Monday, May 28, 2012

Big Business Gets the Hollywood Treatment

Jonah Goldberg

Jack Andraka, a 15-year-old kid from Maryland, just won the world's largest high school science competition by creating a new test for pancreatic cancer, one of the nastiest and most lethal forms of the disease.

According to various news reports, the winning submission at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair is "28 times cheaper" than existing tests and far, far more accurate. Andraka received $75,000 for his efforts, and he's applied for a patent as well. That will probably earn him far more in the years to come.

This comes on the heels of another teen wunderkind. In December, Angela Zhang, 17, won the Siemens Science Competition for inventing a new way of finding and attacking cancer cells. Some people think it might actually lead to a cure for cancer some day.

Zhang and Andraka can probably spend the rest of their high school careers playing video games in the basement, given that their college search is going to be pretty stress-free from here on out.

But that's the real world for you. Impressive kids -- or grown-ups -- invent fantastic things, potentially benefitting millions of people, if not all of mankind. The inventors are rewarded, consumers benefit, and the economy grows. Woo-hoo!

Of course, the real world isn't the world many people imagine it to be. In the Hollywood version of this tale, Zhang would have disappeared when rumors of her invention hit the boardrooms and star chambers of Big Pharma. Bruce Willis would have to come out of retirement as the rogue agent willing to put his life on the line to keep Andraka safe from the goon-squad ninjas of Bristol-Myers Squibb or the wet work teams from Pfizer.

After all, cures and cheaper tests hurt the bottom line of those evil corporations, and we all know profit is all they care about. I mean, haven't you read or seen "The Constant Gardener," the John le Carré book and movie about evil corporations testing drugs on Africans and offing the whistle-blowers at every turn?

That's what corporations do, right? At least that's what my kid is taught. In "Beethoven," the evil munitions industry shoots Saint Bernards to test bullets. In "The Lorax," businesses hate trees. In "The Muppets," they hate Muppets (and love oil). I think that in nearly every movie involving cute woodland creatures ("Furry Vengeance," "Yogi Bear," et al.), businesses are always the bad guys.

When kids get older, they learn from John Grisham movies that big businesses kill people in order to get what they want. In "Aliens," the company wants to smuggle space critters that will likely wipe out all humanity, in the slim hope they'll eke out a bit more profit. In "Avatar," the Halliburton of the future slaughters intelligent aliens and rapes their planet just to make a buck.

At Cannes, where anti-capitalist movies are always a hit, Brad Pitt's newest venture, "Killing Them Softly," is touted as a seething indictment of the American system. "America isn't a country -- it's a business" is apparently the film's central insight. Set against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crisis, the film was reportedly financed by Megan Ellison, daughter of billionaire businessman Larry Ellison.

No wonder that when these kids grow up, some of them make documentaries about how vast conspiracies keep the electric car and, no doubt, the Everlasting Gobstopper off the market. Even more of them uncritically accept this stuff. After all, everyone knows big businessmen are evil.

So the ones getting involved in politics, at least Republican politics, must be the sorts of bad guys we've all seen in the movies.

Warren Buffett and George Soros can't be greedy; after all, they're simply trying to "give something back."

Now, truth be told, I'm no lover of big corporations, but not because I think they want to poison their customers or shoot my dog for target practice. My problem isn't that they're too rapaciously capitalistic.

Rather, it's that they're too opportunistic, too eager to abandon the free market and work with the government under the false flag of the greater good.

In a free market, businesses are in a relentless competition to improve products and satisfy the needs of the consumer. "A new test for pancreatic cancer? Great! Let's be the first to get it to market."

In the cozy world of government-business collusion, the state counts on the status quo existing far out into the future, for that's the only way to preserve and plan out "the system."

There's got to be a good a movie plot in there somewhere.



New Study from U.K. Think Tank Shows How Big Government Undermines Prosperity

Daniel J. Mitchell

It seems I was put on the planet to educate people about the negative economic impact of excessive government. Though I must be doing a bad job because the burden of the public sector keeps rising.

But hope springs eternal. To help make the case, I’ve cited research from international bureaucracies such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and European Central Bank. And since most of those organizations lean to the left, these results should be particularly persuasive.

I’ve also cited the work of academic scholars from all over the world, including the United States, Australia, and Sweden. The evidence is very persuasive that big government is associated with weaker economic performance.

Now we have some new research from the United Kingdom. The Centre for Policy Studies has released a new study, authored by Ryan Bourne and Thomas Oechsle, examining the relationship between economic growth and the size of the public sector.

The chart compares growth rates for nations with big governments and small governments over the past two decades. The difference is significant, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The most important findings of the report are the estimates showing how more spending and more taxes are associated with weaker performance.

Here are some key passages from the study.
Using tax to GDP and spending to GDP ratios as a proxy for size of government, regression analysis can be used to estimate the effect of government size on GDP growth in a set of countries defined as advanced by the IMF between 1965 and 2010.

…As supply-side economists would expect, the coefficients on the tax revenue to GDP and government spending to GDP ratios are negative and statistically significant. This suggests that, ceteris paribus, a larger tax burden results in a slower annual growth of real GDP per capita. Though it is unlikely that this effect would be linear (we might expect the effect to be larger for countries with huge tax burdens), the regressions suggest that an increase in the tax revenue to GDP ratio by 10 percentage points will, if the other variables do not change, lead to a decrease in the rate of economic growth per capita by 1.2 percentage points.

The result is very similar for government outlays to GDP, where an increase by 10 percentage points is associated with a fall in the economic growth rate of 1.1 percentage points. This is in line with other findings in the academic literature.

…The two small government economies with the lowest marginal tax rates, Singapore and Hong Kong, were also those which experienced the fastest average real GDP growth.

The folks at CPS also put together a short video to describe the results. It’s very well done, though I’m not a big fan of the argument near then end that faster growth is a good thing because it generates more tax revenue to finance more government. Since I’m a big proponent of the Laffer Curve, I don’t disagree with the premise, but I would argue that additional revenues should be used to finance lower tax rates.

Since I’m nit-picking, I’ll also say that the study should have emphasized that government spending is bad for growth because it inevitably and necessarily leads to the inefficient allocation of resources, and that would be true even if revenues magically floated down from heaven and there was no need for punitive tax rates.

More HERE (See the original for links and graphics)


Barack Obama is facing his Jimmy Carter moment

As Mitt Romney closes the gap, it is 1980 all over again for the man in the Oval Office

Until recently, Barack Obama’s re-election was regarded as inevitable – in the same way that summer follows spring. The president’s poll lead over Mitt Romney was strong, while the Republican’s character was assassinated by a primary fight that permanently spoiled the reputation of his party. To court the GOP’s conservative base, Romney was forced to adopt positions on abortion, contraception, health care and welfare that are thought to be unpopular among moderate swing voters. Obama, by contrast, is the man who killed bin Laden and toppled Gaddafi. A choice between Obama the moderate statesman and Romney the craven conservative is surely no contest at all.

But in the last two weeks, things have changed. Obama’s re-election is no longer guaranteed; some pollsters think it is unlikely. Day by day, the odds are improving that Mitt Romney will be the next President of the United States.

What changed? For a start, voters are getting gloomier about the economy. Joblessness remains high and debt is out of control. According to one poll released this week, only 33 per cent of Americans expect the economy to improve in the coming months and only 43 per cent approve of the way that the president has handled it. Voters think Obama has made the debt situation and health care worse. The man who conducted the poll – Democrat Peter Hart – concluded that “Obama’s chances for re-election… are no better than 50-50.”

The president has tried to distract from America’s economic misery by playing up the so-called culture war. Earlier in the year he decided that he would force Catholic employers to provide contraception to their employees through their insurance plans, and he followed that swipe at social traditionalism by endorsing gay marriage. This embrace of Sixties liberalism has backfired. While contraception and gay marriage often receive popular support in national polls, Americans are far more conservative in the voting booth. Thirty-two states have voted on gay marriage and all 32 have voted to outlaw it – even liberal California. Nor has the culture war rallied his party’s base. In presidential primaries held on Tuesday, 39 per cent of Arkansas Democrats and 42 per cent of Kentuckian Democrats rejected Obama’s re-nomination. In West Virginia, 41 per cent of the state’s Democrats voted for an imprisoned criminal rather than the president.

The result is that pollsters find Obama and Romney edging towards one another. Rasmussen puts Obama only one point ahead; Gallup calls it a tie. With Romney doing better than the president in key swing states North Carolina and Florida, Gallup has publicly stated that Obama now has a higher chance of losing rather than winning.

But it isn’t just Obama’s flaws that are making this race interesting. Mitt Romney might not be the most charismatic candidate, but that’s a hidden strength in an election that’s all about competence and getting back to the basics of what once made America work so well. This week, the pro-Obama journalist Andrew Sullivan wrote that with his wealth, good looks and apple-pie conservatism, Romney is like “a focus-group tested model president from 1965”. Sullivan obviously doesn’t realise how popular the TV show Mad Men is. Who wouldn’t warm to a candidate that represents an age marked by low unemployment, stable families and a laissez-faire attitude towards drinking at work?

In fact, the grey Mr Romney is repeating the same formula that won him the governorship of Massachusetts, an ordinarily Democrat state, in 2002. He pulled that off by motivating large numbers of Republicans to vote for him, breaking into the working-class vote and keeping turnout among Democrats fairly low. The unique genius of Romney was his ability to say very conservative things but in a manner that convinced many centrists that he didn’t really mean them. That’s happening again in 2012, as polls indicate that far more Americans think Obama is too Left-wing than believe Romney is too Right-wing.

Of course, Romney has his weaknesses. But they are fewer than Obama’s, whose charisma disguises a multitude of problems so great that it’s hard to imagine him overcoming them. Gallup makes the following observation: “Comparing today’s economic and political ratings with those from previous years when presidents sought re-election reveals that today’s climate is more similar to years when incumbents lost than when they won.” I would go one step further: Obama’s situation is actually worse than that of some of the incumbents who have lost in the past.

In 1980, Democratic president Jimmy Carter faced an uphill struggle for re-election. Yet, despite an index of inflation and unemployment far higher than Obama’s, he was actually doing slightly better in the polls. In March of that year, Carter led his Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, by around 25 per cent. By May, Gallup gave him a lead of 49 to 41 per cent – higher than Obama’s today. Carter’s advantage evaporated in the months that followed, but he regained ground in October and by the last week he was running even.

None the less, Carter eventually suffered a landslide defeat. The scale of his humiliation was hidden by the fact that people were unwilling to commit themselves to the conservative Ronald Reagan until the very last minute. It was only when they went into the polling booth and weighed up all the hurt and humiliation of the past four years that they cast their vote against the president. It looks like Barack Obama will be the Jimmy Carter of 2012.




Reason-Rupe Poll on Wisconsin Recall: Walker Leads Barrett 50-42: "Gov. Scott Walker leads Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett 50-42 among those likely to vote in Wisconsin’s June 5 recall election, according to a new Reason-Rupe poll of 708 Wisconsin adults on cell phones and landlines. The Reason-Rupe poll finds voters overwhelmingly support many of the key changes Gov. Walker and the legislature implemented on public sector pensions and health care last year. Reason-Rupe finds 72 percent favor the change requiring public sector workers to increase their pension contributions from less than 1 percent to 6 percent of their salaries. And 71 percent favor making government employees pay 12 percent of their own health care premiums instead of the previous 6 percent.

When Government Privileges Trump the Rights of Citizens: "Democrats and Republicans in the California Legislature have once again broadcast this troubling fact: They are far more concerned about the ever-expanding demands of a relatively small group of public sector union members than they are about the public welfare of the citizens of our state. On May 17, the state Assembly voted 68-0 to support the most despicable piece of legislation that’s come through the halls in a while, which is saying a lot given the foolhardy proposals routinely on display in Sacramento. (It still requires approval by the Senate and the governor.) The bill, AB 2299, allows a broad swath of public officials—police, judges, and various public safety officials—to hide their names from public property records."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.



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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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