Category Archives: Capitalism

Licensing and the government need to get rid of opportunities to employment

government license

Taxes, regulators, fees, bans on perfectly safe products, and myriad of other BS from the government. But among all of the asinine things that the government does, there is possibly nothing more idiotic than requiring licenses for certain professions as one of the most idiotic things that is specific to states.*

Now there are a myriad of stupid examples. Requiring hairdressers to get a license (because clearly you couldn’t cut or style hair without permission from the state) or requiring yoga instructors to get a license…because the government needs to regulate if the person telling you to move slowly is qualified or not…just ask this question, think of the dumbest yoga instructor you’ve ever met, now think of the smartest DMV employee you’ve ever met. I think we all know in this contest that the yoga instructor is not only a nuclear physicist in comparison, but they’re probably also not the Gestapo-wanna-be that the dumb psychos at the DMV tend to be (in case you’re wondering I live in Arizona and don’t have to renew my license until I’m 65 so I feel quite comfortable saying that everyone at the DMV is a worthless sack of shit)*. So in what universe do we think the functionally retarded people in government are in any way qualified to tell anyone else if they’re qualified for a job?

From government enforced cabals that prevent basic services being given at a reduced price to the poor…

to government efforts to actively destroy small businesses and innovation


Government attempts to license and regulate business is not only stupid it is evil.

But let’s deal with the issue I’m most familiar with… teaching. Let me give you the run-down of how much you have to do to get and keep your teaching license. You have to get a B.A. Okay so far. You have to get a finger print clearance from the state (basically you have to have the F.B.I. run your prints to make sure you’re not a felon and shouldn’t be around children). Still okay, but sadly we haven’t even come close to finishing. Now you need to complete education courses in addition to your undergraduate degree…this might seem fine if it were on classroom management, child psychology, and maybe some curriculum design…but what teaching programs are often chock full of is education history (not the useful kind), education theory (the kind that wants to talk about oppression, and class warfare, and inequality…the kind of bullshit that will make you yearn to the conservatives of a Tumblr Social Justice Warrior). Oh and then the state is going to test you on your field of knowledge, on teaching theory, and of course general knowledge (wait didn’t I have a B.A.)…keep in mind you’re paying for all of this out of pocket. Then you get to take a couple of courses on “Structured English Immersion” theoretically courses on how to teach non-English speakers language…but not one single shred of it is useful. The last time I went to my S.E.I. course, after shelling out several hundred dollars, they handed us a packet that the most recent research listed was from the Bush administration (no, not W.) but had the audacity to tell me this was all based on the most recent research. Really? Because anyone up on the most recent research knows the problem of education research is that it doesn’t ever want to seem to be reproducible. So I don’t see how this is cutting edge research. Oh, then to keep your teaching credential you have so many hours of “professional development” to complete every few years. The stated purpose of this is so that you can learn new and effective ways of teaching…but as someone who has sat through hundreds of hours of “professional development” I can tell you there is nothing professional about a meeting that covers teaching methods so stupid no self-respecting teacher would ever suggest them to students—except maybe as a joke—not to mention the fact that the most interesting professional development I have ever been to still made me question if slitting my wrists right there and ending it all might not be a better call than sitting through one more second of that idiocy. You know the expression “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Well I’m not sure that’s always true…but I can tell you that “Those who can’t teach, teach teachers.” Professional development is nothing but a money making scheme to make schools pay teachers for days off and to bilk that same money out of teachers to go to the cronies of the law makers who passed the laws in the first place. Oh and then this encourages teachers to get their Masters and Ph.D.’s. Let me state something as an immutable fact. GETTING YOUR M.A. or Ph.D. in Education HAS NEVER, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE MADE ANYONE ON EARTH A BETTER TEACHER. It is the most bullshit of bullshit degrees. The mythical degree in underwater basket-weaving is more useful than a M.A. in Education. And you get to pay teachers more who have it. In my experience the people with M.A.’s in Education are statistically worse teachers than their B.A. holding brethren…and if you meet someone with a doctorate in Education: RUN. They know less than nothing about their craft. Why because they would rather have spent their time getting a worthless piece of paper than working with their students.

A B.A. and a fingerprint clearance card that’s it. Then hire and fire the teachers based on performance. That is all you need to do to get good teachers. And all the bullshit of the above paragraph doesn’t keep good teachers…it repulses good teachers and only the most psychotically dedicated and those who know they cannot survive in the free market on any other skill are willing to continuously jump through those hoops.

But it’s not just teaching as the above links and video show, it’s everything. Government is out to control who can and cannot be this or that profession.

Do you know why many people left Europe and came to America in the early days? Because in Europe there were Guilds that required people to work as apprentices (read: slaves) for members of the Guild for numerous years before you could become a member of the Guild. If you were not a member of this or that Guild you could not legally practice that profession. It was the exact opposite of liberty. And while not as strict a caste system as India at the time, it pretty much guaranteed that whatever profession your parents chose to sell you as an apprentice to was your profession for life.
And this licensing idiocy that modern government is getting into is worse because it’s not just once you’re in a profession you can stay there…no our modern government keeps coming back saying you have to buy into the this or that training program they have created through law. There are mafia protection rackets that are less arduous.

We need to get the government out of licensing. All licensing. As Milton Freidman pointed out the government shouldn’t even be in the business of licensing doctors and lawyers—and if government has no place in those professions it has no profession in any business.

And what will be the result? More social mobility. More money for everyone. More competition…and by extension lower prices and better products and service.

Get the government out of all licensing.

*Okay there could easily be more idiotic things (and I’m sure there certainly are)

*You don’t even want to know my thoughts on the IRS.

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Filed under Capitalism, Government is useless, People Are Stupid

Conservative Values versus a myriad of extremists

A government professor of mine once stated that all governments were a balance between three different values: Equality, Order, and Liberty. No one value can be pursued without cost to the other two. The ideal society would actually be the one that keeps these three points in balance. However, as we look around modern parties and political movements, the logic of balance seems nowhere to be found.

Four Cardinal Virtues

Individual have the 4 cardinal virtues: Temperance, Moderation, Justice, Fortitude…but these are the basis for the three political virtues: liberty, equality, order. They all have to work together or not at all.

Liberals, socialists and progressives seek equality at the cost of order and liberty finally reaching their ideal society, a Communistic state where everyone is equal but in the end utterly worthless as equality requires none be higher than others, thus all talent, all incentives, and all goals have been destroyed leaving society to collapse before the equally unimpressive slaves that it has created. In a state where all are equal there can be no order because power cannot be vested (even through law) in another thus nothing can keep law and civil society together thus at best everything is merely slave to the whim of the herd (law by the same methods created reality TV)…and there can be no liberty, as liberty leads to exceptionalism, and no one can be better than anyone else

The growing fascist movements of Greece, the tyranny of Vladimir Putin, and the vile wretchedness of Islamofascism value order above all else. But for there to be complete order there can be no liberty because if people can choose for themselves, they will sometimes choose wrong and this inevitably leads to some level of chaos, some crime, some disorder. And in the ordered state there can be no equality, as equality requires that all are subject to rules, and for the ordered state to work no one can watch the watchers because they are the final authority, otherwise there is no way to control and maintain order.

Libertarians and anarchists view liberty as the end all be all of all politics. But where there is perfect freedom there can be no equality, even before the law, because there can be no law if there is nothing but license to do whatever you want. And there can be no order in the fully liberated state as the law who would hold back those who do not recognize the rights of others cannot exist.

And finally populists don’t particularly view any of these as all that important. Yes populists want equality when someone is doing better than them, which is why businesses and businessmen are evil and need to be reined in…but they strangely don’t care about equality when they’re doing better, which is why even Ron Paul brought back millions in pork to his district. They care about liberty, for themselves…but for anyone else, eh, it’s not that important. And order is important, so long as it’s in my general vicinity, enforced by me, and I don’t care if it’s not in my line of sight. (And please understand why I have been hitting the populists posing as conservatives a lot lately, your average Democratic voter has always been a populist. Their activists and politicians maybe progressives, but the voters are populists who just care about their entitlements and what will be given to them).

Meanwhile there is the real conservative viewpoint. That these three virtues of a society must be held in careful balance. That the extreme of any one of these because a dystopian nightmare (Liberty, Order, Equality…Lord of the Flies, 1984, Harrison Bergeron…or for the less well read, Mad Max, Hunger Games, Divergent…or if you prefer history, Somalia, Nazi Germany, Revolutionary France). That a society without these three to guide them is just as bad as one where only one is followed (I’d give an example but modern politics seems to be it and the last few years of Rome seem to be the only places dumb enough to try such an abhorrent idea in practice). Only the society that balances these forces is a prosperous one.

So what is the guiding star of conservatism that makes it so different from these other ideologies? Well, not to sound like a dozen other blogs on this site but the answer is once again, Aristotle.

Aristotle, for all his flawed understanding of politics (give the man a break, there wasn’t much reliable history to work with in the 4th century B.C. and you can’t expect him to have prescience of what was to come) understood that in politics, as with ethics, it is not a question of ends or means, but a question of ends and means. Those who value equality or order only value an end of making everyone equal or making everything peaceful. Those who value liberty only value the means of liberty not the result of what such anarchy brings. Only balancing both ends and means work.

And Aristotle saw the correct end to focus on. The end to all human life is Happiness. And society, family, education must all be structured to ensure Happiness for the greatest number of people. Now because Happiness requires freedom of choice and personal growth, not everyone will reach happiness no matter what a government/family/society does, but it requires liberty and the ability to exercise free will. But because Happiness requires some ability to plan and control your own life, it requires order to some degree. And because the point is to provide Happiness (or the opportunity to pursue Happiness) for the most people as all are equally human and equally deserving at birth of achieving Happiness. None of these on their own can lead to Happiness, and all must work together.

And this is why other belief systems don’t work; they’re not aimed at Happiness.

For instance look at misnamed “social conservatives” (Progressives for Jesus might be a better way to put it). They keep saying that the point of marriage is to have children. As if having children is an end in itself.   And they keep bringing this up as a reason why they opposed gay marriage. Now there are good reasons to get rid of marriage as a legal concept (and replace it with legal civil unions and let religion handle marriage without government interference) but it is not just the Progressive mentality here to have the government take control of everything. It is the missed sense of what the end of things are. They view the family as a means to creating another family. The family, society, everything in the view has no purpose but to serve itself. You have to have marriage to create children. You have to raise children so they lead lives where they get married. They get married to have children…over and over again. There is no point to the individual life (unless you want to get into some bizarre servitude to God, which views God as a master and the individual the slave…but no serious reading of any sane religion even comes close to that.) This is why social conservatives tend to be not only bad at politics but their own religion. Social conservatives should go back and read their Aquinas who makes it clear that “the principal end of matrimony, namely the good of the offspring” and that “the secondary end of matrimony, which is the mutual services which married persons render one another in household matters.” Notice how in the second point it is the betterment of each other (i.e. the individual’s happiness) that is the point of marriage. Just as every social institution is supposed to place the Happiness of the individual as a goal. Parents should be concerned with teaching their children the knowledge, ethics, and character that will allow them to be happy adults. Schools and other societal organizations should be focused on encouraging people to be the best they can be with the goal being individual Happiness. Social conservatives’ problem, like all progressives, is they think society is the end goal, it is not; the good of individual is the goal.

Then you have Libertarians who don’t even consider ends and just, like good Kantian idiots, look at means. And liberty is the only mean they care about. Oh they may say that freedom leads to individual Happiness, but they ignore that just because the exercise of free will is necessary it is not sufficient. (Just as Milton Friedman said that “History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.”) Let’s take a look at what sometimes appears to be the only thing that libertarians think about: The War on Drugs. Okay, I will concede that the War on Drugs has been handled idiotically. I will concede that if a person should be able to use drugs in the privacy of their own home if they’re not hurting anyone. I concede that the power to prosecute the War on Drugs has led to massive costs and an intolerable level of corruption in the name of the War on Drugs. But in all this the libertarians fail to admit some very simple things. They act like the people who take drugs are all just innocent little lambs who are the victims of an unjust police power. prison violent

nonviolent

Oh, look it would appear that as incarceration went up crime went down…shocker.

Let me set the record straight: They’re criminals (whether they get caught and convicted or not, they’re criminals). They have the mentality that the rules of society, their long term well-being, and how their actions may hurt others are of absolutely no concern to them so long as they get a moment of pleasure. At best that is vilely hedonistic, at worst it has a bit of a sociopath in it. Libertarians like to pretend that you have otherwise innocent drug users in one group, and in another you have real criminals. And that the fact that we have a massive prison population proves that this War on Drugs needs to end. The problem is that you don’t have two different groups; you have a Venn diagram where criminals and drug users are often one in the same. Libertarians like to point to the increasing prison population, but they always conveniently forget that as prison populations go up violent and non-violent crime go down. They ignore that often drugs are used to put dangerous criminals away when other more serious charges don’t have as much admissible evidence. So there are benefits to the War on Drugs. But not willing to admit that drops in the murder, rape, theft rates is a good thing, libertarians only care about the liberty to do drugs.   They don’t advocate that we should focus more on the cartels, the gang distributors, and legalize personal home use (all things which would still probably round up the worst real criminals while not hurt the people who can actually handle personal use)…no they have to argue that we should just legalize all drugs. No concern for order, just liberty…and no Happiness for anyone.

The other difference between libertarians, Progressive for Jesus**, and real conservatives. Unlike Libertarians, conservatives understand that laws do need to be structured not just to protect rights but to encourage habits that will typically lead to a healthy society and Happiness in individuals (for instance unless we switch to a flat tax having tax credit for charity; the fact that we can’t just get rid of civil union side of marriage, and that we do need a safety net of some kind***; providing minimum standards for education to make sure all students receive a basic minimum of education) but unlike the Progressive for Jesus we must do so in a way that limits (or at least poses as few limits as possible) to the good that liberty provides (deciding what counts as a marriage and what doesn’t, when gay marriage provides the same benefits; spending money and resources checking on what people do in private that hurts no one; dictating what to include content wise in education; etc.).

Being consistently conservative is difficult. It requires balancing numerous issues of the needs of individuals, the long term good of society, Liberty, Order, Equality. And it’s a constantly shifting point because what creates that balance in one era may be totally unbalanced in another. Proper government needs to be directed toward the Happiness of individuals. It needs to balance our needs for liberty, order, and equality. When it does not do these things it creates bad laws. And it is so easy to get lost in caring only about your own want (populists) or one of the political virtues at the expense of the others. Right now we need a lot more liberty, but we cannot forget that it is the balance and the good of society and the individual that is our true goal—not just liberty for the sake of liberty.

Of course none of this is really new…the people who real conservatives look toward as a guide post made it quite clear that liberty, or order (tranquility, defense), or equality (justice, general welfare) were all equal political virtues that had to be held in balance of each other…

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Did we forget we're conservatives and we want to limit the power of the federal government?

*Now I know that I have heard some people have claimed that the FBI is merely shading the numbers—that they’re not counting things the same way to make things look better than they are. I’ve heard that claim from LOTS of people. But you know what I find interesting, I can’t find that claim on any think tank. None. Liberal. Conservative. Libertarian. Nobody. You would think that conservatives would have hit Clinton or Obama for skewing the data, or liberals would have hit Bush. But nobody seems to questions the FBI’s stats…nor is there any jump that you would see if you changed the criteria, it’s a slow progression. So either everybody and I mean everybody, is on a massive conspiracy to slowly skew the crime numbers, or crime really has been dropping.

**You thought I wasn’t serious, but I am. I am using that from now on.

***Libertarians, before you yell at me that we need to get rid of welfare entirely, please remember that Friedman and Hayek both said we need a safety net because having people in real poverty (the kind you see in the third world) creates people who seriously have the choice of steal or die, at which point it becomes a need for them to steal and as we all know from the example of Jean Valjean, utterly unjust to punish them.

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Filed under Aristotle, Capitalism, Conservative, Constitution, Happiness, Long Term Thinking, philosophy, politics

The Rise of Modern Populism

When the Tea Party came onto the scene a few years ago I liked their stated principles…but I had worries, worries that they weren’t the deeply principled conservatives they claimed to be. I worried that as they grew they would sacrifice the principles of conservatism– which when held to will always be good for society as a whole and for the future, but sometimes be hard on the individual in the present—would be sacrificed for the ease of populism.

Time has proven that my worries were correct. I hate it when I’m right about things like this.

So what do I mean by Populism? By Populism I mean a system of political belief that endorses anything that seems to offer a short term benefit to the masses which it attempts to play to. This depends on a lot of us vs. them mentality because it has to attack people who appear to be against the Populist agenda. But unlike liberalism which also has to rely on this us vs. them mentality, at least when compared to Populism, liberalism has at least some ideological consistency. Populism will take any short term solution available so long as it provides immediate benefits to the constituents of the Populist group, damn whatever the long term consequences of that position may be. Populism is the party of “stay out of my life” and “don’t take my money in taxes”…”but feel free to do so to anyone else, in fact feel free to impose my beliefs on everyone else”. It’s cronyism for the people who can’t afford lobbyists…and it is just as vile and destructive as corporate cronyism.

“But the Tea Party isn’t a Populist Party! It’s conservative!” The Tea Partier claims. But in reality it’s not a conservative group…it may have been when it started as anti-Obamacare, anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-big government group…but as it’s grown it has become something else entirely.

Don’t believe me?

Okay let’s look at the facts.

Now first off I will state up front that part of the problem is that there is no core to Tea Party. It’s a diffuse group of vaguely joined individuals. It has no single head, no single organization, no single direction (this is part of the problem and I’ll get to that later). This is part of what makes it Populist, by remaining as 3000 groups under a general banner, each subsection can play to it’s own little group and doesn’t have to worry about any consistency in philosophy.
Then there is now a pervasive anti-corporation tone in everything the Tea Party says and does. “Common Core was funded by big business” “Congress needs to choose between Big Business and the people” “Big Business only stands for corporatism!” Implicit in all of this is the central core of populism that the government must side either with the people or the corporation. That it must choose those with money or without. That it is the haves or have-nots. Workers of the World, cast off you chains you have…wait a second.   Did that just really, and I mean really quickly, and rather easily devolve into Marxism? You know why I was able to do that in only a couple sentences? Because it’s the same mentality at the root of both populism and every form of liberalism. That government should be for me* and when it is for me it has to be against someone else. Meanwhile if you’re a conservative you realize that there is little difference between a person or a corporation…in both subsets you will find good and bad, ethical and unethical, harmful and helpful…but most of all you will find among both groups a short term thinking that looks only to their own needs disregarding the needs of anyone else. A person will take every government handout they can and end up with a take home pay almost 20 grand more than I make working 50 hours a week—but this is no different than a corporation looking to put up tariffs or rules to help itself from having to deal with competition. Both are full of people and organizations that only look out for their own interest.   And there is no picking between the two, and there is no changing the underlying human nature that causes both excesses. But there is limiting government so that it cannot pick winners or losers. There is limiting the powers of government so that while a needed safety net for individuals (and yes it is needed, even the gods of Capitalism, Friedman and Hayek, would point out that a safety net is needed) and forgiving bankruptcy laws to help corporations be productive feature of capitalism’s creative destruction rather than just an unending source of misery to all associated. Conservatives say that the choice is not pick between the two but to limit government’s ability to pick between the

populism

This picture is a perfect example of populism…You don’t have a right to be heard, you have a right to speak but no one has to listen to you…but the populist view because you speak people should be forced to listen to you.

two. Go listen to any Tea Party spokesperson…do they sound like they’re on the not picking side…or do they make it a choice between the corporations and the people.

You see populism with the Tea Party in it completely forsaking capitalism in favor protectionism. With the recent TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) agreement you see a very strong Tea Party/Populist move against the trade deal because it doesn’t offer protections for American products. Now any capitalist be they from the Chicago or Austria school will tell you the important thing is that you lower taxes if you have two countries with tariffs on each others products and only one country drops it tariffs and the other doesn’t it doesn’t matter because there will be more trade and everyone will prosper because of that in the long run. It would be better for both nations to drop their tariffs, but to say I’m not going to end mine unless you end yours is not only economically suicidal but pathetically immature. But the Populists are throwing a conniption fit over the fact that in this trade agreement Japan is keeping tariffs to protect their farmers (all this shows is that Japan is still idiotic when it comes to understanding macroeconomics). Who cares. Now I have not been over every line of this trade agreement and there may be many reasons to hate it that I am not aware of, but if the only argument against nations all over the Pacific lowering tariffs and trade barriers is because the politicians of one nation are being particularly daft in playing the Populists for their constituents doesn’t mean we should shoot ourselves in the foot over this. But just watch the Populists drive this one home just like they did with NAFTA.

And I would love for you to show me one Tea Party person in the Midwest who hates ethanol/agriculture subsides. Yes those Tea Party folks hate big government…unless it benefits them and their constituents.

And how can we forget that wonderfully Populist idea of us vs. them when it comes to the idea of the people vs. “the establishment.” “The establishment” a group more shady and secretive than the Illuminati, and possibly with goals more nefarious. Now I can never get a full list of “the establishment”… now it certainly involves Boehner (despite the fact that he keeps getting his hands tied by the Tea Party) and McConnell (despite the fact as Ann Coulter points out you’d have to be absolutely clueless to not think Mitch McConnell is a conservative)…and most likely Eric Cantor, although I can’t think of anything he’s done to undermine conservatism. It may or may not include Paul Ryan depending on whether or not it’s high tide or low tide. It certainly can’t include lifelong RINO John McCain because supreme divine goddess Sarah the infallible endorsed him over a Tea Party candidate in 2010, and Sarah wouldn’t endorse anyone from the establishment, so he and his al-Qaeda supporting ways can’t possibly be part of “The Establishment.” After that I’m a little fuzzy on the roster.** But “The Establishment” is the all powerful force that controls all the strings in the Republican party and they must be taken down…though it’s unclear exactly who must be taken down. But strangely it must be taken down with candidates who make the most insane statement you can find. And Democrats seem to like these challengers…but the fact that our enemies love these people apparently has no bearing on anything.

And finally, Populists like their liberal counterparts are very big on emotion and very poor on logic. Just look at how anyone in the Tea Party reacts to a suggestion that we should use some strategy in how we go about trying to win a campaign. No. No. None of that strategy bullshit. There is no such thing as the moderate or swing voter there is only rallying our base and getting them to vote…because I don’t care what numbers you throw at me, we lose only because our base doesn’t come out to vote. No. No. NONE OF YOUR NUMBERS AND FACTS THAT MIGHT SHOW THIS TO BE UTTER FANTASY. We should never appeal to the middle with the things we agree with the middle on (economics, liberty, small government, pro-entrepreneurial laws and regulations, less red tape, lower taxes, getting out of their lives and taking less of their money), NO! We must only talk about social issues and support candidates who hold to these issues 100% of the time without fail (and I can’t find justification for these social issues in the constitution). There must not be any compromise at any time for any reason (even if that reason were to actually further our cause). THERE MUST BE NO COMPROMISE! BECAUSE WE MUST ONLY ACT ON PRINCIPLE AND EMOTION. THERE MUST NOT BE ANY REASON OR STRATEGY, that way lies RINOS and “The Establishment.”

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  If we wanted to get into every issue I could show the populist overtones in the Tea Party are more prevalent than the conservative ones.

And I blame the fact that the Tea Party has degenerated so far on a very few in the GOP, certainly Palin, DeMint, Levin, Malkin and Hannity have all done more than their share to fan the fires of idiocy, but more than anyone I blame Michael Steele (see I don’t rely on some mysterious “Establishment” I can tell you exactly who I blame). He got so annoyed at the idiots like DeMint and Palin who started the whole movement going off the rails by endorsing really preposterous candidates that he worked to cut them off from funding entirely in 2010 rather than begrudgingly bringing them into the fold and making the Tea Party just the grassroots part of the GOP, Steele and his subordinates tried to distance the GOP from the Tea Party. Way to go Michael…I see that got you a cushy job over at MSNBC, I see they reward hurting the GOP well over there. Had we cared more about strategy back then we would have embraced the Tea Party (even though they had some populist undertones even back then) which would have prevented this divide, prevented them from going full Populist, and would have actually worked to quash the Populist themes of the Tea Party.

But that is over. And it cannot be changed. The only thing I can say is that for real conservatives we can only make it our goal to appeal to both the Tea Party and the moderates, the conservative beliefs are what needed to prevail. We need to be even more aggressive in our ground game than the Tea Party during the primary season to prevent the craziest candidates form winning and we need to do our best to make sure that they don’t sulk and stay home come October and November. Remember that no matter who get the nominations for all the offices, “Establishment” or Tea Party either is probably BETTER than a Democrat.

*You know a lot of libertarians hate Lincoln for his Constitutional violations and war crimes, a lot of economists hate him for his complete lack of understanding of economics, a lot of principled people hate him for the fact that the had none…but if there is one thing that I loathe Lincoln for it is the phrase “For the people.” You can find “Of the people” and “by the people” in the Declaration and Constitution…you can’t find “For the people.” It is Lincoln who first brought the vile populist idea that government is there for you into general thought. And for that and that alone he should never be listed as one of the good presidents.

** I will just have to ask for a members list next time I’m at the monthly “Establishment Virgin Sacrifice to Ba’al”…listening to the Tea Party I assume we do that sort of thing here in “The Establishment.”

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Filed under Capitalism, Conservative, Constitution, Tea Party

Milton Friedman on the problems of government in medical care

This is a rather long lecture by Milton Friedman on the issues of government in medical care.  As it is so long I’m not going to write a lot, but you should watch it because, despite being over 3 decades old, every word is still very relevant.

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Filed under Capitalism, Conservative, Economics, Evils of Liberalism, Government is useless, Health Care, Individualism, Long Term Thinking, Natural Rights, Obama, Taxes, Tyranny

Movies that understand economics #20 and 21: Atlas Shrugged & The Fountainhead

Review of Atlas Shrugged Part ISomehow I would be remiss not to mention the movies based on Ayn Rand’s novels when discussing movies about economics. The problem here is that while the movies, like Rand herself, have a solid understanding of the broad strokes of economics (liberty, limited government, low taxes and regulation lead to innovation, adaptation and prosperity), they don’t seem to actually get why this actually works. Rand’s understanding of economics is a lot like most people’s understanding of how the CPU of a computer works (“uh…uh…there’s some ones and zeroes and, and, and it translates into ons and offs and…um…uh…it just works. Why do I need to know why it works it just works.”) And, granted, that could make Rand seem really ignorant…but keep in mind that there are people who don’t even get that it works. How stupid do they have to be? (Krugman, I mean you and your mentally challenged drivel.)
But for all of her flaws she does have some correct ideas.
Probably because they seem to be having one problem after another with Atlas Shrugged (I am holding out zero hopes for part three, so I hope I won’t be disappointed…) it might be best to turn to The Fountainhead. Where, though somewhat shorter than in the book, the case for intellectual property is made in very clear terms. (It’s particularly interesting that some modern libertarians seem to be against the very necessary protection of intellectual property rights.)

Howard Roark: Thousands of years ago the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light, but he left them a gift they had not conceived of, and he lifted darkness off the earth. Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. The great creators, the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors, stood alone against the men of their time. Every new thought was opposed. Every new invention was denounced. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered, and they paid – but they won.
No creator was prompted by a desire to please his brothers. His brothers hated the gift he offered. His truth was his only motive. His work was his only goal. His work, not those who used it, his creation, not the benefits others derived from it. The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things, and against all men. He went ahead whether others agreed with him or not. With his integrity as his only banner. He served nothing, and no one. He lived for himself. And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.
Man cannot survive except through his mind. He comes on earth unarmed. His brain is his only weapon. Howard RoarkBut the mind is an attribute of the individual, there is no such thing as a collective brain. The man who thinks must think and act on his own. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot not be subordinated to the needs, opinions, or wishes of others. It is not an object of sacrifice.
The creator stands on his own judgment. The parasite follows the opinions of others. The creator thinks, the parasite copies. The creator produces, the parasite loots. The creator’s concern is the conquest of nature – the parasite’s concern is the conquest of men. The creator requires independence, he neither serves nor rules. He deals with men by free exchange and voluntary choice. The parasite seeks power, he wants to bind all men together in common action and common slavery. He claims that man is only a tool for the use of others. That he must think as they think, act as they act, and live is selfless, joyless servitude to any need but his own. Look at history. Everything thing we have, every great achievement has come from the independent work of some independent mind. Every horror and destruction came from attempts to force men into a herd of brainless, soulless robots. Without personal rights, without personal ambition, without will, hope, or dignity. It is an ancient conflict. It has another name: the individual against the collective.
Our country, the noblest country in the history of men, was based on the principle of individualism. The principle of man’s inalienable rights. It was a country where a man was free to seek his own happiness, to gain and produce, not to give up and renounce. To prosper, not to starve. To achieve, not to plunder. To hold as his highest possession a sense of his personal value. And as his highest virtue, his self respect. Look at the results. That is what the collectivists are now asking you to destroy, as much of the earth has been destroyed.
I am an architect. I know what is to come by the principle on which it is built. We are approaching a world in which I cannot permit myself to live. My ideas are my property. They were taken from me by force, by breach of contract. No appeal was left to me. It was believed that my work belonged to others, to do with as they pleased. They had a claim upon me without my consent. That it was my duty to serve them without choice or reward. Now you know why I dynamited Cortlandt. I designed Cortlandt, I made it possible, I destroyed it. I agreed to design it for the purpose of seeing it built as I wished. That was the price I set for my work. I was not paid. My building was disfigured at the whim of others who took all the benefits of my work and gave me nothing in return. I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy, nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim. It had to be said. The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing. I came here to be heard. In the name of every man of independence still left in the world. I wanted to state my terms. I do not care to work or live on any others. My terms are a man’s right to exist for his own sake.

As I said she gets the broad strokes. That liberty, limited government and the human mind should be valued. But anything more detailed than:

My name is John Galt. I live in a place we call Atlantis, and I think you’d fit in there. It’s a place where heroes live; where those who want to be heroes live. The government we have there respects each of us as individuals and as producers. Actually, beyond a few courthouses there isn’t much government at all. Bottom line, Mr. Wyatt; if you’re weary of a government that refuses to limit its power over you, if you’re ready at this moment to claim the moral right to your own life, then we should leave, and I’ll take you there. I’ll take you to Atlantis.

And you’re really pushing it. She understood capitalism and individualism worked and any form of collectivism and socialism didn’t. And if you’re looking for a moral pick me up, her quotes can work quite well…if you’re looking for a technical answer as to why they work…you might want to dig into other economists and movies.

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Movies that understand economics #10: Moneyball

 

“I know you are taking it in the teeth, but the first guy through the wall… he always gets bloody… always. This is threatening not just a way of doing business… but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. Really what it’s threatening is their livelihood, their jobs. It’s threatening the way they do things… and every time that happens, whether it’s the government, a way of doing business, whatever, the people who are holding the reins – they have their hands on the switch – they go batshit crazy.”

Not only is this one of the best films of the last few years…It understands economics.   It understands basics concepts of economic reality that much of the world does not.  For instance the basic truth of “adapt or die” in business. When, as Brad Pitt’s Bille Beane observes, “There are rich teams and there are poor teams, then there’s fifty-feet of crap, and then there’s us” playing by the same rules that everyone else does, in the same way it’s always been done without any variation will lead only to being under fifty feet of crap and nothing else.  So, as in any competitive system, when you’re loosing you need to change the rules and ways you operate by…something that the American public and government might want to take into account when they make their demands that we return to be being an industrial superpower.  (I particularly like that when I looked up the real Beane, his biography on Wikipedia says that now that all of baseball has adopted his moneyball offensive strategy in picking players, he has refocused on defensive skills…adapt or die).

This movie even goes as far as to state, “adapt or die.”  The capitalist in me couldn’t have possibly been more in bliss than when I heard Brad Pitt state, “Adapt or die.”

This movie shows that you need to go for what works not what people think will work.  People counted steals (and a whole of other bizarre data as shown from the first recruiting scene…like if you have an ugly girl friend) when, as it is shown, actually getting to base is more important.  It’s similar to modern companies bizarrely caring more about stock price than profit, short-term profit more than long-term profit, the immediate revenue more than a product that will actually sell.

We also see that while this is in some ways kind of obvious as an idea in retrospect (yeah you need to care more about winning than anything else) people will fight it.  People will fight change even if it makes sense. Doesn’t matter that the current system isn’t working (as it wasn’t for the A’s) they will fight for the old way and refuse to even try anything new.  Beane had to fire people, trade valuable players, and constantly fight up hill just to prove that trying something that in some ways is kind of a no-brainer just to show it works.

It shows that the past is something to be learned from not lived in.  In fact Beane rewards Brand for saying that he was a terrible ballplayer.  He has no illusions about what his skills were and what mistakes he made, but, unlike most people, he learned not to repeat those mistakes in his own life nor would he try to help others repeat those mistakes.

And most importantly Beane (and the director of this film)  understand the importance of character and relationships over money.  I know I emphasize money a lot in this blog, because it is important than a lot of things liberals consider important…but he cares more about achieving something than money which is a correct outlook (I’d tell you what

Beane fought, and luckily won, against a system that was making all the same mistakes that are helping cause our current economic problem.  This should be one of those movies that every American goes to see and you should take notes.

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Movies that understand economics #8: Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby

Characters who take risks.

No it’s not the title that has anything to do with economics. While all of Clint Eastwood’s films have a strain of conservatism running through them, this tale of a father-daughter relationship in boxing understands two key concepts in economics: Risk and Incentive.

The issues of risk comes into play with Eastwood’s character Frankie Dunn shows both the sides of risk. Early in the film he is afraid to take risks. He holds back fighters from title fights, fearing that they might get hurt, that they aren’t ready, that if something goes wrong they will lose their one chance for success. Because of this refusal to take risks he loses one fighter after another for his whole career. And he had failure time and time again. Economics tells us that real economic growth only comes from taking risks…anything else will just lead to hundreds of year of stagnation. Of course while growth and success can only be accomplished by risk…the film also shows that risk, comes, with, well, risk. In this case tragedy when Frankie’s fighter Maggie Fitzgerald Hillary Swank is paralyzed and ultimately dies.

Frankie Dunn: It wasn’t fault. I was wrong to say that.
Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris: You damn right. I found you a fighter. You made her the best fighter she could be.
Frankie: I killed her.
Eddie: Don’t say that. Maggie walked through that door with nothing buts guts. No chance in the world of being what she needed to be. It was because of you that she was fighting the championship of the world. You did that. People die everyday, Frankie – mopping floors, washing dishes and you know what their last thought is? I never got my shot. Because of you Maggie got her shot. If she dies today you know what her last thought would be? I think I did all right.

But the movie makes it quite clear that risk and the tragedy that may come of it, are better than stagnation.

How does it really drive this point home? Through a look at Maggie’s family. The embodiment of welfare trash.

Maggie: Not anymore. It’s all yours, Mama. For you and Mardell and the kids.
Earline (Mother): Mary M., you bought this for me?
Maggie: Yeah, all yours, free and clear. Darling….
Mardell (Sister): There’s no fridge. No stove neither.
Maggie: They’ll be here before you move in.
Earline: How much money did this cost you?
Maggie: Never mind that.
Earline: You shouldn’t have done this.
Maggie: You need a decent place.
Earline: You shouldn’t have done it. You should’ve asked me first. Government’s gonna find out about this, they’re gonna stop my welfare.
Maggie: Mama, no, they ain’t.
Earline: They are. You’re fine, you’re workin…but I can’t live without my welfare.
Maggie: Mama, I’ll send you money.
Earline: What about my medicine? Medicaid gonna cut me off. How am I supposed to get my medicine?
Maggie: I’ll send you more money.
Mardell: I hope you don’t expect J.D. to move in with us. He’s getting out, you know.
Why didn’t you just give me the money. Why’d you have to buy me a house?
Maggie: I didn’t have to Momma, but it’s yours. You want the money, sell it.
[…]
Earline: Find a man Mary M. Live proper. People hear about what you’re doin’ and they laugh. Hurts me to tell you, but they laugh at you. [Laughs]

Her family has no aspirations, has no drive, no goals, no virtue, and no redeeming characteristics. I would like to say they are merely a bad caricature of welfare dependency…sadly they are a far too accurate depiction of a far too common truth. When you have no incentive to do better because welfare and Medicaid and a dozen other programs can get you up to the income of about $45,000 a year, why would you even bother starting minimum wage job only on the hope (the risk, if you will) that through hard work, personal sacrifice, and long hours you’ll get something better. When people have no incentive to do better (and no one is going to pay you $45,000 out the door) it’s only human nature to not want to work that hard.

Even then, it is only that Maggie has a different incentive other than money that drives her to push herself, self respect and happiness. It is the incentives for these things that push her, making her not an exception to the idea that incentives are what drive people, but rather stark proof of this economic fact.

Maggie: Momma, you take Mardell and JD and get home ‘fore I tell that lawyer there that you were so worried about your welfare you never signed those house papers like you were supposed to. So anytime I feel like it I can sell that house from under your fat, lazy, hillbilly ass. And if you ever come back, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

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Movies that understand economics: #7 Morning Glory

Morning Glory

“Daybreak needs what I need, someone who believes that it can succeed. Trust me, I know you don’t have any reason to believe in me, but I work harder than anyone else. I’m in first, I’m out last. I know a shitload more about the news than someone whose daddy paid them to smoke bongs and talk semiotics at Harvard and I devote myself completely to my job. It’s what I do. It’s all I am. I… You can ask anyone.”

At this point I’m pretty sure you think I’m losing my mind (or that I am really desperate to find movies with economic premises)*–how is a silly comedy (that has a romantic subplot, but not enough of one to call it a romantic comedy) going demonstrate economics? Just trust me that I do know what I’m talking about. For those that don’t know the film, Rachel McAdams plays Becky Fuller an inexperienced executive producer who has been given the very undesirable job of bringing the worst morning news show in history up in the ratings…and her genius idea is to bring a veteran hard news anchor, played by Harrison Ford, who doesn’t want to be there, on to the very light news morning show. Hilarity and infighting ensues. But buried in this pure entertainment story are a few economic truths.

innovation

On the left are industries that live under the rules of adapt or die. On the right are organizations that don’t live with that fact…see the difference.

The first is the most basic of all economic principles at the heart of capitalism: adapt or die. The entire central plot is about brining up a failing TV show in the ratings. And the only way this happens is by throwing out old rules and changing the format of the show. This includes more sensationalism, making deals with celebrities that no other show would ever make, having the anchors bicker on air because it brings in more ratings. Adapt or die. Every company on earth (when they’re not being bailed out by morons who don’t understand capitalism) faces this basic principle. And it’s a good thing. As shown in the movie it forces the people on the TV show to adapt, to innovate, to come up with new things that work. It forces the show and the people, people who had previously given up, to come up with new ways of doing things, to be better and create things that work. Adapt or die, it is what turns $50,000+ worth of equipment in 1985 taking up probably half a ton of mass, into your smart phone that cost you $300 and about a pound of mass.

And this ties to the last two movies and the idea of creative destruction. As most companies try to avoid being the victim of creative destruction they have the choice to grow and not die. Which the show in this movie does. It is what drives a healthy economy, the need to survive forces us to grow and produce better and cheaper products.

And tied to this is this principle of adapt or die is the idea of being a leader. No organization or person can grow without being willing to make decisions.

One of the best descriptions on leadership goes as follows:

The difference between a good administrator and a bad one is about five heartbeats. Good administrators make immediate choices … [that] usually can be made to work. A bad administrator, on the other hand, hesitates, diddles around, asks for committees, for research and reports. Eventually, he acts in ways which create serious problems … A bad administrator is more concerned with reports than with decisions. He wants the hard record which he can display as an excuse for his errors … [Good administrators] depend on verbal orders. They never lie about what they’ve done if their verbal orders cause problems, and they surround themselves with people able to act wisely on the basis of verbal orders. Often, the most important piece of information is that something has gone wrong. Bad administrators hide their mistakes until it’s too late to make corrections … One of the hardest things to find is people who actually make decisions.—Frank Herbert, God Emperor of Dune

jimmy carter sex offender

The movie covers the importance of reporting the truth when others won’t.

And the character of Becky Fuller displays this trait perfectly. Within minutes of taking her new job she is bombarded with not only a huge amount of choices but also a grossly inept employee…but rather than saying things like “I’ll get back to you” and consult others she makes choices right there based on her own judgment. And rather than deal with a clearly toxic and useless employee she just fires him because he is absolutely worthless. She makes judgment calls and works with the fallout rather than blaming others. No company, no organization, no individual can progress without this; making immediate choices and working with the fallout. No economy can survive or grow without such leaders. A shame we don’t have anything like that on Pennsylvania Avenue.

*both may be correct to one degree or another, but that doesn’t negate my point about this film.

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Movies that understand economics #5 and #6 Other People’s Money and Pretty Woman

Movies that understand economics #5 and #6 Other People’s Money and Pretty Woman

Now I have covered both of these movies before, but Pretty Woman and Other People’s Money, so no need to waste your time on a summary of the plots, cover one of the most important economic concepts that people tend to misunderstand: Creative Destruction.

Other People's MoneyIn general, creative destruction is when a company that is not producing as well as its competitors is removed, for one reason or another, from the economy, and the resources it once had are taken up by more innovative and productive members of the economy.  In more practical terms it is when a company begins to fail and stops making profits, when it no longer has any new way to innovate and refuses to change with a changing economy, that investors or venture capitalists come in, buy up the company and sell the pieces to companies.  In short liquidation.

And never have I seen such a perfect description of what economists call creative destruction than in Other People’s Money:

Amen. And amen. And amen. You have to forgive me. I’m not familiar with the local custom. Where I come from, you always say “Amen” after you hear a prayer. Because that’s what you just heard – a prayer. Where I come from, that particular prayer is called “The Prayer for the Dead.” You just heard The Prayer for the Dead, my fellow stockholders, and you didn’t say, “Amen.” This company is dead. I didn’t kill it. Don’t blame me. It was dead when I got here. It’s too late for prayers. For even if the prayers were answered, and a miracle occurred, and the yen did this, and the dollar did that, and the infrastructure did the other thing, we would still be dead. You know why? Fiber optics. New technologies. Obsolescence. We’re dead alright. We’re just not broke. And you know the surest way to go broke? Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure. You know, at one time there must’ve been dozens of companies making buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company? You invested in a business and this business is dead. Let’s have the intelligence, let’s have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future. “Ah, but we can’t,” goes the prayer. “We can’t because we have responsibility, a responsibility to our employees, to our community. What will happen to them?” I got two words for that: Who cares? Care about them? Why? They didn’t care about you. They sucked you dry. You have no responsibility to them. For the last ten years this company bled your money. Did this community ever say, “We know times are tough. We’ll lower taxes, reduce water and sewer.” Check it out: You’re paying twice what you did ten years ago. And our devoted employees, who have taken no increases for the past three years, are still making twice what they made ten years ago; and our stock – one-sixth what it was ten years ago. Who cares? I’ll tell you. Me. I’m not your best friend. I’m your only friend. I don’t make anything? I’m making you money. And lest we forget, that’s the only reason any of you became stockholders in the first place. You want to make money! You don’t care if they manufacture wire and cable, fried chicken, or grow tangerines! You want to make money! I’m the only friend you’ve got. I’m making you money. Take the money. Invest it somewhere else. Maybe, maybe you’ll get lucky and it’ll be used productively. And if it is, you’ll create new jobs and provide a service for the economy and, God forbid, even make a few bucks for yourselves. And if anybody asks, tell ’em ya gave at the plant. And by the way, it pleases me that I am called “Larry the Liquidator.” You know why, fellow stockholders? Because at my funeral, you’ll leave with a smile on your face and a few bucks in your pocket. Now that’s a funeral worth having!

Creative destruction is often depicted by people who don’t understand economics as evil.  But as shown in both movies, the victims of liquidation are not just randomly picked companies that are targeted just because some evil businessman wanted to hurt someone.  In both films it is made clear that companies that become victims of the kind of takeovers that end in liquidation are not the victim of the investors and liquidators…but victims of failing to change with the time, victims of bad managements, victims of not adapting as any business must to survive because, with the exception of Coca-cola, no company has discovered a recipe for success that should never be changed and subject to innovation.

And both speak to the fact that the goal is not just to hurt people (in Other People’s Money, as shown above he points out pretty-woman-1how creative destruction leads to investments that will benefit people, and in Pretty Woman in describing how the employees are not just going to be thrown out).

And while creative destruction usually works by allowing more productive companies to use the equipment, land, and human capital more effectively, both of these movies show that it can take other forms.  In Other People’s Money it is in the form of changing the operations of the company to fit the new economy, in Pretty Woman is it putting the company under new and more competent management (don’t kid yourself, that’s what happened—old management was destroyed and new creative management under Richard Gere’s company was taking over, if the owner’s name on the letter head wasn’t changing is irrelevant).

Economies are a lot like ecosystems. In both the rule is adapt or die.  And in both you need carrion feeders who can allow the dead material to work its way back into the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.  Some people who don’t understand his important function may view the work of liquidators in economics, or carrion feeders in nature as repulsive, but only because they don’t understand the valuable and needed process that they perform. If you do not have something that can take the dead and dying companies and move their resources to where they can be of more help (like, oh, by saying this or that company is too big to fail, and thus preventing it’s needed death) you only get systems that continually get worse and worse and a drain on the economy and as it so happens the taxpayers and it will fail again given time because it did not change – sometimes smaller works out better – more competition more innovation.

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Movies that understand economics #4 Grosse Point Blank

Grosse Point Blank

 

Grosse Pointe Blank, the story of a depressed contract killer going home for his 10 year high school reunion, may not initially seem like an economically based film, but really that is all it is about.

Ostensibly Martin Blank, hitman, only goes home because he is required to do a job for one of his larger clients after bungling a previous contract.  I’m going to skip how this could be an argument about good customer service.  And besides having to win the heart of the woman he foolish left behind, his biggest problem is dealing with another assassin who wants to unionize all the independent killers to ensure that the price for their skills remains high.  Most of the action of the film comes from the fact that, like most unions, the assassin’s union uses violence to take you out if you don’t comply with their demands.

 

In fact the movie begins with this rather lengthy discussion of unions, supply and demand, and right to work issues:

 

Grocer: Kid, I’m putting together a little concern, which would enable those of us in our, uh, rarified profession to avoid embarrassing overlaps.

Martin Blank: What, like a union?

Grocer: More like a club. You know, work less, make more.

Blank: Wow, sounds like a great idea, but… thank you, no.

Grocer: No? You remember Burma?

Blank: Yeah, I do.

Grocer: That nut, General Kwang? You were like a… colonel in that army, weren’t you?

Blank: Yeah, yeah, he sold you all those tanks, you shipped ’em to Alabama…

Grocer: T-34s, I took a bath on that.

Blank: Yeah, that was fun.

Grocer: That’s what I’m talking about, kid, we could be working together again, for God’s sake! You know, making big money, killing important people!  I want to structure an arrangement where you get like shares, original shares on the ground floor.

Blank: And you would be the President of this organization or maybe just a father figure to me.

Grocer: Hey if you want a father I’ll give you a spanking.

Blank: Yeah, I’ll think about it.

Grocer:Look the employers are getting us a lot cheaper.  There are so many more of us.

Blank: Well after the Berlin thing what can you do?

Grocer: Soviet Bloc Collapse

Grosse Point Blank TV

If only dealing with unions was always this easy.

Blank: The market’s flooded.

Grocer: Okay, that’s what I’m looking at, I’m looking at consolidated bargaining.  Okay. Look, I don’t want to play against you! This thing is real.

Blank: How real?

Grocer: Maranga Brothers, them, uh, East German ex-Stasi guys…

Blank: Oh, I don’t like those guys.

Grocer: Them butch Filipino ladies…

Blank: What, the dwarf, maid…

[makes stabbing motion]

Grocer: Stabbers! Queens of the hotel hit, you know.

Blank: You got a great crew.

Grocer: Everybody’s in!

Blank: Yeah well, not me, so don’t paw at me with your dirty little guild?

Grocer: Alright, well, life’s full of second chances. And here’s chance two for you, you think about coming in with me. You ponder.  Because either way I’m going to get you kid.

 

And this is a great insight in to the modern union.  Yes, there may have been a time when company stores and union busters may have made needing to organize a necessity…and we still need the right to organize to prevent this…but the modern union isn’t about doing what is best for the people in the union.  As shown quite clearly modern unions are only about maximizing profits through forcing everyone into their club…and those who don’t comply get whacked.

 

Think that’s an exaggeration?  Just look at this story of a Michigan teacher who was told that trying to leave her union would result in the union destroying her credit score.

 

Michigan Union Threatens Teachers’ Credit Scores

 

 

 

The fact of the  matter is that no matter what the history, the modern union is only about bilking whoever their employer is for maximum costs at the least amount of service and using force and intimidation to ensure they have an illegal and unethical monopoly on the market.  And to have a functional economy you need to break the power of these bullies.

 

And just consider that federal workers are unionized…yeah that results in some great work don’t you think.  You’re getting your money’s worth there, aren’t you?

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Movies (or TV shows) that understand Economics #3 Ducktales

 

Ducktales“You can never get something for nothing”—Scrooge McDuck

So just three days into this series on movies and TV shows that show valid economic principles here at the Conservative New Ager and the guys over at Breitbart.com run ‘SPONGEBOB’ CRITIQUES WELFARE STATE, EMBRACES SELF-SUFFICIENCY.  Stop stealing my ideas Breitbart.com, you can’t just rely on me to keep giving you good stuff.

Well we here at the Conservative New Ager can play the children’s cartoon and economics game too.  And the cartoons I pick are better.

As surprising as it may seem the show Ducktales actually understood economics fairly well…at least better than anyone in Washington D.C.

This isn’t just because one character happens to be a billionaire who prides himself on being a self-made man (duck?). But even just understanding the virtue of earning one’s way…no the cartoon actually understood inflation better than anyone at the FED.

Take a look. (Cartoons may not be your thing, but it’s only 5 minutes and it does show that everyone in D.C. is an idiot).

“That’s exactly what I’m afraid of: easy money. I don’t trust any dollar that I haven’t earned.”—Scrooge McDuck

So regrettably, even though my entire generation was given a lesson in the fact that you can’t print money without it causing inflation, no one seems to have learned this very important lesson.

(Or worse they’ve been idiotic Austrians who think that shiny metals are somehow not fiat money and also missed the more complicated point that the money supply has to grow with the economy).

And while I probably could find a few more good economic lessons in the show if I had time enough (and didn’t mind my brain turning to mush and seeping out of my ears) but I think the most important lesson (and the one I specifically remembered after all these years) is that you can’t just print money without it having massive negative consequences.

That’s right, even the writers at Disney know that Paul Krugman is a blithering idiot who is a detriment to human society.

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Movies that understand economics # 2 The Terminal

The Terminal

 

 

The Terminal.  Given the writers, director, or lead actor, it’s quite frankly a miracle that this movie understands even that money is used to buy things let alone the numerous economic principles it does seem to get.  I’m chalking this up to one of those monkeys at typewriters moments.

 

But one of the clearest moments that this movie demonstrates economics is with the concepts of incentives, opportunity costs and comparative advantage.  Yes I know your brain is probably already trying to run away…but stay with me for a second.  In the film Victor Narvoski is held in the terminal of JFK airport because of a snafu in regulations.  He has no money, but can’t leave. But he finds that there is a system in the airport whereby returning a cart for luggage to the dispensers where they originated will give a quarter for each cart.  The quarters are offered as incentives to perform this mildly annoying task (the same reason your salary is an incentive to do all the parts of your job, even the parts you don’t like).  However, to most of us, a quarter isn’t a big incentive, thus we have no reason to waste our time putting the thing back for just a quarter (this is opportunity cost, the idea we can use resources only once, in this case, time, and we will probably get more satisfaction out of reading, or sleeping or just resting than we will out of a quarter).  However, Victor has a huge incentive to get quarters, because quarters mean food.  Also, because he doesn’t have anything else to do, whereas most people in an airport do, he has a comparative advantage over them, he can spend time getting lots of carts and returning them, whereas other people do not.  Incentives drive everything, if you don’t have the incentive to do something, it won’t get done…which is probably why Welfare shouldn’t offer about 45,000K a year in benefits…because if you do offer that much in benefits no one has any incentive to work if they can’t make more than that.

One of the things that The Terminal implicitly understands is the incredibly harmful nature of government, bureaucrats and arbitrary rules. The movie literally begins with a group of Chinese immigrants with fake passports being captured (why were they running…probably because China is a despotic hellhole, what will happen when they’re sent back?  Well if they’re lucky, death. Real refugees are seldom so lucky from a nation that has actually crucified people in the last century.)  This is what governments do, they hurt people. (Let’s not even talk about how ICE’s primary function seems to be keeping refugees and qualified workers out of the country while ensuring that welfare seeking illegals and cartels can get through.)  Of course this whole movie is about one power hungry bureaucrat making a man’s life a living hell…because they can.  And if you think such a mentality just exists in movies, ask the millions of people who are now without health insurance because one brainless bureaucrat believes she doesn’t work for the American people. What does this have to do with economics?  Everything.  Governments are needed for  economies to maintain a civil and criminal court system; to catch, prosecute, and incarcerate criminals who violate the rights of others; to maintain contract laws; to ensure a bare minimum of regulation to ensure a functioning economy…but when bare minimum use of power needed to make the system work ceases to be the goal, and it switches to power for the sake of power (which is what every petty bureaucrat wants) then economies cease to work.  Case in point back to the quarters for carts things…the idiot in charge of the system would rather pay someone (at New York City union rates, which is probably more than anyone who reads this earns) rather then let a man earn money for food.

 

The film is filled with examples or stories of people’s lives being ruined by bureaucrats. And it should be noted the general sense of fear that everyone has towards them.  (Luckily there is also a scene that explains exactly what you should do to all bureaucrats.)
And this whole situation is caused by the fact that no one anywhere in this bureaucracy was willing to use common sense for an unusual situation.

 

One final point I would like to make about economics shown here is the seeming nature of chaos in an economy.  Most people look at economics, at the flow of money, of stocks, of property, goods and investments…and see chaos.  It’s much like the terminal of an airport.  It seems like pure chaos.  But the fact is everyone in that airport is going somewhere with a plan, a departure time, and a destination.  It has the appearance of chaos but there is a very well defined order, it’s just that the normal limits of the human mind can’t see it.  The same is true of economies…lots of people see economies and see only chaos and disorder and believe since it is so disordered there needs to be more control to make it run better.  Let me ask has DHS and the TSA made an airport better?  The same is true of economies—just because you can’t see the order doesn’t mean it is not there, and your attempting to control chaos that doesn’t exist will always, always, always backfire.

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Movies that understand economics #1 Bedazzled

Elliot Richards: “This doesn’t prove anything. I could have done this myself. I even had to pay for it.”
The Devil: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Now unfortunately the nature of Hollywood and the fact that it exists on a different plane of reality (one where the economy is run by unicorns and movies that make 50 million above cost somehow were losses) a lot of the economic facts of this series are going to be more accidental truths stumbled upon by the writers and directors than intentional bedazzledmoves to show us how real economics works. However, I might be able to say that director Harold Ramis, who brought us Groundhog Day with its clear understanding of the idea that all skills can be learned with time and effort or what is really valuable in life, and Ghostbusters with its very insightful moments that the EPA is populated by dickless idiots and correct observations like, “You’ve never worked in the private sector, they expect results.” But who knows, maybe I’m reading intent where there was none…regardless, the movie Bedazzled, the story of a hapless loser who sells his soul for seven wishes from the Devil, does offer us some excellent economic lessons.

1. TANSTAAFL
Anyone familiar with Robert Heinlein’s classic The Moon is a Harsh Mistress should find the acronym above very familiar. TANSTAAFL. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

It’s one of the most basic lessons of economics. EVERYTHING has a price. Even if you don’t pay for it now or even ever…someone will pay for everything.

Our clueless hero, Elliot Richards, in Bedazzled learns the hard way that just wishing for things doesn’t work (despite the Devil warning him very clearly that there is no such thing as a free lunch).

Everything you want comes with a cost. And whether it is time, effort, blood and sweat…or just your soul…every cost will be paid. And I think this movie is very clear about this.

Richards: I don’t want another wish. […] I really don’t want it.
The Devil: What do you mean you don’t want it, you get seven wishes.
Richards: Well there are things that I want but nothing you can give me.
The Devil: What is that supposed to mean?
Richards: Well um last night when I was lying in jail I was talking to this guy. I realized that wishing just doesn’t work. All my life I’ve wished to be better looking, to be richer successful, talented, whatever. And I always thought wouldn’t it be great if someone could just wave a magic wand and make that happen. Well, I realized that it just doesn’t work by magic.
The Devil: I think I’m going to be sick.
Richards: I’ve been starting to think it isn’t really how far we go in life anyway, it’s how we get there that really matters.

Everything comes with a cost. And any time you think that there is something without a cost that you are getting something for free…be very worried because that is where the costs are the highest. Because it is often either being paid for by someone else…or it is taking something away from you that is more valuable (but less tangible) than just money or property. And, in the long run, the soul pays all debts.

Even with charity. Someone gave you a hundred dollars out of charity…it still costs them a hundred dollars and the loss of the opportunity to spend it on something else…now they may get paid back in the psychological happiness that comes from personal charity, but they will get paid back. And you will pay the cost of feeling either indebted to that person or to be worthy of the act of charity. (It’s why a welfare state is so dangerous, it strips the act of charity of all the psychological benefits and costs and merely costs the middle class their money to pay people who will not work for a living.) and thus will never “earn” anything or appreciate it and they will in the end be the bigger looser.

There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

2. Contract Law is Sacrosanct (and always read the contract)

deal with the devil

This is what a deal with the Devil looks like.

Modern society and economics is based on contract law. Be it anywhere from the social contract to your cell phone contract. And, all pun intended, the Devil is in the details.

The Devil: “Let’s look at your contract.”

It is part of the joke that the contract for Elliot’s soul is a 2,000+ page legal document printed in small font legalese. (Pro tip…anytime any kind of legal document is 2000+ pages it is the work of the Devil and should not be signed or passed).

Obamacare regs

This something worse than a deal with the Devil.

Contracts are so important that even the Devil has to abide by them, as there is an escape clause in Eliot’s contract, and as much as she hated it, she had to obey it. (Another pro tip: don’t trust anyone who fails to honor contracts; they will screw you any chance they can find.) That’s how important contract law is, even the Devil follows it. Modern economics are based on contract law and to all the anarchists out there who think you can run an economy without contract law necessary to enforce it, you’re beyond stupid. Anarchy at it’s best.

The other point here that the movie makes clear is that you should always read the contract. If you don’t read the contract and just wait to see what’s in it only after you have entered into it, you will always, always, always get burned….as Elliot finds out in how badly his wishes turn out…and as America is finding out right now.

3. Trade is only an exchange of value for value.

The Devil: Seven utterly fabulous wishes for one piddling, little soul?
Richards: […]“If it’s so useless then how come you want it so much?”

One thing to understand about modern economics is that in any legal, consensual exchange both people must receive what they consider an exchange of value for value (in fact an exchange only take place when both parties feel they are improving their situation). And if people want something, or are willing to give you something, then that means you are exchanging something of value.

True this is a variation on the free lunch principle, but it needs repeating.
If someone is willing to give you free phones or food or promises of healthcare you may want to ask why they’re giving you these things and what they want in return…and what the long term consequences of such an exchange are.

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November, movies, and being thankful for property rights

It’s November…which means Thanksgiving (and Chanukah this year) and as with every year I remember this video about what we should all be thankful for:

Now I can give you one great educational video after another on the beauty of economics in action, like this one…

Or I can regale you with long and detailed, well thought-out arguments by Friedman, Sowell, Hayek, Williams, or myself….but let’s be honest, you’re reading this blog, you already get it…but most people don’t get economics. “The Dismal Science.” Most people don’t know anything about it beyond that rich people are evil and that the Dow Jones number on Wall Street and the unemployment numbers are all you need to know about. Maybe also something about the debt. Maybe. And where do they get these terrible ideas (besides willful ignorance in an age of information)…why popular culture, of course.

And who can really blame them with such thrilling examples in pop culture as Justin Bieber telling a reporter that it was such a shame that his body guard didn’t have enough insurance to pay for all of his pregnant wife’s needs and had to pay out of pocket, which is why we need more government healthcare (shame that the bodyguard didn’t work for someone who, I don’t know, could afford to give his employees better healthcare). Or even when it’s not the functionally retarded you still see a complete lack of understanding about economics, as in the case of the show Once Upon a Time…the town has been there for 20 years, and no one from the outside world can find it, yet somehow the technology, the cars, the fashions, and even the news all seems to come from the outside world (that is one hell of a curse to constantly be providing all of those supplies and resources). I could list more examples of popular culture having no conception of economics than Scheherazade had stories.

Keynes

This is more or less how Hollywood sees economics…

This is a problem. Because while it is easy to get people to see the light of reason once you make at least one in-road…with the majority of culture showing something quite different than the realities of economics it becomes rather odd to see something correct. However, there are a few films and TV shows that show a bare minimum understanding of economics and over the course of this month, leading up to our wonderful Thanksgiving, I will be going over a couple dozen movies that actually do show the correct fundamentals of economics that when understood can only lead to capitalism.

I not only hope that you read and enjoy but that you begin to share a few of these to help others understand what real economics are is.

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Real Change in Education: Part I

 

There is a lot of brouhaha over Common Core right now. Education Personally I am tired of idiots blaming every stupid Obama Administration policy, every idiotic Dept. of Education directive, every factually incorrect statement made by a book publisher, and every dumbass move by an individual state on the Common Core.  The Common Core is minimum standards dealing with math, reading and writing and a nation wide test that comes with those standards.  Is it as high as we really need?  No, but it is higher than what most states used to have. …but guess what, any state that adopts Common Core can put in standards that exceed it.  Also the Common Core standards were a state pushed initiative, not a federal one, so stop saying this is overreach by the federal government—it isn’t.

We are conservatives, we’re supposed to be the informed and educated people…but if we keep stupidly blaming things that have nothing to do with the Common Core on the Common Core then we appear uninformed.

This link above goes to the actual Common Core standard.  Read them before you attack them. 

We don’t blame science because liberals shout their BS religion of global warming.

We don’t blame the Constitution for the fact that liberals violate our rights in the name of the Constitution.

Common Core State Standards.jpg

Common Core Standards are good..the problem is that any idiot publisher can put the words “Common Core aligned”

Then why should we blame the Common Core standards, read them there is nothing wrong in them because some idiot liberal states are doing a lot of things that aren’t in the Common Core (but using its name).

The standards are fine.  Read them and tell me if you find anything objectionable…it’s certain that liberal states and the way they’re implementing them/adding to them that is the problem.

If we don’t attack the right thing, if we don’t understand who the enemy is, then we won’t win.

But since some people need to attack something in education let me suggest 9 other things we could focus on that would actually lead to better schools.

 

1.Get Rid of Useless Professional Development

Tied to a lot of complaints about Common Core is the whining about it will cause teachers to teach to the test.  This (A) assume that one on can only teach the standards and nothing else and (B) that teachers can only teach in one way.  In reality there is a simple truth—Bad teachers will only ever teach to the test, good teachers will always teach what is on the test and go beyond. The reason you have standards is that you’re trying to limit the damage done by bad teachers.  I know everyone likes to point out all the terrible points of No Child Left Behind (and there are many) but the fact is that putting in testing put in a lower bar that even bad teachers had to meet.  This was a great thing because you at least had a standard, any standard, in some parts of the country finally and not just bad teachers skating students without any concern for whether or not they learn anything.  And teaching to the test is teaching the minimum standards which is what we want if the standards are high enough.  Tests are supposed to reflect the items learned – duh!

If you actually want teachers to not teach to the test then get better teachers, don’t get rid of the test.

And how do you get better teachers?  Well the first thing you need to do is get rid of the things that drive good teachers out.

One of those things is professional development.  What is professional development, you ask?  Standards vary from state to state, but professional development is a requirement that to keep your teaching credential you have to take so many hours of professional development or courses so that you can continue to improve as a teacher.  It sounds like a good idea, that teachers should continue to refine their craft.  But while it sounds really nice, it isn’t.  What it turns into is taking state approved courses on teaching strategies that no competent teacher would ever use or lectures on information that has no discernable use in education.

For instance I had to take a two week professional development course last year on “Structured English Immersion” to keep my Arizona teaching credential.  Structured English Immersion is fancy teacher speak for “how to teach English to kids who don’t speak English.”  It cost me several hundred dollars to take this course.  I teach high school and not a single thing discussed in this waste of my time and money could ever even theoretically be used in a high school course. Professional development is supposedly there so we can learn the most up to date research on child development and teaching practices…but strangely enough the most recent study listed in the course material was published during the Bush Administration (no…I don’t mean W.). Yeah real cutting edge right there.  Not to mention the entire tone of the course was that you have to coddle children who don’t speak English and not encourage them to actually learn English, speak in English, read English and use English in every aspect of their life (you know, what actually works).

All other professional development is like this.  For instance I’m also going to have to take a few college courses between now and then (again out of pocket) to keep my credential up.  Now while I’m going to try and pick courses that relate to my field, most teachers pick college courses that relate to Education…Education courses are a lot like the above described Structured English Immersion…outdated bullshit that will never help you reach students.

And we charge teachers for this…because teachers make so much money that they can just easily drop money on things like this without any worry.

Or maybe a lot of good teachers realize they can get jobs in other fields that don’t attempt to fleece them at every turn (you don’t want to see my fees that I also have to pay to keep up my teaching credential).

But, some schools pay for their teacher’s professional development, so it’s not like every teacher is getting fleeced (they’re just losing time).  A lot of public schools have in-service days every year to ensure their teachers get their hours.  On average they’ll hold about 5 of these days a year…now let’s say your school of 700 students has 20 teachers, each teacher making $52,000 a year on average (over the course of about 190 contract days, or about $273.68 a day), so to have those teachers take out 5 days out of the year for this sort of in-service professional development costs the taxpayer $27,368.42 a year for a school of only 20 teachers (plus of course the costs of time it took to set this up, to bring in someone to do the training or have a teacher trained to do the training, and the costs that administrators will also participate in this stuff…so let’s round it up to $30,000).  $30K a year for each school in America paid with taxpayer dollars (2009/2010 – 98,817 total public schools = $2,964,510) wasted on irrelevant information that won’t help you be a better teacher.

How about this, let’s just require every teacher to get a subscription to the Journal of Higher Education and Kaplan which will actually keep them abreast of research in education and save about $29,000 a year by not having this bullshit.

The fact is this is a scam.  It’s a scam for states to make money off approving the courses, off of charging teachers over and over again, for the colleges that make money after forcing teachers to participate.  In all my years teaching I have had nearly a month of my life taken up in professional development…not one iota of it was worth a damn.  Teachers get better by teaching, by observing other teachers, by talking with their colleagues and by self-reflection.  THEY DO NOT LEARN BY SITTING IN STUPID COURSES HEARING OUTDATED MATERIAL THAT IS NOT RELEVANT TO THEM.  This is a scam for states and colleges to make money and nothing more.  It wastes taxpayer money and drives out competent people from the field who have better things to do than deal with this stupidity.*

 

2.  Fire Administration.

Administrators are something that schools tend to pile on.  Superintendents. Assistant Superintendents.  Principals.  Vice Principals. Deans. Counselors.  This list could go on for a very long time.  In fact since 1970 non-teaching staff has grown by 138% while student enrollments have grown only by about 8%.  Any test standard you want to look at for quality of education has remained about the same in that time.  So all those paper pushers seem to do nothing…but they do get paid. And if you think teachers getting paid 52K a year is high, you should see what administrator’s charge.

I think it is safe to say that 90% of school administrators and non-teaching staff are there only to fill out federal/state/local red tape.  Get rid of the red tape and get rid of most of the administrators.  They serve no real purpose.  And the few that do serve a purpose are grossly overpaid.

And more often than not they serve as a hindrance to good teachers rather than help.  The fewer administrators you have I promise you, you will see an improvement in the quality of education.

At the very least the next time your local school tries to pass a bond or tax ask them how many administrators have been axed and how many have taken major pay cuts.  If everyone doesn’t fall into one of those categories then vote anything they want down until they make serious cuts of useless people.  Do it for the children.

 

3.  Hold Back Students Who Aren’t Making the Grade

This year Arizona is making a lot of news by saying they are probably going to hold back a whole 1,500 third graders who aren’t ready to move onto 4th grade. 

Lots of people are whining about how this hurts the poor students who are already struggling…What people should be bitching about is that we’re not holding students back in grades K-2 and 4-11 as well—and in all 50 states and all U.S. territories.  If children don’t understand something they need to be held back in the grade they were having problems in until they get the needed understanding.  I don’t care about complaints of self-esteem…trust me students will feel much better about themselves if they aren’t constantly behind and constantly feeling like they’re too stupid to get it.  And holding them back a grade can help in preventing this.  Not everyone progresses at the same rate mentally and some students (a lot of them in fact) need to be held back.

And the added bonus is that teachers in higher grades will now no longer be wasting time going over concepts from previous grades because half the class should have been held back at some point or having to waste half their day on the kid who should have been held back two or three times.  This means all the students will get more out of every single course.

Coming tomorrow suggestions 4-6

 

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