Friday, November 23, 2012

The Origins of Thanksgiving


The story of Thanksgiving is one that involves many of the great things that are generally associated with America – but it has become infused with myth. The Pilgrim Fathers are sometimes portrayed as “Puritans” which they were not. In many ways the Pilgrims were free thinkers. Several who had made the journey from Plymouth had earlier been living as exiles in the Netherlands.

The original Pilgrims belonged to the “English Dissenters” a religious group who wanted to worship God in their own way, without belonging to the hierarchical state church. At that time, they had suffered persecutions for not attending official “Anglican” church services. Genuine Puritans obliged the government of King James I, and attended Church of England services. Anyone who did not attend these official Sunday services was fined. Two of the leaders of the English Dissenters had been executed for “sedition,” and these executions hastened the desire of the Pilgrims to leave England. The Netherlands had provided a safe refuge for many of their number, but America seemed more promising.

There were two boats that were scheduled to make the journey – the Mayflower and also the Speedwell. The latter boat developed problems on two initial attempts to set sail, and eventually only the Mayflower crossed the Atlantic, leaving in September of 1620. A year earlier, the Pilgrims had gained a permit to settle in North Virginia in 1619.

William Bradford (1590 – 1657), a 30-year old man at the time of the journey, would write a journal, whose contents were later published as “Of Plymouth Plantation.”  He was traveling with his wife, but they had to leave their four-year old son behind. At this time, the troupe of Pilgrims heading for America were calling themselves “The Saints.” On November 11, 1620, they arrived in Cape Cod. The “Saints” were happy when they had arrived, but Bradford noted:

"But hear I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand half amased at this poore peoples presente condition; and so I thinke will the reader too, when he well considered ye same. Being thus passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembred by yt which wente before), they had now no friends to wellcome them, nor inns to entertaine or refresh their weatherbeaten bodys, no houses or much less townes to repaire too, to seeke for succoure. .."

On November 15, a smaller boat (a sloop, called a “shallop” by Bradford) was sent out with an advance party, while the majority of the Pilgrims remained in the Mayflower. The first Native Americans  encountered by the advance party were fearful and retreated into woods. When a band of about thirty settlers came across an abandoned village, they appear to have stolen what they could. As Bradford wrote:

"ther was allso found 2. of their houses covered with matts, and sundrie of their implements in them, but the people were rune away and could not be seen; also ther was found more of their corne, and of their beans of various collours. The corne and beans they brought away, purposing to give them full satisfaction when they should meete with any of them (as about some 6. months afterward they did, to their good contente).

And here is to be noted a speciall providente of God, and a great mercie to this poore people, that hear they gott seed to plant them corne the next year, or els they might have starved, for they had none, nor any liklyhood to get any till the season had beene past (as the sequell did manyfest). Neither is it lickly they had had this, if the first viage had not been made, for the ground was now all covered with snow, and hard frozen. But the Lord is never wanting unto his in their greatest needs; let his holy name have all the praise."

The sloop made its way further down the coast, and at one stage, near a point where a natural harbor was discovered, there was a confrontation with the “Indians”.  The exploratory party retrieved their arms and cutlasses and most of the indigenous people retreated, but one man hid behind a tree and continued to fire arrows at the settlers. A musket ball fired into the trunk sent splinters flying and the archer ran off.

The natural harbour lay near an area that had fresh running streams and had been cleared for farming, with cornfields. This was the site of a former village of the Patuxet, who had been virtually exterminated by plagues (probably smallpox), brought by contact with English fishermen, between 1616 and 1619.

The site of the former Patuxet community was chosen to be the place where the Pilgrims would establish their home. When the exploring party arrived back at the Mayflower, Bradford would discover that his wife Dorothy had slipped off the side of the ship and had drowned. No mention of this event is made in his journal, and some historians have suggested that Dorothy Bradford may have committed suicide.

On December 16 the exploratory party returned to the harbor and on December 25, they began to construct the first building, a communal house.  The remainder of the Pilgrims resided in what was felt to be the comparative safety of the Mayflower, but conditions were bad. As Bradford recorded:

"In these hard and difficulte beginings they found some discontents and murmurings arise amongst some, and mutinous speeches and carriags in other; but they were soone quelled and overcome by the wisdome, patience, and just and equall carrage of things by the Govr and better part, which clave faithfully togeather in the maine. But that which was most sadd and lamentable was, that in 2. or 3. moneths time halfe of their company dyed, especialy in Jan : and February, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvie and other diseases, which this long vioage and their inacomodate condition had brought upon them; so as ther dyed some times 2. or 3. of a day, in the foresaid time; that of 100. and odd persons, scarce 50. remained., And of these in the time of most distres, ther was but 6. or 7. sound persons, who, to their great comendations be it spoken, spared no pains, night nor day, but with abundante of toyle and hazard of their owne health, fetched them woode, made them fires, drest them meat, made their beads, washed their lothsome cloaths, cloathed and uncloathed them; in a word, did all the homly and necessarie offices for them which dainty and quesie stomacks cannot endure to hear named; and all this willingly and cherfully, without any grudging in the least, shewing herein their true love unto their freinds and bretheren. A rare example and worthy to be remembred. Tow of these 7. were Mr. William Brewster, ther reverend Elder, and Myles Standish, ther Captein and military comander, unto whom my selfe, and many others, were much beholden in our low and sicke condition."

Losing more than half of their number was a blow. Of the 102 people who had left Plymouth in England, only 44 survived. As the Mayflower settlers tried to establish the settlement which would later be known as Plymouth:

All this while the Indians carne skulking about them, and would sometimes show them selves aloofe of, but when any aproached near them, they would rune away. And once they stoale away their tools wher they had been at worke, and were gone to diner.

On March 16, one native man named Samaset introduced himself to them, and he could speak limited English. The stolen tools were returned. Samaset introduced them to another man called Squanto, who had been in England. Squanto (Tisquantum) was a Patuxet who had earlier been abducted by a slaver and was taken to Spain, but he had fled to England. From there he had joined with a merchant who had gone to Newfoundland, and from there Squanto had returned to the North Virginia (New England) coast. Squanto would act as interpreter and would be a friend to the Pilgrims until his death.  A few days after their first encounter, Squanto and Samaset would introduce the Pilgrims to their “sachem” or leader, Massasoit. This man was the head of the Pokanoket and head of the Wampanoag confederacy of tribes.

Massasoit negotiated a treaty with John Carver, the leader of the Plymouth settlers, where both sides agreed to assist the other if attacked by hostile groups. The treaty maintained that there would be mutual respect and if any individual from either side had transgressed against the other group, he would be given up to the other side for punishment. Carver would die within a month, and in his place William Bradford became the governor of Plymouth.
Around the middle of July 1623, after a prolonged period of drought, the settlers prayed for deliverance. When the rains fell, as Bradford reported:

"It came, without either wind, or thunder, or any violence, and by degreese in that abundance, as that the earth was thorowly wete and soked therwith. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corne and other fruits, as was wonderfull to see, and made the Indeans astonished to behold; and afterwards the Lord sent them shuch seasonable showers, with enterchange of faire warme weather, as, through his blessing, caused a fruitfull and liberall harvest, to their no small comforte and rejoycing. For which mercie (in time conveniente) they also sett aparte a day of thanksgiveing. This being overslipt in its place, I thought meet here to inserte the same."

Here, then, is the first mention of a day being set aside for Thanksgiving, though in Bradford’s “On Plymouth Plantation,” the exact date of when this day of Thanksgiving was first celebrated is not mentioned.

A supposed “Thanksgiving proclamation” by Bradford claims that the Thanksgiving Day should be on November 29, though the words of this proclamation are almost certainly a 20th century invention. The signing of this so-called proclamation document is patently absurd – “Ye Governor of Ye Colony.” The term “ye” is a quaint pseudo-medievalism more suited to Robin Hood movies starring Erroll Flynn and set in a mythical “Merrie England” than it is to William Bradford. Certainly, a tourist in England can frequently encounter some ghastly cafe calling itself “Ye Olde Tea Shoppe,” but despite his arcane and irregular spelling, Bradford’s command of English language is sophisticated and close to modern speech. Nowhere does he substitute the word “the” with “ye.”

Hoax documents aside, the first Thanksgivings would probably have been a similar event to the Harvest Festivals traditionally practiced in England and elsewhere. These traditionally take place on the Sunday nearest the Harvest Moon (the full moon closest to the Fall Equinox – September 23).

Moving forward in time, the first authentic document of a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” is by George Washington, in which he suggested that a “Day of Publick Thanksgiving and Prayer” should be held on Thursday, November 26, 1789. The full original text of this proclamation, written in New York on October 3, 1789, is available on the Family Security Matters website today.

Washington’s attempt to institute a national Thanksgiving Day did not become accepted as an official national holiday for another seventy four years. Thanksgiving celebrations took place, but at various times in various regions. There was no unifying date or “movable feast” day that could be agreed on throughout all the states. The person who was most influential in getting a national day of Thanksgiving officially inaugurated was Sarah Josepha Hale (1788 – 1879). Hale, an editor and writer petitioned four presidents - Zachary Taylor, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan – to persuade them to institute a national day of Thanksgiving.

As editor of the Ladies Book, Hale wrote in 1851:

“Thanks- giving Day is the national pledge of Christian faith in God acknowledging him as the dispenser of blessings .... The observance of the day has been gradually extending, and for a few years past efforts have been made to have a fixed day which will be universally observed throughout the country .... The last Thursday in November was selected as the day, on a whole, most appropriate."

On September 28, 1863, then aged 74, Sarah Josepha Hale wrote to Abraham Lincoln. She requested that the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival... You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.”

In 1863, America was in the midst of Civil War, but the notion of Thanksgiving was taken up by President Abraham Lincoln. His proclamation announcing the official inauguration of Thanksgiving Day. was delivered on October 3, 1863, the anniversary of George Washington’s proclamation. This was five weeks before he gave his famous Gettysburg Address.



What America's founding communists can teach us

The Separatist Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in November 1620 began their new settlement utilizing overtly communist economic principles.  In addition to common ownership of the land, the Pilgrims farmed corn on a communal plot and divided their harvest evenly amongst themselves.

This is the theoretical Marxist utopia — minus indoor plumbing, NPR, MSNBC and portable electronic devices powered by Solyndra solar panels, naturally.  But did this early communist experiment work?  Did it succeed at putting food on the table?

Not according to William Bradford, an early Pilgrim governor of the colony best known today as the “Father of Thanksgiving.”

The communal arrangement initially employed by the Pilgrims was “found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort,” Bradford wrote in his journal, which was later compiled into Of Plymouth Plantation.

Why did this arrangement fail?  Because as has been the case from time immemorial, the equitable division of inequitably produced assets did not sit well with those whose labors yielded the harvest.

“For the young men, that were most able and fit for labor and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense,” Bradford wrote.

But enmity amongst settlers wasn’t the real problem encountered at Plymouth — it was a shortage of food.  In his book Mayflower: A Story of Courage Community and War historian Nathaniel Philbrick discusses how communal farming and common ownership produced a “disastrous harvest.”

Faced with the prospect of starvation, Bradford “decided that each household should be assigned its own plot to cultivate, with the understanding that each family kept whatever it grew,” according to Philbrick.

Not surprisingly this approach replaced infighting and starvation with harmony and industry — not to mention an abundance of food.

“This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content,” Bradford wrote.

In other words where top-down planning based on communist ideology failed — the enforcement of private property rights based on free market ideology succeeded.

“The change in attitude was stunning,” Philbrick writes. “Families were now willing to work much harder than they had ever worked before.”

“The Pilgrims had stumbled on the power of capitalism,” Philbrick added, noting that “although the fortunes of the colony still teetered precariously in the years ahead, the inhabitants never again starved.”

As the United States moves further away from its free market foundation this Thanksgiving, the example of Plymouth is worth considering.  It is a cautionary tale — a grim reminder of where the federal government’s present trajectory is going to take our nation.

Already the “fair share” policies of Barack Obama — who is making good on his stated desire to “spread the wealth” around — have failed to produce the promised economic recovery.  In fact America’s central bank is now printing money indefinitely as government’s debt and unfunded liabilities race past the threshold of sustainability.

The result of this “stimulus?”  Income levels are shrinking, joblessness remains chronically high and economic growth is anemic.  And lurking around the corner are massive tax hikes and the full implementation of Obama’s socialized medicine law — both of which will result in additional large-scale shifts from the “makers” to the “takers” in our society.

Incentivizing dependency has clearly failed to stimulate our economy.  From 2000-10, government’s cash assistance to the poor increased by 68 percent — after adjusting for inflation.  Health care assistance increased by 87 percent, housing assistance by 108 percent and food assistance by 139 percent — again, all after adjusting for inflation.  Still, poverty in America climbed from 11.3 to 15.1 percent during that time period.

Government efforts to combat poverty have produced more poverty, in other words — and based on the ongoing entitlement expansion, the worst is likely yet to come.

As we gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let’s not only remember the lessons of Plymouth — let’s commit to proclaiming the virtues of self-reliance, property rights and free markets more boldly than ever.  Otherwise we’ll have even less to be thankful about next year.




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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)


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Some history


Twinkies and golden eggs

Union demands have served to decrease number of jobs


Killing the goose that lays the golden egg is one of those fairy tales with a heavy message that a lot of adults should listen to. The labor unions that have driven the makers of Twinkies into bankruptcy, potentially destroying 18,500 jobs (subject to court-ordered mediation), could learn a lot from that old fairy tale.
Many people think of labor unions as organizations to benefit workers, and think of employers who are opposed to unions as just people who don't want to pay their employees more money. But some employers have made it a point to pay their employees more than the union wages, just to keep them from joining a union.

Why would they do that, if it is just a question of not wanting to pay union wages? The Hostess Brands bankruptcy is a classic example of costs created by labor unions that are not confined to paychecks.

The work rules imposed in union contracts required Hostess, which makes Twinkies and Wonder Bread, to deliver these two products to stores in separate trucks. Moreover, truck drivers were not allowed to load either of these products into their trucks. And the people who did load Twinkies into trucks were not allowed to load Wonder Bread, and vice versa.

All of this was obviously intended to create more jobs for the unions' members. But the needless additional costs that these make-work rules created ended up driving the company into bankruptcy, which can cost 18,500 jobs. The union is killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Not only are there reasons for employers to pay their workers enough to keep them from joining unions, there are reasons why workers in the private sector have increasingly voted against joining unions. They have seen unions driving jobs away to nonunion competitors at home or driving them overseas, whether with costly work rules or in other ways.

The legendary labor leader John L. Lewis called so many strikes in the coal mines that many people switched to using heating oil instead, because they couldn't depend on coal deliveries. A professor of labor economics at the University of Chicago called John L. Lewis "the world's greatest oil salesman."

There is no question that Lewis' United Mine Workers Union raised the pay and other benefits for coal miners. But the higher costs of producing coal not only led many consumers to switch to oil, these costs also led coal companies to substitute machinery for labor, reducing the number of miners.

By the 1960s, many coal-mining towns were almost ghost towns. But few people connected the dots back to the glory years of John L. Lewis. The United Mine Workers Union did not kill the goose that laid the golden eggs, but it created a situation where fewer of those golden eggs reached the miners.

It was much the same story in the automobile industry and the steel industry, where large pensions and costly work rules drove up the prices of finished products and drove down the number of jobs. There is a reason why there was a major decline in the proportion of private sector employees who joined unions. It was not just the number of union workers who ended up losing their jobs. Other workers saw the handwriting on the wall and refused to join unions.

There is also a reason why labor unions are flourishing among people who work for government. No matter how much these public sector unions drive up costs, government agencies do not go out of business. They simply go back to the taxpayers for more money.

Consumers in the private sector have the option of buying products and services from competing, non-union companies-- from Toyota instead of General Motors, for example, even though most Toyotas sold in America are made in America. Consumers of other products can buy things made in non-union factories overseas.

But government agencies are monopolies. You cannot get your Social Security checks from anywhere except the Social Security Administration or your driver's license from anywhere but the DMV.

Is it surprising that government employees have seen their pay go up, even during economic downturns, and their pensions rise to levels undreamed of in the private sector? None of this will kill the goose that lays the golden egg, so long as there are both current taxpayers and future taxpayers to pay off debts passed on to them.



The Horrors of FEMA Disaster 'Relief'; the Glory of Private Efforts

Chuck Norris

"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'" -- President Ronald Reagan

Those wise and yet haunting words spoken by one of our nation's greatest presidents couldn't ring more true -- especially today, as winter sets in on an estimated 130,000 of our fellow Americans who are still struggling without power. Many live without heat, hot water or inhabitable homes and question the government's efforts to alleviate their condition.

Amid the election frenzy, several mainstream media outlets instantly praised the Obama administration's response to the Hurricane Sandy devastation in the Northeast. But let's look beneath the congratulatory headlines to see the real and horrifying picture of what's happening.

Right now, homeless Americans are literally freezing, wrapped in blankets and trash bags as they struggle to survive in FEMA tent cities such as New Jersey's "Camp Freedom," which reportedly "resembles a prison camp."

"Sitting there last night, you could see your breath," displaced resident Brian Sotelo told the Asbury Park Press. "At (Pine Belt), the Red Cross made an announcement that they were sending us to permanent structures up here that had just been redone, that had washing machines and hot showers and steady electric, and they sent us to tent city. We got (expletive)."

Sotelo said Blackhawk helicopters patrol the skies "all day and night," and a black car with tinted windows surveys the camp while the government moves heavy equipment past the tents at night. According to the story, reporters aren't even allowed in the fenced complex, where lines of displaced residents form outside portable toilets. Security guards are posted at every door, and residents can't even use the toilet or shower without first presenting ID.

"They treat us like we're prisoners," Ashley Sabol told Reuters. "It's bad to say, but we honestly feel like we're in a concentration camp."

Snow and icy slush seep into living areas through the bottoms of the government tents.

Meanwhile, officials are said to be banning residents from taking pictures and even cutting off Wi-Fi and power access.

"After everyone started complaining, and they found out we were contacting the press, they brought people in," Sotelo said. "Every time we plugged in an iPhone or something, the cops would come and unplug them."  He added: "Everybody is angry over here. It's like being in prison."

In New York, residents of Gerritsen Beach have banded together to survive.  "With all due respect to the federal issue, we're used to taking care of ourselves," Doreen Garson, the acting volunteer fire chief, told The Washington Post as area residents received hot meals outside a trailer. "I don't know what FEMA is really doing for anyone."

Some citizens say FEMA has distributed checks to fix their homes, but bureaucratic hurdles mean relief amounts are determined inconsistently and may be insufficient to cover damage. In some cases, the rebuilding funds are distributed even when reconstruction doesn't make sense because the destroyed homes are located in high-risk areas.

FEMA's bureaucratic tape is such a mess that states have had to hire consulting firms just to navigate the paperwork, with consultants earning as much as $180 an hour -- all of which is billed to American taxpayers.

Meanwhile, FEMA -- which previously provided trailers to victims of Hurricane Katrina that made residents sick from toxic levels of formaldehyde -- will now bring more temporary homes to New York and New Jersey. The government assures us that this time the homes have been approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, FEMA failed to have bottled water and other supplies ready for storm victims -- a week after the storm hit -- and was forced to seek help from private vendors to meet residents' needs.

While generous citizens fill trucks with donations and goods for hurricane survivors, FEMA is reportedly demanding they stop -- because the federal agency has "strict rules on what can and can't be accepted."

To make matters worse, FEMA now expects Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to appear before Congress and request a taxpayer bailout for FEMA flood-insurance operations while it burns through $200 to $300 million a day.

Where did we go wrong? The moment we began looking to government to fill the role of caretaker, provider and savior.

What happened to the days when communities and churches were the places Americans turned to for help? We need to get back to basics, where Americans care for our brothers and sisters and help them in times such as these.

In one brilliant example of communities banding together, Staten Island residents organized their own citizen-led team of volunteers and started a donation drive, bringing massive trucks of aid into their community from Virginia. They've worked with local churches, VFW posts and businesses to bring in needed supplies and help with cleanup efforts.

In yet another stunning example of private efforts, veterans of both the Israeli army and U.S. military descended on New York to help with rescue operations and relief assistance when the government was said to be absent.

Churches and businesses are reaching out to people who've been displaced, packing U-Haul trucks and 18-wheelers with food, diapers, blankets, toiletries and other needed goods.

"We decided that it wasn't enough for us to simply declare the gospel; we've got to demonstrate it," pastor Jerry Young said from New Hope Baptist Church in Mississippi. "What we're trying to do now is demonstrate the gospel."

Just as these grassroots volunteers have been sacrificing so much to help displaced citizens and clean up storm-ravaged areas in the Northeast, I urge America's citizen volunteers, churches and businesses to follow their examples.

Let's stop making the mistake of expecting government to be our savior in times like these.

We are told eight times in the Bible to love our neighbor. This Thanksgiving week, America has an extraordinary opportunity to do just that. Let's band together and show our fellow citizens that we care and we won't leave them to the "mercy" of the government in their time of need.




Bakery union set to crumble:  "Bankrupt Hostess Brands Inc. and its striking union agreed to enter into mediation to try to resolve their differences, putting the baking company's planned liquidation on hold for now.  At a U.S. Bankruptcy Court hearing Monday in White Plains, N.Y., the 82-year-old company sought permission to start shutting down its business. Instead, Judge Robert Drain urged Hostess and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union to consider mediation.  Both sides agreed to try to work through the conflict, which could preserve more than 18,000 jobs. Those include 550 positions for workers at two bakeries and seven retail stores in Los Angeles and Orange counties, as of the start of the year."

UN: ending AIDS epidemic is "feasible":  "An end to the worldwide AIDS epidemic is in sight, the United Nations says, mainly due to better access to drugs that can both treat and prevent the incurable human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes the disease. Progress over the past decade has cut the death toll and helped stabilize the number of people infected with HIV, the U.N. AIDS program said in its annual report on Tuesday. 'The global community has embarked on an historic quest to lay the foundation for the eventual end of the AIDS epidemic. This effort is more than merely visionary. It is entirely feasible,' UNAIDS said. ... Deaths from AIDS fell to 1.7 million in 2011, down from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005 and from 1.8 million in 2010." [They're going to stop homosexuals from sticking their member where the sun doesn't shine??]

We need to end the drug war!:  "To save our children, we need to get drugs out of our schools. The only way to do that is to take the profit out through re-legalization.  You don't see pushers selling tobacco and alcohol in the schools because there isn't the profit margin that prohibition brings. If we're serious about saving our kids, we have to stop the pushers by slashing their profits."

Let's hear it for scandal!:  "I can't abide the sort of Beltway scold who looks down his nose at political scandals as distractions from 'the business of governing.' Ringside seats at the latest --'gate are among the few redeeming features of life in this miserable company town. At a minimum, scandals serve as a useful reminder that we're usually led by people of questionable competence, miserable judgment and a flexible relationship with the truth. At their best, they can even provoke much-needed reforms."

Last surviving Mumbai gunman Mohammed Kasab executed in India:  "Mohammed Kasab, the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, has been hanged in an Indian prison. Kasab was executed at 7.30am (0200 GMT) at Yerwada jail in Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra after India's President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his mercy plea earlier this month, local media said.   The Pakistan-born Kasab was one of 10 gunmen who laid siege to the city in attacks that lasted nearly three days and killed 166 people.  Kasab was sentenced to death in May 2010 after he was found guilty of a string of charges, including waging war against India, murder and terrorist acts.  During the 2008 attacks, the heavily armed Islamist gunmen stormed targets in Mumbai including luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, a hospital and a bustling train station. "

California leads the way:  "Under the federal government’s new measurement of poverty, California is in last place — or at the top of the state rankings with a 23.5 percent poverty rate.  This state, now under a super-majority of Democratic leadership so Republicans cannot stop any new schemes, is excelling in all the wrong areas and continues to sink in areas of growth and prosperity.  Unfortunately, poverty isn’t the only area where the Golden State reigns supreme.  California has the third highest unemployment rate in the nation at 10.2 percent.  The state faces an unfunded liability of $100 billion in its Public Employees’ Retirement System and $65 billion in its State Teachers’ Retirement System.  Furthermore, the state has a roughly $16 billion budget deficit."



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A simple economic truth that's staring Americans in the face

Stop saving

Obama has printed greenbacks by the truckload yet prices in the supermarkets have mostly not risen much.  That's not supposed to happen.  More money chasing the same amount of goods and services is supposed to devalue the money and send prices rocketing.  So what gives?  That's a puzzle many economists have addressed.  Lags in the system can by now be fairly convincingly dismissed so there is only one possible explanation.  People are saving (mainly by paying off debt) at roughly the same rate as Obama is printing money.

So what's going on is not only driven by Keynesian thinking but it is actually working in a Keynsian sort of a way.  Public demand is replacing private demand.  So as long as Americans lack confidence in the future, Obama can keep printing money and thus seize huge amounts of private output for spending by the government.  And it's hard to see him doing anything to boost confidence in the next 4 years.  So there is no need for him to cut government spending.

But countries need investment spending to remain prosperous and it is precisely investment spending that is not happening.  People are mostly not building new homes and businesses are mostly not building new factories, to put it at its simplest.  A large part  of the workforce which normally provides investment goods (builders etc) is either not working or has been sucked into unproductive government employment.

But without investment spending the country will not only fail to grow but will even go backwards.  Maintenance is a major form of investment spending and without maintenance assets will deteriorate and everyone will be poorer for it.

But, whatever the detail, the crash in private investment is causing a crash in jobs and more and more people are becoming welfare-dependent.  America is becoming steadily poorer.  And Obama's job numbers are the sort of thing that the guy had in mind who wrote the book "How to lie with statistics".  Even many  Mexicans are going home for lack of work.  As a percentage of the population, the number of people working has not been so low since the Depression.

Is there a way out?  Hopefully.  Countries can continue to get poorer for many years  -- as Britain has.  And the solid bloc of minorities that elected Obama may continue to elect equally destructive Democrats for many years to come.  But I am guessing here that Americans have got more spunk than that.  If the next Democrat presidential candidate is white, even some blacks may get tired of no jobs and vote GOP.

And just the election of a GOP president would probably inspire confidence in the people who make investment decisions. And if he immediately rolled back the previous 8 years of EPA regulations,  America would be on a roll.  The demand for investment goods and services would roar ahead and all that newly released investment money chasing a fairly fixed supply of goods and services will bid up prices sharply.  Everything will cost a lot more and a greenback will buy a lot less.  Roaring inflation will have arrived.

A drastic cut in government spending at the same time could in theory prevent much of the inflation but that ain't gonna happen.

So people's savings will be virtually wiped out, which will be keenly felt by many, particularly older Americans who will see a life's hard work and savings go down the drain.

So what should Americans do right now?  Roughly the opposite of what they are now mostly doing:  Stop saving and stop paying off debt.  Maybe even borrow money to buy another house for letting  out.  Money in the bank won't do you much good in the future but owning real assets will.  But don't buy gold.  The price of gold is inflated at the moment by uncertainty.  Once confidence returns, the demand for gold will drop.

And I know what I am talking about.  I have "been there and done that".  In the early '70s I bought some condos using mainly borrowed money.  Then along came a Leftist government, led by the economically illiterate E.G. Whilam, that went on a spending spree and inflated the currency to do it.  So when my loans came up for renewal, the prices of real estate had roughly doubled and by selling one condo I could pay off my debts on all the rest.  I thus owe my present economically comfortable circumstances to Leftist folly.  You too can do that.

Shares in blue chip companies are another possibility but are risky unless you know what you are doing.

The destruction of savings will of course create great outrage and who will get the blame for that?  Unless they have great PR, it will be the next GOP administration.  They will be blamed for excesses created by Obama.  The GOP administration might even try price-controls to save its skin.  Nixon did.  But that will just create more chaos.

So a return to Donk destruction can also be foreseen, sadly for America.  The long-term future for America is not bright now that a huge slice of the electorate is as thick as a brick.  Restricting voting to those who pay income taxes would help but is most unlikely to happen.


Regime Uncertainty: Some Clarifications

by Robert Higgs

Private investment is the most important driver of economic progress. Entrepreneurs need new structures, equipment, and software to produce new products, to produce existing products at lower cost, and to make use of new technology that requires embodiment in machinery, plant layouts, and other aspects of the existing capital stock. When the rate of private investment declines, the rate of growth of real income per capita slackens, and if private investment drops quickly and substantially, a recession or depression occurs.

Such recession or depression is likely to persist until private investment makes a fairly full recovery. In US history, such recovery usually has occurred within a year or two after the trough. Only twice in the past century has a fairly prompt and full recovery of private investment failed to occur — during the Great Depression and during the past five years.

In analyzing data on investment, we must distinguish gross and net investment: the former includes all spending for new structures, equipment, software, and inventory, including the large part aimed at compensating for the wear, tear, and obsolescence of the existing capital stock; the latter includes the gross expenditure in excess of that required simply to maintain the existing stock. Therefore, net investment is the best measure of the private investment expenditure that contributes to economic growth.

As the figure shows, net private domestic fixed investment (a measure that excludes investment in inventories) reached a peak in 2006–2007, declined somewhat in 2008, then plunged in 2009 before reaching a trough in 2010. Although it recovered slightly in 2011, it remained 20 percent below the previous peak, and the pace of its recovery to date implies that another three or four years will be required merely to bring it back to where it was in 2007. With adjustments for changes in the price level, the projected recovery period would be slightly longer. (Using the price index for gross private domestic investment to obtain real values, we find that real net private domestic fixed investment is now at approximately the same level it had attained in the late 1990s.) To understand why the current overall economic recovery has been so anemic, we must understand why net private investment has not recovered more quickly.

In a 1997 article in the Independent Review ("Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumed After the War") I argued that a major reason for the incomplete recovery of private investment during the latter half of the 1930s was "regime uncertainty." By this, I mean a pervasive lack of confidence among investors in their ability to foresee the extent to which future government actions will alter their private-property rights. In the original article and in many follow-up articles, I documented that between 1935 and 1940, many investors feared that the government might transform the very nature of the existing economic order, replacing the primarily market-oriented economy with fascism, socialism, or some other government-controlled arrangement in which private-property rights would be greatly curtailed, if they survived at all. Given such fears, many investors regarded new investment projects as too risky to justify their current costs.

During the past several years, I have argued that a similar, if somewhat less extreme fear now pervades the business community, which explains at least in part the sluggish pace of the current economic recovery. Other exponents of this view include such prominent economists as Gary Becker, Allan Meltzer, John Taylor, and Alan Greenspan. (Until recently, Austrian economists were more receptive than mainstream economists to the idea of regime uncertainty; see, for example, the recent Mises Daily by John P. Cochran.) In addition, economists Scott Baker and Nicholas Bloom at Stanford and Steven J. Davis at the University of Chicago have devised an empirical index of policy uncertainty that has remained at extraordinarily high levels since September 2008. However, what most other economists — and all of those in the professional mainstream — have noted is not exactly the same as what I call regime uncertainty, but rather a related, somewhat narrower phenomenon.

Over the years, some economists have urged me to forsake the term "regime uncertainty" and to use instead an expression such as policy uncertainty, rule uncertainty, or regime worsening. I have rejected these suggestions because the idea I seek to convey encompasses more than simply policies or rules. Moreover, regime uncertainly does not necessarily signify only apprehension about potential worsening as a central tendency.

Regime uncertainty pertains to more than the government's laws, regulations, and administrative decisions. For one thing, as the saying goes, "personnel is policy." Two administrations may administer or enforce identical statutes and regulations quite differently. A business-hostile administration such as Franklin D. Roosevelt's or Barack Obama's will provoke more apprehension among investors than a business-friendlier administration such as Dwight D. Eisenhower's or Ronald Reagan's, even if the underlying "rules of the game" are identical on paper. Similar differences between judiciaries create uncertainties about how the courts will rule on contested laws and government actions.

For another thing, seemingly neutral changes in policies or personnel may have major implications for specific types of investment. Even when government changes the rules in a way that seemingly strengthens private-property rights overall, the action's specific form may jeopardize particular types of investment, and apprehension about such a threat may paralyze investors in these areas. Moreover, it may also give pause to investors in other areas, who fear that what the government has done to harm others today, it may do to them tomorrow. In sum, heightened uncertainty in general — a perceived increase in the potential variance of all sorts of relevant government action — may deter investment even if the mean value of expectations shifts toward more secure private-property rights.

Regime uncertainly is a complex matter. No empirical index can capture it fully; some indexes may actually misrepresent it. Only the actors on the scene can appraise it, and their appraisals are intrinsically subjective. However, by assessing a variety of direct and indirect evidence, analysts can better appreciate its contours, direction, and impact on private investment decisions.



Some alternative history


Big Labor killed the Twinkie

By Adam Bitely — The war on profit and success waged by Big Labor has claimed their latest victim: Hostess.

The snack food king announced on Friday that they would immediately cease all production operations at their bakeries and would lay off their more than 18,000 employees and liquidate their assets. Simply put, the company that sells us Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs and Twinkies is no more.

Hostess had been battling the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union for the better part of the past year. After filing for bankruptcy in January of 2012, Hostess had sought to restructure their labor deal to make the company competitive in the snack food industry again.  The labor union, arguing that it was protecting the workers, would not make the necessary concessions to keep the company afloat. Instead, the union, knowing that the company might go under completely, decided to gamble away the employees they purportedly represented.

The union went on strike in early November, severely hampering the production capabilities of Hostess. The strike was the final straw for Hostess ownership who decided that it was better to give up and go home than deal with the two front war that they were dealing with.

Now there is a possibility that those who went on strike and lost their jobs could find themselves receiving taxpayer funded unemployment benefits. After engaging in efforts to destroy their jobs, which they were warned by Hostess was a possibility when they decided to strike, the last thing these people deserve is any sort of compensation to tide them through the hardship created by their own efforts.

The demise of Hostess is just the latest shoe to fall in the war on the producers that is being waged by Big Labor. Convincing people to join their unions because of the supposed protections afforded them by membership, these organizations have instead shown a willingness to destroy the companies of the employees they represent. It is past time that the disastrous effects of labor unions are shown front and center to people around the country.

As Bill Wilson, President of Americans for Limited Government put it, “It is common for parasites to kill their hosts, but it rarely happens in a way where so many people can see it.  This union did what many others have done outside of the spotlight, they have forced a company to go out of business directly due to their irresponsible actions.”

And what is most ironic in the downfall of the cupcake king is that Dick Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO which is one of the largest labor organizations in the country, blamed the Hostess closure on Mitt Romney saying, “What’s happening with Hostess Brands is a microcosm of what’s wrong with America, as Bain-style Wall Street vultures make themselves rich by making America poor. Crony capitalism and consistently poor management drove Hostess into the ground, but its workers are paying the price.”

So according to the prinicipal spokesman of Big Labor, companies exist as jobs programs and not to earn a profit for shareholders. But what happened on Friday is that over 18,000 new people were turned over to the Department of Labor for unemployment benefits — proving Trumka’s and Big Labor’s premise for existence is nothing more than a sham to shakedown America’s producers.

Ultimately, they have shown time and again that they don’t care what happens to the employees. They only care about themselves. They are fighting for themselves and against producers to get what the producers have.



Obamacare implementation craters under state objections

The national health care law jumped back into the headlines last week as a deadline for states to decide whether to establish individual state health care exchanges approached and then was extended by the Obama Administration to December 14.

The delay was requested by the Republican Governor’s Association whose members had posed questions of the Obama Administration about the law over the past few months that remained unanswered.

Over the past week, the list of states not participating in the system has grown to nineteen as the states of Wisconsin, Ohio and Nebraska chose to join sixteen others in rejecting the state health insurance exchange that is called for under the Obamacare law.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin announced his choice in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday writing, “No matter which option is chosen, Wisconsin taxpayers will not have meaningful control over the health care policies and services sold to Wisconsin residents.”

Walker’s letter continued by stating, “If the state option is chosen, however, Wisconsinites face risk from a federal mandate lacking long-term guaranteed funding.” ....

Currently, nineteen states are rejecting the state exchanges, sixteen states are enacting them, three are attempting a state/federal exchange hybrid, and twelve will decide before the new December 14 deadline.

The undecided states are:  Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.




List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Socialized medicine ALWAYS fails:  The Australian case

"Free" public hospitals, tax rebates for having private insurance and refunds for private health expenditures are all in place but are still insufficient for many people with expensive illnesses.  Governments just can't afford to look after everyone.  They should confine their help to the seriously ill only but that would now be politically impossible

FAMILIES are being forced to sell their homes or raid their superannuation to pay medical bills, with some going bankrupt as Medicare rebates [sometimes only a third of the actual cost] fail to keep pace with inflation and health funds fail to cover all medical charges.

The financial nightmare has exposed the growing inadequacy of Medicare and health fund rebates and the crippling health costs to those with multiple or serious illnesses.

Battling breast cancer, chemotherapy and a life-threatening infection, Leonie Havnen's biggest challenge was not her health but the $31,300 in medical bills not covered by Medicare.

This year the 52-year-old Sydney mother of two was forced to raid her superannuation nest egg to cover her treatment costs.

"As a taxpayer for the past 36 years who pays around $30,000.00 a year in tax, $2,500 health insurance and the Medicare levy, to have to pay out of pocket for life saving medical treatment, just screams to me the 'the system is broken'," she said.

"Why did I have to access my superannuation to pay for my life saving medical treatment?  We aren't a third world country."

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago Ms Havnen has had surgery six times, first to remove both breasts and then to deal with the consequences of a golden staph infection. She spent time in hospital when one of her kidneys collapsed. A statement from her health fund for the 2011-2012 financial year shows her private hospital treatment cost $77,732 and she received rebates of just $59,400 from Medicare and her health fund  leaving her $18,331 out of pocket.

On top of these hospital expenses, Ms Havnen had another $12,000 in bills for specialist appointments, scans, health fund excess payment, and medication.  Her health fund reviewed her case after being contacted by The Sunday Telegraph and have since refunded her a further $6000.

While our Medicare and health fund systems are praised as among the best in the world, there is emerging evidence they are leaving hundreds of thousands of Australians in poverty.

A Menzies Centre for Health Policy study has found 250,000 Australians spend more than 20 per cent of their income on health costs. Doctors and anaesthetists who charge large out-of-pocket gap fees, poor health insurance cover, Medicare rebates that haven't kept pace with inflation and the $35.40 copayment for medicines are at fault. As well, many treatments and medicines are not covered by either subsidy schemes.

A recent Health Consumers NSW survey has found families were being forced to sell their homes or skip doctors' appointments or medicines because of the cost.

"Due to the combination of suddenly not being able to work, and the high out of pocket costs of my illness, we had to sell our family home," one respondent told the survey.  "Have not attended a cardiologist since February 2011. Cannot afford to," another said.

The government's Private Health Insurance Administration Council said health fund members paid $4.3 billion in out of pocket expenses last financial year.

Research by the George Institute found 11 per cent or 28, 665 bankruptcies in 2009 cited ill health or absence of health insurance as the primary reason.

A recent survey of 3000 National Seniors members found one in five Australians aged 50 to 64 are skipping doses of their prescription medicines because of cost.

Gaps fees for plastic and reconstructive surgeons averaged $1588, for orthopaedic surgery $1485, the gap for scans averaged $88 and for specialists $56.

A spokesman for Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said gaps came about when doctors charged more than the scheduled fee.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures show Australians spend an average $1075 a year in out-of-pocket health expenses.

"The issue is whilst we say we have a universal system, the reality is many people are struggling," Consumers Health Forum chief Carol Bennett said. "The cumulative costs of a chronic illness mean you have multiple scripts and scans and appointments and you've got to make the difficult choice of whether you see your doctor or put food on the table."

More here

An example of an encounter with a "free" Australian public hospital here.  And examples of the disastrous state of socialized medicine in Britain appear daily on EYE ON BRITAIN


Welcome to the Lousiest Recovery of All Time

I have put up below some excerpts from a Leftist analysis.  It explains a lot.  I have not however put up its explanation of the Fed's continued folly in thinking that money-printing will achieve anything positive.  In a typical Leftist way, the writer thinks the Fed is part of a conspiracy.  It may be but that is irrelevant.  Bernanke and the Fed are simply doing the little that lies within their power.  The real cure for America's ailments lies with Obama and Congress. Encouraging business rather than strangling it is what is needed

Check it out: The number of people currently on food stamps in the US is at a record-high of 47.1 million. That’s more than twice as many recipients than in 2007 when the crisis began. And the percent of Americans living below the poverty line has skyrocketed, too. It’s gone from 12.3 percent in 2006 to 16.1 percent today. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 50 million people in America are now living below the poverty line. In other words, if you’re poor in America your numbers are growing and things are getting worse. Some recovery, eh?

And it’s not just the poor who are hurting either. The middle class is getting clobbered, too. Unemployment is still way too high (7.9 percent) and, according to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, middle income families have seen nearly 40 percent of their net worth go up in smoke since 2007. The bulk of the losses are attributable to the giant housing bust of ’07 which wiped out $8 trillion in home equity leaving the majority of baby boomers unprepared for retirement. It’s a desperate situation that no one seems to want to talk about, but the reality is that millions of people are going to have to figure out how to scrape by on next-to-nothing or work until they’re too senile to punch a clock. As far as these folks are concerned, the recovery is just a big joke.

On previous videos I predicted that the current QE [money printing] would have very little impact on both the stock market and the economy. And that is what happened. Why did I predict that? Short term interest rates are already at zero and it has been five months now since mortgage rates reached current record low levels. So yes, as a result of Operation Twist after tax income rose to a $300 billion in annualized growth this past June through September. That was up from a $200 billion growth rate over the first five months of 2012. Since October, after tax income – remember this is a before inflation number – has dropped back to a $200 billion growth rate. In other words, the Fed this year will in essence print half a trillion dollars that will not improve after tax income nor help stock prices grow……

So the US economy is currently barely growing despite huge amounts of deficit spending and money printing.”

This is Bernanke’s worst nightmare. Stocks are looking wobbly and his nutcase monetary theories are no longer working. But rather than change directions and admit his error, Bernanke has decided to double-down and throw the printing presses into high-gear...

Bernanke continues to believe that the entire economy can be effectively run by moving levers at the Central Bank. He thinks that if you plop enough money into the top of the system, (financial markets) it will eventually dribble downwards to the worker bees. Fat chance. It hasn’t happened yet, but not from want of trying.

Bernanke is right about one thing though, inflation expectations are beginning to fade which means that disinflation or outright deflation are a growing threat to the economy. Take a look at this blurb from The Economist:

“….since mid-October, there has been an unmistakable reversal in the inflation-expectations trend. Based on 5-year breakevens, all of the September spurt has been erased. And 2-year breakevens are back at July levels. Given my optimism over the Fed’s September moves and the apparent strength of underlying fundamentals in the economy, I would like to disregard this trend, but one should be very reluctant to abandon guideposts that have served one well just because they’ve moved in an inconvenient way.”

This is why Bernanke is wheeling out the heavy artillery, because QE3 hasn’t boosted spending or borrowing at all. Business investment is still in the doldrums and earnings have hit the skids in a big way. So where are all the green shoots?

Bernanke should follow the advice of Nomura’s chief economist Richard Koo. Koo has done extensive research on Japan’s 20 year running-battle with deflation and explained in excruciating detail what needs to be done to emerge from, what he calls, a balance sheet recession. Here’s a sample of his work:

“The most important lesson of the last 20 years in Japan and of the last four years in western economies is that monetary policy is ineffective when there is no private demand for funds…

“In Japan, there has been little or no private loan demand since 1995, when the BOJ brought interest rates down to near-zero levels. And neither the economy nor asset prices have recovered, even though, as BOJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa has noted, the BOJ embarked on quantitative easing fully eight years before its counterparts in Europe and the U.S…..

When businesses and households not only stop borrowing money but start to work off their debt, the resulting absence of borrowers effectively traps central bank-supplied liquidity in the financial system, and as a consequence the funds neither stimulate the economy nor spark inflation……”

Sound familiar? And here’s more from the Financial Times via Economist’s View:

“Today, the US private sector is saving a staggering 8 per cent of gross domestic product – at zero interest rates, when households and businesses would ordinarily be borrowing and spending money. … This is the result of the bursting of debt-financed housing bubbles, which left the private sector with huge debt overhangs … giving it no choice but to pay down debt or increase savings, even at zero interest rates.



Maybe We Really Can’t All Just Get Along

Derek Hunter knows his history

During the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Rodney King famously asked, “Can’t we all just get along?” The answer should be an easy and unequivocal “yes,” but it seems less and less likely these days.

King was speaking in term of race, but the same could be said of political ideology. Liberals, conservatives and every other point on the political spectrum used to co-exist fairly easily (with the exception of left-wing anarchists who don’t get along with anyone). But these days détente has given way to anger and open hostility.

Some, not all, people have become less civil to those with whom they disagree politically. The modern left, birthed with the start of the eugenics-loving, racist progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century, always has embraced, to varying degrees, the concept of silencing opponents. Through the factions of communism, socialism and fascism (all takes on the same philosophy), leftists have made continuous attempts to silence and punish anyone who doesn’t toe their line.

President Woodrow Wilson, a progressive hero, made it illegal to speak German in this country and, in the Sedition Act of 1917, outlawed the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” against the government, flag or military. Wilson’s rabid racism and implementation of segregationist policies in the federal government are routinely ignored by progressives today. But they are all too real and did enormous and lasting damage to our nation.

But that was (and still is) what progressives stood for. They were the elites, the smartest the nation had to offer. And, as such, it was up to them to “improve” the world through government action. They were white, so blacks were inferior. They were smart, so anyone they deemed not to be was inferior, and so on. They believed certain “undesirable” people should be sterilized and thus bred out of existence.

Those deemed worthy or necessary to be allowed to continue to exist would be ruled by them because they, the progressives, quite simply knew better what people needed than the people themselves. Constitution be damned, they were “progressing” the human race.

Although their tactics have changed over time, their motivation and ultimate desires haven’t – they want control and don’t care who or what they destroy to get it.

Fast-forward to today. Progressives are in the process of seizing control of the health care system. Regulations and laws are making more and more businesses effective wards of the state functioning in the ever-narrowing window of what’s left of the free-market.

But it’s not just economics. The sentiments behind President Wilson’s Sedition Act are alive and well. They’re no longer embedded in government; they’ve moved to the media and academia. Speech codes limit not only the words students can use but their ability to express thoughts and opinions progressives deem unworthy. Progressive media outlets frame opposition to President Obama as racist in the hopes of scaring critics into silence.

Now this disparate world view and loyalty to ideology over country/liberty/reality is metastasizing into more places it will damage beyond repair.

Union workers voluntarily have driven Hostess out of business. Seems they’d rather have no pay than less pay, no pension over a restructured one. They commit economic suicide, and pampered, over-paid union bosses such as Richard Trumka blame the Bain Capitals of the world.

Even on something as serious as the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, progressives aren’t interested in facts. Calls for truth-seeking are met with cries of racism because UN Ambassador Susan Rice, the sacrificial lamb the president sent out to lie for him, happened to be black. These progressives are not remotely interested in why Rice lied to the American people about what happened that sad night, nor do they care about being lied to themselves. They care about their agenda. Lying to the contemptible masses is acceptable and encouraged because the unwashed masses don’t know what’s best for themselves anyway.

This “progressive” attitude toward reality is now amplified by the web of social media, which empowers the spread of their fact-lacking desires to once-unheard drones who parrot it unquestioned to the world. Like a cold virus on a plane, it spreads. The truth, or even a desire to find it (as in the case of Benghazi), immediately butts up against a wall of willful ignorance built by a left-wing industrial complex of moneyed interests and true believers. No amount of contradictory evidence can convince them what actually is if they wish it not to be.

The right has its own version of this suborn, wishfully ignorant army. But it is smaller with much less funding. The reason this hive-mindset doesn’t translate to the right is we are not all of like minds. Priorities to one conservative are not priorities to another. Diversity of opinion not only exists on the political right, it is encouraged. Nothing less would be accepted from a philosophy based on the individual.

The progressive left doesn’t suffer from intellectual diversity. In spite of its penchant for bumper stickers calling for questioning of authority, celebrating diversity and “tolerance,” progressives tolerate deviation from their prescribed norm like Hamas would tolerate the suggestion they observe Rosh Hashanah. That’s why there’s so little dissent from anything its leaders propose. No group of nearly 200 clear-thinking individuals who swore an oath to the Constitution and hoped to sway a majority of Americans to their cause would ever elect a radical San Francisco leftist their leader, yet Nancy Pelosi…

When Rodney King asked his famous question, we really could have all gotten along. But the intervening years saw the rejection of a liberal, almost moderate, left and the rebirth of a philosophy spawned from hatred and division with the sole goal of control. Although a great many Americans support this goal, the wool has been pulled over the eyes of many more who’ve been fooled into thinking liberty is a chip to be bartered for a crumb of pie rather than the key to making your own.

I opt against trading my liberty to sing kumbaya with those who seek to impose upon me that which I do not want because they deem it in my best interest. Our president can bow to anyone he wants, but I will no bow to him, nor will I bow to his ideological brethren. I will not bow to anyone. We can all get along, but as long as my opponents seek to deny me any of my liberty, I choose not to.


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



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for 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)


Monday, November 19, 2012

Grim outlook for failing Western economies

In Europe, Britain and the USA

 Many on the Left will finally have got the economy of their dreams – or, rather, the one they have always believed in. At last, we will be living with that fixed, unchanging pie which must be divided up “fairly” if social justice is to be achieved. Instead of a dynamic, growing pot of wealth and ever-increasing resources, which can enable larger and larger proportions of the population to become prosperous without taking anything away from any other group, there will indeed be an absolute limit on the amount of capital circulating within the society.

 The only decisions to be made will involve how that given, unalterable sum is to be shared out – and those judgments will, of course, have to be made by the state since there will be no dynamic economic force outside of government to enter the equation. Wealth distribution will be the principal – virtually the only – significant function of political life. Is this Left-wing heaven?

 Well, not quite. The total absence of economic growth would mean that the limitations on that distribution would be so severe as to require draconian legal enforcement: rationing, limits on the amount of currency that can be taken abroad, import restrictions and the kinds of penalties for economic crimes (undercutting, or “black market” selling practices) which have been unknown in the West since the end of the Second World War.

 In this dystopian future there would have to be permanent austerity programmes. This would not only mean cutting government spending, which is what “austerity” means now, but the real kind: genuine falls in the standard of living of most working people, caused not just by frozen wages and the collapse in the value of savings (due to repeated bouts of money-printing), but also by the shortages of goods that will result from lack of investment and business expansion, not to mention the absence of cheaper goods from abroad due to import controls.

 And it is not just day-to-day life that would be affected by the absence of growth in the economy. In the longer term, we can say good-bye to the technological innovations which have been spurred by competitive entrepreneurial activity, the medical advances funded by investment which an expanding economy can afford, and most poignantly perhaps, the social mobility that is made possible by increasing the reach of prosperity so that it includes ever-growing numbers of people. In short, almost everything we have come to understand as progress. Farewell to all that. But this is not the end of it. When the economy of a country is dead, and its political life is consumed by artificial mechanisms of forced distribution, its wealth does not remain static: it actually contracts and diminishes in value. If capital cannot grow – if there is no possibility of it growing – it becomes worthless in international exchange. This is what happened to the currencies of the Eastern bloc: they became phoney constructs with no value outside their own closed, recycled system.

 When Germany was reunified, the Western half, in an act of almost superhuman political goodwill, arbitrarily declared the currency of the Eastern half to be equal in value to that of its own hugely successful one. The exercise nearly bankrupted the country, so great was the disparity between the vital, expanding Deutschemark and the risibly meaningless Ostmark which, like the Soviet ruble, had no economic legitimacy in the outside world.

 At least then, there was a thriving West that could rescue the peoples of the East from the endless poverty of economies that were forbidden to grow by ideological edict. It remains to be seen what the consequences will be of the whole of the West, America included, falling into the economic black hole of permanent no-growth. Presumably, it will eventually have to move towards precisely the social and political structures that the East employed. As the fixed pot of national wealth loses ever more value, and resources shrink, the measures to enforce “fair” distribution must become more totalitarian: there will have to be confiscatory taxation on assets and property, collectivisation of the production of goods, and directed labour.

 Democratic socialism with its “soft redistribution” and exponential growth of government spending will have paved the way for the hard redistribution of diminished resources under economic dictatorship. You think this sounds fanciful? It is just the logical conclusion of what will seem like enlightened social policy in a zero-growth society where hardship will need to be minimised by rigorously enforced equality. Then what? The rioting we see now in Italy and Greece – countries that had to have their democratic governments surgically removed in order to impose the uniform levels of poverty that are made necessary by dead economies – will spread throughout the West, and have to be contained by hard-fisted governments with or without democratic mandates. Political parties of all complexions talk of “balanced solutions”, which they think will sound more politically palatable than drastic cuts in public spending: tax rises on “the better-off” (the only people in a position to create real wealth) are put on the moral scale alongside “welfare cuts” on the unproductive.

 This is not even a recipe for standing still: tax rises prevent growth and job creation, as well as reducing tax revenue. It is a formula for permanent decline in the private sector and endless austerity in the public one. But reduced government spending accompanied by tax cuts (particularly on employment – what the Americans call “payroll taxes”) could stimulate the growth of new wealth and begin a recovery. Most politicians on the Right understand this. They have about five minutes left to make the argument for it.



Will America be killed by its own internal parasites?

No one understood the dynamics of aging societies approaching decrepitude better than Mancur Olson, an economist who taught at the University of Maryland until his death in 1998. Olson’s crowning achievement was a book published in 1982 titled, “The Rise and Decline of Nations.” Olson argued that the proliferation of interest groups (collusions or distributional coalitions, in his terms) eventually spells doom for the societies they inhabit. And proliferate they have, from 6,000 in 1959 to 22,000 at the beginning of the 21st century, according to the Encyclopedia of Associations. Like it or not, every man, woman, and child in the country is represented by an interest group.

But when we say “interest group,” what exactly do we mean? America’s master political thinker, James Madison, said it best with his definition of “faction” in Federalist 10, as comprising “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community” (italics added). So much for our contemporary, naïve notions about how factions (interest groups) proclaim to represent some greater good.

It gets worse, especially considering three additional developments. First, America’s mammoth federal government constitutes an interest group itself, which means it does all the things other public and private groups do to protect itself. Second, about half of the population receives some form of aid from the federal government, according to the Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Index of Dependence on Government, and these recipients constitute perhaps the most behemoth group of them all. Third, close to one-half of the entire population does not pay federal-income taxes, a figure that climbed from 12 percent in 1969 to 34.1 percent at the beginning of the Bush administration to its current figure as President Obama starts his second term. The question is: What does all this mean for the destiny of America?

Prepare yourself for some very bad news. As societies age, they “tend to accumulate more collusions and organizations for collective action over time,” which in normal speak means that societies become infested with interest groups just like arteries become more rigid and clogged with body gunk as you get older—a phenomenon Jonathan Rauch referred to as “Demosclerosis.” Further, groups “reduce efficiency and aggregate income in the societies in which they operate and make political life more divisive.” Example: anyone read the healthcare bill lately? And the thousands of regulations in existence and forthcoming? And consider its huge increased costs?

The keystone of this argument is a passage that is terrifying in its implications and is worth quoting in full: “The typical organization for collective action [interest group] within a society will … have little or no incentive to make any significant sacrifices in the interest of the society” and “there is ... no constraint on the social cost such an organization will find it expedient to impose on the society in the course of obtaining a larger share of the social output for itself”. This means nothing less than it says: a group will kill its host, the American republic in this case, before relinquishing even a modicum of benefits for itself.

Nations die this way, empires collapse, societies atrophy, and countries implode (like the old USSR) or are conquered from without. In the United States, this phenomenon cannot be blamed exclusively on Democrats or Republicans; both parties represent coalitions of groups that all want something from the government. Indeed, if there is any difference between Republicans and Democrats in this regard it is that President Obama has accelerated this process over the last four years. But institutionalized selfishness was a going concern before he came along.



It’s Economic Growth, Not Redistribution, that Lifts Everyone, Including the Poor

Stephen Moore and Julian L. Simon note in their underappreciated work, It’s Getting Better All the Time: 100 Greatest Trends of the Last 100 Years, that in the last century,1900 to 2000, real per capita GDP in America grew by nearly 7 times, meaning the American standard of living grew by that much as well. The authors explain,

“It is hard for us to imagine, for example, that in 1900 less than one in five homes had running water, flush toilets, a vacuum cleaner, or gas or electric heat. As of 1950 fewer than 20 percent of homes had air conditioning, a dishwasher, or a microwave oven. Today between 80 and 100 percent of American homes have all of these modern conveniences.

Indeed, in 1900 only 2% of homes in America enjoyed electricity. As Cox and Alm note further in their insightful Myths of Rich and Poor, “Homes aren’t just larger. They’re also much more likely to be equipped with central air conditioning, decks and patios, swimming pools, hot tubs, ceiling fans, and built in kitchen appliances. Fewer than half of the homes built in 1970 had two or more bathrooms; by 1997, 9 out of 10 did.”

Such economic growth produced dramatic improvements in personal health as well. Throughout most of human history, a typical lifespan was 25 to 30 years, as Moore and Simon report. But “from the mid-18th century to today, life spans in the advanced countries jumped from less than 30 years to about 75 years.” Average life expectancy in the U.S. has grown by more than 50% since 1900. Infant mortality declined from 1 in 10 back then to 1 in 150 today. Children under 15 are at least 10 times less likely to die, as one in four did during the 19th century, with their death rate reduced by 95%. The maternal death rate from pregnancy and childbirth was also 100 times greater back then than today.

Moore and Simon report, “Just three infectious diseases – tuberculosis, pneumonia, and diarrhea – accounted for almost half of all deaths in 1900.” Today, we have virtually eliminated or drastically reduced these and other scourges of infectious disease that have killed or crippled billions throughout human history, such as typhoid fever, cholera, typhus, plague, smallpox, diphtheria, polio, influenza, bronchitis, whooping cough, malaria, and others. Besides the advances in the development and application of modern health sciences, this has resulted from the drastic reduction in filthy and unsanitary living conditions that economic growth has made possible as well. More recently, great progress is being made against heart disease and cancer.

Also greatly contributing to the well-being of working people, the middle class, and the poor in America has been the dramatically declining cost of food resulting from economic growth and soaring productivity in agriculture. As Moore and Simon report, “Americans devoted almost 50 percent of their incomes to putting food on the table in the early 1900s compared with 10 percent in the late 1900s.” While most of human history has involved a struggle against starvation, today in America the battle is against obesity, even more so among the poor. Moore and Simon quote Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, “The average consumption of protein, minerals, and vitamins is virtually the same for poor and middle income children, and in most cases is well above recommended norms for all children. Most poor children today are in fact overnourished.” That cited data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau. As a result, poor children in America today “grow up to be about 1 inch taller and 10 pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II.”

That has resulted from a U.S. agricultural sector that required 75% of all American workers in 1800, 40% in 1900, and just 2.5% today, to “grow more than enough food for the entire nation and then enough to make the United States the world’s breadbasket.” Indeed, today, “The United States feeds three times as many people with one-third as many total farmers on one-third less farmland than in 1900,” in the process producing “almost 25 percent of the world’s food.”

Moreover, it is economic growth that has provided the resources enabling us to dramatically reduce pollution and improve the environment, without trashing our standard of living. Moore and Simon write that at the beginning of the last century,

“Industrial cities typically were enveloped in clouds of black soot and smoke. At this stage of the industrial revolution, factories belched poisons into the air—and this was proudly regarded as a sign of prosperity and progress. Streets were smelly and garbage-filled before the era of modern sewage systems and plumbing.”

Such sustained, rapid economic growth is the ultimate solution to poverty. It was economic growth in the last century that reduced U.S. poverty from roughly 50% in 1900, and 30% in 1950, to 12.1% in 1969. Among blacks, poverty was reduced in the 20th century from 3 in 4 to 1 in 4 through economic growth. Child poverty of 40% in the early 1950s was also reduced by half. It was economic growth that made the elimination of child labor possible as well.

The living standards of the poor in America today are equivalent to the living standards of the middle class 35 years ago, if not the middle class in Europe today. With sustained, vigorous economic growth, 35 years from now the lowest income Americans will live at least as well as the middle class of today.

If real compensation growth for the poor can be sustained at just 2% a year, after just 20 years their real incomes will increase by 50%, and after 40 years their incomes will more than double. If pro-growth economic policies could raise that real compensation growth to 3% a year, after just 20 years their real incomes would double, and after 40 years it would triple. That is the most effective anti-poverty program possible.

Just imagine what 2100 will look like if we can keep this economic growth going. Physicist Michio Kaku gave us an indication of that in a March, 2012 interview in the Wall Street Journal, explaining, “Every 18 months, computer power doubles, so in eight years, a microchip will cost only a penny. Instead of one chip inside a desk top, we’ll have millions of chips in all of our possessions: furniture, cars, appliances, clothes. Chips will be so ubiquitious that we won’t say the word ‘computer.’”

Kaku continued, “To comprehend the world we’re entering, consider another word that will disappear soon: ‘tumor.’ We will have DNA chips inside our toilet, which will sample some of our blood and urine and tell us if we have cancer maybe 10 years before a tumor forms.” He adds, “When you need to see a doctor, you’ll talk to a wall in your home, and an animated artificially intelligent doctor will appear. You’ll scan your body with a hand-held MRI machine, the ‘Robodoc’ will analyze the results, and you’ll receive a diagnosis that is 99% accurate.”

Kaku further projected, “In this ‘augmented reality,’…the Internet will be in your contact lens. You will blink, and you will go online. That will change everything.” Kaku concludes, “If you could meet your grandkids as elderly citizens in the year 2100, you would view them as being, basically, Greek gods.”

Just maintaining the real, long term, U.S.economic growth rate of 3.2% from 1947 to 2007 would have doubled our GDP of today 4 times, meaning a GDP 16 times as large as today, In that future, the poor of the time will have the standard of living of the American middle class in 2065. We will enjoy peace in our time, as the American military will be so advanced and dominant that no one else will even try to spend enough on their military to even threaten or challenge us. A world of free trade resulting from this Pax Americana will spread prosperity throughout the now third world. If we can gain some sense and reform and modernize our entitlement programs, and restrain unnecessary spending, America’s national debt will be a tiny fraction of our GDP.




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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)