Sep 28

Just what happens to the mind when the bank account crosses the billion dollar mark?  Do all those dollars exert some kind of Big Government Tractor Beam that only the few can escape?   Or is it just the logical conclusion of crony capitalism?

Let’s examine two of the most influential billionaires of our times, Warren Buffett and George Soros.  One squanders opportunities to promote and enhance the system that made both of them rich, while the other actively seeks to destroy it. Continue reading »

Sep 17

The Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers. 3You shall march around the city, all the warriors circling the city once. Thus you shall do for six days, 4with seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets. 5When they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and all the people shall charge straight ahead.’

Joshua 6:2-5, NRSV

Here’s a story that simply needs to be retold, a modern day story of Jericho, and I believe a foreshadowing of this coming November 2nd.

As a subscriber to the Cato Institute’s monthly “Cato Audio” program, I recently listened to David Boaz, Cato’s Executive Vice President, recount a gripping sequence of events that ultimately led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall.  When an entire generation of younger voters, including perhaps many who enthusiastically supported the election of Barack Obama, has little or no recollection of the Soviet Union and its attending Communism, it is a story worth knowing, and spreading. Continue reading »

Aug 31

Across the United States, millions of families are entering that perennial time period of anticipation, anxiety, excitement and hustle-bustle: Back To School.   In the majority of cases, parents choose their schools for their children indirectly, by moving into a neighborhood where the public schools meet their needs.  In a large minority of cases, families are stuck with the public school tied to their zip code, unable for one reason or another to move to better pastures.

In a smaller minority of cases, a private school is selected and paid for, often while simultaneously paying the local taxes that fund their would-be public school.   Some of these private schools choose their students with rigorous admission processes, where the applicants voluntarily subject themselves to all sorts of trial and tribulation, firm in their beliefs that the rewards will justify the means.

And in the tiniest minority, when like an “oversubscribed” bond offering the school has more applicants than slots, the school chooses the students randomly, by lottery.

What would make any parent reach for such a brass ring? A powerful independent documentary, “The Lottery”,  directed by Madeleine Sackler and released late in April seeks to shed some light on this situation.   It’s a film that no parent, voter, or teachers union member, should miss. Continue reading »

Aug 11

“All politics is local”

– Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977-1987

Oh really?    Increasingly, it seems like Washington didn’t get the memo.

In Arizona, an overwhelming majority of citizens have had their legislative directives overturned by a federal judge that towed the Obama administration’s political line.   According to an April Rasmussen poll,  70% of Arizonans (but far fewer journalists) supported their law which would have permitted local police to seek immigration status documentation in their course of work.   Note that having to provide your car registration to the police upon being pulled over for “reasonable cause” is already a widely accepted practice; being able to prove that you’re in this country legally doesn’t seem like a big stretch from there.

But this is just one of a number of increasingly high-profile interventions by the federal government into the affairs of an individual state.   Continue reading »

Jul 27

Is there any hotter subject for TV and film these days than the vampire?  The mass-appeal of these blood-seeking creatures appears to be at an all-time high, with shows like True Blood, The Vampire Diaries and the Twilight Saga series of books and films bringing home the bacon.

Wealth-sucking creatures that will stop at nothing...

Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the economy...

Then there are those perennial horror favorites, zombies, that defy all attempts to do them in.

It seems like Congress is trying to capitalize on the craze as well.   Witness the up-and-coming,  back-from-the-dead behavior of the Estate Tax, also known as the Death Tax, coming soon to every estate-planner’s office near you.

Continue reading »

Jul 13

Keynesian economics, that economic theory that is once again running the country, was shown to be a complete sham this past Tuesday by a fifth grade student in small Midwestern town during a routine math assignment.    The student’s teacher and school principal were impressed enough to issue a press statement, excerpted below:

“I was working on my decimal and percentage multiplication for homework”, the student said, “and I could hear my dad complaining about how his paycheck was smaller because of all the taxes they take out.  He said his check was about 75% of what he earned.   I asked him where the other 25% went and he said to the government, but that the government was spending a bunch of that money to stimulate the economy.”

“So I thought some more about that, and it occurred to me that they can’t simply take whatever they tax from my dad and spend it somewhere else, because some other moms and dads working for the government have to get paid, too.    Of my dad’s taxes, I bet they can probably only spend maybe half of that on stuff they think will grow the economy.   Continue reading »

Jun 28

“We’re on a mission from God.”

At least Jake and Elwood had a fallback, something they could lean on when in need of a little moral support.    When it comes to “climate change”, what and where exactly is President Obama’s support?

Addressing climate change just doesn’t rank very high with voters.   Amongst the top ten “most important issues” listed in a recent Rasmussen poll, climate change was not to be found.  And the trend on what people believe is the root cause of global warming has the planets beating the people pretty handily.

But with the remarkable live feed from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico still showing the sickening sight of oil belching into the water, one can not help but think of that please-gimme-a-Mulligan phrase from Rahm Emanuel, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

Dealing with the oil spill is one thing.   Making the leap from there to push a a costly “cap-and-trade” energy policy faintly associated with climate change is quite another.   It seems that rather than confronting a supposed “inconvenient truth”, Obama is attempting an inconvenient non sequitur.

Continue reading »

Jun 15

I feel slighted.  For years I’ve been going to my dentist, and not once has he come over to my house to buy anything.   Likewise, my supermarket has never offered to purchase produce from my backyard garden.   And the mechanic at the place where I get my car repaired has never had me repair one of his on my driveway.

I think I’m running a “trade deficit” with each of them.   At least that’s what I’m led to believe by listening to people who claim we have large trade deficits with certain countries, like China.

“You nimwit!”, says the ghost of my tenth grade accounting teacher.  “You’ve forgotten your T-Accounts!  All year long we drew those things on the board, and this is the thanks I get?!”

Oh, yeah, the T-Accounts…   What would the T-Accounts say about my “trade” with my dentist?

Continue reading »

May 31

Photo by Ira Block

[This essay was originally entitled “Lessons from Grand Central Station”, until several readers pointed out that the correct name is Grand Central Terminal.  It was an error that I could not let stand.  The permalink (URL) reflects the original title so as to not break existing references. — Author/Admin]

Every weekday morning, trainloads of people are dumped into New York’s Grand Central Terminal and sent on their way.  Thousands per hour traverse the huge main room as they make their way to their desired subway stations, taxi stands and exits in all directions.  Arteries of traffic spontaneously form and disperse — you can join one that’s going in your general direction, get swept along its path and then step out at your stop.   The human pathways will intersect each other with the precision of a champion marching band.   Collisions between any two people amongst the throngs are rare, even amongst those who clearly don’t know where they’re going.

Photo by Ira Block

What’s most remarkable about the above is that no one manages this process.   There are no human traffic cops in white gloves waving some people on and telling others to stop.  There are no ropes herding commuters one way or another.    There are no rules dictating which path you must take to get from point A to point B.   The room manages itself, based on essentially one unwritten rule:  common courtesy. That is to say, you can’t charge through the crowd like a running back, stiff arming people as you go.   What might initially appear as chaos is instead a model of simplicity and efficiency.

Continue reading »

May 16

Talk with a typical liberal-leaning voter and soon enough you’ll find that reducing income-inequality ranks as one of their most vaunted public policy goals:  just about any legislation can be justified as righteous if it claims to hit that mark.

In discussing income inequality, the liberal commentariat will invariably point to some kind of statistic showing that the gap between the people at either end of the earnings bell curve “has never been wider”.   Or put differently, “the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer”.    What these people miss, as economists like Thomas Sowell and Alan Reynolds have repeatedly demonstrated, is that the people at any given percentile of the curve change over time.   As Sowell says when talking about supposedly stagnant household incomes:

“The problem is you’re talking about households, rather than flesh and blood human beings.   One of the real fallacies that runs through a lot of talk about income is confusing statistical categories with actual flesh and blood people.”

Income Inequality Sowell vs. Krugman

Essentially then, static comments made about a dynamic curve are meaningless.   By contrast, longitudinal studies following particular people over the course of their earning careers tend to show upward trends.

It turns out that one group of people, tracked longitudinally, have been on a particularly nice up-slope: public sector employees.   Continue reading »

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