Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Austrian Divide

Hizzah for Drudge picking up on this fair assessment of the bailout in the Financial Post about the divide among free market proponents on what should be done regarding the current financial crisis.

From a fellow Libertarian - "I'm with the Austrians (and not with my home boy Friedman) on this one."

I am, too my friend, I am too.

Rebel pastors for the First Amendment

Breaking the law in order to mend it.
Johnson and 32 other pastors across the country set out Sunday to break the
rules, hoping to generate a legal battle that will prompt federal courts to
throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of

For more, see Washington Post article here.

Why is capitalism getting such a bad rap?

A Washington Post article "Young Chinese Rethink U.S.-Style Capitalism" has got me thinking about what capitalism means today. And what the heck does U.S.-style capitalism mean? How is it different from run-of-the-mill capitalism?

The article laments the predicament the Chinese find themselves in because they are overly reliant upon selling their good to the United States. How is that capitalism's fault? Isn't it Business 101 to diversify revenue sources in order to weather hard times?!

I do think there is something to the term "U.S.-style capitalism," but I don't think MSM and most Americans would agree. The term indicates a watered down version of capitalism - capitalism with a healthy dose of socialism and state intervention thrown in. Not that pure capitalism is really feasible or realistic, but I do think that it is possible to forgo a lot of the interventions and regulations that currently exist. I'd love to see how we would do under a more true form of capitalism.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Incentivizing Chivalry

In a country with generous pensions and a strict tradition of patriarchy, no wonder a new 50/50 divorce settlement law has all of Japan reeling. I love how helpless the men are without the women in this culture with such restrictive gender roles!

Greed is good, not great

Just embrace it people! Interesting Editorial on the current sitch:
The Soviet Union deployed the entire power of the state to stamp out greed — and ensured that the state was the greediest actor of all. Even religion’s not insubstantial powers of persuasion (think Hell) and coercion (think Inquisition) have proved insufficient to blot out this insidious sin.
While I don't completely agree with his underlying logic, I like this commentator's punchline:
When the banker who loses his or her bank also loses his or her shirt, greed will be tempered.
The current crisis will humble Wall Street and provide a market correction that seems long overdue.

Ron Paul, the prescient

Of course these are just Fox Business readers so I don't know how much water that holds, but it's nice to know Ron is still getting some love on the internet. Here he is speaking on the current financial crisis.

From: Jim Pinkerton
Sent: Sep 28, 2008 5:13 PM

Subject: Re: [Bailoutbusters] Details on Bailout compromise...
This is from a running poll on the front page of the Fox Business News website: These folks all believe that Ron Paul is closest to the mark. Not scientific, but still perhaps useful.


Who do you think will come out of this economic crisis looking smartest?
Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman 2%
Henry Paulson, the Secretary of the Treasury 4%
Warren Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway 15%
Ron Paul, Texas Congressman and presidential candidate 76%
Bill Gross, PIMCO chief investment officer 3%
This is not a scientific poll

[Hat tip: aforementioned email-forward-happy coworker]

Bailout Failed! for now...

Wow! Could Congress actually resist the Road to Serfdom?

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said the measure would leave a huge burden on taxpayers. "This legislation is giving us a choice between bankrupting our children and bankrupting a few of these big financial institutions on Wall Street that made bad decisions," he said.

Other conservative Republicans argued the bill would be a blow against economic freedom.

Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., said the bill posed a choice between the loss of prosperity in the short term or economic freedom in the long term. He said once the federal government enters the financial market place, it will not leave. "The choice is stark," he said.

Check out CNN story here.

Take that money back out of the mattress!

Due to a forward-happy coworker, I get a great cross section of economic insights on a daily basis. Today, a venerable economist I admire reassured his friends that the banking industry is solid and the vast majority of banks are solvent so no need to fear massive bank runs! He also recommends the following article by George Kaufman to assuage any remaining fears.

Human [In] Action

Human Action is Ludwig von Mises's magnum opus which at its briefest can be summarized as the following:
  1. An uneasiness or state of dissatisfaction with the status quo
  2. A mental image of a more satisfactory state
  3. The expectation that action will bring about a more satisfactory state
All three must be present for action to occur.

"The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness." Mises p. 13

Well there sure is plenty of uneasiness to go around these days, but sometimes the right action is inaction. So maybe the peeps in government can imagine a more satisfactory state of affairs, but how certain are they that their collective action will bring about a more satisfactory result? What's the government track record on bailouts? Unfortunately, it's not so clear cut. The failures are hidden in indirect and unintended consequences. It makes me sick to my stomach that they would feel comfortable taking such a huge gamble on our country's future.

On a related note, enjoy this human interest piece on how uneasy/depressing the current Wall Street situation is and how everyday Joe Schmoes are coping.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Outta work? Move to Texas!

According to BizJournals.com, Texas is home to four of the top ten growing job markets.
  • #1 Houston
  • #2 Austin
  • #3 Dallas/Fort Worth
  • #6 San Antonio
Add in the relative low cost of living and friendly people and you have quite the compelling case to move to Texas. My one major complaint about Texas and my primary impetus for my hasty retreat is the provincial worldview of most Texans. Everything revolves around Texas. The Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle amongst other Texas publications has but only the briefest of AP blurbs on world news and Texans couldn't care less. As long as you don't drink too much of the koolaid, it's a nice place to live.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Who's got your back!?

For thousands of years, man's next of kin served as his motivation and his support in times of need. Modern times have diluted the importance of families, decreased the number of children, and enabled families to keep in touch over vast distances. People have spread out and families are less important to our self identities as well as our everyday lives.

I heard John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis allege yesterday that the current magnitude of risk to the individual in the modern economy has to do with the decline of the family as a viable social safety net. Goodman also alleged that conservatives have made two mistakes responding to this problem. First, Republicans thought we could go back to strengthening families and they could once again fulfill their traditional supporting role in society. Second, conservatives and libertarians both have tried to scrap the welfare state altogether. Neither option is practical. Society needs an institutional safety net.

If we focus on individual empowerment and market forces in our social safety net policies, I have faith that people would step up to the plate. For instance, health savings accounts (HSAs) which were actually pioneered by said Goodman provide an excellent example of a solid market based reform. If we could move away from the bulk buying of health insurance policies, individuals could buy the policies appropriate to them and prices would be driven down by demand. But if pressed, I would still want friends and family to be my net than the monolithic government. How people can have such blind faith and trust in such a bureaucratic behemoth is beyond me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Postmodernism I can dig

I heart old people

Last night, I gave a presentation on the importance of free markets in the development of South Africa. It was to fifty senior citizens at my grandparents' "active" living community. It was so much fun! My grandmother thinks I did well because so many people come in and talk down to them just because they are old and I just talked to them normally. First of all, it's a shame people would disrespect their elders like that. Secondly, these people are fascinating! I met a Jewish man who escaped the Nazis in Holland. A man who designed the machine that prints U.S. currency. Women who have travelled the globe and had the most insightful questions. It was such a pleasure to meet them all.

And it is always a pleasure to share my passion about free markets. This article by Jasson Urbach of the Free Market Foundation in South Africa pretty much sums up how I feel. He makes the case for private enterprise and long-term growth based on the foundations of personal and economic freedoms as the necessary elements for the future wealth and health of Zimbabwe.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

So Texan it hurts

I haven't really followed Senator John Cornyn's politics since I left Texas, but I think he may deserve to be re-elected based solely on how he oozes Texan in his campaign ads. Check it out here.

Parenting Parents Introduction

At a young age, I find myself saddled with an invalid divorcee of a mother. "Parenting Parents" will be a regular post series to share my humble insights on taking care of her and to vent my frustrations. Hopefully, like my doughnut post the other day it can be somewhat educational and entertaining.

After a lot of hemming and hawing and guilt, I decided not to abandon my job, grad school, and friends to move home to care for my mother when my father left her in May 2007. She could be self-sufficient - and basically is - but needs frequent medical care for her Transverse Myelitis as well as emotional and financial advice. LOTS. Like every day. I'm like Laura Linney's character in Love Actually but a lot less patient. Most of the time I'm able to laugh off her shaninagans, but walking into my childhood home this evening, I was overwhelmed by her extravagant purchases. I hadn't been 'home' since Christmas and apparently my mother decided to go on a shopping spree before the divorce was finalized this year. Walking around the house, I found two brand new flat panel tvs, various unnecessary chotzkies, and the cout de ta...an Ab Lounger. What on earth is my mother with excruciating leg pain going to do with an Ab Lounger!? Sigh.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Silver lining

South Africa may have the corrupt Commie Zuma as the emminent President, but they'll have this guy to look forward to to usher in 2010.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Persecution Hypochondria?

A lot of people I know bemoan the liberal bias in academia and a lot of effort is put in by the "free market movement/sector/industry" to try and correct this bias. An article in yesterday's NYTimes discusses these efforts and how (yippie!) it's about to be subsidized with government money. Darn Republican statists.

But what if the liberal bias isn't as vitriolic as we all thought? I discussed this over billiards recently with one of the authors of the new book, Closed Minds? Political Ideology in American Universities. I haven't read it just yet, but basically the authors admit that the vast majority of university professors are liberal...they just aren't biased! Smith, Mayer, and Fritschler find there to be no systemic or even perceived persecution of conservative students or professors in American Universities. I don't know if I totally buy that it's no big deal that academia is dominated by liberal ideologues, but it's nice to hear that students aren't being graded down and that professors aren't losing tenure track positions due to their conservative bents.

Another sign that Google controls my life.

Apparently, it's officially Fall.

Stop Outsourcing - we want our shitty jobs!

Funny video clip from the Onion parodying Obama's campaign promise to save American jobs, but nothing beats this South Park clip.

Hat tip: YeahRight blogger Batman

"I'm in the doughnut and it sucks."

"Hi Mom, how are you doing today?"
"I'm in the doughnut."
"Excuse me, Mama?"
"I'm in the doughnut and it sucks."

Apparently, my mother has hit the doughnut hole or "coverage gap" in her Medicare insurance plan. While in the doughnut, my mother gets NO compensation for her expensive medical bills that help her deal with the pain of having Transverse Myelitis (it's kinda like M.S.). So she's just charging everything to her credit card until she hits the "catastrophic coverage threshold" when EVERYTHING is covered. Then, she'll have to pay down her credit card as quickly as possible.

While the doughnut hole is a clever revenue saving device for the government, it makes absolutely no sense for the average person operating on a budget (Let alone my mother who doesn't know what a budget is!).

If the government has to be in the business of social safety and health nets, the process should be as transparent and simple as possible. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of that money "saved" by the doughnut hole isn't squandered on a small army of accountants who calculate and track all the individual doughnut holes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Maybe the sky IS falling

So it's ok if the government does a $700 billion bailout as long as taxpayers don't have to pay ALL of it back? Even part of $700 billion is still BILLIONS of dollars.

Even I can't see the silver lining in this one though a friend of mine suggested that this might undercut the arguments against privatizing Social Security. Why? Well the primary argument against privitizing social security is the exposure to risk. Well if the government says it will back major corporations from calamitous downturns, then they would effectively insure the private social security accounts too. My only problem with that argument is - what constitutes a "calamitous downturn"? Plus, according to the American Association of Actuaries all we have to do to make Social Security solvent is gradually increase the qualifying age to 70. Of course that may be even less politically viable than privitizing.

Click this link to have fun "fixing" social security.

Scary political transition of the week

With Thabo Mbeki stepping down, South Africa is one step closer to being led by the Communist Jacob Zuma. Not that Mbeki is a saint, but at least a free economy was his number one priority. Props to Mbeki for trying to uphold the rule of law, I just wish there were more in that country who acted on that principle.
Check out this political poster hung up in the politics department at the University of Pretoria. Scary how even the Democrats that give me the heebie jeebies in America are further to the right than nearly all South Africans.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The sky is falling!

Amidst the flurry of chicken little commentary and demands for government action, some reason from David Warren:
The problem must be solved, or so everyone says, by increasing government regulation. Am I perhaps alone in observing that this regulation is already as dense and complex as the industry, and that it might well make more sense to make the regulations not denser and more complex, but rather, simpler, more transparent and effective. For to my mind, we ought to have learned by now that the more complex a system grows, and the farther removed from the hard facts of nature, the more susceptible it becomes to catastrophic failure.
It seems inevitable that the Lehman brother/banking debacle of 2008 will increase the size and scope of government. This NYTimes piece discusses how the U.S. is increasingly viewed as hypocritical on being a free market society.

Macho men dig fashion

I love how seriously men take sports and football especially. These otherwise macho, beefcake guys get all swanked up in suits to do commentary and the players go to great lengths to look "cool."

Surprising stereotypes about personalities and music

This new study evaluates the connection between personality and the type of music a person listens to. Seems flimsy to me - what if you like several genres?


My childhood best friend recently snagged the motherload of NY housing - a brand new rent-controlled apartment in the up and coming Clinton neighborhood just north of Hell's Kitchen. He is actually paying LESS than what I pay and is virtually guaranteed this price until he keels over or strikes it rich and decides to upgrade. His odyssey to the perfect apartment, however, was not easy. From today's WSJ:
Today, there are 43,317 apartments where tenants (or their heirs) pay rents first frozen in 1947. There are another 1,043,677 units covered by rent stabilization. All told, about 70% of the city's rental apartments are either rent controlled or rent stabilized. And because the system has been in place for more than six decades, many residents see their below-market rents as an entitlement.
Sure, my friend is happy now, but has he been happy for the last 5 years as he's hopped from one insanely expensive and tiny apartment to another? In a way, he feels like he's earned this rent-controlled apartment and now he too suffers from the entitlement mentality.

hat tip: Megan McArdle

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hope from my man Forbes

Can always count on this guy.

Update: Check out Forbes in Forbes today.

Googling up baby

Being Christian and a libertarian isn't always easy. Abortion, for example, really makes me uneasy. I am vehemently opposed to it, but don't think we should use the coercive power of the state over individuals to ban abortions. If I were ever elected to office, I would relax adoption laws, promote safe sex, and speak out for the lives of the unborn. There's a lot that could be done in these areas to decrease the number of abortions without resorting to an outright ban.

Speaking of which, Christian views on abortion shouldn't be banned or shunned. Until recently, Google had apparently banned Christian ads related to abortion. Thankfully for the sake of the free marketplace of ideas, Google has reversed that policy. Now it's up to the individual to decide.

The devolution of U of C

Would love to know what my University of Chicago peeps think about this. The school still has the cool libertarian aura, but the reality is that it's fallen from classical liberal grace.

Libertarian Manifesto

I like the word "manifesto" - it's so dramatic. Once, for fun and in response to a fight with a yankee boyfriend, I wrote a Texan Manifesto about how great the state is and how it could be an independent country if it wanted. I wonder where that puppy ended up?

Here's a libertarian version of a manifesto for ya.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McCain's health plan

Cynical look on the McCain/Palin health plan here. What's the point in including benefits in taxable income if you're just going to give people tax rebates?! I need to look into this more...

I raise a mean eyebrow.

Apparently my eyebrow can make you crave Starbucks. Click here for more.

On Risk in a Free Society

Increasingly, we coddle children in America. And now, we're coddling adults. Since when was America such a risk-averse society? That's why I like this piece today by William Murchison:
Whenever markets mess up, control freaks blame it on too much freedom, on undue latitude for plungers and gamblers and similar riff raff, when the blame properly rests with the gambling instinct itself, which is a part of human nature. If it weren't, and thanks goodness it is, the first man to peek outside the cave and see the possibilities of a home on the hillside would never have tried it. "Too much risk!" he would have muttered (in caveman-ese).
With the mortgage and banking crises, this is the theme I return to. So the Fannie/Freddie fiasco was probably too big of a failure to ignore, but we can learn from failure. We may coddle children, but last I checked we do also still teach the lesson that winning isn't everything.

Hilariously morbid example of incentives at work

Freakishly morbid, but a brilliant way to get your last wishes honored. It reminds me of this devilish alarm clock which donates to a charity you abhor each time you press snooze.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Biden bites back

I enjoy Biden, but primarily for entertainment value. I do want to give him props for today's op-ed. If he didn't write it entirely himself, he did most of it. It sounds like him and is a heartfelt plea for reason, diplomacy, and compassion. Too bad I don't trust him to employ any of these effectively in office.

Regarding the Palin book banning rumor

I was worried about the rumor that Palin actually banned books from the local library (though it did reek of liberal vitriol). Here is the real deal - funny I had to find it on a random conservative blog.

Textbook extortionists?

Although I'm only in grad school part-time, I still feel the pinch when it comes to buying textbooks. There just aren't many options and sometimes Amazon even fails me, but somehow the market will always find alternatives such as the one featured in this NYTimes article today. While I agree with their definition of a moral hazard, I don't know if textbook companies should be totally vilified for acting in their own best interest. If they are smart, they won't totally exploit their consumers or alternatives like these online texts will arise.

Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye

(think Janis Joplin not NSYNC)

Hurricane Ike ravaged the Texas coastline and much of my family this weekend. My uncle actually went down to the docks to say goodbye to his baby...his sailboat. His blood, sweat, and tears were poured into that boat, but the (at least) 20 foot storm surge was set to boost his baby over the 16 foot pylons. It was almost certainly goodbye forever. Now my brother and uncle are holding down the fort in the dark but oddly enough they are running a generator for all of their electronics (plus the fridge) so they are actually quite comfy. My uncle will have to wait to find out about his boat since the roads are impossible right now. What would I have to say goodbye to? Thankfully not much! Photo albums and some clothes would be the worst case scenario for me.

A bright moment amidst the darkness - my cousin texted me that she was fine, just bored out of her mind. I teased her that I'm sure she could find something fun to do with her husband to pass the time. Her reply, "Without A/C? Are you kidding?!"

Of course this episode (the hurricane not my cousin) hearkens back to Hurricane Katrina which begs the question who's responsible for responding to these disasters? A combination of state and federal agencies responded to Ike. I've always been of the mindset that people living in areas prone to natural disasters should foot the bill either through real estate values or local/state taxes that can subsidize rescue and recovery efforts. It's one of the reasons I love the east coast - no natural disasters! Why should I have to subsidize the lifestyle of those who live in tornado alley or along a faultline? If some people (like these crazies who decided to stick out the storm in Galveston) have a higher tolerance for risk than they and their surrounding community should pay for the consequences.

I heart Tina

Talk about must-see tv.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In the beginning

I always thought blogs were self-indulgent exercises for pretentious people, but as I find myself following more of them and diversifying my sources of information...I've reassessed my position.

The following posts are just my humble perceptions of the world primarily recorded for my own recollective purposes. I don't have the greatest long-term memory, and this modern proliferation of news and media can overwhelm a girl! This is also an exercise in improving my writing and synthesis as I do aspire to put these mad skillz into action one day.

Ode to red meat

In what millennium will my eating of red meat threaten life on earth? Apparently this one according to this article in TIME the other day.

Now, I don't hate on vegetarians like some, but if they start to infringe upon my right to eat whatever I darn well please...well then, we have problems.

Judgy Wudgy

Ok, so I was rooting for Palin to exceed expectations in her first big-girl interview, but that was probably being unreasonable. I do agree with Instapundit amongst others in the blogosphere who say the interview should be posted in totale. If we are to judge her, let us see her for all her raw, unedited glory...especially the end of her fumbled response about the Bush doctrine. Ugh, that was awful. I used to teach high schoolers that knew more about just war theory!