Free Markets, Free People
We spent quite a bit of time discussing this on the podcast yesterday. It’s from the Washington Post and is written by Steven Pearlstein.
I have some real issues with his characterizations of Capitalism, especially where he tries to use events and problems to imply that Capitalism is less than moral.
I had hoped to write up something, but as happens more frequently here lately, life has intruded. However, a commenter to the WP article summed it up nicely for me:
Free markets don’t regulate my excesses, guarantee equal opportunity or fairly divide the economic pie. Yet Mr. Pearlstein seems to be arguing that if free markets don’t do these moral things, then they’re immoral.
So there’s the central fallacy in the debate as posited by Pearlstein: Your system doesn’t do what I want it to do so it’s bad, even though your system can’t do what I want it to do because that’s not its purpose or design. To illustrate, your religion is bad because it doesn’t promote gay rights like I want even though gay rights is an utterly foreign and inimical idea to your religion, whose purpose and design is to save souls. (This was the essence of CNN’s coverage of the papal conclave.)
See the problem? OK, another try: Free markets don’t make me use less gasoline, guarantee me a nice job in return for getting a degree in Latino Studies, or prevent Donald Trump from getting too rich compared to me. Therefore, free market capitalism is bad, or at least not moral. OK, but free markets don’t and can’t do any of these things, so your standards and measures are irrelevant and thus illogical, see? Why not measure the moral character of free markets by what they do? For example, free markets provide places where people can meet to voluntarily transact business without worrying about getting clobbered or expropriated by government or criminals. What’s immoral about that?
You’ve gotta hand it to the left: They really know how to enshroud a debate in illogic, falsehood and emotion. Take off those pinko-colored glasses, though, and you realize that the debate Pearlstein wants to have is nonsense: Free markets can’t, don’t and won’t do what he wants government to do because free markets are not government. Ergo, the valid and relevant issue is whether we all want government to continue doing all that it’s doing at the price we’re paying for government to do it. And I guarantee you that no one on the left wants to have that debate.
The commenter, Lavaux, does a pretty decent job of nailing the fallacy which Pearlstein and many critics of Capitalism (and many other issues as he demonstrates) suffer under – claiming that it is something other than it is and then attacking that “something”, or, as we usually say, using a strawman argument. Pearlstein, as Lavaux points out, is slashing at those strawmen throughout his piece.
Capitalism has become the “go-to” boogy man on the left. All sorts of things that have no relevance or aren’t a part of Capitalism are blamed on Capitalism. Usually, however, if you dig deep enough (sometimes you don’t have to dig at all) you’ll find the hand of intrusive government somewhere in the problem mix. That immediately takes it from the realm of Capitalism to all sorts of other nether regions which have nothing to do with with it.
But, you know that …. unfortunately, a vast majority of your fellow citizens don’t.
Thus the demonization of Capitalism and the exoneration of government continue apace.
In the case of Michael Bloomberg’s overreach in banning a specific size of soda drink, the defender is some fellow named Lawrence Gostin. The headline of the article he’s written is “Banning large sodas is legal and smart”.
Really? Legal and smart? His defense of the indefensible has him channeling Paul Krugman, or at least emulating him.
As I’ve said before, it’s always wise to check the premise on which someone like this operates. In this case, the premise is, as you might expect, flawed and the reasoning thin. It all comes down to a word – “imminent” – and the author’s obvious belief that it is the job of government to save us from ourselves. You have to dig through the article a bit, but here’s where Gostin’s claim of legality comes from:
Admittedly, the soda ban would have been better coming from the city’s elected legislature, the City Council. But the Board of Health has authority to act in cases where there is an imminent threat to health. Doesn’t the epidemic of obesity count as an imminent threat, with its devastating impact on health, quality of life and mortality? In any event, the Board of Health has authority over the food supply and chronic disease, which is exactly what it has used in this case.
Members of the Board of Health, moreover, are experts in public health, entitled to a degree of deference. The fact that the proposal originated in the mayor’s office does not diminish the board’s authority and duty to protect the public’s health. Many health proposals arise from the executive branch, notably the Affordable Care Act.
Uh, no, obesity doesn’t qualify as an “imminent” threat such that a Board of Health can arbitrarily declare something “banned”. Why not king size candy bars? Why not New York cheese cake? Why not a whole plethora of sugar soaked products? Well, if you’re paying attention, I’m sure you’ve realized that if this had flown, such bans were likely not far behind.
But back to Gostin. Here’s his real argument:
First, the ever-expanding portions (think "supersized") are one of the major causes of obesity. When portion sizes are smaller, individuals eat less but feel full. This works, even if a person can take an additional portion. (Most won’t because they are satiated, and it at least makes them think about what they are consuming.) Second, sugar is high in calories, promotes fat storage in the body and is addictive, so people want more. The so-called "war on sugar" is not a culture war, it is a public health imperative backed by science.
So, there is good reason to believe New York’s portion control would work. But why does the city have to prove that it works beyond any doubt? Those who cry "nanny state" in response to almost any modern public health measure (think food, alcohol, firearms, distracted driving) demand a standard of proof that lawmakers don’t have to meet in any other field.
Because we don’t, in his opinion, “demand a standard of proof” from lawmakers in any other field, we shouldn’t, apparently, demand that standard in this field. After all it is a “public health imperative” which is “backed by science”. Where have we heard that before (*cough* global warming *cough*)?
So we shouldn’t ask lawmakers to prove that a) obesity is an imminent threat and b) banning large sodas will defeat that threat? Because that’s certainly the premise.
In fact, we should do precisely the opposite of what Gostin says. We should demand “a standard of proof” from out lawmakers that requires they prove whatever bill they’re contemplating is in fact necessary. Want to ban “assault weapons”. Prove to me that such a ban will “curb gun violence”. Stats seem to indicate it will have no effect. The lapse of the previous ban showed no appreciable increase in gun violence and we’ve seen an overall decrease in violence as a whole.
In this case, the ban Gostin tries to defend and contrary to his headline claims, was neither legal or smart. It was arbitrary and poorly thought out (if it was thought out at all – seems more like it was a capricious act grounded in an inflated belief in the power Mayor Bloomberg thought he had). And according to a NY state judge, it wasn’t legal either.
Of course Gostin tries a transparently obvious bit of nonsense by blaming the failure on “Big Food” and a compliant judge buying into their arguments. It is the usual fall back position for someone who has nothing. And his trump card is to compare the food industry to, you guessed it, the tobacco industry. “Big” anything to do with business or industry is a liberal boogyman invoked when arguments are weak. And Gostin’s is about as weak as they come. His attempt to fob this off on the “usual suspects” is, frankly, laughable.
I note this particular “defense” by Gostin simply to point out that there are people out there, people others consider to be rational and intelligent (and, apparently, who can get things published on CNN) that can rationalize curbing you freedoms and liberties through the use of force (law and enforcement) because they actually believe they know what is best for you and have the right to act on that on your behalf.
What we need to do, quickly, is find a way to dissuade the nannies of the world from that belief. They need to understand that freedom means they’re free to act on what they believe in circumstances like this but they’re not free to decide that others must do it too, because they’ve decided that’s the “smart” thing to do. Freedom means the right to fail, get fat, do stupid things (that don’t violate the rights of others), etc. We’re issued one mother in our lives. And it’s not the state.
Because government is so completely involved in our lives. A good example is the UK.
Winter weather has killed a million Brits since the 1980s and will kill a million more by 2050, experts have warned. Age support groups and doctors blame poor housing, high energy bills and pensioner poverty. Many killed by the cold are elderly but the ill, vulnerable and very young also die. A total of 973,000 people died due to winter weather from 1982/83 to 2011/12, Office of National Statistics data for England and Wales shows. ONS data shows another million Brits will be killed by winters by 2050, based on the average of 27,400 cold weather deaths per winter in the last five years.
The government, of course, is responsible for more of the problems listed than high energy bills but I wanted to highlight that and then turn to the irony part of this:
Migrating birds have halted Britain’s embryonic shale gas expansion in its tracks. The company backed by Lord Browne, the former BP boss, admitted yesterday that it must delay resuming fracking near Blackpool until next year because of rules protecting thousands of birds wintering in the surrounding picturesque Fylde peninsula.
Nice to know who or what has the priority over freezing Brits, no?
I have to agree with Thomas Sowell who opined early on, and I’m paraphrasing here, “who would believe that adding a layer of government bureaucracy to healthcare would somehow make it less costly?”
Exactly. Or easier to get, for that matter?
Applying for benefits under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul could be as daunting as doing your taxes.
The government’s draft application is now on the Internet.
It runs 15 pages for a three-person family. The online version has 21 steps, some with added questions.
At least three major federal agencies, including the IRS, will scrutinize your application.
That’s just the first part of the process, which lets you know if you qualify for financial help.
You’d still have to pick a health plan.
Wonderful stuff, no? And nice to know the IRS is in on it from the beginning … because, you know, they have a lot to do with health care.
Some fear that consumers will be overwhelmed and give up.
Administration officials say the application form is being refined.
Of course it is. And it will be forever. Success? Reducing it to 10 pages I’m sure.
Still, the idea that picking a health insurance plan could be as simple as shopping on the Internet is starting to look like wishful thinking.
Heh … only an absolute dope would have believed that in the first place, with government involved.
But we told you all of this before the law was passed, didn’t we?
It all starts with what could be described as a very simple act – the acceptance of a premise. As soon as one side accepts the premise of the other side, the other side has won. It simply becomes a matter of how bad the damage is.
In this case, the premise that seems to have been accepted by the “old ladies” of the GOP leadership is that some sort of federal “gun control” legislation is necessary because of “mass killings” and our “children”. From Ammoland:
You might think that with Republicans in control of the US House of Representatives there would be no way ANY gun control legislation could reach the floor.
But sadly we are already beginning to see so-called “conservative champions” folding to pressure from the anti-gun media to sell-out gun owners.
Former Vice Presidential candidate, Congressman Paul Ryan, has stated that he would support legislation that bans private sales at gun shows.
In the House, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, along with the help of Rep. Scott Rigell (VA), Patrick Meehan (PA) and others, have stated openly that they will work together with anti-gun Democrats from Maryland and New York to tighten restrictions on private firearms sales and expand background checks.
Possibly even more upsetting has been Senator Tom Coburn’s willingness to work alongside anti-gunner Chuck Schumer (NY) to propose “bi-partisan” anti-gun legislation in the Senate.
Make no mistake, so-called “expansion” of background checks is little more than a blatant attempt by anti-gunners to register all firearms and gun owners in America.
That is why Representatives Steve Stockman (TX-36) and Paul Broun (GA-10) have drafted a letter to Speaker Boehner and the Republican leadership urging them to require the support of the majority of Republican members in the House before bringing any anti-gun bills to the floor.
This so-called “Hastert Rule” would mean that 117 Republicans would have to support a particular bill before it had any chance of getting a floor vote, not just the support of the anti-gun elitist in leadership.
So the premise seems to have been accepted by the GOP leadership if this report is accurate. And, if it is accurate, then they’re going to try to fashion some sort of gun control legislation to address a problem that the type of gun control legislation they’ll propose won’t effect. What it will do, however, is create a new law that will put legal gunowners in criminal jeopardy if they desire to sell their firearms and don’t follow the new rules to a ‘t’ (and, my guess is the new rules will likely be mostly unenforceable – they’d only be enforced retroactively if a gun involved in a private sale that wasn’t “background checked” was used in a crime).
The criminals? Those who are likely to commit mass killings? Yeah, they’ll comply.
Meanwhile, if you believe that Congress has no right to “infringe” on 2nd Amendment rights, prepare to be sold down the river by the GOP. They’ve already accepted the need and the premise, it’s now just a matter of figuring out what the “compromise” will be. What should be clear, however, is that if anti-gun legislation does get passed, it will be your 2nd Amendment rights that will be compromised and the GOP will be complicit.
As it should:
A state judge on Monday stopped Mayor Michael Bloomberg‘s administration frombanning the sale of large sugary drinks at New York City restaurants and other venues, a major defeat for a mayor who has made public-health initiatives a cornerstone of his tenure.
The city is “enjoined and permanently restrained from implementing or enforcing the new regulations,” wrote New York Supreme Court Judge Milton Tingling, blocking the rules one day before they would have taken effect. The city’s chief counsel, Michael Cardozo, pledged to “appeal the ruling as soon as possible.”
In halting the drink rules, Judge Tingling noted that the incoming sugary drink regime was “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences” that would be difficult to enforce with consistency “even within a particular city block, much less the city as a whole.”
“The loopholes in this rule effectively defeat the stated purpose of the rule,” the judge wrote. (Read the full text of the ruling.)
Under a first-of-its-kind prohibition approved by the city Board of Health last year, establishments from restaurants to mobile food carts would have been prohibited from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 oz. After a three-month grace period, the city would have started fining violators $200 per sale.
So the nanny gets told “no”.
Does anyone really believe this will stop him?
Or so says the executive branch in many, many cases.
In this particular case, the National Labor Relations Board, NLRB, has simply decided to ignore a ruling of a US Court of Appeals:
Only a few hours after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a decision that the National Labor Relations Board does not have a legal quorum to act, the board’s chairman, Mark Pearce, issued a press release announcing the board’s intent to ignore it.
The timing and content of Pearce’s statement show a board so fixated on serving the interests of organized labor it no longer knows its place nor weighs the consequences of its actions on the public interest. Although Pearce may believe that the president has the authority to make recess appointments over a three-day break in ongoing Senate sessions — or over lunch, for that matter — it is not the place of the NLRB chairman to disagree with a circuit court on a constitutional question that goes to the heart of the political appointment process and one in which he has a partisan interest.
The answer to that is to ignore the NLRB and anything it says, does or declares.
If they can play that game, so can we.
Thought these two graphs illustrated part of it very well:
But remember — they want you to believe it is a revenue problem.
“Going green” and “climate change” certainly are interlinked parts of a political agenda that have nothing to do with public opinion or will. In fact:
Seventeen years of continuous surveys covering countries around the world show that people not only do not care about climate change today – understandably prioritising economic misery – they also did not care about climate change even back when times were good. The new information comes in a study released by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago – a large, long-standing and respected non-profit. The NORC spokespersons said that decades of climate alarmism have had basically no effect on people’s attitude around the world.
Part of that has to do with the fact that they’ve heard it all before. Dire predictions about population growth that have come to naught. Warnings about using up the earth’s resources which have proven to be false. Ozone holes. Melting icecaps. Yatta, yatta.
Climate change is just the latest among the apocalyptic prophesies and as the real science – not Al Gore “science” – comes out, fewer and fewer people are staying on the bandwagon.
Of course the promise was a “green economy” in which everyone would benefit. How’s that worked out? Well we know how it has worked out in Spain. Germany is now finding out how mistaken they were to go in that direction. In fact:
Energy, manufacturing and agriculture are playing a major role in the corridor states’ revival. The resurgence of fossil fuel–based energy, notably shale oil and natural gas, is especially important. Cheap U.S. natural gas has some envisioning the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge as an “American Ruhr.” Much of this growth, notes Eric Smith, associate director of the Tulane Energy Institute, will be financed by German and other European firms that are reeling from electricity costs now three times higher than in places like Louisiana.
Interesting. It is another reason why they’re also putting manufacturing plants in the US, mostly in Red States. Skilled labor, right to work and cheap energy. Obviously neither the “right to work” nor cheap energy are part of any Obama administration design.
And how is it going for green jobs more locally? Well, the usual state can be consulted for an update on what such a move has wrought and demonstrate for all to see why “going green” is a foolish road to travel – at least in the near future.
It was supposed to be the next big thing. California built decades of broad-based prosperity from the Gold Rush, then Hollywood, then aerospace, and later Silicon Valley. At the turn of the century, “green jobs” were supposed to be the wave of the future. How is that going for them? According to the best numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than 2,500 green jobs have been created in California since 2010.
Wow … bask in the success! Government again demonstrates how poorly it does picking winners and losers. Not that such failures ever hinder the central planners from using your dollars to try again. What’s Einstein’s definition of insanity?
Meanwhile, the “success” of green energy has brought California to a point where it will have to fish or cut bait very soon:
California is weighing how to avoid a looming electricity crisis that could be brought on by its growing reliance on wind and solar power. At Tuesday’s meeting, experts cautioned that the state could begin seeing problems with reliability as soon as 2015.
Of course, had we heeded the experience of others, we likely wouldn’t see California going through this nonsense:
The former chancellor Lord Lawson has urged the Government to keep Britain’s coal-fired power stations working for as long as was needed to avoid any short-term power shortages. In a House of Lords debate on energy policy and electricity generation Lord Lawson also called on ministers to give “every encouragement it can” to the quickest possible development of shale gas supplies. Lord Lawson urged energy and climate change minister Baroness Verma to assure the House that “if the need arises our coal-fired power stations will be kept open as long as is necessary, regardless of the European combustion plants directive”.
But our dauntless leaders never learn from others. Just as with healthcare, they seem bound and determined to recreate the failure of others.
We have abundant fossile fuel resources. They would generate both jobs and revenue for government. Wind and solar, while great in theory, have in practice been shown to be woefully inadequate to our needs. We even have communities wanting wind turbines taken down due to health concerns.
Yet our government and this administration continue to pursue an “energy policy” which is detrimental to the welfare of this nation despite a state that has done everything they want to do nationally and is a dismal failure because of it. They are bound and determined to make all 50 states Californias.
I wondered, when Barack Obama was re-elected, how bad you had to be to be fired. Apparently worse than Obama, if that’s possible.
Now, with the confirmation of Chuck Hagel – another politician who has never run a large or complex organization and who was abysmal in his confirmation hearings – I have to wonder how bad you have to be NOT to be hired.
Apparently, worse than Chuck Hagel, if that’s possible:
Republicans siding with Democrats, the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Chuck Hagel as President Obama’s secretary of defense, a nomination that drew strong opposition within the Republican former senator’s own party, with some troubled by past statements on Israel and Iran.
GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Mike Johanns, (Nebr.) and Richard Shelby (Ala.) supported Hagel in the 58-41 vote. No Democrats opposed him.
Again, let down by the GOP (the ‘good old boy club’ just couldn’t say no to a former member).
Anyone seeing a pattern here?