TrumpCare Fails!

Big news: Obamacare is not replaced by Trumpcare.

Do you really want one quarter of the economy and your ability to purchase lifesaving and life improving interventions managed by, designed by, and named after a politician who never delivered any health care or ran an insurance company?

Washington had no computer policy yet IBM, Microsoft, and Silicon Valley developed by voluntary organic self-organization. Somehow we get lots of computer provided products at reasonable or free prices.

Washington had no individual transportation policy, yet Detroit grew and produced cars affordable to the average American. This all occured before Eisenhower created a national highway system.

Washington had no entertainment policy (perhaps entertainment was not important enough to deserve Washington meddling). Now we have free and low cost entertainment that is so good the whole world inports our products.

Washington has no kitchen appliance policy, or footwear policy, or vacation package policy, or book and magazine policy, or (until very recently) Internet policy. All those areas are horrible for consumers, right? Oh, wait.

Where does Washington have it flagship policies?

Well there is housing.  Washington had to intervene in the housing market to encourage more ownership and by the right people. Lets see the results. The housing market experienced an unsustainable bubble and then crashed bankrupting all the banks in the country and the Washington backed mortgage finance companies.  Requiring taxpayers to provide millions or billions of their hard earned money to bail out the housing finance “system” (banks, Freddie Mac, Ginny Mae, mortgage backed securities, etc) or face economic collapse.  Nice work Washington.

Lets look somewhere else.

Well there is college education. To help less advantaged students gain a college education, Washington provided guaranteed, non-dischargeable, subsidized loans to anyone who wanted to dream of a college degree. The waterfall of money led colleges to raise prices to soak up all the free money sitting on the table. Washington certainly benefited the colleges – the local college is the only nice place in most declining areas. From Johns Hopkins in Baltimore to Lafayette in Easton, PA, the college is the only thing with money to make a nice appearance.   Of course, the students cannot repay the loans. Taxpayers will have to have their hard earned dollars used to forgive student loans that never should have been made in the first place.

Well there is the retirement system. Washington said, left on your own you would invest in the American economy hoping it would fund your retirement years. Foolish Americans. The American economy is risky – look at 2008 when the stock market lost over 50% of its value in a few months.  Much better to give your money to the USG in the form of payroll taxes and in return for the USG promising to give you lots of money when you retire. While the USG can borrow unlimited amounts at near zero costs to spend anything it wants, this is a good deal. Greece had the same deal when Germany lent it any amount of euros. When repayment became an issue, Greece became a nation of people looking at tree bark for nutrition. If you like the prospects of the social security system, bravo. Most younger people understand that there will be nothing in the social security system for them in the future. It is a scheme of Washington that will end in tears for most everyone.

What next for our technocratic masters in Washington?

 

 

How Do We Spend for the Tax Increase?

The new administration is talking about reducing business income taxes from the highest in the developed world to one of the lowest.

Everywhere on the TV and in newspapers I see people (the establishment) asking how will we “pay for” the proposed tax reductions. Will it be a new value added tax? a border adjustment tax? something else?

Well, if we have to “pay for” any tax reduction with new taxes, what do we do when taxes are raised. When I buy something I have to pay for it. When I sell something, as in a yard sale, I get to spend for it. So if we have a tax increase, do I get to spend for it?

I suspect the “we” in these formulations are the government and not the people. How will we (the government) pay for a reduction in corporate income tax? In no way. The non-government portion of the country will have more money, the government portion of the country will have less. The only people with a problem about how to pay for tax cuts are the people who get to spend tax revenue.  That is not you and me.

 

The Men Will Retire to the Library for Brandy and Cigars.

Am I mistaken or was it not the norm in upper class households during the Victorian and post-Victorian era for the men and women to go to different rooms for after dinner conversation?

The men’s conversations would be courser; the women’s more genteel. No cad of a man would subject women to the uncensored content of the men’s salon. If a woman entered the men’s library the men would stand and immediately adopt language more fitting for feminine sensibilities.

Now of course, women demand the right to hear and participate in the men’s conversation. After all, if men have it, it must be better than what they were relegated to by the patriarchy.

 

Democratic Strategy

Suppose your party’s candidate is going to lose the election in a landslide. What follows? A resounding mandate for the other side. Lots of effective policy from the office of the widely supported President.

Why just sit and take it? One way to be a spoiler is to delegitimize the other candidate. I believe the FBI passed on Clinton to  avoid stepping into a political turd. First, FBI employees would be vilified and attacked in the mainstream media without mercy. Second, the resulting Trump victory would be viewed by many as not an endorsement of his policies but as the inevitable result of an undemocratic criminal prosecution. Even if you think Hillary personally committed crimes, you probably do not want all the people who believe in her positions disenfranchised.  If there were time for the Democratic Party to put up a replacement candidate you would be perfectly happy with the contest, but there is not.

Now of course you can say she should have thought of that before she betrayed her supporters. In a way, however, people who believe in her politics shouldn’t pay for supporting the only representative of their views on offer.

Much more important is that disqualifying her candidacy delegitimizes her opponent’s victory. Do you want the President selected by the discretionary decision of an FBI director, even if you agree with his conclusion? What of the people who do not agree with his decision? You cannot tell them they lost fair and square in a vote, except with a very sophisticated argument with many logical steps (don’t run criminals and you should know if your candidate is a criminal). Surely a victory at the ballot box without indictment of your opponent is the better foundation for a successful Presidency.

So now it appears criminal investigations of the email server, the foundation, the Dept of State grind onwards towards what? Do these Democrat controlled bureaus really want to bring charges against their candidate three months before the election with no possibility of resolution before the public is asked to decide? Are they impartial dispensers of justice or strategists trying to at least spoil the other side’s victory?

 

Collectivism Sucks

Thomas Szatz claimed that one of the ways people influence or control other people is by literalizing a metaphor.  Wikipedia says that “A metaphor is a figure of speech that refers to something as being the same as another thing for rhetorical effect.” An example might be calling a joke “sick.” A joke might have some similarities to an illness, such as causing revulsion, but no one would say that the teller of sick jokes should be given an antibiotic to stop the practice.

Metaphors work because the comparison conveys an understanding, or is intended to convey an understanding to the listener. When I say “that is a cutting remark,” I mean you to focus on the harmfulness and pain caused by your words.

Often people coin metaphors to try to get you to treat one thing in the way you treat some other thing which has some similar characteristics. When they coined “war on drugs” they meant that we should pursue reducing drug use in a way similar to an all out military operation, as opposed to a police operation or a mental health operation.

A more extreme step its to literalize the metaphor. Getting people to treat one object as exactly the same as another object, even when it is not. I suspect that he eucharist is a literalized metaphor. Jesus said that this bread is my body and this wine is my blood when he knew the jig was up and Rome was soon to arrest him.

Collectivist politicians compare society  to a single organism. A collectivist would have no trouble saying something is in the public interest. Unless the interest is unanimous, there really is no public interest. There is only the interests of individuals. There may be a majority’s interest. In fact politicians would have a much more difficult time selling laws if they were correctly identified as “in the majority’s interest.” The majority of people may be benefited by an FDA that banned drugs not sufficiently shown to the FDA as safe and effective. A minority of gravely ill people denied effective treatments because the FDA is not yet convinced would not be benefited.

Aristotle thought that the art of metaphor cannot be taught.

The question is always whether the metaphor is  apt.   It is possible, however, to recognizing when a metaphor is being literalized. In that case the intent is always to mislead because two different things are never exactly the same in all respects.

 

 

 

Democratic Socialism

Bernie Sanders is not the first person who believed that democracy could produce a kinder and gentler socialism.

Love, as much as it may guide us to greatness, can also blind us to the perilous paths we have chosen. And the perils of democracy are more bountiful than that of any femme fatale. Unfortunately, because democracy flatters the vast majority of the human race with the allure of its siren’s song—its chorus constantly promising “the people” that they are naturally fit to rule—many people today are still quite smitten despite the red flags.

 

These are not flaws of a know-nothing reactionary movement but features of democracy itself.

 

Yet, this may mean we are simply overdue for a massive heartbreak. As unpleasant facts would have it, 2016 appears destined to go down in history as the year when democracy’s scorned lovers finally call her a harsh mistress. Word is, democracy has found a new paramour, one Donald J. Trump, and much to her former lovers’ dismay, she insists on parading around with him in public.

Orwell understood the tendency of socialism to lead to tyranny, but he was an open avowed socialist. He thought democracy could lead to a less murderous form of socialism.

But democracy is turning its back on the Progressives who previously ran things: elites who control academia, the legacy media and certain parts of the US government (State yes, Pentagon no, Presidency sometimes, SCOTUS half and half). Academics get to use the tremendous prestige of “SCIENCE” to influence the public, the press gets to use distortions, omissions, and emotional visuals to influence the public, USG organs use their mantle of authority and expertise to forward their shared agenda.

 

The Progressive State has been winning all contests, taking over industry after industry with regulation (finance, health care, now, the internet).

 

[As an aside it is interesting that Progressives previously took over shipping, railroads, airlines and trucking through tariff regulation until it became clear that the USG was about to destroy all four industries. The Department of Transportation  and Interstate Commerce Commission deregulated airlines and trucking to save the industries, and competition supplied undreamed of inexpensive fares. US flag shipping is probably still moribund.]

 

The elite loved democracy as long as they could panic and guide the public to the results they desired. They loved democracy because they believed it would be a source of power for themselves. We got more and more democracy, direct election of Senators (reducing State power in the Federal government), arguments to replace the electoral college with popular vote, etc.

 

Unfortunately for the elite, several developments now undermine their influence on voters. The Internet gives every citizen the equivalent of a newspaper and a broadcast studio at trivial cost. Donald Trump can do an end run around the spin and filters of the legacy media with his twitter account. Academia is earning black eyes daily which undermines its authority. USG organs are having trouble keeping the public’s trust.

Trump and Friedman on Free Trade

Takeaway line from what Milton was referring to: “Free trade consists simply in letting people buy and sell as they want to buy and sell. It is protection that requires force, for it consists in preventing people from doing what they want to do. Protective tariffs are as much applications of force as are blockading squadrons, and their object is the same—to prevent trade. The difference between the two is that blockading squadrons are a means whereby nations seek to prevent their enemies from trading; protective tariffs are a means whereby nations attempt to prevent their own people from trading. What protection teaches us, is to do to ourselves in time of peace what enemies seek to do to us in time of war..”

Why are “sanctions” (preventing them from engaging in international trade) punishment for Iran and Russia, but a “good thing” for America?

If Russia were in our position, with the world’s reserve currency and control of the SWIFT bank transfer system, etc., and we pissed them off, say, by making Cuba the 51st state, they would punish us by preventing us from importing Ford trucks from Mexico, and we would suffer from that.. It is just as we are trying to punish Russia for Crimea by restricting their ability to import and export. Trump is talking about self inflicted punishment.

Shaming

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame is on a roll over at Scott Adams Blog. His recent post Shame Shaming just plain annoyed me so much I have to respond here. I would respond in comments to his post but he gathers 1,000 comments per post so my comment would be lost. Also you have to register to comment there and that is a pain.

Basically, his thesis [in my interpretation]  is that people are moist robots and free will is an illusion. Nothing should be shamed because everything about people is determined.

He starts with fat-shaming. You should not shame fat people because a person’s appearance is outside of their control. I question that assumption. I have always contended that anyone could lose a pound of weight if some super NSA or CIA agent arrived at their home in the middle of the night and put a gun to their head and said, “There is nothing you can do to stop me from coming back for you in one year wherever you go, and when I do, if you do not weigh one pound less than you do now I will kill you.”

Many fat people who later shape up report that they were just not willing to do something about being fat before and later became motivated and could take the fat off. Scott claims that most civilized people reject fat-shaming, yet my daughter goes to school with many international students and she reports that the Japanese engage in merciless fat-shaming of other Japanese. She thinks it is terrible because the Japanese students are afraid of putting on pounds. She likes the American non-judgmental  attitude. Still, the shamed Japanese have less obesity with fewer health problems cause by it. And their women look much easier on the eye to men, in general.

Mr. Adams says nothing is worthy of shame because no one is actually choosing anything. Even if that is true, in their non-choices people are influenced by incentives. You do not need free will to draw your hand away from a flame. If you are a Japanese student in an American University and you eat french fries to your hearts desire and your friends start to avoid calling you to study together and having a supportive social network is important to you, you might be “determined” to avoid french fries and loose some pounds. You might not actually be choosing of your free will, you might be responding to conditions as a wet robot. In this case shaming is promoting a health and aesthetic good.

More importantly, there is an epistological problem in asserting, as Mr. Adams does, that all your thoughts are determined.  If all your thoughts are determined, it is not relevant if your thoughts comport with reality. If it seems to you that certain thoughts are more logical and align more with evidence, that is merely a determined phenomenon. If I believe that I have free will and judge ideas on their merits, that is just something I have to believe. If Mr. Adams believes he has no free will, it is a conclusion he has to draw. Moreover there is no reason to try to resolve the apparent conflict. The concept “truth” becomes something like “authenticity”. If I am reporting my beliefs accurately that is the best it is possible for me to do. Mr. Adams makes mountains of arguments why Donald Trump is a better persuader than average. Why bother, if what everyone believes they have to believe.  As Pangloss believes, it is the best of all possible worlds.

Perhaps I am missing a subtly of the position. Perhaps the actions of other people on your beliefs are part of what determines what you believe? Of course that is true, I can see it every day. Wait a minute, what I think I see is just a belief I am determined to have. Reality may be that the actions of other people have no effect on my beliefs, or have the opposite effect that I believe I see. Why do I believe in causality? My belief in causality may be determined regardless of the evidence for or against it. Contra-causality may be the rule of the world, but I just can’t see it. Everything that I believe, I should know is suspect.

Most importantly, why believe the belief in determinism, or in evolution, or that living organisms die, or that certain beliefs have a survival value? The whole theory states that theories have no validity, but, take this on faith, they help organisms survive, and, more faith, organisms need to survive, and, more faith, some beliefs are better at forwarding survival than others, und so weiter.

 

Government is also Unaccountable

Not only do governmental organizations favor the rich and connected over the middle class and the insignificant, but they are also unaccountable.

In Flint, MI apparently the entire city was poisoned by lead in the water supply. City officials were allegedly aware of the situation for a considerable period of time while their citizens were being damaged. Yet no one can identify a person who is responsible for keeping the water safe, or even revealing the problem to the public.

In today’s (3/20/16) Sunday New York Times there is an editorial titled “Poisoned Water in Newark Schools”. The school system acknowledged it was aware of high levels of lead in the schools for years. Is the Times calling for criminal charges against administrators and employees? Lets let the Times speak for itself:

This is shocking but, sadly, not surprising given the neglect of public schools, especially those in poor communities, by Congress and state governments.

This morning I was watching “Due Process,” a Rutgers law school produced TV program. The show reminded me of the $100 million dollar gift Mark Zukerberg made to the Newark Schools about five years ago. With the matching funds the Newark Public Schools received a nearly $200 million windfall. Use of the money was determined by the local politicians: the NJ Commissioner of Education, the Legislature and the teacher’s union. If only the Newark Schools haven’t been neglected these last five years.

Over the last four years capital expenditures for the schools averaged about $12 million, so the $200 million gift could certainly have made a difference to the school infastructure.

I’m sure Mr. Zukerberg preferred that his money go to innovative changes in the organization of the Newark schools, and a significant amount was spent on charter schools. However, politicians determined the final spending, and $89 million went to contract and labor costs and $21 million went to consultants (each amount more than the entire capital budget for a year).