if trends in place then continued.
And the high-tax, strong-union decades after World War II were in fact marked by spectacular, widely shared economic growth: nothing before or since has matched the doubling of median family income between 1947 and 1973.Not in this country, no. However, consider how fast things improved in China after they dumped communism.
Which brings us back to the nostalgia thing.
There are, let’s face it, some people in our political life who pine for the days when minorities and women knew their place, gays stayed firmly in the closet and congressmen asked, “Are you now or have you ever been?” The rest of us, however, are very glad those days are gone. We are, morally, a much better nation than we were. Oh, and the food has improved a lot, too.Segregationists have been silenced, so Krugman is simply lying there. Anti-communism is moot since the Soviet Union collapsed and the world became safer. Krugman was six when the fifties ended. How would he know that the food is better, if indeed it is? I see no need to comment on his use of the word “morally”, except that dishonesty is known to have been on the rise from 1960 until now. (I don’t have a footnote for the last assertion, and I don’t think I need one.)
As to homosexuals, I, also, am glad that they are not persecuted, but their political agenda may be more damaging overall to society than the 1950s closeting.
Along the way, however, we’ve forgotten something important — namely, that economic justice and economic growth aren’t incompatible. America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again.Krugman’s conclusion is the whopper of the piece. We can’t do anything like “that again” with the welfare state at its current size. “Economic justice”, in the form of metastasized transfer payments, is exactly what destroyed economic growth.
November 19, 2012 by admin
Everyone agrees that, at zero tax rates, or at 100% tax rates, the government gets zero income, so there must be a maximum rate in there somewhere.
For most of the twentieth century, the federal government has collected 18-20% of GDP in taxes. That’s almost no variation in receipts, in other words, a slope of zero. So on the Laffer curve, that might be a global maximum, a global minimum, a local maximum, a local minimum, or a saddle point. Given the Democratic control of Congress for most of the last 100 years and their strategy of “Tax and tax, spend and spend, elect and elect,” which do you think it might be? Try GLOBAL MAXIMUM. That is, Congress is clearly very good at extorting the maximum revenue, and the recent Republican mantra that a deficit is a spending problem is clearly true.