Friday, February 8, 2008

Friends For The Future of Broadway

Like the Calvinist said after he fell down the stairs, "I'm glad that's over with."

Fort Worth's Broadway Baptist votes to keep pastor
from The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
and a similar story from the Dallas Morning News Religion Blog

I'm a member of a study group called "Exploring The Christian Faith" at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. We don't hesitate to ask the hard questions. Very few answers are provided. We're just about to finish a series called "Living The Questions". We'll probably do a book study next.

If you've lost touch with your faith, or lost interest in traditional answers to Christianity's difficulties, come join us. There's been some recent controversy about our studying some of the theologians listed in the Spiritual Advisors blogroll to your right. Borg in particular. I hope we're over it now. (See the Star-Telegram link above.)

In the last few months, I've learned that Freedom of Religious Expression is a valuable thing. Lord have mercy, I love this class. All points of view are respected. No one believes me, but meeting in that room is the most Libertarian hour of my week.

If you want to join us, we meet at 9:30 in Room 306 every Sunday morning. 305 West Broadway, Fort Worth, TX 76104.

David Ranson on "The Candidates and Trade"

Many voters have one major issue that acts as a sorting mechanism during elections. For some it's abortion. Others would pick healthcare, defense, subsidies, religious affiliation, or whether the candidate has a sufficient hatred of Mexicans.

Kinky Friedman (see my profile in the top right corner) was on an AM talk radio station earlier this week, and had several noteworthy comments:
1) Texas governor Rick Perry will be remembered for his hair.
2) If we go into November with a choice between John McCain and Barack Obama, our electoral process will have done its job.

Friedman went on to explain that both McCain and Obama supported Free Trade more than their inter-party competitors, and gave a brief tutorial on the importance of that issue as it relates to our economy.

Later that night, I found an editorial on the same topic but from a much less respected source than Kinky Friedman. You may have heard of The Wall Street Journal. Here's David Ranson:

Ronald Reagan once joked that "government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it!" His quip cuts to the heart of the free-trade debate. Which of the presidential contenders are in favor of facilitating economic movement?

There are only two. McCain and Obama.

Trade is a good litmus test of statesmanship, since many polls show that voters believe trade with other countries hurts our economy.

Those polls are correct. Polls also show that people care about who wins on American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. Polls depress me. I'm afraid that they reflect reality.

Which of the presidential candidates will stick up for free trade in the face of doubtful and sometimes hostile audiences?
During their debates, some of the Republican candidates expressed more ifs, ands or buts about free trade than others. John McCain says: "Free trade should be the continuing principle that guides this nation's economy."

I heard McCain say the same thing on Charlie Rose about a month ago. This was when I switched from being a Rudy supporter to a Rudy basher. Rudy and Romney claimed during a debate that we needed to continue Iowa Farm Subsidies in the name of "Food Security". Sorry Rudy. From that moment on, my heart belonged to another....Just don't know who yet.

Mitt Romney's position is: "I strongly support free trade, but free trade has to be fair in both directions."

Mitt, we hardly knew ye. The only fair trade IS free trade. If trade is burdened by the subsidies you've given to your supporters or to industries in early primary states, that's not fair. If trade is burdened by high tariffs for the same corrupt reasons, that's not fair.

Thank you for running in the Republican Primary, Mitt. Go back to Massachusetts and start reprogramming yourself for 2016. And have some Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Friedman programmed into your database.

According to Mike Huckabee: "I believe in free trade, but it has to be fair trade." But elsewhere he has said: "I don't want to see our food come from China, our oil come from Saudi Arabia and our manufacturing come from Europe and Asia."

Why not, Mike? What if they're better at it than we are? What about the things that we're better at than they are? Why not keep your grubby Southern Baptist hands off of it, and let everyone do what they do best?
Your Bible was written in Asia.
Scientology's "Dianetics" and Joseph Smith's "The Book of Mormon" were both written in The U.S.A.
The implications are staggering, aren't they?

Hillary Clinton has taken an even stronger stance against free trade, suggesting that the economic theories underpinning it no longer hold. To support that she cited economics Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson, but he was only making the long-understood but sometimes forgotten point that, even in the long run, free trade does not benefit everyone.

Correct. Just like the invention of the automobile didn't benefit horseshoe manufacturers.

Mrs. Clinton believes in "smart trade." As president she would appoint an official to ensure that "provisions to protect labor and environmental standards" are enforced by international bodies like the WTO and the International Labor Organization. She proposes a "time out" on future trade agreements, and a reconsideration of existing deals -- including Nafta.

Hear that clanging sound? That's the racket made by The Clintons picking up the treasury and trying to shake the last few coins out of it.

Barack Obama is more even-handed: "Global trade is not going away, technology is not going away, the Internet is not going away. And that means enormous opportunities, but [it] also means more dislocations." In a 2005 essay he said: "It's not whether we should protect our workers from competition, but what we can do to fully enable them to compete against workers all over the world."

Why haven't we heard from this guy until now? Why isn't he a Republican? Why hasn't Barack Obama already blown Bill Clinton out of the water?

If Messrs. McCain and Obama see foreign trade as a glass that is half-full, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Romney and Mr. Huckabee see the glass as half- empty.

It also works well as a brain metaphor.

The costs that foreign competition impose on the economy have led to government spending programs, and around these have grown powerful constituencies devoted to maintaining and erecting barriers to trade. Farm subsidies protect immobility and hurt prosperity by diverting resources away from cheaper foods (foreign or domestic) toward more expensive ones. Trade adjustment assistance falls partly under the heading of facilitating movement, because it underwrites job retraining and income support for those who seek better opportunities than the jobs they lost.
It was courageous of Mr. McCain to tell Iowans that he would eliminate subsidies for ethanol and other agricultural products.

John McCain went into Iowa, and told everyone asking for a kickback that he would eliminate their subsidies. If he'll do that, he'll march to the gates of Hell and tell Satan to go have relations with himself. THAT is The Straight Talk Express in action.

Instead, he expressed strong support for job retraining programs: "We need to go to the community colleges. We even need, if you're a senior laid-off worker who gets another job, to make up in compensation for the amount of money that's the difference between the job that he lost."

Yeah, he had to do a little pandering....

This last idea goes far beyond helping workers and industries adapt to a changing world. A broad program of wage insurance could create another expensive constituency. Moreover, it would weaken the incentive to seek out the most productive and rewarding new jobs, and it would be unfair to those whose jobs have been disrupted by causes other than foreign trade.

Yeah, he just had to do a little pandering. It wasn't supposed to make sense.

Mr. Romney sometimes advocates less government intervention, other times more. In an optimistic speech in Detroit, he said "that Michigan can once again lead the world's automotive industry. But it means we're going to have to change things in Washington."

No, Mitt, you'll have to start in Detroit. Detroit priced itself out of the market. See, if we were to restructure the.....Wait a minute....Mitt, you're dropping out of the race? You're no longer parachuting into town halls promising the sun, moon and stars to every special interest group? We don't have to worry about your blather any longer? Good.

Rightly pointing out that "the burdens on American manufacturing are largely imposed by government," Mr. Romney believes "taking off those burdens is only part of the solution."
But he will not leave the rest to the marketplace. He pledges to "make a five-fold increase -- from $4 billion to $20 billion -- in our national investment in energy research, fuel technology, materials science, and automotive technology." He also says he would maintain U.S. farm-subsidy programs until other countries remove theirs.

I know he's out of the race, but I have to make this point: Let's say that Kroger's has Cokes on sale for 20 cents each. At Albertson's, they cost a quarter. Kroger is subsidizing their Cokes with the sale of other, more expensive products. Should the government intervene and insist that Albertson's subsidize their Cokes also? Or should the government act to force Kroger to sell their Cokes only at a fair price? Or should the government stay out of it, and continue doing what governments do worst?

The Democratic candidates do not speak of reducing or eliminating farm-subsidy spending, only of redirecting it toward the "little guy."

This is because they need contributions from The Big Guy so they can do further harm to The Little Guy in the name of fairness. Look into the cost vs. selling price of sugar when you get a chance.

According to his Web site, Mr. Obama "will make sure our farm subsidies help family farmers, not giant corporations." He envisages "a national commitment to prepare every child in America with the education they need to compete in the new economy; to provide retraining and wage insurance so even if you lose your job you can train for another." These are laudable goals, but they sound impossibly expensive.

Yeah, more pandering.

On willingness to let the markets rather than government drive the adaptation of the economy to foreign competition, Messrs. McCain and Obama outscore Mr. Romney. On willingness to confront politically entrenched but trade-unfriendly policies such as farm subsidies, Mr. McCain beats both Messrs. Obama and Romney.
Still, there's one final insight that even the most enlightened candidates have not grasped: the automatic reciprocity of markets. Opposition by Mr. Romney to the phasing-out of U.S. farm subsidies until other countries phase out theirs reflects a seductive theme in all free-trade debates -- "fairness."

Allow me to reframe the debate...."We're not going to stop shafting our low income shoppers with subsidies for the rich until you stop shafting your low income shoppers with subsidies for the rich." Please discuss amongst yourselves.

Fears that the U.S. does not always get a fair shake are widely shared. Says Mr. Romney: "As we pursue new trade agreements, I'm far less interested in just getting an agreement signed than I am in getting an agreement signed that is good for America."

God, I'm glad he's gone. Screw the agreements. Just let us trade and swap stuff with each other. You don't have to turn everything into a 2,500 page document filled with provisions and freebies for all your contributors.

Government policy can influence trading patterns, but it can't force them. Politicians like Mr. Romney tend to feel most at home in a command-and-control environment. But they are living in a dream world if they think they can either dictate or enforce the patterns of trade. The rough justice of the markets will decide.

Yep. And the longer we wait to figure that out, the further behind we're going to be. China and India are figuring out the basics. We're not along on the stage any more.

It's widely assumed that trade opportunities will be unfair unless balance is negotiated with foreign governments. Not so. U.S. imports and exports are tied into an integrated market system. The economy must export goods (or sell off assets) to pay for the imports it chooses. Because the system pays for its imports with exports, reciprocity is automatic. If imports are taxed or obstructed, that acts as an obstruction to exports too. We need a president who is wise enough to recognize that protectionism impedes our exports as well as our imports.

Thank you, Mr. David Ranson. We can't keep going with these trade agreements that slow everything down. Remember that crap about the future being divided between the Haves and the Have-Nots? Not so. The future will be divided between The Fast and The Slow.

The candidates should not forget that whatever Washington does will be imitated (or retaliated against) by other countries. What goes around comes around. It's up to the U.S. to set the best example.

And the best example would be John McCain or Barack Obama.

David Ranson is head of research at H.C. Wainwright Economics Inc.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bill Gates Wants To Pull Up The Ladder, Or At Least Break The Lower Rungs

From the February 13, 2008 edition of The New Republic:

In the corner of one of the Microsoft cafeterias, you can find a chunk of the dismantled Berlin Wall. And, for a time, this seemed like an appropriate home for this relic of the twentieth century.

I love it. What's the point of winning the game if you can't take home the trophy? Papa Bush didn't give us any parades or fireworks when the Berlin Wall fell, so this will have to do.
During the 1990s, it truly felt as if communism had given way to the software behemoth, or at least the brand of capitalism that Microsoft had come to represent.

No, communism gave way to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul Jr. Corporations like Microsoft were a factor, in that they allowed Commie Captives to see what life was like on the other side. And let's be honest: Dumb ideas eventually die.

The casual placement of such a potent symbol of oppression, standing in the shadow of the gamers and marketers in the sushi line, struck the triumphalist note of the zeitgeist.

Speaking of gamers, I have one request for Martin Peretz, Editor-In-Chief of The New Republic, and possible author of this unsigned editorial that I'm fisking: Please, please, please hire a "gamer" to get your website running. This is the second time I've tried to link to a New Republic piece. The site is down more than it's up, which means I have to re-type your stuff word for word.

But that optimism has long since faded.

Faded? Faded? Last time I checked, East Germany was doing ok. And Poland. And China. Berkeley's prospering. Time Magazine's poster boy Putin is doing well in Russia, but it has turned into a mafia state, run by the same gangsters who ran the place when it was The New Republic's poster boy.
And Bill Gates has traveled one of the more interesting ideological journeys of our times.

As someone named "Brian" commented on Samizdata, this ideological journey is the standard "Pull Up The Ladder I'm All Right" routine.... Capitalism creates rich people. People who are rich don't want there to be any more rich people as this creates crowds in the places only rich people can afford. I don't know that I'd go that far, Brian, but there is a tendency for some people to raise the drawbridge once they've accumulated their personal pile of plunder....
Over the past decades, he (Gates) has gone from poster child of capitalism to critic of it.

Brian, I take it all back. He's trying to pull up the ladder.
Last week, he spoke about the limits of the marketplace at the Davos Economic Forum, where the elite gathers annually for deep chin-tugging and self-congratulating: "We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well."

Maybe we could set up a system honoring Free Trade, Individual Rights, and Contract Enforcement, with no monopolies, and have minimal Government Interference? Would that help "poorer people"? It would?
There's a name for it already: Laissez-Faire Capitalism.
Kinda like they have in the rich countries.

Through his philanthropic ventures in Africa, he claims to have observed the limits of the market, where advances in health and education never wend their way to the downtrodden.

Is that because of a market failure, or is it because Africa has governments that make our House of Representatives look like The School of Athens?
According to The Wall Street Journal, he (Gates) has begun reading deep into Adam Smith's oeuvre: and not just The Wealth of Nations, but also The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

This is great news. Because when Gates delves into Adam Smith (founder of economics), he's going to come across quotations like this: "Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things." This is Adam Smith's way of begging us, begging us from beyond the grave, to please leave everything alone....
It's not surprising that his criticism of the market - and his call for morality to take its place alongside profit in our calculus - has earned him the derision of certain conservatives.

Let's see what Adam Smith had to say about the morality of the market: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages." That's in every Economics texbook I've ever seen, including the ones translated from Chinese.
Writing on the National Review website, Larry Kudlow sniveled, "So I just have to smile when billionaires like Bill Gates and George Soros turn cold shoulders to the blessings capitalism bestows....Look fellas, the command-and-control, state-run economics experiment was tried. It was called the Soviet Union. If you hadn't noticed, it was a miserable failure."

Larry Kudlow doesn't need any support from me....but how does The New Republic know that Kudlow sniveled? Don't you have to be present to detect sniveling? Wait, I was mistaken. I just looked it up.
Sniveling means to complain or whine tearfully.
But Kudlow sounds pretty pleased with himself, getting paid good money to point out the obvious. A more accurate term might be "Larry Kudlow rejoiced," or "Larry Kudlow smirked". And the reason for all this rejoicing and smirking from Mr. Kudlow? It's not that The Soviet Union fell, or that Socialism was thoroughly discredited. Kudlow is smirking because he writes for a magazine whose damn website works. Go ahead, hit the National Review link up there. Their website works ! So does the website for The American Spectator ! Ditto for Reason magazine ! And Liberty magazine ! Evil Free Market Capitalist Pig magazines have websites that work ! ! ! !
Then try to log on to The New Freakin' Holy Republic. And then try again and again and again. It'll make you snivel every time. Does anyone else see a strong correlation here???
Ok, back to the original article:
Of course, Kudlow's criticisms are risible. Gates doesn't want socialism and isn't calling for the nationalization of industry. He wants businesses to devote more of their resources to spreading their products and technologies to the poor. "Such a system would have a twin mission: making profits and also improving lives for those who don't fully benefit from market forces," he said.

Smith agrees with Gates: "How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."
In fact, it's precisely at this point in Gates's logic that we begin to have problems.

Yeah, right about the time Gates started making sense.
He deserves an ovation for his philanthropy. But there are some problems that are beyond even the reach of a $38 billion foundation. And, while we admire the courage of his criticism of the marketplace, his remedy (calling on business to lend a hand to the poor) hardly seems up to the task. There are grave problems in the world that only government can alleviate, because only government has the scale and reach to help remedy them.

And, in the words of my mother, if you make a mess, you're the one who needs to clean it up.
And, while business can act on behalf of the common good, it will almost always act in its own self-interest - a tendency that often places it on a collision course with morality.

See the quote above about the butcher, brewer, and baker. Leave the butcher, brewer, and baker alone, and they'll take care of the hungry people. The hungry people have something that the butcher, brewer, and baker want in exchange for their butchered, brewed, and baked products, whether it's labor, money, or good will. When China discovered this, 1 million people per month started leaving poverty. But there's usually something in the way.....
In other words, the state can never provide a sufficient solution, but smart, effective government is a necessity.

Yep. A government that enforces contracts, provides a safe environment, prevents monopolies, and that's about it.
That's not to diminish his accomplishment. Gates has done a noble thing, breaking with the hardened consensus of the business elite. We simply await the completion of his journey.

A journey that I hope will end somewhere near Washington D.C., not near the center of harmful government intervention, but near the home offices of The New Republic, where they badly need some website help.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bill Clinton's Running Mate Unable To Carry Home State Of Illinois

Bill Clinton was unable to carry Illinois on Super Tuesday, despite selecting a running mate from a Chicago Suburb.

Former President Clinton was able to carry his own home state of Arkansas.

This is similar to the 2004 elections when Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry selected John Edwards of South Carolina as his running mate. Edwards was unable to deliver South Carolina for the Democratic Party.

There was a similar embarrasment when Al Gore couldn't carry his own home state of Tennessee in the 2000 elections.

Bill Clinton should now consider a different person for the bottom of the national ticket. Someone with a greater "electability" quotient than Hillary Clinton. Perhaps a popular Governor or Senator from one of the large swing states like Florida or Ohio. Or even Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Tiki Barber rips Eli Manning's Leadership

I've been meaning to post something about the Eli Manning / Tiki Barber controversy since last August, but haven't had a chance until now....The following links are from August of last year.

ESPN - Manning responds to criticism from Barber on TV halftime show - NFL

Tiki Barber, the New York Giants running back who retired from the NFL to enter the broadcast booth, has ripped Giants quarterback Eli Manning for his weak leadership skills.

Barber, who further demoralized his team by announcing his retirement decision in mid-season last year, declared that Manning's attempts at team meetings were often "comical".
A few days later, Tiki and his brother Ronde appeared on a Sirius Radio program, and mocked Manning a second time:

It was a constant barrage for almost two hours with Ronde making comments about Eli's "testes finally dropping" and Tiki adding that "Kerry Collins was a true leader," claiming the Giants "shouldn't have let him go." They also added that Eli's return-fire was "laughable" and that Tiki is part of the media now and it's his job to be controversial.

We can only speculate as to the impact that Barber's comments will have on the Giants in the 2007 season.

I've tried to contact Barber for updates on this controversy, but have been unsuccesful. His effectiveness as an NBC broadcaster has recently declined, since some viewers now have difficulty listening to him without laughing hysterically. If Barber continues to be a pariah in the broadcast booth he can always support himself with apperances at Fumble Recovery Clinics.

Eli Manning's answering service will only confirm that he's gone to Disneyland.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Laffer Curve Video

I found this at Don Boudreaux's "Cafe Hayek" site. Here's a video that explains why it's sometimes a good idea to cut taxes when rates reach the 70% level. It can be a good idea to cut taxes when the rates are at 40%, or even lower. It depends on which level makes people either a) stop working to make more money, or b) start hiding their revenue.

The video explains how a tax cut can increase revenue.

It's also proof that I'm a total geek, just because I posted it.
If everyone who votes tomorrow on Super Tuesday understood this, we'd get radically different results.
Think of it often next time you're watching a debate, and someone accuses her opponent of "cutting taxes for the rich".
Like that's a bad thing....

I'm also plowing through Boudreaux's new book "Globalization". It's only about 150 pages, and costs $55 freakin' dollars, but is probably worth it.

Boudreaux is an avid writer of Letters to The Editor. All sorts of editors. Any editor who has dared to flash Economic Innumeracy in public. An astounding number of his irrefutable rants get published. Imagine if the cranky old guy who always writes in to your hometown paper was not only correct, but also brilliant.

At thirty cents per page, he has to be good.