Political entrepreneurs

A really nice piece from Cato

“I was asked by a radio host more than once this week what I thought of the fact that some big business leaders were standing by President Obama in his pursuit of the gargantuan “stimulus” package. There is an unfortunate public perception that supporters of free markets are knee-jerk supporters of anything that could be perceived as benefiting “big business.” As the thinking apparently goes, because free marketers favor business, and members of the business community favor the stimulus, shouldn’t free marketers therefore favor the stimulus?

Hardly. In his book, The Myth of the Robber Barons, historian Burton Folsom differentiates between market entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs:”

There is a huge difference between those two. Market entrepreneurs innovate and compete on services and quality of the goods they produce. Political entrepreneurs lobby the government to “protect” them. Protect them from what? From competition, the friend of the consumer and the enemy of the business owner.

Any time you see a large company, or an industry group putting their weight behind legislation be on guard, especially if it will cost them money. Inevitably, the legislation will have been worth every penny they invested in it to get it passed…

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Teenage girls

I was totally flummoxed by girls when I was a teenager. My entire high school life was spent being stunned by their beauty and confused by their insanity. Facebook has given me an interesting experiment, I can now converse with women that I got real quiet around in my teen years and haven’t talked to in 20 years.

I’m a lot more comfortable around women now, I’m no longer intimidated by their femaleness. Now I pride myself on being able to talk to any woman, especially the ones I think are attractive. Talking to people at work for all of those years has really helped in that regard. Anyway, I’ve learned some interesting things about those girls back then that I was not able to see then.

Not a single one that I have talked to believed that they were attractive back then, not a one! And to think I was intimidated by their beauty! Man, I wonder how different our lives in high school would have been if I could have worked up the courage to tell them what I thought. I think the best I could ever do was compliment someone on their hair or clothes or something like that, I never told them that they were beautiful. Pity, it sounds like they could have used it.

Of course the other thing that I have learned was that they really were insane. Adolescence isn’t easy for anyone, but I think it hits girls harder than guys. I’m shocked at some of the stories I’ve heard, the cattiness, the meanness, the rage. My experience was mostly of frustration, but I never witnessed the level of meanness that I’ve been hearing about.

I guess I was lucky. Maybe I’m doubly lucky in the fact that it doesn’t look like I’ll ever have a teenage daughter 🙂 Ladies, try to remember what it was like being a teenager when your kids get to that age. I don’t envy parents at all. Puberty was bad enough once, I don’t think I’d want to experience it, even vicariously, again…

This is what I was hoping for from Obama

This article is what I, and many other people were looking for from Obama. Imagine, a leader saying that the future is important! It is a relief to hear that he thinks that people in the middle east are important. Honestly, I think that W probably thought so to, but he never actually said it. That’s a big deal. There are plenty of people over here (believe it or not) that don’t think that W is a monster, so they are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, not so over in the middle east.

Anyway, a televised interview on an Arabic station is a huge first step, let’s hope he’ll continue the healing process.

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Ads on Google and Facebook

I keep seeing ads online about how I can get my part of the bailout money that is coming. I’ve also heard some tongue in cheek ads on local radio alluding to the upcoming “stimulus” and how those companies wishe that their bailout money would come. It all reminds me of a certain economist from the 1800’s.

‘Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter — by peaceful or revolutionary means — into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it.”

It saddens me to think that the US is devolving into a place where the government is where money comes from. It is the predominant view in Yemen and other places like it, is the US like that?

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Isaac, why is it always about the money?

There is, among some of my friends, the belief that I am all about money. I do talk about it quite a bit on this blog and most of my economics posts seem to center around money. I guess I only have myself to blame for not making things clearer.

Most of us do not value money for its own sake, but for the possibilities that it represents. When you have x amount of dollars, you can turn that amount into a computer, a hamburger, a charitable donation, a trip, education, or any number of other things. Naturally, we all prefer having more things/experiences, or at least higher quality things/experiences than less.

What people seem to discount (no pun intended) is how we get it. The bottom line is that we can only get money by doing something that other people want. The potential for making money is directly related to how great a want we satisfy. Working, and profiting from that work, is a benefit to society. As you profit, you employ others for your wants. Other people can make your lunch, drive you to work, clean your suit, educate your children, or whatever comes into your mind.

This is the real definition of a wealthy society. People use dollars to satisfy their wants and they can only get them by satisfying the wants of others. The more people that do this, the wealthier we are. Not because of the dollars, but because of the services and products we make for others.

Too many people make an artificial distinction between monetary freedom and “personal” freedom. They are the same thing, this is what economics is all about. Somehow people have gotten it into their heads that things like taxation and education are not related. They think that we can discuss health care and civil liberties as separate topics. No one seems to see the connection.

If you restrict things on the monetary side of things, you will eventually impact things on the freedom side of things. Imagine that taxes have to go up in order to pay for some things. The money you pay in taxes is diffused throughout the country so you will inevitably not see the direct effect of your money paid to the government. So you end up getting less money for the same amount of work, or you work more for the same amount of money. Monetary issues have taken away some of your time, liberty has been lost to a monetary measure. The same thing happens with any regulation that increases the cost of a product or service. We must work more for the same benefit…

If you curtail liberties, it will eventually impact the wealth of the nation. Remember, wealth is determined by people satisfying wants and needs of other people. For people to achieve their potential, they must be free to pursue what is important to them. Remember, there are always two people behind every transaction. They must be free to pursue what is important to them, and be free to pursue what is important to others. Doing both of those things is the very definition of wealth, you can’t have wealth without freedom.

In order for society to function, there needs to be some limits, I’ll admit that. But I tend to lean more towards things like prohibiting murder and leaving things like marriage, food, recreational chemical usage, etc. up to the individual.

So the thing that I have as my primary subject in my posts is not money, but freedom. Money is usually a good short hand method for talking about freedom and liberties in general. Most people tend to only look at liberty OR money, I want people to reconnect those concepts…

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People hear what they want to hear (Obama is a Muslim, etc.)

I had dinner with a friend of mine last night and she recounted a conversation she had with someone that was working on her car. He wasn’t real happy about Obama being elected and she asked him why. He told her of some of his fears like, “He is going to release all the people in Gitmo and let them out on the street, he’s going to give away all of our money and raise taxes, etc.” But the kicker was that Obama is a muslim! Now, my friend is an ordained Episcopal priest and lived, for a while, very close to where Obama went to church in Chicago. She asked the car guy to take her word for it when she said that Obama was a Christian. He just looked at her like she was nuts and said, “But he said he was during the inauguration!”

As you all know, I have some problems with Obama, but I like to think that any criticisms I level against him are based on his actions and agenda. I don’t make things up out of thin air… It was pretty obvious that this guy had heard rumors of Obama being muslim (his middle name is Husain, hello, how much more obvious can you get?) and then listened for something to confirm it for him. I have no idea what to do about people like that… All you can do is keep telling him no

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Language in worship, who needs it?

I have been going to a book church book club (despite not belonging to that church) and we got onto an interesting topic. One of the ladies there mentioned that she was looking for a church but every time she went to one she became uncomfortable with what was being said. I feel exactly the same way about being in a church, so I don’t go. Unlike her, I don’t feel any particular urge to be with other people for stuff like that.

But what do you do if you are drawn to that but keep getting put off by what is said? I suppose you could keep looking, but there is no perfect fit for someone like that unless she started her own church. I had what I thought was a pretty stupid idea at first, but I’ve warmed up to it now.

I enjoy some operas. The music is powerful, the singing is amazing, and a story os told by the music and the actions on stage even when I don’t understand the words. I absolutely hate musical theatre like your typical broadway show. What’s the difference? I can understand the words in the broadway show and they drive me nuts. They are emotionally overwrought, sappy, and just plain stupid. It turns out the same thing is true in opera if you translate the lyrics. So if I knew German, Italian, or French well enough to follow the operas, I’d probably hate them too.

My point is that sometimes some vagueness around the edges will enhance the experience. If you feel a presence in a church because of the architecture, the actions of the parishioners, the music, the decorations, etc. but are put off by the idiot up in the pulpit, perhaps opera is the answer. I suggested that she go to a service in a different language, one in which she will understand very little. Let the spirit of the occasion sink in without the details and see what happens.

Surprisingly enough, she said that her most powerful spiritual experience occurred in a situation when she was chanting with other people in a language she didn’t understand. So now maybe she’ll go to a Greek Orthodox service or something. Maybe the Catholics had something with the Latin mass after all…

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No hockey for a week!

I effing hate the all star break. Both of my favorite sports have them, and they drive me nuts. I think that I’d actually be happier if they would just drop the pretense of the game and just say that all the people involved need a week off.

At least the game itself can be interesting in baseball. Double play combinations notwithstanding, there really isn’t a lot of teamwork involved so guys can play their normal game. More importantly, there isn’t that much physical impact in baseball, so they can play all out in the all star game without much downside (although Ray fosse might disagree). They have also put a small stake in the outcome of the game, whichever league wins gets the home field advantage in the world series.

It’s very different in hockey. Hockey requires lots of contact, sometimes violent contact to be what it can be. Any given play into the boards can result in an injury of a varying degree. Since there is nothing at stake during the all star game, there really isn’t any reason to risk injury by playing normally. In other words, there is every possibility of getting hurt and no reason for it. The result is a game that resembles hockey, but without a lot of defense or teamwork. In other words, it isn’t much of a game…

I do watch at least some of the baseball all star games, but I never bother with the hockey one. All it does is remind me that I can’t watch the real thing for 3 or 4 more days…

Worried about where our money is going in the bailout?

So is Russ Roberts over at Cafe Hayek. Like a true Hayekian, he understands the real information comes from the bottom up, not from the top down. This bailout bill is massive, there is no way any one person, or even a group can keep tabs on this and actually track where the money goes. So there is both a Wiki and a blog set up in order to take advantage of the wisdom of crowds. Ultimately, they will try to use these tools to keep track of the money that is disbursed by letting all people participate.

It’s an ambitious project, but it’s really the only hope we have of keeping track of things. This is also a non-partisan thing. Even though the democrats are the ones advancing this, I’m sure there will be many bones thrown the republicans’ way to grease the political wheels. Pork is an affliction shared by both parties…

So feel free to keep tabs on them, and if you know anything, or know anyone that would know something, please participate!!!