Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Busted Formula By: Eric Sprott & David Franklin

This analysis by Eric Sprott shows the folly of relying on government bail outs to "stimulate" our way out of the recession. As he concludes,

The key point to remember with bailouts and stimulus is that it’s ultimately your money that the government is spending – and your children’s money. The numbers strongly suggest that your money isn’t being spent wisely. We need real jobs and real growth, not bigger, more leveraged banks. The market isn’t oblivious – it can see what’s happening. Gold’s recent strength in lieu of seemingly ‘deflationary’ economic data confirms the market’s doubts over government intervention in the financial system.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Smuggled Premises: Elena Kagan and the military

While watching ABC's This Week Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Republican Jeff Sessions debated the merits of Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. One exchange caught me as an example of how premises can be smuggled into a debate without being challenged. At one point Sessions commented on how Kagan didn't allow military recruiters onto the Harvard campus. Leahy challenged the accuracy of Sessions' account and retorted with how Kagan supports those who serve in the military.

I don't want to get into whose version of this story was more accurate. What is more interesting, to me anyway, is that Sessions did not address what I think is a glaring error in Leahy's argument. The fact that one supports those who have volunteered for a career in the military does not mean you automatically support the military as an institution. When we first got into the Afghanistan and Iraq wars I heard a number of people say they supported our troops but not their mission in these wars. I also know people personally who support our troops but harbor a deep disdain for the military. I think there are a number of reasons for this which I'll get into at another time. But I think this little vignette shows the perils of not challenging someone's argument. By letting Leahy's claim slip by with no comment Sessions lost a prime opportunity to draw Leahy into a discussion of what he or Kagan truly think about the role of the military. Do they believe the U.S. has the moral right to maintain military superiority over those countries that are not our allies?

For a nicely balanced analysis of Kagan's position on this see the article posted on The Volokh Conspiracy.

Harvard astrophysicist dismisses AGW theory, challenges peers to 'take back climate science'

In this interview of Dr. Willie Soon, a solar and climate scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Dr. Soon pulls no punches. This is important because now that the Obama administration has health care reform behind them (I think) their next target is going to be cap-and-trade using global warming as part of their argument.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Postmodernism: A Unified Theory of All the Trouble in the World

I've referred to the role of postmodernism in a number of issues such as global warming. This article does a nice job expanding on the influence of postmodernism.

Postmodernism: A Unified Theory of All the Trouble in the World

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What is enough?

Earlier this week I saw a post titled Obama and Sowell: who can tell when people have made enough money? on the always-excellent neo-neocon about a speech Obama gave regarding the recent push for financial reform. Neo-neocon’s post has the following quote from this speech (which, in the interest of full disclosure, I have not dug up and read, yet).

Here is the quote.

“We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy.”

Neo-neocon’s response:

One of the most interesting things about the Obama quote under discussion is that, if you look at his scripted speech, he was trying to do his version of supporting what Sowell says—that is, of praising the power of capitalism’s ability to allow the aggregate forces of private enterprise and personal initiative to grow an economy. He knows that’s the American way, and that it is necessary for a president to pay some sort of lip service to it. But he couldn’t help blurting out what for him is the truth—that he doesn’t really believe in it at all—and that he and the other brilliant intellectuals surrounding him know much better, both practically and morally.

Let’s unpack what he says. There is a lot in this one paragraph consisting of four sentences.

“I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” Enough for whom and for what? Is the $5,000,000 Obama made last year primarily from his book sales the level that demarks what is enough? What happens if you exceed what is considered “enough”? Does the government cap it so you can’t receive it? Is it taxed at a 100% rate? Notice too the elitism inherent in this statement, that he and his cohorts know better than the rest of us what is “enough.”

“But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service.” Maybe I’m reading too much into his choice of words but it seems as though he harbors disdain for what is known as the American dream, especially with his choice of “just keep on making it.” Apparently once you’ve had enough you’re supposed to do what? Stop? Give away what is considered excess? Or, if you’re enlightened like Obama you don’t strive to just keep on making money in the first place.

“We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy.” Here he seems to be saying that the justification for people succeeding economically is not because it is their right to do so (provided they’re not violating the rights of others). No, he seems to be saying it’s OK for them to succeed (up to a point defined by him, of course) as long as it’s fulfilling a responsibility to grow our economy (i.e., benefit others). I don’t see personal economic success and benefiting others as necessarily being mutually exclusive. Obama seems to be hinting that this success is justified only because others benefit too.

I would argue that socialism and planned economies, which aim to stifle or punish the individual drive for success while supposedly helping the “disadvantaged” accomplishes less of both than free markets. While the free market does a better job of enabling people to achieve personal economic success and benefiting others through the ripple effect of this success in creating opportunities for others or by generating the tax revenue the government needs to fund programs that help others. And that for me is more than enough.