Saturday, August 07, 2010

The meltdowns of socialism in Greece and most of Europe suggest that we may live in more dangerous times than we generally realize

In the 1920s, Ludwig von Mises demonstrated via economic reasoning why socialism could not work. His argument was that without market prices, there was no way to properly allocate resources. About ten years later, Friedrich Hayek supported Mises' conclusion from a different angle. He approached it as a "knowledge problem" and argued that no central authority, regardless of how intelligent, could possess enough information to make proper and efficient decisions for tens of millions of people and businesses.

History validated the theory of the two Austrian economists. Russia, China, Eastern Europe, Cuba, and North Korea produced inevitable the misery, poverty, and brutality. The two countries that continue the system are amongst the poorest countries in the world, held together only by totalitarian rule and outside economic support.

With the recognition that socialism did not work, "do-gooders" changed their efforts to a system that would be part capitalism and part socialism. They believed that capitalism could be used for resource allocation while the "caring nature" of socialism could ensure equitable distribution of wealth. President Clinton expressed interest in what was then referred to as a "third-way." Western Europe had adopted this approach decades earlier.

Interestingly, Mises argued that a "third way" could not work, either. In the 1940s, Mises demonstrated that one intervention begets additional interventions. A so-called mixed system is nothing more than capitalism with interventionism imposed. Mises showed that any such system eventually degenerates into full-fledged socialism. In a collection of essays entitled "Planning for Freedom," Mises concluded:
There is no other alternative to totalitarian slavery than liberty. There is no other planning for freedom and general welfare than to let the market system work. There is no other means to attain full employment, rising real wage rates and a high standard of living for the common man than private initiative and free enterprise.

The countries of Western Europe have, as Mises predicted, deteriorated into social welfare states likely never imagined or intended at their inceptions. As full-blown socialism approached, these countries became insolvent. Soon all will be forced to either dismantle their welfare states or incur sovereign defaults. The U.S., while never formally adopting either socialism or the mixed system, drifted into the mixed system by gradually adopting many socialist programs. As a result, the U.S. faces the same future of insolvency as its European counterparts.

In terms of history, the mixed system dates back only to Bismarck in the 1880s. It was initiated in a few countries in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Its widespread acceptance occurred after World War II, when several countries chose not to return to the decentralized economies that existed prior to the war. England was the prime example. Industries nationalized for the war effort remained nationalized after the war. England rapidly devolved into a third-rate economy as a result. Prime Minister Thatcher reversed the decline by re-privatizing most of these industries.

It took only about fifty to seventy years for the mixed systems to fail. That is literally a moment in terms of history. Many people are still reluctant to admit that socialism is a failure despite the theoretical warnings and the actual failures themselves. With socialists, it is never the system and always the people that are the cause of failure. "If only we had better leaders." As Hayek and Mises pointed out, it has nothing to do with leadership. There is a fatal flaw in the concept.

As a result of attempting to extend the socialist myth, governments and their populations are now burdened with debt, much of which will never be paid. We are on the verge of a worldwide depression that will hit as governments run out of resources. It is likely that politicians will continue to play the game of "extend and pretend." But we have reached Ms. Thatcher's end-point: "The problem with socialism is that you run out of other people's money."

How ironic that President Obama's first major achievement was ObamaCare. In May, Greece was ordered to privatize its health care system. This month, it was reported that England was going to overhaul their health care system. England was frequently referenced as a model of affordable, efficient health care by ObamaCare advocates. Apparently, the English government and its people view it differently.

These instances are not one-time events. Nor will they be limited to health care. The welfare states of Europe will soon be dismantled in part or whole. So too will the entitlement programs in the U.S. The laws of economics and physics are immutable. They are above legislation. Countries do not have the resources necessary to honor their commitments, period!

Our Founding Fathers, without using the term socialism, designed a Constitution to protect against such incoherent schemes. Over time, the Constitution was vitiated by "living document" interpretations, penumbras, and other nonsense. Now, the U.S. stands on the precipice of failure just as Western Europe. It is insolvent, and there are no other alternatives than to default or dismantle.

The world is at a very dangerous inflection point. We are about to enter a depression. Politicians are not going to back away from socialism willingly. They and large numbers of other beneficiaries will do whatever they can to retain the status quo. Despite the unequivocal failure of the modern welfare state, it is unlikely to disappear quietly. The status quo is always difficult to change. It becomes especially so in desperate economic times and for people who believe they are entitled to be taken care of by others.

The welfare state is headed for the dustbin of history. That is certain because it is no longer sustainable. The critical question is what will replace it. As Mises pointed out, there are only two alternatives: freedom or totalitarianism. There is no middle ground. There is no political compromise that can bridge this gap.

Regardless of which side of the issue you are on, the battle will be bitter and likely last a decade or more. Economically, everyone will be hurt, including many of the "well-off." Whether our moral and ethical code is strong enough to get through this together is moot. We are not like our ancestors in the sense of their strong commitment to community, responsibility, forbearance, and integrity. We are the pampered generation, entitled to gratification now and willing to cut corners to get it.

In many ways, this problem is more serious than that faced by our Founding Fathers. After all, King George had little control over their lives or fortunes. Yet these principled men risked both rather than accept even a little bit of tyranny. Theirs was a fight of principle; ours is one of survival. The fight is made more important when it is coupled with a depression. We know what monsters rose to power during the last depression and their effect on the world.

We will either get liberty or totalitarianism. There is no middle ground. For me, the choice is clear and was stated by Patrick Henry more than two centuries ago: "Give me liberty or give me death."

I am willing to sacrifice just as much as our Founding Fathers did so that my grandchildren and their grandchildren can live in the same country I grew up in. I hope enough others feel the same.



Barack Obama's popularity dips among white voters

President Obama’s popularity among white voters has plunged to create a widening racial divide in America. While support from black Americans has remained steady, a new Gallup poll reveals that whites have become increasingly disillusioned with the president. By last month, a 50-point gulf separated the two racial groups.

After Mr Obama’s inauguration in January 2009, he boasted a 62 per cent approval ratings among whites. But that percentage plunged in July to just 38 per cent. That compares to an 88 per cent job approval among blacks last month, only a slight dip from his high point of 92 per cent a year ago.

The precipitous drop in support from whites comes at a critical time for the president as the key mid-term elections loom in November.

Mr Obama’s popularity has taken serious knocks over his handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, suspicion over his healthcare reforms and anger over the billions of pounds used to prop up the US economy with taxpayer bail outs.

The Gallup poll showed Mr Obama’s approval ratings have also fallen 28 points among Hispanic voters from its 82 per cent peak in May 2009. His 54 per cent rating among Hispanics last month was the lowest of his presidency. Overall, Mr Obama’s popularity remained unchanged last month at 46 per cent, down four points from February. His highest monthly average in the Gallup survey was 66 per cent in January 2009.

More here


Eric Holder's Justice Dept. shakedowns -- funneling funds to far-Leftist groups

The Justice Department has found a new way to pursue civil rights lawsuits, using the powers of the Civil Rights Division not just to win compensation for victims of alleged discrimination but also to direct large sums of money to activist groups that are not discrimination victims and not connected to a particular suit.

In the past, when the Civil Rights Division filed suit against, say, a bank or a landlord, alleging discrimination in lending or rentals, the cases were often settled by the defendant paying a fine to the U.S. Treasury and agreeing to put aside a sum of money to compensate the alleged discrimination victims. There was then a search for those victims -- people who were actually denied a loan or an apartment -- who stood to be compensated. After everyone who could be found was paid, there was often money left over. That money was returned to the defendant.

Now, Attorney General Eric Holder and Civil Rights Division chief Thomas Perez have a new plan. Any unspent money will not go back to the defendant but will instead go to a "qualified organization" approved by the Justice Department. And if there is not enough unspent money -- that will be determined by the Department -- then the defendant might be required to come up with more money to give to the "qualified organization."

The arrangement was used in a recently-settled case, United States v. AIG Federal Savings Bank and Wilmington Finance. The Justice Department alleged that AIG violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by allowing third-party wholesale mortgage brokers to "charge African-American borrowers higher direct broker fees for residential real estate-related loans than white borrowers." The financial institution denied any wrongdoing, and there was no factual finding of wrongdoing. Nevertheless, under the terms of a March 19, 2010 consent decree, AIG agreed to pay $6.1 million to "aggrieved persons who may have suffered as a result of the alleged violations."

That is standard procedure in such cases. But then AIG also agreed, in the words of the consent decree, to "provide a minimum of $1,000,000 to qualified organization(s) to provide credit counseling, financial literacy, and other related educational programs targeted at African-American borrowers." The money would come from unspent funds in the victim-compensation fund. But if it turned out that, after paying off the victims, there was less than $1 million left in the victim-compensation fund, AIG agreed to "replenish the settlement fund so that it contains $1,000,000 for distribution for those educational purposes."

The consent decree directs AIG to consult with the Justice Department on which "qualified organizations" could receive money, and it gives the Department the right to approve where the money will go. In any event, the money will go to groups who have no direct connection to the lawsuit and its allegations of discrimination.

Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman, says no money has yet been given to organizations under the AIG agreement. But she adds that the funds, and those from other cases, will "go to 'qualified organizations' that have a mission that addresses whatever the harm is that was the subject of the litigation."

The Department followed a similar procedure in another case, United States v. Sterling. In that suit, which was first filed in 2006, the Department accused a large California landlord of violating the Fair Housing Act and other laws by "refusing to rent to non-Korean prospective tenants, misrepresenting the availability of apartment units to non-Korean prospective tenants, and providing inferior treatment to non-Korean tenants in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles."

The defendants did not admit any wrongdoing, and there was no factual finding of wrongdoing. Nevertheless, in a November 3, 2009 consent decree, the defendants agreed to pay $2.625 million to compensate alleged victims. On top of that, the consent decree stipulated that if there weren't enough alleged victims on which to spend the $2.625 million, then what's left "shall be a qualified organization(s) mutually agreed upon by the United States and defendants...for the purpose of conducting fair housing enforcement or educational activities in Los Angeles County."




As I have done for some time, I have recently picked out what I think are the best or most interesting pictures that have appeared recently on my various blogs. I have now gathered the pictures for the first half of this year together. You can access them here or here

The Dems’ misguided Rust Belt stimulus: "The Democratic Party has pinned a lot of its hopes on a ‘pro-manufacturing’ agenda. It’s a bad idea. Promoting manufacturing is an unachievable goal, an unnecessary task, and not likely to be popular. Democrats’ manufacturing agenda has to be seen as little more than a payoff to their ardent supporters in the labor movement. First, manufacturing, as most people think of it, is declining just about everywhere.”

Eminent domain by the backdoor: "Earlier today I was talking with my friend Prof. David Beito, a good libertarian and the chair of the Alabama Advisory Board of the US Commission on Civil Rights. David has been investigating the use of ‘blight’ ordinances to seize property in Montgomery, Alabama. The properties are declared ‘blights’ by the city which then comes in, often very quickly, and destroys the home. They then bill the home owners for the service provided by the city, and sells the property to highest bidder, often wealthy land developers. The homeowner not only loses their home but may end up having to pay the city for the services it provided.”


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


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" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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