Monday, October 30, 2006

Rest in Peace, Red Auerbach, the man who made the Celtics

RIP Red Auerbach, the most successful general manager in professional sports and a great Bostonian.

Do people want less government

Maybe the folks at Cato are correct?

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Brit's brief for the U.S.

Is America respected in the world? Does it matter? Either way it's not a good time to be, in the words of Gerard Baker of The Times of London.

The real question about American power is whether the realities that underpin it are shifting. There, I?m afraid, the news for Americaphobes is grim. The US economy continues to grow at a pace that far outstrips its rivals in the industrialised world. Though China is growing at three times the pace of the US, America?s economy is so large ? $12 trillion annually ? that , even in the unlikely event that China will continue to grow at its current rate, it will take 30 to 40 years to catch up with America.

Despite the heated rhetoric, the US is not going bankrupt ? its fiscal deficit is falling and its accumulated debt is easily manageable. Compared with most other advanced economies, its demographics look indecently healthy. This month the US population passed 300 million; it will be 400 million in less than 50 years, and still relatively

The libertarian wedge, it doesn't move

Another episode in the Republican crack-up. Is the libertarian vote up for grabs? Does it matter? Will they swing against the Republicans? Clive Crook has the goods. This guy can write.

And how much effort are these voters worth? Although it is true that the libertarian vote is up for grabs, in other ways it is a tactically unappealing target, because it will always be up for grabs. With a social conservative, or an anti-market statist, you know where you are. It is worth investing in those kinds of voters -- not in changing their minds, of course, because you cannot do that, but in persuading them that you have moved to their side. But you will never turn a libertarian into a loyalist of any party.

That is not all. Because they are skeptical not just about government but also about politics and the people who devote their lives to it, libertarians may be disinclined to get out and vote. The commentators who have recently been arguing for divided government, saying that it is better to have a weak, do-little government than a government, whether Left or Right, with the ambition and the capacity to do lots of big things, certainly have a point. But unfortunately that temperament is close to the one that wearily says, "I cannot be bothered and want nothing to do with this process." Disenchanted and few in number: Why spend limited resources on reaching them? Libertarians are disenfranchised for a reason.

The American idea -- expressed in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution -- is quintessentially a classical liberal idea. It is all there: Limited government; checks and balances; civil liberty and economic liberty. Libertarians won those arguments, but they have been on the losing side for about the last 70 years.

Today's main political battle is between those who want to run the economy from Washington and those who want to dictate the country's morals from Washington. (George Bush's Republican Party apparently wants to do both.) And we libertarians should not delude ourselves: If this is true, it is not because politics is letting people down but because most Americans feel comfortable in one or the other of those camps. As long as only one in 10 people reject both of those ideas, the choices facing the electorate will continue to be about as inspiring as the choice that presents itself on November 7.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

We have it too easy

Michael Barone has a good column over at RealClearPolitics. As we suffer an embarrassment of riches and progress, some of us are convinced the country's going in the wrong direction. It doesn't make sense but that's the way it is. We want another holiday from history. We know how that ends up, don't we?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Go ahead have a laugh

It's the Hillary-Condi hoedown. Dick Morris's dream match might not happen except for here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bono, operating at the margins

Well a little bit of hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue. And we know Bono is very, very virtuous.

Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Bono, the rock star and campaigner against Third World debt, is asking the Irish government to contribute more to Africa. At the same time, he's reducing tax payments that could help fund that aid.

After Ireland said it would scrap a break that lets musicians and artists avoid paying taxes on royalties, Bono and his U2 bandmates earlier this year moved their music publishing company to the Netherlands. The Dublin group, which Forbes estimates earned $110 million in 2005, will pay about 5 percent tax on their royalties, less than half the Irish rate.

"Among the wealthiest people I suppose it's the norm,'' Jill Cassidy, 23, said on South King Street near a plaque marking the site of Dublin's Dandelion market, where U2 played some of its earliest concerts. "In U2's position, it does come across as quite hypocritical.''

The tax move has tainted the image of Bono, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and U2 at home. Now promoting a new DVD, book and album, the band is fighting back. Lead guitarist David Evans, known as The Edge, earlier this month defended the publishing company's move as a sensible decision for a group that makes 90 percent of its money outside Ireland.

"Our business is a very complex business,'' Evans said Oct. 2 on Dublin radio station Newstalk, breaking the band's silence after weeks of public criticism. "Of course we're trying to be tax-efficient. Who doesn't want to be tax-efficient?''

As residents of Ireland, members of U2 remain liable for personal income taxes. Any Irish-based companies they control will pay taxes on their profits.

"Poor Example"

Principle Management, U2's management company, declined to comment when Bloomberg asked for a statement from Bono.

Dublin-born Bono has been mentioned as a candidate for Nobel Peace Prize since 2003. The Norwegian Nobel Committee on Oct. 13 awarded the 2006 prize to Bangladeshi banker Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for advancing social and economic development by giving loans to the poor.

Bono, 46, has toured Africa, established the pressure group Debt AIDS Trade Africa and become one of the most vocal supporters of the Make Poverty History campaign. In July 2005, he helped persuade world leaders to double aid for Africa to $50 billion a year by 2010 and erase the debt of the 18 poorest countries on the continent.

"I can see no connection between what he is doing and Make Poverty History,'' said Richard Murphy, a director at U.K.-based Tax Research Ltd. and author of a book called "Money Matters: Artist's Financial Guide.'' "He is setting a poor example by his tax affairs.''

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Another Saturday afternoon listening

I should be doing chores but a trip to the local library brought me this.

I'm enjoying it but here a mildly critical review. The first one at the top of Google's search on Bocelli and Verdi.


Dick Armey has a beef with the religious right

Another episode in the ongoing Republican crackup and former Majority Leader Dick Armey's in the middle of it. I'm with Armey -- make a deal with the big goverment left and you're a junior partner. The religious right is losing sight of the big picture: Freedom. This doesn't bode well for November.

I am a free market economist by training, and I believe that economic freedom is vitally important in the defense of the American family. Big issues like retirement security, tax reform, school choice and spending restraint will determine whether or not families will be dependent and subservient to government. Who owns your retirement? Who decides how you provide for your family?s future. Can you leave your estate to your grandchildren, or is it the government's? Will the government socially engineer your life through the tax code? Will liberal education bureaucrats determine your child?s education? These are all issues that used to matter to the political leadership of Christian conservative voters.

And while for most in the Christian conservative movement these issues still resonate, the same cannot be said for some of our Washington, D.C.-based religious leaders. Right after I had left Congress and joined FreedomWorks, we found ourselves embroiled in a major tax fight in Alabama. Oddly, an old friend, Bob Riley, had been elected governor only to immediately reverse course, cut a deal with the teachers union, and advocate a massive tax increase to prop up the failing government school system. It was "what Jesus would do," he said. I took personal offense to that, as did many of the voters who had just worked so hard to elect him Governor. Our activists had joined forces with local Christian conservatives, including the Alabama Christian Coalition, to fight both bad policy and a sense of personal betrayal.

We were blindsided when the national leadership of the Christian Coalition endorsed the Governor?s proposed tax increase, joining forces with liberal interests in the state that had actively worked against our values for a generation. In the end we won, thanks in no small part to the fact that members of the local Christian Coalition chapter parted ways with the national organization and stood with Alabama FreedomWorks, the Alabama Policy Institute, local taxpayer organizations, and a host of other small government advocates all united in the effort to stop a big government tax-hike scheme.

Today, the national Christian Coalition has joined forces with in another government grab of private property dealing specifically with ownership of the Internet. They are wrong on the specifics of the issue, and they are wrong to ssociate with and comfort radical liberals who have demonstrated nothing but disdain for conservative values. Armey's Axiom: Make a deal with the Devil, and you are the junior partner.

Another Armey's Axiom says that if it is about power, you lose. And unfortunately when it comes to James Dobson, my personal experience has been that the man is most interested in political power.

Read the whole piece.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Are they serious? Gore's true believers go off the deep end

Like religious zealots the global warming brigade cannot abide by free speech. Where's the outrage at this new McCarthyism?

Grist Magazine's staff writer David Roberts called for the Nuremberg-style trials for the "bastards" who were members of what he termed the global warming "denial industry."

Roberts wrote in the online publication on September 19, 2006, "When we've finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we're in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards -- some sort of climate Nuremberg."


Gore and Moyers have not yet commented on Grist's advocacy of prosecuting skeptics of global warming with a Nuremberg-style war crimes trial. Gore has used the phrase "global warming deniers" to describe scientists and others who don't share his view of the Earth's climate. It remains to be seen what Gore and Moyers will have to say about proposals to make skepticism a crime comparable to Holocaust atrocities.

Is this a joke? Where are all the first amendment absolutists?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bowling Against the Other

Robert Putnam, he of Bowling Alone fame, thinks the more diverse a community becomes the more apart we become. He's onto something big here.

A bleak picture of the corrosive effects of ethnic diversity has been revealed in research by Harvard University's Robert Putnam, one of the world's most influential political scientists. His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone ? from their next-door neighbour to the mayor.

This is a contentious finding in the current climate of concern about the benefits of immigration. Professor Putnam told the Financial Times he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it "would have been irresponsible to publish without that".

More on this later.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Edmund Phelps has won the Nobel Prize for Economic Science

Edmund Phelps has won the Nobel for economics. This is a great choice because Phelps is a great thinker on some pressing economic and social problems.

Here's an execerpt of my review of his 1997 book on wage subsidies, Rewarding Work: How to Restore Participation and Self-Support to Free Enterprise.

Phelps writes, "Low-wage employment subsidies, their imperfections notwithstanding, are the most effective instrument we have available to re-create lost opportunities for work and self-support, to restore inclusion and cohesion, and to reclaim responsibility for oneself and others."

It would work as follows: A firm that pays an unskilled employee $4 per hour would receive a subsidy, to wit, a matching grant of $3 per hour from the government.

This would raise the gross wage rate to $7 for the employee. On a similar schedule, if an employer pays an hourly rate of $6, he or she would receive a subsidy of $1.65 which would bring the gross wage to $7.65, and so on. The subsidy would cut off after $12, at which an employer would earn only six cents in subsidy. Under Phelps' plan, the subsidies would be applied against payroll and profit tax liabilities.

The purpose of the wage subsidy is to draw unskilled laborers into the work force, expand their job opportunities with new work incentives, and, above all, lift the living wage of the unskilled. Phelps is convinced that his medicine is worth the cost of approximately $125 billion. It would require, among other tax measures, the elimination of the Earned Income Tax Credit and federal training programs that do not elevate the working poor's income.

In the long term, this subsidy would produce a net positive gain for taxpayers who would see less welfare and less spending on the criminal justice system. One of the direct benefits of the employment subsidy is that it would "shrink welfare's 'market share'."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Currently listening to...

Haven't had the time to listen to an old favorite, Jean Luc Ponty so I borrowed this CD from my local library. Nice for a autumnal Saturday afternoon.

Here's the wikipedia entry on JLP.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The good news is that the economy is strong, so let's stick to the negative meme

Sensible Mom by way of Instapundit takes a look at how the Bush economic record is reported. When the Dow hit a record high in 2000, the MSM was full of glee. Today the Dow reached a new record and what obsesses the Chicago Tribune. The downside of course. Sensible Mom dons the gumshoes.

I decided to do a Lexis Nexis search of the Chicago Tribune for January 2000 to see if the paper also put a negative spin on the previous stock market surge (remember that surge occurred while Clinton was president). And guess what I found? An article with a very different tone. Starting with the exciting headline titled, "Bull Market Spreading The Wealth In America" and continuing through the many paragraphs touting the growth in wealth and the number of people investing in the stock market the article is remarkably different from today's.

There are more important things than blogging

That I can't always blog is a blessing.