Posted on September 30, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
President Obama’s visit to the Solyndra solar panel factory in California last year was choreographed down to the last detail---the 20-by-30-foot American flags, the corporate banners hung just so, the special lighting, even coffee and doughnuts for the Secret Service detail. “It’s here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future,” the president declared in May 2010 to the assembled workers and executives. The start-up business had received a $535 million federal loan guarantee, offered in part to reassert American dominance in solar technology while generating thousands of jobs. But behind the pomp and pageantry, Solyndra was rotting inside, hemorrhaging cash so quickly that within weeks of Mr. Obama’s visit, the company canceled plans to offer shares to the public. Barely a year later, Solyndra has become one of the administration’s most costly fumbles after the company declared bankruptcy, laid off 1,100 workers and was raided by F.B.I. agents seeking evidence of possible fraud. Solyndra’s two top officers are to appear Friday before a House investigative committee where, their lawyers say, they will assert their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.Read more...
Posted on September 23, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Go into the Exchange in London, that place more venerable than many a court, and you will see representatives of all the nations assembled there for the profit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian deal with one another as if they were of the same religion, and reserve the name of infidel for those who go bankrupt. There the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist, and the Church of England man accepts the promise of the Quaker. On leaving these peaceable and free assemblies, some go to the synagogue, others in search of a drink; this man is on the way to be baptized in a great tub in the name of the Father, by the Son, to the Holy Ghost...You can find it in Tom's essay "Globalization and Culture," which is included in Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice. I found a very similar thought in a Wall Street Journal review of the book Ghetto at the Center of the World by Gordon Mathews. The book focuses on "the most notorious flophouse in Asia," which accommodates people from all over the world, but especially from Africa and South Asia and especially merchants who trade cheap Chinese-made goods to buyers from other countries. The review notes:
Interpersonal relations at the building, the author says, might not be reliably friendly, but "they are generally peaceful." He adds: "As a Pakistani said to me vis-à-vis Indians, 'I do not like them; they are not my friends. But I am here to make money, as they are here to make money. We cannot afford to fight.' "Voltaire and Mathews, like many other observers, have noticed that people trying to make money don't generally get too upset about other people's race or religion. This is part of the "doux commerce" or "sweet commerce" thesis that goes back to the Middle Ages. Albert O. Hirschman wrote about it in 1982, and much of Deirdre McCloskey's current work explores the idea of "doux commerce" and bourgeois virtues.
Posted on September 20, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Upper-income taxpayers have paid a growing share of the federal tax burden over the last 25 years. A 2008 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, for example, found that the highest-earning 10% of the U.S. population paid the largest share among 24 countries examined, even after adjusting for their relatively higher incomes. "Taxation is most progressively distributed in the United States," the OECD study concluded. Meanwhile, the percentage of U.S. households paying no federal income tax has been climbing, and reached 51% for 2009, according to a new analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation.An accompanying graphic shows the growing share of income taxes paid by the wealthy (in green) and how the U.S. ratio of taxes on the wealthy in relation to their income compares to that in other rich countries:
Posted on September 19, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
COMITINI, Italy — With only 960 residents and a handful of roads, this tiny hilltop village in the arid, sulfurous hills of southern Sicily does not appear to have major traffic problems. But that does not prevent it from having one full-time traffic officer — and eight auxiliaries. The auxiliaries, who earn a respectable 800 euros a month, or $1,100, to work 20 hours a week, are among about 64 Comitini residents employed by the town, the product of an entrenched jobs-for-votes system pervasive in Italian politics at all levels.She goes on to explain that much local spending comes from the national government, which is now in dire straits:
But what may be saving Comitini’s economy is precisely what is strangling Italy’s and other ailing economies throughout Europe. Public spending has driven up the public debt to 120 percent of gross domestic product, the highest percentage in the euro zone after Greece’s.
Posted on September 19, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Six of [the Washington-area mass transit system] Metro's top executives are assigned agency-owned vehicles that they can drive home, the transit system acknowledged Tuesday, one day after saying none of them had take-home vehicles. That is in addition to the 116 Metro employees who receive take-home vehicles, including 88 managers and superintendents, first reported by The Washington Examiner.I wonder if executives and managers at automobile companies get free subway passes?
Posted on September 16, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
82 percent of respondents say "The Federal Government should not have the power to require all Americans to buy health insurance."That is, 82 percent of Americans oppose the central plank of President Obama's health care policy, the one that's roiling the courts right now and headed for the Supreme Court. But Google "poll health care mandate," and you get no national media results. It's sorta like it didn't happen. But it did, and Democratic campaign consultants have no doubt noticed it. As usual, not everything in the poll was encouraging. 61 percent say they oppose "giving the President more power at the expense of the power of Congress and the courts," but that's down from 73 and 75 percent the past two years.
Posted on September 15, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
Barry Goldwater announced his candidacy for president on January 3, 1964, about nine weeks before the New Hampshire primary. A decade later, Ronald Reagan announced his challenge to President Gerald Ford on November 20, 1975. After that unsuccessful race, he announced another, this time successful candidacy, on November 13, 1979.Now the William J. Clinton Presidential Center (whatever happened to good ol' Bill? I guess "William J. Clinton" sounds more presidential) reminds us of a more recent president who started his campaign later than any of today's contenders. From September 30 to October 3, the center will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bill Clinton's announcement of his candidacy, which happened on October 2, 1991. Is time running out? Or could a candidate with something attractive to offer still get into the race? It's still earlier in the season than when Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton announced their candidacies.
Posted on September 15, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
The reason we don't have beautiful new airports and efficient bullet trains is not that we have inadvertently stumbled upon stumbling blocks; it's that there are considerable numbers of Americans for whom these things are simply symbols of a feared central government, and who would, when they travel, rather sweat in squalor than surrender the money to build a better terminal. They hate fast trains and efficient airports for the same reason that seventeenth-century Protestants hated the beautiful Baroque churches of Rome when they saw them: they were luxurious symbols of an earthly power they despised.This is the sort of place where it's a good idea for an author to stop and think: Is that really what advocates of smaller government think? They actually hate the very idea of fast trains and efficient air travel? They'd rather sweat in squalor than pay for better service? He goes on:
We don't have a better infrastructure or decent elementary education exactly because many people are willing to sacrifice faster movement between our great cities, or better-informed children, in support of their belief that the government should always be given as little money as possible.Sure, he's claiming, we small-government folks would like our kids to learn to read. But not if it means giving up one solitary dime to the predatory state. Gopnik might have added that we crotchety libertarians would rather a hundred guilty men go free than a single innocent be jailed. Or that we'd rather see the people of Iraq suffer under Saddam Hussein rather than send a single American to die in the desert. Except that those are "ideological convictions" that New Yorker writers share. In those cases they understand that there are trade-offs, that benefits come with costs, that the end does not always justify the means. And having identified those concepts, I wonder if Mr. Gopnik might try again to understand why some Americans oppose an array of government spending programs. Is it really that they "simply" fear good schools and fast trains? Or is it possible that they -- we -- have actual arguments? That we have actually enunciated those arguments in blog posts, op-eds, essays, and even books? And that few of us have said we'd rather sit in traffic than "give too much pleasure" to liberals? Let me suggest to Mr. Gopnik a few reasons that some us oppose the various spending programs that concern him:
- We know that vastly increased government expenditures often don't achieve their intentions, such as the 190 percent increase in both inflation-adjusted federal education spending and school infrastructure spending that hasn't budged test scores.
- We know that many wonderful things, perhaps including truly fast trains, could be created at massive cost, but that you always have to weigh costs and benefits. Children say, "I want it." Adults say, "How much does it cost, and what would I have to give up to have it?"
- We believe that people spend their own money more prudently than they spend other people's money. So goods and services produced in the competitive marketplace are likely to be produced more efficiently and with more regard for real consumer demand than goods produced by government, and thus we should try to keep as many aspects of life as possible outside the control of government.
- We believe that you'll get better schools, trains, and planes if they're produced privately than if they're created by government. And thus, since we want good schools and good transportation, we want them produced by competitive enterprise.
- We believe that the burden of taxes, spending, debt, and regulation is already reducing economic growth, and that our society would have more wealth for more people and better technology if it had a government smaller in size, scope, and power. Try plotting government spending vs. the increase in the speed of human mobility; I think you'd find an inverse relationship, with very little increase in the past generation of massive government spending.
- Yes, we have a philosophical preference for freedom. Not freedom at all costs, not anarchy, but liberty and limited government as the natural condition for human flourishing. We believe that liberal society is resilient; it can withstand many burdens and continue to flourish; but it is not infinitely resilient. Those who claim to believe in liberal principles but advocate more and more confiscation of the wealth created by productive people, more and more restrictions on voluntary interaction, more and more exceptions to property rights and the rule of law, more and more transfer of power from society to state, are -- perhaps unwittingly -- engaged in the ultimately deadly undermining of civilization.
Posted on September 12, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty
The forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers said in a report that Obama’s plan — the American Jobs Act — would boost economic growth by 1.3 percentage points in 2012 and lead to 1.3 million new jobs.... Mark Zandi, an economist with Moody’s Analytics, was even more enthusiastic about the plan. He said the jobs package would increase economic growth by 2 percentage points in 2012 and add 1.9 million jobs.--Washington Post, September 10, 2011
Obama’s program received generally favorable reviews from economists. “Is it worth doing?” wrote Nigel Gault, an economist at IHS Global Insight. ”Yes, it is a bolder-than-expected attempt to inject fiscal stimulus to support an ailing recovery.”--Washington Post, September 10, 2011 Here's another view of the Obama proposal. Here's a critique of these forecasts. And here's a graph reminding us what happened after President Obama predicted that his first stimulus would actually stimulate the economy.
Posted on September 10, 2011 Posted to Cato@Liberty