Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: December 19, 2011

Capitalism: The way back to prosperity

Jeb Bush, in what one can describe as either a trial balloon for his candidacy for President (doubtful) or just a shot across the bow of the big government, crony capitalist crowd, says all the right words in a Wall Street Journal piece:

The right to rise does not require a libertarian utopia to exist. Rather, it requires fewer, simpler and more outcome-oriented rules. Rules for which an honest cost-benefit analysis is done before their imposition. Rules that sunset so they can be eliminated or adjusted as conditions change. Rules that have disputes resolved faster and less expensively through arbitration than litigation.

In Washington, D.C., rules are going in the opposite direction. They are exploding in reach and complexity. They are created under a cloud of uncertainty, and years after their passage nobody really knows how they will work.

We either can go down the road we are on, a road where the individual is allowed to succeed only so much before being punished with ruinous taxation, where commerce ignores government action at its own peril, and where the state decides how a massive share of the economy’s resources should be spent.

Or we can return to the road we once knew and which has served us well: a road where individuals acting freely and with little restraint are able to pursue fortune and prosperity as they see fit, a road where the government’s role is not to shape the marketplace but to help prepare its citizens to prosper from it.

In short, we must choose between the straight line promised by the statists and the jagged line of economic freedom. The straight line of gradual and controlled growth is what the statists promise but can never deliver. The jagged line offers no guarantees but has a powerful record of delivering the most prosperity and the most opportunity to the most people. We cannot possibly know in advance what freedom promises for 312 million individuals. But unless we are willing to explore the jagged line of freedom, we will be stuck with the straight line. And the straight line, it turns out, is a flat line.

The “right to rise” he talks about is the right of the individual to freely pursue “happiness” in the form economic prosperity without the interference of government.  And he’s right, that doesn’t require a “libertarian utopia”.  It does require much less government and much less intrusion on the economic side (well, actually, in all areas).  Ironically, the resulting economic boom would do two things … increase employment and revenue to the government to help pay off the debt and hopefully help eliminate deficit spending.

What Bush is talking about though is a counter-revolution against the second American revolution (during the FDR era) that undid  our first.  What he’s suggesting is taking government back to its 18th century roots where it fulfilled the night watchman role, and guarded our freedoms and liberty.  Yes, that means laws and law enforcement.  Anarchy has never been a libertarian ideal nor was it one our Founders espoused.  In fact, it may even mean minimal regulation to ensure force and fraud are punished.  But certainly, nothing at all like the regime we have today.

The problem, of course, is the other side of the Leviathan we’ve allowed to grow up among us.  That side which has fostered an addiction to other people’s money.  And you see the split personality we’ve developed as Americans in the polls that reflect a desire to downsize government but not at the expense of the part from which each person benefits.  That makes change in the direction needed very hard because feeding the addiction requires a large and intrusive government.

Our problems right now don’t come from living in a “libertarian utopia” that’s clearly obvious.  Instead we’ve become a sort of socialist lite (and catching up fast) version of the failing European social democracies. We’re headed down the very same track, just not on the rocket sled they’re on.

Another irony is even if we did change our ways and begin the dismantle this intrusive regulatory state and go back to our roots, it may be too late.  Like it or not, our economic future is coupled with places like Europe, China and the like.   Even with such moves here, the tipping point may have already been reached.  Instead of dismantling all of this state apparatus the less painful way by gradually standing it down, it may just come crashing down under its own weight.

Politicians have been told for decades we can’t afford what they envisioned and built.  They’ve been warned that the state was getting too large, expensive and intrusive and all they’ve done is make it larger, more expensive and more intrusive.  But it appears the can has been kicked about as far down the road as it can be kicked.  Now someone is going to have to actually pick it up and deal with it.

The question is who?   The other question is do Americans have the fortitude and actual belief in the principles of freedom and liberty to make that happen?

Both questions, in my opinion, have less than positive answers … at least at this point in time.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Islamists tighten grip in Egypt with 2nd round of elections, violence flairs

Well “Arab spring” is going swimmingly in Egypt.  The second round of elections were just completed and guess who has taken even more control?

The Muslim Brotherhood party secured 39 percent of the vote, while the Salafi Al Nour party won 31 percent of the vote in the second stage of Egypt’s landmark post-Mubarak elections, according to unofficial results published on the website of Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper on Sunday.

The unofficial results for the second stage of elections for the lower house of the Egyptian parliament also showed that the secular, liberal Wafd party won 22 percent of the vote.

Islamist parties won some 70 percent of the total vote, a similar result to the first stage of elections, which took place on November 28.

Of course this wasn’t supposed to happen this way and apologists for it are left with trying to pretend that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “moderate” organization.  It’s history tells a completely different story.  The classic wolf in sheep’s clothing in this situation.  With over 70% control, the Islamists will easily control any legislative body with very little need to compromise with the secular side of the house.

Meanwhile what had begun as peaceful protests in Tahrir Square have turned violent:

Egyptian security forces fought opponents of army rule in Cairo for a fourth day on Monday and the United States, worried by the violence, urged the generals to respect human rights.

Medical sources said the death toll had risen to 13 since Friday. Hundreds have been wounded and scores detained.

Police and soldiers using batons and teargas drove stone-throwing protesters out of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, hub of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February, overnight.

Hundreds had returned to the square by morning after security forces retreated behind barricades in streets leading to parliament, the cabinet office and the Interior Ministry.

The photos of the violence are shocking.  But they give good evidence of the fact that any “spring like” feeling is gone from this revolution.  It has, as expected, turned toward a military/Islamist takeover as expected and the Egyptian military is now showing its true colors as its powerbase is challenged.  This link from the UK’s Daily Mail contains photos and a video that show the results.   The photo I’ve included is just an example.

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Perhaps now, instead of apologizing for the outcome, those who’ve tried to blind themselves to its reality will face it square on.  Egypt is going to end up worse off than it was before Mubarak was deposed.  That doesn’t mean Mubarak was someone to support, it is simply a statement of fact.  Oppression is likely to be followed by even more oppression.  And, as the picture above demonstrates, one of the greatest losers in this particular mess is likely to be women.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

The Kim is dead, long live the Kim … or not

Kim Jong Il, dictatorial ruler of the hermit kingdom of North Korea, has assumed room temperature.  A tearful announcer on the NK news service announced it last night.   The 69 year old ruler will be replaced by his 3rd son, Kim Jong un – or at least that’s the announced plan.

There is speculation as to whether or not that will be the final outcome.  Kim Jong un will only be the third leader (all from the same family) that NK has had in its relatively brief history.   General Thurman, the US commander of troops in South Korea summed the situation up pretty well in his confirmation hearing in June where he warned the Senate Armed Services Committee that  the older Kim’s death could increase the military threat on the peninsula, since "Kim Jong-un’s youth and inexperience increase the likelihood of miscalculation, as does the imperative for him to establish credibility with the military hardliners he needs to support succession. These factors make him less predictable in the near-term."

As if to emphasize that point, we have this:

North Korea test-fired a short-range missile off its east coast on Monday, the same day it announced the death of leader Kim Jong-Il, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.

The agency quoted an unnamed government official as saying the missile launch was unrelated to the announcement that Kim had died Saturday of a heart attack.

Naturally, anyone who has observed North Korea knows that nothing like that is “unrelated”.  Everything is tightly controlled and done for a purpose.  And the missile firing is not an “unrelated” incident.

This will be a situation to watch closely.  The military is a very powerful faction in NK.  And you have to figure there are those within its upper hierarchy that would like to see a change in leadership, most likely to an even harder line that now.  Dangerous times on the Korean peninsula as this leadership position plays out. 

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO