Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ten x Ten

I heart Rebecca for thinking of this:
Ladies, Gentlemen, Lovers and Leeches,

I'd like to beg and plead with you to consider taking part in my newest dream for a community art project.

See blog above.

Ten by Ten is a brainstorming of a community blog wherein participants agree to taking ten pictures of their day by 10 PM. It would be really amazing to see people from different parts of the country and world participate, so feel free to forward this on to anyone you think would be interested.

Want to play? Here are the rules:

1- Get a camera. (The camera on your phone is fine, please just set it to 'superfine' or 'high resolution' before you begin.)
2- Take pictures of the things you come across in your ordinary day before 10 PM.
3- Create short captions for these pictures
4- Answer these three questions as you would like for them to appear on the blog: 1- Name? 2- Passion? 3- Dream Job?
5- Email them to

Have a blog? Link tenbyten in your blogroll if you like.

Have feedback? bring it on.

UPDATE: Whitney's Ten by Ten

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why I sometimes am squeamish about being called a libertarian...

It's often a dirty word, isn't it? Libertarian. My mother says to me in a hushed voice, "but you don't tell people you're libertarian, do you? You don't want them to think you're crazy!" Oh mom...

But I fear she's right. Saying your libertarian (or worse a Ron Paul fan) associates you with some unsavory characters. I like to think those people are just the outspoken few who just give the rest of us a bad name.

The Cato blog points out an upcoming Harvard conference with a noticeable bias "Analyzing the Free Market Mindset" or as Dan Mitchell reads between the lines, "Is Libertarianism a Sign of Mental Illness?"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The sacred cow of public policy

As I've said before, I'm pretty solidly against the home mortgage interest rate deduction. However, I thought it was about as entrenched as our silly farm subsidies and thought it would never go away. Then I read this, "Killing (or Maiming) A Sacred Cow: Mortgage Interest Deductions." Apparently, another optimistic fellow argues that this too can be up for debate.
The Great Depression provided an opportunity to rethink old policies in a major way. In the current morass, everything should, once again, be open for debate. One sacred cow that has long been in need of a good stockyard is the home mortgage interest deduction. So, in the spirit of libertarian progressivism, I suggest gradually reducing the upper limit on the deduction to loans of up to $300,000, and then refunding the tax revenues in a more productive manner.
Hizzah for a tax reduction in lieu of the convoluted MID!

Hat tip: John

Optimistic look at this crisis of opportunity

One of my GMU profs Jeremy Mayer offers up a silver lining:
A crisis of this magnitude comes along once every three or four generations and shakes up the rules of politics as usual. In such times, a good idea that has been stopped by normal politics can suddenly win. The politically impossible becomes appealing or even unstoppable.
While Mayer and I may not agree on what previously politically impossible things should be made possible (he was once a Ron Paul fan but alas has strayed), I dig the traction that ending the Cuban embargo seems to be getting. Mayer also suggests the legalization of marijuana or even entitlement reform might be feasible. Here's hoping!

Monday, February 23, 2009

This Keynes craze...

A couple weeks ago, I walked out of my first graduate school class. Funny it didn't happen when I was called a nazi (fall of 2007) or a person who affiliated with devil people like Phyllis Schafly or Charles Murray (spring 2008). I just got fed up.

We had a guest lecturer come talk to us about Keynes in our macroeconomics course. Fine. Ok, I was mentally prepared for a tedious class. What I wasn't prepared for was the ensuing Keynes lovefest coupled with derogatory comments about those crazy and unrealistic free market ideas that have "thankfully been proven wrong" etc. I bit my tongue and concentrated on keeping my cool. Unfortunately my laptop died or I would have vented my frustrations live on my blog. I made it all the way until 9:15pm (the class ends at 9:45) and the professor had obviously finished his prepared lecture and was just grinding his axe. Some snotty faced eager beaver in the front row eagerly raised his hand (why raise your hand when you're 3 feet away from the prof is beyond me), "Don't you think these irresponsible and greedy executives deserve some punitive damage for what they've done?"

As the professor started to calmly respond to this absurd question, I gathered my things and left the room. Unfortunately, my exit was punctuated inadvertently with the slamming of the door behind me. To which the professory commented, "Well, she must be an investment banker!"

No, my good sir, I am not, but I feel their pain.

The primary problem I have with Keynes is the same problem I have with neoclassical economics and all that other mainstream econ you learn in most undergraduate programs - it's assuming too much. Whether is perfect information on behalf of the neoclassical model or better information by the Keynesian planners, it assumes that some central authority is better equipped to make decisions than individual participants in the economy.

Here's a good explanation on the current Keynes craze and what Keynes was really all about.

Hat tip: David

What's your backup country?

If things continue to go south, I've seriously contemplated moving to New Zealand - Ireland is a close second. Perhaps I should visit first before I make this decision. My friends tease me that if I moved to New Zealand, I would be living amongst sheep, but I tell them I'd be living amongst sheep and men. Apparently the guy/girl ratio would be in my favor. The real reasons I picked those two countries are because #1 I can still speak English there, #2 they are in the top 10 of the Heritage Resource Bank's Economic Index of Freedom, and #3 beautiful landscapes.

Perhaps, I need to consider Denmark. Will Wilkinson has an interesting post on the possibility of government being Big and Free. He's not condoning big government, but he's giving us limited government fans hope that big government can still somehow be restrained. Counterintuitive? yes. Unlikely? yes. But here's hoping!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No Taxation Without Representation

First of all, can I just say Eleanor Holmes Norton may be an obnoxious, irrational fruit fly of a woman, but at least she has a sense of humor as evidenced by her repeated barbs with my man, Colbert.

Putting aside her entertainment value though, I truly hope that this new ploy for DC voting rights doesn't actually pan out. I fear, however, it's gaining steam because of the op-eds I've seen recently:
Washington’s lack of representation is profoundly undemocratic. Its residents are American citizens who pay taxes, vote for the president and serve and die in the military. Although the city is relatively small, it is more populous than Wyoming and nearly equal to those of Vermont and Alaska.
Now this isn't some vast right-wing, racist conspiracy to keep the predominantly African-Americans in D.C. from having voting's simply a matter of the Constitution. D.C. is NOT a state! I sympathize with the bureaucracy involved in having to have Congress approve it's budget, set school policies, etc. but it's NOT a state! Nor do I think it should be - it's economy is far too dependent upon the federal government for it to ever function properly.

The one point of sympathy I do have is that D.C. residents have to pay federal taxes. The age-old argument of "no taxation without representation" is still relevant today. So, I say fine! Don't require D.C. residents to pay federal taxes - problem solved.

Incentivizing policymakers

Not that this is in anyway realistic, but Chris Buckley suggests making policymakers' pay somewhat tied to performance.

How many votes would we have for the stimulus package if senators would be held personally accountable for the results? Probably not as much!

Whitney gets quoted

"Down and Out in Washington, D.C." is an article in the new edition of Doublethink magazine and describes the increasingly bleak job and economic outlook for conservatives and libertarians in D.C. Not a big deal, but here's my two cents thrown to the article:
Whitney Garrison, a donor relations associate for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, attended a meeting for free-market fundraisers (including the Institute for Justice, the Leadership Institute, and the Institute for Humane Studies) sponsored by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation last December.

Speaker John Von Kannon, vice president of the Heritage Foundation, told the assembly that direct mail is more crucial now than ever before. While major donors may be hurting financially and cutting back on their giving, direct mail donors—those who give $1,000 or less—tend to be lagging indicators of recessions, largely unaffected by changes in the market.

Von Kannon was “optimistic,” Garrison says, “but everyone else was pretty quiet, perhaps even hesitant to agree … Nearly everyone said direct mail returns are diminishing.”

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's official, I'm going to China!

I made my deposit, booked my airfare (surprisingly cheap - only $850), and submitted my Visa paperwork today in person. It's official - I'm going - May 16-31st!!!

Here's my kickass itinerary. So I'm flying in and out of Shanghai and I'm getting to Shanghai 2 days before the program starts in Beijing. Should I fly or take a train there? Any suggestions for what to do in Shanghai/Beijing in my limited free time? Let me know!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A moment of levity

Brilliant storytelling.

What is a public good?

This is a basic economic question that warrants discussion. It's subjective and even people within the same party might disagree. Will Wilkinson points out that this crisis would have been a wonderful opportunity to have a substantive debate about what should determine spending on public works, but for the sake of expediency we're skipping that step. Expediency? When most of these programs won't go online until 2010?!

Unlike some libertarians, I do think government has a legitimate role to play in a lot of society. I don't want to just outsource everything to the private sector (especially if privatization really means playing favorites amongst a few elite government contracting firms). According to the Constitution, Congress can make laws to provide for the general welfare. The problem is in the definition of general welfare. I think that there's a case for the federal government to invest in basic infrastructure especially when it promotes interstate commerce (i.e. waterways and highways). The federal government also needs to make sure we're safe. I also think that the government should subsidize (but not necessarily run) schools, libraries, and other educational institutions like museums. The point is - all of this should be up for discussion. If only there was a reputable, high-profile Republican who could frame the debate!

Let them eat cake

If I were the economic czar of America, I'd pull a Marie Antoinette and tell Wall Street and other irresponsible and insolvent banks to make lemonade out of lemons or die a slow death by maintaining the status quo of stale bread and water. Wait, that analogy doesn't even hold because I believe it was the French government that gave them the stale bread to begin with. Perhaps the stale bread we gave Wall Street were the high corporate tax rates and regulations that impede their ability to thrive and survive. Regardless, I'd tell them to deal.

I've complained before about Americans coddling children to the point that they don't recognize or accept failure and thus responsibility as adults. Apparently this applies on the macro level as well. "Let Wall Street Fail" is a quick, insightful explanation of how Bernanke and Geithner (i.e. the government) are blowing it big time.
The market is light years ahead of the government problem-solvers in sorting out this mess.
The market knows what to do. Yes, that's anthropomorphizing an intangible entity, but wrap your head around it boys and girls. There's no way to aggregate enough timely and relevant information for the government to make the best buying and selling, hiring and firing, liquidating and investing decisions. This seems so fundamental that I feel like I'm banging my head against the wall. And why does no one seem to care that the stock market dips every time there is news of a bailout!? No, it's not because the bailout/buyout/stimulus isn't big enough - it's because investors DON"T LIKE THE BAILOUT! Why the media seems to blithely ignore the markets dips in conjunction with bailout news is beyond me. If I was more savvy with technology, I would try to track that and write one kickass policy brief on the media's negligent and biased oversight.

Monday, February 9, 2009

My talisman

My talisman has always been the Lord's Prayer. During times of stress and grief, I instinctively say the words over and over. In fact, I often have to slow myself down to concentrate on the words and their full meaning. It's my spiritual comfort blanket.

Amanda recommends Psalm 23. I'm also partial to the prayer of St. Francis which I have on a placard on my bathroom wall - one of those odd mementos I have from my great grandmother. The Serenity prayer is also a good standby.

Do you have a spiritual talisman?

Thursday, February 5, 2009


To think that Bush successfully vetoed this pill of a bill in 2007 over the inconsequential sum of $30 billion dollars! Given the stimulus and recent bailouts, however, this now seems like chump change so Obama signed it cheerfully.

Thus the road to serfdom marches on. Let this be an illustration of how even the best-intentions cannot be maintained when you are dealing with entitlement programs. A Republican Congress initially cooked a modest program up in 1997 to help supplement state healthcare programs, but it has grown overtime to be more than just a stopgap. One of my favorite love-to-hate misguided columnists, E.J.Dionne explains how SCHIP paves the way towards socialized healthcare:
It also makes clear that universal health insurance coverage should be an urgent priority. But getting the children's program done in the meantime could create momentum for the larger program and reduce the size of the problem that needs to be solved in a comprehensive bill -- 10 million kids now, the rest later.
Not only is this bill prepping the legislature and the masses for universal healthcare, but it is also poorly funded. As the lovely and incendiary Michelle Malkin pointed out a couple weeks ago, they raised taxes on cigarettes in order to pay for SCHIP. Since cigarettes are disproportionately consumed by lower income people, Michelle was right to say:
"[T]his is Dr. Big Nanny's prescription for recession: punitive tax increases on the poor to feed a universal health care Trojan horse."
And need I start on how all of these massive stimulus and spending bills are just yet another mortgage on our nation's future?

It would be one thing if SCHIP actually did what the soundbites says it does, "provide healthcare to lower income children," but the loopholes and exceptions made to increase those qualified is egregious:
The new expansion, which is vengeance for Bush's veto, is mission gallop: It will make it much easier for some states to extend SCHIP eligibility to children from families earning up to $84,800. Furthermore, to make "poor" an extremely elastic concept, generous "income disregards" are allowed. Families can, depending on their state's policies, subtract from their income calculation what they spend on rent or mortgage or heating or food or transportation or some combination of these. So children in some families with incomes well over $100,000 will be eligible.
Let's just hope that the "surprising level" of partisan rancor over SCHIP means that more ambitious plans to socialize our healthcare system will still fail.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Whitney's Foreign Policy Views in brief

Not that 24 is the best impetus for a serious political discussion, but last week it served as decent fodder for a hearty foreign policy debate over at my other blogging site YeahRight.

A few years ago, I was a solid Texan Conservative - a hawk and fan of my 2nd amendment rights. As time passes, I've grown more conservative in my views on the use of force - as in we should conservatively use force.

After all, what is a just war? I used to try and teach this stuff to my high schoolers - not easy. When you start to talk about these criteria, you see how subjective all of these terms and circumstances are. The only thing that is definitive to me is whether or not your country, land, people, or your military has been attacked.

If a country has been attacked, they have the right to act to protect itself from anymore immediate threats, but the key term is immediate.

I don't buy war and force as a deterrant. The most preventative and productive action is truly productive action - economic activity and diplomatic/cultural exchanges. In the long run, I have full faith that open borders and open markets are the best way to peace, prosperity, and overall protection of both the interests of a country as well as the quality of life of individuals. The use of force is too easily seen as aggressive and imperialistic rather than reasonable and defensive. We're more likely to provoke further terrorists and destruction via our use of force so it should be a last resort.

But probably the biggest reason I'm against military force is because it's a destructive use of resources as opposed to a productive economy activity. Wars are costly due to lives lost but also due to misplaced human and capital resources. I'm definitely for maintaining a large and impressive standing army and defenses, but wars give the military state a reasonably good chance to write themselves a blank check on our country's future.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

That's Professor Garrison to you

The Whitney of an alternative universe is currently pursuing her PhD in Political Science on a full-ride to Baylor University with dreams of becoming a caring and energetic professor of political science and (hopefully) intro to economics. I like to think this is still a possibility (just not at Baylor), so this Chronicle of Higher Education article takes some of the wind out of my sails. These characterizations about aspiring PhDs make me feel naive:
# They are excited by some subject and believe they have a deep, sustainable interest in it. (But ask follow-up questions and you find that it is only deep in relation to their undergraduate peers — not in relation to the kind of serious dedication you need in graduate programs.)

# They received high grades and a lot of praise from their professors, and they are not finding similar encouragement outside of an academic environment. They want to return to a context in which they feel validated.

# They are emerging from 16 years of institutional living: a clear, step-by-step process of advancement toward a goal, with measured outcomes, constant reinforcement and support, and clearly defined hierarchies. The world outside school seems so unstructured, ambiguous, difficult to navigate, and frightening.

# With the prospect of an unappealing, entry-level job on the horizon, life in college becomes increasingly idealized. They think graduate school will continue that romantic experience and enable them to stay in college forever as teacher-scholars.

At least it validates my decision to continue working full-time while pursuing a more practical M.P.P. part-time. I can still decide to pursue this pipe dream later on in life.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The limit to my optimism

When I started this blog, I thought I'd write somewhat regularly about my experiences with my parents, but underestimated how raw or difficult these stories could be. I thought discussing them, researching them, making light of them would be good for me and maybe somewhat edifying for my few friends who follow this.

All I can say at this point is that I may be reaching the end of my optimism for my mother. That's really hard for me to admit. It often seems like I'm the last one to have hope for her condition to improve. It would mean the world to me if you would keep my mother in your thoughts and prayers. May she prove the naive Whitney right, buck the odds, and find the will to get better.