Saturday, March 25, 2017

Obamacare as a pre-existing condition
AKA - a now intractable entitlement

A large part of Donald Trump's successful campaign for the Presidency derived from a promise to repeal Obamacare.

Unfortunately, he also promised universal health care under the most wonderful health insurance plan we'd ever seen. He promised to keep, and even expand, the popular parts of Obamacare while repealing the unpopular parts - and at lower cost.

Consistent with those inconsistent promises, the post-election policy proposal was to keep the most costly popular parts of Obamacare. For example, coverage for pre-existing conditions, coverage for 26 year olds under their parents' family plan, and federally decreed coverages many insured neither want nor need.

The bill that Paul Ryan delivered was an attempt to satisfy Trump's promises.

"Moderate" Republicans wouldn't vote for a bill that removed pre-existing condition protection, etc.. The Freedom Caucus stood firm for repeal, and wouldn't vote for a bill with Obamacare holdovers. Trump said, "Take it or leave it."

So, is it Trump who's at fault for the bill's failure? Ryan? The Freedom Caucus?

I think it's the "moderate" Republicans in the House, but give Trump an assist. The core sin of Obamacare was to further insert government control into the health insurance market. By accepting Obamacare's core principle, Mr. Trump encouraged GOP House "moderates" to insure "repeal" would degenerate into tinkering about the edges.

Tax reform next?

Friday, March 24, 2017

American Health Care Hacked

Instead of mandates and fines for not buying health insurance the American Health Care Act provides a 30% increase in premiums. Instead of means based subsidies there are age based tax credits.

Left in place are mandated coverage for pre-existing conditions and extension of coverage to 26 year old 'children'. Because these are popular. So are unicorns. The cosmetologists behind the GOP health insurance plan can't be bothered to point out any connection between these policies and insurance premiums. Because insurance premiums are not popular.

The President promised health insurance would be made available across "the [state] lines." Trump’s website said he would “ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of ObamaCare” on day one. So much for those promises on day sixty three.

A few of the Obamacare decreed coverages, like maternity insurance for males, are removed, but only after strong objection from the Freedom Caucus; people who know how to spell 'repeal.'

This bill, in all its superficial wordplay, is capitulation to the core principles of Obamacare. It puts the GOP stamp of approval on policies the GOP derided as socialist as recently as six months ago.

Now, the Great Negotiator, who insists this is a "wonderful" health care bill, has said "take it or leave it" - after threatening those who are trying to get him to keep his promises.

If anything good is to arise from this debacle it will only come from the courage of a handful of people who still believe in a free market. Better to take the President up on his offer to do nothing than to accept this travesty.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Trumpcare Phase III, Title XX/XY

The FDA does not allow 23andMe to offer medical interpretations of its $199 human genetic mapping service. Oh, you can get ancestry information, but no information about your own genetic tendencies or disease markers unless you yourself decode the raw data. Because you, or 23andMe, might misinterpret it.

Meanwhile, a Republican Member of the US House of Representatives (Virginia Foxx [R-NC-5]) has introduced H.R. 1313, a bill which would allow your employer sponsored health plan access to your genetic profile under the pretense heading of "employee workplace wellness programs, including programs that utilize a health risk assessment, biometric screening, or other resources".

This started under ObamaCare, where employers are allowed to add up to 30%, or more, to your health insurance premium if you don't "volunteer" for their "workplace wellness program." These programs typically look for, and monitor, health conditions such as weight, smoking and blood glucose.

H.R. 1313 takes the pre-existing condition question to the next level - pre-existing tendencies - and with the added heredity information, one can also imagine employer diversity programs based on your DNA inheritance. The good news is Elizabeth Warren might not have been counted as a minority on the Harvard faculty, no matter which boxes she checked. Every other application I can think of is bad news.

Outrageous.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."


Cosponsors:
Rep. Walberg, Tim [R-MI-7]
Rep. Stefanik, Elise M. [R-NY-21]
Rep. Mitchell, Paul [R-MI-10]

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Leave Obamacare alone

Just let it crash and burn on its own. That is at least preferable to the GOP proposal to place it under new ownership being pushed by Paul Ryan and Donald Trump.

The Trump supporters who railed against the 'GOPe' should be angrier than the rest of us, since the Art of the Trumpcare Deal strongly suggests the GOPe is still in charge.

Actually, following the script of redefining subsidies into tax credits and claiming there's a real difference, maybe we should rename GOPe. Call it GOPino. Actually, it's arguable that there is nothing significant left of the GOP, anyway.

Here's a partial list from Jeffrey Tucker of things health care reform should accomplish. Not one of them is in the GOPino proposal.
  1. Government should not be determining what is or must be insured. That should be up to the consumers to decide.
  2. Government should not interfere in contractual relationships between providers and purchasers of insurance, whether individuals or businesses.
  3. Prices for medical services need to be completely decontrolled, and the convoluted market-rigging by a conspiracy of providers, insurers, and government welfare bureaucracies must be ended.
  4. Government should not mandate coverage by employers or privilege employer-provided coverage over individually purchased coverage. Third-party payment should be an option.
  5. Government should not mandate that insurers accept all comers at the same price; that system makes a mockery of the whole idea of insurance itself.
  6. Discrimination for “pre-existing conditions” should not be a criminal act but rather a rational consideration for determining premiums.
  7. Government should not restrict who gets to try their hand at providing insurance; entry and exit need to be competitive too.
  8. Government should never force anyone to pay for a service that he or she does not want. You say coverage is a human right? It’s a human right for a person to refuse coverage.
  9. If you want to get serious about fixing the system, the byzantine pharmaceutical system has to go. Again, let the consumers decide, and, while we are at it, there should be complete free trade in medicine.
  10. The 100-year old medical credential monopoly that has so severely restricted entry into the profession should be dismantled. The market is fully capable of assuring quality, and remember too that there is not one definition of quality.
Those are all fixes to problems big government created. Rather than address that, Trump and Ryan are saying if we don't pass Trumpcare it will hurt Republicans. Ryan:
“I do believe that [2018 will be a "bloodbath" for Republicans] if we don't keep our word to the people who sent us here, yeah,” Ryan told CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” when asked if he agreed with Trump’s reported comments about the 2018 midterm elections.
Who cares?

I do believe he's right, but not in the way he thinks. This only makes sense in a Clintonian world where the definitions of "keep" and "word" depend on the meaning of the word "is."

Trump's Voters Have Been Betrayed on Healthcare, Bigly.

So has everyone else.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Saccharine of the masses

I used to think steel was the poster child for the evils of protective tariffs, perhaps because of my disgust with Dubya when he used steel tariffs to solicit votes in Pennsylvania.

I flirted with the ethanol tariff example as an alternative, because the $0.54 a gallon tariff on Brazilian cane ethanol was so outrageously high - and so thoroughly hypocritical when our elected representatives were simultaneously subsidizing corn ethanol as a partial solution to the energy crisis and 'global warming'.

Then again, because of the availability of precision, in-depth analysis of Reagan’s motorcycle protectionism on behalf of a single company, and the fact that even the Gipper could betray his stated principles, those tariffs were a brief contender as quintessential.

Lately, perhaps because of the long history of sugar tariffs and that they've been in the news, I’m leaning toward sugar as the best example of protectionist perfidy.

These four examples cover agriculture, heavy industry, and manufacturing, so there’s not much room to argue in favor of protectionism on any sectoral basis.

IAC, I think this article on sugar wonderfully illustrates the corrupt crony-capitalist nature of protectionism - from protecting slave owners to why Nabisco would move Oreo manufacturing to Mexico to farmland prices in Minnesota to causus belli for the Spanish-American war - all while screwing over American consumers and enriching lobbyists in order for politicians to buy votes.

Protectionism is accepted because the Yuge economic damage is unseen, the insidious moral erosion is smothered in populist platitude, and the proponents are organized while the victims are not.

Without economic freedom there is NO freedom, and whatever example of protectionist venality is used to reveal its pillages, protectionism itself is the poster child for the armed robbery of economic freedom.

Update 5:25PM.
A friend writes:
"If I want to sell widgets to buyers in Canada, and Canada puts a tariff on my widgets, is there free trade?," as if the point were that without fully free trade we shouldn't remove our tariffs.

I haven't been clear enough.

My clarifying response:
"No, because Canada is interfering with the trade.

My point is that just because Canada indulges stupid policies doesn’t mean we have to. We should not ‘retaliate’ because that hurts our economy, our people, our morals, and our jobs.

When I said, “Aw, come on, all the other kids are doing it!” to my mother she said (as your mother probably said to you) some variation of, “If all the other kids were hitting themselves in the head with a hammer, should you?”"

Friday, March 03, 2017

Sweet reason?

Nope.

You probably shake your head in wonder at the stupidity of the Philadelphia politicians who imposed this tax on the soft drink industry: Pepsi is laying off up to 100 workers in Philadelphia and blaming a 2-month-old soda tax.

Distributors and grocery stores are likely to follow: Philadelphia’s Soda Sellers Say Tax Has Reduced Sales by as Much as 50%.

If you understand the Philadelphia political folly, but still support protectionist tariffs in the name of preserving U.S. jobs, intellectual consistency demands that you explain federal import duties on sugar in the same terms: U.S. Trade Policy Gouges American Sugar Consumers.

According to a 2006 study by our own Commerce Department, “For each one sugar growing and harvesting job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, nearly three confectionery manufacturing jobs are lost.

One-fifth of one percent of U.S. farms are the beneficiaries of this protectionism, and consumers pay around $1.3 billion annually to support them - not including the cost of federally mandated, corn-based ethanol in our gasoline. Which brings us to another sugar related protectionist tariff: Brazilian (cane-sugar) ethanol attracted a 54 cent a gallon tariff until 2012, while we simultaneously subsidized corn "food as fuel", raising prices on everything from tortillas to steak.

Claims by the sugar industry that Mexico is selling sugar below cost are ludicrous, Mexico is selling it above average world cost. That, and the Brazilian tariff, is what “fair trade” means to U.S. farm lobbyists and the Trump administration.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

'Create facts' wasn't a slip of the tongue here:
The morning after the [2016] election, President Obama said to Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner, “The most important thing that I’m focused on is how we create a common set of facts.” That was the problem of his whole presidency. Political rhetoric doesn’t create facts.

-Christopher Caldwell, Sanctimony Cities in The Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2016/17, page 27
That's our job.
During a lively discussion centered on fears that President Trump is "trying to undermine the media," MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski let slip the awesome unspoken truth that the media's "job" is to "actually control exactly what people think."
SCARBOROUGH: "Exactly. That is exactly what I hear. What Yamiche said is what I hear from all the Trump supporters that I talk to who were Trump voters and are still Trump supporters. They go, 'Yeah you guys are going crazy. He's doing -- what are you so surprised about? He is doing exactly what he said he is going to do.'"

BRZEZINSKI: "Well, I think that the dangerous, you know, edges here are that he is trying to undermine the media and trying to make up his own facts. And it could be that while unemployment and the economy worsens, he could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that, that is our job."
...[T]he comment failed to raise any eyebrows from her co-panelists. Instead, her co-host, Joe Scarborough, said that Trump's media antagonism puts him on par with Mussolini and Lenin...
Trump is trying to undermine the media? They don't need any help.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Codependency

Senator John McCain tells NBC’s Chuck Todd we need:
[A] free and sometimes adversarial press. Without it, I'm afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started… They get started by suppressing the free press… I'm not saying President Trump is trying to be a dictator, I'm just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.
Classic. “I’m not saying this thing I just said.”

Well, sometimes dictators get started by co-opting the press. Sometimes the press sycophants enlist themselves. The press is free to print what it wants; but if it becomes immune to criticism that's when it becomes the enemy, and when it acts like a hive mind, that's when the possibility of dictatorship emerges.

We all remember the fiery outrage Senator McCain expressed when former President Obama wiretapped the Associated Press in 2013. We can never forget his impassioned speech when Fox News’ James Rosen was on Obama’s DOJ enemies list.

Well… No. We can’t remember outrage that was never expressed, nor can we forget something that never happened. Donald Trump called the press "the enemy of the American people" in a tweet - that got Mr. Straight Talk Express to sit up and take notice.

Given Senator McCain’s estranged relationship with GOP Presidents, we shouldn’t be surprised he’s bashing Trump. You may remember some of Senator McCain’s collusion with Democrats against President George W. Bush. It’s worth a review to recall the full picture.

At best that was about policies. At worst, it was McCain building his own ego. It’s quite another thing to glibly toss about the word “dictator” in response to a question about POTUS criticizing the MSM. The answer to Todd’s question is, “Yes, the press is the enemy of the American people who elected this President, and anyone else who doesn't agree with their Progressive agenda. Get a clue.”

Given Senator McCain’s estranged relationship with the First Amendment, we shouldn’t be surprised he’s selective in citing it. He is, after all, the co-author of the anti-First Amendment Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, eponymously known as McCain-Feingold. Don’t take my word for its unconstitutionality - the Supreme Court has overturned major portions of McCain-Feingold in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., Davis v. Federal Election Commission, and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

If John McCain understood that the First Amendment protects free speech (especially political speech) for all of us he would be too embarrassed to be currying MSM favor by implying Trump is suppressing the free press.

Powerline’s John Hinderaker sums it up nicely,
John, John, get a grip! Who is “suppressing” the press? Do you seriously not understand the difference between criticizing the press and suppressing it? The press is not above criticism. On the contrary, it deserves to be called out constantly for bias and inaccuracy. President Trump has taken a good step in that direction, but a great deal more press criticism is in order.

Also: not calling on CNN in a White House press conference does not constitute “suppressing” CNN.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Presser

I have criticized Donald Trump for his Twitter obsession; an ongoing "flurry of 140 character mind farts."

On reflection, I've changed my mind. I prefer that over 75 minute press conferences consisting of self interruptions every 140 characters.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Please, Mr. President, help us out

A thoughtful defense of the raid on Al-Qaeda in Yemen, in which Navy SEAL Ryan Owens and a number of Yemeni civilians were killed. It notes that the planning took place under the previous President and castigates the "journalism" practiced. RTWT

It also illustrates what is already so wearying about Trump's Presidency. A slice:
Rather than respond with reason and logic, however, Trump did what Trump does — tweeted personal insults.
There's every sign that this will go on for Four. More. Years. I get the argument that the MSM is so corrupt that such behavior may be necessary, but Reagan was equally vilified and didn't stoop to such tactics.

As usual in these cases, the administration's response was needlessly strident, full of insults premised on slipshod exaggeration, distracting and petty. It is a) exactly opposite of what one expects in a leader, b) behavior calculated to enrage a peer, and c) cause for dismissal of a subordinate. There's no place for it. None.

For those not on the train, but who would nevertheless like to see Trump do well, it's exhausting. It's alienating. It's embarrassing. How many times can one drag oneself to the barricades to defend the boorish, simplistic flurry of 140 character mind farts? Mike Pence must be wondering.

Even the hard core of true believers must eventually get tired of all the whining.

It's not going well. All the more so when Trump is actually right.

Sad.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump trade

Protectionism is simply a method of redistributing wealth from consumers to favored groups, like the UAW. By definition, it reduces our freedom, strengthens the regulatory State, encourages rent-seekers and wastes resources.

People favor it because, per Bastiat, the negative effects are unseen.

Monday, January 30, 2017

That could have gone better

Predictably, Trump supporters are praising the President's executive order on immigration despite its flaws. Even more predictably, his detractors are invoking their Hitler analogies and ignoring the fact that the countries targeted come from a list developed by the Obama administration, who actually did use it to discriminate - against Christians.

If the Left wants ever more of this sort of thing, they should keep ramping up their hysterical whining.

Yes, the EO was not very well thought out since it stopped green card holders from entering the United States. They've already been subjected to sufficiently extreme vetting that holding them overnight isn't going to help fight terrorism. They spent months or years waiting to become legal immigrants. The Administration belatedly recognized this and reversed itself. An unforced error.

It's merely the most recent example of Trump's idea that he knows more about everything than anybody. I.e., he's not Hitler, he's simply impulsive and ignorant in the manner of big government authoritarians like Barack Obama and every Democrat in Congress, if more crude.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thank God that's over

It's an immense relief that Barack Obama no longer occupies the White House, nor can be referred to as "President."

Hail to the Chief.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Mr. Thompson* speaks

“I have a Twitter account," is the populist version of “I have a pen and phone.”

You might say these are just negotiating positions, but if the negotiating positions are immoral, where do the negotiations end up?

On health care
“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us."
No, I get it. If you can’t pay for it we’ll steal it from others.

“In some circles,” is worthy of an Obama speech.

"It’ll be another plan. But they’ll be beautifully covered. I don’t want single-payer. What I do want is to be able to take care of people,”
Depends on your definition of “plan” and “single-payer,” I suppose: Direct from the Feds, or from insurance companies run by the Feds. A distinction without a difference. The former is socialist, the latter fascist. Both are statist.
“The question of whether the government should start negotiating how much it pays drugmakers for older Americans on Medicare has long been a partisan dispute, ever since the 2003 law that created Medicare drug benefits prohibited such negotiations.”
There's a reason for that: It wouldn't have passed if it put the Feds in control of pricing drugs. It was a partisan (a question of principle) issue when one party promoted fascism and the other paid lip service to free markets. Even that small distinction is being dissolved. The question that’s been forgotten is whether the government should be doing this at all. Just like “repeal and replace” is surrender because it assumes Obamacare should be replaced.

On tariffs

“Trump then attacked another carmarker, previosuly [sic] unnoticed by the president-elect, when he warned the United States will impose a border tax of 35 percent on cars that German carmaker BMW plans to build at a new plant in Mexico and export to the U.S. market.”
Now foreign companies are to be punished for operating in Mexico? Actually, it’s Mexico and American consumers being punished.

Ask yourself what Hank Reardon would have said.


*Mr. Thompson was US "Head of State" in Atlas Shrugged.
"He is not particularly intelligent and has a very undistinguished look. He knows politics, however, and is a master of public relations and back-room deals. Rand's notes indicate that she modeled him on President Harry S. Truman, and that she deliberately decided not to call him "President of the United States" as this title has "honorable connotations" which the character does not deserve."

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Econ 001

If you read the brief articles below, you'll have a better understanding of the obstacles the President elect faces in implementing his economic agenda, and you'll understand the damage much of that agenda will do.

Reason Magazine:
A Stronger Economy Will Also Destroy Jobs, but It’s Necessary
Luddites need not apply.

The Brookings Institution:
Global economic forces conspire to stymie U.S. manufacturing
Stopping productivity increases will preserve jobs for some and destroy jobs for many others. All of them will be poorer.

The Foundation for Economic Education:
Taxing Global Trade Is Not Deregulation
The Regulatory State is where you find it.

I heard some guy named Sexton (guest hosting for Rush) making excuses for cronyism and protectionism on Tuesday. Hannity, too (while flipping stations).

The corruption of conservatism is well underway. These guys only ever paid lip service to the idea of small government. They’re just fine with Statism if the “right people” are in charge.

Cafe Hayek:
Trump’s Ignorance Is Matched Only by His Thuggishness
Remember when Obama screwed GM bondholders and fired the CEO? Donald Trump probably liked that. Conservatives didn't.

Now, apparently, we're supposed to cheer the big bully in the pulpit.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

"Offshoring" meets automation

These jobs aren't coming back no matter how much the President-elect threatens Apple:
After announcing its 40,000 robot workforce in October, Foxconn (OTC:FXCOF) is automating production at its factories in China in three phases, aiming to fully automate entire factories eventually.
If the average Foxconn employee making Apple products gets $3.00 an hour (it's probably closer to $3.00 a day), and those jobs are being eliminated by automation, we don't want them back.

Robots cost the same to operate everywhere.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Seen and Unseen

The other side of manufacturing job loss: Global Trade Is Why Your Television Did Not Cost $6,200 Like It Did in 1964

Automation has also destroyed manufacturing jobs while benefiting consumers.* As automation creeps into other industries, it becomes a much bigger threat than foreign labor. We need a leader with a plan for that challenge, not one who wants to raise consumer prices through protectionist tariffs.

Bringing offshored jobs back - when most of those jobs are going to be automated out of existence - is the opposite of visionary.

*U.S. manufacturing productivity has steadily increased since 1950.

Monday, December 19, 2016

No, really

The WaPo says, The electoral college is thwarting our ability to battle global warming
[T]he electoral college will have a lasting legacy on all of our lives through climate change. The combination of two administrations headed by presidents who lost the popular vote has and will slow our progress down, and that delay contributes to an ever worsening global climate problem.
You needn't bother to RTWT.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Phish Called John

How John Podesta's email was hacked.

Oh, those dastardly Russian phishing trawlers. Hillary lost the election because they used an ultra-sophisticated hacking program only a State-sponsored entity could deploy. Then they used mind control rays to get Podesta's aide to click on a suspicious link.

A 10 year old script kiddie could have pulled this off, even if he wasn't a Nigerian Prince.

And, let’s not forget that what Podesta’s emails mainly revealed was the actual rigging of an American election by the DNC: The Democratic primaries. It’s why Debbie Wosname Schultz resigned as DNC Chairman.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hacking the easy things first

There are suggestions by the CIA that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta's email for the purpose of helping Trump win the election. The FBI disagrees. The CIA also apparently claims the Republican National Committee was hacked, but the Russians deliberately withheld release of any information gathered by that hack.

Reince Priebus denies the RNC was hacked, and says that after conferring with the FBI.

An alternative explanation for the hack of the DNC and Podesta is that some entity other than Russia easily found the means to get into those servers via Hillary Clinton's unprotected private server. There's more public evidence pointing to that than there is to the Russians.

Update: Dec 13 10:50AM
Top U.S. spy agency has not embraced CIA assessment on Russia hacking

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The $7 million being taken from Indiana taxpayers and given to Carrier

...(a United Technologies company) is really small potatoes.

If you take nearly a billion dollars in government carrots and the Feds are a big client, where do you hide when Trump swings the 35% tariff stick? Behind your lobbyists?

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Cronies and corporatists

The Myth of Clean Politics

Exactly what I've said about lobbyists. If they can't turn a favor or donation into a multi-million dollar contract or sweetheart regulation they'll stop lobbying.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Carrier

The President Elect's success in keeping 1,000 Carrier jobs in Indiana is great PR. While it depends in part on 7 million dollars in state tax rebates, the silver lining is that this might cause people to wonder why all businesses don't get such a tax break. At the Federal level Mr. Trump is promising exactly that, as well as reducing the Federal regulatory burden.

Unfortunately, he's simultaneously proposing another regulation, reviving his threats of a 35% tariff on goods produced by American based companies if they move manufacturing overseas. Apparently, this won't apply to Trump apparel since it's always been made in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Mexico or other countries where labor is cheaper.

Like George W. Bush's steel tariffs, this is a bad idea that would damage American consumers (including businesses) to favor a small group of workers.

Some (Chao, De Vos and Mnuchin aren't exactly swamp drainers) of his choices for Cabinet positions have been good, so it's too bad he's keeping his campaign promises on trade. Mr. Trump's businesses have depended on government subsidies and regulatory exemptions and he's showing every sign that he thinks that's good "industrial policy."

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Oh, No Canada!

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the death of the monster Fidel Castro:
“It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.

“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.

“While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante”.

“I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.

“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”
Mocking follows: #trudeaueulogy

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Vegetarian Mandate

On October 31st I wrote:
It’s so simple, just find a big 'social problem' with dozens, or hundreds, of different causes and impose a single 2,000 page solution. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this approach to solve the obesity epidemic. We’ll just put nutrition labels on candy machines, ban soft drinks over 16 ounces and move toward taxing calories.
While we've already done the first two of those things, the part about taxing calories was half tongue-in-cheek. I needn't have worried that it was over the top, though I did get the wrong social problem. I should have known "Climate Change" would be the real reason: UK Researchers: Tax Food to Reduce Climate Change
“Emissions pricing of foods would generate a much needed contribution of the food system to reducing the impacts of global climate change,” said Dr Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, who led the study. “We hope that’s something policymakers gathering this week at the Marrakech climate conference will take note of.”

Much of the emissions reduction would stem from higher prices and lower consumption of animal products, as their emissions are particularly high. The researchers found that beef would have to be 40% more expensive globally to pay for the climate damage caused by its production. The price of milk and other meats would need to increase by up to 20%, and the price of vegetable oils would also increase significantly.
This is a perfect example of MIT Technology Review editor David Rotman's demand for an updated command-and-control industrial policy:
[There is a] compelling argument that we need more coherent and deliberate strategic planning in tackling our economic problems, especially in finding more effective ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions
The 2000 pages needed to implement this will consist of 1) tax credits for pregnant mothers, exemptions for starving third worlders and waivers for Senators and Congressmen and their aides; 2) lobbyist provisions for Archer Daniels Midland; 3) definition of the bureaucratic requirements; 4) determination of the amount of tax for protein content, say tofu vs. hamburger; 5) surtaxes based on greenhouse gas contribution variation due to processing and transportation; 6) all manner of amendments entirely unrelated to the taxing of food and 7) other things you'll have to read the bill to find out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lobbyists

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's recent rant about lobbyists in the Trump transition team (just before they were all sent packing) brings me once again to editor David Rotman's MIT Technology Review article Capitalism Behaving Badly. Specifically this:
[W]e should admit that markets are created and shaped by government policies, including government support of innovation.
If we are to admit that markets are created and shaped by government, we also must admit that lobbying is created by government as a protective reaction to that regulatory manipulation 'market' creation and shaping.

Don Boudreaux puts it well at Cafe Hayek
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is upset that President-elect Trump’s transition team includes many corporate lobbyists (“Elizabeth Warren Criticizes Donald Trump Over Lobbyists in Transition Team,” Nov. 15). Well now. Sen. Warren is second-to-none at empowering Uncle Sam to exercise broad discretionary powers over corporate affairs – powers that, if exercised one way, yield that company hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits or, if exercised another way, saddle that company with hundreds of millions of dollars of additional costs. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that corporations work diligently to have their voices heard among the din of everyone clamoring for the new emperor’s attention.

For Sen. Warren to be upset that Trump’s transition team is filled with hordes of corporate lobbyists panting for political favors is akin to a Madam being upset that her bawdyhouse is filled with hordes of men panting for female favors.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
Lobbying is protected by the First Amendment. Even absent Constitutional protection, lobbying would continue at a level commensurate with the degree to which government creates and shapes markets, only it would be more nefarious - say like the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play shenanigans.

Meanwhile, the House GOP beat back a plan by some of its own members* to restore internal super-lobbying by reinstating earmarks.

*Who should now be Primaried.

Update 1:15PM: In the interests of naming names, "Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama, and Tom Rooney of Florida are listed as sponsors of the amendment."

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day

In Flanders Fields
Canadian Army Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Congratulations to the President Elect

All the best of luck to Donald Trump. I sincerely hope he turns out to be the President his most fervent voters expect.

My favorite parts so far are the tears, anger, confusion and whining from the Democrats. Best part of the outcome? Clinton Inc. is finished.

Well done Mr. Trump.

Monday, October 31, 2016

What has government done to you lately?

...would be a better headline.

What’s Government Done For You Lately?
Here is the core error of the 20th century: the belief that government can accomplish anything with enough intelligence, resources, and power. It afflicted regimes all over the world from Lenin’s 100 years ago to Obama’s today (and this will also be true of any probable successor). This theory built massive bureaucracies, justified vast wars, and drove the creation a legal and regulatory apparatus of unprecedented imperial reach.

The faith survives today, though with ever less conviction. Failure after failure has even sown doubts among ruling-class intellectuals and mainstream politicians. But because so much of the state apparatus – and the strategies that collect money from the public to fund it – are based on this model, a shift away from the paradigm will not come easily.
This, of course, is the central problem with David Rotman's MIT Technology Review article promoting a small tweak to traditional top down economic planning as if it were a wholesale change instead of an exercise in relabeling:
[Dani] Rodrik [an economist at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government] said in an interview that while “unfortunately” we’re stuck with the label “industrial policy,” today’s versions are very different from ones conceived decades ago. Rather than singling out a specific sector—say, aerospace or steel manufacturing—for support with large investments and tax incentives, new thinking suggests working across sectors to achieve a desired goal such as addressing climate change, using tools such as carbon pricing...

Take, for example, the failure of the solar company Solyndra. It is often held up as the kind of thing that occurs when government picks winners. But, writes Rodrik, Solyndra failed largely because competing technologies got much cheaper. Such outcomes are not necessarily an indictment of industrial policies. The real problem, Rodrik argues: the U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee program that supported the solar company had a mixed set of goals, from creating jobs to competing with China to helping fund new energy technologies. What’s more, it did not properly define procedures for evaluating the progress of potential loan recipients and, importantly, terminating support to those companies when appropriate. Instead, according to Rodrik, in the absence of such rules, money was lent to Solyndra for political reasons...
The problem with Solyndra, then, was a mixed set of explicitly political goals applied to a specific sector subject to intense competition. The solution to such bad industrial policy is to apply explicitly political impediments to all economic activity. The competition will then be for government favors, like suspending the Obamacare cadillac tax.

No more picking winners and losers, no siree, we’ll just apply general taxes on carbon the government will conjure a 'market' in carbon. Do you believe it will be politically neutral, remain focused on the single problem, and with properly defined procedures for evaluating the continuing necessity for the market? I.e., that the bureaucrats running the scheme will ever even look for reasons to suspend it? If so, you must believe that Obamacare has fulfilled its promises.

It’s so simple, just find a big 'social problem' with dozens, or hundreds, of different causes and impose a single 2,000 page solution. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this approach to solve the obesity epidemic. We’ll just put nutrition labels on candy machines, ban soft drinks over 16 ounces and move toward taxing calories.

That this is still picking winners and losers, such as Warren Buffet’s wind farms versus Peabody Coal’s entire business, seems not to occur to these capos of industry.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Stick to your knitting

I keep thinking about the MIT Technology Review article mentioned in my previous post.

Editor of Technology Review David Rotman strays into territory far removed from his magazine's titular mission by reviewing Rethinking Capitalism:
A series of essays by authors including Joseph Stiglitz, an economist at Columbia University who won a Nobel Prize in 2001, and Mariana Mazzucato, a professor of the economics of innovation at the University of Sussex… Together, the essays provide a compelling argument that we need more coherent and deliberate strategic planning in tackling our economic problems, especially in finding more effective ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions…

[The book attempts] to counter the view that free markets inevitably lead to desirable outcomes and that freer markets are always better: the faith that “the ‘invisible hand’ of the market knows best.” In fact, she argues, we should admit that markets are created and shaped by government policies, including government support of innovation.
What keeps me coming back to it are the straw men, unconscious assumptions and the anti-scientism buried throughout. Economics is neither technology nor science, nor does Mr. Rotman even understand it.

First up, "[T]he essays provide a compelling argument that we need more coherent and deliberate strategic planning in tackling our economic problems, especially in finding more effective ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions."

Government intervention never works out to be either coherent or strategic: Obamacare is an example where the government lent its full weight in time, expertise, money, subversion of the political process and publicly repeated big lies. Thank god it was health care and not the "Affordable Energy Act."

Fracking for natural gas has done more to reduce carbon emissions than a dozen Solyndras - despite government opposition.

Second, I know of no one who claims “free markets inevitably lead to desirable outcomes." Free markets lead to better outcomes than manipulated markets, and that includes failure when freely invested private money is lost. This Obamaesque straw-man premise additionally implies that if free markets aren’t perfect we must turn to government for such perfection.

Admitting that “markets are created and shaped by government,” begs a question while assuming a conclusion. It’s true that governments choose to create and shape markets. No natural law says they have to, but if Rotman’s admiring analysis is correct, Mazzucato takes this as a given. However, it is something governments choose to do. As Rotman later grudgingly concedes, this choice is rife with drawbacks.

In fact, placing the average bureaucrat as market arbiter is only better than the free market if that bureaucrat’s decisions are consistently better: More informed, more enlightened, more efficient, than free choice market decisions. This never happens. Assuming command-and-control industrial policy as an immutable consequence of having government indicates such endeavors aren’t market-based at all.

Finally, “government support of innovation,” can be accomplished passively. Ask John Cowperthwaite.

Mazzucato and Rotman only see government support as beneficial when it is active market intervention. A fair look at this question would also include examination of the ways in which government stifles innovation with command-and-control industrial policies, not the least of which is the misdirection of resources and prevention of new ways of doing business. Examples are growing corn for ethanol and taxing Uber to protect existing taxi businesses.

To summarize, Mr. Rotman proposes that government should do a better job when it actively creates and shapes markets. No one would disagree government should do better. The question begged is whether government should be actively involved at all. It would "do better" if it weren't.

Free markets are not perfect nor ever claimed to be. They are better than any alternative, and, as repeatedly demonstrated, vastly better than command-and-control industrial policies.

I think I’ll be doing more detailed fisking of other bits of this horrendous MIT article in future posts.