Monday, July 31, 2006

The Virtue of Riches

How wealth makes us more moral -- a few excerpts from here

For many Americans, riches are so disreputable that taking them away is a goal in itself. The left used to offer the misery of the poor as a reason for redistribution, but these days an increase in inequality is just as likely to be the rallying cry for higher taxation.... Even those who think wealth is good (or at least harmless) often implicitly suggest that the pursuit of wealth and the pursuit of moral goals are separate questions. They would do well to read Benjamin Friedman's The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. The author, a professor of political economy at Harvard, has written an economic tome that is accessible to the average reader without failing to offer something new to specialists as well: a compelling argument that rising incomes make us not just richer people, but better ones.

Friedman's definition of "better" will irritate libertarian-minded readers, who will quarrel with his decision to count support for generous government expenditures among the "moral consequences" of economic growth-or, at least, with his implication that such support is among the positive effects. But most of the consequences he discusses would impress nearly everyone. When earnings are growing, Friedman says, people are more tolerant of minorities, more welcoming to immigrants, more solicitous of their fellow citizens, more supportive of democratic institutions, and just plain better specimens of humanity.

This result is not surprising to anyone who has been around normally rapacious Wall Street bankers at bonus time, but Friedman provides historical evidence for the intuition. In painstaking detail, he outlines the economic history of the United States, Britain, France, and Germany since the industrial revolution. Over and over, he shows that during periods of economic stagnation, societies become more xenophobic, less tolerant of dissent, and more willing to embrace anti-democratic government actions. It is no accident, he argues, that communism and fascism were embraced by countries in economic crisis-or that the Palmer raids and the PATRIOT Act arrived during periods of rising financial insecurity for America's vast bourgeoisie.

Economists have long known that what they call the "wealth effect" can stimulate spending: If people feel richer because the value of their home or stock portfolio has gone up, or because they think their income is likely to rise in the future, they will loosen up and spend more. Friedman suggests that people don't merely become more willing to treat themselves to home entertainment systems and $4 cups of coffee as their wealth grows; they also become more generous to others. "With rising incomes," he says, "more people become willing to donate time and money. And among those who do so, rising incomes also allow people to feel able to do more."

But direct charity is only one of the ways we become more generous. Even more important is the tolerance that growing wealth brings for competition from others. There is a growing recognition that trade is a vastly more effective way to reduce global poverty than foreign aid; even Oxfam, a reliably left-wing nongovernmental organization, has jumped on the free trade bandwagon with a campaign against agricultural subsidies. Better still, trade benefits domestic consumers. Yet progress on that front is nearly impossible unless economic prosperity is rising fast enough to ease the fears of those who are threatened by a more open market....



The Protocols of Pat Buchanan: "Since the outbreak of the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict, Pat Buchanan and other paleoconservatives have made themselves true exponents of populism: the Jew-baiting, conspiracy-driven demagoguery of 1890s agrarians. In two columns, posted at WorldNetDaily this week, Buchanan accused President Bush of being a puppet of nefarious Jewish warmongers. Outlets of the Hate America Right - especially Paul Craig Roberts and - have joined him, and then some. Nothing sets Buchanan's imagination racing like a Bush-backed Israeli war. On Tuesday, Pat asked, "Who is whispering in his ear?" His answer: bloodthirsty Hebrews."

Our taxes at work - for Hezbollah: "The leading news item on the ABC [Australia's public broadcaster] "Insiders" - the updated score of casualties caused by Israeli action in South Lebanon. What about a week by week count of the number of rockets fired into Israel and the resulting casualities, complete with dramatic footage of debris and injured children? Oh dear no, we are just providing a balanced report on the news".

Ahmadinejad orders foreign words out of Persian language: "Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has issued a new order for the Persian language to be purged of foreign words that have crept into everyday usage, the country's language watchdog said on Saturday... He was confirming a report in the Hambestegi newspaper, which said the ultra-nationalist president "has obliged officials to use all cultural means to encourage and educate people to use accurate spoken and written Persian"... In the past, the Persian Academy has coined terms to replace English words such as "helicopter" and "mobile phone". Their new equivalents, already used by state media, are "rotating wings" and "companion phone". But the effort has also triggered many jokes, with one popular sitcom on state television coming up with the term "stretchy bite" as an alternative to "pizza". The first attempt to take the Persian language back to its roots was made under one of Iran's former kings, Reza Pahlavi (1925-1941), who ordered the Academy to find replacements for numerous Arabic words.

The American Left as "crisis cult": "Clinical psychologist Robert Godwin proposes an interesting framework for understanding the increasingly bizarre behavior of the American Left at his very interesting website One Cosmos. Drawing on the work of psychoanalytic anthropologist Weston LaBarre, he posits that the left has become a "crisis cult" such as are found in societies whose bedrock assumptions break down in the face of the superior strength of foreign cultures impinging on their territory... Godwin explains: "...progressives are having to cope with a catastrophic collapse of their world and all of its comforting myths. As each myth crumbles in succession, they become increasingly frantic in papering over reality with the downright strange beliefs of their progressive crisis cult.". Thus come delusional assertions: Bush is an idiot despite degrees from Yale and Harvard; Republicans are questioning the patriotism of Democrats; the monitoring of international phone calls signals the onset of totalitarianism; and (my favorite) Air American founder Sheldon Drobny's assertion that Karl Rove is behind the anti-Semitic posts at Daily Kos. I think it is almost unquestionable that the Left's belief systems have proven incongruent with the real world. Communism didn't work and only survives as a pretext for despotism in North Korea and China. Welfare is a trap, and poor people's lot in America has improved since access to it was term-limited. Higher taxes on "the rich" depress economic growth and throw people out of work. The list could go on..."

N.Y. County law to back up unenforced Federal law: "Any businesses or groups doing business with Suffolk County would be required to submit an annual affidavit affirming that none of their employees are in the U.S. illegally, under a proposal by the county executive. The rule, suggested by County Executive Steve Levy, would be the first of its kind in New York state. Businesses, social service agencies, local governments and any other groups with county contracts would be required to submit the affidavits. The county law would be intended to back up an existing federal statute requiring employers to document that their employees are not in the country illegally. If the proposal was approved, a first violation would carry fines of up to $2,000 and six months in jail. A second violation would come with a fine of up to $2,000 per day for each illegal employee. A third violation would bar the company from any further contracts with the county.

There is a survey here which people who use computers at work may like to have a go at.



"All the worth which the human being possesses, all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State." -- 19th century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel is the most influential philosopher of the Left -- inspiring Karl Marx, the American "Progressives" of the early 20th century and university socialists to this day.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch)

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