Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who is Jane Galt?

I can't recall reading a single thing of Megan McArdle's on my own volition. All I know of her "philosophy" is what others have linked to, like my friends Billy Beck and jk have done.

But I've read enough snippets to see that she's a fraud and/or an idiot. Whatever she is, she's no libertarian. Jane Galt?! Anyone remotely familiar with Rand, who does not necessarily agree, should realize how the name doesn't fit. Yet she excuses herself: "Then there's the taxation is theft crowd. I'm sorry if my nom de blog fooled you, but I'm not that sort of libertarian."

Even without her admission, anyone with a modicum of cognitive capacity should be able to see through her: can the fox impersonate the hen merely by slapping on a few feathers? In the same way, it takes more than a "freedom" belief on a few social issues to be a "libertarian," which is to say that anyone who believes in redistribution of wealth, to any extent really, is no libertarian. No genuine libertarian, then, could possibly support a candidate like Obama whose platform is entirely about redistribution.

So how can she call herself a "libertarian," or has the word simply lost all meaning that the likes of McArdle can call herself one? When even Sean Hannity says, "We're pretty libertarian on this show," you know that what once had a specific denotation has succumbed to a perverted connotation. Has the word really become so diluted, in the same way Obama can downplay his outright socialism by calling himself a "progressive," and McCain can downplay his own form of "conservative" socialism by invoking Teddy Roosevelt? Or are libertarians so desperate for political success, instead of staying true to their principles, that they've come to accept a "big tent" philosophy of accepting McArdle and other liberals? Yes, she's just a liberal, in the modern sense: socially similar to real libertarians, but rejecting economic freedom.

I don't know how I came across it, but whenever I hear the idiot's insulting pseudonym, I think back to her "children are a special libertarian case" post:
I not only think that the state should intervene if parents are abusive, should garnish the paychecks of reluctant parents, and should ensure that parents attend to the health of their children, but also believe that the state should provide high-quality education and health care for children under the age of eighteen (plus pregnant women who can't afford prenatal care). Now, many would argue that in so believing, I have forfeited any right to call myself a libertarian. But if this be treason, make the most of it.
And how exactly does "the state" provide anything? By taking from one person and giving to another, and/or forcibly preventing a private person from making a competing offer. That is the only way that government can supply goods and services. Oftentimes the two methods work together, by government subsidizing social services and thus pricing out private competitors.

Remember the pig in the "California Cheese" commercials trying to pass himself off as a cow? There you go.

Even the use of "treason" is absurd. It can be called "treason" (whether or not it's true) only when the one being betrayed had an expectation -- legitimate or not -- of "loyalty." Libertarianism, whether a system of beliefs or a political party, inherently rests on the principle of voluntary association, so it could have never expected anything from McArdle, or me, or anyone. Thus it's logically impossible for McArdle to commit "treason."

What about Friedrich Hayek, to whom certain progressives point to as having supported a welfare state? For as he wrote in The Road to Serfdom:
The successful use of competition does not preclude some types of government interference. For instance, to limit working hours, to require certain sanitary arrangements, to provide an extensive system of social services is fully compatible with the preservation of competition. There are, too, certain fields where the system of competition is impracticable. For example, the harmful effects of deforestation or of the smoke of factories cannot be confined to the owner of the property in question. But the fact that we have to resort to direct regulation by authority where the conditions for the proper working of competition cannot be created does not prove that we should suppress competition where it can be made to function. To create conditions in which competition will be as effective as possible, to prevent fraud and deception, to break up monopolies— these tasks provide a wide and unquestioned field for state activity. This does not mean that it is possible to find some “middle way” between competition and central direction, though nothing seems at first more plausible, or is more likely to appeal to reasonable people. Mere common sense proves a treacherous guide in this field. Although competition can bear some admixture of regulation, it cannot be combined with planning to any extent we like without ceasing to operate as an effective guide to production. Both competition and central direction become poor and inefficient tools if they are incomplete, and a mixture of the two - means that neither will work. Planning and competition can be combined only by planning for competition, not by planning against competition. The planning against which all our criticism is directed is solely the planning against competition.


But there are two kinds of security: the certainty of a given minimum of sustenance for all and the security of a given standard of life, of the relative position which one person or group enjoys compared with others. There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision. It is planning for security of the second kind which has such an insidious effect on liberty. It is planning designed to protect individuals or groups against diminutions of their incomes.
First, Hayek hardly argued for anything approaching the level of "high-quality education and health care for children under the age of eighteen."

Second, Hayek certainly never supported anyone so overtly Marxist like Obama and Biden. Even Nixon's pseudo-conservative approach to "stabilizing" inflation, wages and prices, no matter how "in the interest of the people" they ostensibly were, appalled Hayek and anyone else who understands the price mechanism.

Third, I find it easy to forgive Hayek. In TRTS he didn't seem to quite grasp the idea that if the state is to provide this minimum measure of "equality," that itself is the start of the road to serfdom. I don't think he had completely thought things out by the time he wrote the book, but after all, he did live five more decades after its first publication. By the same token, what if someone pointed to my (thankfully short-lived) enamoration with Marxist revolutions as a teenager, or even to my early blog entries when I was altogether too conservative? So for anyone to point to TRTS and say, "Aha, even a great Austrian supported a welfare state," is dishonest at minimum.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

The efficiency of Chinese central planning: over 1 billion starved

I almost shuddered when I read this article:
BEIJING (AP) — China's ruling Communist Party on Sunday said it would seek to expand its massive internal market to counter the global economic slowdown that has reduced international demand for Chinese goods.

The party, led by President Hu Jintao, released a statement at the end of a four-day meeting of its Central Committee where it also approved a plan aimed at doubling rural incomes by 2020.

"We should step up efforts to boost domestic demand, particularly domestic consumption and keep the economy, the financial sector and the capital market stable," the party said in a statement released through the official Xinhua News Agency.

The party also recognized inherent "contradictions and problems" with China's economy and said all members should prepare for greater challenges as the global financial crisis unfolds.

China faces difficulties from high energy costs and inflation, but officials say the country has growth potential despite global uncertainties because of its large labor pool, vast domestic market and the increasing competitiveness of its companies.

Economists have cut China's growth forecasts to as low as 9 percent for the year, down from last year's 11.9 percent. That would be the highest rate for any major country, but Communist leaders want to keep growth robust to reduce poverty and avoid job losses, which could fuel political tensions.

China lowered interest rates Wednesday in an effort to revive slowing economic growth and help struggling exporters.

The party said it aims to double the income of the country's farmers — currently around $590 per person a year — over 12 years to ease the growing and politically explosive gulf between the urban elite who have benefited most from China's two-decade-old economic boom and its vast poor majority.
To anyone familiar with China's modern history, this should evoke recollections of how well Mao's "Great Leap Forward" did, which was launched under similar rhetoric.

Even if everything goes as "planned," doubling over 12 years is about 5.95% consistent annual growth, meaning China's rural poor will still be left behind. So much for equality under communism.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Reichstag fire of the financial world

Wake up, people!

I haven't seen anyone compare today to 1933 Germany, but I told a friend on Tuesday -- i.e. before the latest developments that only proved me correct -- that what we're looking at really is a Reichstag fire: an excuse for government to declare an "emergency" and assume totalitarian powers in response to the "crisis," with the vast majority of the people so blind to the real story that they wholeheartedly embrace the new tyranny.

The simple truth: there is no liquidity/credit crisis, other than what's been engineered. But the U.S. and several European governments want us to believe this myth of a "crisis," so that we'll turn to them as our saviors.

Their motive is so obvious now: the U.S. and these European governments have the ultimate goal of nationalizing their respective banking systems. Iceland has already nationalized its three largest banks, while Germany and the other major economies have already established "shields" that are ostensibly to protect account holders. And now the U.S. Treasury might start "injecting liquidity" into banks -- in exchange for ownership. This article has a nice picture of Chuck Schumer, who knows all about spreading rumors to spur the collapse of an otherwise solvent bank -- so that the feds could take it over in the name of "protecting" depositors. George W. Bush and Hank Paulson have now taken that to a new level that even FDR would envy.

As I've explained here and here in comments at friends' blogs, there is in fact no shortage of money to lend, only a lack of lenders' willingness to lend it out -- that might seem semantics, but there's a big difference!

It won't matter who wins the election. Under Bush, we've already trudged enough on the road to nationalization of education, health care, energy and now finance. Soon it will all be complete. Good heavens, people, wake up.

Sigh, sometimes I feel like the few of us who understand are Cassandras, who won't be believed until too late. But I did reach someone tonight, a friend who's been wondering about these economic happenings and asked for my opinion. Now he sees. But we aren't enough.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Not just irony, but hypocrisy: liberals criticize McCain's socialist proposal

During last night's debate, McCain proposed a $300 billion plan that will buy up mortgages and refinance them. Some call it "ambitious," while Obama and his supporters say it won't work. But why the criticism from the same people who supported the $300 billion "housing bill" (which, unfortunately, already has begun -- one week ago today)? Congress eagerly passed it and Bush even more eagerly added his signature. McCain's proposal is merely an amplification, expansion, whatever you want to call it, of what the FHA is doing. If McCain's plan "won't work," then how can we expect the existing one to work when it does the same thing? Albeit on a smaller scale, and perhaps not with precisely the same details, but both have the same bottom line: Peter and Paul get to pay taxes to pay off part of Mary's mortgage, never mind that Mary alone got herself into the trouble.

The reason it won't work, the critics say, is because it will buy up or refinance homes at greater than their true value. Gee, as if the first $300 billion wasn't doing that? As if the federal government isn't already doing that with the absurd $700 billion to buy up "distressed" securities that nobody would buy at the prices the federal government is offering?

And the federal government in the housing and securities bailouts is using its own subjective valuation methodology it can, while imposing mark-to-market on private lenders. As my ThreeSources friends and I recently discussed, the FDIC forces lenders to stop lending, despite any cash deposits on hand that could easily be lent out, if the lenders suddenly find themselves with negative net assets under mark-to-market -- notwithstanding that subjective valuation could very well mean that what's worthless today could be worth a lot in the future (tomorrow, next month, in 20 years, any time frame that buyers and sellers use when making a voluntary trade). Subjective valuation means that a piece of land might be worth $1 per acre today, because that's what neighboring land has been selling for, notwithstanding oil deposits that today's technology cannot reach or extract. Yet a bank might be willing to lend money today based on the land's possible future value, as is the bank's right to take such a risk (and depositors can pull their money out if they don't like the risk).

Hypocrites all around. They're not arguing over how much to spend, only how. May they all drown in their own bile.

Even without McCain's addition to this year's socialism, the sheer amount of new federal spending means that the next president, Republican or Democrat, will likely hike taxes by the most ever. I can't see how bond markets will support the massive debt required to fund everything, putting aside the immorality of making our children and grandchildren pay for our profligacy today! There will be a point at which investors will balk at buying more U.S. bonds -- yes, even ours! They'll judge that the U.S. economy couldn't possibly withstand the higher tax rates required to pay off all the debt. We might be at that point sooner than we'd like to think. Thanks to Bush rubber-stamping Democrats' social spending, and Democrats reciprocating by funding his wars, federal debt has surged over $4.3 trillion since Bush took office. And we still have a few months left, God help us.

Labels: , , , , , ,

See if you can spot the inconsistencies

Here are three partial screenshots that I took this afternoon, the first two just before 4 p.m., and the second at around 4:30. The second, as you can tell from the text, is the "Stocks Up on Bargain Hunting" article whose headline you see in the first. Notice the timestamp.

Now, look carefully at the three.

Good heavens, does this "Kristina Cooke" regularly turn in such sloppy and outdated reporting, and how much of a goddamn fool is her editor to let something like this go?

Defining "irony": when Germany balks at socialism

Some are criticizing Germany's Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck for talking about "orderly unwinding", but what really angered the rest of Europe was when he had the audacity to object to a continent-wide collective bailout: "The chancellor and I reject a European shield because we as Germans do not want to pay into a big pot where we do not have control and do not know where German money might be used." He also said, "It's already quite enough that German taxpayers have to pay for the antics of banks which set up in Dublin in order to escape German taxes."

And then Economy Minister Michael Glos said:
"An emergency European plan, such as the one currently being discussed by the banks, is a distraction from what they themselves must do," Glos told the Bild am Sonntag in an interview to appear Sunday.

The banks must "put in place measures to restore mutual confidence," Glos said, adding: "There is no more confidence in the banks. That is the primary cause of the financial crisis."

Glos declared bankers were "very well paid" and that it time for them "to show they deserve their salaries."

"To ask the government to put taxpayers' money at risk by creating a fund to reduce debt ...and ward off the loss of confidence to me seems unjustifiable," Glos said.
Imagine that: one of the major socialist countries in the world, which has no problem redistributing wealth among its individual citizens, balks at its (remaining) wealth being redistributed to other nations, since this continental bailout will leave Germany footing much of the bill! Yet it shouldn't be surprising once we consider German politics of the last several decades. Remember, its so-called "fascism" was in fact proudly defined as national socialism, which, just like its "enemy" Mother Russia, meant full economic control by the state, with a top layer of extreme nationalism to keep the people's energies focused on anything but individual freedom. Socialism within itself, only for itself.

What will it take for enough individual Germans will wake up from their collectivist stupor, and wonder why they already "pay [taxes] into a big pot" whose distributions they neither control nor are aware of? Isn't it "already quite enough that German taxpayers have to pay for the antics of" their own chronically lazy?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

It was solely your fault, Jose Luis Garza

Once in a while, a person demonstrates eating his way to death. Jose Luis Garza weighed 990 pounds when he died today.

Good lord, even with no physical movement at all, he'd have still needed lots of calories every day just to maintain that immense blubber body mass -- at least a few thousand a day, I'm figuring, more than a normal person needs. Just how much was he eating? When I lost 40 pounds last year, I was eating 1500 calories a day, losing about two pounds per week with only moderate running/jogging. To lose one pound of fat, you must burn about 3500 calories. So figure my body needs 2000 calories per day to stay at a stable weight, and 500 calories worth of daily exercise, and I'd burn about 7000 calories per week to lose two pounds of fat.

Jose, though, evidently didn't try to control his eating. That is, control it enough. Near his own demise, he blamed his overeating on his parents' death, but that was only nine months ago. How much weight could he have gained since then?

And of all the absurd things, his brother Pedro blames everyone but Jose. The loon blames the hospital (i.e. government) for not fetching Jose, never mind that there was no ambulance strong enough to transport the fat slob, and that a hospital couldn't do anything for Jose anyway. Jose had to help himself.

And Pedro wants to talk about "support"? What did he do to comfort Jose after their parents died? What did he do to take Jose aside (figuratively speaking, of course) and say, "Hey, you're killing yourself?" A dear friend said to me one day, as I feasted over another breakfast of a bagel, scrambled eggs and sausage, "Perry, you have the worst eating habits of anyone I've ever seen." What did Pedro do for his brother, besides blame others for Jose's slow suicide?